We prowled the floor of Interbike, the largest cycling trade show in the U.S., last week in search of the coolest mountain bikes for next season. Here are our top five picks. Watch: How we found the winners at our 2015 bike test.
Devinci Spartan Carbon SX
If there were a lot of new fat bikes and adventure road bikes at Interbike, there were nearly as many new 27.5-inch enduro bikes. The Spartan Carbon SX is a very close iteration of its aluminum predecessor, which was launched earlier this year, but it sheds nearly two pounds in frame weight. It looks a lot like last year’s popular 140mm Troy, but whereas that bike was relatively dainty and built for pedaling, the Spartan is slack (65.8 degrees at the head tube), low (337mm BB height), and clearly built for descending.
The carbon bike will come in four models ranging from $4,300 to $7,500, but we like the look of the second-tier SX most, with a Rockshox Pike fork, SRAM X1 drivetrain and new Guide brakes, and standard dropper post for $6,300. As with all Devinci’s, the Spartan comes with a liftetime warranty.
We’re thrilled to see another mid-fat offering, especially one as progressive as the Jones 29+. Jeff Jones, of Jones bicycles was espousing the suspension, traction, and handling benefits of oversize tires long before fat bikes became popular. Now that manufacturing has caught up with his concepts, he has updated his Titanium Spaceframe with new geometry to accommodate 29-inch wheels and three-inch Surly Knard tires.
The result should add even more grip and comfort to a design that is surprisingly quick and deft, even in technical terrain. The new 29+ bike features a butted steel frame for compliance and retains Jones’ distinctive truss-fork design, which adds cushion without sacrificing steering accuracy. It may be unorthodox, but based on our previous experience, it works.
Lapierre Zesty Trail 829
Last year, the French manufacturer unveiled its E:I electronically controlled suspension, designed in collaboration with Rockshox. For 2015, it has polished the system considerably, including a trimmer, stem-mounted control deck that does away with the bulky head unit that was vulnerable in crashes, a simpler, push-button interface, and a new svelte battery design that frees up the frame for a water-bottle cage. The new electronics will feature across the line, including on this five-inch (120mm) trail bike, just one of two models in the entire line that retain its 29-inch wheels.
Haters will inevitably complain about the added complication of an electronic suspension system, but based on our experience with E:I last year, it’s one of the most efficient setups we’ve found for both climbing and descending without having to worry over constantly turning on and off the shocks. The top three Zesty Trail bikes (829, 529, and 429) will come with E:I, while the base level 329 ships with standard fork and shock.
Niner Jet9 RDO
Our only niggle with past versions of the Jet9 was its weight. For this latest iteration of its 29er race bike (as well as all of its Race Day Optimized frames), Niner has switched to a new carbon manufacturing process that eliminates excess material and trims the mass considerably.
The fully blinged-out race spec, featuring SRAM XX1 and Stan’s Valor carbon wheels, tips the scales at just 22.5 pounds, which is competitive with all comparable bikes out there. What we like about it most, though, is the beautiful, inverted Rockshox RS-1 fork: Not only is it light and incredibly stiff and smooth, from an aesthetics standpoint the fork looks like it was built for this bike. The Jet9 RDO once again gets our vote for sexiest new bike around.
Pivot Phoenix DH Carbon
We don’t always get excited about downhill bikes, but we couldn’t help but marvel at Pivot’s new DH sled, which packs eight inches of travel, including a dual-crown fork, into a package barely over 30 pounds. That’s less than many mid-range trail bikes with half the travel. Much of the weight savings comes from Pivot’s proprietary carbon molding process, which also allows for beautiful finishes, including the full-length internal cable routings and refined housing ports, even for a dropper post, as well as well-conceived rubberized bumpers to prevent fork strike on the frame.
The 27.5-inch wheels combined with the DW Link suspension design allows for an incredibly slack geometry, with a 62.5-degree head tube angle and a super low bottom bracket for stability.