While the mountain bike media is constantly reporting on the latest trends and the newest products, adoption of these new products in the real world is often much slower than you’d think. Just because you’re reading about 27.5+ bikes and 1×12 drivetrains all the time doesn’t mean that every dude at the trailhead is running the latest tech. So, for the third year running, we’ve conducted an exhaustive survey of you, our readers, in an attempt to determine: “exactly what are the best and most popular mountain bikes and MTB products this year?”
Over 2,200 of you completed our lengthy survey this year (twice the number of responses in 2015!) so we can say that, with reasonable confidence, these truly are the hottest products in each category for 2016.
For this article, we’ve rounded up the #1 bike or product in each category. Stay tuned for more detailed analyses, category-by-category, over the next few months.
First up are complete mountain bikes by category. Whether or not MTB categories are even applicable, or how you actually define those categories, is a separate matter for discussion altogether. For instance, the Specialized Stumpjumper got a ton of votes in both the cross country and trail bike categories–possibly because Specialized offers both a hardtail and full suspension version with that model name. Regardless, there’s some very real confusion in mountain bikers at large about what makes a trail bike different from a cross country bike or an enduro bike. It’s a category that forms the middle ground between two extremes, which is difficult to define and constantly in flux.
Cross Country: Specialized Epic
The Epic has long been the cross country race horse of the Specialized line, and for 2016 it’s available in a wide range of builds and prices–from $2,800 for the alloy Epic FSR Comp all the way up to $10,500 for the full-carbon S-Works Epic FSR Di2. With 29″ wheels, 100mm of travel front and rear, and aggressive XC race geometry (including a 70.5-degree head tube angle) this bike is built solely for speed. The parts kit on the top-tier build is also no-holds-barred, with a Shimano XTR Di2 drivetrain, RockShox RS-1 fork, and Roval Control SL 29 hookless carbon wheels. That’s why in his 2013 review, Jeff commented that the Epic “is all business.”
Trail: Trek Fuel EX
The Trek Fuel EX is a classic example of a trail bike, but for 2017 Trek has revamped the Fuel EX with longer, lower, and slacker geometry. The new Fuel is 29″ and 27.5+ compatible, offers 130mm of suspension travel, and has a head tube angle of 67 degrees. Prices will range from $2,200 for the EX 5 model up to $8,400 for the EX 9.9 model.
Enduro/All Mountain: Specialized Enduro
The Specialized Enduro is a favorite in the enduro bike market, scoring the highest in this category in both 2015 and 2014 as well. For 2017, Specialized has added some pretty significant updates, with slacker geometry (66.5 degrees for the 27.5 model), shorter stays (425mm for 27.5″), a suspension overhaul, and the full SWAT treatment. The upper-level build kits now feature Öhlins shocks, and the S-Works build also gets an Öhlins fork, for 165mm of rear travel and 160mm up front. Finally, the 29″ model is also now available with 27.5+ wheels and tires. Prices for the Enduro range from $3,000 for the Enduro Comp 650b, all the way up to $8,500 for the S-Works model.
Downhill: Santa Cruz V10
While Santa Cruz bikes ranked very highly in our survey results for all three categories above, the V10 is the one bike from the Santa Cruz line to officially achieve a #1 ranking in our survey data this year. And like the Specialized Enduro, the V10 has won its category in our survey for the past three years running. The V10 has long been a dominant DH race bike, piloted by the likes of Steve Peat and Greg Minnaar. To achieve that dominance, the V10 offers a no compromise carbon construction, Fox 40 Float RC2 Factory fork, 27.5″ wheels, and a SRAM X01 DH 7-speed drivetrain. With 216mm of travel, the V10 can be set up in two different geometry modes: a 63.5-degree head tube angle and a 64-degree angle. In the C carbon and with a more affordable parts spec the V10 costs $5,499 and in the top-tier CC carbon with the parts mentioned above, it costs $8,699.
Fat: Specialized Fatboy
While Salsa dominated the fat bike category in our survey in both 2014 and 2015, for 2016 Specialized has taken the limelight in yet another category with their increasingly-popular Fatboy model. Currently the Fatboy is available in a pretty wide range of specs, from the alloy SE model for $1,400 all the way up to the carbon S-Works model for $7,000. The S-Works model features a rigid carbon fork, carbon frame, 26×4″ Fast Trak Control tires, a SRAM XX1 drivetrain, and SRAM Guide brakes.
Interestingly, the Fatboy models currently listed on Specialized’s website have changed significantly from the Fatboy Pro I rode in 2015, which had full-fat 4.6″ tires and a RockShox Bluto fork. While you can get 4.6″ tires in the two most affordable Fat Boy builds for 2017, the three more expensive models feature 4″ tires. Interestingly, none of the Fatboy models offer suspension forks, perhaps because Specialized is optimizing for the fat bike race market.
Click over to page two to keep reading about the best mountain bike components, apparel, and accessories for 2016!