From a world championship–winning race bike to a revolutionary all-mountain bomber, dozens of bikes took our abuse for months on trails all over the Southwest. Our verdict: Suspension technology is doing things we couldn't have imagined five years ago, and carbon fiber is changing our expectations of what bikes should weigh and how they should feel. The Yeti ASR Carbon exemplifies all of this, but we gave it Gear of the Year because, though it's not cheap, you'd have to spend a lot more to find its equal.
Yeti Cycles ASR Carbon
1. When we tested our first Yeti ASR in 2000, we knew we'd found something special. At the time, this small Colorado builder's top mountain bike was the most versatile we'd ever ridden, capable of everything from short cross-country races to meandering days in the mountains. And though this full-carbon iteration screams "race me," it's comfy enough for long days in the saddle.
2. Integrated seat masts (no seatpost; the seat tube extends all the way to the saddle) first appeared on Tour de France race bikes about five years ago. Here, the weight and stiffness benefits are irrefutable—you feel more connected to the bike, for better comfort, handling, and power transfer. The only downside: The seat tube has to be cut to fit each rider, which limits resale potential.
3. Its pedaling responsiveness and acceleration were off the charts. But unlike most twitchy race-specific frames, the 3.9-inch-travel ASR was also balanced and supple enough for the more technical trails usually reserved for longer-travel trail bikes. "It's light enough to throw around obstacles when you need to," said one tester. "But the wheels stay on the ground while you're hammering."