Mountain Bike of the Year NomineesHas it been nearly a year already? It was less than twelve months ago that the Remedy took the crown as the 2015 Mountain Bike of the Year by offering near mind-melting performance in every metric, and now we're back with three more contenders, one of which will be usurping last year's king. In order to do that, the winner must offer best-in-class capabilities, a trick that's harder than ever to pull off now that so many all-mountain and trail bikes (which all three of the nominees are) seem to be so damn capable. But it should be far more than just 'capable,' shouldn't it? The Mountain Bike of the Year needs to be damn brilliant; it needs to be the kind of machine that makes its owner a better rider than he or she actually is, and a bike that would still impress salty critics years from now.
Let's meet the contenders...
The 2016 MBOY nominees include Trek's beefed up Fuel EX 9.9 29, Pivot's convertible and controversial Switchblade, and the all-around all-mountain monster that is Transition's Patrol Carbon 1. All three are worthy of some hand wringing and salacious thoughts, but only one can be called the 2016 Mountain Bike of the Year.
Why it's nominated:
Last year it was the category-blending Remedy that took top honors, and this year it's a different, shorter-travel model but one that's been nominated for similar reasons: the Fuel EX 9.9 29. The all-new Fuel EX now has 130mm of rear wheel travel, a 10mm bump up over than the previous version, and the head angle has been relaxed by almost two degrees to 67-degrees in the low setting. In fact, the Fuel EX has a slacker head angle and a longer reach than last year's 140mm-travel Remedy 29 that won Pinkbike's 2015 Bike of the Year award. Combining slack and long doesn't simply equal better, of course, but it most certainly does in the case of the next-gen Fuel.
The 25.5lb Fuel EX 9.9 29 employs an evolved version of Trek's ABP suspension layout, a Fox shock with damper technology developed with help from motorsport powerhouse Penske, and, most importantly, revised geometry that makes the bike so much more than its travel and low weight would have you believe. Then again, at $8,399 USD, it better be bloody amazing.From the First Ride
|My first impressions are extremely positive; by all appearances Trek has elevated the Fuel EX's performance even further. Lightning fast, and wildly fun, it picks up right where its predecessor left off without missing a beat. - Mike Kazimer|
Why it's nominated:
How the hell did Transition create a 155mm-travel all-mountain monster that, despite being designed to sit at 35-percent sag and be as capable as any rider would need a bike to be, doesn't feel like an intoxicated tractor with a flat tire when the trail isn't fast, steep, or rowdy? It might be the bike's smart geometry, or its killer suspension design, or even its 27lb weight, but it's actually all three of those things combined that create what could be the best mid-travel bike on the market.
The Patrol Carbon 1 is the bulldog that can win an agility contest; the Motorhead fan who secretly knows how to dance the salsa. Sure, the recipe to make a mid-travel bike that shines on rowdy descents is relatively straightforward these days, but few companies have figured out how to bake-in the kind of all-around versatility that Transition have given the Patrol without taking away from the bike's abilities when things get rowdy.
From the review
|The Patrol Carbon 1 is the most versatile all-mountain bike that I can remember riding. It's slack and forgiving like a proper enduro race bike should be, but then it seems to transform into not just a completely manageable package when the terrain isn't burly, but one that's an absolute blast to ride. Transition hasn't employed any buttons or dials to change the bike's geometry, either, but rather just built a smart, easy to live with bike that's fun to ride everywhere and anywhere. - Mike Levy|
Why it's nominated:
Talk about a suitable name. Pivot's new Switchblade is a 135mm-travel bike that offers grade-A performance with multiple wheel sizes and during differing types of riding. Despite sporting 428mm chainstays - some of the shortest in the biz - the Switchblade can accept some seriously large rubber; either 29 x 2.5'' on up to a 27.5 x 3.25'', and all with a ridiculous amount of clearance. And a front derailleur. And with either a 150mm or 160mm-travel fork up front.
What's so controversial? To make all of the above possible, and the chassis rigid enough, Pivot decided to go with 12 x 157mm axle spacing, something only seen on the back of downhill bikes. Did they really need to do this? ''To make this bike? Yes,'' says Pivot's Chris Cocalis. ''We’ve been working on this bike for five years now and kept shelving it. They rolled over things well, but the prototypes weren’t satisfying to us. Mainly, they weren’t stiff enough. Neither the frames nor the wheels.'' Why did companies stop at 148mm? Why not just use downhill rear wheel spacing? And that's what Cocalis decided to do by mating DH bike axle spacing to a trail bike drivetrain. It takes some cojones to employ a different hub ''standard'' in these days of understandably jaded and bitter consumer market, but the result is a damn good machine.
From the First Ride
|So there you have it - the Switchblade is an interesting bike. A very good bike. What's more, it's versatile as all hell - the kind of bike that spans a lot of genres. - Vernon Felton|
There they are, the chosen three that made the biggest impression on us over the last twelve months. There are many other great bikes out there, including other EWS-worthy mid-travel rigs, downhill sleds more capable than all but a few riders would ever need, and cross-country rockets worthy of Lycra and a razor, but it just so happened that all three 2016 Mountain Bike of the Year nominees slot into the all-mountain and trail bike genres this time around.
Now for the hard bit: picking one of these dream machines over the other two. I'd be happy to call any one of the three my own, as would most other riders out there, but there can only be one. - Mike Levy
Click here for information about the judging and selection criteria for Pinkbike's Year-End Awards