Value Mountain Bike of the Year Nominees
Before you get too excited, "Value Mountain Bike of the Year" nominees include a much wider swath of the marketplace than we focused upon in our popular under $3,000 USD trail bike series. To make the cut, nominees must deliver performance that meets the needs of experienced bike handlers. We're also looking for up-to-date geometry and component selections that exceed their pay grades. Most of all, we had to like them. "Sharp-handling," "inspiring" and "enjoyable" top our short-lists.
Selecting nominees was made more difficult this year because the industry is waking up to the fact that the mountain bike community isn't heir to the corporate one percent. Smart money is betting on more moderately priced machines, packed with trusted second-tier components that deliver performance approaching, sometimes matching, what we expect from heinously priced superbikes. That said, we'd like to introduce our choices:
Ranging between $2,400 and $5,900 USD, our four nominees span the gamut from aggressive trail bike to downcountry. Congratulations to the Vitus Escarpe 29 VR, the Marin Alpine Trail 7, the Ibis Ripmo AF, and the Guerrilla Gravity Trail Pistol - spear points of a coming revolution that we believe will be well received.
Why it's nominated
The Ripmo AF earns a place on this list because it was conceived to fulfill this role. Overwhelmed by the reception of its carbon fiber Ripmo, Ibis could have capitalized on the momentum by cloning a longer travel, more aggressive version at a higher MSRP. Instead, the design team surprised us with an aluminum framed version sporting a starting price that would barely cover the cost of the original's carbon frame. The official word was, "We wanted a bike that killed it and shredded on its own - not just a lower-level, more affordable model. The idea was to bring that Ripmo trail feel to a larger audience."
Ibis went further, giving the aluminum Ripmo AF a slightly slacker, 64.9-degree head angle and rear suspension kinematics that suited more aggressive riders. It's got 29 inch wheels, room for tires up to 2.6 inches, a 147-millimeter travel rear end and a 160-millimeter fork, supercharged by a collaboration with DVO suspension that raised the bar a magnitude above anything in its price range. In case you were wondering, that's $2,999 USD, and if you want to spend a little more, you can upgrade components, or choose from three standard builds.
Riding the Ripmo AF, however, is the real joy. With one revolution of its Maxxis Assegai tires, you'll forget everything about price and spec. It's the kind of trail bike that feels as if you've owned it for a season on its first ride. Balanced and capable, the aluminum Ripmo was happy to take on anything we pointed it towards.
Why it's nominated
When Pinkbike began reviewing trail bikes priced below $3,000 USD, we didn't have high expectations. Marin was one of the first brands to prove us wrong. Look no further than their Alpine Trail 7. Marin knows that there are a busload of riders out there with skill sets that far outpace their expendable income, so they designed the Alpine trail with a well-built aluminum frame, big wheels, up-to date geometry, enough suspension to take on the big lines, and a carefully curated component selection to squeeze the most performance you can get from its $2,750 sticker price..
Big wheels and good numbers, backed up with 150-millimeters of rear- and 160-millimeters of front-wheel travel made the Alpine 7 a composed descender. Corners were predictable. It could scratch its way back from bad line choices and land off-angle jumps with a no-worries attitude. Climbing and pedaling were in the eighty percentile of long-travel trail bikes, with extra credit for sketchy technical ascents, where the Trail 7 was a hero. We didn't get along with Marin's tire choice, and its X-fusion shock was under gunned for the bike's capability. That said, the Alpine Trail 7's performance leaves little to be desired for modern high amplitude riders.
Modern numbers, a chassis that exceeds its pay grade and top honors in the handling department earn the $2,750 Marin Alpine Trail 7 a rightful place on the start line for Pinkbike's Value Mountain Bike of the Year.From the review:
Why it's nominated
Guerrilla Gravity's Trail Pistol finds its way to this esteemed nomination from the upper end of the definition of affordable trail bikes. We featured the high-end Trail Pistol Race in our Field Tests this year, which is priced competitively at $5,895 USD. The reason that the Trail Pistol appears here, however is that you can also buy the entry level Ride 2 version with the same made-in-USA carbon chassis, outfitted with a SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain and a host of name-brand components for $3,840 USD. Sweetening the pie is that Guerrilla Gravity will customize your purchase should your desire an upgrade. The Trail Pistol's asking price, is further underscored by the fact that every build is based upon Guerrilla Gravity's elite-level adjustable geometry carbon fiber chassis that is crafted in their Colorado factory - and they offer custom upgrades and colors so you can tailor your bike to suit your riding style.
We reviewed the Trail Pistol in the "Downcountry" category. With 120 millimeters of wheel travel out back and 130 up front, it slots into the cross-country side of the modern trail bike, but don't let that fool you. Good numbers (75.8º effective seat tube and 66.6º head tube), "Freedom Linkage" kinematics, composed handling and 29-inch wheels made the Trail Pistol one of the fastest descenders in the category - the only contender that excelled on Whistler's double blacks. And, it climbs pretty well too.
Guerrilla Gravity's Trail Pistol earns its turn in our Value Mountain Bike of the Year awards by its custom options, impressive performance and spec' for its asking price, and because it slashes almost $1,000 from its more established competitors at every build level. From the Field Test:
Why it's nominated
The aluminum framed Vitus Escarpe 29 VR comes from Chain Reaction, the UK-based online mega-retailer that knows more than a little about the price vs performance equation, expertise that helped earn the Escarpe 29 its nomination. We reviewed the Escarpe as part of PB's affordable Trail Bike series, where its $2,399 USD sticker price and excellent component selection earned high marks. It ticks all the boxes: modern numbers, beautiful construction, spot-on suspension kinematics, a pro-feeling cockpit, and it doesn't skimp on the essentials.
Vitus starts with a SRAM Eagle NX drivetrain. The Escarpe's 140/140-millimeter suspension is powered by a RockShox Revelation Charger RC fork and a trunnion mounted Deluxe RT shock. It rolls on WTB i29 rims and Maxxis Minion DHF/ DHR rubber, and stops on SRAM Guide R brakes. In short, it's a buy and ride trail bike with a frame and suspension well worthy of future upgrades, should its owner decide to keep it for the long haul.
Riders praised the Escarpe 20 for its cornering magic and efficient feel under power. It's a good technical climber too, and you can trust its predictable steering and calm demeanor to get you down some crazy stuff. Push it hard, however, and you'll find its limits, but it never feels on edge.
Why are we excited about the Escarpe? I'll quote the review:
"Vitus redefines the basic mountain bike with the Escarpe 29. Its component selection reads like a wish list, and on the trail, its 29-inch wheels, 140 millimeters of suspension travel and composed, confidence-inspiring handling will encourage any level of rider to go faster and farther. If you need a burly enduro machine, this isn't your best choice. Escarpe 29 is the ready for anything bike that you'd grab to mix it up with your riding group on weekends and for anything that smells like an adventure." From the review: