Canyon, a small brand from Koblenz, Germany, has been making waves in the international mountain bike world for several years with their affordably-priced and extremely high-performance bikes. After years of waiting, their bikes are finally available in the US, and man, are we in for a good time. The Strive CF 8.0, their 160mm 27.5”-wheeled carbon enduro race weapon with on-the-fly geometry adjust, blew away our testers by its stability and composure on rough terrain, and overall versatility on the trails around Bentonville.
When Diamondback first released their Release series of 27.5”-wheeled trailbikes in 2016, the brand ushered in a new era of performance at a price more in the realm of the affordable. Now, DB has pushed that idea even further with their first-ever carbon mountain bike, the Release 5C. With super-clean lines on the stiff carbon frame, high-end components, and a suspension design that makes mincemeat of singletrack, the 150mm-front/ 130mm-rear Release 5C blew away testers by its performance.
As the most value-oriented bike in this year’s lineup, Giant’s aluminum 27.5”-wheeled Reign 2 surprised our testers with performance that rivaled bikes with twice the asking price. Sharing the same frame and geometry with the SX, the Reign 2 is a downhill brawler, but thanks to an air shock and some clever componentry served as an agile climber. A common takeaway from testers after riding was “wow, I did not think this thing would be so inexpensive!”
Giant’s Reign SX certainly turned some heads among testers thanks to the coil shock gracing its rear end. The aluminum-framed 160mm 27.5”-wheeled bike just begs to be pointed downhill, and, once facing that way, does not disappoint with very supple suspension and aggressive geometry that makes rough terrain feel easy.
Ibis has seemingly had a Mojo in their lineup since the dawn of time, but each bike has been a distinctly different animal. The latest iteration, the 153mm-travel HD4, has been redesigned with a focus on stability and handling at high speeds, and has graced EWS podiums all over the world. Our testers called it “fast,” a “nimble charger,” and “confidence-inspiring at speed,” and were clearly impressed how well it handled when hitting jumps and maching down through rough, steep trails around Bentonville. In other words, the 27.5”-wheeled Ibis Mojo HD4 is a purpose-built enduro race bike, and a phenomenal one at that.
In keeping with the modern trend, where bikes above all have to be FUN, Niner has come up with their solution to the enduro 29er dilemma. The RIP 9 RDO (RDO stands for Race Day Optimized, aka their carbon frame) comes in swinging with 150mm of travel and an aggressive attitude toward descending. That being said, testers loved how composed it felt on the flatter trails we found around Bentonville, praising its ability to accelerate out of nowhere to shoot up short climbs and gain speed for hitting jumps thanks to its efficient suspension and light weight.
Since the brands inception in 2007, Pivot Cycles has been known for making bikes that think outside the box. Using carefully thought out geometry and harnessing one of the most efficient suspension designs ever made, their bikes are incredibly easy to just hop on and ride. The new Mach 6 is no different, a 27.5-wheeled 150mm travel ripper that inspires confidence on technical descents without going too far into the realm of a downhill-only bike. This isn’t your typical endur-bro thrasher, but rather a highly engineered trail-devouring machine.
As one of the few plus-tired bikes we tested in Bentonville, Rocky Mountain’s Pipeline certainly stood out in the crowd. The 140mm 27.5”+ carbon bike screams versatility for all types of trails, especially the kind of pedal-y singletrack found around Arkansas. Plus-sized bikes are nothing new, but the Pipeline finally gets it right. Testers were blown away by the bike’s capability both climbing and descending, likening it to a “BMX bike for the trails.” In other words, a goat on the way up, but playful and poppy on the way down. An added bonus lies in the fact that the frame also accommodates 29” wheels, turning the bike into Rocky Mountain’s Instinct.
Salsa, the self-proclaimed adventure biking company, broke into the world of long-travel trail bikes a few years ago with the release of their 150mm Redpoint. The bike, designed with long backcountry singletrack rides in mind, falls squarely into the do-it-all category, and testers loved how nimble it felt both climbing and descending. For a company known for its gravel grinders and XC-style bikes, Salsa’s Redpoint is an impressively well-rounded trailbike.