The Best Mountain Bikes of 2022
Rigs to put a smile on anyone’s face
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It gets harder every year to pick our favorite mountain bikes, but there are always a few standouts that somehow manage to elevate their respective categories. Through a mix of refinement and reinvention, these four bikes foreshadow the next phase of the sport’s evolution. Some offer more efficiency, others offer more speed, and a few even offer more value than anything on this year’s already impressive list of options. What a time to be alive.
Specialized S-Works Turbo Kenevo SL ($15,000)
Say what you will about Specialized and its $15,000 e-bikes, but damned if the brand doesn’t make a good $15,000 e-bike. The Kenevo SL provides just enough assist with its 240-watt, 35-newton-meter SL motor. It’s not the sort of e-bike we could soft-pedal up every widowmaker climb, but this 42-pound welterweight monster with 170 millimeters of travel (front and back) is remarkably capable and handles much like a traditional bike. The motor’s main benefit is getting us to more downhill, though it makes technical climbs and descents a lot more fun too. That’s because the extra sprung weight makes a steady bike even steadier, without feeling like the juggernaut that so many full-powered e-bikes are. (Still, the lower-link Enduro suspension system is plenty supportive, even with a motor and battery to carry.) Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come.
Cannondale Jekyll 1 ($6,100)
We rode no fewer than six high-pivot bikes in the past year. Each of them was good in its own way, but the Cannondale Jekyll was good in the most ways. While some bikes in this subcategory were sluggish on the climbs, the Jekyll was smooth and efficient. That feel, paired with the high-pivot platform’s natural ability to track the ground and maintain momentum, makes the Jekyll a bike we could actually live with long-term as an everyday ride. Point it downhill, and it’s every bit as bloodthirsty as we’ve come to expect a high-pivot bike to be. But, critically, it never felt like it was riding us, as may similar rigs can. Cannondale’s designers also designed each size frame separately, making subtle tweaks to each, which meant that testers from five-foot seven to six-foot two all noted the same thing on their rides: this bike rips. And, if all of that isn’t enough, you can also get into the full-carbon Jekyll 2 starting at $4,500.
Canyon Bicycles Spectral 125 CF 9 ($6,299)
Short on travel, big on shred. The Spectral 125 is one of the most capable, short-travel 29ers on the market. With a quick-climbing, ultra-efficient pedaling performance and progressive geometry to boost your confidence on descents and rough terrain. Experience pure trail riding fun!
Orbea Rallon M-Team ($7,999)
Maybe the high-pivot revolution isn’t your scene. Thankfully, not all top-end enduro bikes are going that way. Exhibit A: the Rallon. This rig was still one of the most capable bikes we tested, but somehow the 160-millimeter rear-travel 29er never felt like too much bike. It’s the sort of enduro ride that likes to goof off once in a while, with a supportive suspension and reasonable geometry numbers. And in case you really want to have fun, every Rallon comes with an extra suspension link that allows you to swap in a 29-inch rear wheel. This bike is full of nice little touches like that. Other welcome features: the extra-robust pivot hardware and bearings, hidden tools inside those pivots, and deep customization options, from technical components like wheels and shocks to aesthetic elements including the color of every part of the frame. As a result, the bike takes some time to produce, but we’re all used to that by now.
Ibis Ripley AF Deore ($3,200)
Following up on its successful Ripmo AF (Aluminum Frame), Ibis has given the same slightly-more-aggressive, much-more-affordable treatment to the Ripley. Since the Ripley AF has a slacker head angle and a supportive suspension feel, our testers considered it to be in the same league as the Santa Cruz Tallboy or the Transition Spur. The big difference is that you can get into a Ripley AF for a base cost of $3,200. That relatively reasonable price tag buys you Shimano’s Deore 12-speed drivetrain, two-piston Deore brakes, and a Fox 34 Performance Elite fork, none of which needs an upgrade out of the box. But all of those features are just the icing on the cake. The cake itself is the Ripley’s incredibly dialed DW-link suspension, together with the bike’s supernatural mix of traction and efficiency on the climbs. And thanks to smart specs and geometry, it’s just as otherworldly on the descents.