Trail steeds get lighter but punch above their weight.

bikes
(Courtesy Evil)

Evil The Following MB ($6,900 as tested)

Pretty much every mountain bike we tested this year was tight and close to the ground for better descending, had wide bars and a short stem for improved handling, and came with big, tough rubber for added traction. The plus-size craze spurred many of these improvements, but performance has improved without weight gain for a ride that’s more versatile and forgiving than ever. That’s certainly the case with Evil’s The Following MB, though this 120-millimeter 29er managed to get “more betterer” (in the company’s parlance) without increasing travel. Instead, Evil added boost spacing and room for a piggyback shock—the RockShox Super Deluxe RCT DebonAir—while trimming carbon from the rear triangle, changes that allow the proprietary suspension to deliver an open, supported feel in a lighter, stiffer bike. The shortish-travel rear end and 130-millimeter Pike fork suggest a middle-of-the-road trail machine, but the bike shreds like a baby downhiller, minus the weight. (It comes in at just 29 pounds.) Part of the trick is in the awesome eThirteen wheels—the wide carbon rims spread chunky, soft rubber for plenty of grip. There’s a gorgeous sculpted chain guide, so the 1x12 XO1 Eagle drivetrain never fails, and integrated rubber on the down tube and chain­stays protect the carbon build over nasty terrain. In a market flooded with specialization, the Following MB does it all.

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bikes
(Courtesy Juliana)

Juliana Strega ($8,400)

Best for women

Every woman who tried it raved about the Strega, with 170 millimeters of travel front and rear. This carbon 27.5er is a slack (65 degrees), burly (28.5 pounds) enduro ride built to subdue sketchy, high-speed descents and monster drops. It’s the cousin of sibling com­pany Santa Cruz’s Nomad, though Juliana substituted narrower bars and a wider saddle. More impor­tant, the Strega’s shocks are tuned specifically for female riders, which isn’t just empty marketing—the male testers who rode the bike definitely felt like they wanted more travel in the suspension. The model we tried included Santa Cruz’s Reserve carbon wheels, which shrugged off nasty rock hits but delivered a soft ride. A few women said the Strega was a little sluggish on climbs, but point it downhill and guys and gals alike were panting to keep pace.

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bikes
(Courtesy Scott)

Scott Genius 900 Tuned ($7,500)

Best for all-mountain riding 

With 2.6-inch tires, the Genius 900 bridges the gap between standard and plus size, providing the stability and trail-taming traction of oversize rubber in a shockingly light, 26.9-pound all-mountain package. This version is a complete overhaul, with the single-pivot design giving way to a four-bar linkage for a much more pliable, forgiving feel. The big hoops combined with 150 millimeters of travel, courtesy of a Kashima-coated Fox Nude Evol shock and 36 Float Factory fork, made for a machine with zero limitations on the steeps and rocks around Tucson, Arizona. A few testers were ambivalent about the integrated carbon bar and stem, because of fit limita­tions, as well as the remote lock­out on the bars, which could be confused with the dropper-post control. But the confident handling and aggressive stance won them over.

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bikes
(Courtesy Diamondback)

Diamondback Release 5C Carbon ($4,800)

Best for those on a budget

Thanks to the Release, you no longer have to drain your retirement fund to get a great all-mountain bike. This mid-travel carbon 27.5er has all the most important trimmings, including a SRAM XO1 Eagle 12-speed drivetrain and top-shelf Fox Float DPX2 piggy­back shock and 36 Factory fork, but it saves on cost with Race Face Aeffect alloy bars and Arc 30 alloy wheels. With a slack 66-degree head-tube angle, wide 780-millimeter bars, and 150 millimeters of travel up front, this bike took on some of the rowdiest trails, and we felt laugh-out-loud stable even on big drops and in ugly scree fields. One niggle: we experienced some lifting while climbing technical trails. But really, it’s tough to find fault with a bike this good that costs half as much as the competition.

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buyer's guide
(Courtesy Specialized)

Specialized S-Works Epic ($9,500)

Best for cross-country racers 

With cross-country whips headed for obsolescence, Specialized made its venerable race bike relevant again with features like a wider head angle (69.5 degrees), a tighter rear end (435 millimeters), and a shorter stem (75 millimeters for a size medium). Thanks to its new location at the rear hub, the Brain—which automatically turns the suspension on and off, depending on the terrain you’re riding—feels quicker and more supple than before. Likewise, the revamped Roval Control SL wheels are lighter and stiffer even than many road hoops. The Epic is crazy light at 21.4 pounds, so pedaling and climbing felt like a revelation. Yet it still felt surprisingly composed when we threw the bike down brutal, steep trails. Now even the fit­ness crowd can get in on the fun of real riding, and there are women’s fit options to boot.

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Fitness

The Best Road Bikes of 2018

A drop in price, but you still drop the pack. (Courtesy Canyon) Canyon Ultimate CF SL Disc 8.0 ($2,800 as tested) Improvements in road bikes can seem incremental, but most of the 2018 models are profoundly different from what was on the market just five years ago. The all-road craze, with frames that have clearance for fatter tires, has influenced almost every pavement machine: Larger 28c has replaced 23c as the norm. Geometries are becoming slacker and taller as manufacturers craft bikes to fit average riders, not just racers. Disc brakes have made rim models nearly obsolete. Best of

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Fitness

The Best Bike Jerseys of 2018

Performance tops with tons of character. (Courtesy Pearl Izumi) Pearl Izumi Versa ($70) We love the Versa’s casual polo style and contrasting front pocket. So much so that we wear it not only when we ride, but also to the beach, on the boat, and to the bar on warm evenings. The lightweight polyester is buttery against your skin and wicks away moisture. It also tends to absorb odors, so we suggest keeping it to a single wear between washes. Buy Now (Courtesy Café du Cycliste) Café du Cycliste Zahira Diamant ($163) This bold jersey drew us in immediately.

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Fitness

The Best Bike Shorts of 2018

Nothing makes a ride like a sweet pair of shorts. (Courtesy POC) POC Raceday Enduro Shorts ($130) These are meant for going fast downhill, but the Raceday has become our go-to on big-mountain outings. The massive side-zip front pocket is a handy place to stash a phone, bar, and tool, and the stitched-in elastic-Velcro belt makes fit a cinch. Over-the-knee scalloped tailoring adds a touch more protection. Buy Now (Courtesy Gore) Gore C7 Pro 2in1 Bib Shorts ($200) The C7 Pro’s materials and economy of fit won us over. The design is genius, combining well-made bibs with built-in baggies

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Fitness

The Best Bike Accessories of 2018

Elevate your saddle time. (Courtesy Wolf Tooth) Wolf Tooth Pack Pliers ($30) Fixing a busted chain with your bare hands is a nonstarter. These pliers open and close the master link, store a handful of replacement links, and have a tire lever and valve-core remover built in. Buy Now (Courtesy Lizard Skins) Lizard Skins DSP 3.2 mm Bar Tape ($46) A must for anyone prone to numb hands, this tape is cushy, stays tacky when wet, and comes in a variety of colors. Buy Now (Courtesy Silca) Silca T-Ratchet and Ti-Torque Kit ($99) You have to carry a tool,

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