We’ve tested more than 50 bikes over the last 12 months, but only six can make it onto the shortlist for mbr’s coveted Bike of the Year Award: find out which bike impressed us most and took top honours in 2015
What makes mbr’s Bike of the Year award one of the most prestigious accolades in mountain biking? For a start, we don’t just dish out awards left, right and centre, as there can only be one bike of the year. Also, it’s not enough to simply be best in class; only bikes that score perfect 10 ratings in their respective grouptests get shortlisted for the big event.
Given that we’ve put over 50 bikes through the ringer this season, and only awarded seven perfect 10 ratings, it’s obvious that scoring top marks in an mbr shoot-out is quite an achievement in itself.
One perfect 10 bike that didn’t make the cut was the Vitus Escarpe 290 Pro. It easily won our Discounted bike test in the September issue, but we didn’t feel it was fair to include it here as the other bikes were all tested at full RRP.
With that caveat cleared up, this award is a great way for us to shout about the bikes that impressed us the most. It’s so much more than the year in review though: we re-tested all of the shortlisted bikes again before choosing the winner. So even though this isn’t like a regular mbr shootout, it’s a perfect snapshot of all the 2015 bike tests.
Truth be told, it was a total blast getting to ride all of the best bikes of 2015 again, but with so much quality kit on offer, picking a winner was always going to be a tough call. We’ve got everything from £500 hardtails to £4.5k carbon enduro bikes covered, with plenty in-between. The breadth and depth of the models we’ve tested this year is simply staggering, and while it’s a lot to squeeze into 12 short months, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Testing such a wide variety of bikes is a lot of fun, but we also take it very seriously at mbr. Regardless of price or application, all of the bikes that feature in the magazine are tested to the same exacting standards.
It’s why we spend almost as much time in the workshop measuring them, weighing them and swapping out parts, as we do riding them. And it’s about so much more than simply doing a thorough job.
The test crew at mbr are passionate mountain bikers and, just like you, we want to know which bikes are the best; it really is that simple. As such, we wouldn’t dream of recommending a bike that we didn’t have 100 per cent confidence in, and that’s a big part of why our bike tests are the most trusted.
Tough at the top
Given our lofty standards, it’s hardly surprising that there are plenty of good bikes that narrowly miss out on a shot at the title. One bike that instantly springs to mind is the Giant Reign 27.5 1, which we tested in the February issue.
The geometry was dialled, the rear suspension simply amazing, and it was crazy light for a 160mm-travel enduro bike with an alloy frame. We just weren’t convinced that the Dual Position air RockShox Pike was the best option, as it offered less support than the Solo Air design.
Splitting hairs? Possibly! But we stand by those tough decisions month in, month out, as only the bikes that are nigh on perfect should score top marks.
And just because a bike made the cut last year, it’s no guarantee that it will be back again the following season. Proof in point; Specialized’s Stumpy FSR Comp Evo walked away with our 2014 Bike of the Year award, but it has had to settle for a ringside seat this time round. That’s because the bar is constantly being raised, and bike manufacturers simply can’t afford to rest on their laurels.
The retail landscape is also evolving, with direct sales brands playing an increasing role in the way we buy bikes. Previously, they were all about getting the best possible bang for your buck, but as Canyon and YT Industries have both proved, innovation and performance are now the driving force that’s seeing more and more riders buying bikes direct from the source.
But enough about the state of play of the bike industry, let’s take a closer look at the standout bikes of 2015 before we reveal the winner of this year’s Bike of the Year award…
The shortlist: best mountain bikes 2015
An enduro wizard that punches way above its weight - £3,699
Still the best in class - £1,199
Dispels the myth that 29ers aren't fun - £4,500
Compact, capable and completely free of flowery graphics - £750
29in wheels and solid frame which can be easily upgraded - £500
Guaranteed to put a massive smile on your face every time you take it for a blast
It’s not just the amazing spec, attention to detail or killer price tag that really makes the Calibre Bossnut so special. Sure, they all help massively, but if it weren’t for the equally impressive ride quality, it would not be walking away with our 2015 Bike of the Year award.
Out on the trail, the Bossnut is every bit as sure-footed and confident as its appearance suggests. You never have to second-guess how it’s going to react, and this makes it an incredibly easy bike to ride. It’s solid too, so it won’t feel like a wet noodle even if you’re carrying a bit of extra timber around your midriff.
What makes it great, though, is that it’s a total blast to ride. You can rock up to any trail on the Bossnut and ride it full gas, rather than simply hanging on for survival. That’s a major step forward for a £1,000 suspension bike, and that’s only possible because every little detail has been taken care of. All you need to do is relax and enjoy the ride.
When we first tested the Bossnut, it was easily the standout bike in its class. Riding it again for the Bike of the Year awards, only this time back to back with category-leaders like the Whyte 901, Specialized Camber and Canyon Strive, really brought home to us what a groundbreaking bike it is.
And, just as Voodoo rewrote the rulebook in the £600 hardtail category three years ago with its Bizango 29, Calibre is sending a seismic shock wave through the £1,000 full-suspension category, with ripples that will be felt far and wide. It truly is a landmark bike, and we only wish that £1,000 had bought this much fun 20 years ago when we first started mountain biking.