WELCOME TO THE 2021
PINKBIKE VALUE BIKES FIELD TRIP
5 hardtails & 5 full-suspension bikes under $3,000 put to the test on the Sunshine Coast
Words by Sarah Moore, photography by Tom Richards
While the last Field Test
was full of carbon fiber, electronics, and the high price tags that come with all that fancy stuff, this time around we’re all about value-minded trail bikes. Of course, it's no secret that if you spend a couple months' salary on a top-of-the-line bike, it's going to work really well. It’s definitely not as simple when your budget tops out at $3,000 USD, like the ten bikes that we rode on the Sunshine Coast for two weeks as a part of the 2021 Value Bikes Field Trip.
That's right, this year, we weren't able to head down to Sedona, Arizona, to do our testing, so we took a staycation on the Sunshine Coast instead. We're pretty lucky to have an amazing network of trails just a quick ferry ride away that were perfect for testing these value trail bikes when the trails in Squamish were covered in snow. What worked, what didn't, what's worth upgrading - you'll be able to watch and read about all our findings in the coming days.
Yep, it's this green in February on the Sunshine Coast.
Our stable included five hardtails, all of which cost less than $1,700 USD, while our five full-suspension trail bikes started at $2,300 and topped out at three grand. All of the full-suspension bikes had less than 135mm of rear travel, and this time we included a record five hardtails in the mix. Don't worry, they were all still subjected to the infamous Huck to Flat, as well as the Impossible Climb and the Efficiency Test. There are also roundtable discussions for both groupings of bikes.
These ten trail bikes saw endless Haribo and hot chocolate fuelled testing miles on the Sunshine Coast, and below is how we did it.
5 Full-Suspension Value Trail Bikes
Evaluating different mountain bikes properly calls for a ton of back-to-back riding, and that's especially true if we're going to compare them against each other, which is exactly what the Field Trip series is all about. So that's how we did it, with each bike facing the same 20-minute-ish course over and over again over a two-week period, a course that was carefully selected to tell us as much as possible about how the bikes perform.
While the lap is relatively short for testing purposes, the testing time added up after a solid two weeks of doing it over and over again. Roberts Creek mountain biking trails
We believe that it’s important to evaluate these bikes on terrain that they’re intended for, which certainly isn’t the triple-black runs with a 50-percent chance of survival. The first half of our test lap was a rooty singletrack climb that transitioned into a wider, smoother gravel climb. The climb took up about three-quarters of our 20-minute lap, and was followed by a descent that, while perfectly suited to what these trail bikes are capable of, make their suspension work and separated the good from the not-as-good. Since these bikes aren't meant to fly down trails as fast as possible, timing wasn't a factor in this Field Trip.
Green room laps all day.
A lot of our testing is (and always will be) us simply riding the hell out of the bikes and then telling you all about it, but it never hurts to sprinkle in a bit of science to the process. Actually, calling it pseudo-science is probably more accurate. And yes, it turns out that it does hurt - our Efficiency Test required me to do countless laps up a steep gravel road while holding a steady 250-watts on all ten test bikes to see which suspension design made me work the least over a timed course. The top three were pretty close, can you guess how much rear travel they had?
The Impossible Climb is back, of course, partly because it's good entertainment, but also because these are trail bikes and, well, tricky uphills are something most riders are going to encounter on an average ride. We blew the censorship budget last time around, so this time I got to practice tricky technical climb again, and again, and again. Luckily, it wasn't raining and there were no cactus
for this Impossible Climb, although the roots were extremely slick and I may have had my only crash of the Field Trip at 2km/h.
Nothing like a sunset over the ocean.
And speaking of falling, even though these bikes are inexpensive and half of them don't have any rear suspension, they don't get a free pass on the Huck to Flat
, either, although we did bring some ice for Jason Lucas' ankles. No, we're certainly not aiming to break any of them (in fact, we'd rather not, safety third!), but we do want to show you what's happening to the bikes when they use all of their suspension travel. To do that, we brought out the Phantom camera for those ultra-slow-mo glory shots that I know you want to see.
As you might imagine, watching what an inexpensive hardtail compress at 1,000 frames-per-second is quite revealing and, depending on your armchair opinion, maybe a bit worrying.
5'7" / 170cmWeight:
160 lbs / 72.6 kgNotes:
Content manager, too fast to be so nice
5'10" / 178 cmWeight:
155 lb / 70.3 kgNotes:
Tech editor, gas station snack connoisseur
A big part of evaluating these value bikes is figuring out how ready for action these bikes are right out the box. The thing with not wanting to spend a ton of money is that, well, you probably don’t want to spend a bunch of money on upgrades a few weeks after you buy one of these things. We paid special attention to the spec of these bikes and boil down what might need to be changed or upgraded down the road on each of our ten test bikes.
Speaking of changing, one thing we didn't do this time around is put identical control tires on all our test bikes. The idea here is to compare these value bikes as they are sold by the manufacturer, not as they might be if you spent another $250 on over-priced rubber.
Welcome to the 2021 Value Bike Field Trip. As with all of our Field Tests and Trips, there’s a crew behind the cameras who are working ten times as hard as us to make these things happen. Stay tuned for all the videos, and remember to subscribe to the channel so you don’t miss any of them. Field Trip was filmed prior to current B.C. travel restrictions. All filming was done in accordance with Provincial health orders.
The 2021 Pinkbike Field Test was made possible with support from Toyota.