Is the "downhiller's XC bike" upon us? And is this a good thing for your average rider? It very well could be. It's 2020, and there are a growing number of short-travel bikes with super slack head angles and steep seat angles that make climbing more of a joy.
We corralled five examples of this new-school ride to be ridden and scrutinized in Phoenix, Arizona. In this video we break down their strengths and weaknesses, what we think of this type of bike, and pick our personal favorites. Welcome to Vital MTB Test Sessions for short-travel 29ers. Click play and DIG IN!
For those who primarily ride fast, flowy, and pumpy trails with a sprinkling of tech, these could be the ones to rule it all.
Relative Performance Ratings
With a wide variety of trail features and pitches under our tires, the areas where the bikes excelled or struggled really came to light. Considering how things felt on the trail, we rated them on various performance metrics relevant to the category.
About The Testers
Brandon Turman - Age: 33 // Years Riding: 18 // Height: 5'10" (1.78m) // Weight: 170-pounds (77.1kg)
"I like to have fun, pop off the bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when I feel in tune with a bike, and really mash on the pedals and open it up when pointed downhill." Formerly a mechanical engineer and Pro downhill racer, Brandon brings a unique perspective to the testing game as Vital MTB's resident product guy. He has on-trail familiarity with nearly every innovation in our sport from the past several years and a really good feel for what’s what.
Steve Wentz - Age: 35 // Years Riding: 23 // Height: 5'8" (1.73m) // Weight: 174-pounds (78.9kg)
"Despite what it looks like, I'm really precise and calculated, which I'm trying to get away from. I'm trying to drop my heels more and just let it go." Steve is able to set up a bike close to perfectly within minutes, ride at close to 100% on new trails and replicate what he did that first time over and over. He's been racing Pro DH for 15+ years including World Cups, routinely tests out prototype products, and can squish a bike harder than anyone else we know. Today he builds some of the best trails in the world.
Courtney Steen - Age: 32 // Years Riding: 12 // Height: 5'7" (1.70m) // Weight: 150-pounds (68.0kg)
"Going downhill puts a smile on my face and I climb for beer." Courtney routinely shocks the boys with her speed and has experience in various disciplines. A silent force behind the scenes for Vital MTB, she's posted up in Durango, Colorado and has ridden dozens of women's bikes. Her technical background helps her think critically about products and how they can be improved.
Which type of bike should we test next? Are there any models that really interest you? What test location would be best? Leave your suggestions in the comments. We look forward to your feedback.
Video by Shawn Spomer, Brandon Turman, and John Reynolds