The 10 Best Trail Bikes of 2016

A trail bike is a well-balanced, full suspension mountain bike: a moderate amount of travel, moderately slack geometry, weighing in the 25-30lb range.
10 best trail mountain bikes

Trail bike” is an admittedly broad term. But, then again, the spectrum of trails is equally as broad. After all, 52% of our audience identifies themselves as “trail riders,” as opposed to XC (26%), enduro (19%), gravity (1.5%), or other (1.4%). But what makes a trail bike? Depending on where a rider lives and what they like to ride, what they need out of a trail bike will vary. In general though, a trail bike is a well-balanced, full suspension mountain bike: a moderate amount of travel, moderately slack geometry, weighing in the 25-30lb range.

Using the averages from the bikes on the list below, here are some numbers that might be helpful:

  • Front travel: 142mm
  • Rear travel: 134mm
  • Head tube angle: 67 degrees
  • Reach (size large): 449mm
  • Chainstay length: 433mm
  • Least expensive model: $2,819
  • Most expensive model: $8,275
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Trail bikes have a demanding job–they need to be capable in challenging terrain, but they also need to be efficient enough to be ridden all day long. In our 2016 gear survey this summer, we asked our audience to tell us what they thought were the best trail bikes of the year.

Here’s how you answered.

10. Niner R.I.P 9: $3,500-$9,800


Niner seriously overhauled their line this year, including the R.I.P. 9. Among the biggest changes were an increase in rear travel from 125mm to 150mm, totally new geometry, and the addition of plus-tire compatibility. The new bike seems to lean more towards the all-mountain/enduro end of the spectrum, so it will be interesting to see if it shows up on this list in 2017. Niner offers the R.I.P. with either an aluminum or carbon frame, and numerous complete builds.

9. Specialized Camber: $1,900-$8,500


Specialized’s Camber is for the rider that puts a premium on efficiency over plushness. As such, it makes for an excellent light-duty trail bike for taking on big miles. It’s available with either 27.5″ or 29″ wheels, and a wide variety of price points. Our own Jeff Barber – who gets his kicks ripping off people’s legs on the uphills – rode the Camber at Interbike last year and was impressed with how well it climbed.

8. Santa Cruz Tallboy: $2,600-$8,000

HyperFocal: 0

Santa Cruz launched the third generation of the Tallboy in early 2016. With each successive iteration of the Tallboy, it has moved further away from its XC roots. The newest bike would still be considered short-travel with just 110mm of rear travel and 120mm up front, but the geometry is thoroughly trail capable. It’s got a 68 degree head tube, a long reach, and short, 432mm chainstays. The bike is also compatible with plus tires, but requires a longer, 130mm fork. And finally, true to its name, the Tallboy is offered in an XXL frame for riders over 6′ 3″.

7. Yeti SB5: $4,700-$10,500


Yeti’s SB line of bikes garnered numerous votes, but far and away the most popular was the SB5. Considering the SB5 sits in the middle of the line between the more enduro-y SB6 and the XC-leaning SB4.5, that result isn’t surprising. With the SB5 you get 127mm of rear travel via Yeti’s unique Switch Infinity suspension platform. Yeti specs the SB5 with a 150mm fork, which makes for the biggest spread between front and rear travel of any bike on this list. For 2017, Yeti revised the frame by removing the seat tube brace, increasing rear spacing to 148mm, and switching over to metric sizing on the shock.

6. Trek Remedy: $3,000-$8,000


Trek’s Remedy is another bike that has undergone significant changes recently. In an effort to simplify their offerings, Trek ditched the 29er version of the Remedy all together. Then, they completely redesigned the 27.5 frame, adding more travel and updating the geometry. With 150mm of travel at both ends, the Remedy has enough squish to tackle some serious terrain, but it’s not so much that you’d regret taking it out for an all-day ride. Trek offers the Remedy with either an aluminum or carbon frame and numerous price points, and all builds include a dropper post.

5. Santa Cruz Bronson: $3,000-$8,000


Like the Remedy, the Santa Cruz Bronson skews towards the longer-travel end of the trail bike spectrum with 150mm of suspension front and rear. It’s also the slackest on this list with a 66-degree head tube angle. As one of Santa Cruz’s most popular bikes, the Bronson is offered with an aluminum frame, in addition to two levels of carbon. The “CC” level frames use a different grade of carbon, which saves about half a pound over the less expensive “C” level frames.

4. Santa Cruz 5010: $2,600-$8,000


Santa Cruz updated the 5010 last year, and like the Tallboy, it got a small bump up in travel, a slacker head tube, and a longer top tube. Thankfully though, they didn’t go too crazy with the updates, because the 5010 was a great all-around bike. It sports a modest 130mm of travel at each end, and like the Tallboy and Bronson is offered in both carbon and aluminum.

3. Giant Trance: $2,100-$8,050


As the largest bike manufacturer in the world, Giant has economies of scale that the competition just can’t match. For consumers, this means you get more bike for the money. The Trance is Giant’s 140mm trail bike that slots in between the XC Anthem and the enduro Reign. Giant offers two aluminum models of the Trance as well as three carbon builds. The Trance Advanced 2 might be the best deal in the line with a carbon frame, carbon wheels, RockShox suspension, and a SRAM 1×11 drivetrain for $4,100.

2. Specialized Stumpjumper FSR: $2,900-$8,500


The Stumpjumper has been around longer than many of our readers have been alive. Over the past 30 years it has evolved from a rigid steel bike into the carbon trail slayer you see here. You can get your Stumpjumper with 27.5″, plus, or 29″ wheels depending on your preference. The carbon-framed models come with Specialized’s unique “SWAT” storage–a trapdoor behind the water bottle cage allows you to stash stuff in your down tube.

1. Trek Fuel EX: $2,200-$8,400


Trek scrapped the 27.5″ version of the Fuel EX for 2016, and replaced it with one frame that can run either 29″ or plus wheels. The new frame is longer, lower, and slacker than the previous generation, and it also gained a bit of travel–up to 130mm at each end. Geometry can be changed slightly by adjusting the position of the Mino Link in the seat stays. Other features of the Fuel EX include the Straight Shot down tube–which is said to increase stiffness–and Trek’s proprietary RE:aktiv rear shock that automatically adjusts compression depending on the terrain. As one of Trek’s best-selling bikes, the Fuel EX is available in 13 configurations, including three women’s models.