Best For: Racers without sponsors.
The Test: The hardtail K9 delivers the same speed and agility of big-brand cross-country race bikes for decidedly less cash. Jackal, a tiny company out of Santa Fe, does it by sourcing its carbon frames straight from Asia and keeping overhead low with Web-only sales and made-to-spec bikes. Even with the value build, which included an all-business SRAM X9 drivetrain, a hardworking Fox Float 29 fork, and Stan’s feathery but robust new Arch EX wheelset, our K9 weighed a svelte 22.5 pounds. That made for explosive climbing and giant slalom-like carving power on buffed-out trail, though the build quality (loose bottom bracket, badly adjusted shifting) tripped us up a bit.
The Verdict: A true speed machine. 22.5 lbs