Cross Country Reviews and News


Best Mountain Bikes Under $2000


What if you’re not a member of the doctor/dentist/hedge fund manager club? Can you still get a decent MTB? The answer is an emphatic, yes, provided you know what to look for.

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Maxxis Ikon review


While not the fastest in this XC tire shootout, the Maxxis Ikon is arguably the best overall tire among the group. Find out why in the Mtbr review.

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  • rob says:

    From my experience, this has to be the hardest tire to mount tubeless out of the box on a narrow rim without a compressor. It did not work with a booster pump.

  • Dave says:

    Interesting. Did you mount this tire on both front and rear? I’ve been riding the Minion DHF on the front and Ardent Race on the rear. How would this tire compare? Thanks!

  • robert brown says:

    Never had an issue sealing an Ikon, Racing Ralph on the other hand is a complete pain

  • Teleken says:

    I’m with Rob a 120 TPI Ikon was a PITA too floppy to pop into the rim (24mm). Even mounted one side with a tube first. I sold it & went back to a Ground Control. MAXXIS should make more offerings in the Ignitor like a 29 x 2.35.

  • JDG says:

    May I ask why you guys didn’t reviewed the Maxxis Aspen? I think the Aspen and Ikon are very close.

  • Todd says:

    The 29X2,35 version is amazing for a HT and as a F&R combo to speed up a trail bike! They are a challenge to get seated tubeless though! I have had very few durability issues with the tire and have been riding and racing on it for years! I have not tried the Aspen but have heard it is not as durable and not as good in the desert conditions we have here in Western Colorado. Thank for the review/shoot-out!

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Vee Crown Gem review


Solid all-around tire with attractive price and impressive puncture resistance, that also rolls fast and grips better than expected.

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  • Timberline says:

    Hopefully Vee Tires has fully addressed the known issue of the Crown Gem ripping cornering knobs off through the casing. This was a common issue with this tire in the past, but Vee says it’s been addressed. I tried a Crown Gem some time ago with the torn knob issue and Vee customer service bent over backward to be helpful in replacing my tire.

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Hutchinson Toro review


Among their versatile tires, the Hutchinson Toro has evenly spaced knobs that deliver neutral handling. Center knobs are shorter for mud clearing, while side knobs are taller for enhanced cornering grip.

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Vittoria Mezcal review


Fast, dry conditions XC racer with low profile, densely spaced knob configuration and a defined center ridge tread for low rolling resistance.

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  • Teleken says:

    The XC tire reviews have been informative & confirm what most already knew- published tire weights are incorrect and the marketing peeps lied again. Tire weights are like snow reports “8” of new snow” = dust on crust.

  • Maciej Pike-Biegunski says:

    Did you try a Dynaplug or Innovations Bacon Strip? Bet either would’ve sealed the tire in a jiff if you hadn’t.

    I run double casing rear tires and pretty burly fronts but still always carry a tire plug with me-it’s saved several rides (and tires) for me or the people I’ve been riding with.

  • David says:

    What tire pressure did you run for all these tire tests? Please share that information as well.
    If you ran all the tires at the same pressure then that would not be a fair comparison.
    I would expect to run lower pressure on all the tires that came in at 2.2x than those that only came in at 2.1x. This improves puncture protection, climbing and overall handling. Things you appeared to ding the Mezcal on, but without even sharing the tire pressures used. When I switched to Mezcals I had to lower the pressure on them due to the larger volume and likely due to the graphene. I am able to hammer any condition on them here in SoCal. I am running 20 in front and 23 rear . I am 170 fully kitted.

  • RobertW says:

    5% off claimed weight and 1.3% off claimed width is pretty much bang on. Put it on a 25mm rim and it would be spot on width.

  • Irishpitbull says:

    Schwalbe( Ron & Ralph) and Maxxis (Ikon) are always at or below claimed weight on my park scale.

  • Ryan S says:

    “Easy to mount and take off” …never heard anyone say this about Mezcals, lol…quite the opposite in fact. Same with “corning grip” being on the “Pro” side of the list …say what? I ride 29×2.25 Mezcals when I can get them on/off, but only on gravel. Those tires suck on the trails, particularly cornering and stopping. They are tough though, I’ll give them that.

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Schwalbe Racing Ralph Addix review


As its name clearly implies, this is an XC racing tire. The tread pattern is familiar in this class of rubber – more tightly spaced center knobs to increase speed, but taller, more widely spaced side lugs for extra bite.

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  • Midgemagnet says:

    “Only two of seven XC tires Mtbr tested for this shootout exceeded manufacturer’s claimed width.”

    Bear in mind that tyre width is a function of inflation pressure and rim width, neither of which are specified in the article. Also tyres will stretch out as they break in with use so they’re at their narrowest when brand new.

    I mostly run Conti tyres on my bikes, but last year thought I’d try a Rocket Ron Snakeskin Addix Speed as a front tyre for Winter Bike. Overall I’m very impressed with it, and the Addix compound is a big improvement over the old Pacestar. One thing I did notice though was that the hardest Addix Speed compound is significantly softer (and by extension grippier and less durable) than Conti’s BlackChili compound, which is fine by me as a softer, grippier compound on the front works very well, and if it wears a bit faster then that’s just the price you pay for better grip with any tyre.

    I bought one of the original Racing Ralphs, many years ago. Back then it had a low profile, rounded tread pattern and rubber so soft I could hear it sucking at the little air pockets when riding over smooth asphalt. It was very fast and insanely grippy, but I tore it to shreds in ten hours of riding. That put me off race-spec Schwalbes until the new Addix compound came along. IMHO they’ve got their compounds just about right now, and it’s nice to have a range of rubber and carcass specs to choose from. If the hardest Speed compound is still relatively soft then I’d love to try out the Ultra Soft compound one day, just for fun.

    • Jason Sumner says:

      Up top it reads, “When mounted on a Stan’s ZTR Crest S1 aluminum wheels, which have a 23mm internal rim width, actual tire width measured by the Park Tools DC-1 Digital Caliper was 2.11 (versus the advertised 2.25).” Also make sure to take a look at the First Look post for this shootout. It has some of the answers you are looking for. Thanks for reading — Jason

      • Midgemagnet says:

        ^ My apologies Jason – I read your article twice looking for a rim width spec and still completely missed it. My bad.

        I did some width-versus-pressure tests on some Conti tyres I’ve got fitted to various bikes and put the results up on the mtbr forum. For the same rim width and tyre pressures there was a big difference between a well-worn 2017 Race King ProTection and a brand new never-before-inflated 2018 Race King ProTection, with the latter being much narrower. That was 2 months (and about 50 hours of riding) ago, and last week out of curiosity I re-measured the 2018 tyre: it has stretched to about the same width as the old, worn 2017 model. Original results can be found at

        forums.mtbr.com/wheels-tires/2018-race-king-cross-king-widths-1077666.html#post13664500

        I’ll update the graphs with the new measurements at some point – it’ll be interesting to see just how much tyres can flump up once they’ve been broken in.

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Kenda Saber Pro review


With its minimalist tread profile and 120 tpi casing, the Kenda Saber Pro is a dedicated XC race tire that is designed for fast, dry singletrack.

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Specialized Fast Trak review


Using finite element analysis, the Specialized Fast Trak tire’s consistent shoulder block layout improves cornering traction.

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  • Pynchonite says:

    Riding the stock Fast Traks that came on my Epic and every time I think about changing out the 2.1″ in the back to something wider, the tire’s grip and comfort surprise me and I decide not to.

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Cross-country mountain bike tire shootout first look


Defining the modern cross-country tire is not easy. They must be fast and light, but also durable and grippy. It’s a lot to ask. See how these seven options measure up.

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  • David says:

    I give the schwalbes 2 rides before they rip a knob and go in the bin.

    • Rob says:

      2? That’s optimistic

    • JC says:

      I’ve raced a full season (13 races) on Schwalbe Rock Razor mounted rear and Nobby Nic mounted up front on i9 hubs laced to Stans Arch Mk3… getting rowdy with a Yeti BigTop HT. Just last week I raced the USA MTB National Championships in Snowshoe, WV and placed 9th in single speed on that very combo… The Snakeskin protection with Addix Speedgrip and Orange Seal inside never failed me once.

      • professed says:

        This is good to hear, perhaps Schwalbe’s new compounds are indeed more durable as its definitely not my experience with them. In respect of weighing each tyre in the shop that’s also my experience with Schwalbe. One tyre might be exceptional, last forever and set up perfectly while the next blows beads, looses knobs etc. I think they have a real quality control issue with their Indonesian factory that they still have not sorted out.

  • adaycj says:

    I’m interested in the reviews too. In the meantime can we donate towards a gift to Schwalbe? They need a new gram scale again. Hutchinson looks like they could use a new ruler too.

  • Dan says:

    mezcal FTW

  • dony says:

    Holy crow 29″ tires weighting a little more and in some cases less than my 26ers.
    No thanks !

    • Mike says:

      Riding hard XC on Rocket Rons 29×2,25 SS – 605-609g each and never failed me even once, whether on roots/rocks, hardpack or mud/sand.

  • bobsyouruncle says:

    looking forward to seeing results on this one.. thanks for the effort mtbr…

  • aa says:

    can you add the maxxis aspen? been curious about this one because it looks so sketchy

  • Midgemagnet says:

    And the winner is… Continental Race King ProTection! Or it would be if it was actually listed. For comparison, the RK ProTection is a bit like a Racing Ralph Addix Speed but with lower rolling resistance and slightly harder, tougher rubber.

    It would be interesting to see what the various widths are after the tyres have been ridden for a bit – it takes a bit more than sitting at 40psi for half an hour before they’re fully stretched out.

    • Jason says:

      I’ve given up on the Continental Race King. Too much sealant seepage on the sidewalls and I’ve had multiple casings wear through where the tire bead makes contact with the side wall.

      • Midgemagnet says:

        ProTection or RaceSport flavour carcass? The latter isn’t specified for tubeless.

        I’ve heard complaints from others in the States about the bead interface wearing out, but this doesn’t seem to be an issue here in Europe. Maybe this is something to do with regional tyre pressure preferences as it seems US riders tend to run them much softer – not something you can get away with for long on a lightweight race tyre.

        • professed says:

          Adding my experience with the Race Kings and yes, definitely has very low rolling resistance – similar to a Racing Ralf – possibly even lower. Speed King are truly and amazingly fast if you dont need any grip ! Using the protection casing seepage in my experience is not an issue but the tyres can be a bastard to set up tubeless. I too have had beads fail on a mountain king and race king so don’t use Continental any more. Just use the speed king on the gravel bike – perfect tyre for that application !

  • eb1888@yahoo.com says:

    30mm inner rims and Bontrager Frank Stacy designed XR2 Team 2.2 or 2.35 are more rounded and higher volume for more cushion, bigger footprint and good traction at lower pressure. Not so retro as these on 23mm rims.

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Canyon Lux XC bike gets fully updated


Dedicated 29er race machine has sub-2000g frame and shock with space for two large bottles.

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  • bobsyouruncle says:

    I had the cash saved up to buy this bike. But alas, 1x only. Fail. Will be looking elsewhere. Note to Canyon, while your pro riders can ‘deal with’ a 1x because of their innate talent, and access to a team mechanic to swap out the front chainring on a course by course basis. Us mere mortals don’t want the hassle of having to ‘guess’ which chainring to bring/install on a course by course basis. Also, those of us who do the Cascade Creampuff, or Breck Epic type epic rides, really really REALLY use, not only the bigger range of a 2x, but the closer spacing between gears a 2x provides. You’ve lost at least one sale by going 1x, and that’s sad…

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ASSOS targets mountain bikers with new XC collection


Heretofore best known for its ultra high-end road cycling kit, Swiss-based technical cycling apparel maker ASSOS is launching an XC line of cycling clothing.

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  • I'mRight says:

    Has anyone tried a “wicking” offroad jersey that doesn’t get saturated with sweat and actually works? I can’t seem to find one.

    • myke says:

      yes, mission workshop. They make a few T-shits that are really nice. The one i have is mesh. it takes a lot to get to the saturation point.

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PUB 934 XC race wheels review


PUB’s go-to cross-country 29er wheelset features DT Swiss 350 hubs and asymmetric beadless rims with 28mm inner and 34mm outer widths.

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Mongoose has bikes for all disciplines and budgets


Well spec’d cross country, enduro, and downhill builds come in at under $3000.

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  • jim says:

    Mongoose has made some decent bikes every now and then, but their only consistency has been the low-end, – too bad. These look decent, I wonder where they will be assembled & sold?, hopefully at a store that can point the brake levers in the right general direction.

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Underground Bike Works Revival 27.5 trail hardtail


Yeti Cycles founder John Parker is back with the limited edition Underground Bike Works Revival 27.5 trail bike.

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  • Sasha Kandakov says:

    Reading the specs and frame geometry numbers of the bike put together by a legend is like reading a poem. There’s a deep meaning behind every decision =)

    • LanceLegStrong says:

      yea, deep…Looks like ole John pounded a lot of lagers on this by the looks of that gut.

      $7k for an Aluminum framed bike? Sounds like a nice profit margin for John and “deep meaning”.

  • Scott Crabill says:

    Great looking bike FTW! Great to see OG legends still making great stuff.

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FSA K-Force Light WideR 25 carbon wheels launched


FSA (aka Full Speed Ahead) is moving full steam ahead with two new XC-focused mountain bike wheels, plus something unofficial and wider.

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Kona Process 153 goes full carbon


Kona took some of their best alloy bikes and created carbon versions that were on display at the Sea Otter Classic.

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Syncros Silverton SL one-piece carbon wheelset


Check out this one-piece carbon wheelset, where the rim, spokes, and hub shell all come out of one composite mold. Just push in a hub bearing (DT Swiss 190s in this case) and off you go – quickly.

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  • wayold says:

    “less force at the initial moment of inertia”. My brain’s still spinning with this one. Either nonsensical or a clever dual meaning of “moment”.

    • gozar says:

      It’s a physics term having to do with a force acting a distance from a fixed point. Imagine a lever – the fulcrum is a fixed point and the moment is calculated from the product of the length of the lever and the amount of force (torque) acting on it.

      A wheel is a bunch of levers arranged in a circle, so “less force at the initial moment of inertia” means “takes less muscle to get the wheel spinning from a stop.”

      I am a graphic designer, and this is just my understanding of it… if any engineers want to point out my errors please have at it!

  • guy smiley says:

    Brilliant, less is more, expect one-piece carbon wheels to explode on the road, cross scenes.

    • myke says:

      Mavic had a full carbon wheelset almost 10 years ago and lightweight much longer. i personally wouldn’t want this wheelset. i’ll put money on it having one of the most harsh ride qualities a mtb wheelset could have!

  • A. Rider says:

    So if you break a spoke, the entire wheel is done for?

  • dje31 says:

    Very impressive technology from Syncros. While there may be sticker shock to many, $3500 is not unusual for a carbon-rimmed wheelset with standard hubs, spokes, and nipples.

  • Highway Star says:

    Wow, expensive, unrepairable full carbon wheels. I’m sure they will go over just as well as the last dozen times around.

  • Matt says:

    The article brought the broken spoke point up and the response was that they are 35% stronger than a traditional wheel. Is the implication that you could continue to ride them?

    Nice to see composite wheels making a comeback. I suppose.

  • Shark says:

    Interesting idea, I’d be too paranoid to take them in the woods though;)
    There’s always the tri-spoke carbon design.

  • Clive de Sousa says:

    Everything looks great but I can’t help but think the ride quality will not be there. The stiffness has it’s performance benefit but it’s a hard ride.

  • Rob says:

    if the wheels are stiffer, more impact from the trails has to be absorbed by the frame & rider. stiff wheels are great to a point but I’m not sure more is always better.

  • slownsteady says:

    Sweetness…essentially it’s a mag rim…just hope you don’t break a ‘spoke’. Lifetime warranty?

  • Tom says:

    Really?! Break a spoke (and you WILL if you ride anywhere with trees and sticks on the trail). $1000 plus and shipping wait VS a $2 spoke and 15 minutes to replace it. I suppose if all you do is ride up steep fire roads, go for it. I guess there are customers for these but I’ll stick with wheels I can ride, work on, and get back out the same day when I break something. I’d spend the $3500 on a trip to ride somewhere really cool where I’ll break more spokes.

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Intense M29 FRO special edition DH race bike


Only 15 of these For Racing Only models will be sold. They are equipped with the same spec as the Intense Factory Racing M29.

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Fezzari Signal Peak bridges XC-trail gap


Fezzari’s new Signal Peak artfully blends speed and fun. It’s fast on technical terrain, drops, and rock gardens, and climbs like a mountain goat.

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Hardtails; more versatile than ever


From XC to Enduro, slack and long hardtails are taking the mountain back.

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  • LW says:

    Returned to hardtail riding exclusively in early 2017 on a Rocky Blizzard, 4.8″ and 120mm fork and been having tons of fun all 4 seasons from snow to summer dust and lava rocks to slick and steep… flat pedals and rides up to 25 miles in a day up and down the mountain its hard to argue with what we know has worked so well for so long. I think some credit should be thrown to Banshee and other BC visionaries for sturdy hardtails w/ long slack triple crown forks over 15 years ago (what counts as modern? for me the modern part is getting to 1x drivetrain and the clutch rear derailleur that has eliminated chain slap, and durable sidewalls/tubeless but the rest is all vintage Shore designs spreading out to enlighten the masses)

  • Mattman says:

    Through the 90’s I grew up riding hardtails in eastern Pennsylvania when full suspension bikes were prohibitively expensive for a teenager, and currently ride in the Mid-Atlantic states where 8 times out of 10 times the ride is plenty comfortable on a hardtail if you know how to use your knees. I have 2 beautiful hardtail frames, one steel and one titanium, both of which are sourced from smaller, low-production-number frame builders. The proliferation of full suspension bikes to the market has made people think that you simply can’t ride a trail anymore unless your bike feels like a mattress. I prefer a hardtail because a) if you pick a full-sus and then buy a hardtail for the same money you generally get a higher quality package, and b) I enjoy feeling the trail! I realize my hardtails have limitations, usually when I find myself riding above them, but far more often than not I’m comfortable, in control, fast, and not having to worry about lubing my pivot points after the ride!

  • milk man says:

    same here bought a Rocky Vertex and dumped mt scott full sus, its such a good HT I just had too.

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Yeti cycles releases trail capable and raceable SB100


Yeti’s new SB100 obscures the line between XC and Trail, utilizing a new Switch Infinity Mechanism repositioned and optimized specifically for this shorter-travel twenty-nine-inch wheel bike.

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  • dickachu says:

    too heavy for xc to short travel for trail what it is? and way overpriced.
    Just go for intense 1k cheaper, lighter and better components.

    Btw is frame cracking and infinity problems fixed?

    • benito says:

      I’ve always heard about the Yeti’s supposedly being prone to cracking, especially after harshly bottoming out…is there any data out there that has metrics on various brands and their carbon frame durability? It can be hard to separate rumor from reality.

      And what problems specifically have folks seen with Switch Infinity?

  • dickachupachu says:

    Just cuz ur too fat n too short, doesn’t mean you should rain on Yeti parade. The bike won’t make you fast, you will make you fat…errr fast

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Santa Cruz Blur first ride review


After a three-year hiatus, the bike that arguably put Santa Cruz on the map is back. Meet the new Blur, a 29-inch wheeled full carbon XC speed machine with 100mm of VPP suspension.

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2018 Santa Cruz Highball first ride review


New low-angle stays designed to work in tandem with a bridgeless seatstay design to help absorb trail chatter.

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  • josh says:

    Looks very well executed. Have always been a fan of the SC hardtails, and I’m glad to see this one get a bit more relaxed.
    Thinking about seat posts: 27.2 to provide a bit of leaf springiness to the saddle, assuming the post will yield a bit. The dropper options for this size are limited still, yes? Should owners expect comfort benefits from a smaller diameter dropper as well, or is it assumed that owners who take advantage of the dropper routing have different intentions for their Highball?

  • Justin says:

    unfortunately won’t take 27.5 plus

  • Alfredo says:

    Three bottle cage mounts, great.

  • SpeedyChix says:

    What’s the clearance for rear tires, would a 2.4 be possible?
    Thinking of it as an alternative to a slimmed down Stache.

  • SpeedyChix says:

    Have a wheel set with 36 internal rims, looking for slightly fatter tire XC rig, boost, with room to make use of the wider rims/tires.

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2018 Rocky Mountain Vertex debuts


Rocky Mountain has updated the Vertex, its flagship XC-race hardtail, which is now lighter and more aggressive.

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Vittoria Barzo tire review


Vittoria’s Barzo is ready to take on technical cross-country trails and extreme conditions. And it can win an XC race as well.

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