Ten trailblazing full-suspension machines, two categories, two outstanding winners - it's the most important bike test of 2019
In association with Alpinestars we bring you our rundown of the best full suspension mountain bike in 27.5in and 29in wheel sizes.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
Canyon Spectral AL 6.0, £2,249
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, £3,406.42
Scott Genius 940, £3,299
Specialized Stumpjumper Evo Comp Alloy, £3,400
Vitus Escarpe 29, £2,999
YT Jeffsy CF Pro, £2,999
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.
Last year’s trail bike of the year 2018 winners
27.5 Trail Bike of the Year 2018
“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
“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
“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.”
Don’t forget to pick up the new issue of MBR
It’s on sale right now – to read reviews of all the Trail Bike of the Year bike tests.