Vital's Favorite Mountain Bikes Headed into 2022 14

Nearly 40 mountain bikes tested this year, but these make the cut as our faves.

Another year, another pile of mountain bikes tested! What’s up Vital MTBers, we’re going to walk you through our favorite mountain bikes as we head into 2022. This year Vital staff and contributors tested nearly 40 different mountain bikes, not including e-bikes, and while every bike and rider has a character of their own, our top mountain bike selections include something for everyone. The idea of picking a single, standout bike of the year, or even trail or enduro bike of the year, seems pretty ludicrous anymore because there are so many variables that could impact how a bike performs for a specific rider in specific terrain. Links to all the full reviews are below, so you can do more research to decide which bike might be best for you. Keep in mind that pricing and availability on all of these bikes could change in the blink of an eye.

Watch Vital testers put these bikes through the paces and have fun doing it.


Orbea Rallon

The Orbea Rallon in mixed wheel format tops our charts this year. During our six-bike enduro test sessions, all four of our test pilots said that the Rallon was their favorite bike out of the bunch. Now, it’s not to say the other bikes in our test didn’t have their merits, but a consensus among a diverse crew like this is unheard of, especially considering the caliber of the competing bikes. The carbon 160mm/170mm-travel bike has internal frame storage and built-in tools. It graciously handled steeps, chunk and flow, but its ability to comfortably tackle all-day excursions in addition to that fantastic descending performance, make the Rallon a star. While the Rallon offerings aren’t cheap, you can use Orbea’s My0 customization interface and hand-pick parts to build and incredible bike for a competitive price.

Complete Orbea Rallon bike review

Privateer 141

Despite our decision to use a somewhat sketchy 4th-party shipper, the aluminum Privateer 141 frame landed in our hands as a custom-build project and we couldn’t wait to see how this stout trail bike performed. Short version? The direct-to-consumer 141mm-travel 29er was a ripper, has a great price point and is a bike we would whole-heartedly recommend to riders looking for a mid-travel bike that’s ready for plenty of miles. It’s price is hard to beat, too. This no-frills trail bike won’t be the lightest out there with a 9-pound frame weight, but it hides the heft well as it motors up the climbs and is a confident, nimble descender. Even though we went with the $1,759 frame-only and a custom build, the complete bike offerings from Privateer feature the right parts in the right places for those with a budget in the mid-$4,000 range.

Complete Privateer 141 bike review

Polygon Siskiu T8

Let’s flip the budget upside down. At $2,499, the Polygon Siskiu T8 is a well-spec’d full-suspension bike for both experienced or beginner riders looking to rally the trails and bike parks. During our $2,500 mountain bike test session, the Siskiu was a standout thanks to its FOX suspension, Shimano SLX/Deore drivetrain components and modern geometry. It smoked the other bikes in our test based on spec alone and backed it up on with solid performance on the trail. The stock 2.6-inch wide tires weren’t a favorite of our testers, but for daily driving on local rides and weekend get-aways to bigger terrain, the price point is bang on, the bike looks great and the Polygon Sisku T8 handily survived the ludicrous destruction attempts of our tester Trixie.

Complete Polygon Siskiu T8 bike review

Canfield Tilt

With a thoughtful build kit, durable construction, easily serviceable and well-performing CBF suspension design, the aluminum 138mm-travel Canfield Tilt was a standout 29er trail bike for our testers this year. At $4,899, our Tilt used a Cane Creek Helm fork and Cane Creek Kitsuma shock and thoughtful, neutral trail geometry highlighted by a 65-degree head angle and 450mm reach on a size medium. Limited to only a SRAM GX drivetrain for build kits (which does not bum us out), riders can choose wheels and suspension components to customize their rides. As one of our testers put it, Canfield nailed it with a nice blend of workhorse and smattering of racehorse.

Complete Canfield Tilt bike review

Niner Jet 9 RDO

Let’s reduce the travel a bit, go carbon and roll into another highlight of our bike review queue. Niner’s Jet 9 RDO should not have surprised us, but it did. The 120mm of rear travel Jet 9 RDO uses a 130mm fork and dual 29-inch wheels. Our $6,200 size large test bike weighed in at 30 pounds flat and other build prices start around $4,200. Niner frames feature a lifetime warranty and use Enduro Black Oxide Pivot bearings. On the trail, the CVA suspension and modern geometry helped the Jet 9 RDO feel planted, balanced and predictable. So at-home on the Jet 9 RDO, we used the bike for two different wheelset tests and a tire test.

Complete Niner Jet 9 RDO bike review

Santa Cruz Bronson

Fully committed to the mixed wheel size, the newest Santa Cruz Bronson may be one of the most fun VPP bikes we’ve ridden…the bike just does it all. Ups, downs, flow, chunk - the 150mm/160mm travel, full carbon whip is laced with a modern, but nimble geometry, not too long, not too short, 64.5-degree head angle in the low setting, free lifetime bearing replacement and a lifetime warranty. Alloy purists will have to look elsewhere for now as the bike is only available in carbon. While we were graced with the high-end AXS X01 Reserve model at nearly $10,000, If we were to walk into a bike shop and plunk down our own money, it would undoubtedly be for the Bronson S at $5,949 which retains the lifetime warranty and bearing replacement, local dealer support, SRAM’s proven GX Eagle drivetrain and FOX's 36 Performance fork which can be upgraded with a Grip2 damper later down the line.

Complete Santa Cruz Bronson bike review

Specialized Stumpjumper EVO Alloy

When Specialized introduced the revised Stumpjumper EVO in carbon a year ago, it ticked nearly all of the boxes for a do-it-all long-travel trail bike. The only thing missing was a metal version in the lineup. A year later, the Stumpjumper EVO Elite Alloy found its way to our Arizona tester for some smashing and despite the large stature of our 6’4”, 215-pound pilot the EVO held its own. Modern, highly adjustable geometry (that includes an angle adjust headset) and SWAT frame storage are highlights of the frame design. FOX Factory suspension and a SRAM GX drivetrain kept the 150/160mm travel bike moving through rough terrain quite happily. In the harshest of sharp, desert environments, the supplied Grid Trail casing tires saw some carnage with our big tester, and we had to beef up to Gravity casing, but the overall impression of the new alloy Stumpjumper EVO is filled with praise and noteworthy performance on the trail.

Complete Specialized Stumpjumper EVO Alloy bike review

Canyon Stoic 4

Even hardtails get love on Vital and Canyon’s Stoic 4 is a trail-ready machine that we really loved. At just $1,999 the Stoic matches the same in-house durability certification as Canyon’s enduro bikes. It’s robust with sensible, but aggressive geometry and a great, 140mm RockShox Pike Select fork up front. We appreciated the 175mm dropper seat post on our size medium and the SRAM Guide T brakes were powerful with a 200mm front rotor. The SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain has big range and actually survived our nearly year-long test. If you’re a trail rider looking to expand your quiver or someone looking to upgrade an older hardtail and ride more seriously, this Stoic 4 should be at the top of your list.

Complete Canyon Stoic 4 bike review

Alchemy Arktos 150

Slammed in the steeps of Squamish, British Columbia, we tested the updated full carbon Alchemy Arktos 150 and came away stoked. Compared to the previous Arktos we rode a few years ago, the 150mm-travel Sine suspension platform has been nicely refined, and the geometry has been modernized as Alchemy made all the right tweaks to this trail ripper. This new Arktos will appeal to a far more diverse group of riders than the previous version serving as a long-travel trail bike for those looking for a little more squish, or the enduro racer who favors a sporty, precise ride. Our test bike with FOX Factory suspension and SRAM X01 drivetrain came in at $7,399 with sizes medium, large and XL available.

Complete Alchemy Arktos 150 bike review

YT Jeffsy Core 3 29er

If you can get your mitts on one, the YT Jeffsy Core 3 is a big-hitting trail 29er with a value that’s hard to beat. Passing along $4,199 to the direct-to-consumer brand will get you a carbon frame, SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain and FOX performance suspension. Adjustable geometry has the Jeffsy head angle sitting at 66 degrees in the low setting with a 470mm reach on our size Large test bike. The Jeffsy rode like a brawler with more travel and slacker angles than what’s reported on paper with its ability to cover miles, blast the booters and brap the berms. Aside from some lackluster, easily peeling frame protection, there’s wasn’t much to complain about…but we were lucky enough to have a few months on a bike that seems like vaporware these days.

Complete YT Jeffsy Core 3 bike review

Nukeproof Giga 275

Long-travel 27.5 bikes ain’t dead and Nukeproof keeps the dream alive with their incredibly fun and surprisingly efficient Giga 275. With 180mm of travel front and rear and a 63.5-degree head angle, you can creep up on downhill bike territory with a bike that also goes up the mountain and can carry a bottle. At $5,499, our 33 and a half pound test bike had FOX Factory suspension and Shimano XT drivetrain mated to its full carbon frame. This linkage-driven single pivot is unlikely to let you down if you find delight in scrubs, schralps and whips, but also appreciate the ability to go very fast when the situation calls for it.

Complete Nukeproof Giga 275 bike review

Pivot Mach 6

Vital’s reviewer, who is usually a full-time 29er rider, says the 27.5-inch-wheeled Pivot Mach 6 will have wagon wheelers shaking in their boots. Using a Phoenix-inspired DW link suspension platform with a FOX DHX2 coil shock, our size small Mach 6 weighed in at 30 pounds 10 ounces in its $8,849 Shimano XTR and carbon-wheeled trim. With 158mm of buttery rear travel and 160mm up front, there is adjustable geometry, too. When in the high setting, climbing technical terrain was a highlight aboard the Mach 6, especially knowing the bike is not shy about holding a line in unpredictably loose, steep, and challenging terrain on the way down. Features like full-length foam padding for internal cable routing and mounts for Pivot’s Tool Dock system under the downtube are just icing on the cake. There are a whopping 20 different build offerings of the Mach 6 starting at $5,899.

Complete Pivot Mach 6 bike review

Trek Session DH

At Vital, we will never forget downhill bikes and we put five of them through a summer of torture testing. While every bike in our test had their strengths, our former World Cup DH-racing testers both agreed that the high-pivot Trek Session 8 would be their bike of choice out of the group. At $4,999 our Session wasn’t the cheapest in the test, but in the mixed wheel format, it was ready to hit serious race weekends or mob the bike park with parts that were solid out of the box, race-proven geometry and suspension that flattened the trail. When asked if they’d look at the more expensive Session 9, both testers said no. Get the 8, rally it like Vali and upgrade parts at you go.

Complete Trek Session 8 bike review

Thanks for tuning in. We know that bikes aren’t cheap and it’s easy to want the latest and greatest, but from everyone at Vital, we hope that the ride, not the bike, is why you’re out having fun on two wheels. We’ll see you on the trails!


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