Mtbr Best of Award Reviews and News


Mtbr Best of 2016 Awards: Plus Bike


What makes the Santa Cruz Hightower great? For starters, it’s not just a plus bike; it’s a trail ripping, do-it-all singletrack slayer that can be set up with 27.5+ wheels and a 150mm fork or 29er hoops and 140mm of front end squish. Click through to find out more.

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  • Scott says:

    Dave, do you know what plus size wheelset he was using? I’m trying to get the same for my Hightower and am wondering if there is a reliable and budget friendly setup that others are happy with.

  • Perfectbike says:

    First of all I couldn’t imagine pedaling that SC up hill. Well, I could. It would always be a lockout-mania event with all that squish. And that BB will definitely have pedal strikes with 25% sag and low pressure plus tires. I bet it’s fun downhill but otherwise, no thanks. It nearly crazy you included the Specialized giving the enormous quantity of complaints about the rear suspension on that bike and so many owners modifying the rear shock. If you don’t, it just wallows down and strikes rocks all day long…lockout be damned. Not mentioning the 2017 Genius Plus or the 2017 Spark Plus (likely the actual “Bike of the Year”) is total rubbish.

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Mtbr Best of 2016 Awards: Trail Bike


As cross-country bikes get slacker and enduro bikes get faster, it’s become increasingly difficult to draw a line between these two segments and good old fashioned trail bikes. After much debate, we finally settled on a definition — and a winner for 2016. Click through to see if you agree with our choices?

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  • Carl says:

    How is 173 – 177 comparable Q-Factor when standard Sram is 168? That’s a country mile difference in QFactor land.

  • loll says:

    The next logical step for the Marin Hawk Hill is to provide it in plus size or have it come in boost ready.

  • Daryl says:

    I have two of these bikes. One set up as 27.5+ and one as 29er. It is hands down the best bike I”have ever owned. You get two different personalities in one bike. 27.5+ for monster trucking over everything and 29er for more speed and finesse. It is efficient uphill and crushes the downhills. Makes me look like a much better rider.

  • Carl says:

    156 if you could fit Sram but not all 142 bikes could.

    Some Boost frames can do narrower than 167.5 but for sake of argument 173 to 177 is inching toward narrow fat bike range (sub 180 to 183) and not all that attractive for a pedalling trail bike but I may be odd-man-out.. Just hate the trend and can’t do any wider than 168 so deal breaker regardless of being a cool bike.

  • Chris says:

    First you say bikes have to have 120-140mm travel, then you pick the Switchblade,which has 150mm up front?? And then you call it “an exceptional long travel 29er”, as if 135mm is long travel? Confusing mixed messages.

    I also question your “works for riders under 5 foot tall” statement, unless you have actually had a short tester ride the bike. Many people make extra-small frames; few of them really work well on the trail.

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Mtbr Best of 2016 Awards: Best night riding light


Innovation is not dead when it comes to bike lights, as these options offer unique new features and ease of use. This year’s winner is a budget priced light from an upstart company.

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  • John says:

    Can you carry an extra battery for the Ravemen offerings?

    • KR says:

      Nope cant change batteries, made as a road light with really low output, a little research shows how low performing and limited those lights are. Many of us are trying to figure out how it even made it on here because nothing special to offer besides something you can probably find in china for half the price being listed as some US brand. Ituo and Glowworm have sefl contained lights that actually came out for 2016 that blow that thing away.

  • BlackBean says:

    The issue with Lezyne lights are that you have to hit the button with a HAMMER to change output modes or turn it on or off. This one fatal flaw makes their products something to stay away from.

  • SGK says:

    Lezyne have a great form factor and performance, but not reliability. Had problems with their batteries and charging.

  • Preferred Customer says:

    How come the Serfas USL-1500 is not here ?
    Great light at a $140 reasonable price point

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Mtbr Best of 2016 Awards: Cross-country Bike


Gone are the days of one-trick-pony XC bikes. The modern cross-country machine is equally adept at climbing and descending. Here are three of the best from 2016.

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Mtbr Best of 2016 Awards: Innovation of the Year


Yes, there are still plenty of holdouts who will argue otherwise, but as far as we are concerned the front derailleur is dead. And for that we thank 2016’s Mtbr Innovation of the Year.

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  • Tony says:

    When Sram drops the price to match the Shimano M8000, I’ll consider it. $60.00 for a chain!!!, I don’t think so.

  • Craig says:

    Really? Innovative? I think you’d better re-read the definition of the word.

  • yakkoTDI says:

    It would be innovative if they had a gear range I could actually use. I will stick with 2×10 until a 10-30 cassette is for sale at a price I can afford.

  • 7c0 says:

    There’s a little catch with running larger chainrings (say 36T) though – anti-squat characteristics of your suspension may drastically worsen. This was one of the primary reasons to push for smaller chainrings in the first place. So when we get 56T lows on the inevitable 1×13 setup, I’m curious what frame manufacturers will have to say about running 40T chainrings in the front. For me, the whole derailleur gear concept is simply worn out and all those “innovations” do little to remedy the real problems like durability (I’ve broken a tooth on a X01 cassette, and they *must* be thinner on 12 speed), long-term reliability (thin chains, brittle parts) and weather resistance. Add suspension kinematics and it’s clear that any attempt in one direction (e.g. greater range) simply worsens all others.

  • Eldon says:

    Wow, start with an exceptionally closed minded statement. That’s not what I’d expect from MTBR.
    I agree, Eagle is *Not* innovative. It’s just fat.

    They first said 1x with a 42 was perfect, then obviously realized it wasn’t so they made a dinner plate sized cassette and an obnoxious RD to go with it. Just a band-aid that’s still not right.

    They now brag 500% range as if that was good. Walmart bikes have 650%. (44-22 & 11-36)

    I drank the Kool-aid too, but have not learned to like it – it’s a pain to ride to the ride. It’s a cash cow for SRAM to suck money from cyclists pockets. I now have cassettes with only the small 3 cogs worn out. It caught on because of marketing, and because riders (and many shops) don’t known how to setup or use a FD. (I hope that first statement isn’t an admission that you don’t know properly either.) Education would be a far better innovation than this repeat of the grade school “mine is bigger than yours” mentality.

    Some like the Eagle, and that’s fine. Please don’t honor Sram’s failure to make a good shifting front. It’ is no reason to drink their Kool-aid.

  • Joe says:

    “Bottom line, unless you simply hate change, there is no longer reason to have a front derailleur on your bike.”

    Well, except for the extremely high cost of the 1×12 system. I am sure they will go down in a few years, but right now they are just a bit cost prohibitive.

    • Erik says:

      I used the One Up Shark 50T and it works great. $125 added onto my M8000. A great alternative but hey let’s face it, so many of us just like buying stuff for our bikes otherwise these products would not sell and therefore not be created. i.e. let’s look into the mirror and see how easily marketing grabs us by the short hairs. 😉

  • Charles says:

    Precious handlebar space. Ha! And tiny homes are cool too

  • Mike says:

    I can ride from home to most of our trail heads. I’m still running a 9 speed triple on all my mountain bikes.All 26″. We have long extended steep climbs that require a 22 34 or 22 36 combination. I find being able to shift the front from 32 to 22 is quicker than trying to do it all with the rear derailleur. When making it easier to climb with the front deraileur the chain drops to the smaller chain ring but if you are making it easier to climb with the rear. You are making the chain switch to a lager cassette ring. Gravity says its easier to go smaller than larger. This has been my experience.
    I just purchased a new drive train I will install when I wear out this one. I paid $99 Canadian for a race face turbine 44/32/24 chain-ring set and $30 us for a 11/36 cassette. The chain is a KMC SL 9 speed for $40 US. That works out to around $200 Canadian for a very workable replacement.
    All my mountain bikes have SRAM X9 and XO rear derailleurs and shifters, but the front derailleurs are all Shimano XT and XTR.
    I have to say to people you don’t have to put up with poor shifting on a front derailleur.

  • Turner says:

    I use triples on my road, cross, and 29’r. I can’t imagine any circumstance which would sway me to buy a bike with a single chainring. On my 9 speed cross bike I run a 13/23 cassette. 13,14,15,16,17,18,19,21, and 23. What is innovative about going from one tooth jumps to three teeth or more with each shift. Nothing, absolutely nothing.

  • Dave says:

    People who “still” use front derailleurs are “holdouts”? Nice. Outside of aggressive gravity riding (which is not what the vast majority of mountain bikers actually do, regardless of magazine hype), having multiple chainrings is a better solution in the vast majority of riding situations. Smaller gear jumps, wider range, more flexibility in usage etc. 1x seems like a direct result of SRAM needing to differentiate while being unable to produce a good front derailleur.

  • JF says:

    Having ridden a bike with a triple chainring until a few months ago, and then demo’ed the sram 1 X11 with the e-13 46T cog and the eagle setup, I agree that the eagle is a killer component. It shifts great. Little chain slap/noise. Great range. Simple. All you diehard mtbr’s recommend you try it,(before you pan it).

  • Alan Osborn says:

    I see the whole industry as a money dump. I have issues with the idea that there are bicycles that cost more than some motorized vehicles. Where does it end? It ends when people quit falling for the hype and quit being materialistic, realizing that this stuff shouldn’t cost this damn much. Especially carbon fiber ‘bic’ bikes. It is well known that after a few years, if you ride hard, carbon fiber bikes become ‘deflated’ slinkys. Aluminum has a lifespan and eventually cracks. Buy steel and save money and have a bike you can upgrade for the rest of your life if taken care of. Quit buying it, they’ll quit selling it. It’s all relative, but the industry responds to what buyers ask for through purchasing it.

  • Young Gun says:

    The giant heavy expensive pie plate-sized cassette is the innovation of the year? Maybe because you are old and you suck perhaps.

  • Joe says:

    While I think 1×12 Eagle is fixing a problem that doesn’t exist I think it is funny to read some of these comments. People riding a triple on a bike that is 10 years old aren’t the target market for new products. I have never had a front derailleur not drop a chain to the inside or outside at some point during a race in CX and MTB.
    The ability to run a single front chain ring, with a clutch derailleur was fantastic for CX and MTB racing in my opinion. I have not once dropped a chain, scratched my chain stay, or been screwed over by a bad front shift since 2011 because of 1×11 XX1 and 1×11 on my CX1.

    Now the comments about needing additional high gearing because people are spinning out is really funny to me. With a 30T up front and a 10T in the rear on a 29er 2.25 tire at 100 cadence you’re going 26mph. 120 cadence you’re going 30mph. Sure you’ll spin out on a pavement section that has a significant % downhill but who the hell cares on a MTB. I’m not the best racer out there so there is a ton of people running 32T and now you’re at an even faster speed on the downhills that you can pedal. Folks that don’t have very good fitness can run even smaller than 30T if you need to and not give anything up. I race all over Colorado and the only place I can think of that more range is needed than the current 10x42T is Leadville because of the downhills that you can pedal for long distances but you also need low gearing for the significant climbs.

    Oh well, to each their own, but telling folks that they should ride steel bikes with triple front chain sets, rigid seat posts, and toe cages doesn’t give you much credibility.

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Mtbr Best of 2016 Awards: Enduro Bikes


This is a crowded field that has pushed the envelope of our sport. These bikes allow us to ride radical terrain at high speeds — and go uphill with relative efficiency, too.

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Mtbr Best of 2016 Awards: Rear Shock


This year’s battle for best mountain bike suspension shock was an epic showdown between air and coil. See which bump tamer took the top spot.

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  • eastcoastpally says:

    I hope that the coil sprung forks make a come back. Air sprung forks are fine for XC/light trail duties, but lack the durability needed for aggressive riding. I don’t understand why the coil can not be availble for the longer travel forks as I’m sure it reduce warranty claims.

  • Joe Meldrum says:

    You would thnk that Rockshox would have named there new eye-to-eye-to-stroke ratio for there new shock something other than “metric”. It makes it extremely difficult to understand because all shocks can be measured in “metric” and have been for a while. For example, my Rockshox Monarch from four years ago says 200×51 right on the side, and I dont think that refers to inches.

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Mtbr Best of 2016 Awards: Protective Gear


As bikes get more capable and trails more aggressive, body and brain protection becomes more and more important. Here are the Mtbr picks for best pads and helmets on the market today.

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Mtbr Best of 2016 Awards: Dropper Post


The dropper post went from nice to have to an essential piece of equipment in a few short years. Now, we have a crop of reliable posts that will help maximize the mountain bike experience. Here are three of the best from 2016.

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  • Randy Cougars says:

    A major positive that wasn’t mentioned about the Transfer is that although the cartridge is not serviceable, it is actuated by cable, rather than fluid! This means any moron like myself can install and adjust and repair the thing from lever (I used the killer Wolf Tooth matchmaker X version) to post without bleeding. I run fluid in my brakes, but it’s a liability in droppers IMO.

  • alan says:

    what is damped action? I’m looking to get one but want to know if any have a shock absorption feature ?

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Mtbr Best of 2016 Awards: Suspension Fork


With more incredible options than ever, picking our favorite fork wasn’t easy. In the end, we voted with our hearts….and wallets.

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Mtbr Best of 2016 Awards: Rider of the Year


Perhaps the truest sign of greatness is living up to expectation. And no rider had more expectation thrust on his shoulders in 2016 than Nino Schurter.

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  • LiquidSpin says:

    Sorry, but I totally agree. Nino trained his butt off just like everyone else but I think he trained the right way and he accomplished a lot and bringing home a gold medal too. The guy deserves this for putting out so much.

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Mtbr Best of 2016 Awards: Mountain Bike Tire


Tire preference varies wildly depending on terrain and riding style, but our three favorites are tough, reliable, and stupid fun.

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