Mountain Bike of the Year Nominees
2020 was a strange, stressful year for most of the world, but even in the middle of a global pandemic a whole host of new bikes hit the market, and more riders than ever headed out to their local trails in search of an escape from the chaos.
The growth of crazy-capable short travel machines shows no signs of slowing down, and we're seeing more and more fast and light bikes hit the market. Pinkbike's first ever XC / Downcountry Field Test made it crystal clear that XC is no longer synonymous with sketchy, with the Transition Spur as a prime example.
The aggressive trail / all-mountain category is also expanding, where bikes like the new Specialized Stumpjumper EVO reside, a bike that's adaptable to fit a wide range of terrain and rider preferences, while also offering amenities like generous downtube storage and tools hidden in the head tube.
Two burly aluminum bikes also earned nominations, the Commencal Meta TR and the Raaw Madonna V2. Both are built to survive the apocalypse, which could be important considering the way things have been going lately.
Last year, it was the Norco Optic that took the win, a bike that still holds up as a prime example of how fun and capable a modern trail bike can be. This time, the Spur, Stumpjumper EVO, Meta TR, and Madonna are all vying for the title of Mountain Bike of the Year.
Why it's nominated
The previous Meta TR was no slouch – it impressed us with its solid, ready-for-anything feel at the Value Field Test earlier in the year – but the latest version takes things to another level. With a longer reach, slacker head angle, and steeper seat tube angle than before the new Meta TR has pushed past the trail bike designation and into the territory typically occupied by longer travel enduro bikes.
As the long term review said, “the Meta's 140mm of rear travel helps it stand out from longer travel enduro bikes, in a good way. There's plenty of travel for dealing with chunky sections of trail, but there's a level of support and snappiness that makes it an absolute blast when it's time to get airborne.” The Meta TR has an unflinchingly solid presence that inspires confidence when the trail turns from mild to wild, whether that involves hitting big jumps, knocking out laps in the bike park, or dropping into a steep, sketchy rock roll.
Add in the fact the Commencal's consumer direct business model and adherence to an aluminum-only credo allows them to offer a very good price to performance ratio and it's easy to see how the Meta TR earned a spot on this list.From the review:
Why it's nominated
The Spur is something of a departure for Transition. After all, this is the company the got their start with chunky aluminum freeride / slopestyle bikes like the DirtBag and the BottleRocket – ten years ago it would have been hard to imagine they would be producing a bike like this, a sub-25 pound, 120mm full carbon 29er. Transition didn't forget their gravity-oriented roots, though, and that's part of the Spur's appeal. Its light and quick nature makes it easy to put in the miles, but it's on the descents where it truly shines, encouraging rides to go faster and bigger than they typically would on this style of bike.
As Mike Levy wrote, “The Spur isn't your normal cross-country bike and it’s not for racers. Instead, it's a short-travel bike for riders who don’t care that they have a short amount of travel, and for those who love the responsiveness of a 120mm bike but don't want to be held back by it on the descents.” The freerider's cross-country bike? Call it what you will, Transition have packed a whole bunch of fun into an incredibly versatile bike, one that epitomizes just how good a downcountry bike can be. From the Field Test:
Why it's nominated
In 2018 Specialized released a version of the Stumpjumper EVO that turned heads due to its long and slack geometry, a departure from the norm for such a large company, and a sign of things to come.
That bike, which was initially available only in aluminum and in just two sizes, has now matured into a highly refined, and highly adaptable all-mountain machine, with a lightweight, full carbon frame, and six sizes to choose from. The latest version has 150mm of rear travel that's paired with a 160mm fork, 10mm more squish on each end compared to the prior iteration.
It's the number of geometry options that help set the Stumpjumper EVO apart. Thanks to a flip chip at the chainstays, and the use of a different upper headset cup, it's possible to achieve a head angle anywhere from 63- to 65.5-degrees. That's a spread that'll actually make a noticeable difference out on the trail, as opposed to the half-degree (or less) difference than many bikes have between their high and low settings. Along with all those geometry options, the Stumpjumper EVO raises the bar when it comes to frame features. The SWAT box has grown even larger, and there's now enough room to store a water bladder, making it possible to totally ditch the pack even on long rides.
This is a bike that could easily fill the 'one bike to do it all' position for a vast range of riders – as the review said, “Effortless" is the adjective that comes to mind when trying to sum up the Stumpy's handling in one word. No matter if I was on a steep, chunky descent, or on a smoother, jump filled line, I never felt like I was fighting the bike to get it to behave the way I wanted.” From the review:
Why it's nominated
Is there even a need to explain how the Madonna V2 ended up earning a nomination? I mean, just look at it. The aluminum frame is built to last, with a clean, utilitarian look, sealed covers for all the bearings, and external cable routing to simplify maintenance. It's designed to survive multiple seasons of hard riding, rather than barely making it through a summer of shredding without needing a complete overhaul. With 29" wheels and 160mm of travel the Madonna is meant to shine on the descents, but the geometry, especially the steep seat tube angle, helps make climbing as comfortable as possible aboard a bike like this.
Out on the trail, it's a solid, bump-sucking brute – drop your heels, let off the brakes, and the Madonna will take care of the rest. It's a bike that wants to go fast, and as the review said, "Hands down, this is one of the best cornering bikes I've ridden in recent memory. The low bottom bracket deserves the bulk of the credit here, and while that might cause a few extra pedal strikes on the climbs, on the descents that low slung stance makes the Raaw an absolute riot when it comes to cornering or carving down the steeps." From the review:
Honorable MentionsThere are four finalists in the running for the Mountain Bike of the Year title, but given the sheer number of excellent bikes that were released this year it made sense to give a little extra recognition to some of the other standouts that just barely missed making it to the final round.