Field Test: 5 Trail Bikes Point Uphill in Whistler for the Impossible Climb

Dec 14, 2022 at 12:11
by Matt Beer  


5 Hot Trail Bikes Test Traction Limits in Whistler's No Flow Zone

The trails were dry and brittle like a bucket of dusty old bones.

When anyone mentions the name Whistler around mountain bikers, A-Line’s groomed berms and jumps come to mind, but the surrounding valley offers some incredible riding too, it’s just very steep and extremely technical. That’s why the No Flow Zone was the perfect place to host another Impossible Climb.

I honestly started laughing hysterically when we arrived at the bottom of the trail that a local friend suggested for this segment of the Field Test. He did say these exact words, “There’s no way you’ll be able to make it up there.” Standing in front of the wall filled with rubble, I’d say he was right. Once I got on a bike and tested the grip though, there was hope.

There’s no real rhyme or reason as to which bike I should grab first, but I decided on the very purple Yeti SB140 with its Switch Infinity link. Surprisingly, it laid down an impressive result. Maybe I underestimated what these bikes were capable of.


Next up, the Scott Genius lined up with its four bar suspension that hides the shock in the frame. This was the lightest bike in the group, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the best climber. On the left side of the handlebar, you’ll notice a cluster of levers for the shock lock out and dropper seat post. That makes lowering the seat height a little more challenging to find, but the suspension, when opened, does grip very well.

Like the Genius, the Fuel EX felt on the longer side. Navigating these through this super tight trail corridor was tricky even though both bikes were on the lighter side. The rear wheel tracking and pedaling efficiency were top notch on the Trek though. Santa Cruz’s new Hightower sat just about in the middle of all the other bikes’ geometries and weights, and that’s exactly where it landed on the Impossible Climb.

The only aluminum bike of the bunch, the Norco Fluid, was the heaviest, but it did have less travel than the others. So, how did the Fluid make it the highest up the Impossible Climb? I can tell you that the 130mm of Horst-link suspension did work incredibly well and the geometry put me in a very neutral position for climbing.

I’d award the SB140 with the most climbing-oriented riding position. On longer, more mellow climbs with more space between moves, I could see the Fuel EX and Genius battling it out for the win. It is comical that the cheaper and heavier Fluid made it furthest up the trail. This isn’t the most highly scientific test, but there is something to be said for the little bike’s abilities. That’s just how the Impossible Climb works out sometimes.

The 2022 Fall Field Test is presented G-Form

Author Info:
mattbeer avatar

Member since Mar 16, 2001
375 articles

  • 190 3
 Impossible to climb out of the debt from buying anything but the Norco.
  • 4 53
flag pinkbert (Dec 15, 2022 at 9:51) (Below Threshold)
 What an elaborately thought out and original comment. Great play on words though.
  • 7 2
 @pinkbert: I've been saying the Norco wins this Field Test all along, the Impossible Climb Test just puts the nail on the coffin for the over spec'd overpriced competition.
  • 6 16
flag Hairyteabags (Dec 15, 2022 at 13:03) (Below Threshold)
 Total waste of time. Who cares if you get an extra meter up a climb. Use a proper long climb that is achievable not the gravel fire road either aka the efficiency test.
  • 57 1
 Take three riders and offer money for every time they clean the climb. That's the only way to get accurate results.
  • 1 1
 Resurrect the hill climb event from the 90s?
  • 58 13
 On some bikes, it just looks like Matt gives up. Not saying that the Fluid is an unjustified winner here, but the effort on the Hightower and Fuel in particular seemed a little staged.
  • 34 17
 everything on PB seems a little "staged" lately!!
  • 11 1
 @panchocampbell: This is how I feel too, producers are getting a little too involved to make it a touch too corny for my interests, a couple years back I could watch these videos through but I feel like every review set gets a little more stale then the last. Same sandwich different bikes, as levy says (they're just all so good) which is like for the same price as one of my lungs and both of my kidneys I hope they are good.
  • 16 2
 I was going to say the same thing. Esp on the Yeti. It looks like he just stopped pedaling on what looked like an easy section. On the Norco, you could see the extra effort in some sections where he just gave up easily on the other bikes.
  • 6 3
 They know they're going to get more comments, praise, and attention if they do everything the best on the fluid. Easier to bring out the self righteous in everyone.
  • 1 0
 @Slope-Style: Totally agree on the the intent ... I didn't think I was being self-righteous though! LOL
  • 6 1
 I came here to say this thinking it was just me and that I'd get down voted into oblivion. Glad I'm not the only one that noticed.
  • 15 0
 @Three6ty: Not gonna disagree with you guys outright, but we all know that there's a split-second moment on every crux move where you have the gut feeling that you might make it, or that you won't and why waste the effort, sometimes it's just a fraction of a pedal stroke that decides it.
  • 7 1
 @yetiguy1: I agree , we have all been there. In this case, It really just looked like he tried much harder on the Norco. Whether he meant to or not, the video is very convincing of that theory.
  • 2 4
 Staged? From the outset of this test it was like the hosts were desperate for the expensive bikes to win out.

Yet on both the efficiency test and climbing one Norco came a v close second and won one. "Much to the surprise" of the hosts.
  • 2 0
 @WkDayWarrior: My comment wasnt a slight against the Norco at all, in fact it seems to be an amazing bike and was great to see it outshine bikes almost 3x the price. My comment was all about Matt's effort on the climb on certain bikes - this isn't the first time it has been noticeable either.
  • 2 0
 velcro strap shoes after cliping in. there is a lateral board to rest the handlebar at the start and at the finish.

You fall? You fall.
  • 4 0
 I just bought a norco so I thought it was really factual and accurate
  • 2 1
 Food for thought.
You ever gotten on a bike that ]s just kinda meh?
That’s how you end up riding it, kinda meh. Then you get on a bike that’s really energetic, wow, what a difference right, like something that rewards your inputs, whether it’s corners, or jumps, or… get the idea.
Then you get on a DH bike, even pedalling across a parking lot, you’re prolly not sprinting.

That’s how I look at, not saying that one is better than the other, just sometimes, a bike, and platform suit you better. Add to that, that it’s entertainment, nothing more, nothing less, entertainment. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, bunch of cool bikes, slow climbing up a hill, it shouldn’t be much surprise that the shorter bikes did a bit better…..

I think maybe you guys put too much stock into this, stop trying to have PB validate your opinions or purchases and watch the videos like they were any other form of entertainment
  • 46 3
 How hard is it to make a bike that climbs like a juiced ibex and descends like a fresh turd all whilst being as light as a Phoenix feather and not costing King Solomon's treasure?
  • 27 7
 Hmm...seemed like a little more effort was put in on the Norco. Wheel slipped that ended the run on others was fought through and kept moving. Some seemed like the slightest slip and it was game over.
  • 5 2
 If you have to put too much weight on the front wheel you'll spin out on steep slick climbs. You can't out-effort that.
  • 17 1
 So the bike Matt appears to put the most effort into gets the furthest up the climb. What a shocker,
  • 10 0
 I don't know why but this is the video I anticipate the most during the field tests!
I'd like to see a whole hour of these tests - multiple riders | multiple trails | multiple attempts.
I really enjoyed the older ones too - with the heckling and the beer cans, etc.
  • 4 0
 I miss the heckling too. This segment is similar to a real ride where someone says “Hey I bet I can clean that.” “Bullshit, no way.” “I bet you $5.” “You’re on.” “Have you watched Slow Horses? Great show.” “Meh, it’s just Gary Oldman combining his performances from ‘Tinker Tailor’ and ‘Darkest Hour. Hey are you going to try to clean that climb?” “Nah I changed my mind.”
  • 9 1
 I want to see an elevation gain over distance stat included. The video effect never convinces me these climbs are that steep.
  • 3 0
 agreed but look really steep in the intro when he walked it!
  • 4 0
 Total go-pro effect. Every time I watch the impossible climb I think, "Man I can climb that no problem, that looks like a garden variety Tuesday on my home trails", even though the reality is that climb is very difficult, steep, and challenging for even very experienced riders.
  • 8 0
 still think you should try each bike three times for a high point, but this seemed like a very unbiased (and maybe not totally impossible) impossible climb. Well done.
  • 9 1
 I picked up a Fluid this past weekend and cleaned my personal impossible climb first try. Something about the seat position just makes it so easy to keep both wheels planted.
  • 6 0
 Did they have to edit out the part where he said the VPP hit the square edge and absolutely ate all of his momentum, because that's what it looked like.
  • 8 1
 I'm not paying internet bucks to see Danny Beer's brother do this, I'm paying to see Levy suffer.
  • 1 0
 Isn't that what the comments are for, making Levy cringe every morning in his geo adjust, flip chip, 38mm stanchion shower with the kashima coat lol
  • 5 0
 Are Scott actually calling it the Ransom in North America or did you mean to write Genius ST, like in the article where you reviewed it?
  • 1 0
 No the Ransom is still a seperate model. That was a typo.
  • 6 2
 Pinkbike: "Let's hire one of the fastest Downhillers in Canada"
Also Pinkbike: "Let's only make him ride uphill"

I'm joking obviously, but would have been nice to have his opinion and times in the individual bike videos.
  • 16 0
 Matt was busy testing, wait for it.... downhill bikes. Those reviews are coming soon.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: nice, but I see plenty of clips of him in the intro, you guys could nearly make a shreddit segment out of the riding clips from the 3 of you
  • 2 0
 He has a bloody arm before he even starts the 5 tests...
  • 8 6
 I think folks need to understand the halo product strategy when viewing these reviews. No, manufacturers probably don't expect many people to drop $10k on a bike. The $10k bikes are meant to wow and build brand desire/loyalty so that people drop $5-$6k on the base model from the same manufacturer that is in all ways, unfortunately, even more inferior to the Fluid.

Any time someone compliments a bike trailside, it's usually the bike brand. Nobody says "sweet XT shifter bro". They say "sweet Santa Cruz bro". Many (most?) mountain bikers are willing to splurge for the name on the downtube over prioritizing performance and components.
  • 4 2
 Agree.. avid bike for 30 years with tons of friends who ride at very high levels, don't know anyone who ever paid anywhere near &10k.. absurd
  • 13 1
 To be honest, "Sweet XT shifter" is a legit compliment.
  • 8 2
 That is true, unfortunately, at least in the case of Santa Cruz, the base model is still f*cking horrible value compared with a lot of other bikes.... for the same (or arguably worse) suspension performance They should be ashamed for selling an NX equipped bike with G2 brakes, cheap AF wheels... and even a shit headset... at those prices!!??

Anyone who buys that bike, obviously did not do any cross-shopping or use their brain. I guess they chugged the Kool-Aid from the halo bike?

Lots of bikes to compare against... but the Norco is an easy one. At least in Canadian prices, that shit base Hightower is $7250... you could even downgrade the Norco to the "2" (from the "1") at $4000 and still have a better bike/spec (mix of XT/SLX)... That saves you $3250! Yes it's not a carbon bike, but there are other carbon/carbon comparisons that save you at least $1000.

So, rant over... it's just frustrating to see. And yes, I have had extended demo's (3 days each) on various Santa Cruz bikes, great bikes, but nothing that makes them worth anymore than any other comparable bike. The problem for Santa Cruz is that most bikes have suspension figured out and all right really really good. So even if you like VPP a little bit more... do you like thousands of dollars more??
  • 4 0
 @islandforlife: Exactly.. almost all reputable manufacturers make really good bikes these days and you aren't going to really notice the difference unless you are some sort of engineer geeking out on leverage curves etc.. I used to get a new bike almost every year (had some nice connections) but now I am going to ride my 2021 Stumpy EVO for the 3rd season next year and have no desire to change, $4300.. great bike, maybe replace a few parts but gonna ride this one for years to come as the prices have just become absurd to me..
  • 7 1
 Hold my beer - says anyone on an ebike.
  • 17 2
 Ebikers don't drink beer. Much like a real Mountain Bike, it's too hard for them, so they say "Hold my Seltzer"
  • 5 0
 @Three6ty: I ride an eMTB cause I do drink (to much) beer
  • 4 0
 @OldFatBassTerd: Hats off to you. You are 65 and still riding. You definitely get a pass on the ebike.
  • 1 0
 @Three6ty: I am sure he was really worried about what you think...
  • 1 0
 @billybobzia: Pot meet Kettle
  • 2 0
 Superb. This is what a riders media should do... Deconstruct all the marketing hipe and exposing the truth about bike performance VS cost... allowing to shave costs to work less and ride more... and perhaps donate to trailbuilders... this makes the 50*100 of the fun...
  • 4 0
 Would be more interesting if they had multiple people try the climb with all the bikes. One person doing it doesn't say anything.
  • 2 1
 I don't get why these guys always demonstrate the impossible climb with their saddles fully raised. As the terrain gets more technical and steeper, its way more efficient to gradually drop the saddle for balance power and momentum; especially with these modern steep- STA's. They look like armatures trying to execute these climbs, TBH.
  • 2 0
 I bought this exact Norco Fluid model in October. By far the best riding bike i've ever owned. This video makes me even happier that I didn't decide to buy a more expensive bike.
  • 4 1
 When you do a DH bike field test are you going to see which is the steepest chairlift you can take them on?
  • 3 1
 They keep saying the fuel felt long ..well aren't these testers like 5,9 ..5.11..maybe shoulda been on a smaller size other than large..
  • 1 0
 While I still think it needs to be a best out of 3 type of deal, I do at least like this time that you were talking about how the bike was feeling and why you weren't able to make it up.
  • 2 0
 Three riders of different abilities, each one rides all the bikes, then they choose based on performance and personal preference, I’d take that over the staged stuff.
  • 3 1
 Why would anyone buy a bike that costs a kings ransom? Norco is a No-brainer, a real genius of a bike.
  • 3 0
 Ramson Ramson Ramson Ramson
  • 2 1
 Since when does the ransom have 150mm of rear travel
  • 3 0
 Who would’ve guessed, fluid flows uphill as well as down.
  • 1 0
 No, just come up on my feed. Don't think I would of reacted as well as he did.
  • 2 0
 I can’t wait to see Matt’s impossible climb for the upcoming downhill field test.
  • 6 4
 Nothing to do with this. But just see this
  • 1 0
 that sucks! was that you?
  • 1 0
 I really like how they walk off like, "welp...all's well that ends well."
  • 1 0
 @Dopepedaler: I know, so bad. They don't seem to care how the guy is
  • 4 2
 Misnamed for the clicks. "Attacked while ebiking" doesn't have the same ring or baked in sympathy.
  • 4 0
 You Sir are a wonder of self-discipline. I'm ashamed to say it, but my reaction would have been to start a hellish yelling match, which would have accomplished nothing (but the resulting video would not have been fit to post anywhere).

There is nothing more beautiful than a well-trained dog, but you can tell those people have no ability, and no interest when it comes to that. I think your video belongs on a community forum so that the people in your area can be warned. Imagine if this had been a child on a bike.
  • 3 0
 @onthedownhill: Saying this as an owner of 2 dogs myself - all dogs, no matter the size, have the capability to do damage. Anybody who knows what they're doing knows that they don't let their dog off the lead in public, ever, until it has been trained to the point of being trustworthy. The guy in the clip had the ability to defend himself to some extent, but like you point out, some people don't.

For the sake of the public, and the animals themselves, people should have to pass a test or be vetted thoroughly before being allowed to keep any animal. Those 2 f*ckers have no business owning any dog at all, let alone big powerful ones like that.

As the guy said, sorry isn't really good enough.
  • 2 1
 This is why I consider carrying a knife when I ride, if I was in US probably would carry a gun.
  • 1 0
 Wow dogs run up to me all the time on my bike even though the trail says keep your dogs on a leash, this video changes my perception, thats these people are irresponsible dog owners.
  • 2 0
 Wasn’t it a Scott Genius?
  • 2 0
 I would of like to see another run to be more convinced.
  • 1 1
 It always seems like the lowest gear ratio is too high to keep spinning up those climbs while remaining seated. These bikes should come with a 28T of lower chainring.
  • 2 0
 It's not a Ransom, it's a Genius right?!
  • 1 1
 No, just come up on my feed. Don't think I would of reacted as well as he did.
  • 2 0
 Random Ransom.
  • 2 1
 Braydon should have done this test.
  • 1 0
 Lol! This test is so subjective.
  • 1 0
 Who would have thought? Less travel makes tech climbing easier.
  • 1 0
 Is this the first time this guy has been on a bicycle?
  • 1 0
 what trail is that?
  • 1 0
 National trail in Phoenix Arizona. The video doesn’t do it justice.
  • 1 0
  • 3 6
 I really want one of those Yeti sb140's, anyone know any decent dentistry schools?
  • 2 0
 University of the Pacific has a great one.
  • 1 4
 That’s not an impossible climb. Try something harder like this:
  • 2 0
 That's pretty amazing and I certainly couldn't dream of clearing it, but I think it is more rider dependent. A couple good moves and sufficient power and he gets up because the traction is actually good on rock. What makes this one tricky is that it forces you to slow down, change lines, and then is pretty loose, so it's hard to put down power again. Here he can keep his momentum. This test is more about the ability to change line in tight situations and put traction down.
  • 1 3
 someone lacks power

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