It's the test you've all been waiting for, where the best full suspension mountain bike models fight it out for the coveted title of Trail Bike of the Year.


By gum it’s good to be back! We’ve waited long months and hunted down the best trail bikes to finally put together another annual edition of the UK’s ultimate trail bike test.

Shop Bought shortlist:

Direct Sales shortlist:

Best full suspension mountain bike: MBR Trail Bike of the Year

Best full suspension mountain bike: MBR Trail Bike of the Year

MBR Trail Bike of the Year 2022

After almost a two-year hiatus we’re back with our Trail Bike of the Year test. It’s been a long time coming and we can’t convey how excited we are to present eight of the very best mountain bikes from the heavy hitters in the trail bike category, in what is arguably one of the most important tests in the mbr calendar.

But why has it taken so long to get this test together? Well, you don’t need us to remind you how crazy things have been since the start of the Covid pandemic. And if you’ve tried buying a bike in the last two years, you’ll no doubt be aware that there’s been slim pickings at every level. With such limited supply, fuelled in part by increased demand, it’s been nigh on impossible to convince brands to part with bikes for review when they are already struggling to meet demand. But we finally managed it.

Yes, we probably could have cobbled together a raggle-taggle band of random trail bikes for a half-decent test earlier in the year, but it would have fallen short of our self-imposed standards. We’ve been honing the format of our Trail Bike of the Year test for almost a decade now and we didn’t want to backslide just to fill pages. Hopefully you’ll agree that it’s well worth the wait.

In keeping with previous years, our 2022 Trail Bike of the Year test is split into two distinct categories, shop bought and direct scales, with four bikes in each category all of which are rolling on 29in wheels. Why the split? Well, we believe that the rider buying a performance trail bike online has different priorities to the rider walking into his or her local store and leaving with a new bike.

Yes, that’s a massive oversimplification of the buying process that ignores plenty of exceptions, but we think that everyone can agree that one key advantage of splitting the test in two is that it really levels the playing field in terms of price. It also allows us to allocate a dedicated tester to each category, which means we’re not spreading ourselves thin testing eight bikes at once.

There is some overlap in this year’s test though, as the gulf in pricing between direct sales and shop bought bikes isn’t as dramatic as in previous years. As online retailers open up shops and showrooms and more and more traditional bricks and mortar brands offer click and collect services, both business models seem to be converging and prices are moving in the same direction. They have not reached parity just yet, however. But who knows, maybe in a couple of years we’ll have all of the bikes in just one category, and an outright winner of our Trail Bike of the Year award.

TBOY is back!

TBOY is back!

Target fixation

For now though it’s still split, so there will be a winner for each category. And to better reflect the converging prices we opted for the same target price point throughout the test, settling on £3.5k with a cut-off point of £500 either side.

In the direct-sales category, the Vitus Escarpe CRX is the most expensive bike at £3,499.99. The cheapest bike is the Privateer 141 at £3,149 with the Canyon Spectral CF 7 and YT Jeffsy Core 2 taking up the middle ground at £3,399 and £3,212.21 respectively. Yes, the price on the Jeffsy Core 2 looks random and is higher than the headline price on YT’s website, and that’s because we’re using the UK landed price that includes all import taxes and shipping.

The shop bought category is bookended by the Specialized Stumpy Evo Comp at £4,000 and the Focus Jam 6.9 at £3,199. The Whyte T-160 RS V1 £3,600 and the alloy version of the 2019 test winner, the Nukeproof Reactor Pro Alloy at £3,699.99, rounding out the category. Ideally we’d have had the new Stumpy Evo Comp Alloy at £3,250, but unfortunately it wasn’t available in time to make the cut.

As such the Stumpy is the only carbon bike in the shop bought category, and it’s also why it’s the most expensive. It’s a different story with the direct sales bikes, with an even split between aluminium and carbon frame constitution. And while all the direct sales bikes are rocking Fox suspension components, the shop bought bikes are evenly divided with Nukeproof and Whyte in the RockShox camp and Specialized and Focus running Fox.

In terms of rear suspension, most of the bikes in this year’s test boast between 140 and 150mm travel, the exception being the Nukeproof Reactor with 130mm out back. Still, it’s proved in the past that it can take on the big hitters and still come out on top, so there’s every chance it could do it again. And we’ve specially used the term ‘boast’ when it comes to travel, as a couple of bikes come up shy of their stated numbers.

How this plays out remains to be seen but one thing’s for sure, it’s going to be tight, as all of the test bikes have modern geometry, modern sizing and are designed for the demands of modern trail riding. Which bikes come out on top remains to be seen, but it’s going to be a bumper test where all will be revealed over the next 20 pages.

Worth the wait

Worth the wait


So that’s a wrap on our 2022 Trail Bike of the Year test. And what a way to close out the season. Eight cutting-edge trail bikes ragged and rated with a clear pecking order and an outright winner in each category. So whether you are browsing online or squeezing brake levers in your local bike stop in the search of your next trail bike, this test should help point you in the right direction.

One thing that really stood out this year was that the overall standard of the bikes was exceptionally high. And while we’re convinced that all of the brands have upped their game, having what was almost a two-year break from our last Trail Bike of the Year test really helped compound the advances in what can sometimes feel like a glacial pace of progress.

As such, all of the bikes have modern sizing, and even though the YT Jeffsy Core 2 was the shortest bike in test, that really just comes down to the relative sizing scale. If YT was to simply rebrand the XL as an L and bump all five frame sizes down the scale it would instantly go from having the shortest bike in test to the longest, just by changing a decal on the frame. But until YT does that, you may need to upsize on the Jeffsy. Now contrast that with Privateer. It only offers the 29er version of the 141 in three sizes, but with a 487mm reach on the S3, it’s the biggest bike in test and that’s across both categories.

All of the bikes bar the Privateer have adjustable geometry, with Specialized taking it to the nth degree. Literally. With an independently adjustable head angle and combined BB height and chainstay length adjustment, you can tweak the numbers on the Stumpy Evo Comp to your heart’s content. And it can all be done with nothing more than the SWAT tool provided with the bike. We ran all of the bikes in this test in the low geometry settings, but if you’re riding flatter trails or just want additional pedal clearance for steep, rocky climbs, rotating the flip-chips is all it takes.

It wasn’t that long ago that every bike test involved fitting a shorter stem. Not any more. In fact we’d be tempted to fit a slightly longer stem to the Whyte T-160 RS to better load the front tyre and make the steering feel less direct. Thankfully we didn’t need to change the stem on the Focus Jam 6.9, because the integrated cable routing makes it a job for an experienced mechanic.

Vitus Escarpe 29 CRX

Vitus Escarpe 29 CRX

The winners

In terms of weight, the full carbon Canyon Spectral 7 was the lightest bike here at an impressive 14.14kg (31.17lb), and that’s with a Maxxis EXO/EXO+ tyre combo. At the other end of the scale, and with the same tyre casings, is the Focus Jam at 16.4kg (36.15lb). And while that’s not an apples to apples comparison, as Focus doesn’t benefit from the cost savings inherent in a direct-to-consumer approach, it gives you a good idea of the range of weights, as the Whyte T-160 isn’t much lighter than the Focus.

With geometry and sizing being quite similar on all the bikes – the exception being the Nukeproof Reactor Pro 290 Alloy – it was the suspension performance that really separated the winners from the losers. And one bike that stood head and shoulders above the rest was the Vitus Escarpe CRX with its Fox Factory suspension. But it wasn’t simply the Kashima coating or gold fleck in the carbon that made it standout; the Vitus has the sizing, frame quality and handling match. Which makes it the clear winner of our 2022 Trail Bike of the Year award in the direct-sales category.

Specialized Stumpjumper EVO Comp

Specialized Stumpjumper EVO Comp

Specialized takes top honours in the shop-bought class, and it’s easy to see why. Not only is the Stumpy Evo Comp drop-dead gorgeous, it’s mega-adjustable and adaptable, comes with integrated storage and you can ride it harder than any other trail bike in that category.

So we have given two stellar bikes our ultimate accolade in what is a stacked field. And while the availability of bikes still seems to be disrupted, one thing you can be sure of is that brands will keep developing and performance continue to improve in increasingly smaller steps. And hopefully it won’t take two years before we put together our next Trail Bike of the Year test.