2021 Pinkbike Awards: Mountain Bike of the Year Nominees

Nov 29, 2021 at 18:31
by Mike Kazimer  


Mountain Bike of the Year Nominees

The 2021 Mountain Bike of the Year Nominees create an interesting quartet. The Norco Range sits on one side, holding down the fort for the gravity-oriented, high-pivot crowd. On the other end of the spectrum is the svelte Rocky Mountain Element, which recently shed its staid cross-country geometry for much more exciting numbers.

The Trek Top Fuel makes an appearance, another bike that's moved away from being a purebred XC-race bike into something more well-rounded, and for many riders, more fun. The final contender is the Transition Spire, which has geometry numbers that look like they were lifted from a DH bike and yet somehow manages to be relatively lively out on the trail.

Last year it was Specialized's ultra-adaptable Stumpjumper EVO that took home the win. Which bike will emerge victorious this time around?










Why it's nominated

It's not a stretch to say that the Norco Range exemplifies the zeitgeist of the enduro and downhill worlds for 2021. High pivot suspension designs were everywhere this year, with everyone from Cannondale to Kavenz bringing new models to the table. It was the Range that stood out above the rest with its 170mm of travel and 29” wheels, a long travel beast that prioritizes downhill performance above everything else.

The Range is billed as an enduro race bike, and while it can certainly hold its own on gnarlier tracks, it's really more of a downhill bike that can be pedaled back to the top than anything else. Of course, that 37-pound weight does mean those climbs might take a little longer than they would on a lightweight trail bike.

As fun as the latest crop of versatile all-rounders can be, there's something special about hopping aboard a bike that has such a laser focus on delivering a good time when gravity takes over. Any concerns about weight fly out the window as soon as the trail points downward – the Range is a seriously addictive bike to ride, thanks to its well balanced geometry, low center of gravity, and coil-sprung suspension that absolutely erases bumps.

The Range's unapologetic nature helped it earn it a nomination for Pinkbke's Mountain Bike of the Year. It's meant to go downhill as fast as possible, and out on the trail it does an outstanding job of doing exactly that.

From the review:

bigquotesThe Range just eats bumps of any size and its linear kinematic nature could be compared to jumping onto an airbag versus landing on a trampoline. Energy is absorbed early and then dissipated, always using the right amount of travel. This made it dead simple to anticipate how the bike would react on any size impact and give you time to position your body weight accordingly. Matt Beer








Why it's nominated

Trek Trek's Top Fuel used to be an XC-race oriented whippet, with the expected handling traits for a bike in that category - it was light, fast, and a little twitchy at times on the descents. The new Top Fuel is a decidedly different machine, one that we included in the Downcountry category of our most recent Field Test, although the argument could also be made that this is a short travel trail bike.

It's the Top Fuel's versatility that earned it a nomination this year – it can hold its own in the occasional cross-country or marathon race, all while still being an excellent option for a daily driver, a bike that can handle pretty much anything short of the absolute roughest and steepest trails. The suspension is well supported when standing up out of the saddle and putting the power down, and it retains that support on the descents, which helps ensure that 120mm of travel isn't used up too quickly.

The Top Fuel is also available in a whopping 7 different sizes to accommodate a wide range of rider heights, and there are 9 different complete bikes to fit different budgets. Plus, it's got snack storage in the downtube, so that stash of gummy bears will never be more than a few seconds away.

From the Field Test:

bigquotesThe whole bike seems to just will you on to hit things faster and with more precision. It damps the trail very well and is remarkably predictable and consistent. For a bike that is so capable. though, it also packs a mighty punch when it comes to gaining elevation. Henry Quinney









Why it's nominated

The Bike of the Year awards are more than just a beauty contest, but the Rocky Mountain Element's striking good looks sure don't hurt its case. The new frame also underwent a massive geometry update (the head angle is now a whopping 4-degrees slacker than the previous version), which puts the Element at the cutting edge when it comes to downcountry / short travel trail bike geometry.

The idea of a 65-degree head angle on a 120mm bike would have seemed outlandish a few years ago – that number used to be reserved for longer travel enduro bikes. In fact, it's identical to what's found on Rocky's own 160mm Altitude in the neutral setting, and that bike is only a year old. As it turns out, Rocky's decision to shed some of their more conservative ways when it comes to geometry was a very, very good one.

The Element's progressive numbers made it a popular pick during our recent Field Test up in Pemberton, BC. Pemberton has no shortage of long, steep climbs followed by even steeper descents, and on those trails the Element was an absolute blast, where it exhibited an excellent blend of traction and efficiency.

For riders with slightly tamer terrain it's possible to steepen the head angle by 1-degree via Rocky's ever-present flip chip adjustment, but in this case the Ride-4 adjustments makes sense, and allow riders to fine-tune the Element to suit their needs.


From the review:

bigquotesThrough steeper turns or sections, it’s amazing the level of confidence this bike can inspire. The geometry keeps your weight very central on anything like demanding trails, however, that does come at the cost of precision on flatter turns. The Rocky does a good job of picking its battles and striking a balance between making-flatter-trails-fun and getting your down more challenging trails. It also manages to keep the weight down which, to me at least, is a big bonus. Henry Quinney






Why it's nominated

On paper, the 170mm Transition Spire looks like it should be a handful. After all, it has a 63-degree head angle (62.5-degrees in the slack setting), 446mm chainstays, and 29” wheels. And yet, somehow the carbon Spire manages to have a lighter, livelier ride than anyone expected. The fairly light weight of the carbon frame undoubtedly helps here – the aluminum version is still tons of fun to ride, but it doesn't feel nearly as zippy.

Transition also exercised just enough restraint when it came to pick the reach numbers for the Spire, and that decision to hold back just a little bit was a good one. Instead of feeling big and unwieldy, the Spire falls into the 'just right' category, a bike that's easy to get along with, especially in the steep terrain it was designed for.

'Versatile' isn't an adjective that typically accompanies a description of a 170mm bike, but in this case it's appropriate. The Spire is a prime example that numbers on a screen don't tell the whole store – one ride on this machine is all it takes to realize that it's no one trick pony.


From the review:

bigquotesThe Spire manages to do one of the most basic and fundamental things a good mountain bike should do - it should make you smile, and it delivers in droves. The way the bike tracks and hunkers down when riding rough terrain is very confidence inspiring. It just makes you feel like you can bulldoze anything. For a bike that makes you think you can climb any hill of your choosing, this is doubly impressive. Henry Quinney





Honorable Electric Mentions

There's currently no eMTB of the Year award, and the internet would obviously explode if there was a motor on the Mountain Bike of the Year, so for now we're doling out two honorable mentions for e-bikes that stood out from the crowd.




I called the Specialized's Turbo Levo the “new benchmark” when I reviewed it earlier this year, and that same sentiment still holds true, although the competition is heating up as more bikes are released with bigger batteries and better integration.

The Levo's smooth power delivery, integrated display, 700 Wh battery and adjustable geometry make it one of the best options currently on the market for riders looking for a full-power e-bike that can make short work of the gnarliest climbs and descents.

The price is really the only downside – this certainly isn't a budget friendly option. However, an alloy version was recently released with all of the same features as its carbon counterpart, including the wide range of geometry adjustment options.




Rather than modify their existing suspension platform to accept a motor, Yeti designed the 160E from the ground up, complete with a new 6-bar suspension system called Sixfinity. Slightly silly name aside, the new design works very well, delivering anti-squat values that only deviate by 9% across the entire range of the cassette. That's a desirable trait for an e-bike, since the motor makes it possible to climb in harder gears than you would on a non-motorized bike. The consistent anti-squat amount creates a well-supported, and very predictable suspension feel while climbing and descending, traits that left test riders impressed during the eMTB Field Test at Sun Peaks.

It'll be interesting to see where Yeti takes the Sixfinity design in the future – the 160E is a well-executed first step into the electric arena, but there's plenty of room for the Colorado company to add longer and shorter travel options into their lineup.








190 Comments

  • 170 13
 'F**k me I guess'
-We Are One Arrival
  • 21 3
 How do you buy that bike?
  • 13 48
flag hardcore-hardtail (Dec 23, 2021 at 14:08) (Below Threshold)
 Funny, they say they are made in BC but also posted a video of them unloading a shipping container full of bikes. Why are they shipping them in containers to their facility if their made in their facility?
  • 32 15
 @hardcore-hardtail: LMFO where did you see that.
Funny how all the negative comments towards WR1 are all Americans, cracks me up.
  • 16 1
 @hardcore-hardtail: If there wasn't a completely reasonable explanation (like, maybe not all shipping containers are used to ship overseas), then why would they so stupidly out themselves?
  • 20 4
 @mg69j: Cracks me up harder than an ENVE rim!
  • 19 33
flag mariomtblt (Dec 23, 2021 at 14:24) (Below Threshold)
 @mg69j: I don’t wanna startle you there m8 but Canada is in North America too
  • 21 1
 @hardcore-hardtail: You are incredibly delusional by mistaking forbidden with we are one. I can confirm in great detail that We Are One bikes are made by hand in Kamloops and the only thing that comes from overseas is the ti hardware.
  • 3 1
 @hardcore-hardtail: storage maybe? I don’t know but I’d a possible answer
  • 38 1
 whats the deal with We Are One? Why are there so many people complaining it is not featured here? I'm sure it is a great bike, it looks awesome, it is manufactured in Canada and all, but how many of you have actually ridden it to say it has to be here? Even during the field test, Henry chose the Spire as his favorite one and Matt chose the '19 Enduro.
  • 4 28
flag Tmackstab (Dec 23, 2021 at 14:48) (Below Threshold)
 @aug7hallak: lol you literally listed off 3 reasons in your question.
  • 2 0
 @aug7hallak: To answer your question, I think that folks are pretty stoked that it's a really good bike, made in Canada, and that it was a brand new bike from a brand new bike manufacturer. Smile
  • 30 2
 I went back and checked and it was forbidden that I saw unloading the container which makes a lot more sense. My bad!
  • 10 16
flag syeve (Dec 23, 2021 at 17:26) (Below Threshold)
 The Arrival should be here. No question. Must not pay the “advertising” fee the others can afford.
  • 6 0
 Australian here: it looks rad and I was really keen on it until I discovered how short the shock stroke was. It’s not the only bike I lost interest in (norco range is another) because of that, so please don’t feel that it’s an unfair criticism levelled against only this bike.
  • 6 5
 Bike with Idler chain wheel will be forgotten and scraped off the history as soon as maintenance will start costing money, losing races (by mechanicals) and wasting our time.
EMTB should be awarded by another tribe of riders.
i like the Trek out of the selection above.
wouldn't mined seeing Ibis Exie in the list.
  • 4 3
 @mariomtblt: m8? What are you 6 years old just learning the English, Aussies & Kiwis call their friends mate? And yeah, Canadians likely don’t need a geography lesson.
  • 1 0
 @hardcore-hardtail: bless your little heart
  • 3 1
 @mariomtblt: Maybe you have somehow been ignorant to this your whole life, have memory loss issues due to a brain injury, or perhaps you just aren't all that bright, but that country you live in is colloquially referred to as America. Whereas Canada and Mexico are not.
  • 2 5
 @gnarnaimo @loamhunter08 took the bait haha
  • 1 0
 @luriaguy: The idler really seems to be slowing the Commencal WC DH team down.
  • 1 0
 @eblackwell: the don't pedal WC DH bikes up the hill do they? Smile
  • 119 25
 Where’s the Cannondale Topstone Neo Lefty Gravel eBike?!?!?

Be safe be well,
Incognito Robin
  • 16 7
 That content is hidden behind a paywall, in the new pinkbike extreme mega plus +++ vip status.
  • 2 1
 @Bleeder: you joke. But it’s most likely behind the very real Cycling Tips paywall. Thanks Outside.
  • 4 1
 @Bleeder: If it goes the same way as Cycling Tips has, all content including the mundane will be hidden. Most importantly, you can't even get the comments sections to have a rant about what you can't see.
  • 58 4
 Henry Quinney liked the spire? Totally missed that one. Next thing, you’ll be telling me he has a BMX background.
  • 50 2
 WhAt?? nO *insert bike name here*???? OuTrageOus!!!11!!!!
  • 6 0
 My Stingray ( yellow, w/trout lure "banana" seat), should get the award.) So there.
Your welcome.
  • 4 0
 What about my super obscure titanium hard tail??
  • 7 0
 No bamboo high pivot 36"/32" mullet with a telepathic gearbox and blue-tooth brakes? In 2022 probably...
  • 2 0
 @hamncheez: only if it has outdated geo
  • 34 6
 Why have e-bikes got an honorary mention when for the past few years you have preached to us that they are in a different category of bike, if so then give them their own awards and stop blurting the lines.
  • 15 2
 Not sure why you're being downvoted. Seems obvious to have a "bike" and an "e-bike" category here. Adding a motor seems like a big enough alteration to justify a new category.
  • 39 11
 The Arrival got robbed.
  • 16 14
 I heard it rides like a shopping cart with 3 limp wheels
  • 4 1
 Yeah! What’s wrong with these hosers
  • 27 2
 The Range gets my vote, that rear end feels soooo good. Fully bought into the high pivot hype.
  • 3 17
flag bl4pb (Dec 23, 2021 at 13:14) (Below Threshold)
 it seemed like a solid bike and was under consideration until I started reading about the issues described in @astonmtb videos..maybe they're unique to the bike he got, maybe they're not!

* www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXUspgyOBOo
* www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEKl25cfBVI
  • 17 1
 @bl4pb: Paul Aston has a Norco Shore, not a Range
  • 13 4
 Have a buddy that built up a Forbidden Dreadnaught this year, and I took a spin. High pivot bikes are just flat out different. It's almost bizarre to watch someone on a HP riding in front of you: body position seems to stay so centered, calm, and smooth on the trail as the bike just erases big square edge hits and rough stuff.

I don't own one yet, and I'm not looking to upgrade for at least 1 more season, but high-pivot bikes in the 150-170mm range are certainly on my list when the time comes.
  • 4 3
 @melonhead1145: yes, thanks, I'm aware they're different bikes! the poorly made point was not that they are the same bike/frame, but that if a customer paying retail price for a bike can't get service/warranty/repairs done in a reasonable time, I'd rather not buy a bike from them. maybe it's a one off issue with the bike he received, maybe it's the low end build kit, or maybe it's something else, but would expect at least to receive replies and support from a company after spending $$$ on a new bike bought through a dealer.
  • 14 2
 Damn...I'm receiving a lot of downvotes for saying that high pivots absorb square edge hits and bumps really well, and that I'd consider one when its time to upgrade. Pinkbike commenters....odd bunch of folks.
  • 41 17
 Why is the arrival not on here ?
  • 36 1
 It didn't turn up in time?
  • 22 39
flag sherbet (Dec 23, 2021 at 12:07) (Below Threshold)
 WAO didn't pay enough, probably.
  • 68 21
 We talked about the Arrival, but since the main reason it's groundbreaking is that it's manufactured in Canada (and it's absolutely beautiful), it doesn't quite make sense to include it over all the other bikes that are manufactured in North America. Is the WR1 Arrival an amazing bike? Absolutely. Does it break new ground in terms of actual bike technology? Not really. We left it off the list because the other bikes on this list start to actually push the boundaries of their categories, whereas the WR1 mainly does the same thing other bikes have already been doing - just does it really, really well. It's definitely an impressive achievement for Canadian manufacturing, especially for WR1's first bike, but the consensus among editors was that it isn't a gamechanger in the same ways as the other bikes on this list.
  • 63 17
 Please explain how the Trek Top Fuel and the Rocky Element are more “ground breaking” and “game changing” than the WR1 Arrival? WR1 has done everything they can to source every bit of that bike in North America. They do all the manufacturing here. They machine all of their own components on the frame. It uses higher quality carbon than almost anything out there. It has Titanium hardware. It’s extremely light for the category it’s in. I don’t even own one, I own the range which I believe deserves to be on the list, but how can you put the Trek and the Rocky on here over tue WR1?!? @alicialeggett:
  • 24 2
 @alicialeggett: So I hear you...but does the Transition Spire really "break new ground in terms of actual bike technology?" No way. It's an, admittedly extra-slack, standard four-bar horst link bike. But aside from +4mm chainstays and -0.9 degrees of HTA (compared to the 2019 control bike: Specialized Enduro), it's pretty squarely in the pocket of normal enduro bikes.

If memory serves, your own reviewers were pretty on the fence about how the Norco (admittedly, a new suspension layout for high-pivot) and Transition stacked up against the incumbent Specialized Enduro from 2019. In fact, the Enduro seemed to more-or-less keep its throne based on the round table at the end.
  • 13 11
 @theedon: she just explained why lol.
They put how the bike rides and performs over how and where it's manufactured.
  • 29 2
 @BobbyT925: That is all fine and dandy but the Arrival beat both of those bikes up and down in the field test....
  • 13 3
 @alicialeggett: Fair enough in any other year but in a time when production delays and shortages have heavily influenced MTB, maybe now is the time more than ever to source and support local options like WeAreOne. That in itself is a story and to actually make an incredible bike out of it is another!
  • 5 0
 @BobbyT925: The only issue with your/her statement is that the 2019 Specialized Enduro seemingly beat or tied both the Norco and Transition in the enduro bike round up this year.

So it's fair to ask why the Norco and Transition would be considered for bike of the year when they are seemingly no more impressive than control bike(s) from a few seasons ago.
  • 4 2
 @alicialeggett: Theres more to it... look at the suspension sag, bb height, its not your traditional bike like the trek and transition. Dig into the details.
  • 7 1
 Huh, guess that joke went poorly. Sorry lads!
  • 6 6
 @theedon: Guess they didn’t buy enough adds…
  • 11 3
 @theedon: only North Americans care about things being made in North America particularly. Maybe PB are just thinking of the bigger picture that where something is made isn't actually all that hugely important.
  • 24 2
 I would argue that it is important to the world to do their best to stop supporting manufacturing in China. @secondtimeuser:
  • 7 2
 @secondtimeuser: I'd say everyone should be excited for the prospect of taking this method of production and moving their frames in house. It's a very big deal that Canada has a carbon frame being made, and it speaks a lot to the technology of the era. You should be asking how local companies can adopt this style of production. It's vastly more impressive than RM having the next generation of geometry. The Arrival will change the sport to a degree, the RM will be another cool bike with obsolete geometry in 5 years.

Maybe we're thinking the bigger picture, and you need to look into this a bit more to understand why SO MANY people are calling this out.
  • 35 5
 There’s no winning the “why isn’t X bike on this list?” argument, so I’m not going to wade in too deep. At the end of the day, the bikes on this list are the ones that impressed us (Pinkbike’s editors) the most. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t tons of other awesome bikes out there. Yes, We Are One’s Arrival made an impressive debut, it just didn’t quite make the final four - it was literally the 5th bike on our list.
  • 7 3
 @secondtimeuser: Even if you don't care about where the frame is made, when it comes to labeling "game changers", maybe we should point out that the WAO is an impressive and gorgeous bike from a manufacturer that has never made a bike before. That's....like....a big deal, no?
  • 2 3
 @theedon: well the Arrival's titanium fasteners come from China so I guess that's kinda awkward? Plenty of other places to get Ti machined (even NA!) so would be curious to see the logic there given how hard they've clearly tried elsewhere. Also can't find any info on where Toray get the raw materials for the carbon pre preg from after a quick look but happy to be educated on that.
  • 5 0
 @sherbet: might just be less impressive for me because we've had Hope making carbon frames in house / on shore for a few years now?
  • 4 8
flag syeve (Dec 23, 2021 at 17:29) (Below Threshold)
 @alicialeggett: sorry bud. I don’t buy it.
  • 6 0
 @alicialeggett:
Supply chain is a lot harder than geo. I kinda of think the Arrival and the Exie are ground breaking considering the way they are manufactured locally and are also amazing rides.
  • 13 4
 "Oh, oh, oh, oh,
MY bike is not on this list?

How can you Pinkbike editors not understand that MY favorite bike MUST be your favourite bike too..."

Grow up, people.
  • 5 4
 @FloImSchnee: And most of these whingers probably haven't even ridden the bike they're getting all angry about.
Seems a fair list to me, I'd certainly have the Spire over the We Are One.
  • 7 1
 @theedon: I don’t understand why you are so hurt? If you like the arrival buy it.
  • 1 0
 Oh well, I thought that you weren't that surprised with the Spire and Range....and thought that you were liking more the new Devinci Spartan but it was probably me... lol Anyway, reading your reviews, I forgot about the two first and was dreaming about a Spartan, that seems like a perfect enduro bike for me!
  • 7 0
 @thechunderdownunder: I don’t think anyone is hurt. People are just pointing out the fact that the reviews are not consistent in terms of the impression they give the readers, if this is the list.
The words PB chose to describe The Arrival gave many readers a new dream bike. It beat many of the other bikes in the field test. And now it’s not on the list, while others who was beaten is. It just doesn’t make sense. Smile

So most here has never ridden any of these. At least not all of them. The impression and understanding they have and communicate is purely reflecting the editors of PB Smile

Ironically.
  • 3 1
 @trigger: I honestly think you guys just need to go out and ride a bike. Any bike and have fun Wink
  • 4 3
 @theedon: Sorry, but the WAO Arrival isn't exactly groundbreaking either. It may sound harsh and I mean no offense but as a European I frankly couldn't care less about Canadian manufacturing. For all it's worth to me, the Arrival is just another model in the long line of hyper-expensive boutique bikes whose main value comes from the fact that it's manufactured a certain way. We've already got plenty of those here.
  • 3 3
 @Muscovir: Then you should buy a bike made in your region. The whole point of making bikes near where your consumer is an idea that will eventually have more of an impact than a slightly slacker head angle.

BTWm the Exie is more groundbreaking than a “boutique” bike.
  • 4 1
 @secondtimeuser: The Bigger picture is bikes (products) made locally will become an increasingly important trend going forward. If you live in Europe, dont buy the Arrival, buy something made there.
  • 20 1
 No Huffy? what the heck pinkbike?
  • 2 0
 At least they're open-minded enough to give Huffies a try:
m.pinkbike.com/news/field-test-2022-niner-jet-9-rdo-the-easy-rider.html
  • 27 10
 where is the wr1 arrival? most game changing bike this year.
  • 4 3
 Which game? It could definitely win the best looking bike of the year.
  • 10 1
 @landisb: @landisb: It is very polarizing in that regard, I think it is very cool but the design aesthetic is not to my personal taste. In the looks department I think the Spire is hands down a sexier bike.
  • 3 0
 @landisb: it seems like it could also win the worst looking bike depending who you ask. I like it.
  • 4 0
 @notsosikmik: agreed, the we are one bike looks like a teenager's idea of a cool mountain bike.
  • 2 0
 @notsosikmik: if you like mountain bikes and also like Batman/the batmobile you’re in luck with the arrival
  • 20 7
 Where the heck is the Arrival?
  • 9 1
 Honest question here. Suppose the Rocky Element wins as the best bike of the year. And this particular bike - as others - has cheaper versions. Shouldn't these cheaper versions (the $2K alloy, for example) be featured in the Value category? I know you haven't ridden it, but, from the moment I see that the Polygon won, for example, could I deduce that the Polygon is a bike that you guys liked better than an alloy Element? In other words, given the power of influence PB staff has, which bike should people buy?

*Assuming these bikes fall in the same category, which is not the case in my example above;
**This would not aplly to specific cases, such as the Spire, in which it's clear that the carbon version has a different feeling from the alloy one.
  • 10 3
 RM Has pushes the concept of the cross country bike, as Transition with the spur. I think this 2 bikes has been the main improvement in term of mountain bike evolution. Man, they climbs as hell and is full capable in rough terrain. Good weight, amazing look. Bravo for this 2 brands
  • 9 3
 Hopefully this year’s winner is more durable than the Stumpjumper EVO... I bought it largely based on the reviews here, and that it really has all the features, plus I could find one.

Turns out the downtube is fragile like an eggshell at a whopping 0.8mm thick, and a bunch of us seem to have broken them in the same spot. Right under the downtube protector. Specialized deny’s warranty coverage. We’ve got broken bikes.

Maybe you guys can throw some rocks at the candidates before making your decision this year? Please.
  • 2 0
 I keep hearing this about this bike, but haven’t easily been able to find any pictures of it happening. Does it crack underneath the protector? Or behind it closer to the bottom bracket shell?
  • 3 1
 Pics or it didn't happen
  • 1 1
 The aluminum frame also seems to be thin on that area…
  • 6 0
 You guys have missed the obvious winner, the bike of the year is:
THE BIKE WE ALREADY OWN AND CAN RIDE ON ANY DAY OF THE WEEK!

With lead times becoming a bad joke, the bike we can hop on and enjoy ourselves the most on is the bike we already own.
  • 17 13
 I'm still not convinced 65º head angles really make sense on 120mm bikes. It seems to me that there should ideally be some proportionality in bike length, angles and intent. Slack head angles are best for steeper and rougher terrain. A slack head angle coupled with longer travel and correspondingly long wheelbases make sense for really fast, steep and chunky descending...which does not work well on a 120 bike. Sure, a skilled rider can make it work, but why?

Conversely, as our light-trail or downcountry or XC+ bikes grow longer front triangles and slacker HTA and steeper STA, wheelbases grow...a lot! Today's 120mm downcountry bikes are longer than a previous generation Hightower and are nearly 100mm longer than an OG Ripley. Again, sure there's benefit to that, but at a cost. Really long bikes in relatively flatter terrain or rolling terrain make for lethargic handling, slower directional changes, more challenge in tight trails and less pop.

I've had a lot of bikes and ride frequently. Over the past 3 months I've been carefully comparing the 2021 Epic Evo to the Transition Spur to a couple of other comparable bikes. In the end, I sold the Spur because the Evo is a better bike for the intended purpose. It is more nimble, has a similar rear suspension feel and simply feels significantly better on 20 mile rides with XC, trail and aggressive trail riding. I believe it's because the Evo keeps reasonable HTA, STA and reach numbers to keep the wheelbase and comfort at a nice compromise. Interestingly, even on fast and more aggressive downhill trails, my times on the Evo are just as fast.

The Spur seems to be truing too hard to be a Stumpjumper, which is probably a more logical choice as it is a lighter frame with more suspension, similar angles and a SWAT box. Not every bike needs to be or benefits from being slack, long and low in my opinion. I expect we will see some bikes, particularly shorter travel bikes, stepping back from 65HTA and 78+STA to more modest numbers. That's my $0.02 worth for the day...
  • 3 1
 Super interesting insight, I'm coming off a Ripley V4 (that I love) with an angleset to 65.5 degrees and 500mm reach in the XL. I personally love the stable, short travel feeling since it made me feel like I was "in the bike" but also a little bit sketchy if that makes any sense. Keeps you on your toes. It had the geometry to tackle anything, but when it would get really technical you really have to choose your lines and watch how you're weighting your wheels.

For a "one" bike, it's definitely as close as I've ever gotten. 27ish lb, good pedaling, capable descending, dialed geo (for me), it was "good" for a lot of rides. But also, not the "best" for a lot of rides. Try as I might, I just don't think I'll ever be a one-bike kind of guy, but these super slack down-country bikes are great for the people who are.

I'm switching to an Epic Evo for my short travel and a Stumpy Evo for my long travel, and I'm hoping the Epic clicks for me like it did for you.
  • 7 3
 Where you ride and what kind of trails you ride matters massively. I would much rather have a down country bike with aggressive ~65 degree HTA because I like to go uphill and then down hill rather than across the hill.
  • 2 0
 @Brycelewis: I would love to not be a "one-bike" kinda guy but I've hit the S-1 upper bound on number of bikes: one MTB, one road/gravel, one townie cruiser bike.
Refer to rule #12: www.velominati.com/comment-page-8
"The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner."
  • 5 0
 I own a Spur and have also ridden an Epic Evo - one is a repurposed XC race bike and the other is a vastly more capable trail bike. It mostly comes down to two geometry numbers: A medium Spur has an extra 20mm reach and fits a 180-200mm dropper while an Epic Evo would be stuck with a 125mm dropper in a medium. That may not sound like much, but for me on the steeps around Pacifica, it's the difference between riding cleanly and getting destroyed. If I still raced XC or only rode tamer trails, I'd absolutely get an Evo.
  • 3 1
 I’m currently riding 140!bike with 63,9 head angle and 490 reach in large - honestly geo does allow u to push the limits harder despite of the travel, so big win for rm and other bike manufacturers who finally use dh geo in short travel package
  • 1 1
 @nickmalysh: Sounds like a great bike. Slack head angles on shorter travel bike are brilliant IMO. They're not just about going down steep trails (though that's good obvs), but about stability at speed too.
  • 2 0
 @fentoncrackshell: Yea, the Epic Evo is more of a recycled XC bike, and I'm on a large with a 150 dropper. I'd prefer a 170 dropper or so, but it works well enough even in steep terrain. I find the looks of the Spur sharp--one of the best--but could not help but feel it just doesn't make much sense to me. It's not as good at distance and carrying speed as the Evo (which the PB crew picked in the last downcountry shootout as the one they'd take home) and it's not as good at roady riding as something like a Stumpjumper which shares flex stays and has similar geo, a little more travel, a swat box and less weight so more capability, less weight and better convenience...and at less money. The SJ is not the only bike, but the first that comes to mind.

It's all about what you like and the Spur is a great looking bike that has fantastic capabilities 'for a 120' bike as does the Evo. This is precisely why there are so many makers making so many different bikes! Merry Christmas and enjoy that Spur! Time to ride!
  • 1 0
 @fentoncrackshell: Are you sure about only being able to fit 125mm in a medium? I currently ride a large Epic Evo with a 185mm OneUp V2, and still have some space left in the seat tube. It's hard for me to imagine that a size M would be THAT much smaller (also I'm not particularly tall for a large; 5'10", relatively average torso/inseam). One thing that's not intuitive is that the dropper can actually extend below the seat tube pivot, so maybe that's why there's a tendency to think that you can't get much dropper into the seat tube?

I definitely see the argument for reach making a big difference, though.
  • 1 0
 @airdonut41: I'm 5'9" with a 29" inseam - so definitely on the extreme of short stand over height. I bet someone with longer legs and a shorter torso could a 150mm on a medium Evo.
  • 1 0
 @chakaping: absolutely, the only downside of new geo - u need to buy new bike rack
  • 7 1
 Just imagine if Specialized will take bike of the year second year in a row
  • 4 2
 And unfortunately Pinkbike didn't test new Orbea Rallon. It's only for Academy finalists.
  • 2 0
 @wyric: that Rallon really is a beautiful bike, shame I’ve never seen an Orbea in the USA
  • 14 7
 WR1 Def the most game changing bike this year
  • 6 3
 65 head angles on XC bikes, and they work better than a steeper front end.

It is as I have foreseen it.

Also, Rocky Mountain uses some of the nicest pivot hardware in the industry. If I could swing it, I’d put an Element in the quiver.
  • 7 3
 Yet, it's the humble hardtails who year after year push the geometries that wee bit further. And 2 years after, double squishy carbon bikes claim to have invented the low, long and slack...
  • 3 0
 It's funny, Pinkbike nominates the slower bikes from their Field Test for Bike of the Year. The Arrival and especially the Capra were faster. I am a transition fan, but here belong in my opinion the Arrival and the Capra. Mainly because there is still quite a bit to be taken out of the Capra quite easily by installing a better tuned coil shock. It looks to me more like the emphasis was on being trendy. The main thing is long and slack and best still high pivot. The fact that this does not necessarily bring more driving fun, nor is faster, is not taken into account. I do not quite understand.
  • 9 3
 No Evil??? I guess you'd have to test one.
  • 2 0
 Interesting that none of these are traditional trail bikes. We just have Enduro and "down country" (which is yes, a short travel trail bike by some regards), but nothing in a mid travel range. Any thoughts as to why or are those two places just where the excitement is right now?
  • 8 2
 C'mon, it's the Spire.
  • 1 1
 It'll be interesting to see if PB chooses the Spire over the Range. Having ridden both I kinda doubt it.
  • 3 0
 Some dude on a 16.5kg carbon Spire just everested a track in Australia or NZ.. +9007m. Can't be too bad with the geo numbers!
  • 4 0
 That spire has such original geometry numbers which can be found on the Nicolai G1
  • 5 3
 Article has devolved into Canadians upset a Canadian made mfg’d bike didn’t make that list, while same people also complain bikes are to expensive. Proof that people just complain regardless.
  • 3 1
 Spec any other bike at the same level and it will be the same price. I think you have an argument that they only have high level spec options but the price itself is on par or better than most brands.
  • 3 1
 It seems like the range is honestly the only one who really pushed any boundaries. The top fuel is a non starter, the element is just a Norco optic two years later and the spire is just the range without the high pivot.
  • 4 1
 Alloy models and a cheaper carbon model of the Levo was released a few days ago (at least in the U.K.)
  • 1 0
 Thank you. I thought I was in the Matrix or something. I mean… I even bought one from Big Red less than a week ago. Yet I didn’t see mention on Pb about it and my LBSs didn’t have them. Only learned about it via international pubs.
  • 5 1
 No arrival? Ok, spire then
  • 20 20
 Please please please why are you trying to trigger me and many others by including motorized bikes in the real MTB award...add a tire to the suspension category, add a man to the female rider of the year....add outside+ to a best gift idea article....just don't count ebikes as mtbs....please
  • 3 1
 Either the Spire or the Element. Though I'd lean towards the Spire. Def need Henry's opinion here. What is the Element missing that the Spire has...
  • 8 0
 IDK, 50mm of travel??
  • 1 0
 @ReformedRoadie: Ultimately compare it to the Spur. But I think linkage wise they are quite different. Basically which bike is more balanced for its genre.
  • 2 0
 Not even a comparison tho
  • 7 2
 Im not buying an ebike
  • 4 0
 new altitude is my bike of the year. that bike is special
  • 2 2
 I'd get the Transition Spire.

@norcobicycles pushed the high pivot range incredibly hard. The popular (at least in 2020) model from their lineup, the Sight, received barely a mention. Why?

My guess is they either didn't order enough frames, or have a glut of the Ranges. It's a misplaced focus, bring us a bike that is useful for the majority of riders (Sight).
  • 3 0
 They're obviously going to push the new model year instead of one that's almost 2 years old at this point...
  • 1 0
 ...
  • 4 1
 maybe throw a leg over an evil or maybe just ask the good folk over at freehub who actually ride a wide variety of bikes.
  • 1 0
 I think the emtbs are chosen well, if price is no consideration. They are both offensively expensive... However, I'd like to know what paint they were huffing to arrive at the nominated mtbs. I'm very confused
  • 7 3
 None of the above.
  • 1 0
 Exactly. Because the Scott Spark isn't on the list.
  • 3 0
 Looking forward to the '22 Rallon review.
  • 3 0
 Why isn't my bike on here?!
  • 4 1
 Every year there's always a Trek. Are they really that good!!?!?
  • 3 0
 I like the suspension on them, the split pivot is a touch nicer than a Horst, but other bikes always win out for me. But we know that the biggest manufacturers have the biggest budgets, and pinkbike survives on advertising revenue.
  • 3 0
 I’ve been lucky enough to ride several and I own a slash now. They are really awesome bikes and shouldn’t be overlooked because they’re aren’t as boutique as other brands. They put a lot of time and effort into their bikes and you can feel it in the way they ride!
  • 1 0
 @ihsik: if it had an extra inch of travel I would have bought one. I quite enjoyed the loan bike I had for a weekend but I needed a bit more travel to compensate for my lack of skill on my home trails.

I hope the return of “freeride” or downduro bikes makes it to trek, a 170-180mm abp bike would be lovely. Especially as my LBS of 25 years has now switched to being a trek store. Blank Stare
  • 1 0
 @ihsik: Slash is great but for me the tall seat tube length is just a deal breaker. They should steepen the seat tube angle with the capability of accepting a 180mm or 210mm dropper post.
  • 1 0
 @PJSANAB: honestly the bike feels so good the seat tube isn’t even close to a deal breaker for me. The suspension is the best I’ve ever ridden. Also depending on how tall you are and what size you have up to a 210 is compatible. I’m 6’0 and ride the M/L and I’m looking to get the 210 on mine. The 150 just isn’t cutting it for me haha!
  • 1 0
 @ihsik: I’m 5’8” and the M/L suits me better than the M. Unfortunately, there is a significant height difference and that’s probably why it doesn’t affect you. Agree on being a great bike.
  • 3 0
 Not a SINGLE alloy bike? That's a shame.
  • 4 1
 Kinda feel like the Spark should be there for the integration...
  • 5 2
 3 Nice bikes and 2 Nice motos.
  • 2 0
 It's, interesting, that none of the products editors loved (apart from the Spire) made these lists.
  • 2 0
 So one of the products editors loved made it on the list.
  • 2 1
 Y’all should do a poll that we vote who wins between all the bikes that came out this year. We want a voice!
  • 2 0
 No Bronson MX? Whatever pb
  • 2 0
 Pretty sure the alloy Levo has already dropped….
  • 3 1
 I thought for sure the forbidden dreadnought would be on this list
  • 2 0
 There nothing ground braking about that bike, being high pivot and ‘niche’ is not , norco applied innovative approach to the geo, and package within high pivot and other finest things
  • 2 0
 @nickmalysh: I never said Norco shouldn't be on the list....
  • 3 1
 Hard no to the 12 grand ebikes. Sukk me
  • 2 0
 There can be only one winner here: Antidote Carbonjack 29
  • 4 1
 Elemen win
  • 2 0
 I’d take a new Session over any of these!
  • 4 2
 Nothing “honorable” about e-bikes.
  • 2 0
 WHERES POLYGON????????????
  • 2 0
 This is the 'Best bikes we could get our hands on edition'
  • 1 0
 By the time you can actually buy any of these bikes they will be obsoleted by next years bikes.
  • 2 0
 Transition killin it yet again!
  • 1 0
 Rocky should get it for rocking the same suspension design for at least 22 years?
  • 2 0
 The lemurs are demons!
  • 5 3
 Anything but trek.
  • 1 0
 Alloy Levo was released a few days ago @mikekazimer
  • 2 1
 I know what to transition to next.
  • 2 1
 A Norco?
  • 2 1
 Norco Range...High pivot is highly over rated IMHO
  • 2 1
 Arrived late to this debate. Sounds like aren’t all one
  • 1 0
 Surprisingly we are the one of the grid
  • 3 2
 No orange ??,
  • 4 1
 Orange is rad, but they don’t sell carbon high pivot enduro bikes. So they won’t win.
  • 3 1
 Alas, with the transition to primarily electronic record keeping and communication, the interest in filing cabinets (and filing cabinet shaped objects) has dropped precipitously.
  • 1 0
 RME FTW!
  • 1 1
 great
  • 1 3
 Again, the Pivot Switchblade should have won. #Fail
  • 1 0
 It wasn’t a 2021 bike though
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