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The Best Trail Mountain Bikes

For this round of reviews we’ve focused on full-suspension 27.5-inch and 29-inch Trail bikes, ranging from around $5,000 to $6,500, which are considered mid- to high-end Trail models for each brand. Some of these are Plus and some are standard. As many share individual components and/or group sets, these reviews focus mainly on the overall performance of the whole package (some specific content on the components may repeat where applicable). We tested the bikes we feel are among the best options for overall performance and value using these criteria: Ride Quality, Stiffness-to-Weight/Power Transfer, Climbing/Efficiency, Descending/Handling, Components: Drivetrain, Shifting and Brakes, and the Wheelset.

Review Year
Best in Class
Overall Rating
Price
Name Overall Rating Ratings The Good The Bad Price
Turner Flux 4.0
91
Best in Class
2017
Ride Quality 9
Power Transfer 9
Efficiency 8
Handling 8
Components 8
Wheelset 9

Lightest in group

Exceptional ride quality

Outstanding Knight carbon wheelset

Superior combo of XC and Trail capabilities

Among most expensive in group

Rear shock adjust difficult to reach on the fly

MSRP
$5,750.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 770 MSL
90
Ride Quality 9
Power Transfer 8
Efficiency 9
Handling 8
Components 8
Wheelset 8

Among lightest in category

Easily adjustable geometry

Stiff, efficient frame

No Ice-Tech rotors/calipers

A bit sluggish in tight turns

MSRP
$5,300.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Specialized Camber Expert Carbon 650b
89
Ride Quality 9
Power Transfer 8
Efficiency 7
Handling 9
Components 8
Wheelset 8

Ripping descender

Roval Traverse wheelset

Comfortable and capable on the climb

Cleverly-designed SWAT storage

No "Brain" in fork

Prone to pedal strikes

Mechanical issues out of box

MSRP
$5,000.00
BEST DEAL
Yeti SB5+ XT TURQ
89
Ride Quality 9
Power Transfer 8
Efficiency 8
Handling 9
Components 7
Wheelset 8

Top-end carbon frame

Plushest, most dialed suspension

Good bang for the buck

Most expensive in group

A bit heavy for price

MSRP
$6,500.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Diamondback Catch 2
86
Ride Quality 7
Stiffness-to-Weight ... 7
Climbing / Efficiency 7
Descending / Handling 8
Components: Drivetra... 7

Excellent value

All the latest tech

High pedal clearance

Heavy

Suspension movement

Bulky wheelset

MSRP
$4,000.00
BEST DEAL
Breezer Supercell LTD
85
Ride Quality 8
Power Transfer 7
Efficiency 7
Handling 8
Components 7
Wheelset 8

M-Link suspension

Solid climber

Strong value

Heavy

Fairly heavy, value-oriented wheelset

MSRP
$5,000.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Turner Flux 4.0

The Flux is light and nimble, without the raked out front end so common on trail bikes, yet it has 120mm (4.7 inches front and rear) of travel on 27.5 inch carbon wheels. The suspension is responsive and provides capable anti squat technology minimizing unnecessary movement. While it’s very difficult to find flaws in this bike, it is quite expensive and the rear shock is tricky to lock out on the fly. *Editor's Note: The model we tested had 1x11 but the 2017 models will have choice of SRAM Eagle 1x12 setups. Also, the Flux we tested was built up in a way that's not available as a package on Turner’s website – the closest option would be the 2017 SRAM X01 Eagle.

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Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 770 MSL

The Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 770 MSL is one of those rare true do-it-all bikes that can go straight from the race course to the terrain park with ease and grace. It’s marketed as an XC bike but it’s just as strong for Trail riding if not more so. This is thanks to the 27.5” rig’s adjustable “Ride-9” geometry combined with a light and super stiff frame with ample travel and a slack head tube angle. Add to that a full Shimano XT group with a bonus RaceFace cranks, and Stan’s wheels and you’ve got an outstanding bike for all but the gnarliest terrain – all at a very reasonable price. The only real complaints we have are the lack of IceTech braking technology, and a bit less nimbleness in tight turns when set at slacker geometry. 

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Specialized Camber Expert Carbon 650b

The Specialized Expert Carbon Camber 650b descends well and climbs nimbly. It holds tight in corners, and when it does finally release, it does so in a predictable way. It is simply a joy to ride on demanding and technical single track, and it is guaranteed to, at a minimum, make the downhill more enjoyable and likely substantially faster. On the downside, we wish the fork had Specialized’s Brain technology, and something about the geometry made it highly prone to pedal strikes. *Editor’s Note:Specialized has decided not to run this model in 2017, but many retailers still have them in stock. Instead they will offer the nearly identical bike in a 29" model.

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Yeti SB5+ XT TURQ

Yeti’s SB5+ climbs quite well, thanks in part to the lightweight full-carbon frame and it descends beautifully. This year’s SB5+ also features a slack head tube which positions the rider in a comfortable, relaxed place while the suspension and plus sized wheels/tires makes choosing a line of less concern. However, this all comes at a very steep price, and we’d like to see Yeti shave off another pound or so, especially at this price.

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See All Trail Mountain Bikes Reviews

What Is A Trail Mountain Bike?

by: Last Updated:

Mountain biking was originally the one phrase we needed when referring to riding a non-road bike on trails. However the phrase has now become a general umbrella term for a wide and growing variety of sub-categories, depending on the type of trail, the vertical change, the general speeds, whether it’s mostly up, down or equal, and so on. Right near the middle of that spectrum is the Trail bike category, sometimes referred to as All-Mountain. These bikes blend some of the quickness and lightweight from the XC side with the descending and technical-trail capabilities of the more gravity-oriented bikes like Enduro. While they generally don’t do either as well as their more focused brethren respectively, a Trail bike will generally descend better than an XC and climb/accelerate/handle better than an Enduro.

These days there’s quite a spread of Trail bikes available, with a few subcategories thrown in just for fun. In general they feature 120–150mm of travel, with most in the lower range; geometries are less aggressive than their more speed-centric cousins, with slack head and seat-tube angles providing a more relaxed, rearward position in the cockpit. Almost all recent models have 27.5-inch wheels with a few 29ers remaining. At this price range, there are some alloy frames, but most feature carbon frames (some with alloy rear triangle). The big new trend in these bikes is the Plus bike — generally 27.5” wheels with tires up to 3-inch wide (much wider than traditional tires which max out around 2.5 inches). Almost every brand now offers Plus bikes, and most fall in the Trail category. These wider rims/tires provide a huge benefit in traction and cornering along with a cushier ride over the smaller bumps. Many brands are even forgoing rear suspension thanks to the added “suspension” of Plus tires. The downside of course is considerable added weight and rolling resistance, both especially noticeable on smoother climbs and flats.