Ibis Ripmo ($8,200)
This is the year of the long-travel 29er. While big wheels have long dominated the XC and trail categories (the 29er was the top-selling bike last year), they’ve had a harder time catching on with downhillers, because of the added weight and the challenge of building a frame that doesn’t feel bulky. Brands nailed the equation this year with tighter geometries and lighter components. In our test, it was mostly long-travel 29ers that took the honors.
Case in point: the Ibis Ripmo, a carbon all-mountain 29er with 145 millimeters of rear travel and a stout 160-millimeter Fox 36 fork. Despite its aggressive stance and slack front end, this is a dumbfoundingly quick and agile ride. It’s also reasonably light at 28.6 pounds. The super-steep seat angle made techy uphills a cinch, as did the soft tune on the DW-Link suspension. On downhills the grip got even better, courtesy of Ibis’s wide 942 carbon rims and the meaty Maxxis tire combination—a 2.5-inch Minion DHF and a 2.5-inch Aggressor. The low-slung seat tube allows for the longest-possible dropper post, letting us bring our center of gravity down for better maneuverability. We threw ourselves at the steepest rock- and ledge-littered trails and were amazed at how nonchalant the Ripmo felt. “Like pedaling a cloud,” one tester commented. It’s tempting to label the Ripmo a trail ride and an enduro sled wrapped in one, but to us it’s simply the all-around mountain bike we always wanted.
Juliana Furtado ($8,000)
Best for Women
The sister bike to the Santa Cruz 5010, the Furtado is a carbon trail steed with milder suspension and contact points tweaked for women (think shaped saddle and narrower 760-millimeter bars). Time and again, testers said the bike felt supple and easy to maneuver. The Furtado has an easygoing 66.5-degree head angle, 130 millimeters of travel front and rear, and 27.5-inch hoops. (Smaller wheels still seem to be the norm on women’s models, though half our riders said they’d prefer this bike with 29s.) The Juliana felt especially springy. Reserve carbon wheels add stiffness for steering confidence and help spread the 2.3-inch Maxxis Minion tires for grab. It’s a well-mannered bike that, at 27.6 pounds, is light enough to ride all day. We weren’t crazy about the color, though.
Scott Ransom 900 Tuned ($7,500)
Smaller wheels (27.5 and even 26 inches) have long ruled among enduro racers, who run timed segments down breakneck descents. But the carbon Scott Ransom 900 and bikes like it are changing that. It’s as light as a trail machine, at 29.2 pounds, but nearly as slack (64.5 degrees) and long (170 millimeters) as a full-on downhiller. Thanks to Scott’s TwinLoc, which has one lever to set front and rear shock volume and sag (choose from three modes: Lockout, Traction Control, and Descend), the bike climbs astonishingly well for such an aggressive machine. Still, when you point this rig down, the easygoing angles and beefy 2.6-inch Maxxis Minion tires gobble up drops and jumps. And yes, the 29-inch Ransom was verifiably faster and easier to handle than similarly appointed 27.5s in the test.
Lenz Behemoth 29+ ($8,300)
Best All Mountain
This Colorado-based brand has accomplished what no company before it was able to do: pack 29-plus wheels into a lightweight (28.2 pounds), quick-handling, full-suspension package. The trick is the geometry, with road-bike-short 424-millimeter chainstays, a moderate 68-degree head angle, and a short reach for XC-whip-level handling. The Behemoth’s light weight is even more impressive given that the frame is alloy. Yet the combination of big hoops and mid-travel suspension (140-millimeter fork, 125-millimeter frame) makes for incredible rollover on loose rock and second-to-none climbing on step-ups. The whole package made for a squishy, forgiving all-mountain crusher. But unlike many 29-plus models, which plow over obstacles, the Behemoth glances over them like a rock skipping on water.
Specialized Stumpjumper ST Expert 29 ($5,000)
Best Trail Bike
In its standard configuration, the Stumpjumper is an all-mountain ride that keeps up with the Ibis Ripmo. But it’s the short-travel (ST) model that won our hearts, with its nimbler handling and lighter weight (26 pounds). A progressive shock tune ramps up at the end of the travel, and there’s a stout RockShox Pike fork—both help the bike feels more capable than its midsize measurements suggest (130 millimeters up front, 120 in the rear). For most riding in most places, this size is the optimal blend of proficiency on technical terrain and pedaling ease. Specialized equipped it perfectly, with a full-length (160 millimeters) house-brand Command Post that makes it trivial to find the right height, wide 780-millimeter bars for control, and broad Roval Traverse carbon rims to spread the 2.3-inch tires.