Editor’s Choice 2015: Our favorite bikesOriginally posted on December 17, 2015 at 14:00 pm
This is Dirt Rag’s second year doing an official “Editor’s Choice.” With editorial staff of all shapes and sizes, spread out all over the country, we can’t just pick one product per category and call it the best.
Also notice our timing. While we could do this in the early spring, how much ride time do you think those early season awards are based on, if any at all? Waiting until the end of the year allows us to consider all the products we’ve used.
And finally, notice not all these products have been reviewed (some we’ve shelled out our own money for), nor are they all from our advertisers. We’re doing our best to be honest with our selections here, and each one is deserving of its award on its own merits. While you can buy us a beer, you can’t buy our editors.
Keep reading for the mountain bikes we chose from Scott, Trek, Evil and Guerrilla Gravity, plus a bonus choice from Trek that’s not exactly a mountain bike but is still worth your time. Stay tuned for a revealing of the components and soft goods we liked best.
As trail bikes mature they’ve become my go-to bikes away from the racecourse, a place I’m “away from” a lot these days. In this category Scott’s Genius with 29-inch wheels and 130 mm of travel is a standout in form and function: quick enough for hard cross-country riding, with geometry, rider position and suspension travel designed for extremely capable descending prowess as well.
Features include a TwinLoc handlebar remote that toggles the Fox fork and shock through Climb, Trail and Descend modes and also decreases travel down to 90 mm in Climb. I’ve never been a huge fan of one remote to control both, but the TwinLoc works incredibly well—mostly because Fox’s bits and the rear suspension design are so effective.
I became a convert, poking at the lever almost as much as the rear shifter. A small shock-mount chip can be flipped to change head angle and bottom-bracket height so you can do a bit of customizing depending on trail conditions.
As an overall package the Genius is easily one of the most fun bikes I’ve ridden this year no matter the terrain, be it quickly climbing mountain singletrack or ripping my way back down. When it comes to just being a mountain bike for all occasions, this is what I’d choose as my go-anywhere, do-it-all trail companion.
Genius model prices range from $8,700 for the carbon wonder bike shown here down to $3,000 for an aluminum-framed version including TwinLoc Fox Nude shock and chip-adjustable geometry.
More info: scott-sports.com
The previous generation Stache was Trek’s attempt at a rowdy hardtail, but it was lukewarm at best. This one is quite the opposite: a bold move with wheel size and geometry I haven’t seen in years from a large bike manufacturer.
Elevated chainstays aren’t something you see on a hardtail these days; this one was originally just an engineering exercise to play with geometry. But that short-chainstay prototype rode so well that even in the face of a 27plus onslaught, the Stache made it to production.
Its 29plus wheels offer a distinct ride experience, and the geometry of the Stache keeps the ride closer to trophy truck than monster truck. A Stache might not win any races—it’s too heavy for cross-country, not fat enough for fat bike races and doesn’t have enough travel for enduro—but that doesn’t matter one bit. This is the most fun bike I rode this year, and fun is where it’s at.
More info: trekbikes.com
Former Art Director
Evil has been riding a wave of kick-ass this year. The revitalization of the brand has been fueled mostly by the success and universal love for The Following. This 29er is a prime example of what progressive-geometry, big-wheel bikes with trail characteristics should be about. I was so convinced that I bought one sight unseen and couldn’t be happier with my purchase.
Dave Weagle’s patented DELTA (Dave’s Extra Legitimate Travel Apparatus) suspension gives its 120 mm rear end a bottomless feel while providing efficient power transfer on climbs. The large, one-piece swingarm creates a very stiff frame that is nimble and confident. This bike continues to win over 29er naysayers, but Kevin Walsh, the CEO of Evil, says they’re just getting started. “The brand hasn’t even been officially launched,” he says. Expect more from Evil soon.
Price: Complete builds $4,999 or $6,599
More info: evil-bikes.com
General Manager and Photographer
Riding test bikes can be a fickle endeavor. Sometimes I connect instantly with one, other times the relationship doesn’t have the same spark. From my first few pedal strokes aboard Guerrilla Gravity’s Megatrail, I was smitten.
Excellent suspension kinematics, aggressive geometry and an up-over-the-pedals riding position put a huge smile on my face. Add in easy-to-swap suspension travel and geometry adjustment and this bike goes from aggressive trail slayer to bike-park shredder. It’s stiff, responsive and very well engineered.
The icing on the cake is Guerrilla Gravity’s commitment to creating jobs through domestic manufacturing in Denver. Sure, in this world of sexy carbon wonder bikes, the Megatrail’s aluminum construction may seem a little pedestrian, but don’t let that fool you. This is one fine steed. Stay tuned for a long-term review in our next issue.
Price: $1,925 frame only (no shock), $3,995 and up for complete bikes, $4,475 as shown
More info: ridegg.com
Here at Dirt Rag we take product evaluations seriously, and when we put our name behind an editor’s choice it has to mean something. The bikes that earn this distinction require more saddle time than just an afternoon of riding. For this reason I almost didn’t name a bike as my Editor’s Choice this year. The bikes that I rode for long-term evaluations were all fun and reliable, but none bonded with me in a way that made me want to elope with them to Whistler and never return.
I’m also the editor of our sister magazine, Bicycle Times, where we cover touring, commuting, gravel, that sort of thing. I put a ton of miles on the Trek 920, and I came away really impressed with its versatility and fun factor. Sure, it has drop bars, but underneath its touring-bike appearance is a host of mountain-bike technology.
Is it a mountain bike? Not really. But I’m guessing your riding often took you beyond singletrack trails this year, and when mine did I hopped aboard the Trek 920.
More info: trekbikes.com