Ten trailblazing full-suspension machines, two categories, two outstanding winners - it's the most important bike test of 2019

best full suspension mountain bike

Trail Bike of the Year in association with Alpinestars

In association with Alpinestars we bring you our rundown of the best full suspension mountain bike in 27.5in and 29in wheel sizes.

What is the best full suspension mountain bike?

Two price points, ten bikes, two wheel sizes and no duplication makes this year’s Trail Bike of the Year test one of the most competitive to date.

>>> Best mountain bikes: best reviewed bikes and what to look for

The best full suspension mountain bike tested

  • Canyon Spectral AL 6.0, £2,249
  • YT Jeffsy 29 CF Comp, £2,999
  • Kona Hei Hei Trail, £2,499
  • Sonder Evol GX Helm, £2,799
  • Trek Remedy 8, £2,700
  • Whyte T-130 S, £2,650
  • Commencal Meta TR British Edition, £3,406
  • Scott Genius 940
  • Specialized Stumpjumper Evo Comp Alloy, £3,400
  • Vitus Escarpe 29 VRX

The format of the test

The biggest change for 2019 is that we’ve dropped the Plus size category. Last year there was a clear distinction between the 2.8in Plus bikes and the other wheel sizes coming with 2.3in tyres. This year the bandwidth for tyres seems to be merging on a range between 2.4in and 2.6in so we dropped the Plus category completely.

best full suspension mountain bike

Which means there are 10 bikes in the test, evenly divided between 27.5in and 29in wheels, with a split in price points too. The 27.5in bikes are around £2.5k will the 29er are all over £3K. And even with the shuffle we’ve managed to get last year’s winners back to defend their titles; the Scott Genius now in 29er guise going head to head with Vitus Escarpe 29.

We’ve got plenty of new 29ers too. The latest carbon YT Jeffy (a previous winner in 2017), the new Commencal Meta TR 29  – the 27.5in version winning its category two years ago – and the new Specialized Stumpjumper Evo with its super progressive geometry.

In the 27.5in class the Canyon Spectral has gone up in travel and down in tyre size, but it looks every bit as good as the bike that won last year. It’s not going to be plain sailing for Canyon though, as it’s by far the cheapest bike in test and has stiff competition for the likes of Sonder, the new Sonder Evol 140mm bike coming equipped with tasty Cane Creek suspension. Then there’s the new Whyte T-130 S that looks totally dialled. The Kona Hei Hei Trail brings a more pumped up XC attitude to trail riding, while the Trek Remedy is at the opposite end of the spectrum with its 160mm-travel RockShox Lyrik fork.

Which is fitting, as trail riding really is a spectrum, because more than any other category in mountain biking, you can define it in so many different ways. It really just depends on the terrain you ride. And with that in mind, it will no doubt be the most versatile bikes that gets crowned Trail Bike of the Year 2019.

This year’s best full-suspension mountain bike winners

best full suspension mountain bike

27.5 full-suspension trail bike of the year 2019

Canyon Spectral AL 6.0

Pound for pound, there is no better 27.5in trail bike that the Canyon Spectral AL 6.0. It pedals with aplomb, it feels light and agile on flatter trails and when it’s time rumble, the extra travel and dialled geometry means it’s every bit as comfortable going 12 rounds as delivering a knockout blow. The MaxxGrip front tyre is overkill for UK riding but it is the only speccing flaw. Even accounting for shipping, you could buy a faster rolling MaxxTerra front tyre and still have plenty of change from £2,500.

Read the full review

UK buy now: Canyon Spectral AL 6.0 at Canyon for £2,249

US buy now: Canyon Spectral AL 6.0 at Canyon for $2,899

best full suspension mountain bike

29 full-suspension trail bike of the year 2019

YT Jeffsy 29 CF Comp

The YT Jeffsy remains a great-value bike. The Commencal Meta TR 29 British Edition and Vitus Escarpe 29 VRX both have similar builds, but as a trail bike the new Jeffsy is a more balanced package and is that much lighter too. There are a couple of things we’d don’t like – the fixed-position seatpost, clunky shifting and fork flex – but the Jeffsy wins our 29er Trail Bike of the Year because it’s the most versatile bike here with the most comprehensive sizing. It’s light enough to ride all day, but solid enough to smash a load of descents in a bike park.

Read the full review

UK buy now: YT Jeffsy 29 CF Comp for £2,999

US buy now: YT Jeffsy 29 CF Comp for $3,499

All 10 Trail Bike of the Year 2019 contenders

27.5in

Canyon Spectral AL 6.0, £2,249 – 27.5in WINNER

Kona Hei Hei Trail, £2,499

Sonder Evol GX Helm, £2,799

Trek Remedy 8, £2,700

Whyte T-130 S, £2,650

29in

Commencal Meta TR British Edition, £3,406.42

Scott Genius 940, £3,299

Specialized Stumpjumper Evo Comp Alloy 29, £3,400

Vitus Escarpe 29 VRX, £2,999

YT Jeffsy CF Pro, £2,999 – 29in WINNER

best full suspension mountain bike

Tale of the test

Even though our Trail Bike of the Year test is split evenly by wheel size and price, we used the same locations and trails for testing both groups of bikes. After multiple shakedown rides in the Surrey Hills to get the brakes bedded in and the suspension set up correctly, we ventured further afield in search of more demanding terrain.

First stop, the Forest of Dean for some rapid back-to-back testing with the assistance of FlyUpDownhill’s uplift service. If you’ve not uplifted with your trail bike we highly recommend it, as it is as great way to get a ton of riding in without generating a ton of fatigue. Next, we headed to the Valleys of South Wales in search of increased gradient and trails that would really push these bikes to the very limit, and in some cases beyond.

The bikes’ geometry at a glance

Geometry Canyon Kona Sonder Trek Whyte Commencal Scott Specialized Vitus YT
Head angle 65° 67.5° 66.1° 65.8° 65.3° 65.7° 65.2° 63.9° 66° 66.3°
Seat angle 70.4° 72.4° 68.7° 69° 68.3° 65.2° 68.5° 69.5° 69.4° 70.7°
BB height 331mm 338mm 340mm 342mm 320mm 335mm 342mm 333mm 355mm 335mm
Chainstay 431mm 425mm 431mm 434mm 432mm 440mm 440mm 445mm 450mm 440mm
Front centre 789mm 750mm 753mm 735mm 789mm 790mm 790mm 813mm 790mm 810mm
Wheelbase 1,220mm 1,175mm 1,184mm 1,199mm 1,221mm 1,230mm 1,230mm 1,260mm 1,240mm 1,250mm
Down tube 721mm 707mm 700mm 707mm 732mm 750mm 740mm 750mm 745mm 760mm
Top tube 620mm 610mm 615mm 595mm 635mm 625mm 634mm 635mm 640mm 637mm
Reach 460mm 455mm 453mm 455mm 480mm 475mm 466mm 475mm 467mm 494mm

Last year’s trail bike of the year 2018 winners

27.5 Trail Bike of the Year 2018

Canyon Spectral CF 8.0

“With the new Spectral, Canyon has built on the strength of its market-leading specification while addressing the bike’s underlying weaknesses – namely geometry and suspension. As such, the Spectral CF 8.0 has no equal in the 27.5in segment of this test. The modern geometry and sizing let you push this 140mm trail bike to the very limits of its 2.6in tyres. It’s everything a modern trail bike should be and a deserving winner of mbr‘s Trail Bike of the Year 2018.”

29in Trail Bike of the Year 2018

Vitus Escarpe 29 VRX

“The Vitus Escarpe VRX has a real urgency about it and when you combine that with the stunning build, it’s a shoo-in for 29in Trail Bike of the Year. It falls short of a perfect 10 because it’s a bit too tall in the seat tube, the BB is a touch too high and it’s the heaviest bike on test, mostly due to the Double Down reinforced casing tyres. It is, however, the cheapest bike on test by almost £150, which means you’ll have a bit of money for those corrective components and some lighter parts.”

27.5 Plus Trail Bike of the Year 2018

Scott Genius 720

“The new Genius lets you go full hooligan on the descents, without paying a penalty on the climbs. However, the Twinloc remote is still clumsy and takes priority over the dropper post lever, and we don’t think it benefits from being hooked up to the fork. We’d also like to see shorter cranks, a wider bar and a slightly steeper seat angle. But the fact that the Genius still stands head and shoulders above the rest of the bikes in this category shows how Scott has completely nailed the fundamentals.”