The Mountain Bike of the Year award is a broad category, one that's open to everything from ultralight cross-country machines to World Cup-worthy DH bikes. Rather than award prizes for every single genre and sub-genre of bike, the breadth of this category allows for the bikes that impressed Pinkbike's editors the most to rise to the top.
This year's nominees included the Forbidden Druid, a high pivot trail bike; the Specialized Enduro, a smash-all-the-things long travel 29er; the Norco Optic, an energetic trail ripper; and the Santa Cruz Hightower, a versatile mid-travel machine.
MOUNTAIN BIKE OF THE YEAR
The new Norco provides a shining example of how a modern trail bike should handle.
Take a heaping scoop of modern geometry, add 29” wheels and 125mm of well-managed rear travel, then blend in a generous amount of fun. That's the recipe that created the winner of Pinkbike's Mountain Bike of the Year award – the Norco Optic.
The 2020 Norco Optic was one of the standouts at the Pinkbike Field Test
, thanks in part to its excellent geometry. Applying longer and slacker geometry to shorter travel bikes isn't an entirely new concept, but Norco absolutely nailed the numbers on the Optic. They also earned extra credit points by changing the chainstay length depending on the frame size, which means that the handling of the bike should feel similar no matter if you're 5'4” or 6'4”.
The Optic is a trail bike in the truest sense of the term – it remains entertaining on a wide range of terrain, from mild to wild. As Mike Levy wrote, “consider it a trail bike bent on making you laugh while snatching a few KOMs on the way back down.” There may only be 125mm of rear travel, but the excellent shock tune makes it possible to make the most of every single millimeter, which is a good thing, since this bike seems to have a magnetic attraction to extra-spicy sections of trail.
The new Norco provides a shining example of how a modern trail bike should handle. There's also the fact that the little details weren't overlooked. Room for a water bottle, a spot to mount a tube, internal cable routing that's easy to deal with; those things matter, especially considering how refined mountain bikes are becoming across the board, and they play a part in making the Optic an easy bike to recommend to almost any rider, from beginner to pro.
For their efforts, Norco is the recipient of the 2019 Pinkbike Mountain Bike of the Year award.