WELCOME TO THE 2022 PINKBIKE
DOWNCOUNTRY FIELD TEST
6 New Short-Travel Bikes
Words by Mike Levy, photography by Tom Richards
The last Field Test series saw the crew riding enduro bikes in Bellingham, Washington, but things are a lot more en français this time around, and there's a lot less suspension to save our asses. That's because we packed up our gear and flew to Quebec City, Canada, with six of the most interesting (and available) short-travel bikes to see how they compare and perform away from our usual trails. There are a few different names for this category, some of them more silly and more made-up than others, but the gist is 125mm or less out back and a focus on covering ground quickly. Call the bikes whatever you want, but I think we'll just call them fun.
There was a time when all full-suspension mountain bikes were short-travel mountain bikes, but then they started to get more and more specialized, people started to make up categories and, well, here we are. In this Field Test series, most of our test bikes are designed to pedal well, cover ground quickly, and not weigh a lot, but it's always more interesting when you include a few outliers. That's why we brought RSD's aluminum Wildcat V3 to Quebec City, which sells for $3,999 USD, and Evil's very black Following, both sitting on the sturdier side of the short-travel spectrum.
The other four bikes in this group include Ibis' Exie and Allied's BC40, both manufactured in the US and with prices that reflect that. BMC's gorgeous green Fourstroke LT One is also here and it was almost a shame to get it muddy, and Lapierre sent us their new XRM, a cross-county racer with an all-day, marathon kind of mindset.
How Do We Choose the Bikes?
The first step in figuring out which bikes we want to have at a Field Test is making sure that we won't have the one you want to read about, which has turned out to be surprisingly easy to do for every single Field Test ever held. Jokes aside, the factors that go into choosing bikes are pretty straightforward. First, they need to be new-ish or at least interesting, and second, they need to be somewhat available to purchase by someone somewhere in the world. As you can imagine, that'd been a difficult box to check over the last couple of years but availability is improving.
Another consideration: We always want bikes that do things differently from one another, even if they have similar intentions. Sure, there's an argument to be made for having the exact same type of bikes going up against each other, but do you know what that'd be? Boring.
Instead, we wanted a couple of bikes that are all about efficiency and speed, a couple that would be just fine with your sketchy jumps and - here's a crazy idea - how about one or two that don't cost over $10,000 USD? Yes, some of these bikes cost a lot of money, but that's why we also do our Value Bike Field Tests every single year
; if you want outright bang for your buck, that's the Field Test for you. And that's also why we've got RSD's $3,999 USD Wildcat in this round, so we can talk about what spending twice as much money does - and doesn't - do for you on the trail.
There's really only one way to review a bike properly: Ride the hell out of it. But when it comes to Field Tests, we need to ride the hell out of all of them back-to-back-to-back so we can talk about how the bikes compare to each other. After all, that's what these Field Tests are all about, comparisons and talking about the strengths and weaknesses of each, and what kind of rider and terrain each bike best suits.
That means that if you were to run into us on the trail, you might find us swapping pedals, working shock pumps, and doing other things while we rotate bikes between us during countless rides in Quebec City. And while that means that we can't comment much on long-term durability, it does provide us with plenty of impressions and disagreements to argue about on camera. We did get out for some big laps, but most of our time requires more compact and concise test loops that allow for those back-to-back impressions that are so important.
Equally important is the terrain we rode the bikes on; as much as I enjoy skidding down some sketchy line on a short-travel bike, we need to ride them how they're intended to be ridden. In the case of our six short-travel bikes, that meant plenty of rolling trails full of roots and rocks, but nothing more than any of these bikes should be able to brush off easily. VBN Secteur Shannahan mountain biking trails
Most of our test laps were in the forests around the legendary Mont-Sainte-Anne ski hill, which is where you'll find everything from smooth berms to as many of those roots and rocks as you want and then a whole bunch more. We also headed down the road to Massif de Charlevoix to ride the lifts, the Empire 47 trail center for some Impossible Climb action, and both Sentiers du Moulin and Vallee Bras du Nord for some of the best Quebecois singletrack around.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Field Test without a Huck to Flat and Impossible Climb and, given that these are short-travel bikes, there was zero chance of me talking my way out of yet another Efficiency Test.
This time around it was me, Matt Beer, and the always-smiling Sarah Moore who signed up to ride these bikes. The three of us, along with our video and photo crew, flew from the Pacific Northwest to Quebec City to ride bikes and eat far too much cheese, if there is such a thing. Luckily for us, Sarah can speak French better than Matt and I can speak English, so she was in charge of feeding us, directing us, and generally making sure we didn't say or do anything too embarrassing.
And speaking of doing things, Tom Richards, Max Barron, and Stefan Licko ran the cameras and yelled, "One more time!" about a thousand times; we wouldn't have any of these videos or photos without their hard work.
5'10" / 178 cmWeight:
170 lb / 77 kgNotes:
Tech editor, allergic to everything
5'10" / 178 cmWeight:
150 lb / 68 kgNotes:
Tech editor, impatiently waiting for aliens to arrive
5'7" / 170cmWeight:
160 lbs / 72.6 kgNotes:
Content manager, too fast to be so nice