Within mountain biking, the trail bike category covers a lot of ground. From hardtails with slack head angles and squishy forks to full suspension bikes offering six inches of travel front and rear, there’s likely a trail bike for most singletrack missions on the planet.
Over the past year the Singletracks staff tested and reviewed nearly a dozen different trail bikes, each with its own set of pros and cons. In case you missed any of the reviews, or you’re shipping for a new bike, here’s a recap with links to the full reviews.
The Spectral is Canyon’s 27.5 trail bike with 160mm of travel up front and 150mm in the rear. Overall, the Spectral geometry is fairly standard, with a 66° head tube angle and a 74.5° seat angle with 430mm chainstays. With 150mm of rear travel, Canyon manages to cram plenty of descending capability into this 4-bar suspension design.
Bikes in this price and suspension class are meant to be fun to ride, and on that count the Spectral overwhelmingly delivers. To use the cliché, the 27.5″ wheels add to the bike’s “playfulness,” and what that means in practice is the rider feels inclined to pop off more features; to try more progressive moves; and to avoid taking the ride too seriously. No, I don’t have to have 29er wheels to go fast or to have fun. Yes, it is possible for a $3,000 full suspension bike to feel nearly identical to something much closer to the top of the line.Jeff
Diamondback Release 29.1
The Diamondback Release 29.1 is an entry-level, full suspension trail bike with 130mm of suspension travel in the rear, and 140mm up front. The aluminum frame features a nearly 68° head tube angle and a 73° seat tube angle for a comfortable posture that’s equally capable climbing or descending. The build checks all the boxes in terms of features riders can appreciate — like tubeless tires and a 12-speed drivetrain — but at 35lbs.+ it remains one of the heaviest we rode this year.
For riders who are set on a full suspension trail bike, the Diamondback Release 29.1 offers an approachable price point at $2,500. The four-bar suspension design that Diamondback calls Level Link offers a good platform for component upgrades down the line.Jeff
Fezzari Delano Peak
The Delano Peak has 135mm of rear travel and is purposefully designed and overforked with a 150mm fork. On a medium bike, there’s a 77.5° seat tube angle with a 65° head tube angle, paired with a reduced-offset fork.
I have to say that for anyone out there looking for a new trail bike in this category, you should consider the Delano Peak. The geometry and suspension design fit the trail bike’s intentions perfectly, and with so many different build options offering a ton of value and a choice between Shimano and SRAM, it’s like having your cake and eating it too. The Delano Peak isn’t perfect, but it’s a damn fun trail bike and can hold its own on a lot of terrain.Matt
Guerrilla Gravity Smash
With 145mm of rear travel and 150mm of fork travel, the Smash offers a large amount of adjustability and personalization. Not only is the geometry adjustable, but there are two suspension modes: Crush or Plush.
The overall impression that the Smash left on me is that it is a solid all-mountain bike that is more balanced than I assumed. It is a capable climber, although not the most efficient, and it excels on the downs. The Smash would suit enduro racers well, but it’s also light and easy enough to get along with that it would be great for backcountry adventures.Matt
Niner RIP 9
The latest edition of the RIP 9 sheds 10mm of rear travel off the previous version to land at 140mm, which Niner pairs with a 150mm fork up front. Niner employs a flip-chip to give the bike two distinct configurations to suit conditions and ride styles. Compare prices and builds online.
On fast, wide-open descents the RIP 9 shines the most. The bike is very stable at speed thanks to its long wheelbase, slack headtube, and low-ish bottom bracket. Depending on what your local trails are like, the RIP 9 could absolutely be a good choice as an everyday trail bike that pulls double duty as a weekend gravity weapon. With its CVA suspension design, the RIP 9 offers a comfortable ride feel without totally sacrificing pedal efficiency.Jeff
The Occam has 140mm of travel at the rear axle, 150mm under the bars, and that squish culminates nicely in a well-balanced bike that rolls comfortably on the longest adventures you can muster. The bike can be ordered with a 140mm Fox 34, or a 150mm Fox 36 fork. With the included 150mm fork a medium frame has a 66° head tube angle, 77° seat tube angle, 450mm reach on the size medium, and 440mm chainstays. The 35mm bottom bracket drop sits nicely between a 1194mm wheelbase to give it a stable feel without limousine length. Available at JensonUSA | Compare.
Bikes that follow through on their promises like the Occam does don’t come along every day. After pedaling several 4-5hr adventures, where I largely was able to forget the machine and simply enjoy the forest and the ride, this bike has impressed me. It can handle almost anything it’s pointed toward with confidence-inspiring eloquence, and could handily replace several bikes in my basement quiver. If you’re courting a backcountry companion for the summer, give the Occam a closer look.Gerow
Pivot revised their popular and versatile Switchblade this year. Rear travel was bumped up by 7mm — to 142mm — and the bike is now paired with a 160mm fork. The aluminum model was cut, and this carbon pony starts at a steep $5,500. The Switchblade offers a stiff, light, and energetic ride feel on climbs and it’s willing to take on almost anything on the way down. Available at Backcountry | Compare.
The 2020 Pivot Switchblade feels like the best of both worlds, when it comes to the climbing capability of the Mach 4 SL and the descending capability of the Firebird, with a result that’s somewhere in the middle. The Switchblade feels like an incredible an all-mountain bike, ready for anything from long days in the saddle to bike park laps and will gladly take up most of the room in a stable.Matt
Sage Powerline Titanium
The Sage Powerline is the rare bike that’s equally suitable for everything from training to race day, and from after-work rides in the suburbs to bikepacking in the backcountry thanks to the 130mm fork up front and a chatter-muting titanium frame to soak up the bumps.
The Sage Powerline no doubt demands a premium price. As such, buyers should expect nothing less than the finest materials (check), excellent craftsmanship (check), and incredible performance (check). Perhaps the other thing that shouldn’t be overlooked is the staying power of a bike, and not necessarily just in terms of durability. A refined and modern design that’s just as comfortable on the XC race course as it is on a backcountry bikepacking expedition or even an after-work ride just might be worth its weight in titanium.Jeff
Trek Fuel EX 9.8
While the Trek Fuel EX floats on fairly neutral trail travel, with a 130mm rear axle path and 140mm at the fork, the bike’s geometry looks primed for a lot hotter party. It features a 66° headtube angle in the low position, a 455mm reach on the size medium/large, and 437mm chainstays.
Given the bike’s long and slack geometry numbers I expected it to feel like “more bike” than the travel numbers suggest. Instead, it felt like the short-travel, enduro-shaped machine that it is. I didn’t have any trouble finding the end of the Fuel’s descending capabilities on my local trails, some of which have been part of the Italian Superenduro in the past.Gerow
The YT Izzo features balanced suspension numbers with 130mm of travel front and rear. For a short-travel trail bike, the Izzo sports solidly modern geometry with a head tube that can be set as slack as 66° with the flip-chip, and a climb-friendly seat tube that straightens as steep as 77.5°.
After a couple of months riding the YT Izzo, it’s hard to find fault with this bike. It’s as good a choice as any in the short-travel, dare I say downcountry, category and delivers impressive results, particularly given the $3,899 Pro build sticker price. While this may be new territory for the YT brand, it’s clear they’ve done their homework and can deliver a well thought out trail bike that riders will love.Jeff
For those riders toward the all-mountain and enduro end of the trail riding spectrum, the YT Jeffsy Base offers modern geometry at an affordable price. For $/€2,299 buyers get a 1204mm wheelbase, 450mm reach, 435mm chain stays, 66° headtube angle, and a 77° seat tube angle. Not only that, the Jeffsy features a predictable and progressive Horst-Link suspension design.
The YT Jeffsy Base is a great value. The few upgrades it does need will last a long time, and with its sweet set of angles, the Jeffsy base should keep its pilot rolling happily for a long while. Vested mountain bikers will want to consider the terrain they plan to ride, and the skills they hope to improve before purchasing this model. For many of us with callused palms and broken bone X-ray collections, this Base model could be a wonderful opportunity to update our frame geo and swap in preferred parts as the paychecks allow.Gerow