There’s no shortage of scintillating new hardware coming onto the market next year. And with a bit of luck, some of it might actually be available to buy!
With the Raaw Jibb, Pivot 429 and Guerilla Gravity Trail Pistol, to name just three, there’s definitely no shortage of scintillating new hardware coming onto the market next year.
We’ve put together a list of the 12 up-and-coming best mountain bikes for 2022, from XC and down-country whippets to full on enduro bikes, and everything in-between.
As trail bikes pile on the pounds and start to give full-blown enduro bikes a run for their money on the scales, so people are turning to skinnier alternatives in order to reinject some frenetic pace back into their rides. Where reduced mass meets progressive, modern geometry, new life is being breathed into traditional XC bikes. It’s even spawned a whole new category: down-country. Hey, you know how much the bike industry loves a new buzzword.
This year’s two big releases on the XC front are the Santa Cruz Blur (also known as the Juliana Wilder) and the Scott Spark. Both will be covered at length in our bike review section very soon, so instead we’ll look at a few lesser-known alternatives here.
With progressive geometry and 120mm of travel via a DW-Link suspension design, the Pivot 429 claims to offer a category-defying ride. Yes, while Transition was first to the down-country party with its razor-sharp Spur, other north American boutique rivals are rapidly filing in behind.
In terms of reach, the carbon-framed Pivot runs very similar sizing to the Ibis Ripley AF (next page), although there are five options instead of four – but the head angle is 1° steeper at 66°, the chainstays are a hair shorter at 430mm and the BB is a fair bit taller at a claimed 340mm. If that still sounds too progressive for you, a flip-chip lets you jack up the BB by 7mm and steepen the head angle by half a degree.
According to Pivot, the 429 uses its new ultralight Hollow Core carbon tech that loses 300g from the previous frame weight, while it also boasts a custom-tuned ride feel depending on the size. There’s also a more progressive linkage to help generate extra support and pop while charging hard. Price? Well you’re looking at £7,249 for the entry-level Pro XT/XTR model.
Guerrilla Gravity Trail Pistol
Based in Denver, Colorado, Guerilla Gravity takes a unique approach to design and manufacturing. In contrast to most brands, GG actually makes its own carbon frames in Colorado, but manages to stay competitive by using a modular design and a sales-direct strategy. Details of its aerospace-derived Revved production process are closely-guarded, but the general gist is that the carbon lay-up is automated, rather than applied by hand, there are time-savings during the curing process, and once out of the oven, the frames require less sanding and finishing.
Another radical ingredient in the GG USP is the modular element. By purchasing a new seatstay kit (yes, you’ll also need a fork and shock), you can convert your 120mm Trail Pistol into a Gnarvana enduro bike. Alternatively you can play with chainstay length and wheel size to tune the bike’s handling. The included Geo Adjust Headset also lets you tinker with the reach.
With that many options, it’s almost not worth talking about specific numbers, but for what it’s worth, the three sizes on offer come with a reach range from 458mm to 523mm, 430mm chainstays, a 65.4° head angle, 333mm BB height and 78° effective seat angle. There’s room inside the front triangle for a bottle and a gear strap, and the 120mm of rear-wheel travel is designed to be matched with a 140mm-travel fork. Complete builds start at £4,300, which seems like pretty good value for something as radical as the GG Trail Pistol, and because each bike is built to order, you’re looking at a lead time of seven to nine weeks.
Ibis Ripley AF
Sizzle and pop might be something you expect from your breakfast, rather than your mountain bike, but according to Ibis, that’s exactly what you’ll get with the new Ripley AF. Packing a thrifty 120mm travel paired with a competitively-priced alloy frame and modern geometry, dull moments should be few and far between.
Like every bike in the Ibis range, the Ripley AF uses Dave Weagle’s DW-Link suspension layout, with the shock driven off the swingarm by a yoke that splits around the steep seat tube. To make room for a water bottle within the front triangle, there’s an S-bend down tube, while the low standover heights and generous insertion depths mean you can run long dropper posts and choose a frame size based on reach rather than saddle height.
Talking of sizing, the Ripley AF comes in four options, with a reach that extends from 425mm up to 500mm on the XL. Low stack heights make for a racier position than, say, the Raaw Jibb, but the 65.5° head angle is anything but XC. Skimpy 432mm chainstays across the board should make for a flickable machine, but Ibis still claims clearance for 2.6in tyres out back.
Complete bikes cost from £3,599 and Ibis UK distributor 2Pure says your best bet to secure a model is to put in an order at your local Ibis dealer. Incoming bikes are always prioritised to orders with customer name’s attached, although 2Pure only gets around a week’s notice on new shipments, so can’t predict future stock levels.
With a CV that includes stints at both Scott and Ghost, Ruben Torenbeek had no shortage of experience before he set up his own brand – Raaw Bikes – back in 2016. Since then Raaw has built up an enviable reputation almost exclusively through positive reviews and word of mouth. Its first model was the 160mm-travel Madonna, and this has now been joined by the 135mm-travel Jibb. Yes, that’s a bit more than the 120mm stipulated by the down-country judiciary, but as it’s a bike that, in Ruben’s own words, “lets you get away with murder”, the Jibb certainly encapsulates the right spirit.
Constructed using 6066 T6 alloy, the Jibb runs 29in wheels, comes in four frame sizes and is available with either a signature raw or matt black finish. It uses a very conventional four-bar linkage layout, with a rocker link driving a shock mounted in line with the seat tube, but it’s the details that set it apart from big-name rivals. Large-diameter pivots are all secured with 5mm Allen bolts, fully sealed bearings abound, and there is a gear strap mount, water bottle provision and integrated frame protection to ensure the frame is as user-friendly as possible.
While Raaw is no longer at the bleeding edge of geometry, the Jibb is still a progressive bike, with a reasonably slack 65.5° head angle, healthy 470mm reach for the size large, steep actual seat angle and proportional chainstays to help maintain a good weight balance across the size range.
Frame kits cost from £1,651.45 and Raaw says that it should have stock of all sizes and colours with various shock options now, with a further shipment due in the winter.
Lightweight, low-power e-bikes might not have the car park wow factor of their full-fat cousins, but for certain riders, the analogue-like dynamics combined with the opportunity to double your power, represents a dream come true. While Lapierre was one of the earliest adopters with its eZesty model, the category got a major credibility boost when Specialized brought out the Turbo Levo SL last year followed by the burly Kenevo SL back in spring. Orbea has also pitched in with the sleek-looking Rise, but we have a feeling this is just the tip of the iceberg, as other brands adopt Shimano’s EP8 motor wired to custom, lightweight 300Wh batteries.
German brand Rotwild has been around a long time now and back in the 90s it used to sponsor Nukeproof team manager Nigel Page here in the UK. More recently has it really begun to specialise in e-bikes. For a time it boasted one of the biggest batteries on the market with a 750Wh unit plugged into its R.X750 and R.E750 models, but now the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. The R.E375 (and shorter-travel R.X375) marry a Shimano EP8 motor with a lightweight 375Wh carbon-sheathed battery. And unlike most of its competitors, the battery is quickly removable, so you can swap in a freshie or easily charge it indoors.
The full carbon frame runs 29in wheels, a four-bar linkage suspension design pumping out 170mm of travel, and uses the clever integrated Eightpins dropper seatpost. Rotwild hasn’t held back with the geometry either. A 63.5° head angle is mated to a 77° seat angle, 445mm chainstays and a 350mm BB height. There are three sizes, with 460mm, 485mm and 510mm reach measurements. You may recognise those numbers from the Specialized Kenevo SL – they’re virtually identical. On paper, the Rotwild also boasts a bigger battery and, with 85Nm of torque, a much more powerful motor.
Price for the Pro spec with Fox Factory suspension and Shimano XT drivetrain is €8,999 but there’s also a Core model that retails for €7,499 with Fox Performance series suspension.
The electric revolution has sparked several completely new entrants to the mountain bike market: Haibike, GreyP and Moustache, to name but a few. One you may not have heard of is Forestal, an Andorran-based brand with an impressively sleek and innovative range of lightweight e-bikes.
Its line-up includes an enduro bike (the Siryon), a downhill bike (the Hydra) and a trail offering – the Cyon. At the heart of every Forestal is the carbon frame, EonDrive motor and single-pivot suspension layout. Starting with the frame, the claimed weight is 2.2kg (without motor) and it uses high-modulus T1000 fibres blended with lower-modulus T800 and T700 to tune the stiffness and compliance. Reinforcing the shock area is an asymmetric bridge between the seat tube and top tube similar to those used by Specialized and Orbea.
A chunky swingarm connects to Forestal’s Twin Levity linkage system to provide 150mm of travel, while the EonDrive motor boasts a minimal weight of 1.95kg yet still packs a claimed 60Nm of torque – that’s almost double the grunt of the similar-weight Specialized SL 1.1 motor. According to Forestal there’s no additional friction through the drivetrain when disengaged, and the motor is hooked up to a 360Wh Aurora battery that can be expanded by a further 250Wh with a range extender.
What really sets Forestal apart from the rest, even Goliaths such as Specialized, are details like the touchscreen dashboard integrated into the top tube, the vast array of data and integration this can feed you and the bonkers chemical paint finishes that promise to light up as you ride. Prices for this enthralling piece of design start at €8,299 and Forestal is aiming for new Cyon orders to be delivered between late September and mid-October.
Ignoring the somewhat puerile penny-farthing comparisons, the roots of the modern mullet mountain bike can be traced right back to the 80s. That’s right, at the same time that pop stars and footballers were flaunting the classic business-at-the-front, party-at-the-back haircut, so Cannondale was offering versions of its alloy mountain bike with a 26in wheel up front and a 24in wheel out back. Over 30 years later, the mullet bike is back with a vengeance. Why? Well, two reasons really. One, because they give shorter riders the chance to enjoy the improved rollover and stability of 29in wheels up front, while reducing the chance of buzzing their butts on the rear tyre. And secondly, because they can crank up the fun factor by adding agility in turns while also building into a (theoretically) stiffer and stronger wheel.
Already this year we’ve had big guns like Santa Cruz embrace the mullet with the new Bronson, while Specialized has resurrected memories of the classic Big Hit with last summer’s Status and newly released Turbo Levo. But plenty of other brands are getting in on the act, with the likes of Transition, Saracen, Propain and Orange also offering mullet models.
Santa Cruz Bronson
Last year Santa Cruz took its first tentative steps into the mullet – or MX in the brand’s own parlance – market with the Bullit. Now the Bronson becomes the first naturally-aspirated model with mixed wheels. Equipped with the latest lower-link driven VPP configuration delivering 150mm of travel, this is a trail bike with the emphasis on fun. Aside from slick detailing and rider-friendly features such as easily serviceable bearings, comprehensive frame protection and threaded bottom brackets, Santa Cruz brings its generous sizing range to the table. Five frame sizes are on offer, all with low standover heights and short seat tubes, while the proportional chainstay lengths introduced on the 5010 mean no one should be left hanging off the back of the bike – unwillingly, anyway.
Prices start at £4,999 for the R spec with the cheaper (heavier) carbon C frame and stock is actually looking good, with bikes in most dealers across the country and regular resupply drops.
With 160mm of travel front and rear, and mixed wheel sizes, the alloy- framed Patrol is what Transition describes as a ‘pure bred party animal’. It uses the brand’s familiar four-bar layout with Horst pivot and rocker link, but the shock now anchors to a pair of ribs that bridge the base of the seat tube and the down tube. Held within said bridge is a geometry- adjust chip offering 0.5° head and seat angle variation and 7mm of BB height change. Stout pivots and muscular forgings abound, and the overall effect is of a seriously hench chassis.
And take one look at the geometry and you’ll be in no doubt about the intended use of the Patrol: a 63° head angle (slackest position), 333mm bottom bracket and size-specific chainstays indicate how hard it is straining at the reins. Throw in the option to run angle or reach-adjust headsets, as well as dual-crown forks, and you’ve got a party that’s guaranteed to get wild.
Prices start at £3,699 for the Deore and NX builds and there’s a container-load of bikes due in the UK at the end of August. With strong pre-orders though, it’s still worth checking with your local dealer before setting your heart on one.
The venerable hardtail remains just as relevant heading into 2022 as it did 40 years ago, and while development has slowed in terms of materials and geometry, this has allowed brands to focus on fine-tuning the details and maintaining value-for-money as a priority.
Whyte 629 V4
Whyte hasn’t put a foot wrong in the hardtail market for many years now, with the award- winning 901 and 905 setting the benchmark for hardcore hardtail performance. For 2022 both these models get a fresh lick of paint, but if you want a faster-rolling alternative with equally sorted trail geometry, the 629 V4 looks like a smart choice. Costing £1,750, it gets a 6061 alloy frame, RockShox 35 Gold RL fork with 120mm travel, a SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain and grippy Maxxis tyres. There’s also a KS dropper post so that you can make full use of the low standover height and generous reach to really slash some turns. Whyte says its new hardtail range is in shops now, but to check with your local dealer for specifics.
Ribble HT Trail AL 29
Shaking free from the shackles of its roadie roots, Ribble Cycles’s first stab at a mountain bike in many years was bold – progressive angles and a purist-approved choice of either titanium or steel frame tubing gave the brand credibility from the get-go. To bolster the line- up there’s now also an alloy hardtail model that shares the same hardcore attitude and wallet- friendly price. It’s built from 6061 aluminium, runs 29in wheels, and is designed to work with a 130mm-travel fork up front. The three frame sizes are all furnished with modern geometry, including a 64° head angle, while the reach goes from 445mm on the medium to 483mm on the large. Complete builds – running a SRAM SX drivetrain/RockShox Recon fork – start at £1,399 while the top-end Pro model gets GX Eagle and a RockShox Revelation fork for £1,999. Currently there’s availability in all sizes, and the brand’s website displays accurate stock levels.
High-pivot idler bikes:
Aside from Brexit and Covid, 2020/21 will be remembered for the high-pivot idler bike. Last month we tested both the Deviate Highlander and the Forbidden Druid, and this month we swing a leg over the Druid’s bigger sibling, the Dreadnought. Then there’s the Cannondale Jekyll (pictured) and Norco Range that we covered in Buzz Gear last month, and the immaculate UK-made ARBR Saker. But we don’t expect the trickle of new idler bikes to end there – a new Devinci and a new GT are both being tested at the Enduro World Series currently, and will probably see a public release before the year is out.
Super enduro bikes:
Just when you thought the bike industry had run out of potential bike niches, along came Nukeproof with ‘Super Enduro’ to categorise its new 180mm-travel Giga. Never one to take itself too seriously, Nukeproof did this knowing it would ruffle a few feathers, but since the Giga arrived, both Transition and Evil have brought out bikes that also fit the Super Enduro mould.
While it’s just 2mm shy of 170mm travel, there’s nothing else that could be described as reserved about the new Evil Insurgent. Available in two versions – a freeride/park machine with 27.5in wheels, and an enduro/ DH sled with a mullet set-up – Evil’s most capable model pulls no punches. The new sculpted frame design incorporates a much steeper seat angle than previously – 76.9° effective in the steeper position – along with a 64° head angle and 500mm reach on the largest of the four frame sizes. Evil has also adopted Super-Boost (157mm) rear dropout spacing, which has allowed it to increase the width of the main pivot for greater stiffness and bearing durability.
Prices start at €7,549 and frames and complete 27.5in bikes are in stock now. All the parts to build the MX model should be available by September.
If you love riding a downhill bike, but hate pushing it back up the hill, the Spire could be the bike for you. With 170mm of travel front and rear and 740mm wheels (that’s 29in in old money) the Spire is not lacking in mills. A sub-63° head angle (with the flip-chip in the slack position) will give rock-solid stability at World Cup pace, but the 79.6° (size small) effective seat angle points to an efficient twiddling position to get back up for another run. Depending on the depth of your wallet, there are alloy and carbon frame options and both materials are dual-crown compatible. Prices for the carbon models start at £5,799, while the alloy version kicks off at £3,699.