Pivot Firebird 29 Team XTR | $8,300
The faster and rougher the trail becomes, the happier the Firebird 29 becomes. It's an enabling relationship, almost more of a challenge to see if you can find its limit as successive hits only seem to strengthen its countenance. It's happiest at speed, low-speed descending requires a bit more planning ahead, thinking over maneuvering but being a light bike, it's easy to throw the Firebird 29 around.
Tested: Scott Ransom 900 Tuned | $7,200
The new external Ramp Adjust lever gives the bike multiple descending personalities—a supple ground hugging traction monster when flipped one way, and a poppy, playful attitude in the other. It allows the Ransom to be uniquely adaptable to changing trail conditions.
YT Capra 29 CF Pro | $4,300
Moderately long travel that feels somewhere on the poppy, supportive end of the spectrum, but with geometry that's eager, stable, long and low. A combination that makes it easy to get to know, and easy to get along with once you have.
Devinci Spartan 29 Carbon XO1 Eagle | $9,000
The Spartan 29 is intuitive, it goes where you want it to without any fuss. It isn’t a downhill barge, but it doesn’t shy from features. Technical, medium-speed, line-choosing trails are where it’s happiest, though it’s never upset.
Nukeproof Mega 290 Pro | $3,465
Moderate travel and militant geometry, made even more interesting by an alloy frame that rides light, responsive and a bit laterally flexy. The Nukeproof Mega 290 Pro doesn't swallow high-speed hits as well as bigger big-wheeled bikes, but it encourages you to get off the ground and avoid them altogether.
Cannondale Jekyll 29 3 | $3,800
It's fast and stable, has smooth, bottomless-feeling rear suspension, and clears chunky terrain thanks to its high bottom bracket, but the Jekyll 29 lacks confidence when things get really steep.