While the term cross country may bring to mind grueling fire road climbs and spandex, modern cross country races now feature technical descents and challenging obstacles. As a result, we’ve seen a number of the world’s best migrate over to full suspension bikes and use dropper posts at selective events. Bike manufacturers have also taken notice and to help their racers maintain a competitive edge, this year there has been a shift towards more travel and slacker geometry. This new trend has created a category that’s wicked quick on the climbs, yet extremely capable on the descents. To capitalize on these traits, a number of brands are also offering these frames with non-traditional builds. The ultra-light weight XC build remains king, but there are also trail-worthy bikes with wide bars, burly parts and droppers. A few renegades are also offering plus sized compatibility.
Whatever flavor you prefer, there’s something for everyone in this new crop of XC bikes.
Nino Schurter is arguably the best cross country racer in the world and his bike of choice is the Scott Spark (bike check here). We can’t guarantee this bike will elevate your game to the same level as the 5x world champion, but we dig the new suspension linkage, lighter frame weights, and increased travel (on some models).
Wheel size: 29″ or Plus
Rear travel: 29″ has 100mm, 27.5+ has 120mm
To learn more, check out Jason’s first ride impressions here.
Like several brands on this list, Giant has bumped the travel on its XC race bike by 20mm up front and 10mm out back. They’ve also embraced the longer and slacker philosophy. So what sets the Anthem apart in this crowded field? Unlike the majority of the bikes in this roundup, this XC race bike rolls exclusively on 27.5” wheels.
Wheel size: 27.5″
Rear travel: 110mm
To learn more, check out our first look here.
Cannondale Scalpel Si
The Scalpel is Cannondale’s #1 best selling bike. It’s always been deadly efficient, but for 2017, it also received the slacked out treatment. The headtube angle is now two degrees slacker, the front end is 10mm longer, and the rear end received a nip tuck. Somehow Cannondale achieved all that, while still coming in lighter than the majority of the competition. Cannondale even coined the term XXC to pay homage to this new style of Extreme XC!
Wheel size: Women’s XS/S/M, Men’s S 27.5″, Men’s M/L/XL 29″
Rear travel: 100mm
To learn more, check out Francis’s first ride impressions here.