PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
Trail Bike Roundtable
There aren't many places in the world better suited to bike testing than Whistler, BC. The bike park provided easy access to a wide range of trail styles, and made it easy to get in a bunch of back-to-back laps on the five bikes we had on hand for this Field Test. We did our best to choose trails that were well suited to the bikes' intentions, although there may have been a few bonus laps in the mix in zones where you might not typically expect to see a trail bike...
Don't worry, though, we earned our turns too, pedaling up countless steep, techy climbs in order to see which of these five bikes truly deserved the all-rounder designation. Whistler's not just for DH bikes or slopestyle machines – there's a lifetime's worth of trails to explore outside of the bike park, no lift ticket required.
The bikes for this round of testing can all be slotted into the aggressive trail bike category, although the Scott Genius teeters on the edge of that designation with its 150mm of rear travel and geometry numbers that look like they were lifted from an enduro bike. At the other end of the travel spectrum is the 130mm Norco Fluid, which punched well above its $3,999 USD price tag. On the topic of pricing, we realize that most of the bikes in this round-up are very, very expensive. We've got another Value Field Test in the works next year that'll focus on more obtainable options, so stay tuned for that some time in 2023.
After all of the testing was done, Mike Levy and I sat down to figure out which bikes were our favorites, which ones surpised us, and which ones didn't quite make the grade. When it comes to the best pedaling options, the bikes that felt quick and efficient, the Santa Cruz Hightower and Trek Fuel EX were our top picks. The Yeti SB140 is in the mix too, thanks to its quicker handling and excellent traction.
For riders who place a higher priority on downhill performance, the Trek Fuel EX hits that mark too, as does the Scott Genius. The Genius isn't going to be for everyone due to its high level of integrated everything, but there's no denying that it's a great descender.
Watch the roundtable for even more insight into which bikes impressed us, surprised us, or disappointed us, plus a comparison round with one of last year's favorites, the Specialized Stumpjumper EVO.
Ride as demo or rental: exact opposite
I appreciate a good troll now and then, but it needs to be entertaining to come across well.
Good luck in your future endeavours
Marginal gains will always be incredibly expensive. This is one of the few sports where you can walk into a shop and buy a replica of a World Championship winning bike. Try doing that with a Supercross bike, F1 car, etc.
Getting the last 1% of performance is always going to drive 100%+ of the cost increases relative to the other 99%. F1 teams spend $5M/yr on tires yet they could go to Discount Tire and get the same number of them for $15K. Supercross transmissions are rumored to be well over $50K per bike yet you can walk into a dealership and buy a complete race ready rig for $10K.
People need to stop focusing on cost. I personally don't want to see reviews on Walmart bikes or $1500 HT's. I want to see the best most exotic stuff on the market most of the time. I will then make decisions on whether I need Kashima, XTR/XX1, etc and where the best trade off is for me personally.
Otherwise we'd all be ripping off our Maxxis tyres and slap on some Mike Bear rubber, they're a quarter of the price and Maxxis tyres don't go 4x faster.
Ironically, Salespunk has ridden and owned more high end bikes than most on the comments board.
Richard Cunningham said it best: There’s always a sweet spot, where you get good value for the money, and above that you get marginal gains and diminishing returns. About 4/5 years ago that was $5k.
At the end of the day, Salespunk is right. If you want proof, go up to Whistler and watch the locals school you on 10+ year old dh bikes or even regular trail bikes…
In the meantime, I will enjoy my full suspension.
How are you defining value? Let's suppose you mean a combination of: capability/performance, ride quality/experience, and equipment longevity. I would struggle to find a $1.5k bike that will offer 90% of the outright speed, enjoyable ride quality, and parts longevity as the Norco (in this example).
On the other hand, if you define value simply as "the ability to ride a given trail" - then sure. A $1.5k hardtail in capable hands can certainly fit the bill.
I am absolutely faster on my current enduro bike than I was on the enduro bike I purchased in 2015. Conversely, I was a much better skier in 2015 than I am today (damn you aging!) - a point I make because ski equipment has not changed meaningfully in at least 15 years.
Just because some bike park local can absolutely shred on a 10-year old DH bike does not mean that the same rider would not be even faster/shred-ier on a bling'd out 2022 DH bike. In fact, I would guarantee they would be.
I suspect that in a blind test, you would be unable to tell that the Norco is a way cheaper bike than others. Where as bikes in the $1.5K range do have have real performance compromises.
We are all well aware, that most of the bikes come in a more reasonable spec/value package. The SC and Yeti being the outliers.
We get it, bikes are expensive, so much more than 2-3 years ago, big business blah, blah blah.
Buy what you want, Christ on a cross
That being said, you can race what you want, where you want, but your not getting to the big show on your showroom bike.
Much like WC mtb bikes aren’t quite what you walk into the store and buy, again reasonable facsimile.
Now the performance between my buddies demo, and Finnes might be mulch closer than my YZ to Eli’s, there still a difference my man.
And really, i just want fun entertainment, that’s all these tests are, there’s nothing here that’s astonishing to anyone is there?
The bikes were good, the most adjustable bike was well received, and the plucky alu bike was call described as a tank, and shop rat bike. We all could have written the reviews our selves, but the Mike’s made it entertaining
Have you had the pleasure of riding Mike Bears?
That is the value of riding, not how much travel you have, how smooth your bike is through the chatter and definitely not VPP vs Horst vs Single Pivot, etc. I could actually make a plausible argument that we would have MORE fun on janky bikes.
You want him to sell them at or below cost?
Do you have much concept on sales, and how business works?
None of this is to say that I couldn't have fun on a hardtail or inexpensive bike. If that were my only option, I'd take it! But I get an absolute thrill from pushing myself and that feeling of "being on a burner lap!". From that perspective, a hardtail would not offer me 90% of the value of a high-end (component spec) bike like the Norco.
I’ll counter that idea with different bikes present different challenges, and excel in different areas. You’re never going to be on the perfect bike, for the entirety of a trail, so there’s always the hunt for performance, and better times, or experiences. The hard tail might be the faster bike for portions of any given trail, then the challenge comes from capitalizing on those areas, and refining skills to be quicker in the areas that aren’t the hard tails strong suit.
Just a thought
As a side note one of my now good friends I met at an Enduro race years ago when he was schooling the pros on an early 90's Merlin hardtail with V-brakes at one of the roughest tracks in San Diego.
I am also having a blast riding my Epic Evo down stuff I would normally blast on my Hightower or Megatower just because I have to pay more attention and use actual skill.
We did a big ride Revelstoke ride last year, on one of the jankiest trails I've ever ridden, it was incredible. Two of us on aggressive geo 140ish bikes, absolutley blasting, buddy on a 170 big bike was doing his best to keep up, then an absolute legend on a 10 year old hardtail just smashing his way down.
I'll say, at the end of 10kms of steep and deep we all had smiles on our face, but only two of us went up for a sceond lap.....
The point salespunk attempted to make was that if you define "value" as anything that could be reasonably ridden as a mountain bike, then there are $1.5k bikes that offer 90% of the performance. It's just that most of us disagree with that definition of value AND with the assertion that $1.5k hardtails offer anything close to 90% of the performance.
The whole point of this thread is objecting to the cost-to-peformance ratio of some of the "bling" bikes. It's a fair gripe. During COVID supply constraints, I managed to custom build a Spec Enduro with Fox Factory suspension, Shimano XT + SRAM GX AXS drivetrain, I-9 Wheels, and Trickstuff brakes for about $8k all-in. My bike is decidedly more "bling" than the bikes in this test, and I saved nearly $3k over the price of the Yeti, SC or Trek. It's worth complaining that these companies charge you FULL MSRP on all the parts they put on their already expensive frames. It's ridiculous that there is no love to your customer in terms of cost efficiency for buying a complete bike.
Discussions around "value" are philosophical and unhelpful. Looking at the cold facts is far more useful, and as you say, raise some eyebrows around what people are charged. A dash of the rare common sense is useful too.
You also see companies like Specialized now reacting to the new market and offering 25% off sales on some of their most popular bikes. They are trying to figure out if this is a temporary slow down or a long term trend before they drop MSRP.
In personal terms if you were selling your car would you list it a fair market value prior to COVID or take the extra 20% in cash because of shortages? You are asking companies to give up profit just to be nice.
I guarantee that in the coming slow down consumers are not going to offer to pay more just because it would be fair.
Maybe copy and paste the comment you’re referring to?
edit: but I would also love to see this happen somehow
High end components(not all of them, mind you) tend to last longer than low spec parts and they tend to weigh less.
In this field test, the lower-cost bike still had high spec parts, which is very nice. People bash on kashima plenty as a dentist option, but if you keep a fork for a lot of years, the ceramic coating tends to hold up better.
Bike version of that would be cool. $4000 choose your best trail bike - has to be new, could be a bike that's $4000 exactly, or a $3500 bike with $500 of upgrades or whatever.
Each presenter introduces their chosen fighter and justifies why they chose it.
Then they have to complete a huge day in the saddle, an impossible climb, ride a double black trail, clear a tricky bit of north shore and then pass the bike over to the Stig for a timed lap.
Could be fun
I'd be way more interested in a trail bike comparison of 5 boutique brands, or an xc comparison of 5 other boutique or obscure brands. But that's just my opinion.
And even if one of these bikes is super amazing, for the first time since being a working adult, I'm left wondering who on earth is willing to pay these prices and I work in US tech, the most overpaid workforce in the world, where we all have the WLB of a kid in their sophomore year of college.
I don't know. I think I'll keep my current quiver and buy that used moto for $2,800 I've been threatening to buy for years. Seems like the perfect time to branch out.
"$7,500! You might as well just get a insert moto bike> for that money since you're already there!"
For me it's more about trying something new that happens to share some of the best parts of riding pedal bikes (going fast, blasting corners, jumping, etc). I'm at a stage in life where I'm over riding bikes competitively, and I'm more open minded about where my thrills come from.
Mountain biking is such a huge part of my life and community so I'll never give it up. But having a dirt bike to explore different places and terrains could be a great way to mix it up. And while it's not the same level of cardiovascular exercise, wrestling a dirtbike around for 4 hours will leave you sore in places you didn't know you had.
I would've loved to see how it compared with the big brands: whether/where the mullet was better/same/worse vs 29ers, how integrating the shock for simplification compares with hiding the shock and it's levers on the Scott, or if the sliders on the Yeti offer any similarities, whether the low weight was noticable on trail, etc...
I think they have found their place on the mountain.
I kid I kid
I will never forget how much fun I had pushing that bike through EVERYTHING improving my overall balance, situational awareness, and endurance. It was the only fun I knew on a mountain bike. Just a desire to have fun and get better so I could have more fun. Also get my friend to shut their kfng face.
Best was keeping a high cadence through techy bits, having the agility to weave around obstacles, winch up hills on a relatively light, zippy bike and make a fun challenge of staying on the bike. I'd like a spare mountain bike for friends, ideally a thrifty 26" fun mobile so they catch the bug in the same way. I'll always admire those 26" qualities. The 29" enduro hardtail I saved my pennies for is....different.
Think Honda vs Ferrari. The K series motor was developed to fit in a lot of affordable cars. But it’s so well engineered that it’s one of the best swap engines out there.
Ferrari has “cost no object” engineering and makes shockingly unreliable cars with horrific depreciation.
Both companies make very fun to drive cars. But the company thst focuses on the mass market with their R&D builds better stuff.
I agree with the sentiment though--if, as Kaz has mentioned here in the comments, the feel of a bike is mostly the suspension and geometry, then why not just go ahead and ask for the mid-price bike from these brands? Ride and test the one that most of the public would be considering.
I wish the bike industry would focus on reliable designs that work up and down the price scale, and that ain’t carbon rims and wireless drivetrains.
I'd most like to ride the SC, but no question, the bike I'd buy is the Norco.
Coloradoans slowly realizing that they are not the gnarliest:
...would I most like to own? Hightower.
Apart from the Fluid, Spending close to 15K CAD on a bicycle seems ludicrous.
Autoplay doesn't serve your customers. It's a mad flurry of maneuvers to scroll down/up, unmute, rewind, fat finger everything, and try again. Please discontinue this .
Just stfu and ride what you have/can and be chill.
And yeah I’m the guy on the 10 year clapped out bike.
Fuel EX8 weighs a little more, has solid spec. That’s the volume bike, and the best deal.
Wouldn't buy any of those at that price and with all that weight, imo a trail bike at this price point shouldn't exceed ~13.5-14kg.
Looks longingly at the Scott for the slender looks . Ignores the Trek as not my type .. and smashes the Norco like the cheap dirty bike it looks like .
Immediately I dart to the cabinet where I keep my pitchfork and torches, yelling "Honey, get my notes from teh bedside table!! Yes, for TODAY is the day the bike industry will finally know my wrath!!! All my friends agree it is I who must deliver SWIFT JUSTICE to the bike company overlords!! Oh, the explosive mix of righteous indignation and furious keystroking I will drop on their corporate doorstep via pinkbike comments will not soon be forgotten!!! Oh, yes. I expect the management team will need to do much soul-searching after this one. To assuage their guilt, they will have no choice but to make only a single, ~$4000 model with alloy frame, GX drivetrain, and pike fork!!!! That is all I, a simple man with simple needs, asks after all."
wife, in the corner, on the phone to sister, whispering: "they already have it. I've shown him a dozen times but he just won't stop. I wish he would stop."
I'd pretty much convinced myself that my Giant Trance X Adv Pro 1 was good enough and I don't need(can't afford) to upgrade to a Stumpjumper Evo. Yet here it is getting rave reviews in a field test it's not even part of!!!
Worth the squeeze? Probably not. Nice bikes? Yeah.
In regards to bikes from the early '00s, I completely agree. Today's trail bikes are way better than the best DH bikes back then - in terms of both the geo and durability...
Yeah the Trek is more up my street in terms of geometry and stuff, but they can't be rewarded for aesthetics like that.
Maybe I’ll cook one up.
Bike companies are high.
The Evo is a bit too linear (CC link fixes this) and while the geo is dialed, the rear suspension has never felt all that great (my bike has the dpx2). I like my Evo and think it is a great bike but this fuel seems to improve upon the downsides of the evo (aside from looks maybe)
With all these "well designed" enduro bikes, I am truly surprised that Pink Bike even tested the Yeti. Comparing such a bike to pieces of filth like the Scott, Trek, and Norco is a disgrace to the Yeti name. I hop you Yeti haters have a good day riding your Walmart level bikes.
"their carbon layout alone is enough reasoning to change the price of the bike to $12,000."
Firstly, it's carbon layup, not layout. Secondly STFU
But way to go with your comeback lol
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