Recapped: The Complete 2020 Pinkbike Field Test

Jan 15, 2020
by Sarah Moore  
Photo by Trevor Lyden


Recapped
2020 PINKBIKE
FIELD TEST
Whistler & Pemberton, British Columbia

Photography by Trevor Lyden


For the second year in a row, we pitted a dozen of the latest and most exciting bikes up against what are arguably some of the best trails in the world. The ingredients for the 2020 Pinkbike Field Test: Fourteen new bikes, six technical editors, a few cameras, and a whole lot of good times and good food.




Because arguing about arbitrary comparisons is one of our favorite things to do, we split the bikes up into three loose categories based on their intentions: downcountry, trail, and enduro. The trail and enduro bikes spent two weeks smashing out laps up in the Whistler Bike Park, while the downcountry machines were treated to some of the finest singletracks - both up and down - that Pemberton has to offer.

How We Tested



Below, you'll find all fourteen Field Test video reviews, as well as a comparison video for each category that lays out the strengths - and weaknesses - of every bike. Aaaand we hucked them to flat in slow-motion and had Mike Levy ride them up the Impossible Climb on account of bro science.





TRAIL


Norco Optic

Short on travel, not on capability

• Travel: 125mm
• Wheel size: 29''
• Frame construction: Carbon fiber, alloy rear
• Head angle: 65-degrees

Full Field Test article

Pros

+ It might be the most fun bike in this category
+ Suspension tune and spec is dialed
+ Excellent geometry

Cons

- Geometry can let you go fast, but don't forget that you only have 125mm...
- Four-piston brakes, but with resin pads and resin-only rotors





Orbea Occam

The most 'trail bike' trail bike

• Travel: 140mm
• Wheel size: 29''
• Frame construction: Carbon fiber
• Head angle: 65.5-degrees w/ 150mm fork

Full Field Test article

Pros

+ Ideal all-rounder for many riders
+ Clean looks
+ Lightweight
Cons

- Not as gravity-oriented as the other Field Test bikes
- Great all-rounder, but doesn't stand out
- Left-side bottle only





Pole Stamina 140

The Fastest Trail Bike*

• Travel: 140mm
• Wheel size: 29"
• Frame construction: Machined, glued 7075 T6 aluminum
• Head angle: 64-degrees

Full Field Test article

Pros

+ Incredibly fast, and pushes the boundaries of what we expect from a trail bike
+ It ain't carbon
+ Unique appearance and manufacturing

Cons

- Not as easy to throw around, and struggles in tighter terrain
- It ain't carbon (and the stock one is 98g heavier than ours)
- Oh shit, it broke...





Intense Primer S

Mixed wheel corner carver

• Travel: 140mm
• Wheel size: 29'' front, 27.5+ rear
• Frame construction: Carbon fiber
• Head angle: 64.5 / 65.1-degrees

Full Field Test article

Pros

+ Mindblowing in the corners
+ Relatively efficient
Cons

- Not purpose-built for mullet wheels, so seat angle is too slack and reach is compact
- Stock 2.8" tire spec is not our favourite setup
- Fork and brake spec are odd





Editors' Choice: Optic vs Occam vs Primer S vs Stamina







DOWNCOUNTRY


Mondraker F-Podium DC

So much potential, but the details hold it back on the descents.

• Travel: 100mm
• Wheel size: 29''
• Frame construction: Carbon fiber
• Head angle: 66.8°

Full Field Test article

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





Guerrilla Gravity Trail Pistol

Great value and a heck of a lot more capable than its 120mm suggests.

• Travel: 120mm
• Wheel size: 29''
• Frame construction: carbon fiber
• Head angle: 65.9°

Full Field Test article

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





Juliana Joplin / Santa Cruz Tallboy

Short on travel, not on capability

• Travel: 120mm
• Wheel size: 29''
• Frame construction: Carbon fiber
• Head angle: 65.5° or 65.7°

Full Field Test article

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.





Pivot Mach 4 SL

There's no hiding this bike's World Cup XC pedigree.

• Travel: 100mm
• Wheel size: 29''
• Frame construction: carbon fiber
• Head angle: 67.5° (geometry)

Full Field Test article

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





Trek Top Fuel

The lightest bike in the Field Test might not be the most comfortable, but it packs a powerful punch.

• Travel: 115mm
• Wheel size: 29''
• Frame construction: carbon fiber
• Head angle: 67.5° (Low)

Full Field Test article

Pros

+ Super fast climber with good traction
+ The lightest bike at the 2020 Field Test
+ A fast bike in the right hands, rewards riders for pushing it
Cons

- Demands attention while descending, consider sizing up for more stability
- Lacks some small bump sensitivity
- Knock Block limits turning on tight, technical climbs





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







ENDURO


Rocky Mountain Slayer Carbon 90

The one that broke.

• Travel: 170mm
• Carbon front triangle / aluminum swingarm
• Wheel size: 29"
• Head Angle: 63.8° - 64.8°

Full Field Test article

Pros

+ More versatile than travel and geometry numbers suggest
+ Good traction in rough or loose terrain
+ Comfortable climbing position

Cons

- It doesn't have high-speed stability of some other bikes in this category
- It broke catastrophically





Ibis Mojo HD5

An easygoing all-rounder

• Travel: 153mm
• Carbon frame
• Wheel size: 27.5"
• Head Angle: 64.2°

Full Field Test article

Pros

+ It’s versatile, an all-rounder with easy to handle geometry
+ Good balance of traction and efficiency on the climbs
+ Quick in the corners

Cons

- Doesn’t feel like the race bike it’s claimed to be
- Traction Tune isn’t going to be for everybody
- Not the quietest, and chain slap has already taken paint off the chainstay





GT Force 29 Pro

A solid descender with room for improvement.

• Travel: 150mm
• Aluminum frame
• Wheel size: 29"
• Head Angle: 64.6° / 65.1°

Full Field Test article

Pros

+ Easy to get along with geometry
+ Good suspension spec

Cons

- Heavy, even for aluminum
- G2 brakes aren’t appropriate for a DH-oriented bike, wheels aren’t up to hard charging
- Poor standover, tall seat tube





Specialized Enduro S-Works

Basically a DH bike without a dual crown fork.

• Travel: 170mm
• Carbon frame
• Wheel size: 29"
• Head Angle: 63.9 / 64.3°

Full Field Test article

Pros

+ Near DH bike feel. Can handle pretty much everything and still pedal to the top.
+ The SWAT system is so good it’s hard to go back to bikes without it.
+ Very reasonable weight considering amount of travel and capabilities

Cons

- Seat tube angle could be even steeper - top tube length is relatively long.
- S-Works version is really expensive, but the next models down offer similar performance at more realistic price.





Yeti SB165

A pedalable park bike.

• Travel: 165mm
• Carbon frame
• Wheel size: 27.5"
• Head Angle: 63.5°

Full Field Test article

Pros

+ Very fun freeride/park bike that you can also pedal to the top of the hill
+ Excellent parts spec
+ Dual crown compatibility means it can be built into a mini-DH bike

Cons

- If you’re looking for outright speed then you may want to look at the SB150 or elsewhere
- Expensive, even compared to other high end carbon frames





Editors' Choice: Enduro vs Force 29 vs Slayer vs Mojo HD5 vs SB165







AFFORDABLE TRAIL BIKES


Canyon Spectral AL vs Ibis Ripmo AF

Finally, aggressive trail bikes that dental assistants can afford.


Canyon Spectral AL
• Travel: 150mm
• Aluminum
• Wheel size: 27.5"
• Head Angle: 66º

What it Does Best

One ride and you'll understand the Spectral is all about attitude. Its suspension delivers more trail feedback than I would like, but the flip side is how precise it feels while jumping or setting up for corners. The rigid aluminum chassis keeps the bike on line when you are banging over roots and rubble too. That racey feel, however, can bite you when rain and sludge grease up trail features, which occasionally had me wishing for more sensitivity. That said, Canyon's Spectral AL 6.0 feels fast and aggressive - tailor-made for hard chargers who push and pump every trail feature. It's a massive amount of bike for $2,900.

Ibis Ripmo AF
• Travel: 147mm
• Aluminum
• Wheel size: 29"
• Head Angle: 64.9º

What it Does Best

"Everything." During the Field Tests in Whistler, I took the Ripmo AF to the park, did some Lost Lake XC laps, put down runs on techy classics like Dark Crystal and Ride Don't Slide, and wasted a lot of play time on flow trails. It's one of the most enjoyable, easy handling trail bikes I've had the pleasure to ride. It climbs, corners, jumps and drops like an extension of your body. We switched bikes often, especially while filming, and everyone was visibly faster, happier, and more confident aboard the AF. Last year, if a unicorn slid down a bolt of lightning and told me $3,000 dollars would buy a bike like this, I would have laughed. Ibis easily won this round of PB's affordable trail bike Field Tests.

Full Field Test article





Marin San Quentin vs. Specialized Fuse

Capable hardtails that won't break the bank.


Marin San Quentin
• Travel: HT with 130mm of front suspension
• Aluminum
• Wheel size: 27.5"
• Head Angle: 65º

What it Does Best

The San Quentin 3 feels stout from the start, and there's no question that it's up to the task of going a lot of places in the hands of a capable pilot. Its progressive geometry and 27.5" wheels, coupled with the aggressive 2.6" tires and a 130mm fork, helped provide the confidence necessary to steer the bike into rough terrain, knowing that it can make it through.

The smaller wheels help the bike feel nimble, and taking it from the trail to the dirt jumps or flow trail in the bike park is as simple as pedaling from one to the other. Even after a day's worth of laps on flowier trails in the Whistler bike park, the San Quentin felt as solid as could be. The tires do get a little bit skate-y on looser terrain, but overall the parts spec is well-suited to the bike's intentions.


Specialized Fuse Comp 29
• Travel: HT with 130mm of front suspension
• Aluminum
• Wheel size: 29"
• Head Angle: 66.5º

What it Does Best

Up, down, and all around. Like the San Quentin, I spent time on the trails in and around Whistler on the Fuse riding everything from flowy park trails to more technical singletrack. With a hardtail, most riders can ride most of trails they would on a full-suspension bike, but the pace is different. The 29" wheels of the Fuse, along with capable geometry and tires that performed well allowed me to ride highly technical trails without fear of mishap.

I'm happy to say that not only did the Fuse hold up well, but it also performed well and was a blast to ride on just about any trail we encountered. The 29" wheels of the Fuse along with better tires and more gearing gave it a bit of an edge over the Marin when it comes to all-around trail riding but, at the end of the day, both bikes were fully capable and dependable when it comes down to it.


Full Field Test article





13 Bikes VS The Impossible Climb


Full article with photos





13 Bikes Hucked to Flat in Gratuitous Slow Motion


Full article with photos





THE RIDERS


Photo by Trevor Lyden
Mike Kazimer
Discipline: Trail & Enduro
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 160 lb
Notes: Managing Tech Editor, slug porn enthusiast.
Photo by Trevor Lyden
Sarah Moore
Discipline: Downcountry
Height: 5'7"
Weight: 155 lb
Notes: Content manager, world's worst trivial pursuit player.
Photo by Trevor Lyden
Mike Levy
Discipline: Trail
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 155 lb
Notes: Technical Editor and Tim Hortons corporate shill.

Photo by Trevor Lyden
James Huang
Discipline: Downcountry
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 155 lb
Notes: CyclingTips Global Technical Editor, resident drop-bar enthusiast.
Photo by Trevor Lyden
Luca Cometti
Discipline: Enduro
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 170 lb
Notes: Guest tester & former lifestyle athlete.
Photo by Trevor Lyden
Jason Lucas
Discipline: Enduro
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 200 lb
Notes: Video supervisor & guest tester, only rides park.


Photo by Trevor Lyden


Thanks for watching our antics this year—it's back to regularly scheduled reviews now, although we still have a few little video surprises coming up as well some select video reviews in the near future. We'll be back next year with another round. Aside from more hucks to flat and "field testing" Levy's ability to eat Haribo, what do you guys want to see next year?





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



83 Comments

  • 148 3
 Too bad all of these bikes are obsolete now that the Donut has been unleashed
  • 36 0
 The Grim Donut will be the only bike in this years field test
  • 18 0
 Yeah if it doesn't have a 57 degree head tube angle I'm not interested.
  • 1 1
 Grim Donut FTW!
  • 4 1
 Rip Mike Levy
  • 4 7
 Too bad the Geometron G1 isnt tested... beats the lot
  • 12 0
 @marvintheandroid: Chris Porter, is that you?
  • 3 0
 @dbarnes6891: "Yeah if it doesn't have a 57 degree head tube angle I'm not interested."

Just wait until you try the 56.9° head angles in 2031.
  • 1 1
 @marvintheandroid: Actually I think I remember seeing somewhere they were going to get a hold of a Geometron this year... Kaz? @mikekazimer
  • 4 0
 @mybaben, yep, there are plans in the works to test a G1 at some point this year.
  • 2 0
 @mikekazimer: Interesting! Thanks Kaz.
  • 102 2
 2019 field test, short version:
- no one knows exactly what the downcountry bikes should be like, so they're all kind of meh
- the trail bikes climb no better than enduro bikes, but hey! they kind of make great mini enduro bikes! Except they are worse going downhill
- the best enduro bike is the Enduro, as none of the others are exactly enduro bikes by todays standards, whatever that means.

Got it for you
  • 22 0
 This is the way.
  • 7 0
 @RelapsedMandalorian: has he spoken?
  • 6 0
 @Narro2: He has spoken.
  • 48 0
 You didn't test the bike I already own. This is important to me for some reason. I cannot form an opinion on my own bike and need strangers from the internet to tell me its shortcomings.
  • 2 1
 what bike is it?
  • 65 0
 Your bike is outdated and you should replace it immediately. Bikes released this month have made bikes released last month look like dinosaurs. Also, modern geometry has gone too far and dumbs down the experience; traditional geometry is better and makes you a better rider. And don't forget it's not the bike, it's the rider, but the bike must be perfect. You should have more travel because long-travel bikes now climb just as well as short-travel bikes. You should also have less travel because long and slack short-travel bikes are just as capable as long-tavel bikes.

That should cover it.
  • 8 0
 @R-M-R: I actually LOLed at this. Ok, maybe it was a low giggle in my office, but it was audible.
  • 2 0
 As long as you don't own a Slayer.
  • 37 0
 Include this year's winners in next year's test to help with comparisons.
  • 5 0
 Enduro Mag did that this year. It was helpful.
  • 6 0
 @MarcusBrody: Yep, much better review for enduroisers:
enduro-mtb.com/en/the-best-enduro-mtb-review
  • 25 0
 I’d like to see some more well-specd alloy frames next year. I get that most brands only offer the higher specs on carbon, but you have brands like Commencal or Transition where you get great parts on a non-plastic frame.
  • 1 1
 Last have too shelf alloy options that play very well.
  • 1 1
 Trek makes all their good full squish bikes with alloy frames/decent parts/reasonable(for bikes) prices.
  • 2 0
 Add Knolly to that list too. Fantastic alloy bikes with great part spec.
  • 16 0
 I'd like to hear about the mid level spec version of the bikes, not the top of the range model that most people can't afford.
  • 6 0
 The optic is the mid level spec
  • 10 1
 Why ? For most riders mid spec bikes ride just as well as their high end siblings, they are just not as vajazzled. But bobby dazzlers sell bikes.
  • 4 0
 that's not how these bike tests work, normally Pinkbike will write to bike companies inviting them to send bikes to be tested, and its up to the company to send the spec level they want to, most of the time that will be a higher level spec
  • 5 0
 the flagship model makes you want it, the lower spec model allows you to own it.
  • 14 0
 The Field Test content was released over almost exactly the gestation period of a wolf. Coincidence?


Answer: Yes.
  • 10 1
 Where is the huck to flat test for the hard tails?!
  • 4 0
 @pinkbike great job on the field test! I found it informative and entertaining. I also liked that you did the control tires and mentioned which trails. The only suggestion would be that we get more Mike and Mike next year.
  • 4 1
 How about taking on bike testing from a different direction. Example: Go out and find/create three different loops of moderate length (5-10 kilometers) where each loop leans in a particular direction. One loop that is more of a BC bike race type trail. Second trail primarily techy climbs and descents. Third maybe be smooth long fire road climbs with fast, techy jumpy descent. Now let the testers choose the bikes that they would prefer for each trail then make the testers choose one bike for all the trails. Then the testers need to explain there choices.
  • 2 0
 You all said that cost is not considered in main tests but mentioned it a couple times (like how expensive the Specialized is and how affordable the GT is). Maybe have a bang-for-buck metric that is also discussed? Or simply rank the bikes in order of most bang-for-buck at the round table? It good to just put the bikes up against each other without being obsessed with price tag, but it's probably a huge consideration for most readers.
  • 2 0
 Obvs the field test is only in its 2nd year so is likely to expand each year, so it'd be nice to see more categories covered next year - maybe go xc race and dh to get 'the full spectrum'
  • 1 0
 I really wish they hadn't had a 'downcountry' category, because I really wanted to see a direct comparison between how these downcountry bikes compare against the trail and enduro bikes. For example having the Optic 2020 and Guerrilla Gravity Trail Pistol in separate categories seems strange.
  • 3 0
 My obscure favorite bike would have won every category including enduro and budget hardtails.
  • 2 0
 Would have liked to see the Enduro bikes vs the Impossible Climb. Then we could say the Fuel climbs almost as well as the Enduro...
  • 1 0
 They did that. Go watch the video and you'll see them struggle in the tight turns.
  • 2 0
 Mike Kazimer profile -
Notes: Managing Tech Editor, slug porn enthusiast - Lol, I guess we all have our secrets.

The Specialized Enduro S-works looks like a fun time.
  • 1 0
 The S in S-works stands for "slug"
  • 5 2
 We want to see devinci spartan 29!!!
  • 2 0
 they did that last year.. they didn't like it because it had stiff carbon wheel's, exo casings, and they felt they couldn't get the sag set correctly. I owned one this past season and thought it was exceptional, climbed meh but smashed good on the downs
  • 1 0
 @etm94: Oh Totally agree!
  • 4 0
 So the Enduro wins?
  • 2 0
 So Levy et al, you got 4k to choose a bike - one for all things, which would you pick, gotta be the Optic right?
  • 3 0
 Mondraker F-podium - it flexes like cooked spaghetti
  • 3 3
 What happened to just Mt. Biking, cause I don't ride Enduro, I don't ride Trail, I don't ride Downcountry, Upcountry, Sidecountry, Crosscountry, Fireroadcountry......E-bikes? Don't even go there!
  • 1 0
 Just be glad u dont surf, or if u do then you'll understand.
  • 1 0
 Shout out to Luca for taking one for the team, and finally making these tests interesting... Aaand to the pinkbike team for trolling Pole bikes....
  • 2 0
 How about reviewing the Nukeproof Mega 290? They did a full redesign for 2020. Cheers.
  • 1 0
 I want to see testers do a 'blind' test where they don't know the geo numbers first, ride the bike give their impressions, and then try to guess all the numbers by feel
  • 4 2
 So the pole is the fastest trail bike until it breaks?
  • 2 0
 Intense just keeps missing the boat on geometry.
  • 1 1
 100% agree. Very disappointing!! How do you make such rad bikes and have such conservative geo? Sad. Here's the irony...they work with THE Cesar Rojo! He was there at Mondraker in the beginning with the crazy geo bikes. So why is Intense using such conservative geo?!
  • 1 0
 Lol Enduro huck to flat fail at 0:31, pedals weren't level and absolutely smashed the ground. I bet that felt good!
  • 2 0
 downcountry sounds so lame......really hoping it goes away soon.
  • 4 2
 How about CROSS country?
  • 2 1
 Modern XC courses are pretty rowdy, and the days of the steep head angle are finally numbered.

If you're riding mellow trails at max heart rate, a gravel bike is probably your best bet-they have geometry that's identical (or really close) to a 10 year old 29er hardtail.
  • 3 4
 Why is "downcountry" a thing??? Please don't make it a thing. Please somebody make it stop! Oh, wait, it's a joke right? Right?!?
  • 4 2
 For people who live where the riding is crap, downcountry gets them a modern looking bike with the short travel they'll use. 'Cause you gotta look Endurbro at the coffee shop even if your home trail's in a corn field somewhere.
  • 3 1
 @peleton7: yeah just buy a hardtail and rip
  • 1 0
 I am still utterly confused what that means.. is that a bike that rides everywhere but in mountains???
  • 1 0
 I'm just bugged about it because it keeps those bikes from being directly compared against trail or enduro bikes. For example why are the Norco Optic and Guerilla Gravity Trail Pistol in different categories with such similar geometry and travel?
  • 1 0
 My right side gets thirsty too. Sorry Orbea.
  • 1 0
 What happened to Vernon Felton????
  • 1 0
 Works for Specialized...
  • 1 0
 @DHhack: Canyon, as of this month.
  • 1 0
 @MtbSince84: you talking about Vernon?
  • 1 0
 Nm
  • 1 0
 Looking forward to a long term 2020 Sight review.
  • 1 0
 Mike kazimer- slug porn enthusiast. Made me laugh
  • 1 0
 how about dh bikes??
  • 3 3
 Raaw Madonna V2. Winner.
  • 8 0
 @niconj why? All i see is another generic vertical shock horst link system nothing special.
  • 3 3
 @mhoshal: Have you looked at the details? Different Rocker to suit different riders, adjustable chainstay length. Overall geometry, bearings that will outlast everything else on the market..
  • 1 0
 @niconj: this one looks hawt...trying to decide ripmoAF or Raaw v2
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