Field Test: 13 Bikes VS The Impossible Climb

Dec 26, 2019
by Mike Levy  


PINKBIKE FIELD TEST

13 Bikes VS The Impossible Climb


Pseudoscience in the name of climbing




While yesterday's 1000 FPS bottom-out bonanza is the Christmas gift we were all hoping for, it wasn't the only pseudoscience at this year's Field Test. A lot of us want to do our climbing before we do our bottoming, so an evaluation of all thirteen bikes' ascending abilities in a tightly controlled lab setting was in order. Enter the Impossible Climb.

Sure, our "tightly controlled lab setting" was really just a steep section of trail, and the "evaluation" was just me trying to get up the climb without falling over more than a few times, but there were still some interesting takeaways from this afternoon of bro-science and tired legs. To keep things somewhat fair, all bikes were still on their equivalent Maxxis control tires, and I had my unpaid intern @mikekazimer get pressures the same all around. Each bike's suspension was left fully open, of course, and adjusted to suit.

If you're going to call it the Impossible Climb, it should probably be pretty hard? At a few hundred feet long, and with some roots at the bottom half and smooth, wet rock up top, it was tricky to begin with... But not tricky enough to be impossible until some adjustments were made. We stacked up some cans to create switchbacks so tight they'd be hard to clean even with a unicycle's turning radius. Logs were laid down across my route, the wet rock face was made even wetter, and some banana peels showed up out of nowhere because that happens all the time. Oh, and who would have thought that Kazimer could throw? You'd have thought wrong.

After a long day of falling over, the results were interesting. The spritely, quick handling Trek was the only bike that made it to the top (yeah I'm counting it), while the bright orange Mondraker came oh-so-close. Also impressing was the Orbea Occam. The enduro bikes floundered for the most part, although the Specialized felt the most capable, and with the exception of the Occam, the trail bikes didn't really feel any more capable than the enduro rigs.







The 2020 Pinkbike Field Test was made possible by support from
Race Face apparel & pads, Giro helmets, & Sierra Nevada beer.


Regions in Article
Pemberton


171 Comments

  • 182 2
 Next year can you guys add which bikes push up that hill the best for bad climbers like me?
  • 20 10
 i think only Trek paid in paper money instead of coins from everyone else. weighs your pockets down less haha
  • 2 0
 Trust forks eat even pushing uphill. No joke
  • 4 0
 After that a test finding out which bike is easier to pull uphill. Keep it up!
  • 3 1
 @tonkatruck: Or it's just might have shorter wheelbase, look as he extends dropper from frame, Treks are one size down, my Fuel EX is 19.5 on papet but recently measured it, and it's 18.5 really.
  • 1 0
 Which is easiest to load onto an uplift trailer or gondola is the real challenge
  • 129 0
 That was good. Some of us still like the challenge of cleaning the impossible climbs.
  • 39 2
 That's 50% of the pleasure, you can't skip it.
  • 42 13
 @fracasnoxteam: yes you can
  • 12 1
 @nskerb: if you like half of it
  • 13 1
 I really enjoyed watching it. I could feel the tension of the challenge. Reminds me of sections of trail that I face every week (minus the beer cans). Levy is pretty handy.
  • 1 0
 It’s how many times you can make the rise
  • 4 0
 @nskerb: I always love the feeling of cleaning a climb I've never made it up before. Hooting and hollering. That being said if they put a lift in at my closest hill I'd be the first person in line to buy a seasons pass. Big Grin
  • 1 0
 Agreed. You gotta get that long travel trail bike to the top of the climb first....
  • 2 0
 Yes, I absolutely love technical climbing. Beats boring climbs any day for me. Now that Akrigg is no longer a sponsored rider, they could maybe have him do the test. That would have been interesting.
  • 4 0
 Half way through watching my mind was scrolling down to the contents section and pointing out that fatigue would influence a fair assessment and then Levy pulled it out of the bag with the last few climbs despite being pretty shattered already! Way to go Mike #pedalhard Beer
  • 1 1
 @landscapeben: Never realized the other Mike was so unfriendly for throwing cans at the doughnut connoisseur. But obviously seeing only one rider do this test doesn't tell the full story. They should have the whole test team do these climbs in a random order of bikes. That gives a better picture. You could say the same about the huck test maybe because obviously it matters loads how a rider is balanced over the bike (with a fore- or rearwards bias) but I get that with the expensive camera stuff they were using that would have been too much of a hassle. Then again, if they'd manage to break another few bikes the additional website traffic would pay for itself. Wonder what the Google Bots would make out of that, what kind of stuff we're interested in 'round this time of year.
  • 95 0
 I thought @mikelevy would have been able to get his pole up higher than that.
  • 18 35
flag WAKIdesigns (Dec 26, 2019 at 12:40) (Below Threshold)
 With this wheelbase you are done at the bottom, even if you make it, you are tired - whereas with Trek he just rode around the cans with no hopping. Great effort Mike!
  • 24 0
 @WAKIdesigns: I think you missed the joke.
  • 30 7
 @srjacobs: nah, he just has to project his stupid hangups no matter the context. He has serious issues
  • 5 1
 @srjacobs: I am getting old...
  • 6 0
 @WAKIdesigns: talk to your doctor. Its perfectly normal for men in their 30s.
  • 6 1
 @hamncheez: missing jokes is a form of ED
  • 51 2
 Now imagine Chris Akrigg doing the field test!
  • 71 0
 Chris would get up there on a road bike from the 70's
  • 14 0
 @tigerteeuwen: doing freehanded Wheelies while blindfolded. Proper guy for the job, pleased make it happen.
  • 4 0
 Yeah , every bike would make it up the same , so there would be no differences .
  • 7 0
 Obviously the best bike for climbing is a Mongoose Tecali?
Oh wait it’s the rider not the bike ha ha !!! @tigerteeuwen:
  • 7 1
 I mean he does it on Walmart bikes. Just imagine what he can do next year
  • 12 0
 That will be "Humbled: Akrigg vs Levy" episode. Make it happen Mike! Smile
  • 40 1
 Looking forward to seeing the fireroad climb video
  • 6 9
 You mean what 90% of riders will ride to the top of the descent if given a choice? That's some real world stuff but maybe too boring.
  • 6 0
 @endlessblockades: if given a choice? Climb trail all day baby!!
  • 1 1
 If they made a video of that with the same opening with that music, I'd watch it.

What mind trickery is going on with that music anyway? That song is stuck in my head long after the vid is over.
  • 41 4
 Wait... are you telling me long, low, slack bikes actually don't climb as well? Mind blown.
  • 3 41
flag stiingya (Dec 26, 2019 at 7:38) (Below Threshold)
 even the XC bikes are long low and slack compared to what they used to be, so your comment fails...
  • 10 0
 @stiingya: Yes, you're right. No compromises made anywhere with the new geometry. I set nothing but uphill KOMs on my XXL Geometron.
  • 4 0
 @JohnnyVV:

My only uphill kom was set on my xl geometron.

#clearlyscience ????
  • 1 8
flag SintraFreeride (Dec 27, 2019 at 1:11) (Below Threshold)
 They climb better, I've made climbs on my Pole I would not be able to clean on any other bike. You just need the right gears. I run a 24T front ring and an 11-50T cassette. Mike Levy struggled up most of that climb due too big of a chainring more than geo.
  • 14 1
 @SintraFreeride: honest question... what's your top speed? I'm guessing it is roughly equivalent to a sedate jog.
  • 1 0
 @gabriel-mission9: Climbing speed? I don't try to get up the hill as fast as possible I just try to climb up every hill without stopping or putting a foot down. If I'm on the 24/50 gear then speed is slightly above walking pace.
  • 1 0
 @SintraFreeride: did u say 'walking pace' or 'walker pace'?
  • 2 2
 @SintraFreeride: So somehow climbs slower means climbs better now? The mental gymnastics required to arrive at that are Trumpian. Why can’t people just admit one bike geo isn’t ideal for everything? It’s okay to be like “Yeah, it’s kind of heavy and it’s not great on tight switchbacks up or down, but man can it plow when things open up,” or vice versa with more agile bikes.
  • 1 0
 @JohnnyVV: Climbs better means the bike doesn't wheelie, you have more traction and thus you are able to clean the whole climb. I run lower gearing because in the Alps the climbs are steeper than usual and because with this geometry I am now able to attempt to climb stuff before I'd just push up. So on the 24/50T gear I'm at walking pace but that doesn't mean I can't race uphill if I want on a harder gear!
I opening admit that this geo isn't ideal for trick riding. If you like 360s, backflips etc get a shorter bike!
The longer bike just requires different technique to get around stuff.
  • 1 0
 @SintraFreeride: but you will be spinning out riding dh with a 24/10.
  • 2 0
 @Ethan12345678: I run the 24T front ring in the off season then switch to a 32T front chainring for the bikepark season. However, most downhills around here don't require pedalling i.e. if you want to go faster you just release your brakes.
  • 34 2
 I'm calling that a dab on the Enduro. #conspiracy
  • 28 0
 did he park the low BB on a rock and take a rest...?
  • 28 0
 @brianpark Also noticed the Trek got its stem flipped back upside-down to the stock dropped position for this test..
#bigplayerconspiracy
  • 1 0
 @g123: check the field test again, I noticed it too
  • 14 1
 Hand dabs disqualifies the Trek as a completed run
  • 5 4
 @rivercitycycles: If you are clipped in it counts
  • 1 1
 @MrDiamondDave: Agreed!! If you're still clipped in and pedaling, it counts!
  • 3 0
 @mybaben: How I see it is any help from a tree, rock or person constitutes a dab
  • 3 0
 @rivercitycycles: That's cool. I'm okay if we disagree. It's all in fun. Obvs help from an actual person isn't cool, but I say, if you're upright, clipped in and on the bike, and still pedaling, I'll give it to you. Wink
  • 26 2
 bUT tHe kNoCK bLoCk...
  • 3 10
flag Kramz (Dec 26, 2019 at 20:02) (Below Threshold)
 I agree, worst bicycle innovation ever.
  • 4 0
 @Kramz: wooooooosh!
  • 1 1
 @Archimonde: Lol, if you look at it that way, but it's bad to have on the bicycle.
  • 20 0
 That looks like a fun challenge to do with some mates! And let's be honest that was all @mikelevy Dude climbs like a mountain goat. Props!
  • 7 1
 After the cameras stopped rolling, @mikekazimer grabbed the 8ball and cleaned it.
  • 15 0
 So the bike with the steering block everyone bitches about completes the challenge... Oooohkaaaayhahahaha
  • 13 0
 I know it's unscientific, but this adds to my feeling that the Occam might be the ideal all arounder for Northeast woods (with bike parking ~3 times a season).
  • 12 4
 Surprised at the poor results of the Joplin and Optic, although I think there is a big element of luck with only doing one attempt per bike. Not surprised to see the XC bikes come out on top. My previous generation Tallboy has really similar geo to the Top Fuel and it's a fantastic climber.
  • 20 0
 Hence the "bro science". You can get a lucky run or two on one bike and screw up another, doesn't always mean much. Throw another rider on all those bikes and the results could be totally different. Honestly, climbs like that one I have better luck on my 140/160 27.5 bike with wider tires and lower pressure, softer suspension, etc. than I do with my 120/130 29er with skinnies and higher pressures.
  • 27 3
 "only doing one attempt per bike"


less than one minute in, they stated two attempts per bike.....
  • 5 0
 I remember a while ago, GMBN did a short uphill race and the guy on the DH bike won against enduro/trail bikes... because it was a really short track and the downhill bike got great traction.
  • 4 0
 @scott-townes: My bad! Not sure how I missed that, he says it very clearly too.
  • 8 0
 From my experience, VPP is very efficient for long climbing rides and saves energy, but more active suspension platforms are better for short technical climbs. The difference is better traction.
  • 3 0
 There re no bad or good results, remember: this is (admittedly) "pseudoscience", it signifies nothing!!!!!!
  • 3 0
 I'm not surprised that the short travel trail bikes like the Optic, Joplin or GG trail pistol did badly. Their suspension is entirely downhill biased to make the short travel work for what the long and slack geo promises.
  • 1 0
 @medievalbiking: My 33lb V10 is actually quite the climber.
  • 1 1
 @Ttimer: This is exactly why those short travel bikes make little sense...
  • 1 0
 1230mm-ish wheelbase... That and the amount of weight on the rear affected how much power you can put out. You tend to get adjusted to it and finesse the bike to adapt... in this case, it just happened to be whatever Mike Levy was used to, rather than his ability to adapt to the bikes. He called it, that he felt most attuned with the Top Fuel, despite being most exhausted by the time he got to it.
  • 2 0
 @zweellama: That argument doesn't sound convincing to me. Levy works for pinkbike which is almosteentirely gravity focused. How often do you think he rides a XC bike compared to trail and enduro bikes? There is no way he would be more "used to" something like the Top Fuel or Podium.
  • 2 0
 @Ttimer: www.pinkbike.com/news/staff-rides-mike-levys-rocky-mountain-element-2017.html

www.pinkbike.com/news/giant-trance-advanced-29-mike-levy-staff-rides.html

Not sure what his personal bike was before, but he liked the Process 111 and Ripley.

I got the impression that it's a theme on this site, from the history of articles I've read, that Mike Levy likes short travel options (and bikes that don't need susp mode switches). I believe he's the one who named "downcountry", as a term for a capable XC bike.

www.pinkbike.com/news/what-the-heck-is-a-down-country-bike-opinion.html
  • 8 0
 So do the result show that bike weight is the most important factor in climbing? The two lightest XC bikes won, and the lightest trail bike won.
  • 8 4
 Well, if the bikes were ridden in the same order as the video shows, that means you had multiple times to practice the course with all the other bikes before finally making it on the last bike. Try a new course with the same bikes done in a different order.
  • 9 0
 That is true, but in terms of energy and effort he could be totally gassed by the last attempt. So even if he was perfecting his line he was losing muscle control. It is a great bro-science test. Also consider bike weights. It's just easier to bounce a bike around that weighs 5 lbs less and is shorter.
  • 1 3
 it is far easier after he learns what lines work, the results show it too
  • 6 0
 It's almost like the test isn't meant to be scientific or something...
  • 4 1
 Great! Always loved climbing! I would love to see more climbing challenges. And testing the EWS riders on the same really tricky technical trail! Perhaps not this one, could be even longer, and trial-bike-hopping should be forbidden, or restricted to one move!
  • 6 0
 Or as we call them round here............a climb.
  • 4 0
 I'd like to have seen 2-3 riders attempt this but without the beer cans. Just choose the best line for the bike and rider and see any commonalities.
  • 2 0
 Interesting. Odd circumstances found me in Moab this fall with the "wrong" bike -- a new Top Fuel. Much to my surprise, it climbed the tech stuff easier than any other bike I've ever had out there.

But fast, downhill, uber-chunk found found the bike's limits!
  • 5 1
 I don't think it's as much about the bike as it's about tires and rider skill.
  • 5 0
 Get some Canadian beer in that course
  • 3 0
 THAT WAS FRIGGIN GREAT. No surprise the TRek and Mondraker won the day they are XC trail slayers not really trail play bikes but now I wanti wanti but can't getti getti.
  • 3 0
 It is nice to see this segment. You have to get up to get down - unless you are at a bike park.......... or have a buddy with a pick up,,,,,
  • 1 0
 With all things being similar(weight, travel, wheel size, geo, tires, etc.). In my experience, VPP type suspension platforms are more efficient for longer climbing over time with less bob, however more active suspensions are better for short technical climbing because of better traction. And actually more travel can be a plus in technical climbing because of traction as well. Ex. I have a 150/160 enduro bike that climbs some very technical rocky climbs better than a 130/140 trail bike and a 100/120 XC bike because of the traction.
  • 1 0
 Not good science, but still fun to watch ... and damn but that Levy has a mouth on him!

That testing wouldn’t influence my choices at all, the results were predictable; short travel and short wheelbase are easiest to maneuver in a tight space.
  • 1 0
 A couple of questions- did all the bikes have the same crank length??
Why didnt you use a hard climbing trail - say R&R climb on Seymour- so your readers would have some prospective/ relevance instead of something no one would ever ride ?
  • 1 0
 TREK WON ONLY BC IT WAS LAST SO HE LEARNED HOW TO BEST CLIMB IT! SMH.... NOONE ELSE FIGURED THAT??
Mondraker and Orbea were also later in the test thus they fared better. As for the ones that did not fare well even though later in the test? They just suck. ????
  • 1 0
 I think most everyone already commented the same think I felt which is an unfair way of assessing the bikes capabilities as it was demonstrated. You had multiple attempts with other bikes to set the best path and knowledge you developed during your testing with the first set of bikes. So all I see here is you were able to finally figure out how to get to the top and arguably you could have done that with any of those bikes once you had the trail down. Good luck with that.
  • 1 0
 Yeah, that's why it's called "bro-science" and not science Smile
  • 3 0
 Entertaining bro science!

I can imagine the top WC XC guys/gals clearing this climb with ease with the field test bikes
  • 7 0
 I can imagine the top WC XC guys/gals clearing this climb with ease on a Huffy.
  • 4 4
 it doesn't look like the bike makes a big difference. It sounds like the more practice you are getting the better you are doing.
For these kinds of climbs, I think the most important id the rider balance and power (and power control) and traction.
Any bike with the proper sag/tire pressure should perform similarly. The bottom bracket height might have impact but how the rider is used to the bike balance is key
  • 3 0
 Those are not climbs to me anymore. They are vertical walls, pitons and that kinda shyte required.
  • 1 0
 Like to this tested with some fork options too. Contour travel Trust Fork to plant the front wheel super nicely while climbing, or stiff as heck Lefty (The OG Super Max), or the Ohlins with claimed small bump supremacy.
  • 3 0
 I guess the "pivot" was named ironically=D
  • 2 2
 Great video. The specialized looked really wonky to me while you were climbing. The pole looked pretty great considering its size. Too bad you didn't smash the patriarch with the Julian... Lol
  • 2 0
 It would be ok on an hard climb you know perfectly; not a one you discover at any new try with a new bike and finaly do
  • 2 0
 Levy can't be a top climber... All that ink is against the weight weenie philosophy. Great effort and fun to watch though!
  • 2 0
 he learned what lines to take so it was obviously easier for the last few bikes
  • 3 0
 Tree lean on the Specialised noted.
  • 4 0
 Check the Trek run , full on lean as he goes past.
  • 6 7
 This test means absolutely nothing. The more attempts you make on the course, the easier it will get since you learn each run how to do it better. If you did the test in reverse order, the results would likely be reversed too.
  • 2 2
 exactly
  • 3 2
 You didn't consider fatigue though?
  • 2 0
 @Archimonde: Good point. BUT he’s also more warmed up more. And how fatigued? He did pre-load up on energy and he took breaks when needed. So i think the learned techniques still an advantage.
  • 3 0
 Which e bike climbs the best?
  • 2 0
 I learned nothing about the bikes/geo/wheelbase...other than Mike Levi has hella climbings skills.
  • 2 0
 Yes finally I have a video to justify my backpack full of candy, they can’t make fun of me now
  • 1 0
 Yes, they can. This video is proof that eating candy leads to poor choices, ie 80's rapper dental work and Mr. Bean cars.
  • 2 0
 To be fair, you killed it @mikelevy. Well done
I certainly couldn't have been F****D doing that on a good day.
  • 2 0
 It's not surprising the trail and enduro bikes fared the same since all trail bikes come with near enduro bike geo.
  • 1 0
 I own a top fuel so I'm glad that bike won but it looks like he put his right hand out on the tree at the bottom of the climb. Kinda like a "hand-dab"
  • 2 0
 Belay that. Figured out from the video. That's a nice vomit section
  • 3 0
 Good show, much fun.
  • 1 0
 Fezzari Signal Peak would have been a great bike to see in this. No real surprise in top 3 here.
  • 2 0
 What was the final standings of all the bikes?
  • 3 0
 Great stuff, thanks!
  • 1 0
 Great effort, but the two blatant arms grabs should have been attempt ending "dabs". In the name of science...
  • 3 0
 Oh so need a fatbike.
  • 3 0
 So XC bikes can climb?
  • 2 0
 The best bike is the one you don't have to push.
  • 2 1
 The real bible of bike tests starts tomorrow with ferrentino shreding the shit out of some bikes were interested in ..hshaha
  • 1 0
 @pinkbike Ever gonna be a hardtail field test? Or downhill bike field test?
  • 2 0
 Great maketing, this makes me want to buy a case of SierraNevadas!
  • 2 0
 Wow, impressive video and an even more impressive rider.
  • 1 0
 Hey what about the Rocky Mountain Altitude? I don't even think we can buy half of them bikes here in Vancouver.
  • 1 0
 Floor pump for tire pressure accuracy ? When a couple of psi can make it or break it, you need a digital gauge.
  • 9 8
 E-Bikes impossible hill climb next!
  • 2 0
 Haha! Well baited sir. Perfect thread.
  • 1 4
 Yeah I don’t think the ebike would be great here. They are not at all agile for those tech turns and they are not eager to move from a standstill on a hill. They are better once the bike starts moving. But at first it’s about the same a starting a bike from a standstill on a hill.

You have an advantage of less leg fatigue as home pedaled is the hill.
  • 3 1
 Ebike for sure could of made that.
  • 2 0
 @splzed: I think it could climb the hill but maneuvering around those tight corners would not be easy at all one on. I got a levo and it would be a pain in the butt hoping it around a corner like that.
  • 2 1
 Cross country bike win. unbelievable. amazing.
  • 2 1
 Levy You did great man! Great efforts!
  • 1 0
 Why was the Ibis not in the game?
  • 1 0
 3:34, just not for long.
  • 2 1
 Trek FTW! still loving my Fuel Ex...
  • 1 1
 The bike I thought would Mach it to the top couldn't even Pivot around the lower corners.
  • 3 2
 Why no Knolly Fugitive tested on this @pinkbike
  • 1 0
 Thats sierra nevada 'little hazy thing' mostly?
  • 1 0
 Looks like Pale Mike Ale, mostly.
  • 2 0
 nice nice nice nice
  • 1 0
 Please drink all those beer gates and try again.
  • 1 1
 How much of a difference would the shock setting make. E.g. fully open vs climb switch.
  • 1 0
 Should try DH bikes next!
  • 1 0
 Thia was actually super cool, reminds me of when I was younger.
  • 1 0
 I think the gearing on most of those bikes is too tall for that climb!
  • 1 0
 Nino clears it all the bikes.
  • 1 0
 Great tech climbing Levy! Good work! Cheers.
  • 1 0
 They should have blindfolded him so it was double blind.
  • 2 2
 SECOND @brianpark Cheated
  • 1 1
 On what trail is this climb and what section of trail?
  • 3 0
 Radio Tower, two way trail but usually rider go down that hill.
  • 1 0
 That looked quite steep.
  • 1 0
 12 preparations to start
  • 2 3
 Ass back chest down, elbows dropped. Would of helped ol Levy for sure. Way too upright
  • 1 0
 that was great.
  • 1 0
 Needs more hardtail?
  • 6 8
 LOL, that is soooo scientific ! Not at all biased by luck or any other element...
  • 2 3
 2020 is downcountry now.
  • 1 1
 Does that make this video upcountry?
  • 1 4
 WHO cares about uphill, its just pain in a... part od mtb
Below threshold threads are hidden

Post a Comment



Copyright © 2000 - 2020. Pinkbike.com. All rights reserved.
dv56 0.026453
Mobile Version of Website