Your guide to 2014 mountain bikes
If you are looking for a new mountain bike for 2014, you have just one problem which great bike is for you.
Based on the new models and innovations shown off at Outerbike, the industry's big showcase in the desert outside of Moab, mountain bikers have more choices than ever when deciding on a quality ride.
The old standard 26-inch wheels still are around, but more companies are diving into the world of 29ers and the in-between size of 27.5-inch wheels.
After trying a variety of models, here are a few of the highlights.
The best all-around, do-it-all trail bike
Looking for a bike that can do it all? Check out the Kona 111 DL, the Specialized Camber and the Cannondale Trigger. The winner of the three was the Trigger. The Kona was nice and very forgiving, while the Camber is a typical solid build from Specialized.
But the Trigger had the great option of a switch that allows the rider to switch between 80 and 130 mm of travel.
The switch, plus a shorter stem, makes the bike a better climber than one would think with a setup weighing about 30 pounds.
While I still wouldn't want to be on this rig for six hours due to the weight, it is a great option for someone looking for a responsive ride that can handle the pounding of Moab and the climbing of Utah's mountains.
A runner-up would be the humble Diamondback. The 29er retails for around $5,600. Stiffer than the Trigger or Kona, it is a nice choice for those who do more mountain riding than hopping over rocks or ledges in the desert.
If desert is more your liking, check out the Kona. Good and responsive, it will make you smile rather than cringe when you hit rocky ledges and dropoffs.
Best bike for long hours in the saddle
Turner Czar This 29er was very quick and cornered well but also excelled on the bumps, ledges and drops on the Moab test course, making it the favorite for those looking for a long-distance/race option.
The DW-link suspension kept the rear wheel hooked to the ground on steep, loose climbs, making it as strong a climber as it was a descender.
It is promoted as a cross country race bike, but the way it handles and the suspension make it just as fierce a tool for endurance riders or anyone who wants to spend long hours in the saddle.
Best of the 29ers cross-country
The popularity of 29ers continues to increase with good reason as more and more companies are developing bikes that won't cost a fortune but will make you a better, smoother rider.
After checking out several, the Scott Genius was the favorite.
At 25 pounds, the bike is light enough to be very responsive with excellent steering. It also features a RockShox Reverb seat dropper that allows for several adjustments on the trail.
Another to consider would be the Santa Cruz Tallboy, a staple in the elite group of 29ers. Its stiffness won't make all riders happy, but many endurance racers prefer the feel.
Niner, the "true" company of 29ers by many standards, also is in the running with its Rip 9. This bike, which retails for about $4,800, is stiffer than previous versions, making it a better climber. However, travel has been increased to 125 mm in the rear and comes with options of 120mm and 140mm up front so it can handle plenty of bumps too.
One thing we weren't high on was all the external cable routing, but it's still a great option.
The Specialized Enduro has been around for many years and it will remain in the forefront for those who want to test their mettle on the downhills but still have a bike they can ride, not push to the top.
Available in 26- and 29-inch wheels, the Enduro S-Works carbon retails for about $9,000, but it is available in other versions too that drop the price down to about $6,000 and $3,500.
The 29-er has a nice, tight wheelbase so it handles well, while the 165mm of travel makes it fearless on the downs. A dropper post allows you to find the perfect height, not that you'll be sitting for long hours on this bike.
For women only
Santa Cruz has added to the variety of "Juliana," bikes, a line designed for women. The frames are all true Santa Cruz, but the rest of the bikes have been designed with shorter stems, smaller handlebars, compact grip system, etc., to better fit women's smaller frames.
The most interesting ride was the Juno, a 27.5-inch wheel based ride that is sure to be popular for women who want more than a 26-inch bike but are too small for a 29.
This is a great compromise. The bike handles well, takes the rocks and ledges of Moab like a typical high-end Santa Cruz but has a smaller cockpit for women.
At a reasonable $2,500, this bike is sure to be a hot seller.
A bike for the indecisive
Can't decide between going to a full suspension rig or 29er? The Pivot LES 27.5 hardtail is a good choice that puts you safely in between the two. The carbon frame, which retails for about $2,000, can build out at just 21 pounds, making it a super light ride. A short chainstay and Pivot's great suspension and design make for a smoother ride than most hardtails but keep the bike lively.
Hardtails continue to disappear as the popularity of full suspension grows, but this bike will be around for a long time.
Time for a yard sale or donate plasma
The Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper, an all-carbon bike, tricked out with top of the line components, RockShox SID 20 Bran fork and light-weight wheels, is like a racehorse aching to get out of the gate. This is a bike that you can't "just ride." It wants to go fast and so will you.
Unfortunately the gigglefest does come at a price. Retailing for about $9,800, it isn't a purchase for the average biker. But then if ever there is a reason to clean out the garage, sell off the kids or donate plasma to find extra funds, this bike is it.
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