If the comments asking that we declare a “winner” of the Bible of Bike Tests are any indication, at least a vocal few of you would like us to tell you outright which bike was “the best” from this year’s testing at the Kingdom Trails in East Burke, Vermont. If only it were so cut-and-dried. Choosing a favorite bike is an exercise in subjectivity: certain bikes excel in specific conditions, and, more importantly, each tester has their own idea of how a bike should feel. Those of you thinking “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man,” are exactly right. These are our opinions. Without further ado, here they are:
Ryan picked the Ibis Ripley LS. No wait, the Trek Fuel EX 9 29. Crap. Both bikes were an absolute riot to ride. For the money, the Trek is unbeatable. It also manuals better, has a slightly longer toptube and its suspension performance is incredible.
But the Ibis Ripley LS blew Ryan's mind with its cornering agility, snappy, yet planted demeanor and supple but supportive suspension feel. It was also 3 pounds lighter (and $3,300 more) than the Trek. He preferred the Ibis, but it wasn't a fair fight. More people can afford the Trek, which means more smiles on trails. For Ryan, that tipped the scales in favor of the Fuel.
Verdict: Trek Fuel EX 9 29
Though Brice is a staunch supporter of medium-travel 29ers, he has an annoying habit of raving about most of the Bible test bikes as soon as he returns from his laps. This year he professed his love for at least a dozen different steeds, but the ones he ended up stealing the most for 'extra-credit' rides were the Yeti SB4.5c and the Specialized Camber Comp Carbon 29.
Verdict: Yeti SB4.5c or Specialized Camber
Vernon always approaches this as less an exercise in pointing his finger at the best bike of the bunch and more a matter of answering the following question: If a pack of chimpanzees/IRS agents/orcas stole every bike he owns and he could replace those bikes with just onemodel from this lot, which would it be? The bike in question would need to be versatile–something capable of both long cross-country rides and technically demanding descents.
This year, that bike proved to be Pivot's Mach 429 Trail. It wasn't an easy decision–the Ibis Ripley LS and the Yeti SB4.5c nipped closely at the Pivot's heels and were a bit more fun to just toss around–but the Pivot does everything an aggressive trail bike should and doesn't harbor a single crappy component.
Verdict: Pivot Mach 429 Trail
As usual, there were multiple worthy contenders for the gold star of the test, but for Nicole, the Yeti SB5c Beti was the bike that made her heart beat fastest. The ideal bike for Nicole's home trails in Laguna Beach, California, is one that can make the countless steep fire-road climbs pass quickly and as pain-free as possible, but still handle the chunky-rock singletrack descents and zero-traction 'dirt' inherent to southern California's trails. The Beti's Switch Infinity platform is the best-climbing suspension she's ever experienced and, that, combined with a lightweight frame, balanced geometry and a very capable 5 inches of travel, makes the Beti a worthy companion for everyday rides.
Verdict: Yeti SB5c Beti
The Transition Patrol is the bike that won Mike's heart this year, in spite of the field being stacked with bikes that were–all the way across the board–hard to fault. Normally the trend of bikes getting longer and slacker up front would freak Mike out, but there's a concurrent steepening of seat angles and a trend to keep chainstays short, and the results are that these long and slack bikes are a whole lot more balanced than Mike first expected. The Transition epitomizes and capitalizes on this trend, and it is a personal game-changer for Mike. On a workmanlike level, the Patrol is well conceived and cleanly executed, and thankfully retains a threaded bottom bracket.
Verdict: Transition Patrol
Evil's Insurgent, Ibis' Ripley LS and Salsa's Pony Rustler come to mind. But it wasn't until the better part of our two weeks in Vermont was up that Jon met the one that really got under his skin: Trek's Fuel EX 9 29.
Jon wasn't even testing the Fuel. He was out for a ride with CJ Scott, the trails manager at the Kingdom Trails, when the bike blew him away with its understated handling and efficiency. It pedaled exceedingly well, even with the shock fully open, and its mild-mannered handling meshed with the Kingdom Trails' terrain like eggs and potatoes. The Fuel is a truly balanced ride, and at $4,000, it happens to be one of this year's most attainable options.
Verdict: Trek Fuel EX 9 29
Asking someone who prioritizes bikes over darn near everything else to choose a favorite is a form of cruel and unusual punishment. The Cannondale Habit and Yeti SB5c Beti made Kristin not entirely hate climbing, while the Juliana Furtado XX1 and Scott Contessa Genius 710 let her glimpse the beauty of perfectly balanced rides. She even indulged her love of stupid lines aboard the Specialized Rhyme 6Fattie.
But it was the Liv Intrigue SX that made her want to grab it by the handlebars, straddle its sculpted frame and see just how fast she could make it go downhill. The term 'plush' has been used and abused ever since elastomers went the way of the dodo bird, but Kristin insists it's the most fitting descriptor of a bike so aptly named for the feeling it elicits.
Verdict: Liv Intrigue SX
When considering price, the way Lacy rides and the terrain she prefers, the Liv Intrigue SX was an easy choice. No, it's not carbon, and no, it doesn't have a top-of-the-line spec, but it does do what matters most to Lacy: It absolutely hauls ass downhill.
Lacy is the type of rider who will sacrifice ease of climbing for a machine that makes her giddy while descending. The Intrigue SX doesn't exactly crush ascents, but it performed better on climbs than Lacy anticipated.
And though the Intrigue's $4,475 price tag isn't necessarily what she would call cheap, it certainly wasn't the most expensive bike of the test–and Lacy felt it was considerably more fun than some of the higher-priced options.
Verdict: Liv Intrigue SX
The Bible favorites are meant to be soul mates, not one-night stands. If Travis wanted the latter, he might have picked the Norco Revolver for its quickness or the Evil Insurgent for its confidence. But the bike he could see himself waking up beside every morning is the Santa Cruz Bronson CC.
On paper, the Bronson has the numbers of an all-mountain brawler, but its neutral cockpit pedaled as comfortably as a trail bike. And depending on suspension setup, it can feel progressive and lively. Though Travis enjoys charging through chatter, leaning deep into some gushy shocks, the Bronson behaves with a little more elegance. Travis likes breaking his tires free of the dirt, both horizontally and vertically, and this bike slides and leaps with consistency and grace. There's also the lower-priced C version, so you can find true love for less than the cost of a wedding ring.
Verdict: Santa Cruz Bronson CC
If you haven’t already, check out the Roundtable reviews.