We’ve tested more than 50 bikes this year. Which was the best?

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.

>>> Click here to read our Hardtail of the Year award

Given that we’ve put over 50 bikes through the ringer this season, and only awarded eigth perfect 10 ratings, it’s obvious that scoring top marks in an mbr shoot-out is quite an achievement in itself.

Best mountain bike 2016

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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 2016 bike tests.

Truth be told, it was a total blast getting to ride all of the best bikes of 2016 again, but with so much quality kit on offer, picking a winner was always going to be a tough call.

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.

Real world testing: the Whyte 901 up against Specialized's Camber

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.

The bikes that missed out

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.

The Trek Powerfly 9 LT Plus e-bike came close. In the ned we ruled it out due to the annoying battery rattling and the fragile display.

The Giant Reign 27.5 1 was definitely fast and fun but it’s a little overpriced for an aluminium bike these days.

Plus bikes are coming of age and the Specialized Stumpy Comp 6 Fattie would be in the running were it not for the short and steep geometry and a rear shock that needed more ramp-up.

The ever-dependable Ragley Marley has great geometry and is a hoot to ride but the sticky Manitou fork lets it down.

Would either of these two bikes have enough to claim the top prize? (Fowler)

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.

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 2016 before we reveal the winner of this year’s Bike of the Year award…

The best mountain bikes 2016 shortlist

Calibre Bossnut, £999
Orange Crush, £1,650
Santa Cruz Bronson, £7,599
Vitus Nucleus 275 VR, £495
Voodoo Bizango 29, £599
Whyte 901, £1,199
YT Capra AL Comp 1, €2,799
Whyte T-130 S, £2,299

And the best mountain bike of 2016 is…

British engineering brilliance with an almost flawless performance makes this short travel ripper our winner…

Whyte T-130 S

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Price: £2,299

Score: 10/10

At the risk of sounding shallow, a bike’s looks are really important, and not just from an aesthetic standpoint. If it looks right, chances are it will ride right. We think the Whyte T-130 S looks amazing and we know it has the ride quality to match.

Read the full review of the Whyte T-130 S

With all the latest standards — like Boost and 1×11 — the T-130 S is also future-proofed, to a degree. Getting the technological jump on the big brands isn’t what sets the T-130 S apart though. It’s the sorted sizing, geometry and suspension that puts this 130mm bike in a class of its own. The competitive pricing obviously helps too.

The runners-up…

Calibre Bossnut

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Price: £999.99

Score: 10/10

Bike tech, geometry and sizing are always evolving, but with cutting edge geometry and a build kit that rivals similarly priced hardtails, the Calibre Bossnut is still well ahead of the development curve. For a penny shy of a grand, the price tag is certainly entry-level for a 130mm-travel bike; the ride quality however, is anything but.

Read the full review of the Calibre Bossnut

Orange Crush

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Price: £1,650

Score: 10/10

Orange has made a raft of revisions to its do-it-all hardtail for 2016. With a longer front end, slacker head angle and shorter chainstays it’s much closer in form and attitude to its full-sus cousins than it’s ever been. This is evolution, not revolution, though, and as such it’s not so radical as to feel odd or require a lot of getting used to. It is the perfect trail hardtail.

Read the full review of the Orange Crush

Santa Cruz Bronson CC

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Price: £7,599

Score: 10/10

If ever there was a trail bike that made everything feel effortless, it’s the Santa Cruz Bronson CC. Whether it’s powering up climbs, smashing corners, or darting between trees at breakneck speed, the Bronson CC is always encouraging you to press ahead and test your limits. It’s one of a rare breed of bikes that gives back with interest any effort you invest.

Read the full review of the Santa Cruz Bronson CC

Vitus Nucleus 275 VR

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Price: £495

Score: 10/10

Vitus brings a lot of firsts to the £500 category. The Nucleus 275 VR is the first bike with a lightweight air-sprung fork and adjustable rebound damping. It’s also the first to come with front and rear specific tyres. Given the dialled geometry and superb component package it’s hardly surprising that it didn’t feel compromised in any shape or form.

Read the full review of the Vitus Nucleus 275 VR

Voodoo Bizango 29

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Price: £599

Score: 10/10

Okay so the 725mm handlebar on the Bizango is fairly narrow, but the 60mm stem is the shortest here, so you’re never fighting for control when you’re trying to pick your way down a technical trail. VooDoo has just got the basics right and it really shows in how the bike feels. Killer value with a great ride quality, this bike easily deserves top marks.

Read the full review of the Voodoo Bizango 29

Whyte 901

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Price: £1,199

Score: 10/10

With it’s long, low-slung top tube, the reach feels perfect with the short 50mm stem that comes fitted as standard. The slack steering angle complements the short stem, and combined with the low BB height, the 901 feels sure-footed and confident in every situation. It’s basically got the angles and attitude that can be ridden every bit as hard as a full suspension bike.

Read the full review of the Whyte 901

YT Industries Capra AL Comp 1

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Price: €2,799

Score: 10/10

Read the full review of the YT Industries Capra AL Comp 1

Once again, YT has proved that you don’t need to drop the best part of £4k to get a race-ready enduro bike. Be warned though, this bike has a lot of firepower, so if you’re not hunting down abandoned DH tracks or tearing up every descent, you’d probably be better off with a milder ride. With that caveat out of the way, we can’t recommend it highly enough. What a bike!