WELCOME TO THE 2022 PINKBIKE
FALL FIELD TEST
5 New Do-Everything Bikes
Words by Mike Levy, photography by Satchel Cronk
This Field Test takes us back to a drier and much warmer time of the year when fall may have arrived but maybe just hadn't quite made it to Whistler yet. Late September saw Mike Kazimer, Matt Beer, myself, and our tireless video team head to the world's most famous bike park... to ride trail bikes. I realize that might sound strange, but we kept it to (mostly) appropriate terrain and also spent a ton of time on trails outside of the park, which are even better but you didn't hear that from me.
I'm not sure if this is the tenth Field Test or the hundredth, but I do know that it was an exceptionally good one. They're all fun and all hard work, sure, but it's rare to have the moving pieces line up so well: warm weather, a bunch of good bikes, some of the best trails in the world, and everything just thirty minutes from home up a twisty seaside highway with a Tim Hortons on the way. Life is good, isn't it?
Another factor in that goodness is that we were riding a bunch of the newest trail bikes, easily the most interesting category in my mind. Most of these get-togethers see us on bikes that prioritize one aspect of the ride far more than another, with the cross-country and enduro editions getting more focus on either climbing or descending for obvious reasons. At the Value Bike Field Test, they just need to keep us from yelling, "ALHONGAAAAA" too many times, while at the Downcountry Field Test, they just need to, er, downcountry well...?
Point is, these five 130 to 150mm-travel bikes have to be pretty damn good at each of those things without being allowed to suck at one to benefit another. And doubly so when you consider that some of them cost many duffle bags full of money. I love me an outlier, though, which is why we also brought along a much less expensive option; a bit of perspective never hurts.
As usual, we installed control tires on all of the bikes in order to remove one variable from the equation. This time, those tires were Maxxis' DHR II tires, all with a DoubleDown casing. That thicker rubber does add around a half-pound to the total weight of each bike compared to lighter duty options, but it was worth it for the peace of mind they provided in Whistler's rocky terrain. The total number of flat tires we suffered during the test period? Zero.
How Do We Choose the Bikes?
It all starts with this simple Pinkbike Poll
that told us which bikes you wanted to see reviewed. Aside from using those results to make sure we didn't bring in any of the most requested bikes, this round's fleet needed to be interesting, new, available-ish, and not too expensive. Just joking about that last one, but before you yell at us in the comments that I'm not going to see anyway, consider that we do our Value Bike Field Tests, and also that brands really
want to send us the fancy version of their new anything.
These five bikes are similar in many ways. The difference between the slackest and steepest head angles is just 1.1 degrees, and there's a 5mm spread in chainstay lengths, 18mm in wheelbase, and 7mm at the top tube. As for suspension, the Norco, Trek, Scott, and Yeti all use some variation of a four-bar layout, while the Santa Cruz is our lone dual-link bike. That means it was up to us to parse the differences between similar-ish bikes and a reminder that millimeters matter.
Field Tests are about back-to-back-to yada, yada, yada, comparisons, also strengths and weaknesses, blah, blah, blah, not a shootout, and so on and so forth. But we mostly just rode the bikes a whole bunch on the trails that we wanted to ride them on, which was anywhere and everywhere you might take a bike like one of these. And since we're in our own neighborhood, we may have ended up in a few places where you're not supposed to take a bike like one of these. You know, for science or whatever. Whistler's mountain biking trails
The bulk of our testing took place on a fifty-fifty mix of pedal and lift-accessed descents, and mostly on the kind of trails where you'd want to ride a modern trail bike: rough, rocky, and either steep or fast but sometimes both. A Field Test is not the place for us to talk about long-term reliability, of course, but spending all day in the bike park is a good way to rattle loose any problems or concerns that wouldn't have surfaced otherwise. I'm always grateful to have a place like Whistler so close, but end-of-season conditions are no joke; Anthony Messere could hide between some of the braking bumps, and the tinder-dry conditions make for fun riding but also summer speed with winter traction, if you catch my drift... Which I definitely didn't about half a dozen times during our two-week stay.
If you think more editors put their hands up to volunteer for the Whistler Field Test than the Tucson edition, you'd be wrong. Kazimer rules with an iron fist and no one else gets to decide anything, but he let me come because I promised to do the efficiency test and not talk about aliens more than once an hour. Matt Beer joined us for testing and filming to make it a trio, but he was also there for his own round of downhill bike testing that I'm probably not supposed to mention yet.
We're blessed to be traveling the world to ride bikes - namaste, of course - but that also means we feel extra-namasted when we get to test bikes on our backyard trails. When we weren't trying to keep Matt in our sights on the mountain, Kazimer and I not having to share a bunk bed for the first time was another huge plus. Or bummer, depending on your perspective.
And without Satch Cronk, Maxon Barron, and Stefan Licko, AKA our photo and video team, on hand to document it all and ask for a 23rd take, none of this would be possible. Actually, without them, it'd just be Kazimer, Matt, and I having a ton of fun while doing whatever we wanted, riding really expensive bikes that we don't own in the bike park all day, playing Catan for hours at night, and relaxing in the hot tub while listening to Bob Seger's best two songs on endless repeat.
5'10" / 178 cmWeight:
150 lb / 68 kgNotes:
Tech editor, knows the aliens are here
5'11" / 180cmWeight:
160 lbs / 72.6 kgNotes:
Managing tech editor, the reasonable one
5'10" / 178 cmWeight:
170 lb / 77 kgNotes:
Tech editor, fast... and late
The 2022 Fall Field Test is presented G-Form