Will Ritchie

Will Ritchie is from Marin County, California, but resides at the bottom of California. He prefers semi-technical, mid-speed, trail riding beneath trees and lives for long, overwhelming rides. He'll take big ups and drawn-out descents any day he can muster the gumption or sneak in time--both of which seem to be eluding him, not hard to do. He prefers supportive suspension over goopy, long has been unyielding in his devotion to big wheels, likes 29-plus, deeply believes in bikepacking and someday aspires to own a golf cart. Ok, fine, some Astroturf too. Ok, fine, fine--and some plastic flamingos. Then he'll know he's made it--when he and his glowering hound dog can go on a walk without going on a walk, return to an evergreen patch of something and sip an overpriced coffee surrounded by a flock of birds that don't fly away. That's big time.

Favorite Bike: Commencal Meta AM 4.2 World Cup

The bike that I really wondered over why it was included in the test, 'What was Travis thinking including that alloy bike from two years ago?' was the bike that stole my heart. I'm not a particularly speedy descender, I grumble to myself that some people must care much more for speed than style or smoothness, though I need to find both of those crutches as well. Regardless, the Commencal Meta AM 4.2 World Cup had a remarkable ability to skim over stutter-worthy, grabby, high-speed sections of trail. So much so, it made me feel like a better rider--I imagined it must be the sensation World Cup DH riders experience when gracefully fluttering over boulders and landmines unaffected by them, as though their wheels never fully contact the ground. I went slow as hell, but yeah, it had that feel and I liked it. Nothing else even came close and it was intuitively predictable at speed too. On everything else it did well enough and it put its money where it counts--suspension and lightweight parts. There's something refreshing about choosing the least expensive bike that isn't carbon for neither of those two reasons.

Read the full review here.

Travis Engel

L.A. sucks for cycling. Normally in hashtag form, this common expression can be used in irony or in earnest, depending on whom you ask. Ciudad de Los Angeles resident, Travis Engel has 5,000-foot peaks, pristine private dirt jumps and the world's most star-studded brunch lines, all within a half hour drive of his Silverlake split-level. To Travis, L.A. does not suck for cycling.

Travis's home trails are raw, remote and rarely see any moisture. Some are wooded, soft and fast, but his favorites are barren, rocky and steep. The frequent exposure demands careful line choice, and the big scale forces wise time management. These trails have long kept Travis on his toes and thinking creatively, and they test his background in trials riding.

His dirt jumps, located in the foothills below those same trails, regularly pull him away from his testing duties for a weekend. Or, sometimes they'll pull him away for six-to-eight weeks while a bone or tendon slowly mends.

And the brunch. The brunch is great. Try the avocado toast.

Favorite Bike: Canyon Torque

I don't Strava. I don't race. I don't even follow racing. I do like to go fast, but to me, speed is secondary to style. That’s why I expected to fall in love with the Transition Patrol. It's the most poppy, responsive enduro bike I've ever ridden. Problem is, it barely felt like an enduro bike at all. Granted, enduro is just a made-up word like "cattywampus" or "bigly," but if we're talking bikes with these numbers, I want something forgiving. Something that won't complain if my lines and landings aren't perfect, but something that still lets me have some fun. For me, that was the Canyon Torque. It will mercilessly charge like any 175-millimeter-rear, 180-front-travel bike should, but in a manageable, approachable way. It softened hard hits and nullified small ones, but it didn't fog my sense of the trail beneath me. I could pull it up or send it sideways, often as easily as I could the Patrol, but it would always bring the capability of a true enduro bike with it. And Canyon offers top-notch value across the Torque lineup, making this truly an enduro bike for the masses.

Read the full review here.

Ryan Palmer

Ryan Palmer is by far the best rider on the test crew, which when written in the third person, sounds almost believable. Anyone who’s actually seen him ride knows this isn’t true, but when writing in the third person, Palmer can say whatever he chooses to say about himself and it sounds legit. In reality, the only thing Palmer is better at than everyone else is getting wildly worked up about things nobody else seems to care about. Like, for instance, leaf blowing mountain bike trails. This is apparently a thing that happens, and it offends Palmer to his core. If people want manicured surfaces, get a friggin’ road bike and leave my–ahem his–trails alone. And while you’re at it, leave the rocks and roots too. As a longtime mechanic, he gets equally fired up about crappy cable housing and improper tire fitment, but might be more justified in doing so since he’s the only one who’s wrenched at the Olympics. Palmer prefers the obviously superior 29-inch wheel, likes tech over flow, thinks plus is fun as hell, and has nothing against e-bikes. Perhaps Palmer is getting old.

Favorite Bike: Transition Patrol

I shouldn't have connected with the Patrol the way I did. It's a bike that was built to suit the style of riders far, far more advanced than I am. It's far too slack and it's not nearly as forgiving as any of the other bikes we tested at Killington, which is something I figured I'd be down with, especially after several confidence-sucking injuries over the past couple years have me riding more scared to crash than any other time in over 20 years of riding. In the head-high rock gardens we were riding, I would've expected to feel more secure, go faster and as a result, have more fun on bikes with more squish. The Patrol didn't suppress the unrelenting hits Killington mountain served up quite like the Canyon Torque or YT Capra, but I was just able to get it to go just where I needed it to. I could turn on a dime and hop over obstacles in an instant instead of needing to plow through them, like other bikes required. In the end, it was this level of control that made me fastest on the Patrol. And more importantly, it's why it was funner. Yes, I know that's not a word. 

Read the full review here.