The Best 29er Trail & Enduro Mountain Bikes for 2018
November 13th, 2017
November 13th, 2017
Anna is a jack-of-all-bikes, and has been riding and racing in a myriad of genres for over seven years; from World Cup level cross-country, to grass roots coaching kids on the road.
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In the words of Tina Turner; big wheel keep on turning, rollin', rollin', yeah! Or something like that. Ahem. Anyway, the point is that big wheels roll with the steady confidence of giant cargo ship, only a lot, lot faster. While 29ers have dominated the cross-country and mountain bike marathon market, it has long been thought that 29ers would be no fun in the trail market, and would not be nimble enough to hold their own in the enduro world, but as geometry specialists get to grips with the bigger wheels, things are starting to change.
With manufacturers taking note of the change in the times, but all having their own idea of what makes a good trail or enduro bike, they are all still quite differernt from each other. Typical trail bikes will have around 130-140mm of suspension travel. Enduro bikes, aimed at all-mountain riding or enduro racing, will usually come with 150-160mm of travel front and rear. For a more do-it-all in-betweener, there are a few 29ers out there with 150mm forks on the front and short travel (say 130/140mm) on the rear, which seems to be quite the sweet spot between a playful and downhill-oriented ride, with 29er wheels often making the bike feel like it has a lot more suspension than it does anyway.
Here's some of our favourites:
No 29er guide should be completed without mentioning Evil Bikes; these guys saw the potential in 29ers way before many of the bigger players, and even their first design, which has largely been unchanged since, is arguably still punching way above the bigger players who are bringing out newer models today. The Wreckoning is their 160mm “trail-clearing monster truck”, and is an unashamedly ploughable bike that has even been spotted racing top-notch downhill races in the States, both with and without triple crown forks, and yet, it can still be pedalled back up to the top of the hill. For those wanting a more playful bike, The Following is their 120/130mm 29er for monster truck capabilities with a “sports car feel”. This year they released the Following MB (“More Better’er”) for a longer, stiffer ride that’s bang up to date with boost and a shiny Smashing Pumpkin orange paint job (pictured) from £2,750 for the frame only. Expect a low and slack ride to match it’s sleek and unique aesthetics, and adjustable geometry on all models for even more better'er descending.
It’d be rude not to include the guys who said long ago that 29er wheels were the only way forward, and with their RIP receiving rave reviews of late, it appears the world has finally caught up with their big ideas. The Jet is their 120mm 29er aimed at “trail” riding, and the RIP is their 150mm enduro 29er which takes 160mm forks, and can even take 650b Plus wheels and 170mm forks if desired. Both of these are all wrapped up in bang up-to-date packages; including boost rear, electronic cable routing and a weather-resistant threaded bottom bracket. RRP is £3,200 on the frame and shock only, but deals from £1,920 can often be found on Stif Cycles here in the UK.
Arguably the most popular brand in the UK trail and enduro riding scene, Santa Cruz are most notable for their popular 650b ride, the Bronson. Breaking through the market with the same critically acclaimed trade mark VPP suspension system and 29er wheels is the Hightower (135mm) and Hightower LT (Long Travel 150mm) available from £3,949. This bike is available in “Carbon C” or top-notch “Carbon CC” options, with boost, threaded bottom bracket and double sealed pivot for longer bearing life. This is the weapon of choice for Steve Peat and Ratboy in their Enduro World Series and Megavalanche capers.
The Mega is arguably the grandfather of the enduro bike, being designed for what’s considered the World’s first mountain bike enduro, before enduro mtb was even a thing; the Megavalanche. Though it’s been around for some time, the Mega has progressed from the 26er days, and has now been reincarnated into the 29er trail slayer we see before us today, smashing the Enduro World Series underneathe the legend that is Sam Hill, who took the series win for 2017. Here in the UK, lesser known rider, Kelan Grant even took the win at the Red Bull Fox Hunt aboard the new Mega 290 too. Expect threaded bottom bracket, boost rear axel, and one of few brands sticking with aluminium only for the time being, but reaping incredible value to go with it. The Mega 290 Comp starts the fully built range at a shocking £2,399, which is cheaper than the frame-only options above, and creeps up to the top-spec Factory model for £3,798.
And if you thought Nukeproof were affordable, you obviously haven’t seen the prices on YT’s website. Starting their Jeffsy 29 range with an aluminium frame, fully built, for £1,799. Yup, that’s right! Less than £2k. The Jeffsy Pro Race is their top spec carbon model, which retails at a jaw-dropping £3,799 too. So what’s the catch? Well, nothing really. They’re a direct sales business, so their bikes don’t take into account the middle man’s (bike shop’s) costs. The problem with this is that they’re almost impossible to buy, because their stock is often bought out before the bikes are even released.
While the SL AMR is largely a 650b all-mountain bike, there are two models in the 29er variety. The SL AMR X9 LC (catchy right?) is the top spec option complete with Fox 36 Float 150mm forks on the front and a plush 140mm Cane Creek Double Barrel Inline coil shock on the rear (pictured). Prices are not confirmed for this 2018 model, but the 2017 models retailed at £5,300 with similar specs, and can be found on offer in out-of-season sales, and are also available in aluminium from £1,800 fully built.
From one of the biggest bicycle manufacturers in the World, is the Fuel EX, found underneath enduro legends such as Tracey Moseley, and 2017 female Enduro World Series winner, Katy Winton. Recently the Fuel EX has added big 29er wheels to the range, and Trek are retailing them in a big range of specs, including women’s specific frames, from £1,750 in aluminium, right up to the top spec carbon Fuel EX 9.9 at £6,500, which is an impressive 26lbs. Frame only can be found from around £2,500. The Fuel EX 29ers are 130mm front and rear, but have been said to feel like they have a lot more. For those not satisfied with this, you’ll need to look at the Trek Slash (pictured) with 150/160mm of suspension. The Slash comes at a higher price of £3,000 for carbon frame only, but strangely starts the fully built range from £3,800. Both Treks come with boost, KnockBlok (to stop bars from spinning and damaging you or the frame), and MinoLink adjustable geometry.
The Specialized Enduro boasts 29er and 6Fattie (650B Plus) wheel size capabilities, and starts from £2,999 as a fully built aluminium frame, or £4,250 for a fully built carbon frame, both with all the mod cons. If 160mm of suspension is too much for your local trails, but you still want to ride hard downhill or hit some jumps, then the Sumpjumper 29 is for you, with 150mm up from and 135mm in the rear, starting from £2,500 for an aluminium build. Also worth considering is the Camber with 120mm suspension front and rear, available in aluminium or carbon with a big range of specs from £2,400, and is also available in a Women’s specific model as well.
The Genius 900 series is the 29er version of the well-loved Genius 700 series (650b) trail bike. Starting off the range with aluminium in the Genius 940 at £3,199, where, like it or not, the entire range is 12-speed.
Also worth a look is the Kona Process, and the Intense Tracer. Currently, Canyon only make an aluminium 110mm 29er, which they advertise as a trail mountain bike, but has a geometry that's more suited to aggressive cross country or marathon, with no long travel suspension as yet. Cannondale's Jekyll enduro bike and Trigger trail bike didn't make the cut as they are 650b only at present.