There are some that hide amongst us, lighter and stronger than the rest. No, we’re not talking about superheroes, we’re talking about trail bikes. These modern day legends have to be good at, well, everything – flying like Superman up the climbs, and hammering like Thor on the toughest of descents. We test 9 of the best 130 -140 mm trail bikes to weed out those with true power and those who are just mortals in fancy dress.
What makes a good trail bike?
A trail bike has to be the perfect one-bike solution, with the legs to climb all day but also happy to trade seconds with an enduro bike on all but the roughest of descents. A good trail bike should posses an agility and eagerness that keeps excitement high even when the trails are more mellow and tame, as sadly we cannot all live in the Alps. The best of the bunch have that magic ingredient: a lively spark and confident performance that complements the rider’s skill, making them feel like a superhero every time they ride.
When looking for a new bike, the first thing we are confronted by is a barrage of numbers: 27.5, 29, 650, 67, 66, 425. Studying endless geometry tables can be bewildering. But have no fear, trail bikes with extreme geometries are rare. Super slack bikes that descend well but climb like a lumbering elephant make no sense for most riders, and vice versa. We are starting to see a more modern trail geometry evolving, long stems and narrow bars are thankfully becoming a thing of the past and nervous handling is now rare. Bikes like the Canyon Spectral, Ibis Mojo 3 and Whyte T-130C are leading the charge, learning from their bigger brothers, top tubes are lengthening (but not too much) to make way for shorter stems, head angles are now hovering around the 66-67 degree mark and seat tubes are growing steeper to keep the climbing sharp. The best of both? Yes, you can have it all!
But what about wheel size?
When it comes to wheel size, now everyone can find the bike that suits their riding style and trails. The old stereotypes still hold some truth 27.5” for agility and playful riding, and 29ers for smashing KOM’s and confidence at speed. But the lines are blurring and many bikes are excelling at both. The new standards of Boost and 1x drivetrains allow stiffer and shorter rear ends, opening the door again for fast and agile 29ers – just look at the new Santa Cruz High Tower and YT Jeffsy (both too late to squeeze into this group test). And what of 2.8 – 3.0 Plus tires? We all claimed, “What rubbish, they will roll so slowly” or, “Man they look so clumsy”. However, we had to eat our words when they proved to be very fast and agile. The larger contact patch and lower pressures provide noticeably more grip, more confidence and – most importantly – bags of fun; all qualities that make a perfect trail bike. Many brands like Ibis are now producing bikes like the Mojo 3, that are able to accept both standard and Plus sized tires for maximum versatility, while others like Specialized and Scott are offering versions of their most popular models in all three wheel sizes. With all this choice, it’s important to try new things, there’s is a bike out there that will rock your world.
The test fleet
When it comes to buying a trail bike, we now have more choice than ever. We have long had to deliberate between 27.5 and 29, but now Plus has entered the battle for our hard earned cash, and it’s hard to know which way to turn. To reflect this dilemma, our test fleet features bikes with many different super powers. We asked all the main brands to submit their best trail bike, a bike that could do it all, a ‘Jack of all trades, master of all’. Each would be tested on uphill enthusiasm, downhill prowess and day-long riding. Some key bikes are notable in the their absence: many could not deliver in time or were just plain unwilling to participate in our unrelenting test. Direct sales giants Canyon sent over their formidable Spectral CF 9.0 EX and Radon the superlight Slide Carbon 140 10.0. The US brands were represented with the versatile Ibis Mojo 3 XT 1x, the legendary Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Expert 650B, while the Yeti SB4.5C X01 brought big wheels to the party. Cube sent over their Stereo 140 C:62 SL, and Giant included the popular Trance Advanced 1 to do battle with UK brand Whyte’s fresh new T-130C rocket. Just to really shake things up we included a Scott Genius Plus 710. Would it be like bringing a knife to a gunfight – or a cannon?
|Canyon Spectral CF 9.0 EX||150/140 mm||12.87 kg||€ 4,199|
|Cube Stereo 140 C: 62 SL||150/140 mm||12.05 kg||€ 3,999|
|Giant Trance Advanced 1||140/150 mm||12.80 kg||€ 4,299|
|Ibis Mojo 3 XT 1x||140/135 mm||12.40 kg||€ 6,198|
|SCOTT Genius 710 Plus||140/130 mm||13.46 kg||€ 4,999|
|Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Expert 650B||150/150 mm||12.85 kg||€ 5,999|
|Whyte T130C RS||130/130 mm||12.45 kg||€ 4,999|
|Radon Slide Carbon 140 10.0||140/140 mm||11.26 kg||€ 5,199||Yeti SB4.5c X01||140/114 mm||12.30 kg||€ 8,390|
When it comes to testing, arenas do not come much tougher than Scotland, and from the rugged Highlands around Aviemore to the rocky Enduro World Series trails of the Tweed Valley, we put 9 of the best 130-150 mm trail bikes to the test. The test trails featured punchy climbs, flowing lines and long rocky passages that put suspension to the ultimate test. The international test team featured experienced testers and elite racers, and after broken parts and even broken bones we finally had our winners.
In this test the battle was fierce. The Giant Trance Advanced 1.0 needs a cockpit update to really shine, but we could see the potential. The Radon Slide 140 10.0 would be Batman’s choice – lightweight and brutally fast – while the Yeti SB4.5C showed its powers to cover huge distances in complete confidence. The Cube Stereo 140 C:62 SL and Specialized Stumpjumper Elite offered easy to exploit speed and control while the underdog Whyte T-130C impressed with perfect geometry. The Scott Genius Plus 710 surprised us all, revealing itself as a superb performer. With new tire technologies emerging, this plus bike will be unstoppable in the future!
In the end the 6 testers were united in conclusion, leaving a mighty showdown between the Canyon Spectral CF 9.0 EX and new Ibis Mojo 3 XT: the powerful descender against the bike that can do it all. The Hulk Vs. Superman, so to speak. After the dust had settled both outstanding bikes were victorious. At €4199 the Canyon Spectral CF 10.0 EX is a phenomenal bargain, stealing our Best Value award with ease, but it was the Ibis Mojo 3’s amazing performance and ability to run Plus tires that clinched the Best in Test.
All bikes in test: Canyon Spectral CF 9.0 EX | Cube Stereo 140 C:62 SL | Giant Trance Advanced 1 | Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Expert 650B | Radon Slide Carbon 140 10.0 | Ibis Mojo 3 XT 1x | SCOTT Genius 710 Plus | Whyte T130 C | Yeti SB 4.5c X01
Words & Photos: Trev Worsey