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Best Short-Travel Full-Suspension Mountain Bikes – 100 to 130mm

ibis ripley bike

Ibis Ripley – One of the most iconic short-travel playbikes available.

Trail and Cross-Country mountain bikes offer limitless fun on various terrains. There are quite a few different mountain bike types out there, but in this review – we’ll be focusing on the lighter end of the spectrum, bikes that are considered as short travel full-suspension mountain bikes.

  • You may also like:   15 Best Full-Suspension Mountain Bikes to Consider

Best Short-Travel Full-Suspension Mountain Bikes

1 . orbea – oiz h20.

Best XC Full-Suspension Mountain Bike

Orbea OIZ H20 Bike

Aluminum / 12-Speed Shimano Deore  / 29×2.35″

MSRP: $3,599 Jenson USA

Fork : Fox 32 Float Rhythm, 120mm travel Shock : Fox i-Line DPS Performance, 120mm travel Wheels : Orbea OC1 25c

The Orbea Oiz H20 is a sleek full-suspension XC bike built for speed and efficiency. With a premium aluminum frame, quality components, and World Cup geometry, you’ll be smashing your PRs with the Oiz in no time. 

It’s ideally suited to cross-country or long-distance trail riding, with a 12-speed Shimano Deore/XT groupset that includes a 10-51T cassette.

Fox provides both the I-Line DPS Performance shock and the 32 Float Rhythm fork. To complement the lightweight Orbea OC1 rims, you get 29×2.35″ Rekon Race EXO tires.

Head tube angle: 68º / Seat tube angle: 74º / Chainstay: 435mm

Buy on Jenson USA

2 . Santa Cruz Bicycles – Blur C S

Santa Cruz Blur C S

MSRP : $5,549 Evo.com

Fork: RockShox SID SL Select 100mm travel Rear Shock: RockShox SIDLuxe Select+ 100mm travel Wheels:  RaceFace AR Offset 29″

The Santa Cruz Blur is the famous MTB brand’s race-ready XC bike, designed to be lightweight, fast, and efficient. 

The Blur C S uses Santa Cruz’s more affordable carbon grade, which has excellent stiffness and strength characteristics that help maximize power transfer.

A 100mm travel RockShox SidLuxe Select+ shock is enhanced by a patented SuperLight suspension linkage that keeps the weight low but enhances rear-end traction on trickier sections. 

This build comes with a SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed, 10-50T drivetrain with Level TL hydraulic disc brakes. Other notable components include the fast-rolling Maxxis Aspen 2.4″ tires, an SDG Tellis dropper for extra descending control, and lightweight RaceFace AR Offset rims. 

Pick the Santa Cruz Blur C S if you’ve got lofty XC ambitions and the budget to match. 

Buy on evo.com

3 . Pivot – Mach 4 SL Ride

pivot mach 4 SL ride mountain bike

Carbon / 12-Speed Shimano XT/SLX / 29×2.2″

MSRP: $6,199 Competitive Cyclist

Fork : Fox Float 34 Performance Step-cast 120mm  Shock : Fox Performance Float DPS 100mm  Wheels : DT Swiss X1900 alloy

The Pivot Mach 4 SL Ride is a sleek full-suspension XC MTB by a lesser-know but high-end MTB manufacturer, perfect for racers who want top performance.

The full carbon frame is incredibly light and strong, built for 29″ wheels and DW-Link suspension that perfects anti-squat characteristics for a snappy, responsive feel and extra traction. This model comes with race-ready 2.2″  Maxxis Ardent Race EXO tires.

The Mach 4 SL Ride has 100mm rear and 120mm fork suspension. In addition, you’ll have ample gearing from the 12-speed Shimano XT/SLX drivetrain. Thankfully, Pivot includes a Fox Transfer Performance Elite  dropper post with 100 to 150mm travel depending on the size. 

Choose the Pivot Mach 4 if you want to take your XC riding to the next level with a bike that’s ready for aggressive riding. 

Buy from Competitive Cyclist

4 . Niner – Jet RDO 4-Star


Carbon / 12-Speed Shimano XT / 29×2.6″

MSRP: $6,799 Jenson USA

Fork : Fox 34 Float Factory GRIP2 EVOL 130mm travel Shock : Fox Float X Factory EVOL 120mm travel Wheels : DT Swiss XM-1700 Spline 30

One of the more expensive offerings on our list, this Niner full-suspension mountain bike is a burly trail/XC bike with modern trail geometry and top-quality parts.

The RDO Carbon frame features Niner’s CVA suspension platform, integrated protection, and 2.6″ tire clearance. The 130mm travel Fox Float Factory fork and 120mm Float X Factory shock provide a plush feel on rough trails while the CVA design improves the pedaling efficiency of the system. 

A 12-speed Shimano XT drivetrain comes with RaceFace Next R carbon cranks and a 10-51T cassette. 180mm rotor XT hydraulic disc brakes round out the groupset.

An unusual inclusion is the Schwalbe Nobby Nic Addix Speedgrip 2.6″ tires which are very versatile and tough but add a little more weight. Finally, you have a KS Lev SI dropper with 100 or 150mm of travel. 

Choose the Jet RDO 4-Star if you want a highly-capable trail/XC bike with innovative design features, solid components, and long-lasting quality. 

Head tube angle: 66.5º / Seat tube angle: 76º / Chainstay: 430mm

5 . Rocky Mountain – Element Alloy 30

Rocky Mountain Element Alloy 30

Aluminum / 12-Speed Shimano Deore  / 29×2.4″

MSRP: $3,089 Jenson USA

Fork : RockShox Recon Gold 130mm Shock : RockShox Deluxe Select+ 120mm travel Wheels : WTB ST Light i27 TCS 2.0 TR 29″ (27.5″ on XS frame)

The 29″ Rocky Mountain Element Alloy 30 is a cross-country/trail MTB with a do-it-all personality.

The FORM alloy frame has relatively aggressive trail geometry which pairs well with a RockShox Recon Gold 130mm fork, Deluxe Select+ 120mm shock, and Toonie Drop dropper post for confident riding on most trails. 

The groupset includes Shimano’s Deore M6100 drivetrain with a  10-51T cassette with MT4100 hydraulic disc brakes. This setup and Maxxis Rekon 2.4 makes climbing easier and descending safer. 

Head tube angle: 65º / Seat tube angle: 76º / Chainstay: 436mm

6 . Yeti – SB120 T1

yeti sb120 cross-country mtb

Turq-Series Carbon / SRAM X01/GX Eagle / 29×2.5/2.3″

MSRP: $8,200 Jenson USA

Fork : Fox Factory 34 GRIP2 130mm  Shock : Fox Factory Float DPS 120mm Wheels : DT Swiss XM1700

The SB120 is a Yeti full-suspension MTB focused on cross-country and trail riding. This bike has an eye-watering price but has the spec and performance to match.

The Yeti SB120 T1 is built for speed and versatility with 29″ wheels and modern trail geometry. This is balanced by confidence-inspiring and premium 2.5/2.3″ Maxxis Minion DHF/Aggressor EXO tires. 

A blended SRAM groupset consists of a 12-speed, 10-52t X01/GX drivetrain that provides reliable and durable performance and G2 RSC four-piston hydraulic disc brakes. The wide gear ratio allows for easy hill climbs while powerful brakes ensure safe descents.

Consider the SB120 T1 if you want a high-end trail bike for tackling a wide variety of trails. 

Head tube angle: 66.5º / Seat tube angle: 76.5º / Chainstay: 433-443mm

7 . Co-op Cycles – DRT 3.3

A reliable, affordable XC bike

co-op cycles drt 3.3

Aluminum / 12-Speed Shimano SLX / 27.5 or 29 x2.4″

MSRP:   $3,299 REI

Fork : RockShox Revelation Motion Control RC 120 or 130mm Shock : RockShox Deluxe Select+ 120 or 130mm Wheels : WTB ST Light i30 TCS

The DRT 3.3 is a cross-country bike with plenty to offer beginner or intermediate XC mountain bikers. It features progressive wheel sizing and suspension travel based on frame size, Airsprung RockShox suspension, and premium Maxxis High Roller or Dissector tires. 

This bike has a lightweight but strong aluminum frame that helps keep the price down without sacrificing too much performance. This is boosted by a Shimano SLX 12-speed with a 10-51t climbing cassette and powerful Shimano SLX disc brakes for controlled descending. 

Head tube angle: 66/67°   /   Seat tube angle: 75°   /   Chainstay length: 433/441mm

Buy on REI.com

8 . Juliana – Wilder C R TR

Juliana Wilder C R TR Mountain Bike

MSRP : $4,899 Evo.com

Fork: RockShox SID RL 120mm travel Rear Shock: Fox Float Performance DPS 115mm travel Wheels: RaceFace AR Offset 

Julianna’s Wilder is a race-ready trail bike designed to tackle the toughest trails with confidence. As Santa Cruz’s women-specific brand, Julianna takes advantage of its VPP suspension system to provide the Wilder with unbeatable suspension performance.

Large 29″ RaceFace AR rims and slack geometry allow you to roll over any obstacle on the trail. In addition, female-tailored geometry and a Carbon C frame ensure the Wilder is painless to maneuver.

Finally, this bike is built on an SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain and paired with grippy Maxxis Rekon Race tires and powerful SRAM Level T hydraulic disc brakes to ensure smooth climbing ability and controlled descending. 

Buy on Evo.com

9 . Marin – Rift Zone 1

Best value full-suspension mountain bike

marin rift zone 1 short-travel mountain bike

Series 3 Aluminum / 11-Speed Shimano Deore / 29×2.3″

MSRP: $1,899 Jenson USA

Fork : RockShox Recon Silver RL 130mm Shock : X-Fusion O2 Pro R 125mm Wheels : Marin Aluminum Double-Wall

The Rift Zone is a 29-inch trail mountain bike designed for speed over fast, flowy trails.

Multi-Trac suspension improves big hit absorption and delivers a more efficient pedaling platform for the 130mm RockShox Recon Silver RL fork and a 125mm X-Fusion O2 Pro R rear shock.

Vee Tire Crown Gem 29×2.3″ tires are durable but lack some grip in the corners and are slightly slow for this type of bike.

The Rift Zone 1 runs a typical 11-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain with Shimano MT201 hydraulic disc brakes and is finished off with a budget alloy seatpost instead of a dropper.

This is a solid XC/trail bike that offers excellent value for money in the entry-level category of full-sus bikes. 

Head tube angle: 65.5º / Seat tube angle: 76º / Chainstay: 425mm

  Buy on JensonUSA.com

10 . Norco – Fluid FS 2

norco fluid FS 2 mountain bike

MSRP: $2,499 Jenson USA

Fork : RockShox 35 Silver R, 130mm travel Shock : RockShox Deluxe Select, 120mm travel Wheels : Stan’s NoTubes Flow D 

The Norco Fluid is a full-suspension mountain bike with an innovative progressive frame design for enhanced fit and performance. It features 130mm of front travel and 120mm in the rear, with a reliable Shimano Deore 12-speed drivetrain and matching Shimano MT420 hydraulic disc brakes.

Norco chose Stan’s NoTubes Flow D rims with Maxxis Dissector 2.4″ tires for their excellent grip and durability. For a seatpost, you can rely on an X-Fusion Manic dropper. Every detail is accounted for on the Fluid FS 2, making it an excellent value trail bike.

Head tube angle: 66º / Seat tube angle: 76º / Chainstay: 431mm

Buy from JensonUSA.com

11 . GT – Sensor Sport

GT - Sensor Sport

Aluminum / MicroSHIFT Advent X, 10-Speed / 29 x 2.3″

MSRP: $2,300

Fork : RockShox Recon Silver, 140 mm Shock : X-Fusion 02 Pro RL 130mm travel Wheels : WTB Aluminum rims

The GT Sensor Sport is a full-suspension trail mountain bike designed to handle almost any trail out there .

This bike can smash climbs and thunder down descents with ease thanks to GT’s LTS rear linkage technology which soaks up trail chatter and improves traction.

The lightweight, durable aluminum frame is fitted with a RockShox Recon Silver RL 140 mm fork and an X-Fusion 02 Pro RL 130 mm shock which offer decent performance for this price range. 

This bike takes rolls along smoothly and corners confidently with 29″ wheels wrapped in WTB Breakout 2.3″ tires. Finally, you can rely on a MicroSHIFT Advent X  10-Speed drivetrain for smooth shifting and powerful but inconsistent Tektro HD-M275 hydraulic brakes. 

Head tube angle: 65.5º / Seat tube angle: 76º / Chainstay: 435mm

Buy from Jenson USA

12 . Alchemy Bikes – Arktos 120

alchemy bikes arktos 120

Carbon / 12-Speed Shimano XT / 29×2.3″

MSRP: from $4,699 Alchemy Bikes

Fork : Fox 34 29 Factory Kashima 130mm travel Shock : Fox DPX2 Factory Kashima EVOL 120mm travel Wheels : Industry Nine 29 Enduro S Hydra

The Alchemy Bikes Arktos 120 is a full-suspension XC/trail mountain bike that’s perfect for riders who enjoy charging uphill and thundering down descents.

The Alchemy carbon frame is ultra-lightweight and laterally stiff, and the seat tube allows longer dropper posts like the stock Fox Factory 175mm Transfer dropper.

The Arktos runs on Alchemy’s patented Sine Suspension dual-linkage platform. This system provides next-level performance through enhanced efficiency on climbs and improved handling and traction on chunky descents. The 130mm and 120mm Fox Factory Kashima suspension soaks up all but the most aggressive hits.

The Arktos 120 comes with a choice of three 12-speed groupsets (Shimano XT or SRAM GX/X01). Each has a hill-crushing cassette and 180mm-rotor hydraulic discs. Finally,  burly Industry Nine enduro rims are fitted with Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR 29×2.3 tires, providing plenty of capability but adding some extra weight. 

Consider the Arktos if you want high-end performance and an award-winning carbon frame at a reasonable price. 

Head tube angle: 65.75-66.5-º / Seat tube angle: 77.75-78.5º / Chainstay: 437mm

Buy on Alchemy Bikes

13 . Pivot – Trail 429 Pro

pivot trail 429 pro mountain bike

Carbon / SRAM X0 Eagle / 29×2.4″

MSRP: $9,900

Fork : Fox Factory 36 GRIP2 140mm travel Shock : Fox Factory Float X, 130mm travel Wheels : Reynolds Blacklabel carbon

Pivot Cycles is a relatively new bicycle company that has already won awards for its innovative design.

This can be seen on its Trail 429 Pro 29er full-suspension trail/XC bike, a lightweight carbon beast with top-level parts. It’s a professional XC bike for advanced riders, with modern trail geometry in the low flip-chip setting that provides confidence on steep descents. 

The suspension is tight, with a Fox Factory 36 140mm fork up front and 130mm Factory Float X shock on the rear. The DW-Link platform and carbon fiber build kit allow you to get more power from each pedal stroke, making this a highly efficient climber. 

Using the 12-speed SRAM X0, 10-52t drivetrain you get perfect shifting every time and plenty of gears for steep grades. In addition, the Trail 429 has powerful four-piston SRAM G2 RSC hydraulic disc brakes. 

Don’t miss out on the Pivot Trail 429 Pro if you’ve got a huge budget and want unbeatable trail performance to match. 

Head tube angle: 66-66.5º / Seat tube angle: 75-75.5º / Chainstay: 430-432mm

Buy from Mike's Bikes

14 . Santa Cruz Bicycles – Tallboy R

Santa Cruz tallboy r trail bike

Aluminum / 12-Speed SRAM NX Eagle / 29×2.4″

MSRP: $4,199

Fork : FOX Rhythm 34, 130mm travel Shock : Fox Float DPS Performance, 120mm travel Wheels : Race Face AR Offset 30

The Tallboy is of the most popular Santa Cruz full-suspension Mountain Bikes and this version has a tighter, more grounded feel, perfect for attacking bumpy terrain at high speed.

With the Santa Cruz Flip-Chip upper link, you can fit 29″ or 27.5″ rims and tires, although it comes standard with 29×2.4″Maxxis Dissector/Rekon EXO tires on Race Face AR Offset 30 rims.

The 12-speed SRAM NX Eagle groupset runs a wide-ratio 11-50T cassette for easy climbing and includes SRAM Guide T four-piston hydraulic disc brakes.

It’s finished off with a Burgtec Enduro MK3 stem, handlebar, SDT Tellis dropper, and Cane Creek 10 IS integrated headset.

Head tube angle: 65.7º / Seat tube angle: 76.8-76º / Chainstay: 436mm

15 . Juliana – Joplin 4 C R

Juliana Joplin 4 C R Mountain Bike 2023

Carbon C / 12-Speed SRAM NX Eagle /  29×2.4″

MSRP: $5,299 Evo.com

Fork : RockShox Pike Base 130mm Shock : Fox Float Performance DPS 120mm travel Wheels : Raceface AR Offset 30

The Juliana Joplin is a women’s full-suspension trail/XC mountain bike built for speed.

The premium Santa Cruz Carbon C frame is fitted with a RockShox Pike Base fork with 130mm of travel and a Float Performance DPS 120mm rear shock. These components are enhanced by the tailored lower-link VPP suspension that improves pedaling efficiency and traction. 

The drivetrain is a 12-speed SRAM NX Eagle with an 11-50t cassette for steep climbs and for braking you have SRAM Guide T hydraulic discs.

Finally, the Juliana Joplin 4 C R has an SDG Tellis dropper and 2.4″ Maxxis Dissector/Rekon 3C MaxxTerra EXO tires to provide confidence when descending on fast, chunky trails. 

Choose this women’s mountain bike if you love days on the trails with lots of elevation gain and a variety of trails. 

Head tube angle: 65.7º / Seat tube angle: 76-76.7º / Chainstay: 430-433mm

16 . Ibis – Ripley AF

🏆 Best all-around mountain bike for every terrain

ibis ripley af deore mountain bike

Aluminum / 12-Speed Shimano Deore / 29×2.4″

MSRP: $3,799 Jenson USA

Fork : Fox Float 34 Performance, 130mm travel Shock : Fox Performance Float DPS, 120mm travel Wheels : Blackbird Send Alloy Max Clearance 2.6″

Coming in at just under $4,000, this is one of those bikes that outperforms its price tag. Straight off the bat, the 12-speed Shimano Deore groupset is impressive with hydraulic disc brakes. 

Naturally, it has a premium quality aluminum frame with superb DW-Link suspension technology, offering 120mm of rear travel from Fox Performance Float DPS shock. With a similar kit upfront, you get 130mm of travel on the Float 34 fork, and it’s all rounded off with Blackbird rims and 2.4″ Maxxis  DHR II and Dissector tires. 

 Head Tube Angle: 65.5º / Seat Tube Angle: 76º / Chainstay length: 432mm

17 . Yeti – SB115 C2


grey yeti full sus mtb

Available in 3 designs

Carbon / 12-speed SRAM GX Eagle / 29×2.5″, 2.3″

MSRP: $6,200 Competitive Cyclist

Another top-class mountain bike from Yeti , this combination XC and trail bike attacks both the hills and the drops with equal vigor and aggression. The lightweight carbon frame combined with the 12-speed SRAM GX Eagle 10-52T cassette makes easy work of hills, while the Switch Infinity rear suspension technology combined with 130mm travel on the Fox Performance fork makes downhills a breeze.

You get added support from a thick 2.5″ Maxxis Minion DHF front tire and 2.3″ Aggressor on the rear, wrapped around DT Swiss rims. Oh and let’s not forget the Fox Transfer dropper seat post for added ease and enjoyment!

Head tube: 67.6 / Seat Tube: 74.1 / Chainstay: 437mm

Buy on Competitive Cyclist

18 . Santa Cruz Bicycles – Blur

santa cruz blur mountain bike

Carbon C / 12-Speed Shimano XT / 29×2.4″

MSRP: $6,599

Fork : RockShox Sid SL Select+ 100mm travel Shock : RockShox SidLuxe Select+ 100mm travel Wheels : Race Face ARC Offset 27

The race-ready Blur XC bike from Santa Cruz is designed for fast riding on cross-country trails.

The SuperLight suspension linkage combined with a 100mm RockShox Sid SL Select+ fork and SidLuxe Select+ shock provides plenty traction on the rougher stuff.

Fast-rolling 29er wheels, Maxxis Aspen 2.4″ XC racing tires, a stiff and lightweight carbon frame, and agile geometry give the Blur its high-performance personality. 

The groupset is a 12-speed Shimano XT with four-piston hydraulic disc brakes and plenty of gearing from the 10-51t cassette. 

Consider the Santa Cruz Blur if you’re ready to take your XC rides to the next level. 

Head Tube Angle: 65.7-65.4 / Seat Tube Angle: 77.5-76.8 / Chainstays: 423-433mm

Buy on Mike's Bikes   

19 . Cannondale – Habit Carbon 1 

cannondale habit carbon 1

MSRP: $5,500 Planet Cyclery

Every XC rider comes across an unexpectedly steep descent every now and again, leaving them in a precarious situation with an inadequate bike. The Cannondale Habit Carbon 1 rises to this challenge, offering an XC-specific bike that can tackle steep downhills with confidence.

It achieves this with the addition of a Cannondale DownLow dropper post combined with Cannondale’s Proportional Response Tuned suspension system. The RockShox Pike Select+ 140mm fork has slightly longer than usual travel for an XC bike, with the 130mm RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ rear shock to match. A wide-range SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain with a 10-52t cassette and SRAM G2 RSC hydraulic disc brakes make up a solid mountain-ready groupset that can tackle climbs and descents with ease.

HT: 66° / ST: 74.5° / Chainstay: 435mm

Buy on Planet Cyclery

20 . Evil – Following LS GX

Evil Following LS GX Mountain Bike 2023

MSRP: $6,450 evo.com

Evil Bikes is known for making high-quality mountain bikes that push the boundaries of design and innovation. The ‘Following’ is its versatile XC offering – a high-speed MTB with 29″ wheels, semi-compact geometry, and mid-range travel that can tackle unusually harsh conditions 

The proprietary DELTA suspension system and RockShox Deluxe Ultimate RCT shock are both highly tunable to adapt to varying conditions so if you feel like doing some downhill riding, simply adjust it to your needs and hit the trails. On this version of Evil’s Following, SRAM provides decent 12-speed gearing and instant braking with its mid-level GX Eagle groupset and G2 RS disc brakes.

Where Can You Ride a Short-Travel Mountain Bike?

Short travel mountain bikes are ideal all-rounder bicycles for fast and zippy trails, whether it is flat or hilly.

Downhill mountain bikes with lots of travel are ideal for extremely rough terrain with big drops and large obstacles but provide a disadvantage on flatter terrain. 

The less stiff your suspension is, the more speed you lose when riding fast on flat terrain. So you need to choose a bike that best suits the type of riding you intend to do. For most All-mountain, Cross-country, and Trail riding, you shouldn’t need more travel than 100-130mm. MTB bikes with travel between 140-180mm are intended for intense downhill and enduro-style riding.

Of course, many of these bikes have adjustable suspension, so in some cases, you can change it for the terrain of that day. However, if you don’t intend on ever tackling extreme downhills, big jumps, or huge drops, then there is no need to spend the extra on advanced suspension with unnecessarily long travel.

Other Factors to Keep in Mind

Carbon vs. aluminum: which is better.

Which is better: Carbon or Aluminum for a full-sus. MTB? Well, carbon has taken over the whole cycling industry for a while by now, and it is not different from the mountain bike scene. As carbon-tubing gets better each year, there is a reason why mountain bikers prefer carbon over aluminum. Carbon simply has the right ‘feel’ to the whole ride, while providing enough durability and ways to form a bike.

Tires & Tire Pressure

It is recommended to use more air in the rear tire when on trails.

  • 29″ – 18-28 psi. Plus-size tires or on wider wheels (Ibis) can be run on lower,11-18 psi range
  • 27.5″ (650b) – 16-30 psi.

Lowering your tire pressure means you create more contact with the ground so if you have thin tires, less pressure will provide more grip. However, while this may be a bit more comfortable offroad it comes at the sacrifice of speed on flatter ground. Depending on your weight, you should try to find a perfect balance that isn’t too low or too hard.

Tubeless tires can usually run lower pressure since there is no tube to pinch. Similarly, wider rims can also accommodate lower tire pressure. These are all factors to consider when pumping your tires.

Suspension set-up

You should always tune your suspension correctly to accommodate your weight and riding style. This can be done by rocking up and down on the bike to measure your ‘sag’ rate and then adjusting the air or spring pressure accordingly.

If you’re going to be hitting big jumps or drops, you’ll need a wider, looser suspension to take heavy impact. If you’re riding mostly flat trails, you’ll want it stiffer so you don’t over-compress and lose speed on each little bump.

Compression / Sag / Rebound

The Sag, as mentioned earlier, is important to measure and set accordingly before heading out on the trails. Once that’s done, set the rebound damping by pushing on the front suspension and seeing if you get any ‘bounce’. Tighten it until it only rebounds once, doesn’t bounce up and down.

For the compression settings, you’ll need to specify them according to your riding style. Different shocks have different settings, so it’s down to your style and preference. Basically, add more compression damping if you want tighter traction on corners, or less if you want more absorption on big drops.

Rider Weight

It’s important to get the correct weight distribution on a full-suspension bike otherwise you could injure yourself on the trails. The longer wheelbase a bike has, the more stable it will be, so heavier riders should consider this factor. 

Bottom bracket height is also important, as the higher the less stability you get but it can’t be too close to the ground either for obvious safety reasons. Generally, these measurements can all be perfected for you in-store when you buy a new bike. It’s always a good idea to have a professional fit your bike for you.

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short travel xc bikes

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short travel xc bikes

  • Cycling Magazine

Top 5 XC and short travel trail bikes for 2022

Bikes that let you go faster and have more fun.

short travel xc bikes

There are a ton of exciting new cross country bikes rolling out in 2022 and, for the most part, they follow a trend. More travel, more relaxed geometry, and more fun mixed in with the traditional light weight and efficiency.  As XC bikes gain travel and follow the general trend to progressive geometry, they’re getting closer and closer to the traditional territory of trail bikes. Lines may be blurring, but one thing is crystal clear: all of these bikes are a good time.

What separates a short travel trail bike from an cross country bike these days? Travel numbers mean less than intention these days. Honestly, most of these bikes would be happy pulling double duty. Want to race one weekend and head out on trail shreds or a big epic ride the next? No problem. All of these bikes are efficient enough to ride with intention but still solidly build to slow down, cruise through corners and hunt for fun side hits instead of always sticking to the race line.

Top five 2022 short travel mountain bikes

2022 Giant Trance Advanced Pro 29 1

Giant Trance Advanced Pro 29

Giant is clear that the Trance isn’t an XC race bike but its travel numbers, 120-mm out back with a 130-mm front, put it in the short travel category. Instead, it’s focused on maximizing enjoyment while climbing and descending. Paired with Fox’s Live Valve electronic suspension technology, it’s a spry and responsive ride that makes even the most mellow trails exciting while staying composed when the going gets rougher.

RELATED: First look: 2022 Giant Trance Advanced Pro 29

short travel xc bikes

Canyon Lux Trail

Canyon takes its World Cup pedigree Lux and adds a bit more forgiveness and a bit more fun and calls it the Lux Trail . It’s still whip-fast and highly capable as a cross country race bike, especially for marathons or stage races. But, with slightly more relaxed geometry and an extra 10-mm geometry, it’s more enjoyable to ride on days when you’re not racing or when you venture onto more challenging trails. The Lux Trail doesn’t shine less than the pure-race Lux SL, just glows with a little different light.

RELATED: Canyon Lux Trail adds travel without losing race pedigree

2022 Rocky Mountain Element

Rocky Mountain Element

Traditionally Rocky Mountain’s cross country race bike, the Element gets a major re-invention for 2022 . It’s still a cross country race bike, if your idea of cross country includes the roughest trails and rowdiest stage races around. At 120-mm rear travel and 130 front, this lightweight XC-whip is ready for whatever trails you throw at it. With space for two water bottle cages in the front triangle and a longer dropper post, the Element is all set to take you on big adventures or short track races.

RELATED: Rocky Mountain rolls out sleeker, more powerful Element

short travel xc bikes

Trek Top Fuel

With the Supercaliber laser-focused on racing, Trek frees the Top Fuel to roam farther afield . The bike’s cross country heritage still shines through in efficient pedalling and sharp handling but, with balanced 120-mm travel and more progressive geometry, the Top Fuel is more comfortable and more capable than in years past.

RELATED: Trek trail tunes the Top Fuel

Scott Spark 2022

Scott Spark 120

Scott’s world championships-winning cross country race bike looks a little different than most. Cleaner, even when it’s covered in mud. That’s because Scott’s gone all-out on the engineering, creating a sleek looking frame that hides cables, hoses and even the rear shock out of sight. It’s also part of the new breed of XC bike hitting the 120-mm travel range, front and rear, to keep pace on the new-school World Cup tracks. Looks pretty. Goes fast (or at least Nino Schurter does). Might not be the easiest to wrench on at home, but who cares when you’re winning races, right?

short travel xc bikes

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ENDURO Mountainbike Magazine

The Best Short-Travel Trail Bike – 6 Mountain Bikes in Test

short travel xc bikes

Bikes are growing increasingly versatile, lines are blurring and long-travel bikes are climbing more easily and faster than ever before. But does that mean that short-travel trail bikes are growing more potent on the downhills too?

short travel xc bikes

Our trail bikes are changing. We now have suspension kinematics that minimise pedal bob, while maximising big-hit fun. Seat tubes are growing steeper so we can climb better and bikes are growing increasingly lighter. The latest generation of 140–150 mm trail bikes have become the holy grail of do-it-all machines. So why do manufacturers still offer short-travel trail bikes? Is there a benefit to bikes with 130 mm or less travel? Are we missing something? So many questions. It’s time for some answers.

short travel xc bikes

Does short-travel mean less fun?

Does short-travel mean less fun? No way! If your local mountains are more like molehills, and your Sunday ride involves long connections between the trails, a short-travel bike will be a quick-riding passport to adventure and endless fun. On flow trails, a short-travel bike will pump faster through compressions and stay higher in its travel, rewarding you with more smiles and heaps of excitement. On many rides, carrying extra travel only dulls the sensations and feedback from the trail, meaning less agile and engaging handling than a well designed short-travel bike can provide. While a 140–150 mm trail bike is a great choice for many riders, the best bikes in this test show it’s important to choose a bike based on where and how you want to ride, rather than just numbers on a spec sheet.

short travel xc bikes

Imagine driving a Dodge V8 and a stripped out rally hatchback down a tight-twisty road. We can guarantee you’ll have more fun in the lighter, more agile rally car.

The short-travel trail bikes in this group test

For this group test, we wanted to include a diverse selection of bikes at a range of prices. On paper, all six bikes share similar geometry (with one exception) and range of application. All are 29ers, a wheel size that best suits the kilometre eating, corner railing nature of a good short-travel bike. The Specialized Epic EVO and Trek Top Fuel both mark a step up in versatility from dedicated XC race machines. They essentially take a racing platform but slack and stretch it out. The Whyte S-120C enters from the opposite end of the spectrum, packaging an enduro bike ethos in a short-travel chassis. Sitting in the middle, the Canyon Neuron, Merida ONE-TWENTY and Yeti SB100 are purpose built to be good at everything from marathon epics to fast laps of your local loop.

short travel xc bikes

Suspension kinematics are important

The saying “It’s not about the size, it’s about how you use it” has never been more apt. With short-travel bikes, progressive suspension kinematics are essential. With less to play with, the suspension needs to maintain control and can’t give up all its travel too quickly. For active riders, the Merida ONE-TWENTY, Trek Top Fuel and Whyte S-120C excel with a supportive kinematics that give just enough travel to smooth out big hits and almost always retaining some reserves. The result is that these bikes provide massive support for pumping to generate free speed from the trail and also provide lots of feedback from the trail. In contrast, the Canyon Neuron and Yeti SB100 have more linear kinematics, sacrificing a little mid-stroke support in pursuit of comfort and control through rock gardens, as well as boosting comfort and reducing fatigue on longer rides.

short travel xc bikes

Be suspicious of a low weight on the spec sheet

If you think that less travel equals less weight, you might have to reconsider. Given how hard we ride our bikes, both short- and long-travel bikes will actually require very similar components and in turn, it becomes hard to cut down weight without significant compromises in performance.

No matter if you have 100 or 150 mm of travel, you’ll still be riding effectively the same suspension units, need the same high-performance tires and will want to be able to brake just as quickly. Many brands make compromises to lower their bikes’ weight, saving a few grams on the scales by fitting inferior components. Brakes are often an easy and not immediately obvious downgrade. Fitting delicate 160 mm rotors on the rear and specifying smaller callipers might save 200–300 g, but the brakes still have to slow down the mass of a hard-charging 80+ kg rider. Do you ride a flow trail slower than an enduro trail? We don’t. Merida is the only brand to get this right, fitting powerful SRAM Code RSC brakes to their ONE-TWENTY. Tires are the next place to cut weight. While short-travel trail bikes do not need to come fitted with super heavy downhill casings, we still expect to see a versatile, capable and above all durable tire.

short travel xc bikes

Carbon vs Aluminium Wheels

You can have a lighter bike without performance compromises but it will come at a cost. Spending more allows manufacturers to fit better components that reduce weight while maintaining or even improving performance. We are generally big fans of aluminium rims, especially on harder hitting bikes where they are more affordable if damaged and offer a smoother ride feel. However, lightweight carbon rims accelerate quicker and give the bike a more lively and agile feel, properties that in our test enhance the ride of our short-travel bikes. The Merida ONE-TWENTY 8000 scores well here, saving over 400 g on the combined wheel weight (4.38 vs 4.79 kg) when compared to the Yeti SB100 fitted with similar all-round tires. The Trek Top Fuel and Specialized Epic EVO both have very lightweight wheelsets, but also ‘cheat’ a bit by fitting lighter but less durable and versatile tires for combined wheel weights of 3.94 and 4.02 kg respectively.

short travel xc bikes

These bikes are made to climb fast so why don’t they have steep seat tubes?

This is a great question and one that consumed our team during much of our testing. The bikes in this group test have an average seat-tube angle of 74.8° , making them slacker than the latest geometry trends in trail and enduro bikes. The Merida again takes the win with a 75.5° seat tube angle, but still falls short when compared to the latest enduro bikes. Take the Yeti SB100: its 74° seat tube angle is far slacker than the newer and longer travel SB130 and SB150 which both have 77° effective seat tubes. It’s true that short-travel bikes sit higher at sag than long-travel bikes, reducing the effective seat tube angle less, but could they learn a lesson in efficiency from their bigger brothers? Yes, they could. All the bikes in this test climbed better with the saddle far forwards on the rails, indicating that slightly steeper seat tubes would benefit overall pedalling efficiency. We hope that short-travel bikes follow the steep seat tube trend that is sweeping through the trail and enduro sector.

Tops & Flops

Often small details can make a huge difference: seamless integration, first-class ergonomics and carefully selected parts. Easier said than done – here are some of the tops and flops from this grouptest.

short travel xc bikes

How we tested the bikes and where?

We packed the bikes into the back of a van and headed to the amazing trails of Ballater in the Scottish Highlands. Ballater is the hidden gem of Scottish riding, offering long flow trails, gruelling ascents and an iconic fast and furious ridgeline descent that is the perfect test of a short-travel ripper. We braved the Scottish midges and challenging weather conditions to push the bikes hard. Parts broke, tires were slashed but great fun was had. For a more thorough test of the bikes’ downhill performance, we also challenged them hard on shuttle assisted runs in the notorious Innerleithen bike park.

short travel xc bikes

The test team

short travel xc bikes

Six bikes with six very different personalities left us with many surprises. After extensive testing, the biggest surprise has been just how versatile short-travel bikes have become. Yes, many of the tires lacked grip and the brakes were weaker, but we soon found ourselves effortlessly straying onto full-bore enduro trails. The second surprise is just how much fun short-travel bikes are to ride. After-work rides become longer and big climbs are relatively speaking effortless. Staying high in their travel with supportive suspension, they turn even the most boring trails into a playground. Every compression is the opportunity to pump for more speed and every bump becomes the lip of a jump. If your trails are more flow than gnar, you’ll have more fun and smiles on a short-travel bike.

short travel xc bikes

When it came to choosing our favourites, it was a tough call. With an XC oriented build kit, the Specialized Epic EVO was a beast on the climbs but it felt least at home on variable terrain. We also weren’t completely convinced by the Micro Brain shock, especially the noticeable delay before the inertia valve opens the compression damping under compression. The Canyon Neuron is the polar opposite: linear and efficient it would make a perfect bike for comfortable long tours but lacked spark when pushed to the limit. As is usual for Canyon, it does represent excellent value for money though. The Whyte S-120 C is the fastest bike on challenging terrain, where its progressive geometry and capable build kit give it an advantage that can be measured in seconds on the descents However, the uncompromising enduro specification and heavier wheelset is noticeable on the climbs when chasing the best in this test.

short travel xc bikes

It was almost impossible to separate the top three bikes with all of them receiving high praise from the testers. The Trek Top Fuel is a testament to a new way of thinking. Potent, versatile and fiercely competitive, we can’t think of many situations where it would not excel. It was only the increased complexity of the TwistLoc (a grip shifter style suspension lockout) and the weak brakes that pushed it off the top spot. The Yeti SB100 was also a team favourite, blending effortless ground-covering efficiency with an easy-going playfulness that delighted all our testers. With a beautiful frame that deserves upgraded components, it’s a bike that we would be proud to own. For the first time ever, a Yeti takes our Best Value award. That leaves the Merida ONE-TWENTY : a versatile trail rocket that happily went everywhere and anywhere we took it. With a faultless build kit, great brakes, great suspension and an agile and engaging ride that will delight riders of all experience levels, there is nothing to fault, giving it the well-deserved Best In Test award.

short travel xc bikes

All bikes in test: Canyon Neuron CF 8.0 | Merida ONE TWENTY 8000 | Specialized Epic Expert Evo | Trek Top Fuel 9.9 | Whyte S-120C RS | Yeti SB100 C GX

If you’re looking for a bike with more travel you should definitely check our test about the best enduro bike of 2019: The best enduro bike you can buy

This article is from ENDURO issue #040

ENDURO Mountainbike Magazine is published in a digital app format in both English and German. Download the app for iOS or Android to read all articles on your tablet or smartphone. 100% free!

short travel xc bikes

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Vital MTB Test Sessions: Five Slack, Short-Travel 29er Mountain Bikes Reviewed 61

Want a bike that can pedal like crazy and maximize fun on smoother terrain in true vital mtb style, here's an in-depth look at a handful of 2020 bikes helping lead the charge - the banshee phantom, norco optic, ibis ripley, marin rift zone, and santa cruz tallboy..

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Is  the "downhiller's XC bike" upon us? And is this a good thing for your average rider? It very well could be. It's 2020, and there are a growing number of short-travel bikes with super slack head angles and steep seat angles that make climbing more of a joy.

We corralled five examples of this new-school ride to be ridden and scrutinized in Phoenix, Arizona. In this video we break down their strengths and weaknesses, what we think of this type of bike, and pick our personal favorites. Welcome to Vital MTB Test Sessions for short-travel 29ers. Click play and DIG IN!

For those who primarily ride fast, flowy, and pumpy trails with a sprinkling of tech, these could be the ones to rule it all.

Relative performance ratings.

With a wide variety of trail features and pitches under our tires, the areas where the bikes excelled or struggled really came to light. Considering how things felt on the trail, we rated them on various performance metrics relevant to the category.

Banshee Phantom - Average Rating: 4.2 out of 5

Side-by-Side Spec Comparison

About the testers.

Brandon Turman - Age: 33 // Years Riding: 18 // Height: 5'10" (1.78m) // Weight: 170-pounds (77.1kg)

"I like to have fun, pop off the bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when I feel in tune with a bike, and really mash on the pedals and open it up when pointed downhill." Formerly a mechanical engineer and Pro downhill racer, Brandon brings a unique perspective to the testing game as Vital MTB's resident product guy. He has on-trail familiarity with nearly every innovation in our sport from the past several years and a really good feel for what’s what.

Steve Wentz - Age: 35 // Years Riding: 23 // Height: 5'8" (1.73m) // Weight: 174-pounds (78.9kg)

"Despite what it looks like, I'm really precise and calculated, which I'm trying to get away from. I'm trying to drop my heels more and just let it go." Steve is able to set up a bike close to perfectly within minutes, ride at close to 100% on new trails and replicate what he did that first time over and over. He's been racing Pro DH for 15+ years including World Cups, routinely tests out prototype products, and can squish a bike harder than anyone else we know. Today he builds some of the best trails in the world.

Courtney Steen - Age: 32 // Years Riding: 12 // Height: 5'7" (1.70m) // Weight: 150-pounds (68.0kg)

"Going downhill puts a smile on my face and I climb for beer." Courtney routinely shocks the boys with her speed and has experience in various disciplines. A silent force behind the scenes for Vital MTB, she's posted up in Durango, Colorado and has ridden dozens of women's bikes. Her technical background helps her think critically about products and how they can be improved.

Which type of bike should we test next? Are there any models that really interest you? What test location would be best? Leave your suggestions in the comments. We look forward to your feedback.

Video by Shawn Spomer, Brandon Turman, and John Reynolds

View replies to: Vital MTB Test Sessions: Five Slack, Short-Travel 29er Mountain Bikes Reviewed

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Best cross-country XC mountain bikes: hardtail and full-suspension

Alan Muldoon

  • Alan Muldoon
  • January 29, 2024

The best cross-country (XC) mountain bikes are all about raw speed. But their light weight and excellent efficiency also makes then ideal for fast, flowing singletrack as well as racing.

XC Race Bike Test opener

XC Race Bike Test opener Credit: Mick Kirkman

Welcome to a lean, mean collection of the best cross-country mountain bikes built for speed, all put through their (race) paces by our expert team of reviewers. Lighter and faster than the more versatile bikes from our list of best mountain bikes , these whippets are not for the faint-hearted.

While all these bikes bring distinctively different approaches to what makes an XC race winner, there is a thread that ties them all together: all are rolling on 29in wheels. From hardtail to full-suspension options, some feature traditional XC geometry, while others are a little slacker in the head angle with more suspension to take on the increasingly technical modern cross-country tracks, and also thanks to the growth in popularity of down-country bikes .

Best cross-country mountain bikes: hardtails

Trek Procaliber 9.7

The latest Trek Procaliber 9.7 keeps the same comfortable frame but gains a SRAM wireless T-Type transmission.

1. Trek Procaliber

Best xc hardtail for a compliant ride.

Frame: OCLV Mountain Carbon | Frame sizes:  S, M, M/L, L, XL, XXL  | Suspension travel:  110mm f  | Weight: 11.01kg | Rating: 10/10

Reasons to buy:

  • Comfortable as well as speedy
  • Wide size range

Reasons to avoid:

  • Lacks a dropper post for modern XC courses

We tested the Trek Procaliber 9.7 a few years ago and it blew the competition away to take the top step of the podium in our group test. The current model hasn’t changed significantly – it still uses the same OCLV carbon frame with effective, trail-smoothing IsoSpeed decoupler, that lets you save energy and channel more into effort into reaching the finish line first.

When we tested it we were blown away, writing: ‘From the first pedal stroke the Procaliber took the lead in this test and never faltered. We were instantly won over by its effortless turn of speed, in part thanks to the carbon wheels, but it’s also about the more forgiving ride quality of the frame. Bumps just didn’t chip away at our speed as much as they did on the other bikes on test. And even when we were out of the saddle, the Procaliber was still the smoothest bike here.’ High praise indeed.

Read our full test review of the Trek Procaliber 9.7

Giant XTC

Giant’s XTC SLR 29 1 is dressed to impress.

2. Giant XTC SLR 29 1

Best budget xc race hardtail.

Frame:  ALUXX SLR aluminium  | Frame sizes:  S, M, L, XL  | Suspension travel:  100mm f  |  Weight:  12.29kg | Rating:  10/10

  • Giant Crest forks adds accuracy
  • Needs lock-on grips
  • Tall top tube height

A light frame, precise fork, and stellar handling ensured the Giant XTC emerged out in front when we tested four budget XC race hardtails. There’s an obvious pedigree bred from years of racing development, and the result is a bike that we described as “startlingly fast yet totally forgiving”.

Whether you’re planning to dip your toe into XC racing, have a crack at a marathon event, or fancy the challenge of a long-distance trail such as the South Downs Way, the Giant XTC SLR 29 1 is up for the fight.

Read our full test review of the Giant XTC SLR 29 1

Voodoo Bizango Pro

The Voodoo Bizango Pro won our hardtail of the year test in 2022, and carries so much pace that it would make a superb starter XC bike.

2. Voodoo Bizango Pro

Best budget mountain bike for racing and long rides.

Wheel size:  29in |  Frame sizes:  S, M, L, XL |  Weight:  13.2kg |  Suspension travel:  130mm front |  Rating:  10/10

  • Good geometry and superlative spec choices
  • Low weight and comfy ride feel
  • BB could be a finger’s width lower
  • Fatter tyres and more standover clearance would be welcome

The Voodoo Bizango has smashed pretty much any test it’s ever entered, winning our Hardtail of the Year award multiple times, earning regular podium places on our list of  the best hardtail mountain bikes , and impressing everyone who rode it. It must have been very tempting for Halfords to stick with the old frame, add a modern colour, fettle the spec and keep mixing up that winning mix.

We’re extremely glad they didn’t then. For Halfords’ sake, standing still in the ultra competitive hardtail market is suicide. And for our sake, the new Bizango Pro is much the superior bike to anything Voodoo has made before, and ultimately more fun to ride. Great brakes mean you can go faster in the happy knowledge you can stop when you need to, while the 12-speed shifting means you can cruise the hills faster than plenty of full-sus bikes out there. And then there’s the fork, it’s hugely superior to anything we’ve tried before on a £1k hardtail: air-sprung so you can set the sag to your weight, effective rebound dial for control, and a really smooth feel.

Read the full Voodoo Bizango Pro review

Scott Scale 965

Scott’s Scale has an enviable racing pedigree.

3. Scott Scale

Best chassis for upgrade.

Frame: 6061 Custom butted aluminium | Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL | Suspension travel:  100mm f  | Weight: 12.97kg | Rating: 9/10

  • Composed ride
  • No tubeless-ready tyres
  • Basic fork gets overwhelmed easily

Some brands use race teams for marketing, others focus on product development; Scott clearly does both. As such, the Scale is a finely tuned XC race machine with a huge trophy cabinet to prove it. It’s a light bike for the money, and with a stance and fit that will appeal to performance-minded riders, it will come as no surprise that the Scott feels quick straight off the mark. In our review, we explained this was “assisted no doubt by the wide 92mm bottom bracket shell and boxy, flattened chainstays”. Which meant that “putting the power down out of the saddle feels both natural and rewarding”.

Unfortunately the fly in the ointment is the basic RockShox Judy fork. It doesn’t have the damping control to match the speed you can generate from the chassis, so you end up using more energy to stay on line and maintain that valuable momentum. Given that the frame deserves it, we’d recommend stepping up to the Scale 960 at £1,699 which runs a stouter Fox 32 Rhythm.

Read our full test review of the Scott Scale 965

Best cross-country mountain bikes: full-suspension

Vitus Rapide FS CRX

The Vitus Rapide FS CRX is a winner before it’s even hit the start line.

1. Vitus Rapide FS

Best budget xc race bike.

Frame:  UD Carbon  | Frame Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Suspension travel: 100mm f, 100mm r | Weight: 11.34kg | Rating:  10/10

  • Rapid up and down
  • Typical Vitus value
  • Only one bottle mount
  • No dropper post

What’s most striking about the Vitus Rapide is not the sheer pace of the bike. No, we’d expect that from a thoroughbred XC racer. It’s actually the fact that this bike will tear chunks out of most trail bikes on more testing terrain that really got our attention. So, while it’s light, fast, and efficient, it’s also a blast on the descents, with engaging handling and grippy, supple suspension. With a dropper post it would be a total weapon around a trail centre loop as well as a race circuit.

Read our full review of the Vitus Rapide FS CRX

Trek Supercaliber

Trek’s Supercaliber SLR 9.9 XX AXS Gen 2 builds on a winning formula.

2. Trek Supercaliber Gen 2

Best money-no-object xc race bike.

Frame: SLR OCLV Mountain Carbon | Frame Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Suspension travel: 100mm f, 100mm r | Weight: 9.75kg | Rating: 9/10

  • Conventional frame configuration
  • Predictable handling and suspension
  • Race-ready build
  • Press-fit BB servicing sucks (but you’ll find them on most XC race bikes)
  • Narrow tyres and no power meter on the top spec

Don’t be fooled by the dropper post; Trek’s new Supercaliber is still a pure-bred XC race bike that thrives on speed and success. The latest frame design is a subtle evolution of the original, which means it’s more about ironing out the creases than starting from scratch. The proprietary IsoStrut suspension minimises weight while maximising stiffness, so you get a smoother, faster ride, without losing forward momentum in a sprint or on the climbs. 

As we said in our review, “ the stiff frame, progressive suspension and increased anti squat all boost ego when you’re putting the effort in”. And while the dropper post adds a tiny bit of weight to the sub-10kg package, it lets you attack on the descents as well as the climbs. 

Read our full review of the Trek Supercaliber SLR 9.9 XX AXS Gen 2

short travel xc bikes

Integrated suspension system conceals the RockShox NUDE 5 shock inside the full carbon frame.

3. Scott Spark RC

Best xc bike for on-the-fly suspension optimisation.

Wheel size:  29in |  Frame sizes:  S, M, L, XL |  Weight:  11.12kg |  Suspension travel:  120mm f/120mm r |  Rating:  9/10

  • Ruthless in its efficiency
  • Hidden shock should need less maintenance
  • Remote suspension adjust
  • Suspension could be more supple in Descend mode

Scott’s Spark has won more trophies than any other race bike, with double Olympic gold back in 2016. This latest version gets a sleek new frame and more modern geometry, meaning that while the Scott Spark has lost none of its potency, it has now become even more versatile. It also gets a hidden shock for reduced maintenance, and remote suspension control for uphill efficiency without compromising on downhill confidence. It’s also one of the sleekest, cleanest designs on the planet.

Read our full review of the Scott Spark RC WC AXS

Santa Cruz Blur

Santa Cruz Blur is not the stiffest race bike, but it’s one of the lightest and a lot of fun to ride.

4. Santa Cruz Blur

Punches well above its weight.

Frame: CC carbon, 100mm | Frame Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Suspension travel: 100mm f, 100mm r | Weight: 10.41kg | Rating: 8/10

  • So light it barely needs any human propulsion
  • Rear suspension is not the firmest under power

The Santa Cruz Blur barely makes an impression on the scales, weighing a scant 10.4kg in size large with the build kit shown above. But it certainly makes an impression on the trails, with a comfortable ride and effortless momentum over sections that would have most XC bikes tensing up and slowing down. There’s no shortage of urgency to the acceleration, and it’s surprisingly capable downhill, but there are better climbing XC bikes.

We found the suspension tune gave loads of grip, but absorbed some of our energy on the climbs. Luckily there’s a remote lockout to compensate, but it’s not as sophisticated as Scott’s TwinLoc system.

Read our full test review of the Santa Cruz Blur XC CC X01 AXS RSV

How we tested

Each of the bikes above was put through its paces in a rigorous testing process, ridden hard over many miles by experience bike testers. Judged on performance when sprinting, climbing, descending, riding features such as drops, jumps, root sections and rock gardens, only the bikes which scored highly in reviews have been included here. These are the best of the best.

short travel xc bikes

Evie Richards performs at UCI XCO World Championships in Glentress, Scotland on her Trek Supercaliber // Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool.

What is XC racing and what makes a good race bike?

In many ways, XC racing is the foundation upon which our sport has been built. Yes, new styles and disciplines come and go, or morph in the way that 160mm-travel all-mountain bikes transformed into enduro rigs. Cross-country racing, however, has weathered the storms of fashion and remains ingrained in riding culture to this day, and with the success of the Olympics and stars such as Evie Richards, Tom Pidcock and Mathieu van der Poel now couldn’t be a better time to try one of these addictively fast machines. If you want something more versatile, check out our buyer’s guide to the best down-country bikes as these bring a little bit more suspension travel and allow you to broaden your riding horizons.

Like all survivors, XC racing has prospered by evolving. Long gone are the three-hour mud-fests on non-challenging terrain. Courses are now shorter and more demanding, challenging riders and equipment, while pushing the visual aspect to make it more appealing for spectators.

A typical XC race loop now features punchy climbs, descents worthy of any EWS stage plus more purpose-built features for the TV cameras. XC riding and racing is thrilling to watch because it is no longer purely a test of raw fitness; it’s about pushing skill levels and bike handling as much as heart rates.

Pan shot of bike tester

We had to borrow Lycra from our sister publication for this XC hardtail test.

Full-suspension Vs hardtail: which makes the best XC race bike?

We love hardtails at mbr. XC race bikes have never been in a better spot, the bikes rising to the challenge of modern courses and the demands of the next generation of racers.

And while most of the racing elite have smoothly transitioned to 29er full-suspension bikes, if you’re just getting into XC racing, a trusty 29er hardtail is a much more affordable way to get your hands on a lightweight, efficient bike. Which is why we have several XC 29er race hardtails selected for this list.

short travel xc bikes

The Scott Spark RC is one of the most iconic race bikes of modern times.

Which bike should I choose for cross-country mountain biking?

As XC courses have evolved, so too have the bikes. As such, modern XC races will probably see very few races won on a hardtail, with lightweight full-suspension bikes proving to be the most efficient over the majority of race courses. Even at the highest level of World Cup racing, the pros have realised that effective suspension and confidence-inspiring geometry can bring bigger gains than just weight saving and efficiency alone.

So for most riders, a full-suspension XC bike will reduce fatigue on a modern race course, allowing you to use that saved energy to attack the competition. And when you’re not between the tape, a full-sus race bike can also hold its own as a trail bike, giving extra versatility.

Tom Pidcock riding the new Pinarello Dogma XC mountain bike

Riders like Tom Pidcock are bringing a fresh injection of style and excitement to XC racing.

However, if you’re toying with trying a few XC races, but also fancy the idea of a gravel bike, an XC hardtail would make a better tool. Why? Well, they’re likely to be just as fast as a gravel bike on most actual gravel roads, but with the right cockpit and geometry for bombing off-piste when the opportunity arises. And who wants to spend their life grovelling along a gravel road when you could be ripping some prime singletrack?

Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail Brings Modern MTB Capability to Light Carbon XC Bike – Review

New Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail light 120mm carbon cross-country marathon MTB, Bike Connection Agency photo by Rupert Fowler, descending

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Italian mountain bike maker Lee Cougan’s all-new Crossfire Trail XC & Marathon bike blends classic cross-country speed with longer travel and a more versatile modern ride. The 120mm travel bike isn’t quite a trail bike in the contemporary sense as its name might suggest. But it is a quick modern XC bike that’s built to take on the toughest cross-country courses. Can keep you pushing on long-distance marathon MTB races. And is a blast to shred on fast singletrack for the mountain bike rider who likes to feel connected to the trail…

2024 Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail light 120mm carbon XC bike

After their unique Rampage Innova ultra-short travel XC bike a couple years ago, Lee Cougan are back with another interesting 29er mountain bike at the other extreme of cross-country racing. This one is a 120/120mm full-suspension XC bike that leans more towards the trail perspective with slacker geometry and 4x as much travel. But while many trail-leaning XC bikes have gone wildly slack, the Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail is still a cross-country bike that embraces its racing heritage.

What does that mean?

New Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail light 120mm carbon cross-country marathon MTB, Bike Connection Agency photo by Rupert Fowler

That essentially boils down to geometry that’s a bit slacker than their short-travel XC bikes, without trying to be an enduro or even an all-mountain bike.

2024 Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail lightweight 120mm carbon XC mountain bike, geometry

The translates to a capable but not too steep 67.5° head angle paired to a steep 75.5° seattube, short 430mm chainstays and middle-of-the-road frame Reach figures. ( Quite short compared to most modern enduro-inspired bikes. ) It’s still genuinely a sharp-handling XC bike, but with plenty of travel and stable-enough handling to make it a solid XCO & XCM race weapon.

Plus, it’s still stiff and lightweight.

Tech details

2024 Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail lightweight 120mm carbon XC mountain bike, frame suspension detail

The hi-mod T800 & T1000 carbon bike features 120mm of rear wheel travel and molded-in bearing seats, paired to the same travel forks.

New Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail light 120mm carbon cross-country marathon MTB, Bike Connection Agency photo by Rupert Fowler, SCS shock detail

Lee Cougan claims that their punctured downtube, unified 1-piece carbon rear triangle, and linkage-driven single pivot suspension design on the Crossfire Trail keeps frame+shock weight to just 1850g (size M). They call it a ‘Structural Crossbar System’ where the downtube opens up around the upside-down rear shock, and the trunnion mount keeps everything rigid. Plus, a special noodle for the complicated shock lock routing, and another air noodle to adjust shock pressure in that tight space.

Then, the chainstays connect in front of the seattube & main pivot for added stiffness, while keeping the rear end short.

Hollow alloy axles and oversized bearings keep everything rotating smoothly for the long term. And are simple to service.

XCO & XCM ready

New Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail light 120mm carbon cross-country marathon MTB, Bike Connection Agency photo by Rupert Fowler, suspension detail NDS

Max tire clearance is 2.4″ when mounted to a 30mm internal rim. That’s conveniently both the standard for XC racers and most trail riders these days. Really only enduro bikes go bigger, so you’ll have plenty of room whether your prefer cross-country racing slicks or more trail-capable tires.

It is 29″ wheels only, with Boost spacing, a UDH, BSA threaded bottom bracket, and internal cable routing through the headset.

New Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail light 120mm carbon cross-country marathon MTB, Bike Connection Agency photo by Rupert Fowler, Granite Stash tool integration

The bike is intended for all day riding & racing, so there’s room for 2 cages in the frame. That’s a 3-pack mount on the downtube, plus a standard pair of bosses under the back of the toptube. Lee Cougan says 2 full-size water bottles fin in sizes M-XL, or a bottle and a tool/spares carrier. Plus, a co-developed Granite Stash RT ratchet mini-tool in the steerer.

Complete bike weights are then as low as 10-11kg.

Want to hear more about Lee Cougan? The US-inspired, Italian-operated, made-in Asia mountain bikes that are a part of the made-in-Italy Basso bikes brand? Find some more backstory in my previous Rampage Innova write-up.

First Rides Review

2024 Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail lightweight 120mm carbon XC mountain bike, wet and muddy riding

I got a chance to ride the new Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail last week in Massa Marittima, Italy on familiar trails but in wildly wet conditions. Like seriously testing the limits of sliding out of control on XC tires, conditions. But really, the bike handled really well. Quite predictable and confidence-inspiring for a light bike that isn’t ashamed of its racer roots.

New Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail light 120mm carbon cross-country marathon MTB, Bike Connection Agency photo by Rupert Fowler, climbing

It climbs like proper lightweight XC bike with a nice forward position. And it descends with predictable handling. Sure, it’s not the kind of bike that you let go of and let it find its own way down gnarly trails. But hold on tight and I was rocketing down steep washed-out chutes with a muddy grin on my face.

New Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail light 120mm carbon cross-country marathon MTB, Bike Connection Agency photo by Rupert Fowler, cornering

I set the suspension up relatively soft with a little more than 30% sag and took advantage of the combined Fox 3-position remote lock-out for the steepest climbs. Really, only needing the middle mode, it’s still nice to have the more solid lock for big-distance marathon type rides that sometimes have asphalt transfers between fireroads & tasty singletrack.

2024 Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail lightweight 120mm carbon XC mountain bike, 11.28kg actual weight

My Large complete test bike with XX SL weighed in at 11.28kg with 340g crankbrothers Candy 3 pedals, a bottle cage, and sealant. There’s also a Granite Stash RT multi-tool & GPS mount that adds an extra 120g. I pulled the tool out to weigh the Crossfire Trail, but its mount is still in the steerer in lieu of a starnut. So, roughly 10.7kg bare.

2024 Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail lightweight 120mm carbon XC mountain bike, wet trail riding

It feels light in hand, and under foot. Even flying down nasty trails.

2024 Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail – Pricing, options & availability

2024 Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail lightweight 120mm carbon XC mountain bike, frameset

The new Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail cross-country bike comes in 4 stock sizes (S-XL) and in three colors. Pick from all Arctic White, Raw Black exposed carbon (with the least paint for the lightest weight), or this Boreal finish with off-white up top & chameleon green down low.

As for specs, there are 3 customizable build kits.

2024 Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail lightweight 120mm carbon XC mountain bike, Team Eagle compltee

I tested the top-tier $10,000 / 8500€ Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail Team Eagle build with DT Swiss XRC carbon wheels. You get a complete SRAM XX SL Eagle AXS transmission, Fox Factory 34 StepCast fork & Float DPS shock, a Transfer SL Factory dropper, Magura MT8 SL brakes, and Lee Cougan’s own 1-piece carbon Comptrol cockpit . You can also opt for house-brand Microtech wheels to save some coin.

2024 Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail lightweight 120mm carbon XC mountain bike, Race Eagle complete

The $9000 / 7660€ Race Eagle build dials it back to SRAM X0, but otherwise still the same kit. Or $8300 / 6900€ with the Microtech RK25 wheels.

2024 Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail lightweight 120mm carbon XC mountain bike, RE Eagle complete

Then, the most “entry-level” is the still race-ready Crossfire Trail RE Eagle build from $6400 / 5250€ with a complete SRAM GX Eagle AXS transmission and RockShox Ultimate SID RL fork & SID Luxe suspension and alloy wheels. Or $7100 / 5900€ with carbon DT wheels.

2024 Lee Cougan Crossfire Trail lightweight 120mm carbon XC mountain bike, climbing

All bikes and builds are available now globally through your local Lee Cougan dealer bike shop.


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Cory Benson is the EU Tech Editor of Bikerumor.com .

Cory has been writing about mountain bikes, enduro, cyclocross, all-road, gravel bikes & bikepacking for over 25 years, even before the industry gave some these names. Prior to Bikerumor, Cory was a practicing Architect specializing in environmental sustainability, has designed bike shops & bike components and worked as a bike shop mechanic.

Based in the Czech Republic for 15+ years, he is a technical mountain biker, adventurous gravel rider, short & medium-haul bikepacker. Cory travels extensively across Europe riding bikes, meeting with key European product developers, industry experts & tastemakers for an in-depth review of what’s new, and what’s coming next.


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B Barber

As an American and riding mtbs since 1991, I have never heard of this brand. Looks like a nice bike though


I thought the same thing. Interesting that this bike popped up on two bike sites within a few days of each other.

Large D

Lee Cougan is a sister brand of Basso Bikes.


“An extremely capable XC bike” never heard that one (sarcasm)


“ and the trunnion mount keeps everything rigid” not good idea to use shock for rigidity duties

Tom Wenzel

I just read the story of “Lee Cougan” and I must say it reads like something you’d find in an email asking you for your bank account info.

Mr. Lee Katz, a curious and enterprising man of solid Russian origin, was part of the group of enthusiasts that gravitated around the founding fathers of mountain biking. In 1977 in Evanston, Illinois, he decided to create his own brand through which to market his bikes. From his great passion for cycling an original intuition was born: for his cycling “boutique” shops, he began to develop niche products with cutting-edge technical features. The Lee Cougan brand was born from the great ingenuity and experience of Mr. Lee Katz. He personally designed the bicycles and then had the frames produced in Taiwan which he then assembled in the USA, creating high-tech and performance solutions. Mr. Lee Katz went personally to the producers, to supervise the production and ensure the quality of their work.

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short travel xc bikes

Trail Bikes: Short vs Long Travel

Most bike companies are offering a wide assortment of bikes, but the lines between each model aren’t always clear. Bikes with different intentions, different travels, and different geometries exist in almost every manufacturer’s stable, but what’s the difference?  And does it matter?

Three of our reviewers, Noah Bodman , Marshal Olson , and Tom Collier , took on the topic of short travel vs long travel trail bikes —  what are they, when are they appropriate, and where do their personal preferences lie?

Q: What do you consider “short” travel? “Long” travel?

Noah : It depends a bit on the context, but for normal trail riding, I’d consider “short” travel to mean 120 mm and “long” travel to mean 160 mm.

Down around 100 mm is what I’d consider to be a bike more designed for XC racing, while 180 mm and upwards I’d call a Freeride / DH bike.

Marshal : It all depends on the trail.

Very steep and prolonged rough trail: short travel = 160 mm; long travel = 200 mm+.

Backcountry rooty and rocky trails: short travel = rigid; long travel = 140 mm

Wheel size dramatically affects travel. I am happy at 140-150 mm on 26″ wheels and 650b, and 100-120 mm on 29’ers on the same trail, though the bigger suspension and littler wheels don’t handle as well, and feel more twitchy to me at my somewhat lanky 6’2’’ build. I need a longer wheelbase, slacker geometry, and softer suspension with the little wheels to slow the handling down relative to bigger wheels.

Tom : For trail riding, I think of a short-travel bike as having somewhere around 120-140 mm of travel (this applies to forks and rear suspension). A bike with less travel than that probably ought to see time with a number plate attached and a spandex clad racer in the saddle.

A bike with 150-170 mm of travel falls squarely into the long-travel trail bike realm. Any more travel than that I think of as a DH or freeride-specific bike.

Q: How do hardtails fit into this schema?

Noah : Ummm, they don’t? Ok, around 120 mm for the fork is the sweet spot. Then, going either longer or shorter is obviously worthwhile for different situations.

Marshal : Unless the trail is super steep and technical / rough, causing the rear wheel to hang up on square edges, modern hardtails are wicked fun to ride — they certainly build skills and are very rewarding. For a hardtail, I have also settled on a 120 mm fork, but run it very stiff and set up more progressively to only use 90 mm or less of available travel. This keeps the front end up and well mated to the rigid rear end, and slows down the handling a bit.

Tom : I’d knock a bit of travel off for hardtails since they can be prone to feeling unbalanced without rear suspension to match. So I would call 100-120 mm “short” travel and 130-150 mm long travel. Plenty of people seem to like hucking off things on a hardtail with a 160 mm travel fork (or more), but I think that hardtails start diving too much in corners when they have more than 140 mm forks. (But maybe the huckers don’t turn.)

Like Noah and Marshal, I target 120-130 mm as being a balance between bump absorption and diving.

8 comments on “Trail Bikes: Short vs Long Travel”

Suspension tuning and style wasn’t mentioned much. I’m not an expert tuner or anything, but even with flipping through dials and playing with air pressure, bikes, just like skis, do tend to have a certain personality of sorts. For example, lively, poppy and playful vs plush, stable and planted. For example, I found SB66s to feel more like the former (and skittish) and Nomads to feel more like the latter (and sluggish). Some of this could be geometry, but I think suspension characteristics are definitely playing a large role in the personality of the bike. I’m surprised this wasn’t mentioned by anyone. As an aside, I think shorter travel bikes are better suited towards the former, and longer travel bikes better suited towards the latter. I haven’t really looked at 275ers, mostly because they seem like a really poor allocation of my dollars with so many good 26ers going for dirt cheap (2 good bikes for the price of 1 mediocre, anyone?).

Really enjoyed this article. Great insights all around. I’m just going to need to convince the wife that I need a minimum of 3 mountain bikes. I’m sure it will go over great (haha). Lindahl, they actually have multiple articles on suspension including one that goes into a decent amount of depth on tuning your ride. Just go back to mountain biking 101 and you can find all the links there. Completely agree with your comment on the low prices of 26ers – unreal.

I’ve basically been in cryo-storage for the last decade as far as mountain bikes are concerned so this might be a question with an obvious answer but why aren’t there more long travel 29ers out there? I recently bought a Niner WFO and while I’m very happy with my purchase, there definitely isn’t the same level of selection in this category as there is in the LT 650b category. For instance, why doesn’t Santa Cruz make a 29er version of the Bronson? Is this a VHS / Beta question where one type of frame won the day “because”? Did these bikes initially come out and no one bought them? Are long travel 29ers the mono-skis of mountain biking? I’m obviously missing something. Interested in your thoughts. Thank you!

When I first got onto a 29er this summer, my thought was that bigger wheels are to mountain biking what tip rocker is to skiing: they make the sport easier to do and therefore more accessible, more fun, etc. They’re not better than smaller wheels in every situation but in places where greasy roots and steep technical trails are common, I would imagine most riders would be happier on bigger wheels than smaller. So, when I started looking around for a new bike I was expecting to find lots of companies adopting them, across the spectrum of bike types, especially on enduro bikes. But what I found was that it’s mostly XC / trail bikes with less aggressive geometry and shorter travel (Santa Cruz Tallboy, Trek Remedy, Scott Spark, etc.) that have adopted 29″ wheels while the popular enduro (aggressive, long travel) bikes from Santa Cruz, Pivot, Devinci, Yeti, Norco, etc. are all 650b/27.5 – why is this? Maybe it’s because relatively short travel but aggressive 29ers like Evil’s The Following are facilitating the same kind of riding experience a LT 650b/27.5″ bike does (i.e. you don’t “need the extra travel because of the bigger wheels… but since when does that line of thinking apply to mountain bike manufacturers)?

Being short at 5’8″ and the lack of longer travel 29ers ruled wagon wheels out for me. I don’t buy the argument that the bigger wheel make up for 20mm of travel. Travel is travel. The real reason you don’t see long travel 29ers is that your already higher on them so longer travel would negativity impact the handling of the bike and create geometry issues. 140mm 27.5 hits the sweet spot for playful trail riding for me personally. I don’t care for flowy groomed trails so xc short travel bikes aren’t for me.

One more vote for the importance of the trails you ride: Sure, langer travel bikeswap with slacker head angles climb very well these days. So, out in the big mountains, you climb for 2 hours, then rip a sustained descent for 45 minutes, that’s a great set-up

On our Midwestern trails, much of the distance of a trail is spent on short rolling hills. Having a bike that is lively pedaling out of the saddle on a short rise, having geometry that is nimble for the tight turns at slower speeds on the flats, and having firm suspension to pump every little feature, even on the uphills, makes that bike a lot more fun on these sort of trails.

So I’d argue there IS STILL a penalty for longer travel, slacker bikes.

Great article, give me more insights. Written well. We need more article like this in different subjects Thanks

Beeson, I am just under 6′-0″ and I feel that the 29ers with long travel are just way to Tall. I do not like to maneuver on stilts, and I would need a Medium with 29 and anything over 130 mm travel. also at some point the suspension will tweak, bind, or feel like it is hanging up as you are flicking around corners or clipping rocks. I tend to use my dropper any time I see Technical or tight turns, and the high profile only helps for pedal strikes… not confidence in riding my outside lugs. We need a lower center of gravity without grinding down front cogs.

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short travel xc bikes

Specialized Epic 8 Review | The all-new 120mm travel Epic is Brainless, but all the better for it!

The not-so-minor details.

Specialized Epic 8



From $7,500 AUD ($24,000 AUD as tested)

- Active & highly capable suspension - Contemporary geometry with nifty Hi/Lo flip chip - Same brilliant SIDLuxe custom shock tune on all models - Flight Attendant system on S-Works Epic is a genuine game changer - New generation SWAT storage is fabulous - Lightweight & practical frame design

- The S-Works bike is eye-poppingly expensive - SRAM Level brakes have too much dead stroke - No alloy models

Wil reviews the Specialized Epic 8

Cast your mind back 22 years ago, when the Specialized Epic debuted on the race scene with its iconic Brain shock. The clever inertia valve formed an integral part of the bike’s automatic-lockout schtick and it’s been a defining feature of the Epic ever since.

Two decades and many revisions later, Specialized is launching the latest version of the Epic and, for the first time ever, there is not a Brain damper in sight. In fact, this is the first Epic where most models will come with a remote lockout. Sacre bleu!

To get to grips with this change in attitude, I’ve been putting in a load of saddle time aboard the new Specialized Epic and Epic EVO over the past two months. We wrapped up testing with a few days at the Buxton MTB Park in Victoria’s High Country, which allowed us to ride both bikes back-to-back and really dig down into the details.

So what exactly are the differences? How does the new Epic compare to the short travel Epic World Cup ? And where do they all sit amongst the best XC bikes on the market?

Watch our video review of the Specialized Epic & Epic EVO:

2024 specialized s-works epic 8

I gotta say, we are absolutely loving this new trend for 120mm travel XC bikes, and the Specialized Epic is arguably the best example yet.

2024 specialized s-works epic 8

An overview of the Specialized Epic 8

All new for 2024, the latest Specialized Epic represents the 8th generation of the race bike platform. As part of the launch, Specialized is adopting a new naming system that moves away from traditional year models. Instead, the new bike will simply be known as the ‘Epic 8’. Expect other models to follow this nomenclature in the future.

Also noteworthy is the fact that there are three distinct variants of the Epic platform. These are;

  • Epic World Cup – 110/75mm travel, smooth course XC race bike
  • Epic – 120/120mm travel, all-round XC & marathon race bike
  • Epic EVO – 130/120mm travel, XC and trail riding

2024 specialized s-works epic 8

Here we’ll be covering the Epic, which features an all-new frame for 2024 along with an increase in travel to 120mm front and rear. It’s pitched as a versatile XC race bike that’s ready for marathon and multi-day stage racing. And in a lot of ways it’s the logical successor to the previous Epic EVO that had become the favoured race bike for the World Cup XC team. With its dedicated 120mm travel platform, the new Epic 8 moves further inline with the latest Scott Spark RC & Orbea Oiz .

Brainless, but better?

Aside from its longer legs, one of the biggest stories for the Epic 8 is its distinct lack of a Brain damper.

2024 specialized s-works epic 8

In its place is a mostly conventional RockShox SIDLuxe shock. There’s a relatively straightforward single pivot suspension platform that uses flex stays with a rocker link and yoke to drive the shock. The layout is pretty similar to the previous Epic EVO, though the link is longer and it sits at a flatter angle to lower the initial leverage rate.

Furthermore, the main pivot has been lifted up to increase anti-squat, which sits at around 100% at sag. As a result, the new Epic is claimed to offer 20% less pedal bob on smooth climbs compared to the old Epic EVO. And since the new kinematic keeps the bike riding higher in its travel, the dynamic head angle is pretty similar when climbing even if the on-paper head angle has gotten slacker.

short travel xc bikes

The end result is a bike that’s purported to be both more efficient and more compliant than its predecessors, making it “ the most capable 120mm bike on the planet. ” Fighting words indeed!

Specialized has got a whole bunch of fancy graphs and illustrations to back up its claims and prove how much testing went into the new bike. Prototype mules were developed with angle-adjustable headsets and flip chips, as well as an eccentric BB to change the height and rear centre length. Accelerometers were then used at the wheels to measure bump response, and strain gauges were employed throughout to record frame deflection. The end result is a bike that’s purported to be both more efficient and more compliant than its predecessors, making it “ the most capable 120mm bike on the planet. ” Fighting words indeed!

Standard-ish shock

Each Epic model comes equipped with a RockShox SID and SIDLuxe suspension package. The shock’s 190x45mm size is standard, though the internals have been custom-tuned by Specialized’s in-house Ride Dynamics team specifically for the Epic.

2024 specialized s-works epic 8

A key component is the high volume air spring. There are no Bottomless Tokens inside, and even the plastic eyelet spacer has been removed to maximise air volume, creating a flatter and more consistent spring curve.

To help cushion the end of the travel, Specialized has brought over the big rubber jounce bumper that was originally developed for the SIDLuxe WCID shock on the Epic World Cup. It’s a simple but highly effective solution for preventing harsh bottoming out.

Specialized has also tuned the shock’s damper to provide three distinct modes; Wide Open, Magic Middle and Sprint-On-Lock.

Wide Open is similar to a regular SIDLuxe shock and is exactly as it sounds. Sprint-On-Lock is designed to provide a super stiff lockout, which is supported by the flatter leverage curve of the new kinematic.

ALL-NEW Specialized Epic vs Epic EVO Review | Brainless, But All The Better For It!

Magic in the Middle

The Magic Middle mode is where things get interesting. This deploys a custom valve that features a digressive compression tune. It’s not a dissimilar concept to the old Brain damper, where the shock delivers more low-speed compression damping at lower shaft speeds to provide pedalling support. Hit something hard and fast however, and the damping drops off quickly to let the shock absorb the impact in a similar way to the Wide Open mode.

Specialized takes this concept further by implementing the digressive compression tune into the Epic’s SID fork as well. That means in the Magic Middle mode you get an efficient pedalling platform at both ends of the bike, which Specialized says is ideal for racing. In fact, it turns out the World Cup race team has been using the new custom suspension tune all throughout the 2023 season.

To switch between these three suspension modes, on most Epic models you’ll be using a RockShox TwistLoc remote . Yep, a remote lockout on an Epic, who woulda thunk it!

Move up to the S-Works Epic, and you do get automated suspension courtesy of the new RockShox Flight Attendant system. More on that in a bit.

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works pro

SWAT storage

Another exciting addition to the Specialized Epic 8 is its in-frame storage. This is a curious decision for an XC race bike where weight is a high priority, though Specialized says it only adds around 75g of extra carbon to reinforce the big hole in the downtube.

It is neatly executed too with a new generation hatch that features a lower profile and an ergonomic lever mechanism. The snug fit is claimed to be watertight and rattle-free, and the underside of the hatch incorporates a holster for carrying a Dynaplug and CO2 cylinder. A dry bag is included with the bike, allowing you to store a spare tube and levers inside the frame. Along with the SWAT tool that sits underneath the main bottle cage, you’re pretty well covered for tools and spares.

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works

Specialized Epic frame weight

Despite the addition of downtube storage, the new Specialized Epic 8 frame is supposedly 76g lighter than its predecessor. Getting rid of the Brain no doubt helps, but there are some more subtle weight-saving details throughout.

The shock mounting tabs are said to be 24g lighter as they’re now moulded into the frame rather than being stuck on. Along with titanium pivot hardware and a new carbon shock yoke, the S-Works Epic FACT 12m carbon frame is claimed to weigh just 1,795g including a SIDLuxe remote shock.

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works

All the other Epic models utilise a cheaper FACT 11m carbon frame that features an alloy shock yoke and steel pivot hardware, resulting in a 170g weight penalty.

Here’s how those claimed weights stack up against the competition;

  • Specialized S-Works Epic World Cup  – 1,712g
  • Cervelo ZFS-5 – 1,718g
  • Giant Anthem Advanced Pro  – 1,735g
  • Specialized S-Works Epic 8 (FACT 12m) – 1,795g
  • Orbea Oiz OMX  – 1,798g
  • Scott Spark HMX SL  – 1,870g
  • Canyon Lux World Cup CFR  – 1,894g
  • Cannondale Scalpel Hi-Mod  – 1,910g
  • Santa Cruz Blur 4  – 1,933g
  • Trek Supercaliber SLR – 1,950g
  • Specialized Epic 8 (FACT 11m) – 1,965g
  • Merida Ninety-Six RC  – 2,064g
  • Pivot Mach 4 SL  – 2,087g

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works

Specialized Epic geometry & size chart

The new Specialized Epic 8 continues to push the boundaries of modern XC geometry.

There’s a 66.4° head angle, a 76° seat angle and a 450mm reach in the size Medium. You might also spot a discreet two-position flip chip in the lower shock mount. Complete bikes will come from the factory set up in the High position, and switching to Low will drop the BB by 5mm and slacken the angles by half a degree.

Rear centre length sits at 435mm across the size range. I asked Brian Gordon, the Epic product manager, whether a size-specific approach had been considered. He said they did test longer chainstays on the bigger frame sizes, but feedback from the Specialized Factory Racing team (including a 1.85m tall bloke called Christopher Blevins) indicated that athletes wanted the back end to be as short as possible. So there you go.

2024 specialized epic geometry size chart

Specialized Epic 8 price & specs

There will be four models in the Specialized Epic 8 lineup, with prices starting at $7,500 AUD for the Comp.

Regardless of price, all models feature a RockShox SID fork and SIDLuxe shock. Each bike comes standard with a dropper post (woohoo!) as well as the same Specialized Fast Trak and Renegade tyre combo.

Our test bike is the all-singing, all-dancing S-Works model. This is the only bike to feature the premium FACT 12m carbon frame, and it’s also the only one to come with RockShox Flight Attendant. Brand new for 2024, the XC version of Flight Attendant has some seriously cool stuff going on that includes powermeter integration. We’ll be talking about that a bit in this review, but given most folks will be looking at one of the cheaper models, I feel it’s important not to get too lost in the weeds. For those who really want to nerd out, see our separate Flight Attendant XC feature for everything you need to know.

2024 specialized s-works epic 8

2024 Specialized S-Works Epic 8

  • Frame | FACT 12m Carbon, Single-Pivot Suspension Design, 120mm Travel
  • Fork | RockShox SID Ultimate, Flight Attendant, 44mm Offset, 120mm Travel
  • Shock | RockShox SIDLuxe Ultimate, Flight Attendant, 190x45mm
  • Wheels |  Roval Control SL, Carbon Rims, 29mm Inner Width
  • Tyres | Specialized Fast Trak T7 Control 2.35in Front & Renegade T5 Control 2.35in Rear
  • Drivetrain | SRAM XX SL Eagle AXS Transmission 1×12 w/34T Carbon Crankset & 10-52T Cassette
  • Brakes | SRAM Level Ultimate 4-Piston w/180mm Front & 160mm Rear Rotors
  • Bar |  Roval Control SL Cockpit, 760mm Width
  • Stem | Roval Control SL Cockpit, 60mm Length
  • Seatpost | RockShox Reverb AXS, 30.9mm Diameter, Travel: 125mm (S-M), 150mm (L), 170mm (XL)
  • Saddle |  Specialized S-Works Power, Carbon Rails
  • Claimed Weight | 10.24kg
  • RRP | $24,000 AUD

2024 specialized epic 8 pro

2024 Specialized Epic 8 Pro

  • Frame | FACT 11m Carbon, Single-Pivot Suspension Design, 120mm Travel
  • Fork | RockShox SID Ultimate, Charger Race Day 3-Position Damper, 44mm Offset, 120mm Travel
  • Shock | RockShox SIDLuxe Ultimate, 3-Position Damper, 190x45mm
  • Wheels | Roval Control, Carbon Rims, 29mm Inner Width
  • Drivetrain | SRAM X0 Eagle AXS Transmission 1×12 w/34T Alloy Crankset & 10-52T Cassette
  • Brakes | SRAM Level Silver 4-Piston w/180mm Front & 160mm Rear Rotors
  • Bar | S-Works Carbon XC Mini Rise, 10mm Rise, 760mm Width
  • Stem | Specialized Pro SL, 60mm Length
  • Seatpost | BikeYoke Divine SL, 30.9mm Diameter, Travel: 100mm (S), 125mm (M-XL)
  • Saddle | Specialized Power Expert, Titanium Rails
  • Claimed Weight | 10.87kg
  • RRP | $14,800 AUD

2024 specialized epic 8 expert

2024 Specialized Epic 8 Expert

  • Fork | RockShox SID Select+, Charger Race Day 3-Position Damper, 44mm Offset, 120mm Travel
  • Shock | RockShox SIDLuxe Select+, 3-Position Damper, 190x45mm
  • Drivetrain | SRAM GX Eagle AXS Transmission 1×12 w/34T Alloy Crankset & 10-52T Cassette
  • Brakes | SRAM Level Bronze 4-Piston w/180mm Front & 160mm Rear Rotors
  • Bar | Specialized Alloy Mini Rise, 10mm Rise, 750mm Width
  • Stem | Specialized XC, 60mm Length
  • Seatpost | X-Fusion Manic, 30.9mm Diameter, Travel: 100mm (XS), 125mm (S-M), 150mm (L), 170mm (XL)
  • Saddle | Specialized Power Sport, Chromoly Rails
  • Claimed Weight | 11.1kg
  • RRP | $11,000 AUD

2024 specialized epic 8 comp

2024 Specialized Epic 8 Comp

  • Fork | RockShox SID Select, Charger RL 3-Position Damper, 44mm Offset, 120mm Travel
  • Wheels | Alloy Hubs & Specialized Alloy Rims, 28mm Inner Width
  • Drivetrain | SRAM GX Eagle 1×12 w/32T Alloy Crankset & 10-52T Cassette
  • Stem | Specialized Alloy, 60mm Length
  • Claimed Weight | 11.7kg
  • RRP | $7,500 AUD

2024 specialized s-works epic 8 review

With your feet hovering above the ground, stability at speed is outrageously good and you can properly bury the Epic into tight corners.

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works buxton mtb park

Testing the Specialized Epic at the Buxton MTB Park

Following two months of riding on home trails, I took the Specialized Epic and Epic EVO to the Buxton MTB Park for three days of back-to-back testing as part of our Ride High Country Test Sessions.

We were joined by our pal Jo, who is an MTB skills instructor and a former World Cup XC racer. Jo also owns the previous version of the Epic EVO, which would prove to be a great point of comparison with the new bikes.

With 23km of flowy, purpose-built singletrack making up its network, the Buxton MTB Park is a terrific spot for a modern XC bike. It’s beautiful bush to ride through, and we especially love darting through the lush green ferns down the awesome Spider Gully trail.

Being just a 10-minute drive from Marysville at the foot of Lake Mountain, there’s a load of fantastic riding to be done in the region that makes it ideal for a long weekend away. For more info, check out our Destination Hub feature on the Buxton MTB Park .

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works review

Sizing & fit

At 175cm tall I’ve been riding a Medium size in the Specialized Epic, which fits like a glove. The riding position is fairly aggressive due to the steep 76° seat angle, short head tube and -12° stem that all serve to push you low and forward. I still found it to be comfortable though, with the 760mm wide bars opening up the chest nicely.

Touch points are excellent thanks to the snub-nose Power saddle and symmetrical SRAM AXS Pod controllers. I was also stoked to see a 125mm travel dropper post as standard.

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works review

Suspension & tyre setup

It’s recommended to set up the SIDLuxe shock on the Specialized Epic with 25-30% sag, a process that’s made easier with anodised gradients on the stanchion.

Initially I started at 25% sag, but soon learned I could run lower pressures and lean on the big bottom-out bumper to prevent any harsh bottoming-out. I ended up right at 30% sag, which required 145psi to support my 67kg riding weight. Rebound damping was set on the faster side at 7/10 clicks.

I set up the SID fork a little firmer and faster than what’s recommended in the RockShox Trailhead app, with 75psi and 11/20 clicks for rebound.

As per usual, I fitted a CushCore XC insert in the rear wheel and set tyre pressures at 20-21psi up front and 22-23psi out back.

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works weight

Specialized Epic weight

Our Specialized Epic test bike tips the scales at 10.32kg (without pedals and with the tyres set up tubeless), which is very close to the claimed weight. There are lighter XC bikes out there, but very few offer 120mm of travel.

Because I’m a total nerd, I decided to spend a Saturday afternoon stripping the Epic down to its bare frame to weigh it. This was surprisingly easy to do given the wireless controls and threaded BB, with no special tools required.

I was curious to see how the real-world frame weight would stack up against Specialized’s claims, and it turned out our frame was a fair bit heavier at 2,040g including the shock. There are several reasons for this.

roval control sl weight cockpit handlebar stem

Because I’m a total nerd, I decided to spend a Saturday afternoon stripping the Epic down to its bare frame to weigh it.

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works frame weight

For a start, the Flight Attendant shock is 90g heavier than the SIDLuxe remote shock that comes standard on the S-Works frameset. Specialized also states that the black and white frame saves 25g in paint, and it’s also weighed without the thick rubber downtube protector that adds 58g alone.

With those details factored in, our frame would theoretically tip the scales at 1,867g, which is much closer to the claimed weight. To put it into perspective with the other XC frames I’ve been able to weigh, it’s lighter than the Canyon Lux World Cup CFR (1,941g confirmed), but heavier than the Giant Anthem (1,807g confirmed).

While we’re nerding out on frame weight, here’s a list of all the other parts I put on the workshop scales;

  • S-Works Epic Frame & Shock – 2,040g
  • RockShox SID Flight Attendant Fork – 1,1616g
  • RockShox SIDLuxe Flight Attendant Shock – 342g
  • RockShox Reverb AXS Dropper Post – 617g
  • S-Works Power Saddle – 161g
  • Roval Control SL Cockpit – 247g
  • Roval Control SL Wheelset – 1,293g
  • Fast Trak Control T7 Tyre – 716g
  • Renegade Control T5 Tyre – 726g

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works review

What do we dig about the Specialized Epic?

I gotta say, we are absolutely loving this new trend for 120mm travel XC bikes, and the Specialized Epic is arguably the best example yet. Its longer legs give it a significantly plusher and more active ride quality compared to the likes of the Supercaliber and Lux World Cup .

By employing a shock extender, sealed bearings can be used at all pivot points with the exception of the forward shock mount. Specialized has also spec’d a lighter lockout tune, which leads to less damping restriction in the Wide Open mode for greater bump-swallowing performance. Combined with the superb SID and SIDLuxe, you’re treated to well-balanced traction and sensitivity front to back.

Push the Epic on more challenging terrain, and its reactive suspension reveals impressive big-hit support. That big bottom-out bumper works wonders at cushioning the last few millimetres, with only the ugliest landings resulting in you hitting full travel. This gives more confidence to let it hang out on the descents, and it makes the Epic a fun and natural bike to jump with.

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works review

Future-forward geometry

The contemporary geometry plays into the Epic’s confidence too. While the aggressive position puts you low and forward in the cockpit, I’ve rarely encountered any nervousness when pointing it down a steep chute. The stout 35mm fork chassis certainly helps, as does the capable suspension and long front centre.

Things get even better when you flip the geometry chip into the Low position. This pushes the Epic further into trail bike territory by slackening the head angle to 65.9° and dropping the BB by 5mm. I measured the actual BB height as 323mm, which is quite low indeed.

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works review

With your feet hovering above the ground, stability at speed is outrageously good and you can properly bury the Epic into tight corners. Traction is plentiful, with the supple tyres and sensitive suspension keeping you thoroughly connected to the terrain.

There’s also a nice degree of springiness to the frame itself, which you can feel when slinging the Epic through successive turns. It’s worth acknowledging Specialized’s size-specific approach that sees unique carbon layups and tube profiles employed across each frame size. The idea here is to hit the same stiffness targets based on the expected average rider weight. As such, heavy folks on larger frames won’t end up on a wet noodle of a bike, and lighter riders on smaller frames won’t suffer from an excessively stiff and harsh ride.

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works review

Pert pedalling

Pedal response has also stepped up on the new Specialized Epic, offering noticeably greater efficiency compared to the previous Epic EVO.

Part of this is due to the elevated anti-squat, which sits at around 100% at sag compared to 90% for the old bike. It doesn’t sound like much, but it leads to more neutral pedalling performance that ensures the Epic is plenty responsive under power even in the Wide Open mode. Along with the welterweight carbon wheelset and quick-rolling tyres, acceleration is rapid.

It only gets better in the Magic Middle mode, which stabilises the suspension on the climbs and lifts the overall ride height. Even with the ground-hugging BB, pedal strikes have been a non-issue.

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works review

There’s still enough movement to provide grip on hardpack surfaces. And the suspension can break through its low-speed threshold when you encounter a reasonable impact, with a nice clean breakaway that does well to mitigate incoming trail feedback. This makes the Magic Middle mode ideal for most racing scenarios where efficiency is paramount and comfort is less of a concern.

Flight Attendant XC

Now I did say I didn’t want to talk too much about Flight Attendant XC, but I’m so jazzed on it that I’m finding it difficult not to.

Compared to the existing enduro version of Flight Attendant, the hardware isn’t all that different. Indeed the modules and AXS batteries are all identical, and the system still automatically adjusts the suspension between three preset damping positions. In the case of the Epic, those are Wide Open, Magic Middle and Sprint-On-Lock.

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works review flight attendant

Along with the powermeter, the system records all of this information and stores data from your previous seven rides to help build a visual of the terrain and your riding style.

What is new for Flight Attendant XC is its powermeter and AXS derailleur integration. This allows the system to factor in your power output into its trail-tweaking algorithm. The idea here is that when you’re sprinting for your life the suspension is more likely to lock out. If you’re just cruising however, it’ll default to the open setting.

The modules otherwise maintain their bump sensors and pitch detection, so it knows when you’re going up or downhill, and whether the trail is smooth or bumpy. Along with the powermeter, the system records all of this information and stores data from your previous seven rides to help build a visual of the terrain and your riding style.

2024 specialized s-works epic 8

In use, Flight Attendant XC is an absolute game-changer. The wireless setup is super neat, removing two cables and a remote lockout from the cockpit. And with the automated suspension, there’s one less thing for you to think about so you can concentrate on the trail ahead.

There is an Override mode, which I’ve set to the Sprint-On-Lock setting to provide an instantaneous lockout at the push of a button on the Pod controller. You can also switch the system into Manual mode and use the same Pod controller button to scroll through the three suspension settings. It’s much the same as using the TwistLoc remote, though it is much faster and takes less effort.

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works review rockshox flight attendant xc

Really though, it’s all about the Auto mode and the benefits it brings to the riding experience. I particularly like when it engages a split suspension state, where the shock moves into a firmer mode compared to the fork. This is one of the key benefits over a manually-operated system, and it means the back end of the bike rides firmer and higher to improve pedalling efficiency, while the fork remains open so it can freely absorb impacts.

It’s clever stuff, and it only gets better the more you ride it. The system learns your riding style and power zones, allowing it to make more nuanced decisions. The beauty though is in its simplicity. You just get on the bike, ride and let the suspension adjust to the terrain as needed.

Curious to know more? See our separate Flight Attendant review for the full story.

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works review

What don’t we like?

That’s easy, the price!

Honestly, $24K is an insane amount of money for a mountain bike that doesn’t have a mid-drive motor. It puts the S-Works model well out of reach for most riders, but then these have never exactly been cheap bikes.

Obviously the Flight Attendant system adds a lot to the price tag. While Flight Attendant XC is yet to be available aftermarket, RockShox sells the current enduro kit (fork, shock and pedal sensor) for $5K alone. Add a powermeter into the equation, and you’ve get a rough idea of how much extra you’re paying for the electronic integration.

And ultimately, it does lead to the S-Works Epic being the highest performing XC bike I’ve ever tested. If you want the very best, I’d honestly struggle to recommend anything else.

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works review

Most folks won’t be able to justify spending that kind of money though, and the good news is that you don’t have to. Personally I’d be looking at the Epic Expert, which at $11,000 AUD hits the sweet spot in terms of the performance-per-dollar ratio.

Its FACT 11m frame is only a little bit heavier, and it still gets a lightweight Roval Control carbon wheelset and a wireless GX AXS Transmission. More importantly, it shares the same high-end fork and shock dampers as the S-Works model. It’s also claimed to weigh just 11.1kg, making it lighter than the Trek Supercaliber 9.8 GX AXS (11.62kg), Orbea Oiz M10 (11.57kg), and the Cervelo ZFS-5 120 X0 AXS (11.52kg) we’ve tested previously.

2024 specialized epic 8 expert

Price aside, I’m otherwise struggling to come up with other downsides for the Epic. Some may be turned off by the headset cable routing, but it’s worth pointing out that it only features on the FACT 12m frame on the S-Works model. And with only a single brake hose passing through the headset, it’s a total non-issue. In fact, I prefer it as it provides a super clean cockpit.

I did get some creaking from the headset on our test bike, which was easy to pull apart for cleaning. Following a re-grease it’s been silent ever since. I also like the subtle steering limiter, which does its intended job without ever being noticeable on the trail.

2024 specialized s-works epic 8 review

Component highs & lows

With the Specialized S-Works Epic being the most expensive mountain bike we’ve ever tested, you’d expect it to be absolutely flawless. And for the most part that’s been the case.

The RockShox SID fork and SIDLuxe shock are superb, and in many ways this combo is leading the charge in the XC world. Specialized complements the sensitive suspension with a cohesive and well-tuned build kit. There’s no harshness from the one-piece cockpit, and there’s decent compliance from the supple tyres and carbon wheels.

Despite the incredibly low weight, the Control SL wheelset have handled some serious whacks to the rims. I had a huge stick go through the rear wheel and get jammed up against the chainstays, though aside from a bent spoke there’s been no damage to speak of.

sram level ultimate brake 4p

The tyre combo has been similarly reliable, offering a good balance of grip, suppleness and durability. See our Specialized XC tyre group test for more detail about these.

One downside has been the SRAM Level Ultimate brakes. The levers feature too much dead stroke for my liking, irrespective of how many times you bleed them. Really your only option is to run the lever reach further out, or pair them with the thicker and heavier HS2 rotors like I have on my Lux World Cup .

And that’s kind of the story with the Epic as a whole, which puts a greater emphasis on performance and practicality over outright weight.

Speaking of weight, there are some areas you could drop grams. The Reverb AXS is 200g heavier than an equivalent Transfer SL , though the wireless setup is a big plus and so too is the light action and infinite adjustability. It’s the same deal with SRAM’s XX SL Transmission. Shimano XTR is lighter, but it’s hard to not be impressed by the shift quality and robustness of the hanger-less XX SL derailleur.

2024 specialized s-works epic 8 review

And that’s kind of the story with the Epic as a whole, which puts a greater emphasis on performance and practicality over outright weight. Specialized  could  have made it lighter by omitting the SWAT storage, thick frame protection, flip chip and internal guide tubes. Personally I’m glad they’re all here though, as it makes for a more versatile bike that’s easier to live with day-to-day. Speaking of versatility, I should point out that the frame will handle a 130mm travel fork, which is exactly how the Epic EVO comes set up. Check out our Epic EVO review for more.

Specialized Epic vs Epic World Cup

With the new Specialized Epic 8 joining the lineup alongside the Epic World Cup , no doubt there’ll be a number of folks trying to work out which will be the best XC bike for their needs.

2023 specialized epic world cup pro

Released a year ago, the Epic World Cup is a short travel full suspension race bike that represents an evolution of the previous Brain-equipped Epic. It’s built around a stunning full carbon frame with a proprietary SIDLuxe WCID shock that incorporates a tuneable negative air chamber. It’s designed to offer a very firm and almost locked out feel for maximum pedal efficiency, with a smooth breakaway that allows you to deploy the 75mm of rear travel on bigger hits.

That’s complemented by a Brain-equipped SID SL fork that offers 110mm of travel. Along with rigid carbon seatpost and smaller 2-piston brakes, the Epic World Cup is the lighter of two bikes, and by no small margin either. At a claimed 9.27kg for the S-Works model, it’s over a kilo lighter than the regular Epic. It’s also cheaper too at $19,200 AUD.

Despite coming from the same brand, on the trail these two bikes are very different.

specialized epic world cup

The Epic World Cup strikes the middle ground between a hardtail and a traditional full suspension bike. It’s seriously efficient and is ideal for smoother courses and short track racing where you don’t necessarily need a plush ride. The steering is wicked fast and, much like a hardtail, it loves being whipped through tight and flowy singletrack. However, its slack head angle and low BB means it is surprisingly stable at speed, even if there is more feedback through the contact points.

In comparison, the Epic 8 is for sure the more versatile bike of the two. It’s significantly plusher and is far more comfortable over rough terrain, which sees it drawing a stronger connection with the previous Epic EVO.

It’s no slouch though, with the Magic Middle and Sprint-On-Lock modes providing plenty of pedal response when needed. The difference is that you’ll be throttling the TwistLoc remote on a regular basis to tweak the suspension to the trail, and of course the extra cables will add some clutter to the cockpit compared to the beautifully clean setup on the Epic World Cup. That is unless you’re considering the premium S-Works model with its Flight Attendant system.

Outside of racing, I’ve simply found the Epic 8 to be more fun to ride. It’s a ripping XC bike that offers remarkable capability on fast and technical terrain. It’s also the better technical climber when things get choppy, as it delivers considerably more grip and comfort. If I was to choose out of the two, hands down I’d pick the Epic 8.

2022 scott spark rc

Specialized Epic 8 vs Scott Spark RC

Given it’s also built around a 120mm travel platform, the Scott Spark RC is a logical competitor to the new Specialized Epic 8.

The frame design is quite different, with its highly integrated approach and hidden rear shock creating a distinctive silhouette that stands out from the crowd. It also incorporates modular headset cups for adjusting the head angle independently, but otherwise the geometry is pretty similar to the Epic.

Comparing price and specs isn’t straightforward, since at the time of writing Scott is still yet to update the Spark range with any SRAM Transmission models. However, it’s worth acknowledging that the Spark is available in a wide variety of options including models with alloy frames, which means the starting price is much lower.

2022 scott spark rc

As for ride quality, both the Epic and Spark are at the forefront when it comes to modern XC race bikes. They’re surprisingly plush and offer a load of traction across rough and technical terrain. Each comes with a nifty 3-position damper for the fork and shock, with a middle setting that’s designed to elevate pedalling efficiency and climbing performance.

The Spark goes about it differently with its proprietary Nude shock, which limits rear travel to 80mm in the middle Traction Control mode. It also features the unique TwinLoc remote that incorporates the dropper lever and suspension paddles into a single unit. It’s all very neat and works well, with the integrated cockpit and internal shock giving it a sharp aesthetic that will appeal to certain riders.

The Epic takes a less radical approach with its external shock, guided cable routing and threaded BB making it an easier bike to work on. Its slimmer and more conventional frame profile also provides a greater degree of compliance when riding over rocky terrain, while the SWAT downtube storage gives it another tick in the practicality department.

2024 specialized s-works epic 8

Flow’s Verdict

No doubt about it, the new Specialized Epic 8 is up there as one of the most fun and versatile XC bikes I’ve ever tested.

In the past, race bikes have always been sharp, efficient and very business-like machines. But having ditched the Brain and boosted its travel, it’s clear the Epic 8 is far more than just a dedicated racer.

Yes it’s light and fast, and it can deliver powerful responsiveness when needed thanks to its svelte carbon frame, neutral pedalling behaviour and clever shock tune. Flip the suspension into the Wide Open mode, and you’ve got a plush and active ride quality. Combined with its well-balanced handling, it offers a calmness at speed that allows you to push it surprisingly hard on technical terrain.

This is important because while races have traditionally been won or lost on the climbs, these days they’re increasingly being decided on the downhills too. And the Epic 8 is a seriously good descender.

Along with its relatively straightforward frame layout and practical amenities, it’s a versatile and pragmatic bike to live with day-to-day. If I was choosing the ultimate XC bike, I’d be hard-pressed to think of anything as capable as this.

2024 specialized epic 8 s-works review


Bendigo, Victoria

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a canyon lux in the woods

Canyon’s New Lux Trail Is an XC Rider’s All-Day Mountain Bike

Updated geometry, improved suspension performance, and in-frame storage make the Lux Trail a solid choice for cross country riding and light-duty trail bike use.

Takeaway: The Lux Trail has the word “trail” in its name but this is not a trail bike. It’s a 120/115mm bike for XC-style mountain bike riding (vs. XC racing). The Lux Trail features improved geometry, longer dropper posts, a UDH hanger, and internal frame storage. This Canyon is best suited for the all-day cross country rider who likes a fast bike but wants slightly more travel and function for long rides.

New Geometry and Frame Features

The lux trail lineup, in the woods, who should buy this bike.

Eagle-eyed mountain bike fans perhaps noticed a very subtly different Lux WC under the likes of Loana Lecomte and Luca Schwarzbauer during the 2023 World Cup season. The main difference I saw on the race bikes is a much shorter seat tube. Immediately it had me pondering if a new Lux was on the way or if the team riders were on an exclusive “pro-only” variant of the existing bike. The answer is perhaps a little of both.

Canyon launched the updated Lux Trail and the new Trail model shares some features with the existing CFR race bike (notably UDH/T-Type compatibility). However, the new Lux Trail has a noticeably different rocker linkage that, Canyon claims, aids in a more progressive feel and increased traction and includes the shorter seat tube seen on the pro bikes.

Canyon Lux Trail CF 9

Lux Trail CF 9

The updated Lux Trail sports 120mm (front)/115mm (rear) travel. But I won’t pigeonhole it into any single short-travel mountain bike category name.

While a Canyon media representative warned me that the Lux Trail is not a “downcountry bike”, riders accustomed to 100mm travel XC bikes might apply that designation. Yet someone who typically rides a 140mm or 150mm travel bike might call the Lux Trail an XC bike. Basically, the Lux Trail is an XC-style bike that is equally happy between the tape as it is on longer trail days.

Elephant in the Room

Let’s address the bike’s cable routing before getting into other details. The Lux Trail joins the ranks of bikes with cable routing through the top headset bearing.

a close up of a bicycle handlebar with internal headset routing

In short, while I acknowledge that a racing number plate looks cleaner on the front of an internally routed mountain bike, it creates service headaches for riders and mechanics. I made peace with internal routing on road bikes—on mountain bikes, I would rather not have the hassle.

Canyon updates the Lux Trail with a few nice touches. Unsurprisingly, the platform sees a slacker headtube (by a half degree to 67°) and a steeper seat tube (by 1.5 degrees to 76°). This puts the Lux’s numbers in line with many modern XC bikes like the Scott Spark , Pivot Mach 4 SL , and Allied BC40 .

Another welcome change is to the seat tube length. As was noted by Dan Chabanov, the previous Lux model had a rather long seat tube (he was barely able to get his saddle height set right). The size medium of the new Lux Trail uses a 45mm shorter seat tube than the previous model. This allows compatibility with longer dropper posts and better adjustability across frame sizes.

lux trail seat tube

As is expected for updated mountain bikes in 2023, UDH also entered the chat. This is another welcome change, even if you do not plan to use a T-Type drivetrain . Having an easy-to-source rear derailleur hanger is always a win if you travel with your bike or plan to own the bike for any length of time.

Canyon also adds in-frame storage to the bike and a nicely stashed multi-tool, all while maintaining two-bottle compatibility. I’m a big fan of storing tools on bikes. And Canyon executed it well on the Lux Trail—the multi-tool is placed neatly under the top tube for quick deployment.

a small multi tool is discreetly held under the top tube

The Lux Trail’s in-frame storage is easily accessible on the downtube. The space fits spare parts like a tube (or two), bigger multi-tools, a small pump, derailleur hangers, spokes, or even some snacks to be safely stowed and out of the way on long rides.

in frame storage on a canyon lux mountain bike

The internal storage cover holds a C02 canister neatly and rattle-free. Our test bike also came with a tool roll pre-filled with a tube and extra plugs. And there was enough room for me to fit a larger multi-tool with a chain breaker, a tightly packed second tube, extra Co2s, quick links, and tire boots—all with room to spare. Another nice addition is the tire plug kit stashed in the bar end plugs for trailside repairs.

The new Lux Trail sits alongside the existing Lux race bikes (like the World Cup CFR model). Canyon sent us the top-of-the-line Lux Trail CFR LTD model for testing. However, this model is currently not offered in the United States. For the U.S. market, Canyon is now shipping the CF 9 model. A CF 8 and CF 7 will ship in Spring 2024 as well as a more budget-friendly CF 6.

Priced at $5,800, the top-spec CF 9 bike in the U.S. ships with RockShox Select+ suspension, SRAM GX AXS Transmission groupset, and DT Swiss XRC1501 carbon wheels. So, while you won’t get quite the bling package I tested, it’s still get a very adequate bike. The CF9 hits a good balance of performance vs. price.

The $4,800 CF 8 uses a Fox 34 Performance Elite fork and Performance Elite shock, Shimano XT drivetrain, and the slightly heavier DT Swiss XRC1700 carbon wheels.

Canyon Lux Trail CF 8

Lux Trail CF 8

The CF 7 ($3,800) and CF 6 (price TBD) step down to Fox 34 Performance fork but retain the Elite level shock. Both models have aluminum wheels and Shimano SLX (CF 7) or Deore (CF 6) groupsets.

Canyon Lux Trail CF 7

Lux Trail CF 7

Canyon Lux Trail CF 6

Lux Trail CF 6

Also, all bikes shipped to the U.S. market include a two-piece Raceface handlebar and stem.

I took the Lux Trail out for some cross country laps and a few more demanding downhills to see what the bike is all about. Starting with a trail system I’ve ridden for over 15 years, I easily got the bike up to full speed with confidence. After a few minutes (and a few clicks of rebound adjustment) I found my sweet spot and was happily flowing along.

On the first meeting with a particularly rocky and root-filled descent, the Lux Trail felt composed. The updated geometry improves the ride as advertised. The geo allows for a point-and-go riding style while staying agile when you must change lines.

I found the bike very easy to pop off the ground and be creative with line selection on the trail. And when you got a little too loose, the Lux has just enough suspension to not punish you for the sketchiness. The Lux Trail was even happy to pop off some natural jumps and get a little rowdy.

The bike’s suspension feels soft off the top (it eats up small bumps) and then ramps up deeper in the stroke to offer some support. But it remains reactive to rider input when getting a little more playful. This was especially noticeable when I took the bike on more demanding descents, sections I thought would quickly find the end of the Lux Trail’s 115mm rear suspension.

canyon lux trail cfr

In short, that didn’t happen quite as quickly as expected. The bike certainly doesn’t feel like it only has 115mm of travel out back (and I took some lines that usually feel harsh on short-travel bikes). That’s not to say the Lux Trail won’t get overwhelmed if you push it too hard.

While the brakes are a touch stronger and the fork has slightly more fore-and-aft stiffness than on the World Cup builds, you notice the Lux Trail’s cross country tendencies when you push the limits. On faster, steeper terrain (where you want a little more control) the Lux Trail reminds you it's an XC bike.

But a big part of what makes this bike shine is its uphill performance—and on the climbs, this bike feels great.

Canyon claims that the Lux Trail’s new rocker linkage aids in traction on the trail. And I’m inclined to agree. Even during hard, out-of-the-saddle uphill efforts, the bike suffered minimal wheel slipping. The push to a steeper seat tube angle also puts you in a good position for seated climbs. I never really found myself sliding around, looking for the sweet spot of power and traction.

canyon lux trail cfr

The test bike’s suspension features RockShox Twistloc 3-position lockout with Open, Pedal, and Full-lock modes. I’m usually a fan of three-position lockouts on XC-style trail bikes. Since I often ride to the trailhead, it’s nice to have a full lockout for the pavement. And for wide-open fire roads or smoother-flowing trails, the pedal mode is a welcome feature.

However, with the Lux Trail, I often left the suspension unlocked since the bike pedals so efficiently. If I knew I’d be climbing for a more extended period, I instinctively reached for the pedal mode. While I’m not sure I needed it, it certainly wasn’t a hindrance and I still welcome the inclusion of a lockout.

Echoing what Dan Chabanov wrote about the previous Lux Trail , the “Trail” designation for this bike is curious. Canyon is not saying the Lux Trail is a “trail bike” in the vein of its Neuron or Spectral platforms, the brand simply uses the word trail to differentiate the bike from its purebred XC Lux World Cup models. Essentially the Lux Trail platform is for XC-style riding more than it’s for XC racing . The Lux World Cup is a dedicated XC race platform for competition.

Luckily, mountain biking is long past the days of skittery and uncomfortable XC bikes. And cross country bikes with less than 115mm of travel are increasingly rare. The Lux Trail is the sort of bike I recommend to most XC-leaning riders. It feels sufficiently fast enough to race cross country, yet the Lux Trail maintains the ride quality and fun ride I like for longer (but still fast) days on the bike.

With the Lux Trail, Canyon created a bike that most cross country riders will enjoy. Whether you are an XC racer looking for a new race bike that remains fun outside the tape or a trail rider looking for a faster and lighter bike to complement your more gravity-focused rig, the Lux Trail is worth a look.

Headshot of Trevor Raab

Trevor Raab is the staff photographer for Runner’s World and Bicycling , a CAT 1 cyclocross racer, and, occasionally, a product reviewer for the Test Team. He fits the typical “how I got in to bikes” story: his dad introduced him to mountain bikes when he was a kid, then he had a  stint as a skateboarder in high school, and since 2011 he’s been riding every sort of bike he can find.

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umm al qaiwain, united arab emirates february 23 detailed view of belgian thomas de gendt and team lotto dstny's bike damaged after his crash during the 6th uae tour 2024, stage 5 a 182km stage from al aqah to umm al qaiwain  uciwt  on february 23, 2024 in al aqah, united arab emirates photo by tim de waelegetty images

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2023 Revel Ranger Review

short travel xc bikes

The 2023 Revel Ranger was just revamped and rereleased, and we had the chance to put this short-travel full-suspension 29er through its paces before today’s launch. Find out what’s changed and dig in to the full review here…

short travel xc bikes

Initially released in 2020, the Revel Ranger integrated the Canfield Balance Formula (CBF) suspension linkage into a short-travel cross-country bike, promising efficiency and high-level performance. We didn’t test the original version, but we heard good things from a handful of people who did. One bit of feedback that stood out was that its capability went well above what its relatively conservative geometry might lead you to believe. The new 2023 Revel Ranger got several significant changes, so I’m glad we waited until now. We’ve been testing the revamped Ranger on trail rides and loaded up during a bikepacking trip in Moab. Watch the detailed video review of the new Revel Ranger below, and scroll down to find specs and details about what’s changed and more.

What’s New?

In summary, the Revel Ranger is a true short-travel 29er with a full carbon frame built around 115mm of rear travel and a 120mm fork. For 2023, the Carbondale, Colorado-based company reworked the Revel Ranger with increased tire and chainring clearance and a one-tool linkage system for easier serviceability and longer bearing life. They didn’t change any geometry numbers on this version, but they updated the rear triangle with an improved carbon layup ​that they claim achieves 20% more stiffness with no added weight. They also added all new linkages, made the bike Universal Derailleur Hanger (UDH) compatible, and replaced the shock mounting hardware with fancy titanium bits. The frame continues to come with an integrated headset, a threaded bottom bracket, and chainstay and downtube protectors. Revel also introduced a new color and made some changes to the build kit. Here’s the full spec list with changes from Revel:

  • Updated Paint and Decals: Now available in “Tang” which is borrowed from the Rail 27.5, and the classic “De La Coal” color, with new copper/gold decals.
  • New Rear Triangle on the new Ranger has an improved carbon layup that achieves 20% more stiffness with no added weight!
  • All New links
  • All New hardware package: Titanium shock mounting hardware
  • SRAM UDH derailleur hanger and Electronic Transmission drivetrain compatibility
  • Custom shock tune from RockShox
  • Bolstered Frame Protection: A rear triangle debris guard now comes standard on every New Ranger frame along with robust chainstay protection, as found on Rail29, which makes for a quieter ride
  • Threaded Bottom Bracket
  • Integrated IS 52/42 standard headset
  • Fully guided internal routing
  • Multiple bottle and accessory mount options: 3 sets (2 on size small)

Revel Ranger Review

Canfield Balanced Formula (CBF)

Like all of their full-suspension bikes, Revel uses the Canfield Balanced Formula pivot and linkage design on the Ranger. The brainchild of Canfield Brothers, CBF was created to perform well though the entirety of the bike’s travel, as opposed to having a sweet spot for a particular point in the travel, as some other designs claim. They approached this by aligning the pivot with the center of curvature instead of the instant center while also dialing in the anti-squat and anti-rise characteristics. Through all this, they claim that the CBF design balances the bike, providing efficient pedaling capabilities but not at the expense of quality descending.

2023 Revel Ranger Review

It’s an interesting design, but there’s no way to fully understand it until you ride a CBF bike. I was excited to test out the bike to try to understand what the hype was all about. Even after my first ride on the 2023 Revel Ranger, it was clear that CBF offers a unique set of ride characteristics. Most importantly, it pedals very nicely in a wide variety of conditions. The key word here is pedal . The bike seemed to encourage me to keep pedaling through obstacles and tricky sections where I might normally get hung up. It’s like it kept pushing me forward and helping me maintain momentum. The Ranger kept me on top of the pedal stroke instead of working behind it, so to speak.

2023 Revel Ranger Review

All that said, this isn’t a defining feature of CBF, as I’ve also had the same experience with some Split Pivot designs and other full-suspension platforms. Still, with the Ranger, I found that I almost always preferred keeping the shock fully open. It’s a much more comfortable ride but still extremely efficient. It almost felt like I was able to exit technical bits with as much momentum as I entered. And when out bikepacking all day, that efficiency goes a long way, saving you fatigue and time. I’ll add that the Ranger is very stiff when locked out—paired with the RockShox SID Luxe and a medium frame. I occasionally flipped the lockout on well-graded gravel roads or pavement.

Revel Ranger Geometry

There’s nothing too surprising in the Ranger’s geometry numbers. With a conservative 67.5° head tube angle, 436mm chainstays, and a 1170mm wheelbase (on the medium), it’s clearly an XC or “downcountry” bike. The 453mm reach was a touch shorter than I would like, but it complemented the 75.3° seat tube angle, putting me in a pretty good position for most of my riding. However, I found myself on the front end of the saddle or standing up when I needed to tackle a steep uphill section of trail.

2023 Revel Ranger Geometry

As a 5’ 9.5” rider, The bike actually fit me very well despite the fact that I find myself in between Revel’s sizes. I sized down to ensure I wasn’t losing any of those cross-country characteristics while also having a slightly smaller bike to maneuver. Something you might notice right off the bat is the relatively short standover numbers; 699 millimeters on the medium looks a little strange when you see that it has a lot of exposed seat tube. But the seat tube comes in at 403mm and has plenty of space to run a pretty long dropper post. The medium came with a 150mm post, but I could go bigger if I wanted.

Revel Ranger Review

2023 Revel Ranger Build Kit

This test bike was specced with the Eagle X0 Transmission build kit. Find the components list below and some thoughts on the kit underneath.

  • Frame: Revel Ranger 29″ 115mm Travel
  • Fork: RockShox SID Ultimate 120mm
  • Shock: RockShox SID Luxe Ultimate
  • Wheelset: Revel RW27 28H Rims, Industry Nine Hydra Hubs
  • Headset: Cane Creek 40-series
  • Tubeless: Stans No tubes Single shots x2
  • Front Tire: Maxxis Dissector 29″ x 2.4″ EXO
  • Rear Tire: Maxxis Rekon 29″ x 2.4″ EXO
  • Bars: RaceFace NEXT R 35 800mm x 20mm Rise
  • Stem: RaceFace Turbine R 35 x 40mm
  • Dropper: Crank Brothers Highline 7SM, 31.6mm x 150mm
  • Saddle: WTB Volt CroMo Black
  • Brakes: SRAM Level Silver
  • Rotors: SRAM HS2 6-Bolt 180mm Front / 160mm Rear
  • Shifter: SRAM AXS Shifter Pod Ultimate
  • RearDerailleur: SRAM X0 ET
  • Chain: SRAM X0 ET T-Type
  • Cassette: SRAM X0 ET T-Type
  • Crankset: SRAM X0 Eagle T-Type 170mm 32t
  • Bottom Bracket: SRAM DUB BSA Wide
  • Grips: Lizard Skins Charger Evo Grip Black
  • Seatpost Collar: Revel 34.9mm Dia

As mentioned, the Revel Ranger is now built around the SRAM Universal Derailleur Hanger, and this particular XO build came with the new Eagle Transmission reviewed here . After 150 more miles on the driver, I’m not only more amazed by its ability to shift under load, but I’m surprised how well it worked in really crummy conditions.

Revel Ranger Review

I was impressed with the SID fork and shock, and not just because of their minimal weight. The fork is nothing like an older version I tried, which I found to be a bit of a noodle. Rather, it felt similar to my Fox 34. Both the lockouts on the shock and fork make the bike impressively rigid too.

The Ranger builds have a few wheelset options, but the bike we tested came with Revel’s own RW27 wheels made with epoxy-free, recyclable carbon. The bike as a whole felt very comfortable, and I assume the wheels have something to do with it. Still, I would love to see the 30mm rims on this bike, because, yeah, more volume, please! I’ve been on a 2.6” tire kick over the last two years, and anything smaller feels weird these days. That said, I love the tire choice Revel made here. Not only are the Dissector and Recon beefier than most tires typically specced on shorter-travel full-sus bikes, but they’re also a testament to what the bike is built to handle. And despite the beefy-looking front knobs on the Dissector, this thing rolls surprisingly well, and I love the Rekon’s predictability as a rear tire.

Revel Ranger Review

Finally, the bike comes with the lovely new bikepacking-friendly SRAM Level brakes, though in an interesting turn of events, it appears we now need to be concerned of cable rub on the bar itself. I’ll have a full review on these brakes soon. The bike also comes with a 31.6 Crankbrothers Highline 7 dropper, with a highly adjustable lever that I came to enjoy. It comes with a 40mm stem across all sizes and a Race Face Next 800mm carbon bar. Overall, I really love the components, and there’s not much I’d change beyond wider rims and tires.

On the Trail

I felt quite comfortable on the Revel Ranger from my first ride. And while it doesn’t feel exactly like a short-travel XC race bike, it’s not too far off. It’s clear that the relatively safe geometry, in combination with the CBF, results in a quick and efficient ride. I had a blast climbing on this thing and putting the hammer down on a flat stretches of singletrack. It also handled tight corners very well, at least compared to my bigger trail bike. Still, the highlight was the uninterrupted pedal feeling over chundery terrain. Even when I had the rear shock in a faster rebound setting, it seemed to handle things well without wanting to buck me off the bike. I ended up tweaking the rebound on the SID Luxe and found it most comfortable in the middle setting, five clicks from turtle.

2023 Revel Ranger Review

The Ranger felt right at home on the descents, too. It doesn’t have quite the confidence of a bigger trail bike, but it’s much more than a standard XC bike. It wants to go fast and still manages to eat up chunky, steep terrain surprisingly well. I ended up setting the suspension sag at 30%, and it was perfect; I used up all the stroke on larger hits but never bottomed out. This may have been a coincidence, but I’ve never had an easier time setting up the suspension on a bike. The SID Luxe isn’t too complicated, and it just felt perfect right out of the gate.

While Out Bikepacking

The Ranger felt grounded and predictable when loaded up with gear. It might sound funny, but when I pack up a full-suspension bike, I often find that it becomes even more capable with the extra weight. The Ranger was no exception. Like other bikes, it’s more planted on descents and climbs with the added weight. The front triangle space is a bit tight on the size medium frame, but another Colorado brand, Bedrock Bags, made a great custom frame bag that maxed it out and fit a cook kit, some water, and a few other odds and ends. The triangle has two pairs of bottle mounts and another on the underside of the down tube for an additional bottle or accessory.

2023 Revel Ranger Review

As mentioned, the new SRAM Level brakes make for easy handlebar bag installation. I opted for a rear rack with the Old Man Mountain fit kit and the Old Man Mountain Elkhorn rack . I was a little hesitant to mount anything to the seat stays, but it worked well and didn’t scuff up the bike at all with the included thick frame tape. Stay tuned for more on that in a rack guide in the coming weeks.

  • Model Tested: 2023 Revel Ranger, medium
  • Sizes Available: S, M, L, XL
  • Colors Available: Tang and De La Coal
  • Actual Weight: 26.25 pounds (11.61 kg)
  • Place of Manufacture: Taiwan
  • Price (as tested): $8,499 + carbon wheel upgrade
  • Price (frame only): $3,599
  • Manufacturer’s Details: RevelBikes.com
  • Efficient suspension maximizes momentum to power through challenging situations that might otherwise cause a hang-up
  • Very lightweight; better than most in its class
  • Climbs exceptionally well
  • Descends better than you’d expect from the geometry and weight class
  • Great components selection, albeit expensive
  • Despite the claimed 2.6” tire clearance, it’s really tight (I had some rub during a death mud encounter with 2.6″ tires)
  • A slightly larger frame triangle space would be preferable
  • 30mm rims would be more versatile than the specced RW27s
  • The techy/industrial design might not be for everyone

There’s no denying that the 2023 Revel Ranger is a high-end full-suspension bike, and the reasons are clearly evident. They’ve invested in a great suspension design, for starters. And while I’m not the biggest fan of the technical aesthetic as a whole, I do love the two-tone Tang colorway. Plus, it’s hard to beat the impressive weight, coming in at 26.25 pounds (11.61 kilograms) with a GPS mount, bottle cage, and some dirt. If you’re looking for a quick bike that rides like a trail bike on the descents, is agile like an XC bike on the climbs, and can be comfortably pedaled all day over multiple days, the Ranger is a fantastic option.

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ibis Ripley Review, v4, 29 x 2.6

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Dropper Post Seat Bags

Dropper Post Seat Bags & Alternatives

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Best short-travel dropper posts: Descend faster with the saddle out the way

XC riders looking for the best short-travel dropper post to enhance their descending capabilities are spoilt for choice

Best short-travel dropper posts

Best short-travel dropper posts: What to look for

Dropper seatposts might have been popularized by enduro bike riders, but as brands have developed XC-specific options, the best short-travel dropper posts have now become increasingly prevalent on XC bikes, too.

As XCO and XCM courses become more technical, with significant rock gardens and drops on many descents, cross-country riders are recognizing the value of having the best short-travel dropper posts.

Mountain bike design has trended to a more progressive overall geometry of late, which has resulted in cross-country mountain bikes becoming slacker and longer. The result of this geometry evolution is superior steering responses, stability and confidence when speeding downhill on technical terrain.

The best dropper seatpost is crucial in extracting the best from your XC mountain bike’s geometry, as it allows you to be in a lower position, effectively descending 'inside' the frame instead of on top of it. 

XC riders initially resisted dropper seatposts, due to the weight burden, but demand will always father innovation. As a result, the best short-travel dropper posts are now feathery light, which might be short in terms of comparative travel, but ideal for gram counting XC riders.

Best short-travel dropper posts

Why trust BikePerfect Our cycling experts have decades of testing experience. We'll always share our unbiased opinions on bikes and gear. Find out more about how we test.

Fox Transfer SL Performance Elite

Our expert review:


Reasons to buy, reasons to avoid.

The Transfer SL dropper post from suspension manufacturer Fox is the ultimate lightweight dropper post option for XC and gravel riders. It features less travel and lighter weights compared to the standard Transfer that's needed more for trail and enduro riders. 

The internals of the Transfer uses a coil spring rather than an air spring, and the post is suited for multiple seat post diameters. Appealing to XC and gravel riders, the post has shaved off 25 percent of the standard Transfer's heft. 

If you're only looking for a little bit of drop then the 50mm option is perfect, though the Transfer SL is offered up to 100mm to get the seat out of the way on technical downhills. The Performance Elite model offers great value including almost all of the features of the more expensive Factory version. 

Read our full review of the Fox Transfer SL to see why we awarded it 4.5 stars. 

Crankbrothers Highline

Crankbrothers' existing dropper posts are super reliable, but they are heavy and not available in sizes suitable for XC and gravel riders. That's where the brand's new Highline dropper post comes in. Weighing in at 459g, the Highline offers 60-125mm of travel in a 27.2mm diameter. 

That smaller diameter is a crucial feature that allows the post to be used on gravel bikes. There is also the option of buying a remote lever that is able to be mounted onto drop bars. So far the Highline has proved to be a lightweight and smooth dropper option for XC and gravel use. 

Read more about why in our full Crankbrothers Highline review. 

Bike Yoke Divine SL

The German dropper post specialist Bike Yoke makes some impressive claims for its Divine SL. Construction and material composition is decidedly premium with titanium saddle bolts and forged clamping plates. Its tubing profile is also tapered.

All of these engineering features help the Divine SL to weigh only 385g, whilst still providing 80mm of drop. There are now 100- and 125mm options as well, which obviously will weigh a bit more. Bike Yoke’s industrial designers have also been mindful of compatibility for those who might prefer running 2x drivetrains.

The Divine SL features two remote options. The Triggy X remote is a left-side under configuration, whilst the 2x remote can be used on either side of the handlebar, using a push function to trigger.

Available in a generous selection of diameters, the Lev Ci is an XC racer’s dream seatpost. The entire design logic aims to reduce mass without sacrificing functionality, whilst delivering 75mm of drop. The Lev is also now available in travel stretching up to 175mm so there's an option for every rider. 

Loyal users of the KS brand droppers always comment on their exceptionally smooth actuation and return action. The company’s patented unidirectional roller clutch bearing system is responsible for this, making for buttery smooth movement of the saddle. 

Perhaps the clearest indication of its uncompromised design is the Ci’s remote (sold separately), shaped to be ergonomically intuitive to operate, even when you are nearly at your threshold. 

DT Swiss D 232

An outlier in terms of design, the DT Swiss D 232 is operated by a simple spring. Famed for the durability and mechanical excellence of its hubs, DT Swiss has applied much of that engineering focus to its dropper seat post design.

Part of the 232 system, which is a collection of DT Swiss components specifically developed for XC riders and racers, this dropper is exceptionally compact. It offers only 60mm of travel, operated by a spring, bearing and bushing system, removing the complexity of pressurized internals.

DT Swiss claims that a home mechanic should be capable of accessing and servicing the D 232's internals, in only five minutes. Maintenance merely requires some grease and is free of any propriety tooling. Best of all, it can be done without removing the D 232 from your frame. 

If appearance equals performance, the JBG 2 DPS is unrivaled. This Polish dropper seatpost looks fantastically exotic, with its 3K weave carbon fiber exterior.

There is no arguing its lightweight credentials, with the JBG2 delivering 60mm of drop and a total mass of only 240g. It features an encased design, with the seat mast sliding over the main post tube. 

Unfortunately, the striking aesthetic is somewhat undone by external cable routing, which can be an issue, as most contemporary XC frames are designed for internal stealth routing. For larger riders, the 95kg user weight limit might be problematic.

9point8 Fall Line R

The Fall Line R is preciously light, at only 322g, whilst delivering 75-150mm of drop. Where this 9point8 product really shines is its handlebar ergonomics. With a choice of three remotes for the Fall Line R (sold separately), you'll never suffer handlebar control-management anxiety. 

There are over and underbar remotes, depending on your thumb action preference, but perhaps the most impressive Fall Line R feature is its Trigger option. This is effectively a compact right-hand brake lever to operate the dropper. 

Illustrating its product awareness and design logic, 9point8’s clamping system is shaped to accommodate whichever seat rails you might be riding: round or oval. The tension system also plays nice with more exotic titanium and carbon-fiber seat rails.

TranzX Hot Lap Dropper Post

TranzX dropper posts are one of the most common specced droppers on budget and mid-tier mountain bike models and for good reason. They offer excellent performance at a fair price. 

Take for example the Hot Lap, the brand's dedicated short-travel dropper seat post for XC or gravel riders. It brings 50mm of travel to a package that's 430g for the shortest option. That's combined with a lightweight hydraulic cartridge and internal cable routing. 

The brand says that the Hot Lap also works for bikes that have odd shapes that other mainstream droppers have trouble accommodating, like those with horizontal top tubes or longer seat tubes. 

If you're looking for more travel, TranzX offers a number of other dropper options as well. 

Brand-X Ascend CX

If you need a dropper within narrow budget constraints, Brand-X always delivers. With its Ascend CX, you get 85 or 105mm of drop with an ergonomic paddle trigger and proven internals. 

It isn't the lightest sub-100mm dropper, but for the price, Brand-X's Ascend CX provides good value. The paddle trigger actuation uses a linkage mechanism at the dropper post's underside, which prevents cable pull. 

An honest product that is on-trend with current stealth cable routing requirements, the Ascend CX also has a micro-adjust clamping mechanism, to keep your seat angle exactly as you wish it to be. 

How much travel should a dropper post have?

This is entirely up to each rider, their riding style and the trails. Generally the more technical and steep the terrain is the more need you will have to drop the saddle low. That said the longer a dropper post is the heavier it will be and the more likely you are to experience incompatibility with frames. The biggest limiter on how long a dropper you can run is the insertion depth of your seat tube. 

Some frames, particularly hardtails, will have a full length seat tube so there will be no issues. That said other frames will have pivots or bottle cage mounts which limit how deep a post can be inserted in the frame so its worth checking before you make a purchase. 

Are dropper posts hard to maintain?

The same principles apply to all dropper seatposts. If you are not a skilled home mechanic, it is best to avoid droppers with high-pressure ratings and complex internals. 

Those mountain bikers with a modest discretionary spend on accessories should also consider how easily serviceable their short travel dropper will be and factor the cost into a yearly riding budget. 

Where the market for dropper seatposts below 100mm of travel differ, is their potential to be much simpler - and robust. Some of the very short travel droppers have mechanical internals, without any pressure chambers or seals - dramatically reducing the potential maintenance burden. 

By their very nature, shorter droppers apply less leverage to their seals and bushings whilst being ridden at full extension. This can translate to lower overall wear, compared to longer dropper seatposts in the realm of 150mm and beyond. 

What's the best dropper post lever?

Unlike enduro and trail riders, many XC mountain bikers mount one or two suspension lockout levers on the handlebar. If you are running a lockout, the best advice is to seek a dropper with multiple remote options, to ensure you can organize all your handlebar controls in a manner that is most ergonomically intuitive to use. In this regard, 9point8's different remotes and triggers are particularly good. 

Lance Branquinho

Lance Branquinho is a Namibian-born journalist who graduated to mountain biking after injuries curtailed his trail running. He has a weakness for British steel hardtails, especially those which only run a single gear. As well as Bike Perfect , Lance has written for MBR.com , Off-Road.cc and Cycling News.

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40 facts about elektrostal.

Lanette Mayes

Written by Lanette Mayes

Modified & Updated: 02 Mar 2024

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett


Elektrostal is a vibrant city located in the Moscow Oblast region of Russia. With a rich history, stunning architecture, and a thriving community, Elektrostal is a city that has much to offer. Whether you are a history buff, nature enthusiast, or simply curious about different cultures, Elektrostal is sure to captivate you.

This article will provide you with 40 fascinating facts about Elektrostal, giving you a better understanding of why this city is worth exploring. From its origins as an industrial hub to its modern-day charm, we will delve into the various aspects that make Elektrostal a unique and must-visit destination.

So, join us as we uncover the hidden treasures of Elektrostal and discover what makes this city a true gem in the heart of Russia.

Key Takeaways:

  • Elektrostal, known as the “Motor City of Russia,” is a vibrant and growing city with a rich industrial history, offering diverse cultural experiences and a strong commitment to environmental sustainability.
  • With its convenient location near Moscow, Elektrostal provides a picturesque landscape, vibrant nightlife, and a range of recreational activities, making it an ideal destination for residents and visitors alike.

Known as the “Motor City of Russia.”

Elektrostal, a city located in the Moscow Oblast region of Russia, earned the nickname “Motor City” due to its significant involvement in the automotive industry.

Home to the Elektrostal Metallurgical Plant.

Elektrostal is renowned for its metallurgical plant, which has been producing high-quality steel and alloys since its establishment in 1916.

Boasts a rich industrial heritage.

Elektrostal has a long history of industrial development, contributing to the growth and progress of the region.

Founded in 1916.

The city of Elektrostal was founded in 1916 as a result of the construction of the Elektrostal Metallurgical Plant.

Located approximately 50 kilometers east of Moscow.

Elektrostal is situated in close proximity to the Russian capital, making it easily accessible for both residents and visitors.

Known for its vibrant cultural scene.

Elektrostal is home to several cultural institutions, including museums, theaters, and art galleries that showcase the city’s rich artistic heritage.

A popular destination for nature lovers.

Surrounded by picturesque landscapes and forests, Elektrostal offers ample opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and birdwatching.

Hosts the annual Elektrostal City Day celebrations.

Every year, Elektrostal organizes festive events and activities to celebrate its founding, bringing together residents and visitors in a spirit of unity and joy.

Has a population of approximately 160,000 people.

Elektrostal is home to a diverse and vibrant community of around 160,000 residents, contributing to its dynamic atmosphere.

Boasts excellent education facilities.

The city is known for its well-established educational institutions, providing quality education to students of all ages.

A center for scientific research and innovation.

Elektrostal serves as an important hub for scientific research, particularly in the fields of metallurgy, materials science, and engineering.

Surrounded by picturesque lakes.

The city is blessed with numerous beautiful lakes, offering scenic views and recreational opportunities for locals and visitors alike.

Well-connected transportation system.

Elektrostal benefits from an efficient transportation network, including highways, railways, and public transportation options, ensuring convenient travel within and beyond the city.

Famous for its traditional Russian cuisine.

Food enthusiasts can indulge in authentic Russian dishes at numerous restaurants and cafes scattered throughout Elektrostal.

Home to notable architectural landmarks.

Elektrostal boasts impressive architecture, including the Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord and the Elektrostal Palace of Culture.

Offers a wide range of recreational facilities.

Residents and visitors can enjoy various recreational activities, such as sports complexes, swimming pools, and fitness centers, enhancing the overall quality of life.

Provides a high standard of healthcare.

Elektrostal is equipped with modern medical facilities, ensuring residents have access to quality healthcare services.

Home to the Elektrostal History Museum.

The Elektrostal History Museum showcases the city’s fascinating past through exhibitions and displays.

A hub for sports enthusiasts.

Elektrostal is passionate about sports, with numerous stadiums, arenas, and sports clubs offering opportunities for athletes and spectators.

Celebrates diverse cultural festivals.

Throughout the year, Elektrostal hosts a variety of cultural festivals, celebrating different ethnicities, traditions, and art forms.

Electric power played a significant role in its early development.

Elektrostal owes its name and initial growth to the establishment of electric power stations and the utilization of electricity in the industrial sector.

Boasts a thriving economy.

The city’s strong industrial base, coupled with its strategic location near Moscow, has contributed to Elektrostal’s prosperous economic status.

Houses the Elektrostal Drama Theater.

The Elektrostal Drama Theater is a cultural centerpiece, attracting theater enthusiasts from far and wide.

Popular destination for winter sports.

Elektrostal’s proximity to ski resorts and winter sport facilities makes it a favorite destination for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter activities.

Promotes environmental sustainability.

Elektrostal prioritizes environmental protection and sustainability, implementing initiatives to reduce pollution and preserve natural resources.

Home to renowned educational institutions.

Elektrostal is known for its prestigious schools and universities, offering a wide range of academic programs to students.

Committed to cultural preservation.

The city values its cultural heritage and takes active steps to preserve and promote traditional customs, crafts, and arts.

Hosts an annual International Film Festival.

The Elektrostal International Film Festival attracts filmmakers and cinema enthusiasts from around the world, showcasing a diverse range of films.

Encourages entrepreneurship and innovation.

Elektrostal supports aspiring entrepreneurs and fosters a culture of innovation, providing opportunities for startups and business development.

Offers a range of housing options.

Elektrostal provides diverse housing options, including apartments, houses, and residential complexes, catering to different lifestyles and budgets.

Home to notable sports teams.

Elektrostal is proud of its sports legacy, with several successful sports teams competing at regional and national levels.

Boasts a vibrant nightlife scene.

Residents and visitors can enjoy a lively nightlife in Elektrostal, with numerous bars, clubs, and entertainment venues.

Promotes cultural exchange and international relations.

Elektrostal actively engages in international partnerships, cultural exchanges, and diplomatic collaborations to foster global connections.

Surrounded by beautiful nature reserves.

Nearby nature reserves, such as the Barybino Forest and Luchinskoye Lake, offer opportunities for nature enthusiasts to explore and appreciate the region’s biodiversity.

Commemorates historical events.

The city pays tribute to significant historical events through memorials, monuments, and exhibitions, ensuring the preservation of collective memory.

Promotes sports and youth development.

Elektrostal invests in sports infrastructure and programs to encourage youth participation, health, and physical fitness.

Hosts annual cultural and artistic festivals.

Throughout the year, Elektrostal celebrates its cultural diversity through festivals dedicated to music, dance, art, and theater.

Provides a picturesque landscape for photography enthusiasts.

The city’s scenic beauty, architectural landmarks, and natural surroundings make it a paradise for photographers.

Connects to Moscow via a direct train line.

The convenient train connection between Elektrostal and Moscow makes commuting between the two cities effortless.

A city with a bright future.

Elektrostal continues to grow and develop, aiming to become a model city in terms of infrastructure, sustainability, and quality of life for its residents.

In conclusion, Elektrostal is a fascinating city with a rich history and a vibrant present. From its origins as a center of steel production to its modern-day status as a hub for education and industry, Elektrostal has plenty to offer both residents and visitors. With its beautiful parks, cultural attractions, and proximity to Moscow, there is no shortage of things to see and do in this dynamic city. Whether you’re interested in exploring its historical landmarks, enjoying outdoor activities, or immersing yourself in the local culture, Elektrostal has something for everyone. So, next time you find yourself in the Moscow region, don’t miss the opportunity to discover the hidden gems of Elektrostal.

Q: What is the population of Elektrostal?

A: As of the latest data, the population of Elektrostal is approximately XXXX.

Q: How far is Elektrostal from Moscow?

A: Elektrostal is located approximately XX kilometers away from Moscow.

Q: Are there any famous landmarks in Elektrostal?

A: Yes, Elektrostal is home to several notable landmarks, including XXXX and XXXX.

Q: What industries are prominent in Elektrostal?

A: Elektrostal is known for its steel production industry and is also a center for engineering and manufacturing.

Q: Are there any universities or educational institutions in Elektrostal?

A: Yes, Elektrostal is home to XXXX University and several other educational institutions.

Q: What are some popular outdoor activities in Elektrostal?

A: Elektrostal offers several outdoor activities, such as hiking, cycling, and picnicking in its beautiful parks.

Q: Is Elektrostal well-connected in terms of transportation?

A: Yes, Elektrostal has good transportation links, including trains and buses, making it easily accessible from nearby cities.

Q: Are there any annual events or festivals in Elektrostal?

A: Yes, Elektrostal hosts various events and festivals throughout the year, including XXXX and XXXX.

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Electrostal History and Art Museum

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Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as wait time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.

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Electrostal History and Art Museum - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (2024)

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