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In association with Alpinestars we bring you our rundown of the best full suspension mountain bike in each of three core wheel sizes: 27.5in, 29in and 27.5 Plus.
Say the words “trail bike” and so many different images spring to mind. For some, it will be a 160mm enduro bike, for others, a hardcore hardtail. Terrain, skill level, affordability and even fashion play a big part in how each rider defines a trail bike. Boiled down to its very essence, it’s nothing more than the bike you ride trails on.
That would be far too broad a church for our 2017 Trail Bike of the Year test though. And given that we have our annual Hardtail of the Year bonanza coming up soon, and we’ve covered enduro bikes extensively this year, we decided to concentrate on the middle ground to find the best full suspension mountain bike for regular trail riding.
The best full suspension mountain bike
Even then, there’s a broad spectrum of mid-travel full suspension bikes to choose from. After much deliberation and chin rubbing we decided to split it into three distinct categories, each defined by wheel size. Yep, that’s right, travel takes a back seat in this test.
We have 12 bikes in total at capable trail bikes: four with 27.5in wheels, four 29ers and four 27.5 Plus bikes rounding out the test.
To minimise overlap, as lots of models are available in multiple wheel sizes, and to cover the widest ground possible each category has been focused at different price points too. The 27.5in bikes hit the £2.5k sweet-spot, the 29ers are all around the £3k mark, while the Plus bikes push the budget all the way up to £4K. Something for every pocket and riding style then.
This year’s winners
27.5 Trail Bike of the Year
Commencal Meta TR V4.2 Essential
Back in black, the Commençal Meta TR V4.2 Essential is anything but dull. With a shape profile, killer geometry and suspension that can handle anything, it’s a total trailblazer.
Commençal’s Essential component selection leaves nothing wanting either. The sizing is comprehensive and the suspension is a breeze to set up. It’s everything a 130mm bike should be: it’s tight, it’s reactive and it’s very effective. It’s no slouch on the climbs either; you never feel like you’re over-biked. It’s been a long time coming but the Meta is back where it needs to be.
29in Trail Bike of the Year
YT Industries Jeffsy CF Pro 29
The Jeffsy CF Pro is one of the fastest 29er trail bikes we’ve tested with a turn of speed that literally takes your breath away. It’s also tons of fun and will flatter and rider, no matter their ability. With 140mm of travel it can get a bit out of shape on steeper, rougher tracks, the flip side being that it’s incredibly agile, and can still punch its way out of most skirmishes.
Mesh this stand-out ride quality with the parts adorning the Jeffsy CF Pro, and you literally have one of the best pound-for-pound 29er trail bikes on the market today.
27.5 Plus Trail Bike of the Year
Scott Spark 710 Plus
As you’d expect from a pumped-up XC race bike, the Spark isn’t intended for ploughing down trails and riding passively. You need to work your limbs to make up for the shortfall in travel, but the rewards for your efforts are spectacular. We were constantly in awe of what this bike can do. Yet unlike a highly-strung athlete, it’s neither nervous nor neurotic, and its confidence is infectious.
Already it has been ridden to two Olympic gold medals; well now it can add our Trail Bike of the Year award to its glittering palmarès.
This year’s test bikes
Don’t forget to pick up the new issue of MBR – on sale right now – to read reviews of all the Trail Bike of the Year bike tests.
Canyon Spectral AL 6.0 EX £2,346.98
Commencal Meta TR V4.2 Essential €2,899
Giant Trance 2 £2,399
Whyte T-130 S £2,550
Cube Stereo 140 C:62 SL 29 £3,299
Specialized Stumpy FSR Comp Carbon 29 £3,400
Whyte T-129 RS £2,999
YT Industries Jeffsy CF Pro 29 £3,399
Santa Cruz Hightower C £4,399
Scott Spark 710 Plus £3,899
Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon 6Fattie £4,450
Trek Fuel EX 9.8 Plus £4,100
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