This is the 10th annual Bible of Bike Tests. We five-fingered creatures love measuring milestones in multiples of 10. But it's just another number. Really, the most impressive landmark in the Bible's history was in launching the very first one. It was 2009, and we had no idea if this thing was even possible, let alone profitable. That year we dove headfirst and blindly into British Columbia's cold shoulder season, facing rain days, snow delays, customs holds, lift closures, illnesses and injuries. But we knew right away we were onto something. The night we sat down to roundtable the first bike, we shared more diverse criticism, enthusiastic praise and pithy one-liners in one hour than a single tester could come up with in a month. Eight frantic weeks later, the first Bible was born.
In its second year, the Bible was staged in a cavernous Bellingham basement. The third was out of a dormant North Carolina Girl Scout camp. In our fourth year, we added videos of the roundtable meetings. In the fifth year, those videos actually became watchable. We've come to include female testers, honed our focus to trail-oriented bikes and invested in growing our journalistic team to better cover the bikes, the testing and the host location.
And the Bible continues to land us in magnificent locations. This year, it's the iron-tone mesas of southwest Utah. The trails have a gritty, ancient feel, almost as if they predate the invention of the wheel. But mountain biking didn't actually reach the Zion Corridor until the mid '90s when The Knobby Wave was sweeping the entire globe. It busted the monopolies once held by our sport's hallowed alpine shrines and distributed their shares to countless hidden hamlets in between. Each gave rise to scenes as unique to their respective environments as are the beasts of the Galapagos.
The trails around St. George, Hurricane and Virgin, Utah, are surely unique. The aesthetic that emerged is unlike anything we've ever ridden. The valley trails feel barren and endless, but roll smooth and fast. The cliffs that birthed the Red Bull Rampage inspire either fear or confidence, depending on which line you're eyeing. The mesa trails rapidly alternate between tech and flow, up and down, punishment and reward, each working in endless synergy with the other. It also just happens to be the perfect place to expose bikes' weaknesses and strengths.
Our test loops challenged every aspect of every bike, and those challenges rose without a moment's notice. One-trick ponies would need to be put down, and there were none to be found in this year's stable. Versatility has overthrown the lesser virtues in good bike design, but that hasn't made our jobs any easier. Whenever a bike "does everything well," it's a sign that we need to look closer. And we did look closer this year. Testers spent more time riding, discussing and evaluating each bike than we ever have before, and we dedicated more space to bringing it all to you. This newfound patience was inspired by the focus we achieved in our Bible Summer Camps, shorter, specialized test sessions that will be continuing throughout the year. But also by the fact that, as it always has, the Bible should continue to evolve. Whether you're just joining us or you've been here all decade, welcome to the 2019 Bible of Bike Tests.
In the feature “Slow Roll,” by Devon O’Neil, southern Utah’s rise to riding fame is examined and the history of its most prolific trails laid bare. From formerly quiet, remote retirement towns to a sprawling slickrock trail metropolis, over the past 25 years Utah’s Washington Country has slowly made a name for itself with its crooked, rough and winding trails leading to views worthy of inclusion into an Edward Abbey novel.
If 2019’s crop is to be defined by one bike category, it’s long-travel 29. Big-wheeled bruisers offer compliance and sheer-smashing speed with tall hoops and plush suspension, all while resisting the sluggish, ground-hugging attitude of full-blown DH bikes. As seen on the Enduro World Series circuit, these bikes can handle the climbs too, although they won’t be winning any XC races.
In the past, a short-travel 29er was almost always an XC thoroughbred. In recent years, that has drastically changed, and many big-wheeled, small-traveled bikes can hold their own in terrain that was previously thought to be only rideable on much bigger bikes. Granted, they might not keep pace with the big boys on descents, but they make up for it in climbing capability reminiscent of their spandex-clad past.
Speaking of thoroughbreds, let’s not forget about the bikes that just won’t take no for an answer. No, you can’t huck that ledge to flat. No, that chute to way too steep to ride. No, you can’t blindly jump into that rock garden. This batch of long-travel 27.5 bikes have a mind of their own and the will to get you into, and out of, situations far more dire than comfortable.
Perhaps you’ve had your fill of near-death experiences and want a steed that will take you off into the sunset with only the occasional urge to boost a side-hit or cutty a corner. The short-travel 27.5 bikes are the realest mountain bikes—two-wheeled machines built to get you there and back again with a whole lot of fun in between. Equally suited to climb mountains as to conquer gravity, these bikes are the Jacks and Jills of all trades and the masters of fun.
So, without further ado, we release to you Bike’s 2019 Bible of Bike Tests—may the great bike hunt and tales of souther Utah’s trail cornucopia keep you occupied for many days to come. Be sure to pick up a copy in newsstands now and stay posted for the digital rollout too.