Field Test Editors' Choice: 2020 Top Fuel vs F-Podium vs Trail Pistol S vs Mach 4 SL vs Joplin

Dec 10, 2019
by Sarah Moore  

Five bikes, five different ways of approaching the ultra-capable short-travel bike, which we have categorized as "downcountry". We look for the mythical bike that is XC fast on the climbs, as well as being frighteningly fun on the descents.

Sure, it's easy to argue that some of these bikes are up-forked XC bikes, and others are really just trail bikes with less travel, but if you're just looking at numbers and pictures, it's easy to argue a lot of things isn't it? For the downcountry category in this year's Field Test, we had five bikes with 100mm to 120mm of rear-wheel-travel, and head angles sitting between 65.7° and 67.5° degrees. All of these bikes competing for riders with similar intentions. Our timed loop was in Pemberton, on a part of trail that was raced on during the Nimby 50 XC earlier this year. All five bikes were on the same Maxxis 'control tires' to make it as fair as possible.




Downcountry bikes from the 2020 Pinkbike Field Test. What's your pick?


The two borders of the category are likely the Pivot Mach 4 SL, with its World Cup pedigree and 100mm of rear travel paired with a 120mm fork to give it "trail bike versatility," and the Guerrilla Gravity Trail Pistol, which many eagle-eyed readers noticed says "trail" in its name... We had to draw the line somewhere, and so it was at this bike's 120mm of rear travel and 130mm fork.

Right in the middle, and perhaps the bike that was designed most specifically for the downcountry category, is the Trek Top Fuel, with 115mm of rear travel and a 120mm fork. It's light, 26.1 lb (11.8 kg) even with a set of Minion DHR II and DHF II control tires.

Another bike with XC pedigree, but with modern geometry and a 120mm fork, is the Mondraker F-Podium DC. The frame is the same as the one that Rebecca McConnell raced to third place at the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Championships, but with a few key spec changes and a "downcountry" decal on the frame, we put it to the test in Pemberton.

Finally, you've got the Juliana Joplin or Santa Cruz Tallboy. It has the same travel as the Trail Pistol and a similarly slack head tube angle, but it's lighter. Could it be that mythical climbs-and-descends-faster-than-any-other-bike?

By now you've watched the videos, read the reviews, and weighed the pros and cons. It's time to decide: Which bike do you want in your corner?




Mondraker F-Podium DC - Downcountry on the Frame
Full Field Test Article

Intended use: Downcountry
Travel: 100mm
Wheel size: 29''
Frame construction: Carbon fiber
Head angle: 66.8°
Chainstay length: 432 mm
Reach: 450 mm (size Medium)
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Weight: 26.4lbs / 11.97 kg (as pictured)
Price: $8,400 USD

Pros
+ Nailed the geometry
+ Pedaling performance is excellent
+ Lightweight
+ Looks fantastic

Cons
- Spec choices hold it back
- Suspension might be too progressive, & the rear shock's stock compression tune is too firm
- No carbon wheels at $8,400 USD
Pivot Mach 4 SL - Thoroughbred XC Racer
Full Field Test Article

Travel: 100mm (r) / 120mm (f)
Wheel size: 29''
Frame construction: carbon fiber
Head angle: 67.5°
Chainstay length: 431 mm
Reach: 427 mm (size Medium)
Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
Weight: 26.6 lbs / 12.07 kg (as pictured)
Price: $10,399 USD

Pros
+ Fast on less-demanding terrain
+ Good pedaling efficiency
+ It's super light

Cons
- Feels like the 120mm fork is an afterthought
- Slack seat tube angle, short reach
- Nervous on the descents


Juliana Joplin / Santa Cruz Tallboy - Part Country, But Mostly Rock & Roll
Full Field Test Article

Intended use: Downcountry
Travel: 120mm
Wheel size: 29''
Frame construction: Carbon fiber
Head angle: 65.5° or 65.7°
Chainstay length: 430-440mm (adjustable)
Reach: 450 mm (size Medium)
Sizes: XS, S, M (Joplin) XS-XXL (Tallboy)
Weight: 28.1lbs / 12.75 kg (as pictured)
Price: $8,199 USD as shown

Pros
+ Details are sorted: dropper post room, big water bottle room, etc.
+ Excellent cornering & liveliness
+ Aesthetically pleasing
+ Jack of all trades

Cons
- Not the most enthusiastic pedaller
- Shock placement: hard to clean and set up
- Benefits from climb mode, but it’s hard to access
- While it’s a jack of all trades, it’s a master of none.
Guerrilla Gravity Trail Pistol - Down for Whatever Country
Full Field Test Article

Travel: 120mm (r) / 130mm (f)
Wheel size: 29''
Frame construction: carbon fiber
Head angle: 65.9°
Chainstay length: 426mm
Reach: 458mm (Short, Size 2)
Sizes: 1, 2 (tested), 3, 4
Weight: 29.5lbs / 13.4 kg (as pictured)
Price: $5,895 USD

Pros
+ Geometry is fantastic both up and down
+ Versatile, super adjustable with the potential for multiple bikes in one
+ Great value and tons of spec options
+ Made in Colorado (if that matters to you)

Cons

- Heavy - over 7lb (3.2 kg) for frame and shock
- Bottle mount is awkward
- Frame design and graphics aren't going to appeal to everyone


Trek Top Fuel - Featherweight That Packs a Powerful Punch
Full Field Test Article

Intended use: Downcountry
Travel: 120mm
Wheel size: 29''
Frame construction: carbon fiber
Head angle: 67.5° (Low)
Chainstay length: 435mm (Low)
Reach: 440mm (size Medium)
Sizes: S, M, ML, L
Weight: 26.1lbs / 11.8 kg (as pictured)
Price: $9,000 USD

Pros
+ Super fast climber with good traction
+ Lightest bike at the 2020 Field Test
+ A fast bike in the right hands

Cons
- Feels short and demands a lot of attention descending
- Small bump compliance - it's a rough ride
- Knock Block




2020 Field Test - Editors' Choice



Sarah Moore - 2020 Guerrilla Gravity Trail Pistol

Honestly, the Guerrilla Gravity was the least appealing bike to me when we showed up in Pemberton at the beginning of the test. It wasn't a brand that resonated particularly strongly with me, with its too-cool-for-school cult following. Plus, the crude TrAiL PiSTOL graphic with its alternating case letters is reminiscent of a ransom note in a murder novel. To each their own, but it wasn't my particular flavour of Kool-Aid.

Pivot, Mondraker, and Trek have World Cup pedigree, and I'd enjoyed my time on the Juliana Joplin when I did a First Look on it earlier that month. The Guerrilla Gravity was the heaviest bike and ugly to boot. And I ended up having way too much fun on it. A true dark horse.

Photo by Trevor Lyden
Sarah Moore
Height: 5'7"
Inseam: 30"
Weight: 155 lb (70.3kg)

Would it be my first choice for the BC Bike Race or a cross-country race? Probably not. Does it truly epitomize the downcountry category? Perhaps not. Does that mean it can't be my favourite? Absolutely not. As many of you have stated, we made the category up anyways.

Perhaps what I enjoyed most was the verboten feeling of riding such a short travel bike on double black trails. But it was more than that, I was just so comfortable on the bike it put a smile on my face every time I headed out on it. It's hard to swap back to rattle-your-bones 100mm travel bikes after you've tried something with a touch more travel, but there's something special about the liveliness of a shorter travel bike that you don't get on an enduro sled. The Guerrilla Gravity hit the fun-but-not-scary nail right on the head.

Sure, I wish it was as light as the Trek Top Fuel and Pivot on the climbs and as gorgeous as the Mondraker and the Juliana, but it's cool that the brand is trying to do something different: building carbon bikes in the United States, making a versatile frame so you can modify it rather than upgrade entirely if you decide you want more or less travel. Oh shoot, maybe I am finding a taste for this particular flavour of Kool-Aid after all.






James Huang's Pick: 2020 Trek Top Fuel

Much can be said about whether “downcountry” is even really a category of bike (I blame Levy, as we all, and always, should), and the somewhat debatable definition of what constitutes a downcountry rig makes it even more challenging to pick my favorite. To me, though, a downcountry bike is one that blends the efficiency and weight of a short-travel machine (say, 100-120mm of rear wheel travel) with the progressive geometry of bikes that are more usually found in the enduro and trail categories.

In other words, a downcountry bike should be something I can ride in a cross-country or marathon race without feeling like I’m needlessly hamstringing myself, but also something I can ride with my buddies on weekends on the wealth of technical trails we have hidden throughout the Front Range of Colorado without feeling like I’m going to kill myself.
James Huang
Height: 5'8
Inseam: 30"
Weight: 155lb (70.3kg)

When viewed through that lens, I honestly didn’t completely fall in love with any of the bikes here — at least not exactly as they were.

The Guerilla Gravity Trail Pistol? It was stupidly fun to ride, and something I’d consider for a personal trail bike, but it’s simply too heavy and just too much of a brute.

The Juliana Joplin/Santa Cruz Tallboy? I loved the handling, but my new dad bod doesn’t have the fitness to spend on a rear suspension that moves around as much as this one does when pedaling.

The Pivot Mach 4 SL? No question, this was the closest thing to a pure cross-country race bike of the group, but outside of that arena, no amount of spec massaging could turn it into something it isn’t.

The Mondraker? It’s light and efficient to pedal, and its geometry was truly progressive. Its heart is in the right place, but the total package was frustrating. It’s too expensive for what you get, there are too many critical spec issues, and the rear suspension tune is really heavy handed.

But the Trek Top Fuel? Now we’re talking.

It admittedly took me a while to warm up to this one. I was turned off at first by its short reach and somewhat harsh rear suspension tuning. The efficient rear end and low overall weight made it a super-fast climber, but on the downhills… something felt off. However, the more I rode it — and, more importantly, the faster I rode it — the more I began to appreciate its hooligan personality.

Yes, the rear end feels a little harsh at lower speeds, and the bike’s compact dimensions don’t naturally instil confidence. But if you throw caution to the wind, the Top Fuel is a beast of a descender provided your skills are up to the task, and you’re willing to trade some high-speed nervousness for low-speed agility. All things considered, it’s outfitted pretty well too.

By no means is the Top Fuel perfect. But of this lot, it’s still the bike that best embodies the downcountry philosophy, and is the most complete package here.




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



298 Comments

  • 250 9
 You did a great job Sarah and James.
  • 80 2
 Thanks! For sure there's always room for improvement, but we'll bank all of that and carry it into next year (assuming I get invited back...).
  • 33 2
 @angryasian: I'll second that, I don't have a problem with the semantics of this category. I think your goal was simple, cross country bikes that are designed to be a bit more rowdy and you did a great job showing how all these performed with that in mind.
  • 25 2
 I concur. It has been a real pleasure watching/reading you guys @sarahmoore and @angryasian. I hope to see more of your honest feedback in the future. Cheers.
  • 12 3
 Yes, but an "editor choice" made by two people on four bikes out of a market offering of dozens is frankly just something fun to read in front of the morning coffee!
  • 6 0
 Fun comparison. I'm glad this is becoming an annual thing. Interesting to me that the two 'editor's choice' bikes are so different in character.
  • 16 0
 @angryasian:

skinny asian dude gripes about his 'dad bod'

rest of us dads look in the mirror and mutter 'f-you'

hey thanks for the reviews guys!
  • 5 0
 @angryasian: since you didn't necessarily fall in love with any of these bikes is there any other bike in this category you prefer. SB 100, smuggler or something similar. Really enjoyed the reviews. Nice work
  • 12 0
 @broccolirob: Tough to say, to be honest, and I certainly haven't ridden everything that might qualify. The Scott Spark has great geometry, but I'm not a huge fan of the suspension, the Santa Cruz Blur is kind of similar to the Top Fuel in the sense that I'd like it more if it were longer, the Yeti SB100 I find a little soft in the front triangle for my liking.

I stand by my conclusion that the Top Fuel is my favorite complete bike of the ones we tested. However, if I could have my "dream" downcountry bike, it might be the Mondraker, but with a custom build that includes a different suspension tune and a less XC-flavored spec. Basically just start with the frame, since that's arguably the best part of that bike.
  • 16 0
 @WasatchEnduro: I'm "Boulder fat".
  • 3 0
 @WasatchEnduro: It's like you're looking through my lounge room window right now... My left quad is more 'dad bod' than @angryasian in his entirety...
  • 3 0
 @angryasian: Boulder fat is the "after" photo of most diet plans. Would you ride that Top Fuel at Lefthand?
  • 4 0
 @Abacall: I wouldn’t, personally. Not so much for the short travel, but more for the geometry. I mean, I think it’d obviously be doable, but it wouldn’t necessarily be fun.
  • 5 1
 @WasatchEnduro: He's got a downcountry dad bod, not an enduro dad bod. Big difference.
  • 4 2
 I have been riding a "downcountry" bike for 3 years (Scott Spark 120mm). I think in putting the same tires on all of these bikes you neutered a key variable that really changes the ride quality and versatility of the category. Maxxis DHR and DHF are big pigs that have their place, but they bog down so much of the flat and uphill performance of these kind of bikes. If you want equal uphill, flat and downhill perfornance which a logical DC buyer would want, you would not use those tires as a standard. Maxxis is popular because they offer a huge range of choice in tread pattern and diameter, but they are a motorsports orientated company that has done nothing to innovate with tire casings and rubber compounds, yet sheeple keep supporting them regardless. I would have picked a more realistic tire for these bikes for the target market and you would have had totally different ride experiences.
  • 3 3
 @Endosch2: Completely disagree man. The first word here is DOWNcountry. Point being that they're NOT XC rigs. What you're describing are XC bikes, and that's not the category.
And Maxxis not being a tire innovator is a ludicrous claim. Their tread (DHF, DHR2, HR2, etc.), 3C design, and casing (DD, Exo+) has been used on so many tires it's borderline litigious. But, unlike other companies, they just keep designing new and awesome products.
  • 3 0
 @Endosch2: Completely agree, a downcountry bike should climb as a hell, and one of the top caracteristics should be the weight and the climbing performance, althought should do everything well. So sticking 1kg tyres don't make much sense. Even with less capable tyres you will see much better which bike is really the best descender of the field, those tyres make a huge difference from the standard version. From my point of view a great choice could be Dissector/High Roller II F and Rekon R or even the Forekaster.
  • 2 1
 @Abacall: Its fair to say that Maxxis (Cheng Shin Tire) has innovated in flooding the market with choices, and makes really durable tires. I am guessing their supply chain is really dialed which is why you see them so much on OEM. Their innovations are limited to puncture resistance and casing stiffness which are polar opposite to where others are innovating with flexible yet strong casings that reduce rolling resistance. If your only filter is how good is a tire at DOWN, you don't care, but the thing most people don't get is that you are wasting 15-20% of your energy pushing them up and across the flats. They would be a truly great company if they could create durable and fast tires at all angles, and downcountry bikes are supposed to be capable at all angles.
  • 2 0
 @Endosch2: You probably don't ride where I ride. On the North Shore I have yet to find a tire grippy enough on the climbs (roots, rocks, etc) that also corners well more than the Maxxis DHRII.
  • 1 0
 @Endosch2: Agree there. There's always room for better casings. But it really depends so much on the surface they're on. The rocky mountain west needs some seriously durable tires due to the huge amount sharp and pointy rocks. The PNW need super grippy and soft tread (which would get torn up in a day here). The deserts need tough casings too. Smoother trails need lots of rolling speed. I feel like we are all spoiled for choice nowadays. Maxxis is a great tire co, but I'm by no means a fanboy. I've actually been digging on the WTB tires lately...
  • 100 4
 Give us the Enduro bikes!
  • 60 5
 Downcountry should be relabelled as Enduro Lite
  • 38 0
 @Ian713: Diet-duro
  • 1 0
 @honda50r: eh....I feel like that's a regression. Fwiw, I'm better with words than with a bike ????
  • 2 0
 Faux-duro
  • 2 0
 I’m torn between diet-duro and faux-duro
  • 2 0
 Skim-duro
  • 3 3
 Just go ahead and post one today.. this is bs
  • 31 0
 @Ian713: 'Trail bikes with less travel so you have an excuse to go around all the scary things.' $12k.
  • 11 0
 @Ian713: It's "Endurish".
  • 3 2
 @Ian713: enoss counro
  • 3 3
 @ceecee:
I can buy one of each or I can pay for a new mid range Toyota 4-runner outright.
  • 1 0
 @vjunior21: But it'll need insurance, licensing, gas. I'll drive my '94 into dust.

The Tallboy is a Tacoma, and 4-runner a Hightower....
  • 4 0
 @Ian713: I kinda like "XXC"
  • 4 3
 Great job on the reviews but now that the mincers bikes are done with lets see the real bikes. Jk.
  • 4 0
 damn this means one of those Enduro bikes done broke in half! Moohahahahahaha!

and for once it wasn't (?) the turquoise one!!!!
  • 6 7
 If this is what Down Country is then I am sold on it. Makes perfect sense. What doesn’t is 120-140 bikes... I am still going around things and it climbs like an Enduro bike... go figure.
  • 3 0
 @ceecee:
But the 4 Runner won't be obsolete for 30 years. Any one of these bikes will need to be replaced when the manufacturer adds 4mm of length to the top tube and changes the rear spacing to 149.5. LOL
  • 1 0
 @ICKYBOD: Yeah, that's a solid contender too.
  • 1 0
 @ceecee: if I could afford a $12K mountain bike they could call it a Bike-a-ma-bob and I'd be alright with it.
  • 3 1
 Yes and keeping in mind w/o the Pole Stamina 180 it's a partial test. I get that they tested the 140 in Trail Bikes but in every other test that bike is the benchmark for fast descender which "IS" the point (also happens to climb very well).
  • 4 0
 @WAKIdesigns: my bike doesn't hold me back, my skills hold me back. I wouldn't ride anything on a 160 bike that I wouldn't ride on my 120 bike. I happen to enjoy the feeling of less travel to a point. That's why they make different things. You don't have to understand stand it for it to be.
  • 2 0
 I like Downcountry, but what about Cross Trail
  • 1 0
 @garrisond5: slow clap.
  • 45 2
 So Sarah went with the GG as her top choice, but what I'd be really curious to know is if, since it's a bit more trail-oriented in geo (and weight), does it make any more sense than the Norco Optic from the trail category? In other words, since the "trail-iest" bike in the test was so loved, and in the trail category, the "downcountry-iest" bike was the most loved, do we actually just want trail bikes that are a bit less disconnected from the terrain through reduced travel like both the Optic and GG (and Joplin/Tall Boy I guess)?
  • 11 2
 Agreed, and the 29" wheel factor involved here is important. 29" with solid geo and reasonable travel numbers are better suited for the widest range of trails.
  • 16 1
 Turns out, trails bikes are for most people.
  • 13 1
 If you look at what most grown-ups are riding, that's what you see - trail bikes that aren't too enduro-y and can still be fun. Transition Smuggler, Process 134, Norco Optic, and so forth. It's less a matter of how much suspension you actually have (110 through 135 seem to be the range) than how they use that suspension and what geometry it's paired with. Those bikes are seriously versatile - set them up like bruisers, or lighten them up for all-day pedal epics.
  • 4 0
 Trail bikes make the most sense if you only own one bike and don't live in Whistler or something similar, that's for certain. If you want to own two bikes a downcountry bike makes more sense next to a full enduro bike than a trail bike, and some may be content in owning either one of those extremes as their only bike. I for one can live with an enduro as long as it pedals efficiently... there's something about having the perfect bike for those vacations in the alps.
  • 6 3
 @g-42: most grown ups, meaning people who ride around the hard stuff?
  • 7 0
 @jzPV: These shorter travel bikes are definitely getting more appealing but still feel like I can't do with less than 2 bikes. An enduro bike for races and riding bigger stuff. And an aggressive hardtail for winter (less maintenance), XC type rides, and to remind myself how to use my legs for suspension instead of relying on my coil shock. Don't think there's much I could ride on these "downcountry" bikes that I can't handle just as well with my Chromag hardtail (and it's a lot cheaper).
  • 3 0
 @jdubs: agreed, just tested a stock C s build Tallboy and it was sensational
  • 3 0
 @fpmd: Yes, you're right. I tested a custom built 29er hardtail with modern geo and 130mm forks a week ago on some sloppy trails and it surprised me big time... I got leg pump though. Anyway, my main problem with a trail bike as an only bike is that it pretty much needs the same components as an enduro bike making it only marginally more efficient. When you have the possibility to get to some bigger terrain for weekend trips I don't see a reason to not have an enduro bike.
  • 4 0
 @jdubs: I'll second that. I'm on one of the new GG Trail Pistols right now and I'm coming from the previous gen Cannondale Habit. 4 years ago I wouldn't have been caught dead on a mid to long travel 29er. Now though you would have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.
  • 5 0
 I had a smuggler and I really liked it until it got over whelmed and then it was no fun at all. Most of the time I was a great bike! I’m on a gg smash and it’s a perfect combo of trail bike and gnarly trail eater. I have a hardtail too, so it’s on the beefy end of a trail bike. A good 29er hardtail can do everything ok and some things great!
  • 1 0
 yes I agree. I think 130 is the magic number for general riding.
  • 43 14
 At the rate this field test is playing out it will be 2020 before it's over. I honestly can't even remember half the bikes that were in the previous category as this field test is being dragged out for what seems like months.
  • 36 1
 All you need to remember: there was a broken pole and a Norco that ran away with the accolades.
  • 42 0
 Norco good. Pole PR bad. Orbea boring. Intense half-assed.
  • 10 0
 Clicks, bro! Do you even internet?
  • 12 0
 We'll be dropping the last video (huck to flat) before Christmas, same as last year. Smile
  • 3 8
flag manco (Dec 10, 2019 at 11:56) (Below Threshold)
 @sspiff: Haha! Said as if no one breaks Yeti & Santa Cruz carbons all the timeSmile Have you ever actually ridden a Pole Evolink, Machine, Stamina?
  • 2 0
 @manco: Didn't say anything about the Pole being a bad bike and don't really know why that's even relevant... To be honest, I would probably enjoy the suspension, the Geo looks the part, and the frames are sexy af.
  • 32 2
 "stupidly fun to ride" is a pretty good endorsement for the Trail Pistol. Rad bikes, rad company, rad service.
  • 3 0
 Trail Pistol FTW!!!
  • 24 0
 Note the prices (and specs) on these bikes... .the GG is comparable in every way, but it's $2300 cheaper than the closest competitor. And it's made in the US.
  • 6 0
 Right? If they can come up with a less-polarizing design, GG could change the entire market.
  • 15 0
 @High-Life: it’s actually a really nice looking bike in person.
  • 2 0
 good point
  • 19 2
 Reading the reviews I had my fingers crossed that someone would pick the GG bike. Good job Sarah, this downcountry garbage to me has always leaned to the down and the GG clearly was the most fun on the down. If I were buying a bike to look at it would be a Mondraker, dam that thing is sexxy. On to Enduro bikes!
  • 17 1
 Most honest comment which just goes to show how objective James is and always will be. Let my Asian brutha from another mutha test everything: "...new dad bod doesn’t have the fitness...."
  • 18 0
 Since you both weigh about the same as my lower body, this thicc boy wants the Mondraker and its firm shock tune.
  • 2 0
 I had a foxy for a while and that suspension platform pedals so well it ruins future bikes. Nothing has pedaled as well as it did.
  • 1 0
 @PtDiddy: For a while? Curious: Why'd you move on from it?
edit: never mind, saw comment below.
  • 42 6
 @bikewriter: I sold it to buy an ebike. That was a hard sentence to type...
  • 2 2
 @PtDiddy: I'd give you more upvotes if possible for typing that sentence. Kudos!
  • 3 0
 @bikewriter: LOL I fully expected to be downvoted. I have been riding a Ragley Mmmbop as my everyday bike since I sold the Foxy. I have been testing riding and debating which full suspension bike to buy, once I saved up enough. All the bikes I tested just didn't pedal like the Mondraker. I almost went with another Foxy but I couldn't resist trying something new.
  • 16 1
 @PtDiddy: the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. We are here for you!
  • 16 0
 Thanks Sarah and James for the awesome content, great job! You should try the Pistol with 130 rear and 140-150mm in the front, I think you'd like it even more.
  • 21 0
 If I tried it like that, I think I might have bought it for my everyday trail bike Smile
  • 3 1
 Good idea, but then the likes of Evil the Offering would be an option.
  • 30 0
 @angryasian: Call us at 867-5309 if you ever want to give the Pistola a try on our local terrain.
  • 19 0
 @GuerrillaGravity: Maybe only when the bank account can back up the potential end result... Wink
  • 4 1
 I've done some astonishingly stupid stuff on my Pistola and been pretty blown away by what I get away with. I ride it harder than my previous 150/160 bike, and always with a big stupid grin. For maximum effect, I recommend the 36 Grip2.

I also think it climbs and accelerates really well, but I'm not comparing it to XC bikes.

I can imagine that this bike isn't for everyone, but for my personal riding style it's the most well rounded and fun bike of any of the bikes I demoed before buying (Yeti, Transition, Norco, Specialized, Trek and more).
  • 5 0
 @GuerrillaGravity: Damn...I already told my wife I wanted to go visit you guys after breaking my dentist bike...and now you're saying things like this. Maybe I can sell my newly warrantied frame and get one of yours.
  • 3 0
 @angryasian: I can confirm, it's that good Smile
  • 6 0
 @GuerrillaGravity: five three oooh niiiiiiiine
  • 1 0
 I bought an extra rear shock for mine when I purchased the bike. Everyone seems to think it's sick. I need to stop being lazy and break out the wrench so I can try it.
  • 2 0
 @trevorpeckham: question for Pistola owners--is the 130mm rear an *option* that you can select, or do you need to buy it *in addition to* the full Trail Pistol frame?

Between this PB review and user @Planetx888 cruching some numbers that prove it can be gotten down to ~28lb area within reasonable effort, this is high on my list. If I can buy the frame with the 130 rear straight away then this is hands down my next bike, model graphics be damned.
  • 4 0
 @mikealive: Add a "Pistola kit" to your cart, it only costs more if you wanted two shocks in order to swap back and fourth between Pistol and Pistola ridegg.com/pistola
  • 2 0
 @maxyedor: Nice! Thanks for the info. The Pistola is going to cover all the bases for me--I'm stoked on this bike!
  • 4 0
 @GuerrillaGravity: Jenny? Is that you??? I found your number on the ba....
  • 1 0
 @mikealive: I think someone else got to it, but you basically just get 130mm by having them put a different shock on. Downside is tire clearance. My DHR 2.4 rubs a bit, but nothing I've actually noticed (just seen some evidence on the seat tube).

Mine's 31lbs and it has never felt like an issue.
  • 15 1
 If the point of "Down Country" bikes is a XC bike that you can get rowdy on, (maybe that's just my definition), it has to be 26 lbs or less and needs to climb like an XC bike. If it's 28-30 lbs and pedals like a trail bike, why not just buy a trail bike of the same weight/spec with more travel? There are many 130-150mm trail bikes that climb really well, but not quite at the XC race level. I really like the Tallboy and the GG Trail Pistol, but I would be hard pressed to pick them over their trail bike counterparts.
  • 4 0
 Yeah, the GG has heaps of fans here, but if I want a rowdy shorter travel bike why would I get it over the Optic? The Optic is heavier as reviewed, but $1500 cheaper, at the same price they're probably very close in weight. If I want a "down country" bike I'd want something much lighter and more efficient.
  • 3 0
 @markinator: must of us that are GG fans have accepted that the bike has been mis-catagorized. The gel on the Trailpistol is closer to a trail or Enduro bike. End of the day I think we are fans because if the adjustability, versatility, and customer support they offer. It's kind of a fatty but the weight can be brought down with some time and money. The optic is a sick bike to though. I have a couple of friends that own one.
  • 4 0
 The GG priced out here is their top spec. The spec on the tested Optic is lower. You can get a GG as cheap as (maybe cheaper than) the Optic.
  • 15 0
 So the Trail Pistol is $2k less than its closest rival, built in America, and arguably at least as good as any other bike tested? I'm impressed.
  • 11 0
 Congrats Geurilla Gravity on Sarah's mind changed! Those bikes really do feel like a party on the trail. I wouldn't have bought one if it didn't also climb well. #weightIsRelative. I rode mine around the White Rim trail in a day this year. Cleaned the whole Shafer climb at the end as my buddy was refueling in the dark.
  • 17 5
 Five "down country" bikes tested and none of them folded like a Pole.......
  • 15 3
 GG with the overwhelming win for most of the Pinkbike readers!!!
  • 7 1
 No surprise as most PB readers are downcountry buyers. For most PB readers it's always 'What bike is most fun on the descent' - and that's not what downcountry is. No surprise that a heavy short travel trailbike would be the pick for most of us.
  • 10 0
 I went with a 2020 Rift Zone. It wasn’t invited to this party but I think it will downcountry better than I can.
  • 4 1
 Even though the term “Downcountry” is bullshit I still put rift zone into the trail category over “downcountry”. But I’m same boat as you id take now rift zone carbon over any of these
  • 1 0
 I am just going with an alloy version. But I would love the carbon. Maybe they will have a carbon frame only option in the future.
  • 9 0
 If you bump up the spec on the 5.8K GG to match the other 8-10K+ builds, you can prob take some of that weight penalty sting away.
  • 19 1
 Did you look at the spec on the GG? Not a whole lot of upward mobility there. That bike is a steal at that price.
  • 2 0
 @angryasian: Good point, just looking at it quickly, a few things you could do: Go XX1 cassette, Next R or XX1 cranks, and lighter shock (which would be in line with all the other bikes tested). You're already at the point of diminishing returns on weight.
  • 3 0
 @angryasian: I don't nec. disagree - you're not getting the 2lb back on the frame/shock - and the price is really, really good. But, with the savings you do have discretionary spending to target weighty spots like the cassette to lighten a bit if you see fit. GG lists this race build at 27.4 and PB weighed in at 29.5. Assume that's tires, pedals and variance but the room to move a bit back and forth does exist but not a whole lot.
  • 6 0
 Exactly, changing the fork to a Fox Step Cast 34, Fox DPS shock instead of DPX2, DT Swiss XRC wheels instead of XMC, and XTR brakes would drop around 1.5 lbs, and it would still probably be the least expensive of the bunch by a margin.
  • 1 0
 @m-t-g: Be losing 10mm of front travel if switching to a 34SC. They don't have a 130.
  • 2 0
 @TucsonDon: Certainly. There's also the option of using the GeoAdjust tall lower headset cup to keep geo similar to a 130 fork with 120 travel.
  • 6 0
 For most of us mere mortals we need to think the opposite direction, instead of bumping the spec up on the to tier GG, we need to bump the spec down on the other bikes to get back into our price range. A $10k bike isn't in my budget, even if I had the cash to burn, I'm more of a 2 $5k bike kind of guy. My TP was a bit under $5500, which is a lot, but after swapping some parts from a Ride 1 kit, it allowed me to get every "must have" part, most of which you can't even dream about on a sub $6k bike, or really any OEM spec build. With a heavier frame but a much lighter build the weights are comparable, and you get higher end more durable, dare I say "enduro ready" parts at that price/weight.
  • 6 0
 @maxyedor: And what’s particularly cool about the GG is how you can upgrade where you want to, but save money elsewhere.
  • 4 0
 @angryasian: Agreed, it was the main reason I haven't bought a brand new bike since 2004, once you've ridden the really good stuff, it's hard to take a step backwards and ride some garbage OEM spec wheels or cranks that weigh eleventy-million pounds and wear out in 23 miles. I bought other people's dentist bikes on the cheap, and carried over the parts I really liked from my previous ride. The Pistol let me start fresh but with parts I'm not immediately trying to replace, i9 wheels, XTR cranks, Formula brakes (which are superb BTW), Bike Yoke dropper, the exact tires I like, etc. for a fairly reasonable price.

Bank accounts be damned, you really should go for a rip on a Pistola or at least a Pistol with a longer fork, credit cards exist for a reason.
  • 10 0
 But that bikes TOO heavy! Smile
  • 6 0
 I'm so curious what the sub $6k spec on all of these bikes weigh. I'm also curious how light a $9000 trail pistol could be,
  • 2 0
 @Motonaut: Exactly. Apples to apples comparisons don't end with control tires.
You can go to the GG site and get a weight with the spec options you choose. It's not a super heavy frame, so there are lots of grams to shed if you have the budget.
  • 6 1
 @Motonaut: I was curious about this too. The GG for reference is below $6k and all the other bikes are >$8k. I bet most of these in $6k builds will be closer in weight to the GG. That being said, looking up frame weights, the GG is listed at 6.5 lbs size 3 (large) no shock, the Trek Top Fuel is listed at 4.75 lbs size medium, I assume no shock, and the tallboy comes in at 6.8 lbs size medium but with shock. My assumption is, given the same build, you would only ever get the GG within 1.75 lbs of the Trek, which is a sizable gap.
  • 2 0
 @jdubs: well the frame weighs 2 lbs more so everything being equal.spec.wise it will always weigh at least 2lbs more then the other bikes.
  • 2 0
 @jdubs: I think the posted frame weight on GG's site is ...um... optimistic? I read Blister's review and the estimated weight by GG vs the actual weight were 2 lbs different. I don't know why they're so far off but as AngryAsian noted- you can get some good ideas based on the build and I'd be very surprised if that frame wasn't squarely over 7lbs. I'm not knocking GG, it's amazing what they're doing but they're weighing their bikes like its the 90s all over.

I saw where someone weighed their 9.8 ($6k) and it was in the mid-26ish range with pedals.
  • 1 0
 @ICKYBOD: Thanks for the blister review GG info., had missed that review. Shame if their weights are really that far off on the builder. 2lbs is not an acceptable difference from what someone weights at home VS what their website is saying for a build. (of which I assume the 2lbs wasn't all frame!) We want the bike builder to be reasonably accurate and not give us "wishful thinking weights"!! Smile Though I've heard both that the builder was "off" and from others that the builder was "on". So it would be interesting to get more input...

I know there was one time it was just a mistake on their website and not an actual "intentional" attempt to misrepresent their weights. (they had weights for component groups switched around and I think it was Vic(sp) who figure out what it was... cheaper build was listing a lower weight than a more expensive build, etc.)
  • 1 0
 Might have been an error that was addressed, hopefully...
  • 1 0
 @ICKYBOD: Thanks for the heads-up on that review. I'm sure it's over 7lb with a shock, but that's not totally out of line with any Evil, or Revel, or transition frame these days. It's a trail bike really, so I'm comparing it to those before the more XC focused top fuel, etc.
  • 1 0
 2lbs more frame weight than the top fuel, not the other bikes' frame weights.
  • 10 0
 I'd like to see the Ibis Ripley in this.
  • 10 4
 Ripley V4 owner here. Big Ibis fanboy. Ready for downvotes when I say the Ripley is a great trailbike but not the best choice for a fast all day marathon bike. Why in my opinion?
*taking deep sigh and running for cover - the STA is too steep for 120mm.
  • 1 0
 @bikewriter: That's your only reason? Wouldn't be a deal breaker for me
  • 3 0
 @stumphumper92: Guess it depends on each rider's preference and background. I have a XC/marathon background, and with the V4's STA, the effective toptube felt short for mega hours at high efforts; had the cockpit set up perfectly with the long reach. It was comfortable for my 5'10" 32" pant inseam with the 40mm stem and 760mm bar, and as a trail bike it was poppy (gawd I hate that word) and always pedaled uphill great. But after 7 months of big miles it may stick around as my trail bike, but I'm looking for a more dedicated all-day climber. Not that numbers have the final say, but for a 120/100 or 120/120 bike, a 75STA with 68-ish HTA and sub 1200mm WB would be nice, a setup where a longer stem (60mm??) would have me centered. I don't think every situation requires a 40mm stem and 470+ reach.

Like I said, purely personal. Still an Ibis fanboy, just not one to say a V4 is the ultimate all-day trail bike for me.
  • 1 0
 @bikewriter: I hear others say that but 76 really isn't all that steep, especially compared to other bikes in 2019/2020. Bump up travel in the fork and slacken everything out if it feels too steep or you could buy a Giant or Pivot.
  • 2 0
 @bikewriter: Just depends on your terrain. Steep STA essentially optimizes the seated position for climbing. If you have a lot of flat terrain to cover, you end up needlessly far forward. You get to be a lot more comfortable on long climbs though instead of having to sit on the tip of your saddle like on a slacker/traditional STA bike.
  • 1 0
 @bikewriter: funnily, I bought a Ripley V4 exactly for that: long marathons.
I'm long legged and love the steep STA.

I actually wanted to buy a Top Fuel before, but after a short test ride decided not to. I think the Ripley is the better bike overall. (albeit very expensive -- maybe they'll release a Ripley AF as well?)


For those who prefer a slacker STA though: simply move the saddle back or use a setback seatpost.
  • 1 0
 @bikewriter: Slide the saddle back on the rails? Set back dropper post. this is a non issue...?
  • 6 0
 QUESTION: You guys demo a lot of bikes... What bike that you have demoed in the past was missing from this comparison and how would it have faired vs the rest. New Banshee Phantom, Intense Sniper Trail, Yeti SB100, etc... I know you are limited to what you are sent, but I am really curious to know how the other obvious down country bikes compared.
  • 9 0
 I haven't ridden the Banshee or Intense so I can't comment on those, but I've ridden the SB100 a fair bit. The suspension on that bike is magical, and the geometry feels really dialed to me, but I find that frame to be a little too soft for my liking. I personally would have been happy to trade a few grams for stiffness there.
  • 2 2
 @angryasian: I have heard that Yeti engineered lateral compliance (flex) into the rear stays and that it can be off putting for some. Is that what you are referring to?
  • 6 0
 @aharvey: My flex issue on that bike was more with the front triangle, not the rear.
  • 1 0
 @aharvey: I think the flex where the SI sliders attach to the frame is the issue. Having them supported on only one side allows for a lot of torsional flex. They just need another tab in the center, so they're supported on both sides. The review on flowmountainbike really gets into the issues and has a lot of pictures of the problem area. The orginal bolt all the way through causes creak, the fix gets rid of the creak but introduces flex. The frame just needs another tab in the center so each slider is supported independently and on both sides, so no twisting.
  • 8 0
 To all the senior bike staff on PB: Please put @sarahmoore on a crash course on classic punk/metal/ska music. The generational gap is strong with this one.
  • 6 0
 They don't call me the world's worst trivial pursuit player for nothing!
  • 4 0
 @sarahmoore smiles while stuck in traffic. It's a lost cause.
  • 1 0
 @brianpark: let her watch the video for "everybody hurts" and she'll come to her senses.
  • 6 0
 Glad to see the Trail Pistol take it for Sarah! I just ordered the Smash last week and hope its bigger brother is just as fun.

For my part, I weigh 215lbs. I've always said I can lose 2lbs easier than any frame can. Spent my entire MTB life riding aluminium. 30+ lbs trail bikes mostly. Recently bought a Canyon Strive (wanted to go full enduro). I ended up returning it for a whole slew of reasons (mostly manufacture defects) but... it was 34ish lbs for the race frame and I have to say not one lick of weight mattered. It was the fastest bike up and down I've ever ridden (when the shapeshifter worked). I went with GG despite the weight because for me at least, weight doesn't matter unless its over 40lbs. That said, I'm a rider looking for fun over performance. I demoed all the heavy hitters in the Enduro class (sb150, 2020 enduro, ripmo, strive, megatower, etc) and found the biggest difference wasn't weight, but how fun they were. The sb150 for example can soak up damage but IT IS NOT FUN. The strive slayed my PRs, but it was not fun. Megatower was amazingly plush, not fun.

My take: fun trumps performance unless you are a competitive racer.
  • 3 0
 My Smash is built mid to low end with some upgrades. I made no effort to shave weight. I'm running the DT Swiss 1900s with a replacement 350 hub in the back, Lyrik, RS SD Coil (with a very heavy spring...cuz I'm bigger than you), Code RSC brakes, GX components, and SDG dropper. Tires are big boy Maxxis. Size 3 frame. It's a hair under 35lbs. I have zero complaints so far. I could make it quite a bit lighter if I need to, but I don't care at all.
  • 3 0
 It's 34.4lbs. covered in dirt. It would be way less with and air can.

i.imgur.com/YoA53D7_d.jpg?maxwidth=640&shape=thumb&fidelity=medium
  • 6 0
 Not a surprise to me about the awesomeness of the Trail Pistol. But I'd agree with other posters that it probably fits more in the trail category, numbers be damned. I would be curious to hear how it compared to the Norco, as those bikes seem very similar to me in a lot of ways.

I had the aluminum model which was one of my favorite bikes I've ever owned. I sold it this fall actually to build up something more "Downcountry" as the TP was more capable than I was /am. I put 5000 miles on mine, and now it's with a local shedder who will use more of the capability that frame has.

As an aside, I got outstanding service from GG when I broke a seatstay and pivot. I'd buy from them in a second if ever wanted a bigger bike.
  • 5 0
 I bought a Top Fuel this year, coming off of a Santa Cruz 5010, and damn, I love this bike - especially as a southeastern rider the geometry and travel numbers of this bike are DIALED. The new tallboy has gone too far towards a trail bike imo, and it's geo is going to hold it back on my home trails. I wouldn't hesitate to race XC on this bike and will jump in some enduro's on it when the trail isn't too gnarly.

A few things, SIZE UP! I'm 5'7" and have ridden a medium in most bikes, my wife got a Top Fuel before me and purchased a medium, she's 5'5", I tried hers out and it was too cramped. According to Trek's fit system I am smack in the middle of both sizes, medium or medium -large will work. That said - the Medium/Large is the sweet spot for people in the 5'7" - 5'9" height range, it makes the bike feel WAY better and it just fits perfectly. Based on the articles, I feel like both of the reviewers did themselves a little bit of a disservice and may have been on the smaller sized bikes.

Finally, I feel that it's very "in" in the online mtb journalism world to hate on remote lockouts and lockouts in general, I thought I would be "meh" about the Top Fuels but I was wrong, I absolutely love the feature. For any stretch of gravel road climbing or buffed out trail I'm hitting the twist lock.

Loved that you guys did this shoot-out!
  • 6 0
 A comment on the lockout- Most companies give you a lever that is in the way of everything else. TREK went across brands to optimize is placement - out of the way - unlike others like Scott that put them where the dropper needs to be. Kudos to Trek.
  • 5 0
 @dldewar: Yep, agreed. I'm generally not a fan of manual lockouts, but the TwistLoc that Trek used is the least offensive out there.
  • 1 0
 A couple of years ago I ran a Scott lever with a dropper and could not get rid of it fast enough after understanding that I just wanted shiny things on my bike that I never used. Of course the lockout is really never going to be used in much BC terrain. In the NIMBY 50 I only used it on the roll in and roll out during the race. I am sure people with different terrain may use more. Thanks again for the great work on the reviews. @angryasian:
  • 5 0
 I think a huge problem with these reviews (and bike reviews in general) is the over emphasis on trying to fit a bike into a category. It seems like the major criticism for bikes are often only relative to a category (i.e., "this bike is too heavy for category X"), rather of evaluating a bike on its own merits.

I understand some comparison is inevitable or even necessary, but I think it would be more helpful to evaluate the characteristics of each bike that made it good or bad in a context that pertains more to the riding of the bike than what category it fits into.

So instead of "bike X is too heavy for category Y" it'd be more helpful to say "bike X is heavy, this impacts the ride in ways A, B and C". That way I can decide how the weight will impact me and where I ride.

But that's just like, my opinion, man.
  • 7 1
 This is the category I'd be shopping in. This is the type of riding I do. But not a single one of these bikes in this test even appeals to me in one bit.
  • 4 0
 Ok - How would you compare the LEVY DOWNCOUNTRY BLUR (Now the SC Trail model - 120 Front Fork and dropper) to the rest of this crowd. It seems like such a broad range of bikes. I am sure it is way less capable than the Tallboy in this test - but would it be on par with the Pivot or Mondraker or is the geo just too old school?
  • 3 0
 I'd say it's closer to the Pivot than the Mondraker in terms of geometry. The frame feels impressively burly, but the rear end is also noticeably firmer than the Tallboy/Joplin, and it's definitely shorter than the Mondraker. I'd say it's a better DC bike than the Pivot, but the Pivot is a better XC bike. Make sense?
  • 1 0
 Yes it does! Thanks again for the reviews. @angryasian:
  • 1 0
 @dldewar: Great question! I absolutely love my Blur and wondered how it would slot into this shootout.
  • 5 0
 This seems like more of a debate about what 'Downcountry' is, and therefore clouds the air when it comes to picking a winner.
  • 4 0
 If I'm honest, I would love a downcountry bike for all the long, less technical, high elevation gain riding that I do in the summer. But then I wouldn't be the thorough endurbro that I am now, so long travel FTW.
  • 3 0
 Thanks for taking the time to review this category of bike. I think this category has a lot of room to grow and hopefully we will continue to see new bikes aimed at it.

I think that there is a good portion of riders who are overbiked and have been so for quite a long time and are now starting to realize it's silly and that they want something to fit 80-90% of riding that they do and for it to pedal and climb better than their big enduro/AM bike.

Take for example here in the front range of Colorado where the large majority of rides all climb 1500-2000' all in one go. Having a bike that makes that that climb more pleasurable and only requires a marginal backing off on the descents seems like a huge win compared to pedaling my 34lb enduro sled all the time.

In a sense this category is for the practical as they realize it's best to have one bike that suits the majority of riding they do or for those who are lucky enough to have more than one bike. n+1!
  • 4 1
 Yeah, "downcountry" (or whatever you want to call it) is definitely a super interesting area. I ride in the Front Range, too, and decided to go down in travel for my personal bike this year. Previous bikes included an Ibis Mojo HD3, Specialized Enduro 29, Pivot Switchblade (in 29er guise), and Orbea Rallon, but I'm now on a Pivot Trail 429 and it feels more inline with the sort of riding I'm actually doing day-to-day. Still handles some gnarlier stuff, but better on the uphills (which, as you know, we have an awful lot of out here).
  • 1 0
 @angryasian: Trail 429 is a nice bike. Glad Pivot finally got the geometry mostly dialed in on that model.
  • 4 0
 Shortcomings in your riding got you down... have you tried throwing money in bulk at a new bike to mask those shortcomings.... have we got a review for you and all your downcountry needs.
  • 3 0
 Dear Santa,

I have been a ok-ish boy this year, so all I want is a PB shoot out between the following bikes:
SC Tallboy
Ibis Ripley
Yeti SB100
Transition Smuggler
Specialized ST
Intense Sniper Trail

I know that Pinkbike has done reviews of all of these, but it is always different riders and different trails, different emphasis for that article.
  • 2 0
 The Topfuel Rips - But throw a different wheelset on it for true rowdiness... While Bontrager / Trek have an excellent replacement policy, that doesn't replace the fact that broken wheels while traveling will make things go south, even if they will be replaced when you return home.
  • 10 0
 Oof a $9,000 spec and still shopping for wheels.
  • 1 0
 thats my plan when i get my topfuel. slash wheels should fit well when i build the topfuel with bigger discs
  • 3 1
 I just can't fall in love with any of these....I want to fall for you GG but just not the right quiver killer for my area and riding. I guess I will just buy an ebike! Just kidding.....

I blame the category name which is too negative....I propose awesome country....#downwiththedowncoutry
  • 4 0
 I love how the Pivot gets the worst review. Its marked as a pure XC race bike. The Trail 429 would have been a way better bike for this category.
  • 2 0
 My local trails are a great use case for the downcountry category (some burly descents, mild drops and lots of pedaling). My current ride is a 2016 Smuggler which you could call the OG downcountry bike (I think Transition calls it BC XC bike). But it's a bit on the heavy side, so I am always kind of keeping an eye out for what's out there. None of these bikes really grabbed me TBH:
Trail Pistol- basically same bike as my Smuggler
Mondraker- fancy pants dentist bike that barely works
Juliana- Seems to hit close to the mark, I'm intrigued by the Tallboy
Pivot Mach IV- Ninooooo
Trek Top Fuel- Maybe? Seems a bit too XC though

Seems like Tallboy and Ripley (which I reaaaly wish would have been included) are tops in the category. Maybe Giant Trance?
  • 1 0
 I rode the Trance 29 for a while and totally loved it for that type of riding. It didn't pedal as well as the Ripley, and seemed like it could have been a little better pedaler with only 115mm of travel, but it was still good and was a blast on the flatter, rolling terrain and could still handle the chunky descents.
  • 3 0
 They reviewed the trance last year, maybe one of the reviewers can weigh in on a quick comparison against this years fleet?
  • 1 0
 Top Fuel is coming closest for me. I'd like a bike that works well with a 120 fork, for occasional races. It's a big increase in weight to step up in fork travel since there's no 130 SC. I do wish the Top Fuel was just a degree slacker in the head tube angle though. Might end up getting it anyway.
  • 2 0
 These bikes are all marketed as trail bikes (I won't utter the D word) but get to that level of capability in different ways. For riders not dropping 6 footers or punching through rock gardens, these are the kinds of bikes they'll be looking at. It's interesting to see how differently they all ride.

Is it a complete list? No. But it is a representative sample of what's out there. I like my bikes squishier, but if I was looking for a bike in this travel bracket, it'd give me a good baseline to go start riding some demos.

I thought it was great that the same tires were used. I'd love to see that one step further and see matching wheels. Something "mid-priced" like I9 101's or DT M1700s. Since the drivetrain, cockpit and braking components all tend to be close in weight, this would allow a clearer picture regarding bike weight. Since wheels have an outsize impact on ride quality, it would also make for a more uniform testing protocol of how the different bike frames perform. I get that this would be more logistical hassles for the writers and editors, but I think it would still be super-rad.
  • 2 0
 Nice job on this Field Test and looking forward to the remainder. I have a couple of suggestions for the editors to consider for next year.

1. I'd like to see the actual time differences in the laps rather than the percentage difference. 20 seconds means more to me than say 8.7%.

2. A lot of commenters are interested in bikes that were previously reviewed so were not put into the Field Test. Why not put them in? This head to head format is different. For instance, many people are interested in how the Ripley would fare in this group.
  • 1 0
 I see what you did there; used calm, logical and supportive comments for improvement VS the rest of us are just acting like a mad horde of sarcastic jackasses and are expecting that will somehow make next years tests just the way we want... Smile
  • 2 0
 If you're gonna slobber over a 120-130mm bike and pooh-pooh a 100mm (XC) bike, there are other bikes that woulda been better in this "test". Ibis Ripley comes to mind. Climbs like a madman and can handle most DH's just fine. Seems like the reviewers favor more of a "trail" bike so the Pivot prob shouldn't have been here anyway. I own one and it is a fantastic bike. But it's an XC bike, plain and simple. And is better with a 100mm fork.
  • 2 0
 Downcountry is all about bikes that are good climbers and can handle moderate downhill, no weak knees should apply!

So we got a group of bikes ranging from full XC to short travel enduro.

Not everyone is going to agree, the XC crowd likes their 25# bikes and spandex, the enduro crowd likes their coil springs and baggy shirts.

But we all know that you don’t take a knife to a gun fight. So it’s Sarah and the Trail Pistol for the win!
  • 2 0
 @angryasian @sarahmoore I think this category (with whatever name) does a good job of describing a riding style that resonates with me. A comfortable XC bike that can handle a lot of terrain. Sort of like an all purpose backcountry touring ski. Light, lots of control, handles ice, balanced performance up and down. Wondering if many of the 27.5 bikes are candidates for this? 5010, Turner Flux, Mojo 3, Mach 4 carbon. Lighter wheels, tires, good peddling platform. This quote made a lot of sense: "there's something special about the liveliness of a shorter travel bike that you don't get on an enduro sled." I feel the same way about 27.5 wheels. 27.5 was an XC race bike a few years ago. Add more travel and it's more forgiving?
  • 2 0
 I really like what GG is doing, fabricating their own frames and then giving the rider hundreds of options to set their bike up exactly how they want, it is the best of all worlds. The bikes ride great and there is no better value for what you get, seems like the perfect choice. If you subscribe to the idea that there is a "soul" in our sport, one way to experience that is to ride bikes with the people that created your bike from the raw materials. I went on the GG camping weekend in Bellingham this past summer and got to experience that soul for myself.
  • 3 0
 It's a tough choice but I'd still go with the Ripley and the GG a close 2nd. I would consider the Tallboy if you could upgrade the shock.
  • 1 0
 You can...
  • 5 0
 A Trance would have been nice to see in this group.
  • 2 0
 They came out with it a year too early. We featured it in last year's Field Test.
  • 1 0
 My first question before I purchased any of these rides is what is the intended use and what is covered under my warranty. I don't want to be out for cash because I was pushing this bike past what it was designed to do and denied my warranty.
  • 1 1
 Then get a giant trance 29 if you want rowdy. I ran my downtube into a rock during an ill-planned huck into a rock garden which put a tiny soft spot into the carbon. Giant has a one time carbon replacement during any kind of riding within the first two years, I had the new frame inside of a week.
  • 2 0
 @parkourfan: yep some companies are fine to deal with but I have been burned and know people that have been in the past for this reason. I ride a bike that is designed to handle my riding style but some of these upforked xc bikes you might be out of luck.
  • 3 1
 @parkourfan: I've run my GG Smash downtube into a rock a number of times and I only have a tear in the mastic tape and a small scuff on the powder coat. I have no doubt that GG would send a replacement front triangle since their warranty is lifetime, however I don't need to warranty it.
  • 2 1
 @spaztwelve: That is what I expect from that bike. That extra weight is put in the right places.
  • 3 0
 Trek Replaces wheels regularly for the Topfuel. I believe policy is 2 years no questions asked. If you have a good shop they can get the replacement wheels fast. For example, I wrecked a rear on Sunday, the shop submitted the replacement with Trek on Monday, and the wheel came in today and the wheel is back on the bike... Granted I live in WI so shipping is ultra fast. Customer Service is Excellent with Trek. On the topic of Wheels, Trek should be spec'ing the Top Fuel with the Line Pro instead of the Kovee Pro. It'll add 100 grams, but will also add durability and reduce replacing wheels.
  • 2 0
 @spaztwelve: Lifetime against defects in material and workmanship is VERY different from a guaranteed no questions asked replacement. Giant's the only one in the industry with a free no questions asked replacement program on the frame. Trek does do wheels now, similar 2 year program, and obviously companies like enve have the lifetime replacement programs.

Accidents happen, it's dumb to say "I don't need to warranty it"

Try hucking to flat and putting all that force a square edged rock...point of impact was less than half an inch. Literally no bike on the market is going to handle that, I don't care what it's made out of. This was well past tearing mastic tape or putting a scuff on the frame. Shit happens, I ride the bike like the reign and enduro evo I had before, I wouldn't get a short travel trailbike and be comfortable riding it hard without a warranty in writing.

Nothing against GG or their bikes, it's just that their stated warranty isn't close to as good.
  • 1 0
 @parkourfan: Thats why I posted this I have no idea what the warranties say on these. I would be more concerned with the lighter weight offerings such as the Trek, Mondraker, and pivot though as the GG or fForbidden Druid (not in this test but similar travel) seems to fall into a purpose built frame for hard riding. Something like the piviot/Mondraker especially which are just upforked xc race bikes. If you are sending gap jumps or drops even moderately sized will your warranty cover it.
  • 1 0
 @mtbman1980:
Your warranty doesn’t actually cover much when it comes to what kind of riding you’re doing. It’s often assumed that you’re using it for its “intended purpose”, which can include marketing so as long as the company puts out a video of one of their riders sending some gaps and drops, id point to that.

Most companies on the market have a lifetime warranty against manufacturers defects, some have a 7 year plan, some have reduced price crash replacements, etc. Giant has a guaranteed freebie frame/wheels/whatever is house branded carbon pretty much no matter how you ride it, but they still reserve the right to refuse whatever they want/take a while to get the right replacement. They did that kind of replacement for years before they put it in writing as well.

In my experience with a decent number of warranties, most companies will straight up refuse to warranty aluminum unless it breaks at a weld, since that’s the stress riser point from their manufacturing. I’ve had some cheaper single pivot frames that snap around the weld areas and they’re warrantied every time. For carbon, it’s a bit different since the whole thing is often hand laid, and sometimes they’ll want the frame sent back and inspected for damage other than the area in question to refuse it. Some companies are more generous than others.

Specialized refused to warranty an epic after a rock kicked up and took a chunk out of the middle of the downtube. A camber that had the steel race of the bearing fuse to the aluminum linkage got no help. They also refused to warranty a venge that snapped in half crashing in its first race/first week of riding. They offered the venge customer 20% off MSRP for a new frame (ouch). That’s just a couple in the past season.

I don’t think there’s too many companies that have really good carbon production and also market that they focus on just making a strong frame - Santa Cruz claimed that’s what they were trying to do with the first v10c and that’s about what I can remember.

Pivots I’ve worked on in the past for hard riders have taken an incredible beating, and I’d happily ride one. Theres a Mach 4 at my shop that sees 3k+ miles a year and has been ridden since 11spd XO first came out. Scratches and gouges in the carbon all over, holds up great.

If I’m buying new, I want the best warranty possible and there’s lots of huge companies I don’t trust when it comes to that.
  • 2 1
 @parkourfan: Go search around the web for denied warranty claims from Giant. There's plenty. Go ask the GG community how their experience has been.

Also, I didn't say that I don't need the warranty. I implied that I don't need to use the warranty, because my frame didn't get catastrophically damaged. I've unfortunately pounded this frame...it's absolutely fine.
  • 1 0
 @spaztwelve: of course there are, giants the biggest manufacturer of bikes and one of the largest sellers.

Compare the letter of the warranty processes for both. I know which ones going to hold up better on paper. Giant stepped up in a big way for something that was totally my fault and well outside the scope of anything covered by “manufacturers defects”

I’ve “pounded” plenty of bikes. Shit happens, this was well outside of the normal “accidentally run into a rock in a rock garden”. Just because I didn’t break my BMC XC bike when I had it doesn’t make it stronger than the other bikes I’ve had. Feel free to come through for a ride anytime if you’re still in MA.
  • 1 0
 The alternative definition of downcountry bike might be its just a all-purpose, full down bike for those, who lives on flats and terrain contains no rocks and roots is not so big, and steeps not so hard and long, and trails actually looks like walking trails or some tractor roads.
  • 1 0
 Really enjoyed all of these reviews as well as past Field Tests on PB. This seemed like a tough category to define or rate the bikes in even for the testers. How do you criticize a light XC-oriented 100-ish mm bike for...being a light XC-oriented 100-ish mm bike? You're going to get bucked around more than a 130-150 mm but have more peddling efficiency, generally less weight and different geo to suit that design's intentions. It's unfair to say the ride is harsh in comparison: it's apples vs oranges.
  • 1 0
 @spaztwelve nice! I went all Shimano XT (drivetrain and brakes) and went all fox (PE series). The thing Im most excited about is the wheels. I went with the i9 enduro 305. Been wanting to ride those hydra hubs for awhile now.

That lyrik is pretty awesome though, had one on my Strive. Super forgiving where it counts.
  • 1 0
 Would power meter data give visibility to the actual efficiency differences among these XC-oriented bikes or even among all the categories? I think the climbing abilities of bikes (in general) are over sold in reviews. I think a lot of the perceived efficiency is really just feel more so than actual efficiency. I think control tires is a step in the right direction.

For me, I'll stick with the poor-person downcountry bike -- a hardtail. It's efficient, raw, and a fun change up from my trail/enduro bike. But I am interested to see where this segment goes in the future.
  • 1 0
 "Downcountry"....not as bad as the name "Gravel Grinding" ...but close..ughhh....I will say my Niner Jet 9 RDO with 120mm rear and 130mm front travel and a 67 degree head angle is my go to bike for every day riding (and I have a bikes in every travel increment from hardtail to 170mm). It came out in 2017 (and I'm sure there were others before it) so not so much a new of a category or concept, just a new name for what we used to call "mountain bikes".
  • 2 1
 I really like Guerilla Gravity as a company and their philosophy, but I've ridden a couple of their new carbon bikes and they are damn heavy. They feel about 8 lbs heavier than a comparable bike. Nobody ever talks about that, but it's true and was a deal killer for me. The ride was not as fun in my opinion...
  • 1 0
 Something bothered me throughout this video and I’ve realized it stems from a problem with trying to make Down Country a category. It really hurt the comparison as the term doesn’t reflect the reality of the bikes tested, or indeed of bikes generally. Of course can see why it would have been tempting for Mike Levy to add a category name when he did. Iterative change in XC bike making has meant that more capable geometry is popping up in lightweight race bikes. Likewise some people/companies are seeing the advantages of shorter travel trail bikes. If you squint and stand on one leg the new category sort of seems to match. With eyes open however, you see that the fundamental characteristics of the bikes from each category are too different to align meaningfully. The commentary in this video make this pretty plain. You had a couple of short travel trail bikes on the test and a couple of XC bikes with geo edged towards better general riding capability. Where a tester was looking for a fun trail bike you would choose one (the GG). If you wanted sheer speed and efficiency you would choose the other(Top Fuel). In the end I am left understanding more about the Judge’s preferred riding style than how well the bikes meet the goals their manufacturers were aiming for. No doubt it feels nice to identify a new trend but where “Down Country” is concerned I’m afraid the emperor has no clothes. The sooner you admit that, the better. Otherwise I very much appreciate your effort; cheers!
  • 5 0
 Here with popcorn......
  • 2 0
 "but if you're just looking at numbers and pictures, it's easy to argue a lot of things isn't it?", what else are we supposed to do?
  • 4 4
 "No amount of spec massaging could turn it into something it isn't"...

So why not review it for what it is??? Seems like every review of a short travel bike complains that the suspension is harsh, the bars too narrow, the stem too long, etc.. In other words the reviewer wants it to be a long travel bike.
  • 3 0
 Nope, that's not what I was hoping for at all. Pivot is very clear in saying that the Mach 4 SL is a WC-level XC race bike, but also that it's capable of the sort of riding we were doing in this test. And given its newness, it seemed appropriate to include it here. It's still a superb XC race bike, but at least in this arena, it seemed clear to me that the Mach 4 SL just wasn't ideal no matter what parts you bolted on to it.
  • 1 1
 Why didn't the Orbea Oiz TR make this test list? I think it could easily have beaten the Top Fuel in testing. and what a true pleasure to ride.....

We are regularly setting PR's and KOM's on Blue and Black trails in southern Utah, on rocky technical terrain.

120mm Fox 34 Front, 120mm rear, 68 degree head, 74 deg seat angle and ~24 pounds for the size Large MTeam.
In terms of bang-for-buck it is also easily one of the best in this class.

with "TR" Trim it is ~$7,787 MSRP bike with full XTR, 150mm dropper, Fox 34 Factory fork, Fox Factory rear shock, dual remote 3-position lockout "squidlock" and DT Swiss XRC1200 carbon wheels.

(you can use the MyO program to get the 120 fork and 120 rear travel, and dropper on any of the non-native-TR bikes).
  • 1 0
 Yes wish they compared it too
  • 1 0
 Taking about the weight of complete bikes and comparing them to each other is not really that useful. In this context you probably should be discussing weights for frame only.
  • 3 0
 Thinking the 2020 Norco Revolver would've aced this comparison.
  • 3 0
 I honestly wonder if the Optic might have if it had been recategorized into this group
  • 2 2
 Throw in a yeti sb100 with 120/130 fork and I think you will have the perfect test bike that sarah was wanting ! This is yeti’s category- not sure why it wasn’t included in the test.
  • 1 2
 Not sure what your problem is with the Knock Block but it works totally fine, doesn't hinder the ride and I feel makes it safer by not allowing the bars to spin in an accident. Its my 20+ MTB and haven't had any issues at all.
  • 3 0
 Dear Pinkbike, please include party hardtail in the next series.
  • 2 0
 Great choice Sara Wink

Excited to see y'all review The Smash on the Enduro side
  • 3 1
 Was hoping to see a Specialized or Yeti or even an Orbea in the mix.
  • 2 0
 "...with its too-cool-for-school cult following." LOL.
  • 1 0
 You know how some people get basically permanent callouses from riding? Mike Levy gets permanent helmet hair.
  • 1 0
 All of the reviewers seem genuinely lukewarm about every last offering. $10K doesn't buy you what it used to.
  • 1 0
 I'm curious if either of you have spent time in a yeti sb100 or an intense sniper tr?
  • 1 0
 Yeti, yes. Intense, no. The suspension design on the Yeti is magical, and the geometry is fantastic. But the frame is too soft for my liking.
  • 1 0
 Will be very interesting to see what next years purposel designed DC bikes are like after all of this feedback??
  • 1 0
 @ stiingya: Canyon Strive. 120/130 though
  • 1 0
 @Climbtech: strive geo could use a bit of a refresh though
  • 1 0
 with an air shock, the new Gambler could be lighter then frame/shock of the guerrilla gravity...
  • 1 0
 The yeti sb4.5 was the ultimate D.C. bike... I think the Ripley would be the best option now.
  • 1 0
 I think the bikes everyone thinks they think they are looking for have been dubbed "underbikes" by another website...
  • 1 0
 Levy invented DownCountry? haha. I think its UpDuro
  • 1 0
 Next year, different control tires for different segments,please. Thanks.
  • 5 0
 Noted. Double Down casings, it is!
  • 4 0
 @angryasian: I'm going to make you all ride singlewall plus tires.
  • 1 0
 @brianpark: At least the Intense won't be peddle stricken to oblivion then? Smile

(course after they run out of darts, patches, and spare tubes they got to walk back to the cabin...)
  • 1 0
 Is there a list somewhere of the bikes reviewed for this years field test?
  • 1 0
 Why no love for nicolai??
  • 1 0
 This term “Downcountry” is dumb AF
  • 1 0
 What was the other bike that broke the flat test besides Pole?
  • 1 0
 What was the other bike that broke the flat test besides Pole?
  • 2 1
 Still waiting
  • 10 13
 since when do "XC" bike weigh more than 26lbs? ... I will stick to my 21 lb Scalpel XTR with the best 100mm I have ever ridden
  • 7 0
 Obviously when they become downcountry bikes.
  • 8 4
 Back when tires, brakes and drivetrains couldn't handle rowdier riding (and dropper posts didn't exist), building bikes down to 21-22 pound range made sense. Adding weight didn't really make for a more capable machine because of fundamental geometry and component limitations. The Scalpel still hews to this model of design. It may be the fastest "pure" xc bike on the market today, but if you put out decent wattage, you'll crack a frame every 3-5k miles. And the geometry makes riding anything remotely technical an exercise in fear (and, likely some epic crashes). And don't get the bike in the air, or you'll halve my mileage to cracked frame estimate.

There is no free lunch-so if you want a truly capable bike, 26 pounds is the minimum your bike will weigh. If you really want to get rad-more like 30-32 pounds. If you wear lycra and use the phrase "I'm just a cross country rider" to validate a lack of handling skill, the Scalpel will do the trick for you.
  • 1 0
 @peleton7: I dunno about that. I have a 27.8# size large Foxy 29 that's snagged some top 10s on Enduro lines and spends some decent time in the air to boot. To top it off I took it on an advanced group XC ride just last night and it hauled ass at that too. Thing is as reliable as an anvil.
Mondraker's are poor values. But if you want the want the best starting point for a custom build there is no better place to begin than a Mondraker, imo.
  • 1 1
 @SunsPSD: Double casing rear tire with that build?? And...does that include pedals?
  • 4 1
 @peleton7: Hahahahahaha. Pretty sure I can handle a bike after 25 years of XC racing / Cyclocross and 10 years of BMX racing at a high level, I think I am good thanks
Also pretty sure 3 Scalpels and 20k on them they held up just fine

My 27 lb Carbon Trigger will have to take the " Big hits and stuff in the air " I guess

Next time I sell a Scalpel in my bike shop I will have to ask " Do you wear lycra " because if you don't then you need not apply.
  • 1 0
 @scottty: second your scalpel experience!
  • 1 0
 @peleton7: Includes (2) 1000g tires, DH rear layup rim + inserts & Avy cartridge up front in that 27.8# weight.
Does not include bash guard, pedals, or tools in that weight. It weighs 30.0# ready to ride but I carry all my tools in that weight on the bike including air pump, CO2, etc...
Anything that can be weight weenied without hurting performance, has been. Including air rear shock as opposed to coil (RT3 Superdeluxe), Berd spokes, Eewing cranks, Magura MT Carbon Trail, etc..
It's also as big as most XLs.
  • 1 0
 @SunsPSD: Nice. 30lbs ready to thrash is impressive.
  • 1 0
 @scottty: You have a bigger bike to go bigger. Sure, if you have a squshier bike then a purebred race bike is nice to have. But-a Scalpel has a narrow bandwidth.

And I've seen more cracked Scalpel frames at the LBS than any other bike in my 20 years wrenching/and 39 years riding.
  • 1 0
 @scottty: Just a note- the 26lbs for the Trek is with the minions. It's in the 25s with the 2.4 xr3s and 29mm inner rims and 24s if you remove the twin loc paraphenalia. It's not really an xc bike- more xc capable than true xc.
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