Mountain bike development is going ballistic. There’s never been a better time to ride off road. We have Scott and Whyte, two brands pushing their respective disciplines further than most and, conveniently, avoiding any overlap.
So what’s new? Where ever I start I am bound to upset some one. However, common to both XC and Trail, is “One-By” (see Mountain bike glossary below) which has transformed what the frame designers can do. As I have previously raved about the Rio XC mountain biking successes I’ll go straight to Trail.
One XC aspect that creeps into the trail review is the 29er, I know not the “coolest” size with baggies and knee pads but you should not underestimate the capabilities of the Whyte T-129. We like to think that Whyte are the undisputed Kings of Trail in the UK (Europe, even the world) and the current generation of award winning trail 27.5 bikes (T-130, G-160) began life as the T-129. The daddy of them all, the T-129, has had a face lift for 2017 and runs more aggressive trail tyres. If you are a trail junky but want to add speed and distance to your repertoire the T-129 would be the bike for you. Scott’s new Sparks have their RC 100mm race only series but also the trail oriented 120mm 29 & 27.5 Sparks will be the ones that sell in numbers.
The speed of change has never been so fast and today a true trail bike will come as standard with a one by set up, boost hubs, wide (30mm) rims, front and rear specific tubeless tyres, a dropper post and super wide bars (see Glossary)
The Whyte T-130s all have one-by with one Shimano offering and each model has 30mm wide tubeless ready rims. The top two carbon models have Sram Eagle – the ultimate one-by set up : 12 speed and a 50 tooth lowest gear with shifting so smooth it’ll blow the Shimano tech team’s collective brains.
A trail bike is not just about frame design and fork length but the parts and Whyte offer an air fork and tubeless wheels on bikes down to £820 see the Whyte 801 and 802, no other brand would even dream of doing this. Even the 29er 529 (our best selling hard tail) and the 629 now have a trail focus with a 120mm fork.
Not to be left out Scott hit the trail market with Plus bikes. They introduce the new Spark 700 Plus, a 130mm travel full suspension bikes and the Scale 700 Plus hard tails. They achieve a similar confidence inspiring trail capability as the Whytes but by using a 2,8” tyre. You need to try them to see why. Expect to get PRs on every run!
Cross country bikes - XC
The Rio Olympic mountain bike event showed off the best of XC with most riders using 29 inch wheels and the Gold medal winning bikes were both Scott Spark RCs designed specifically to win that race. The Spark design was derived from the new Scale frame which took its cue from the Solace road bike. The spine of the bikes, down tube and chain stays, are strong, light and stiff, where as the seat stays, seat tube and top tube are configured to absorb shock (sitting is 35% smoother than the previous Scale and standing 27% smoother). As a bonus they are the lightest frames in the world - 799g for the 27.5 Scale and 1749g for the full suspension Spark. Whyte’s pure XC bikes, the carbon 29Cs continue, and the 529 and 629 29ers get a more trail oriented set up with 120mm travel forks. Both real confidence inspiring South Downs mile munchers.
You can start Enduro riding for as little as £2,499 with the Whyte G-160 - awesome performance and very affordable. Scott have their Genius Plus bikes offering you 140mm travel and a 2.8” tyre. For many “Plus” is the future of Enduro and Trail. We will have to wait and see. In the meantime you can try our demos and form your own opinion.
Don’t write these off as a weak rider’s alternative. You still need to pedal. How many runs can you manage in the Steyning woods before you are too tired to carry on? An electric bike means that you can have unlimited runs improving both your fitness and DH skills. Try our Scott Spark 710 demo.
Not quite mountain biking but for some a welcome change and a new technical challenge. Scott Addict Gravel Disc 10 is lighter than most high end road bikes but is as at home in dirt as it is on the road. For our local trails, more affordable and better on rooty tracks we have the new Whyte gravel bikes. They have the usual Whyte combination of slack head angle, wide bars (48cm), sublime handling, great specification and keen pricing. The Gisburn (we have a demo) and the Friston are perfect for riders around here.
Air fork: Previously only available on bikes £1,000+, the spring is controlled by air pressure. Benefit: the fork can be perfectly set up to match your weight, riding style and location.
Bike Packing: Touring and a mountain bike with bags designed to withstand the riggors of rough and wild trails. Benefits: Mountain bike where no one has ever been or some local wild camping.
Boost: wider hubs, 3mm each side rear, 5mm each side front. Benefit: less wheel flex/more downhill confidence.
Compact frame. A bike with a shorter top tube. Benefits: the handle bars feel closer so has less reach and the rider feels more upright, maketeers will use this to sell to women too but a compact frame suit as many men as it does women.
Cyclo-cross. A bike that looks like a road racing bike but designed to race in muddy fields using wider and knobbier tyres. Benefits: Great for winter training, improving off road skills
Dropper post: A seat post the can drop and the push of a button for descents and can pop back up again for the climbs and flats. Benefit: The whole dynamic of the bike changes when the seat is down. You have a lower centre of gravity, you can move your body back over the rear wheel, cornering and jumping are easier, lifting a foot off a pedal is easier and affects the bike less. You feel safer and have way more fun!
Enduro bikes: Like Trail mountain bikes but with longer travel suspension, wider rims, knobbier tyres, baggier shorts and bigger grins. Benefit: Faster downhill, safer landing, better for more extreme trails and trips to the Alps.
Full suspension: Bikes with suspension forks and a suspension frame. Benefits: Faster than hard tail, more comfortable, more confidence inspiring too.
Gravel bike: Road style drop bar bike based on a cyclo-cross bike but more laid back and fun to ride. Benefit: One bike to do all – road, trail, touring, mountain bike tracks, commuting, you name it, it does it.
Hard Tail: Bike with front suspension but no rear suspension. Benefits: Lighter and cheaper than full suspension.
Lockout: a lever, switch or knob the firm up the suspension to solid or close too. Benefits: stops the suspension moving, although I can't figure out why you would want to, great to talk about when buying.
One-by ( 1x ): single chain ring transmission. Benefit: better frame design, no front shift issues, still a good range of gears.
Plus: 27.5 inch wheels with a 2.8” or 3” tyre. Benefit: Staggering grip both up and down and adds downhill bike performance to a light weight trail bike
PR: Personal record for a run. Benefit: Makes you feel good!
Super wide bars: Handle bars are now 760mm even 800mm wide. These must be combined with a very, very short stem. Benefits: Better cornering, more control on technical climbs and descents, extra kudos amongst your mates, great for clearing overhanging foliage.
Trail bike: basically just what we used to call mountain biking but with an emphasis on going down and technically challenging trails, roots, rocks and jumps. What we all love.
Tubeless: Like a car tyre the tubeless tyres fit tight onto the rim and so don’t need a tube. You then add a fluid that will seal the tyre when it leaks out through a puncture hole. Benefit, lower tyre pressures, better traction, without the worry of a pinch flat, and, of course no more punctures.
Wide rims (up to 40mm): nearly all mountain bikes used to have 19mm wide rims. Benefit: The wider rims help the tyre sit better for more grip and combined with a tubeless set up can be run much softer again for better traction – you’ll feel safer......Faster.
XC: Cross country, basically just what we used to call mountain biking but with more of an emphasis on distance, climbing and speed from the South Downs to racing the rock gardens of an Olympic or World Cup course.