Pinkbike added a trio of affordably priced trail bikes to the cadre of high-end dream machines we reviewed during our Whistler Field Tests. All three have aluminum frames and were priced under $3,000 USD, but that's where the similarities ended.
The Whyte G-170 S
hails from the UK, wears 27.5-inch wheels, has aggressive gravity-specific geometry, 170-millimeters of rear-wheel travel and a 180-millimeter fork. Norco's Fluid FS 1
is more trail oriented, with 29-inch wheels, 120 millimeters of rear wheel travel and a 130-millimeter fork, and the third member of the cast, Transition's Scout Alloy NX
, splits the difference between the two, with 130 millimeters of rear suspension, a 150-millimeter fork and numbers capable of handling all but the pointiest lines in the valley.
There are a lot of bikes to choose from in the $3,000 range, so we picked three different examples that embraced the best qualities of the genre to give the uninitiated bike buyer a feel for what's out there, and for which features are most important.
What it Does Best
Whyte G170 S: $2499
The winner of last year's Pinkbike Award for best value, Whyte's 27.5-inch wheel G-170 S is capable of racing enduro or smashing out bike park laps. Outfitted with just-right components, it can be purchased ready-to-ride for less than cost of an elite-level frame from the likes of Specialized or Yeti.
Somehow, Whyte's designers assembled a high quality, 170-millimeter-travel aluminum chassis with value components that are proven capable for a gravity-oriented trail bike and packaged it all with modern geometry for an MSRP that seems impossible. We're not sure how they managed it, but the G170 rides and feels much like a pro level bike - solidly built and immensely confident under saddle.
G-170 S Details Purpose:
All-mountain, bike park, enduroConstruction:
aluminum, Horst-Link type suspension, 170mm travel, ISCG-05 mounts.Wheel size:
27.5" (plus compatible)Geometry:
(medium) Head angle: 65º, seat angle: 75.5º, reach: 452mm, BB height: 333mm, chainstay: 430mmSizes:
Sm, med, large, XLSuspension:
180mm RockShox Yari RC fork (37mm offset), Deluxe R, DebonAir shockKey Components:
SRAM NX Eagle, 12-Speed drivetrain, Guide brakes with 200mm rotors, 150mm dropper seatpostContact: Whyte Bike
Accomplished riders with skills have limited options if they want a gravity-capable, long-travel bike for an affordable price. Whyte's G-170 S is exactly that. Its sturdy chassis, low-slung bottom bracket and deep-travel suspension kinematics are sharply focused for technical, high amplitude trails. Under saddle, its ample reach, 35mm stem, and wide handlebar fall perfectly in place when the earth drops away and the fun begins. With plenty of grip, big brakes and no bad habits, the G-170 S can satisfy a top-level rider's need for speed, or make a hero out of a grom. I wouldn't recommend it as a trail bike, because it weighs 34 pounds and favors the downs. That said, it pedals pretty well and it's geared low enough to happily fulfill the "one bike" role for cash-strapped shredders.
What it Does Best
Transition Scout NX: $2999
Transition's Scout Alloy NX handily overturns a longstanding assumption in our sport. "Affordable trail bikes" are most often associated with larger, established brands that can leverage economies of scale to reduce the cost of their entry level bikes to levels unattainable by smaller niche brands.
Historically, affordable offerings from small, elite level bike makers (I won't name names) fail because they have to spec embarrassingly cheap components on an overly expensive frame to achieve their price points. Transition's most affordable Scout, however, delivers a frame and build that are authentic to the Bellingham, Washington, bikemaker's rider-first ethos and technical Pacific Northwest trail heritage.
Scout Alloy NX Details Purpose:
aluminum, Horst-Link type suspension, 130mm travel.Wheel size:
(medium) Head angle: 65º, seat angle: 75.5º, reach: 450mm, BB height: 335mm, chainstay: 425mmSizes:
XS, small, med, large, XLSuspension:
150mm Rockshox Revelation RC fork (37mm offset), Deluxe RT shockKey Components:
SRAM NX Eagle, 12-Speed drivetrain, Race Face cockpit, Maxxis Minion DHFII/DHR tiresContact: Transition Bikes
Aptly named, Transition's Scout Alloy NX has the combination of pedaling efficiency and trustworthy handling that you'll need to ride unfamiliar zones and features with confidence. Its steering is calm and precise, and it always feels like the Scout has another ten percent in its handling bank to smooth out the moments when something goes wrong. Transition tuned its suspension kinematics to keep the rear wheel moving up and over the innumerable roots and rocks that pepper the Northwest trails, so there is a softness in the pedaling feel that avid XC riders may not like. That initial suppleness, however is a recipe that generates a lot of grip for topping technical climbs and that also helps maintain momentum anywhere trails are ungroomed and chunky.
Norco Fluid FS 1: $2899
Norco's Fluid FS 1 represents the basic trail bike, but updated with more aggressive geometry and suspension that reflect the massive learning curve that enduro has brought to the table of contemporary bike makers. In many ways, the Fluid's well-crafted aluminum frame and Horst link rear suspension mirror the features of the Transition Scout - and for good reason. Norco has been immersed in Northwest topography since it began making mountain bikes, so it's no surprise that they have arrived at the same time-proven mechanical elements.
Norco's Fluid, however, sports 29-inch wheels and a little less suspension travel, both of which give this bike a decidedly different personality. It feels more efficient under power and its larger-diameter
Fluid FS 1 Details Purpose:
Versatile trail bikeConstruction:
aluminum, Horst-Link type suspension, 120mm travel.Wheel size:
(medium) Head angle: 66.5º, seat angle: 76º, reach: 440mm, BB height: 342mm, chainstay: 429mmSizes:
Medium, large, XLSuspension:
130mm RockShox Revelation RC fork, Deluxe RT shockKey Components:
SRAM NX Eagle, 12-Speed drivetrain, Guide T brakes, WTB Trail Boss 2.6" tiresContact: Norco Bicycles
wheels and high-volume tires carry more speed. Its steering and handling feel more sprite. The Fluid's suspension and frame geometry are capable of tackling chunky drops and steep descents, but this bike is happiest riding at pace on flowy singletracks and for longer forays into the backcountry.What it Does Best
Norco's Fluid is the basic mountain bike, but in the best sense of the phrase. It's easy to pedal, fast enough to stay with the XC trail crowd on Wednesday training rides, and it feels planted enough to session technical lines when you are riding with your all-mountain buddies on Saturday. The Fluid FS 1 lacks the brute suspension travel, slack geometry and extended wheelbase to handle the intensity that a true all-mountain or enduro sled is designed for, but it will get you down more technical trails as long as you stay focused and in command. All things considered, that's a wide spread for any trail bike, which I believe is exactly what Norco had in mind when they designed the Fluid FS 1. It's a big world out there, but Norco made sure that you'll only have to spend $2,899 to start discovering it.