It has been a long winter, but now it’s time to get back on the dirt and pavement with the best bikes EO put to the test this spring.
Editor’s Choice, Mountain: Yeti SB-66 Carbon
Why It Won: This bike is buttah. Quite simply, it’s a 6-inch travel trail bike that can climb with the guts of an XC ride, making it ideal for much of the Front Range. That climbing superpower comes thanks to both the stiff, 6-pound carbon frame and Yeti’s Switch rear suspension, a dual link design, which features a low pivot point and makes what would otherwise be a big bike an extremely efficient pedaling machine. Will you hammer your race-crazy buddies on XC bikes? No, but you will climb better than any of your trail bike bros, and when it comes to the down that 6-inches of rear travel sucks up the gnarliest of terrain for one big, plush ride. Plus, Yeti is a local brand.
Where to Ride It: The gang at Yeti rides the Apex trail out of Golden (see this) pretty much everyday, so you could say this bike was made for challenging singletrack with big, nasty terrain. But we liked it so much because it performed everywhere we took it—from the rock drops of Moabs’s Mag 7 system to the flowing ribbon of Loveland’s Devil’s Backbone.
$3,000 (frame), $4,500 (build with SRAM and Fox 32 F150 RLC front fork) ; yeticycles.com
Editor’s Choice, Road: Giant TCR Advanced 0
Why It Won: Giant is a big bike manufacturer (one of the biggest companies in Taiwan, actually), but that massive reach has enabled it to offer a sweet composite ride like this at an economic-downturn-friendly price. Giant’s size also means the brand was able to fully integrate everything on this bike—frame, bottom bracket, wheels, everything was designed to work as a unit here instead of being pieced together from various manufacturers. That all adds up to a race bike that’s stiff and responsive. It climbs with authority and bombs with confidence. Plus, it’s outfitted with Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic shifting, which allows for precise gear changes on the fly—just the type of no-fuss performance you want in a race.
Where to Ride: Sure, this is your race-day bike, but it’s also ideal for training with your hard-charging posse.
Drool over it: Trek Madone 6.9 SSL
Ups: It might be worth the money just to own what is one of the best machines hand-built in the good old U.S.A. The Madone series is Trek’s top of the line—it’s the bike to buy when you have made the jump from weekend ride guy to serious racer. (Or maybe you just work at Crispin Porter and want to burn some cash? We don’t judge if you have this baby between your thighs.) The proof is in the ride. It simply handles better than any other road bike we have tested, giving you the confidence to push descents.
Downs: Do you really need this bike? Assess yourself before you spend.
Below the belt: Spot Rocker SS Ti
Ups: Our dirty little secret? This is our bike of choice for almost every day ride. Forget for a moment that it’s a 29er belt-drive singlespeed. Just hop on the thing and feel how much fun it is to ride. That Gates Carbon Drive Belt system gives the bike incredible guts. Instead of being left behind by your geared brethren on the climbs, the bike eats into them with incredible efficiency. It’s no slouch on the downhills either—a smooth, silent assassin that doesn’t require an emergency downshift when the trail suddenly heads back up. And if you ever tire of your singlespeed ways, it can be converted into a geared bike.
Downs: It is overmatched on steep, loose ups.
$3,899 (frame), $6,199 (built), the steel Rocker SS rings in at $3,299 built; spotbrand.com
Smooth cruising: Schwinn Super Deluxe
Ups: We all started on Schwinns—beating up our banana seat bikes over handmade jumps, going no-hands downhill, cruising to 7-11. This baby gives you that same old-school, biking-is-for-fun feel with some grown-up pluses. First, that big cushy seat is built for those of us who have gotten a bit bigger and a bit cushier. And the pliable Springer Fork gives it some give when you take it over a curb after a margarita or two. In short, it’s the perfect ride for your weekend trip to the farmers’ market.
Downs: It’s pricey for a cruiser.
Electric slide: OHM Sport XS750
Ups: Electric bikes are for fat people, right? Wrong. All it took was two pedal-assisted turns of the cranks and we fell in love with this machine. It is more than just an e-bike—it features Shimano XT componentry, hydraulic brakes and an 80 mm front fork. But the real fun is the motor. You can set the level of pedal assist to feel bionic, set it on resistance mode so it turns like a spin bike and recharges the battery (a good idea on long downhills), or—and here’s when the real fun comes in—just push in the thumb throttle and hold on (though it legally can’t go over 25 m.p.h.). It’s invaluable for long, bike-path commutes but we also took it out on Boulder’s Marshall Mesa singletrack—and scared the dog walkers.
Downs: There’s a lot to break.
Pounding the pavement: Raleigh Militis 3
Ups: This stallion may be the only bike you need. Stiff, light high-modulus carbon pairs up with a frame design and geometry that we found just as comfortable in competition as it was slogging up Mount Evans. And as Travolta would say, the real difference, though, is in the little details—internal cable routing and full SRAM Red Componentry. That incredible build shone through on the pavement, where this bike impressed our group-ride geeks. If the price tag scares you off, the equally impressive Militis 2, which also features SRAM Red, is half the price at $3,300 (and the Militis 1 is just $2,500 for a carbon bike).
Downs: The geometry may be a bit too aggressive for day-to-day riding for some of the low-back-challenged among us.
Big wheel: Moots MX Divide
Ups: We always expect big things from Steamboat-based Moots, but the bike builder truly exceeded our expectations with this full suspension 29er. But it was more than the magic of those big wheels (come on, how can you not love the little extra 29-inch wheels give you when tackling a technical uphill problem and the way they simply rail in big banked turns).The brand’s Fusion Link suspension, a single-pivot-link system that’s designed to impart power when you crank the bike uphill, thoroughly impressed us. Sure, it felt solid on the ups but it was when it engaged on the downs, effortlessly adapting to jaw-jarring terrain at full speed, that we fell in love with this ride. Oh, and since it’s built of ti, the frame weighs in at a scant 5.75 pounds. Please, Moots, can we keep it?
Downs: We are still trying to think of one.
Race ready: Cannondale Scalpel 2
Ups: Meet your race machine. It’s all about ounces when you are looking for a competitor and the carbon frame on the Scalpel weighs in at a ridonkulous 3.47 pounds (and don’t forget Cannondale’s odd “lefty” fork design which is only half a fork arm, cutting out more weight). But it’s not twitchy on the trail—that carbon is quite stiff and the brand’s Zero Pivot stay system, which cuts out bearings and bushings to cut down on weight even more, offers 80 mm of rear travel. It’s not the ride for Moab but enough to keep you comfortably on track in a race (or hammering your so-called friends). And that weird fork? It takes some getting used to aesthetically, but you soon forget about it in the heat of battle. All this comes at a fairly reasonable price.
Downs: While it’s a great race or pain-fest bike, it’s not the tool for big, technical rides.
Downhill / bike park: Kona Entourage
Ups: Remember when riding a bike was nothing but fun? Forget all that XC huffing and puffing—here is a ride designed to simply flow and crush it. Based in BC, Kona understands exactly how to produce a bike that can handle that breed of North Shore freestyle riding that requires all the oomph of a big downhill dozer and the agility of an enduro ride. With a 170 mm Rock Shox Domain R CL front fork, the Entourage can suck up all the big hits of a downhill course, but short chainstays and top tube make it both nimble and steady when adroit movements are required. Put all that together, and you have more than just a good machine for Winter Park and Keystone, but the absolutely perfect denizen for the local bike park (see “The Park’s the Place”).
Downs: That short top tube can feel disconcerting at times.