2022 Pinkbike Awards: Outlier Bike of Year Nominees - The Ones That Do It Differently

Dec 23, 2022
by Mike Levy  

Outlier Bike of Year

In other news that's not surprising, the brand-new $10,000 trail bike that's been in development for two decades is "pretty dang good" while carrying your jacket, multi-tool, and one of those double-sized Mars bars in its downtube, and it's also reliable, adjustable, and not affordable. But if you're like me and need more than a new storage hole or 0.5-degree steeper seat angle to get really excited, there are also a handful of bikes out there doing it differently.

Reeb's steel SST, the wild Antidote Darkmatter, Contra's steampunk MC, and the sleek-looking Digit Datum are our four standouts for the new Non-Mainstream Bike of the Year award, but which one deserves the win, and why?

Why it's nominated

The 120mm-travel SST is a sturdy steel trail bike made to do all the things in a package that's both simple and advanced. The 4130 chromoly steel tubes are welded in a barn in Lyons, Colorado, but it uses Selective Laser Melting 3D-printed hollow chainstay yoke, seatstay clevis, and rear dropouts to cut grams and add strength. For suspension, the chainstays are flattened just ahead of the axle to mimic how a Horst Link functions but without the extra bearings and pivot hardware that you'd usually see there. Aside from being drop-dead gorgeous, it's also a fun bike to ride that's relatively forgiving for how much travel it has and can do a lot of things well.


Why it's nominated

The 164mm-travel Contra MC ticks every box on the list and more: made in low numbers, steel tubes, some handmade aluminum links, all the chain, and an idler pulley the size of a large pizza. The rootbeer paint doesn't exactly hurt, either. The Magic Carpet comes from the mind and hands of Evan Turpen, a former pro downhill racer and mechanic who taught himself how to use engineering software in order to create bikes that matched his needs. It flattens everything on the downhills, of course, with remarkably deep-feeling suspension and an uncanny ability to mute rough terrain. Surprisingly, it also climbs quite well given that it's relatively heavy, even by enduro bike standards.


Why it's nominated

Shock? Pfft, the US-made Digit Datum frame uses a 12" strut half-hidden in its top tube and a 2:1 suspension ratio; how's that for non-mainstream? Putting a shock there isn't a new idea, of course, but the Datum employs it as an upper link while there's an actual link down by the bottom bracket. With fewer moving parts and the shock mostly tucked into the frame, the Datum is both light and clean looking. The strut is unique to the bike but user serviceable at home, will be custom-tuned for you, and is covered by a warranty and service plan.


Why it's nominated

More exotic than a tiny fish swimming up your wee-wee during an Amazon vacation, Antidote's wild-looking Darkmatter uses a high-pivot, link-driven suspension layout with an idler pulley to deliver 190mm to 200mm of travel depending on the wheel size. The carbon frame is built in Antidote's factory in Poland, and the options list includes EXT or Öhlins suspension, high-end components, and even custom paint. Matt Beer spent a bunch of time on an EXT-equipped Darkmatter in Whistler earlier this year and came away impressed by the bike's suspension and handling. Stay tuned for Matt's review in the near future.

Author Info:
mikelevy avatar

Member since Oct 18, 2005
2,032 articles

  • 146 1
 >More exotic than a tiny fish swimming up your wee-wee during an Amazon vacation

Gold. Pure Gold.
  • 11 0
 Toothpick Fish are disturbing. And so was that reference honestly lol
  • 2 0
I second that.. What a concept, because it happens! Effective reference, if you’re trying to bring a point home..
  • 4 0
 A biology 11 lesson that has stuck with me life. “If you find yourself wading in tropical waters resist the urge to just pee in the river”. Nobody needs a fish swimming up their urethra!
  • 3 1
 @awhite76: That's a myth Smile
  • 4 0
 Wear a condom or crazy glue will safeguard any intrusions...
  • 1 0
I hope the stories of getting it back out are just a pack of lies too..! Oh god…
  • 61 3
 I think neko mullaly's bike deserves an honorable mention too.

It's the world's most exclusive bike and can only be found in the wild on pro raceruns.


It's just another facet of the drive for innovation that companies (small and large) as well as individual riders are chasing. Super cool
  • 22 2
 Neko is doing a job that usually requires a whole race team, team staff, engineers, product devs, and quality control as just a lone badass human being. I'll be so mad at Discovery if the new cost of entering world cups keeps him out of the circuit this season.
  • 4 0
 Do bikes have to be commercially available to be nominated? @mikelevy
  • 30 5
 Call me weird, but the Reeb is the only one I would want to ride. Contra is interesting but to me there is too much going on there. The Digit just seems like a terrible idea and the Darkmatter is way more bike that I can imagine needing.
  • 12 1
 Your statement is the opposite of weird and is in fact, a totally normal comment based on the given options and the type of riding 90% of us do. REEB all the way. Contra or Antidote for the sheer fahkery that's going on in those bikes.
  • 7 3
 Username checks out!
I’d love to try all these bikes for a single run, or extended periods, they all look great to me.
I was hoping for some slightly more aggressive numbers on the Reeb, I originally had it on my list for short travel ripper bike.
The Contra, looks like a bump eating Machine, and I love the small delicate tubes that steel bring to the table.
The Digit looks clean, like I’m looking at a hardtail, I’m surprised that doesn’t appeal to you.
The Antidote looks like one of the fastest DH bikes I’ve ever seen

I’m very smitten with all of them, and y-these are the things that make me jealous of the PB product testers,
These and Fillmore valves….
  • 3 0
 That Reeb just looks like a whole lot of fun to me. Just begging to nose bonk or boost off of every rock and root on the trail. The Contra looks like something I would like to try out but I just don't think it would suit the majority of my riding. Honorable mention should go to the Ministry Cycles bike. That one looks fun too
  • 2 0
 I would happily ride any of them. Own is another story. But the antidote would be top of my list to try on a proper trail.
  • 6 0
 Isn't that kind of the point of this award? If it weren't an outlier with a narrow audience it wouldn't be on the list. The big brands are going to build mainstream bikes with broad appeal. These are going to be weird and not for everyone, but awesome. This is my favorite of the lists so far.

(and I would 100% buy a Digit when he gets to a longer travel enduro model)
  • 5 0
 @ohio: well said,
I’m not sure why the digit seems so polarizing for people, it looks like a great bike
  • 27 1
 That Darkmatter is a thing of beauty.
  • 33 0
 You can see it?
  • 56 0
 @ybsurf: No, but I can observe the effects of its gravity on nearby matter, so I know it's there.
  • 5 0
 Best looking bike of all time, I suspect. And at my age and skill level, what else really matters?
  • 19 0
 All of these bikes are so cool, but if I had to pay for one - it's the Reeb. Beautiful, simple, not too many proprietary do-dads. Just clean clean clean. If money (and potential reliability) was no issue though... that Datum.
  • 11 1
 I can't explain it but that Datum looks so freaking cool to me. Like a piece of tactical equipment or something.
  • 8 0
 @SangamonTaylor: that's the 12-yr-old in you watching the suspension activate. A slow-motion huck-to-flat video would be pornographic.
  • 2 0
 @plyawn: it was so NSFW that I had to hide it behind this guys leg: youtube.com/r8g2cJ3QNQk
  • 3 0
 That video is of a prototype. I really should get around to re-filming this with a production bike, and without the leg in the way, and from the non-drive side.
  • 19 1
 The Digit Datum looks so functional. There's something 'just right' about it.
  • 12 0
 As a Reeb SST owner, I may be bias, but it's a ridiculously fun bike. As a great poet once said, "...It is so choice. If you have the means I highly recommend picking one up."
  • 2 0
 Ahhh the great Bueller. Was he ever saved?
  • 3 0
 Somehow they sell it without the very drivetrain and drivetrain cost is nowhere to find on their site... It looks like it's not really available.
  • 1 0
 Definitely the most innovative and promising drivetrain out there, but the Nicolai hasn't been tested much yet.
  • 9 0
 Imagine you are you are getting admiring glances riding any of the first three. And then the Darkmatter turns up.
  • 9 2
 I just love the looks of the Datum so much. And the larger simpler rear shock makes so much sense... Santa?
  • 2 0
 I wonder if non-proprietary integrated top tube shocks could ever be a thing. There is still room to tweak, like increasing/decreasing the tube diameter and putting a spring inside. I bet you could add a piggyback if needed. I'm in no way qualified to say though but a tube integrated shock is better that Scott 's hidden shock IMO.
  • 4 0
 @tremeer023: piggybacks are in essence a workaround to allow increased oil capacity on regular shocks - regular shocks have to be quite short and subject to high leverage because they need to fit inside all sizes of a frames’ front triangle.

The Integer strut on Digit bikes is designed to be superior to regular sized piggyback shocks, it is much longer which results in an oil capacity many times that of any regular shock I’ve ever seen.

There’s more info here: digitbikes.com/integer
  • 4 0
 @DirtBagTim: very nice, thanks. Hopefully the concept will have legs. I'd buy one if future servicing and replacement parts or upgrades are guaranteed.
Merry Christmas.
  • 5 0
 Frameworks, Contra, Reeb, Activofive, Ministry, Antidote, and more.. so many beautiful, unique, well built options!! Love those “outliers”!
  • 3 1
 Can we get higher res photos, please? I always click on the image hoping it links to a higher res version but I’m always disappointed when I zoom in and can’t see frame or component details.
  • 5 0
 And when you do click on it, the drop-down even taunts you with the original size. What purpose is that serving? If I know there’s a near-6000px wide original, it’s extra disappointing to only be able to see the 1600px version.
  • 1 0
 @azureblue: One of several disappointing “features” of the aging Pinkbike architecture.
  • 4 0
 Reeb. Love what that company is doing. Cannot wait for my new bike to get finished! Smile
  • 1 0
 Some of these categories don't make a lot of sense, aside from the fact that we (i.e. society) LOVE to pick "winners". All of these bikes deserve to be highlighted, much like the VoY category should just draw attention to an entire set of bangers not try and pick "the best". I personally own a steel hardtail and a big DH rig and never even consider asking "which one wins?".
  • 1 0
 They just need categories because some of these are apples and oranges. But I think it’s fine to pick a winner—not everyone needs a participation trophy. Highlighting exceptionalism among products can (not always) spawn better products from competitors.
  • 1 0
 So glad I got my deposit down for a frame before another positive article about the REEB made the line any longer. I can't wait to ride it. Wish I lived somewhere to justify that Dark Matter. The brand name and model name alone make me want to ride it, not to mention it's on a higher plane of beauty from every bike on the planet besides Dangerholm's stuff.
  • 5 0
 The Levy Lust award!
  • 2 0
 I’m definitely a fanboy, and don’t know the rules for this category, but the Trinity MTB should be a contender!
  • 2 1
 They should put a darker background on the antidote, its popping way too much
  • 1 1
 How in Disocovery's, I mean, God's name is Neko Mullally's frameworks bike not in this list? He built it and rode it on worldcup tracks.
  • 1 0
 I’d love to have a go with that Contra…
Trinity MTB and Ministry would also be on my personal list, though.
  • 2 1
 The antidote looks so fast even standing still.
  • 1 0
 That antidote became my dream bike at first sight!!
  • 1 0
 Darkmatter with one of its pivots hanging below the chainring, nice.
  • 2 4
 So much about the Digit Datum looks fantastic... but the bottom bracket... ughhhhh. Press fit bottom bracket and the lower suspension pivot runs on the proprietary crank spindle? No thanks.
  • 6 0
 The spindle is no more proprietary than the linkage pivots on other suspension frames.

The 30mm spindle is compatible with the following cranks: Race Face Cinch Next SL/Next R/Turbine/Era, FSA 30mm, Cannondale, Ignite, 5Dev, Garbaruk, Sturdy. Some of the spindles included with those cranks work, but I can’t control if they make changes, so I supply this to ensure compatibility.

A Shimano crank, with a 24mm crank spindle, can also be used with a spindle tube.

Here’s a more detailed explanation: digitbikes.com/concentric-bb
  • 1 2
 @DirtBagTim: People are already having enough trouble with press fit bottom brackets. Doubling the load on those bottom bracket bearings won't help the situation. Then there are the much smaller linkage bearings that are in constant rotation with every revolution of the crankset. Pack it all in a carved out bottom bracket shell that will surely collect crap thrown up by the wheel. What could possibly go wrong?

So much of the Datum looks beautiful and efficient, but the mess going on in the bottom bracket is the complete opposite of the simplicity touted in much of the marketing copy.
  • 1 0

The only thing that Matter(s)
  • 1 0
 Antidote looks amazing, great frame lines.
  • 1 1
 How about the Structure EW-1 or whatever it’s called?
  • 4 6
 Digit Ring for me please, I was told 2023 model year were actually 2022 models so I figured it should be allowed in.

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