Bike Testing 2012: MTB highlights

Beat up. That's how I feel after the mountain bike phase of our 2012 bike tests. Here are the numbers: 76.5 miles of singletrack over 14 laps, 15 hours of ride time, 18 testers, 28 bikes, and 27 tubes. The latter is frustrating: Though every single tester rides tubeless on their personal bikes, we continue to have to review bikes with tubes because the manufacturers ship them that way. And it's not just the time lost changing flats and patching that kills me. Tubes mean higher air pressures, which in turn makes for rougher riding and, inevitably, a tougher job perceiving how well a bike can ride.

Tubes aside, bikes are definitely riding well these days. Readers often ask me what's the best bike out there, and the truth is that—as suspension designs continue to improve, parts get both lighter and tougher, and innovation from other markets seep into cycling (for instance Fox's new Kashima coating on their forks and shocks borrowed from the motorcycle world)—there are very few bikes on the market that I wouldn't recommend. Testing is increasingly a job of choosing the right tool for the terrain, making sure a bike is set up properly, and then discerning the nuances.

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