The 2011 mountain bike market is a thick, tangled jungle rife with brand names, riding styles, frame designs, technologies and components. Essentially, it’s more difficult to buy a bike than ever. So we’ve taken the liberty of bringing some of the top bikes on the market to your attention. And we’ve done it according to two simple principles: under $3,500 and one per category.
Best Cross Country Bike: Specialized Epic Comp
Versatility without the compromise. That’s really what a good cross country bike boils down to, isn’t it? Because you can’t ride a quiver. You want one bike that can climb like a squirrel, scream down hills while swallowing bumps whole and trot nimbly around corners and obstacles. Not every bike is up to that challenge, but the Specialized Epic Comp makes it child’s play.
Inspired by World Cup racing, but built for everyday riders like you, the Epic Comp just outright performs. The M5 aluminum frame is light and responsive under your glutes and the Specialized/Fox suspension with remote Mini Brain delivers just the right mix of absorption and tire power. The 28 MTBR.com reviewers that gave it a cumulative rating of 4.93 (out of 5, Best of 2010 Award winner) sure thought so. $3,000.
Best All-Mountain Bike: Yeti 575
Colorado-based Yeti focused some love onto the 575 this year, stiffening it up front and in back so that you can tear corners with the confidence of 10 men. When it comes to drops and hits, the 5.75 inches of Fox RP23 will eat it up and keep you sailing with that same confidence. National Geographic Adventure reckons those tweaks are enough to earn it a “Gear of the Year” award. Dirt Rag describes it with glowing adjectives like “cohesive,” “playful” and “plush,” summing it up: “Simply put, this is one of the most all-around fun bikes I’ve ridden, period.”
You can start from scratch with the $1,900 frame, or equip it with various levels of SRAM and Shimano accoutrements starting at $3,100.
Best Trail Bike: Trek Fuel Ex 8
A staple of Trek’s Fuel Ex trail-bike line, the Fuel Ex 8 has been winning accolades and awards for years for its mix of steadfast performance and non-shock-inducing LBS sticker price. Under-the-belt accomplishments include a 2011 Singletracks Best of MTB and a 2009 Editor’s Choice from Bicycling magazine.
The bike gives you Trek’s Dual Rate Control Valve rear shock, co-developed with Fox to seamlessly transition between munching on small, fast bumps and devouring big hits while keeping you connected to the terrain. It also gives you a Fox 32 F-Series RL fork, Shimano SLX drivetrain and Avid Elixir 5 discs. All for under $2,500.
Best Freeride Bike: Santa Cruz Bullit
Nearly 100 MTBR reviewers have seen it fit to deliver a near-untarnished 4.87 (out of 5) rating to the Bullit, singing endless praises of its big, burly, bomber durability. No matter what type of abuse you have in store for this bike, it’s going to keep on taking and loving it. And the 180 mm of travel will make sure you take it and love it, too.
The frame will run you a grand and full bikes start around $2,500.Best Mountain Bikes For Summer 2011 ,