With a singleminded focus on either allowing a rider to get down the hill as fast as possible, or in some cases to go as big as possible, downhill bikes have to be considered the F1 cars of our little two-wheeled world. Yes, enduro racing is making trail and all-mountain bikes more competent and well rounded, but there's something about an eight-inch travel machine that weighs in under 35 pounds and delivers so much traction, stability, and confidence that you can get away with anything. Our nominees for 2014 take those traits to the next level, and I don't see how any of the five would ever hold back even the most solid of riders and racers. Despite that fact, there can only be one winner, and you might not be too surprised to find out what bike gets the nod...Downhill Bike of the Year
2014 Santa Cruz V10
This year's award for Pinkbike's Downhill Bike of the Year goes to Santa Cruz for their all conquering V10. Santa Cruz was one of the last companies to introduce a 'tweener wheeled downhill bike to the World Cup race circuit, and while I can sympathize with those who want to hear about the switch to mid-sized wheels about as much as they want to have a root canal just for shits and giggles, the fact that Santa Cruz finally went that direction is noteworthy simply because the 26'' wheeled machine is the most successful World Cup race bike out there. And I can't overstate how its reliability and all around performance on pretty much any type of track makes it a favorite with everyone from local pros, weekend club racers, to park rats who just want a bike that will let them have fun without worrying if it'll last a summer of uplifts.
The 2014 V10 is the most evolved model of the many 26'' wheeled incarnations of the design, and Josh Bryceland, everyone's favorite racer/bike hooligan, used one to take a second place at the Cairns World Cup race this year, and then followed it up with his first ever win at Leogang. It seems as though Josh liked the taste of champagne, because he had a few more solid sips of winner's juice as the year went on and he got aboard the brand new, 27.5'' wheeled V10. And then came Norway, with the huck heard 'round the world being the only thing standing between Josh and what was surely going to be a victory.
Santa Cruz has never really done model years that are set in stone, and the latest V10 that Josh raced actually became available at some local bikes shops as early as December, meaning that consumers could get on the new bike in short order. It's likely a safe bet that the new bike, with its larger wheels, is going to allow riders to go even faster, but, being a 2015 model year bike and us not having put any proper time on it means that it's not up to take the DH BOTY win. That said, Santa Cruz's 2014 V10 is not just a formidable race bike but also an all around badass that's a class leader in pretty much any category that matters, and it looks like that trend will continue in 2015. www.santacruzbicycles.com