They Eat Trails for Breakfast
The Best Mountain Bikes of 2017
From wet, loose, loamy soil to hard-packed sand frying under a beating sun, mountain biking allows you to enjoy a wide range of outdoor environments. And for as many environments as you can explore via mountain bike, there exist twice as many mountain bike brands and models. Out of the total lot of bad, okay, good and great mountain bikes, we’ve picked our favorites bikes of 2017. Whether you’re in search of a hardtail, an aluminum frame, a 27.5+ beast, or a bike that checks all three boxes, we’ve got you covered with the best bikes to explore endless miles of trail.
Who says you need a rear shock to rip the trail?
Norco Torrent 7.1 HT+
The Norco Torrent 7.1 is the ultimate trail hardtail. This isn’t your early-aughts geometry XC rig. It takes modern trail geometry, strips out the rear shock and adds 27.5+ sized tires. All of that paired with a dropper post makes for a seriously capable bike that won’t shy away from the rough stuff.
Sklar may not be a househould name at the moment, but give it another two years. Based in Bozeman, Montana, 24-year-old Adam Sklar is making some of the finest hardtail mountain bikes available. Each is crafted by hand and features lucious curves in the tubing. The best part? You can have your bike custom-made for your riding ability and style.
Ask any cyclist who the kings of titanium are, and nine out of ten will answer with one word: Moots. The Colorado brand is one of the enduring titanium bike makers, having been founded in 1981. The Farwell is a culmination of top titanium craftsmanship, the latest performance parts and a healthy dose of trail-ripping acumen.
Rocky Mountain Growler 750
Rocky Mountain went through a bit of a rough patch recently, but over the past few years the brand has gotten back to its roots: making high-quality mountain bikes that take on even the rowdiest trails with poise and grace. Even with the lack of a rear shock, the Growler feels plush thanks to 27.5+ tires, a 120mm fork and a slack 67-degree head tube angle
Salsa is a bit of an oddball bike company, so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the brand built a bit of an oddball bike. From the head tube to the seat stay, the bike looks like any other hardtail. Past that is where the fun starts. The chainstay on the drive side is routed above the chain while the chainstay on the non-drive side follows a more traditional route. This allows for extremely short chainstays — the hallmark of a nimble bike. 27.5+ wheels and 130mm of front suspension round out the build.
120mm–150mm of travel.
Canyon Spectral CF 9.0 EX LTD
When Canyon starts delivering bikes in the U.S. later this year, the Spectral will make a strong case for the best trail bike on the market — and a great deal at that. Thanks to its direct-to-consumer model, Canyon can offer an ultra-high-end mountain bike at a fraction of what it would cost at a bike shop. The Spectral is a capable 27.5-inch-wheeled climber with one of the cleanest profiles we’ve seen in a while. And once the climb is over, the Spectral is a more than capable descender.
YT Jeffsy CF One 29
YT is a relative outsider in the U.S. bike market. Operating with a direct-to-consumer model similar to Canyon’s, YT brings some killer bikes to the table at a relatively affordable price point. The Jeffsy is a prime example. This 29er trail bike blurs the lines between trail bike and all-mountain bike and shakes every stigma about what a 29er should be.
Yeti SB 4.5
The Yeti SB4.5C is far and away the best mountain bike that we rode in 2015, and it still stands at the top of our list this year. It’s a Swiss army knife of mountain bikes that eats everything in its path, and the suspension — despite being only 4.5 inches — feels nearly bottomless on aggressive trail rides.
Santa Cruz 5010
Santa Cruz’s VPP linkage design is tried and true. It offers efficient pedaling paired with ample dampening. Even at only 130mm of rear suspension, the 5010 feels bottomless on just about everything. It’s nimble, it’s light, and it’s easily one of this year’s top five trail bikes.
Ever since the Specialized FSR patent expired and Transition took the opportunity to adapt the platform and make it its own, the Washington-based brand has been making some of the finest trail bikes on the market. The Scout is a 27.5-inch, 140mm front- and 125mm rear-suspension animal. It climbs exceedingly well and is just as suited to ripping the downhills — and on the Scout, it’s actually fun earning those downhills.
150mm of travel and up.
Headlining our enduro bike category for the second year in a row is the Alchemy Arktos. Since last year, Alchemy has split the Arktos into two bikes — a full custom version handmade in Colorado and a stock size version made in Taiwan. The rear suspension linkage is the highlight of the bike. Designed by David Earle who has built a number of linkages including Yeti’s Switch Infinity, the Arktos’s Sine suspension is progressive and feels plush in even the burliest of terrain.
Trek Slash 9.8 29
For 2017, Trek did away with the 27.5″ version of the Slash. There were a lot of people who were skeptical of that move, but it’s safe to say that going with the 29er was the right move. Just by looking at the bike, you can tell that it is a capable downhill bike built to take on everything from steep technical terrain to flowy downhill trails. The Slash also features an adjustable geometry the slackens the head tube angle and lowers the bottom bracket — making the bike even more aggressive.
From deep in the forest of the Pacific Northwest emerges Evil’s Wreckoning. Conceived by the genius mind of Kevin Walsh, on paper the Wreckoning looks like it would be a disjointed mess. 161mm of rear travel paired with 29″ wheels and a DH carbon layup. You’d think that this bike has a serious identity problem. In practice, however, the bike is straight-up ludicrous. It’s a demon, built to go as fast as you can physically (or mentally) will yourself to go. If you take the hard line every time, this is the bike for you.
Specialized Enduro Öhlins Coil 29/6Fattie
The selling point on this bike is hands down the Öhlins Coil shock. We’d recommend swapping the fork (Rockshox Lyrik anyone?), as we’ve heard some long-term pressure issues with the Öhlins, but the shock is bombproof and built to take large hits. Beyond that, the Enduro fits 29 or 27.5+ sized tires and a decidedly slack 66-degree head tube angle.
In the past, I’ve found Pivot bikes to be sluggish and the linkages to be less than stiff — that was until the Firebird came along. While it does take a bit to get going (it is a 170mm 28-pound bike after all), once it’s up to speed, the bike is spritely, nimble and capable enough to take on rowdy enduro trails.