April 2017 Update — The Pivot Mach 429 Trail is a better switch bike than the Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Pro 6Fattie. But the Stumpie has its charms. So does the Santa Cruz Bronson. We've broken down the case for and against each of these bikes below. Find all the nitty-gritty details in the individual reviews.
Best Aggressive Trail Bike
Yeti SB5.5 2017
Fastest trail bike overall
Rolls over everything
Aggressive all-mountain performance
Slower on smoother climbs
Not the most playful
Water bottle mount beneath downtube
If you like technical riding, the Yeti SB5.5
is a quiver killer. The 2016 X01 build tied for the Best Enduro Bike
and the 2017 X01 Eagle wins for the Best Aggressive Trail Bike
. That's versatility, my friend. The SB5.5
dominates descents with nimble stability and unstoppable speed, ramping up quickly and building momentum like a train. It doesn't get dusted on the climbs either, rolling over everything in its way to second place on the technical uphill time trials and pleasantly pedaling into fourth place on our smooth track. Though the Yeti
launches off the lip, its sharp handling and unshakable confidence are never exactly playful, but who needs silly when you've got unshakable confidence at speed?
Read full review: Yeti SB5.5 2017
Best Trail Bike
Ibis Ripley LS 2017
at Competitive Cyclist
Super fun and playful
Fast on the descents
Best cornerer in the test
Slower on the uphill
Pedal strike city on technical climbs
The Ibis Ripley LS
is a truly unique 29er. A hyper-playful bike that's got your back, the Ripley LS
mixes a lively trail feel with solid descending performance. You'll be hunting down every side-hit in sight and then start making up your own. It's so good in the turns we often forget it's got 29" hoops until we have to slam on the brakes after picking up all that unexpected momentum in the straightaways. A lowrider bottom bracket keeps the standover height and center of gravity low but forces tons of pedal strikes on the technical uphills. It's bad enough that we avoid the rock garden climbs on this one. Between that and those sticky, wide rimmed tires the Ibis
rolls a little slower uphill. It's a comfy journey though, and so very worth the ride back down.
Read full review: Ibis Ripley LS 2017
Best Climber and Best Switch Bike
Pivot Mach 429 Trail 2017
at Competitive Cyclist
Performs well as a 29er or 27.5+ bike
Fun and confident with 27.5+ tires
Not as confident downhill with 29er wheels
While it's narrower tires and rims keep us from crashing down descents on the Pivot Mach 429 Trail
29er, it climbs like a dream. The Mach 429 Trail
hikes up mountainsides with far less effort than we're used to, whether the trail is featureless or full of switchbacks and stairs. Things stay efficient when you switch out the wheelset to the 27.5+ option, and they get a lot more fun too. We love this bike with plus-sized tires. It keeps it's precise handling and gains rally-inducing confidence. The spec'ed 2.8" tires don't slow the bike down too much on the climbs and add grip through the trickier sections. Hanging on to its climbing prowess while upping its gravity game, the 27.5+ version of this bike is an all around performer that's hard to fault.
Read full review: Pivot Mach 429 Trail 2017
Santa Cruz Bronson 2017
at Competitive Cyclist
Only a standout on mellow uphill climbs
It's not as bashable on descents or as flat out, confidence inducing fun as our two award winners, but the Santa Cruz Bronson
is a solid performer in all trail-related tasks. There's a reason this bike is so freaking popular. It's comfortable, climbs like a dream on less techy terrain and can get you down any singletrack you point it at, you just might have to work it more than the Ripley LS
or the plus-tire versions of the Stumpjumper
and Mach 429 Trail
. If you're not planning on pushing it to the max too often and just can't wrap your mind around the SB5.5's
29" wheels (we strongly suggest you don't write 29ers off forever) this is a great all-arounder.
Read full review: Santa Cruz Bronson 2017
Fun and Innovative
Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Pro Carbon 6Fattie 2017
Fun and great to push skills as a 27.5+
Performs as 29 or 27.5+
The Íhlins rear shock doesn't lock out
The 3" tires feel like overkill
There's no denying that it's a wicked good time mashing the Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Pro Carbon 6Fattie
downhill on 3 inches of forgiving tire tread, or how shockingly fast all that rubber can tractor-pull you up a technical climb. But, while it's awesome for beginners or for pushing your limits, tires that fat don't feel all-day efficient and border on gimmicky. We think the 2.8" plus tires on the 27.5+ version of the Pivot Mach 429 Trail
are a better balance of traction and precision handling. As a 29er the Stumpjumper
gains efficiency and speed but the fun factor dials back down to normal MTB levels. What really makes this bike stand out is that SWAT. Snacks, tools, tubes and a water bottle inside the front triangle isn't anything to sniff at if you don't like a pack on your back.
Read full review: Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Pro Carbon 6Fattie 2017
The Specialized Stumpjumper 6Fattie, Santa Cruz Bronson, Ibis Ripley LS, Yeti SB5.5, Pivot Mach 429 Trail, and Intense Recluse are among the best trail bikes in the world. We raced them through the most rigorous MTB testing process ever created to find out which are the best of the best.
Analysis and Test Results
We asked the obvious question after wrapping up our groundbreaking 2016 enduro review
So what's the best trail bike? To find out we bought and brutalized the top six trail bikes of 2017 — the Ibis Ripley LS
, Yeti SB5.5
, Pivot Mach 429 Trail
, Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Pro Carbon 6Fattie
, Santa Cruz Bronson
, and Intense Recluse
. The table below sums up the results, read on to find out all the nitty-gritty details.
The Eagle — SRAM's X01 Eagle 12-speed drivetrain came on five of our six test bikes, only Intense took a different route. While the Eagle's shifting was remarkably crisp and functionality near flawless, we broke three chains during seven weeks of testing. When we compare this to the zero chains we broke during two months of enduro testing, we get a little worried. Find out more in the Build section below.