In January of 1994, a 13-year-old Travis Engel—now Bike's gear editor—was coping with a local strain of cabin fever that afflicts most Midwesterners that time of year. Then, an unseasonably warm day provided some relief. But instead of seeking it on his mag-wheel-equipped GT Performer, Travis made the unauthorized and still unexplained decision to borrow his mom's mountain bike. Even though much of that day's elevation was gained on the western suburb's mountainous piles of brown, frozen parking lot snow, Travis was inspired enough to scrape, sell and borrow until he could buy a mountain bike of his own. The following formative years were spent seeking rocky creek beds and urban landscapes to conquer on his trials bike. Then, after moving to southern California, he gravitated toward raw backcountry trails not designed by mountain bikers, or sometimes not even by humans. He still spends hours filling wheelbarrows at his BMX trails. For 25 years, Travis has clung to the DIY spirit of that January day.
Travis’ Steed of Choice: Evil Offering
I was pretty close to flipping a coin on this one. The Yeti SB150 was gonna be heads. That bike felt like home to me. It puts up similar numbers to my current go-to big bike, and I had none of the trouble managing it at slow speeds that other testers did. The Evil Offering would have been tails. It does exactly what I wish my Following could do, and it's far better at goofing off than the SB150. But I knew a coin flip wouldn't work. If I got heads, I'd start thinking about the perfect leverage curve on the Offering. If I got tails, I'd worry about missing out on the SB150's high-speed stability.
So instead, I thought back to the time I spent on each bike, tallying up the memorable moments, and suddenly it was clear. Sprinting through the techy flats on Gooseberry Mesa, successfully following the locals down Flying Monkey and piecing together natural doubles on Huck Finn were the most perfect moments of this year's Bible. And they all were made more perfect by the Evil Offering.
Nicole Formosa dreads writing third-person bios so much that she ordered a pair of socks on the internet with her boxer dog's face drawn on them, just to prolongate the procrastination that had already extended well into deadline week. She wishes she were joking. This is Nicole's sixth Bible bio, having taken part in the two-week testing camp every year since 2013, the same year she joined the Bike staff. Through that time—and by nature of living and riding in dirt-less, water-starved southern California—her trail preference has evolved from a penchant for smooth, flowy singletrack to an embrace of the exposed, loose and rocky. She can appreciate the merits of almost any bike, but usually gravitates toward big wheels, and when it comes to riding, Nicole loves a good masochistic endeavor though she has been known to under-train and over-commit.
Nicole’s Steed of Choice: Ibis Ripmo
Picking a favorite bike at the Bible is sort of like spending a week playing with a different fluffy puppy every day, then having to choose just one to take home. Impossible! But in bikes (and puppies), there's usually one that tugs at your heartstrings ever so slightly more than the others and for me this year that was the Ibis Ripmo. It wasn't 'favorite' at first ride, instead my affinity for the Ripmo was a slow burn that intensified as I spent more time aboard Ibis' big rig. This bike perfectly represents the sweet spot that the long-travel 29er category has finally hit: predictably hard-charging on the descents, but also oh-so efficient on the climbs. I'd choose to tackle a monster climb on the Ripmo over pretty much any of the short-travel bikes at the test; not sluggish, not a boat to move around corners—it's just plain fun.
Ryan Palmer has been coming to this same Bible party for nine years now, and in no way is that depressing. This year, Palmer experimented with an all-new look, and has been picking up correlating activities, such as Jazzercise. He's also trying a new fad called jogging—I believe it's either jog-ing or yawg-ing, it might be a soft 'J,' he's not sure. Apparently you just run, for an extended period of time. When not quoting "Anchorman," making amazing dad puns, or putting chart-topping '90s songs in his co-workers' heads, Palmer enjoys knowing everything and putting that 'knowledge' to use by getting fired up over innocuous details. He makes entire character judgments based on peoples' driving techniques, including but not limited to, left lane and blinker usage. Palmer enjoys a spirited trailside dance session, wishes he could bicycle boogie like in the movie "Rad," thinks mid-travel 29ers are tough to beat and loves working on bikes as much as he loves riding them.
Ryan’s Steed of Choice: Evil Offering
The Ibis Ripmo was the most impressive bike I'd ridden all year going into the Bible, so to knock it off the hot seat, I grabbed the bike I most anticipated riding: the Yeti SB130. It did not disappoint. It pedaled superbly, had big-hit support and small-bump sensitivity, and had progressive geometry that begged for more speed up, down and all around. Plus, it was drop-dead gorgeous. Better than the Ripmo? Yeesh, tough call. I'm not sure, but two other bikes wound up coming into the fold. The new Giant Trance 29 is crazy good. With just 115 millimeters of rear travel, the Trance is expectedly fast, but startlingly aggressive. Evil's new 140-mil 29er, the Offering, is a balanced, easy-to-ride, bump-chomping do-everything mountain bike. It's about as quick as the Trance, but has more up its sleeve. Giant gets the award for most improved, but the Evil's signature flickable magic carpet ride hooks me every time.
Will Ritchie moved to North County San Diego, to investigate the untimely, inexplicable disappearance of the mostly modern, minutely feisty, petite American muscle car. A species extinct, they once roared flippantly down broad-shouldered boulevards, boisterously sipping gasoline in a contradictively reasonable-MPG manner. Yet despite minute muscle's tattered past, he finds clues. Burnt tire marks. Lurking within the sprawl of circuitous business parks, ageless men reside beneath T-tops—tires squealing, tattoos glistening, 4-bangers rasping for traction, pugnaciously front-wheel clawing the roundabout of tastefully modernist parking garages. Only here, where south meets far south, do Pontiac Fieros pompously square up to Toyota Mr. 2s, Chevy Cavaliers challenge Neon SRT4s to pink slips and Pontiac Sunfires smile brightly as Plymouth Prowlers reign supreme. Yes here, in the land of American Dreams and transmission ruination does America stand tall—do you even drive a Ford Probe, bro? You mean this isn't Motor Trend, The Enthusiast Network? Shiiii … He rides bikes too. Sometimes.
Will’s Steed of Choice: Kona Process 153 29
Rarely do we hear the word 'fit' and think about a mountain bike's capability. And no, I'm not talking about how many crunches it does, or laps around the building with a ghastly face trying to free itself from Cross Fit, I'm talking body positioning on a shred sled. That kind of fit. The shit roadies get excited about: Well—have you been fit on it?
The Kona Process 153 CR/DL 29 fit me like a glove. I'm 6-foot-1, gangly, have a short torso and long legs. When I stand up straight, I'm still in the riding position. Mike Ferrentino is normally proportioned. It fit him perfectly too. So it's not a height, limb or posture thing. But whatever it is, it's innate. Instinctual reactions. You look, you're there. Wallride: yes. Over obstacle, complete. Up ledge, done. Never have I had to think so little.
It's not an extension of you, it is you. You go where you want.
Kristin Butcher prides herself on being a Jill of all trades and mistress of none. She dabbles in every niche of cycling just long enough to moderately suck at them all. Clinging to her garage walls are a mishmash of bikes that run the gamut from a fancy 29er, a mod-trials bike, a curly-barred craptastic commuter that she rides down staircases too often for her mother's comfort, a CX bike that's fancier than she'll ever be, a cruiser with a rack perfectly suited to boxes of wine and a litany of kids bikes that are in far better shape than her own. This is all to say that whenever she's not thinking about important things, like how to cram the word 'verisimilitude' into a sentence, she's dreaming about bikes. While her riding prowess is debatable, mostly by her, the passion she has for all things two-wheeled is as undeniable as her love of potentially ironic Nickelback shirts.
Kristin’s Steed of Choice: Juliana Furtato
The first bike I threw a leg over at this year's Bible Camp was the Juliana Furtado and I immediately thought, 'This is the one.' It got me over more piles of rocks than any of the others over the following week, even though I was riding the trails blind. The not-so-secret secret of the Bible is that it's very regimented. We ride the same test laps every day, guided by an eight-page spreadsheet that'd be more at home in an accountant's office than in a house filled with loquacious dirt bags. Each day after testing, I'd sneak out for a bonus ride where I could ride any trail on any bike. Time after time, I chose the sylphlike Yeti Beti SB100. Its responsive feel and trim body kept both my tired legs and sense of wanderlust happy. So given the choice of just one bike, well, I choose to break the rules.
Coming into this year's Bible, 'Pops' Ferrentino was recovering from a brutal case of man-flu. He realized, in his weakened and dehydrated state, that maybe he's getting too old for this gig. Thirteen years older than the next oldest tester, he is on par with petrified forests in terms of being able to relate to 49-inch wheelbases, the Red Bull Rampage and millennials. Meaning, he just doesn't get it. While other testers think about sessioning jumps, Pops is concerned about osteoporosis and the looming specter of broken hips. "You boys want big air," he'd cackle, "pull my finger." He repeated this a lot. Aside from osteoporosis, it's very likely that early onset senility is kicking in. When he's not complaining about bikes that won't turn, or ugly, big cassette cogs, or suspension pivots that creak more than his knees, he can be found shaking his fists at the sun and yelling at kids to get the hell off his lawn.
Mike’s Steed of Choice: Ibis Ripmo
I had a lot of favorite bikes this year. Either the market is full of real good bikes right now, or the regular CBD intake has me feeling all kinds of mellow acceptance and goodwill. I loved the Kona Process 153 for being intuitive, familiar and fun. But the rear suspension was less than stellar. The Yeti SB130 was the best long-travel bike that's not a long-travel bike in this whole test, with suspension to die for. But even in this ideal-for-me travel/wheel-size configuration, it's still longer and more aggressive than I can fully utilize. The resurrected Giant Trance 29 ticked a lot of the boxes, but I found myself wishing for something a touch plusher.
In the end, the Ibis Ripmo did everything and did it well. Incredible suspension, whether climbing, hammering or descending. Balanced geometry, combining the best new-school influences with incredibly easy-to-get-along-with manners. Yep, that'll do just right.
If Jonathon were writing this bio (which he, of course, is not), he would probably say things about his riding style that readers might find useful. Truthful things about how he has come to realize that his favorite kind of downhill is a gentle grade with space to turn rocks and roots into transitions. About how he appreciates bikes that encourage him to get out of the saddle and sprint, rather than sit and spin. But as we—the collective editorial staff, that is—have said, Jonathon is not writing this bio. So we'll take this opportunity to say that his choice of place of residence—Burlington, Vermont—is superior to Ryan Palmer's choice of Bellingham, Washington. We should also mention that he is full of youthful vigor, has never been known to wear nasal strips or suffer from lactose intolerance, and is never, ever, the first one to put on his pajamas.
Jonathon’s Steed of Choice: Fezzari La Sal Peak, Ibis Ripmo and Evil Offering.
I'm picking two favorites: the 'I'm me' pick and the 'I'm me and I'm a wealthy dentist' pick. Assuming that I'm me, I would save my pennies for a Fezzari. The La Sal Peak knocked my socks off the moment I threw a leg over it. Once I'd put them back on and started riding, I forgot my qualms about the bike's looks and all I could think about was how well it handled every single situation. It felt a little more confident descending chunk than the Ripmo or Offering, and while it's very similar to the Troy, it costs $1,000 less. Jonathon the Dentist would buy an Ibis Ripmo. It's similar to the Fezzari, but gained a lot on the climbs for how little it gave up on descents. Oh, and it'd look right at home on top of Jonathon the Dentist's Bimmer. And then there's this: If the Evil Offering had come with a 150-millimeter-travel 36 or Lyrik, that probably would have been the bee's knees. Whoops, did I say two?
Lydia Tanner is a recovering cross-country racer who likes "Star Wars" trees, steep drops and anything that forces her to focus longer than it takes to read an internet article. She and her dog, Henry, live in Boulder, Colorado, where you might catch her attempting (mostly unsuccessfully) to ride Hall Ranch on the hardtail she refuses to get rid of. As a Bike intern before she could legally drink, Lydia has contributed stories and reviews over the years, and joined us for the 2013 Bible while living out of her hatchback. She had a stint as a gear editor at Bicycling Magazine, and now does content marketing for TrainingPeaks, where she helps athletes go faster at their respective sports. Lydia has tried big bikes and full-face helmets, but has found that her body is more likely to stay intact when she earns her turns. A Bronson/Roubion fanatic for the last handful of years, she believes in sturdy, simple bikes you can ride anywhere.
Lydia’s Steed of Choice: Juliana Furtato
Since my bikes and I live in a condo without a garage, I'm an aficionado of quiver killers, and to me the Bronson/Roubion has always been the bike that makes anything possible. After riding one all over for the last five years, I assumed that the 2019 model would steal my heart.
But I was surprised to find that another bike spoke to me more. The 5010/Furtado felt like home from the first pedal stroke, and was livelier on more terrain. It tracked like a laser without getting locked into a path, and frolicked over lines that felt barely half-formed in my mind. The Bronson felt like a cudgel in comparison—a very fun, sendy cudgel, but somewhat less versatile than the bike I fell in love with.
Maybe this speaks to the aggressive slackening of bigger trail bikes like the Bronson, or maybe it's the development and quality of suspension tuning, even in medium-travel offerings. When it comes to the latest crop of quiver killers, maybe less travel really is more.