Value Mountain Bike of the Year NomineesThis year saw Pinkbike make a concerted effort to include more affordable options in our portfolio of bike reviews. The response was overwhelmingly favorable, so we will continue to search for the most promising examples and give them proper shakedowns. For 2018, we've nominated five affordable trail bikes from the likes of Marin, Polygon, Specialized, Transition, and Whyte. Prices range from $2,400 to $3,600 USD, and we've included designs with both 27.5 and 29-inch wheels that span the gamut between XC/trail and enduro racing. The winning bike will need to be a versatile machine that performs well above its asking price.
Why it's nominated
Priced at only $2,749 USD, Marin's Alpine Trail 7 exceeded expectations, with a solid build and performance to match. Marin designed it for seasoned trail riders on a budget, with 29-inch wheels, up-to-date frame geometry, just-right suspension performance, and four intelligently proportioned size options. Marin's aluminum chassis is kept simple, with a time-proven, 150-millimeter-travel, linkage-driven single pivot rear suspension. Its X-Fusion 02 RXC shock is paired with a capable, 160-millimeter RockShox Yaris RC fork. Up top, 800-millimeter bars and a 150-millimeter dropper underscore the purpose of the bike.
Riding the Trail 7 showcases the importance of modern geometry. Its 65-degree head-tube angle, extended reach and big wheels will have you searching for the harder lines on the downs, and while its rear suspension may bob a little too much for fastidious XC riders, Marin's choice to err on the supple side, combined with the bike's 76-degree seat-tube angle, makes short work of the steeper and more technical climbs, where you'll need the most help. Test rider Paul Aston sums up the Alpine Trail 7 as, "an easy bike to ride." From the First Ride: Why it's nominated
Specialized's 140-millimeter-travel, aluminum-framed Stumpjumper EVO 29 retails for $3,620 USD, which may not seem all that affordable to some. What earns its nomination, however, is that the EVO 29 is a preview - a chance for Specialized to take long-low-and-slack to a new level
without re-tooling the entire Stumpjumper range. As a result, if you wanted to go all in on big wheels and rider-forward geometry, you could buy this 29-inch-wheel monster truck from Specialized for a little more than it would cost to get a frame from the likes of Pole or Nicolai. Or, you can look at it differently: for under four grand, you could already be riding an aluminum version of next year's $10,000 carbon superbikes that the big S is still busy carving the molds for. We could be wrong.... But?
How does it ride? Well, its 63.5-degree head tube angle is the same as the Demo 8 DH bike, its seat angle is 75.6 degrees and its ground-scraping bottom bracket starts at 328 millimeters. Add a 475 millimeter reach and you've got the right bike for taking the shortest path to the bottom of the mountain - any mountain. Its parts pick reflects its affordable MSRP, but all the important bits are shred worthy - a 150-millimeter Fox 36 Rhythm fork, DPX2 shock, and a SRAM NX 12-speed drivetrain - and it's got Code brakes with big rotors. Test rider Mike Kazimer said he posted his best time down one of the most technical of his home trails, and it felt like he was out for a casual cruise. Oh, and it climbs okay too.From the review:Why it's nominated
"Enduro" has become a surname, especially within the ranks of affordable trail bikes, where it is commonly used to extract a higher price for an otherwise unworthy design. Whyte's G-170 S calls out the fakes with what may be the most capable mountain bike you can buy near its asking price of $2,399 USD. To begin with, tire inserts are standard equipment for its 27.5-inch wheels. Its Horst-Link rear suspension sports 170 millimeters of wheel travel, and all of the moving bits, including the seat mast, are sealed. Paired with its RockShox Deluxe damper, is a 180-millimeter Yari fork (Charger equipped) with a reduced, 37-millimeter offset. The Whyte-branded cockpit sports 780-millimeter bars a 150 dropper and a 35 millimeter stem. We're boring you with the specs to drive home the fact that the G-170 S is truly a needs-nothing bike
What impressed us most about the G-170 was riding it. Its aluminum chassis is sturdy as hell, so it can hold a line over rocks and roots that would give pause to many big-bike riders. Whyte is on the long-and-slack program too, with a 65-degree head angle and reaches from 436 to 496 millimeters across four sizes. Add those attributes to gravity-length travel and a low bottom bracket, and you have a fearless partner that will gladly one-up you on any downhill you have the seeds to attempt. When the trail turns upward, though, don't expect miracles. Our medium-sized test bike weighed 34 pounds and change, but take your time and you'll discover that its kinematics, NX 12 speed transmission and 30-tooth chainring are truly pedal-friendly. If you want an affordable enduro racer, look no further.
From the Field Test:Why it's nominated
What your bike stands for is nearly as important to many of us as its performance. Transition Bikes has earned a fiercely loyal following for being a "rider-owned" bike brand that sticks to the basics: handling, pedaling, versatility, durability and ease of maintenance. Based in Bellingham, Washington, you'd expect them to build bikes with a bias towards technically difficult trails that are greased regularly by Mother Nature. All of the above pretty much sums up what the modestly outfitted, 130-millimeter-travel Scout represents.
Built around its namesake Eagle drivetrain, the $2,999 USD Scout NX has a beautifully constructed aluminum frame that is based upon 27.5-inch wheels. This was one of the first trail bikes to feature a reduced offset fork to balance its slack, 65-degree head-tube angle. Its steering is light at the grips and sure at speed. Reach varies from 400 millimeters to 500 millimeters through five size options - long, but not such that the Scout loses its dexterity for tight switchbacks and forest singletracks. The Scout's 150-millimeter RockShox Revelation RC fork outshines the Deluxe RT shock, but this bike feels planted over chattery roots, and that solid feeling underfoot continues well past the point where the Scout runs out of rear suspension. On the same subject, the Scout's tail end doesn't firm up much under power - which is a negative for smooth, steady uphill slogs, but some degree of suppleness is necessary to maintain traction and momentum over the Northwest's signature roots and embedded rocks.
From the Field Test:Why it's nominated
Polygon's $2,499 USD Siskiu T8 slots into the do-it-all trail bike category, with 29-inch wheels, 140 millimeters of rear-wheel travel, responsive handling, and pedaling firmness that approaches competitors with five-digit sticker prices. The soul of this machine, its aluminum frame, sports a simple, single-pivot swingarm/linkage-driven shock arrangement. Its RockShox Deluxe RT3 damper works with the chassis to provide firm mid-stroke support (which explains much of the Siskiu's goodness under power), but its 140-millimeter RockShox Revelation RC fork does the heavy lifting when the trail turns ugly.
Polygon's mix and match 11-speed drivetrain pairs Shimano XT shifting with a wide-range and well spaced 11 x 46 Sunrace cassette. Efficient pedaling and positive rear grip make up for the Siskiu's less-than-smooth suspension action while climbing up and over chunky terrain. With finesse, it found its way up some impressive steeps. Point it downwards and its intuitive steering, and pro-feeling generic cockpit will have you racing for a personal best. Remember, though, that the Siskiu is a trail bike. It can handle a pro gravity line, but you'll need to keep your speed in check to stay within its comfort zone. Fast-paced trails, peppered with technical problems - that's the stuff this bike is made for. With geometry that stops shy of the current trend, it jumps and slashes like a big-wheel gate racer. If playful and efficient are on the top of your list, Polygon's Siskiu delivers the goods for a remarkably low sticker price. From the review: