We didn't put a price cap on the bikes that were sent out for this round of Field Tests, which is how we ended up with several bikes that cost more than $8,000 USD, with the Rocky Mountain Altitude taking the win for the highest price tag in the enduro category at $9,099 USD. I know, you're probably all super disappointed none of the bikes broke the $10,000 mark...
Seriously, though, we realize that most people won't be shelling out eight or nine thousand dollars for their next bike, so we decided to dig a little deeper into the available configurations for each model in order to see which options offered the best value. All carbon-everything may seem appealing, but saving $2,000 or more by going the aluminum route does leave a lot more money in the bank for road trips, a bike park pass, or maybe more trivial things like food and rent...Santa Cruz Nomad
The least expensive Nomad is $4,499, with a NX Eagle drivetrain, Guide RE brakes, and a Zeb fork / Super Deluxe Select shock. The version I tested comes very well spec'd for $6,199, with a full XT drivetrain and Performance Elite 38 fork, but those Reserve carbon wheels drive the price up to $7,399. No matter how you slice it, the Nomad doesn't offer the best value, but I will say that going the C frame route is a good way to save money without a performance difference, and those carbon wheels aren't a necessary upgrade, especially if you're not someone who's going through tons of aluminum rims every year.Norco Shore
Let's move on to the Norco Shore, which, instead of only being available in carbon, is only available in aluminum. There are only two pedalable models, plus the park version, so that makes things easy.
The A2 is the one that stands out – it has a Deore 12-speed drivetrain and MT520 4-piston brakes. Suspension is a RockShox Super Deluxe Coil Ultimate shock, and a Zeb R fork. That has a Charger damper, but not the latest and greatest version. Still, for the price of $3,699 it's a bike that should be able to take a beating. Well, those rims are a little soft, but other than that it doesn't require any upgrades right away.Trek Slash
Next up is the Trek Slash. The Slash lineup runs deep, with both carbon and aluminum options and all kinds of build kits. I should mention that it's cool Trek incorporated in-frame storage in the aluminum bikes as well – they're the first company that I've seen do that. I'd skip the very cheapest model unless that's all your budget will allow – the NX drivetrain and Guide T brakes mean that you'll probably find yourself wanting to upgrade parts sooner than later. For $4,000 the Slash 8 comes with a SRAM GX drivetrain, Lyrik Select+, and Code R brakes. It's a very strong parts spec - there's not much, if anything, that would need to be changed right away.
$4,800 gets you into the carbon Slash, but I don't think spending $800 more than the 8 is worth it just for a carbon frame. Plus, you end up with an NX cassette, which means you'd need to upgrade the driver body to get something lighter on there. Out of all the carbon models, I'd say the 9.8 GX or XT offer the best value. Remember, though, value is subjective – we're still talking about $6,000 here, and there are an awful lot of house brand components for that price. You can choose either a GX or XT drivetrain, and Code or SLX brakes to go with it. Suspension is a Zeb Select + fork, which gets the Charger 2.1 damper, and a Super Deluxe Ultimate shock.Rocky Mountain Altitude
Let's head back across the border to Canada again and take a look at the Rocky Mountain Altitude. Once again, there are aluminum and carbon models to choose from. This time, the base model is worth considering. $3,500 gets you a Deore drivetrain, Marzocchi Z1 Float GRIP fork, and a DPX2 Performance shock. It's the brakes that'll probably need upgrading – they're a step below below Deore, and the brake lever ergonomics at that level are lacking a bit. Other than that, it's a great build kit to start from.
$5,249 gets you top of the line suspension on that aluminum frame, in the form of a Fox 38 and Float X2 shock, an XT drivetrain (other than the SLX cassette) and brakes. I do wish that this build had DT's 350 hubs with their star ratchet design rather than the pawled system found in the 370's. I don't want to second guess the product manager, but I do think Rocky could have saved money by spec'ing Performance Elite suspension, which functions exactly the same as the Kashima coated stuff, and put those savings towards the hubs or cassette.
Moving up into the carbon world, things get expensive quick. The Carbon 70 model has a 36 fork, a Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes. Honestly, the carbon Altitudes don't really offer a great value at all – if you're on a budget or trying to get the most bang for your buck I'd skip right over them, since you can save nearly $2,000 by going with the Altitude Alloy 70. Sure, there's going to be a slight weight penalty, but I wouldn't stress about that too much.Propain Spindrift
Things are a little complicated when it comes to the Spindrift's pricing. In Europe, the brand offers more value because they’re direct to consumer, and the prices are quite competitive. Here in North America, there aren't as many options, and adding in a distributor erases what could potentially be a 20% cost savings from the VAT that customers pay in Europe. Propain also has an a la carte menu system that makes it a little trickier to compare apples to apples.
However, we can compare the $8,599 model that I tested to the $9,099 Rocky Mountain Altitude. Even riders that are flush with disposable income want to know what they're getting for that money. In this case, the Propain offers the better value – you get carbon wheels (Crankbrothers Synthesis) vs. the aluminum Race Face ones found on the Altitude, plus SRAM's wireless electronic drivetrain. If you're going to roll around on an extra-fancy bike, you might as well let everyone know it by having little robot noises emanate from it whenever you shift, right?
At the less expensive side of things, for riders that have access to Propain's full lineup there are deals to be had, and it's possible to customize the bike exactly how you want, component by component. I do wish there were some Shimano drivetrain options, but other than that I'd say Propain's overall value is certainly higher than the non-direct-to-consumer brands.What would I pick?
If I was dead set on choosing from this batch of brand new 2021 models I'd probably either go with base model Altitude and upgrade, or figure out a way to get a Propain configured the way I want it here in the States. I'd skip the carbon version for all models, simply because it doesn't make sense if you're on a budget. That's not to say I don't appreciate the weight savings, but it's not enough to make me want to cough up an extra $1-2,000 dollars.
Hopefully you've found this deeper dive into these five models helpful - we'll also be doing another value-oriented Field Test in 2021, along with setting some price limits for the 'regular' field tests in the future.