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The 7 Best Trail Mountain Bikes of 2021

“Trail” might just be the broadest and hardest to define category in mountain biking. For us though, the best trail bikes are just supremely versatile mountain bikes. They are bikes with the travel, geometry, and components to handle a little bit of everything. The bikes on this list of the best trail bikes reflect that definition. You won’t feel out of place showing up to an XC race on any of these trail bikes, they all pedal well and are light enough that long pedally rides aren’t a chore. But on the flip side, any of these bikes will be happy to take a few laps through the bike park every year, they have the modern geometry and solid components to stand up to run after run of DH chunder.

Mountain biking covers a broad spectrum of trails and styles, the trail bikes on this list excel across that whole spectrum. But while every bike on this list is very versatile, subtle differences set them apart. That's why we’ve put together this best-of list to help you figure out which trail bike will be the best trail bike for your trails, and your riding style.

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Evil Offering GX

Best trail bikes of 2020
 
 

If the Hightower is the trail bike that can race Enduros, and the 5010 is a jib bike that loves to ride trail the Evil Offering falls right between them. It’s got the wheel travel and geometry to go fast in technical terrain, combined with a playful, poppy attitude that begs for more airtime. This bike is really playful. Just looking at the geometry chart doesn’t reveal much, the 66.4° head tube and 77° seat tube aren’t out of the ordinary for a bike with this much travel, but look a little deeper and you’ll notice the short 430 mm chainstays and low 26 mm BB drop. Those attributes combine to create a bike that loves to pop, manual, and wheelie through trails.

The Offering’s suspension curves reinforce that playful nature. This isn’t the most supple bike on this list, it doesn’t silence trail chatter, instead, it creates a platform to launch off of, and does a good job of muting big hits and landings. The GX build comes with its namesake GX Eagle drivetrain, SRAM’s lighter weight G2 brakes, and RockShox suspension. Evil has really thought through the details on this frame with a super boost rear end, ribbed rubber chain protection, and molded internal cable routing. If you like playing around and getting air, but want a longer travel bike that can handle gnarly terrain, the Offering has you covered. And for riders who spend a fair amount of time shuttling or riding the bike park, the Offering is the most aggressive bike on this list and is well suited to big gravity days. This make the Evil Offering one of the best trail bikes for gravity-minded riders.

 Fork TravelRear Travel Wheel Size Original Price
 140mm140mm29" $5,799

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Devinci Django Carbon 29 GX

Best 2020 mountain bikes under $2000
 

The Devinci Django is the perfect trial bike for the rider who knows that less is often more. It’s only got 120 mm of travel out back, but its Split Pivot suspension design helps it use that 120 mm to its fullest potential. And the 140 mm fork helps compensate for any questionable line choices.

The Django is a very efficient climber, and recent tweaks to its geometry mean it’s comfortable winching up the most technical trails, but it doesn’t sacrifice any descending performance on the way to the top. While some short travel trail bikes have a tendency to feel flexy and vague on the descent, the Django’s stiff carbon frame feels composed and ready, no matter what you point it down.

The Django doesn’t have enough travel to let you get lazy, you can’t just sit back and let the bike do the work. Instead it rewards an active and engaged rider. If you like to pick your lines carefully, popping and flitting around the trail, instead of just sitting back and pointing your plow of a bike downhill, the Django is a great choice.

 Fork TravelRear Travel Wheel Size Original Price
 140mm120mm29" $5,199

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Santa Cruz Hightower C S

Best trail bikes of 2020
 
 

The Hightower has always been one of the most versatile and best trail bikes in Santa Cruz’s lineup. This second-generation builds on that success, moving to Santa Cruz’s lower link suspension design which combines really efficient pedaling characteristics with a supple and supportive suspension platform along with a bump up to 140 mm of rear travel and a 150 mm fork. Those changes allowed Santa Cruz to make the Hightower a more efficient pedaling bike, while also giving it a little more cushion when the trail gets technical. Looking for something light and efficient enough for all day backcountry exploration? The Hightower is happy to pedal into the sunset with you. Fancy lining up for a few enduro races, the Hightower is there, chomping at the bit.

Of all the bikes on this list, the Hightower, along with the Orbea Rallon are most suited to entering an Enduro race, along with their everyday trail duties. This bike is at home on gnarly bike park trails as it is taking a family pedal after work. It isn’t quite as playful and snappy as some of the other bikes on this list, its more of a “sit and spin” climber as opposed to a “stand and hammer” ride, and it likes to absorb trail chunk instead of dancing through it. Of course, riders in flatter areas, who mostly ride smooth, buff trails, don’t need as much travel as the Hightower has on offer, that’s why Santa Cruz makes the Tallboy after all. But for anyone who is lucky enough to ride big ascents that pay off in long, interesting descents, the Hightower does it all.

The "S" build offers a great bang for your buck with a SRAM GX twelve-speed drivetrain, Code brakes, and Fox Performance level suspension. The Hightower’s 66.5° head tube angle isn’t ridiculously slack, and it still climbs efficiently, but on the descents, it helps the fork plow through chunder instead of getting hung up. The 77° seat tube angle is nice and steep, and makes seated pedaling up even the steepest climbs doable. The Hightower is ridiculously well rounded, it has no real weaknesses, and handles the whole gamut of trail with aplomb. If you like to ride everything from buff rolling singletrack to bike park trails with the same bike, that bike probably ought to be a Hightower.

 Fork TravelRear Travel Wheel Size Original Price
 150mm140mm29" $5,199

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Transition Scout Carbon NX

Best trail bikes of 2020
 
 

Transition has built its reputation on bikes that are more fun, and more capable than their travel numbers might suggest. They’ve accomplished this by focusing on having some of the most progressive geometry on the market. The Scout is the first of their latest line of bikes to be released, and it makes it clear that Transition is coming out the gate swinging.

The Scout gets a travel bump, from its original 130 mm to 140 or 150 mm of rear travel, depending on what size shock you run. Along with that, its reach grows a little, the seat tube gets steeper, and the head tube gets slacker. All of those changes combine to create the most capable Scout yet.

But Transition didn’t want to sacrifice the jibby, playful nature of the old version, so they updated the suspension kinematics to make it more progressive, more efficient when pedaling, and allowing it to work with coil shocks. If you love the flickability of smaller wheels, and want a capable, confident trail bike that will leave you laughing after every ride, the Scout is your bike.

 Fork TravelRear Travel Wheel Size Original Price
 150mm140mm27.5" $4,499

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Santa Cruz 5010 C S

Best trail bikes of 2020
 
 

Santa Cruz’s 5010 has always been a jibby, playful short travel ripper, and even though this latest iteration has a bit more travel front and rear, it still lives up to that legacy. This is the perfect trail bike for riders who prioritize fun over speed. It’s not the all-out fastest bike on this list, and racers should look elsewhere. Instead, the combination of 27.5” wheels and “taught” feeling suspension make this bike feel really, really playful. If you like to treat ever rock and root on the trail as a potential lip, and look for alternate lines and sneaker gaps, you’ll get along with the 5010.

The 5010’s build kit supports that style as well, with lightweight choices that can still hold up to abuse. The GX drivetrain and G2 brakes take care of accelerating and stopping the bike, and a Fox Performance 34 keeps the front end squishy. True to its intent, the 5010 doesn’t have the most aggressive geometry out there, the 65.7° head tube angle and 77.6° seat tube angle make techy climbs approachable, while still staying reliable when the descents get steep.

If you’re chasing KOM’s, love to race, and care more about your lap time than air time, the 5010 might not be the trail bike for you. Sure, it can go fast, but it’s happier making the most of every foot of trail - jibbing its way along, ignoring time constraints. This is one of the best trail bikes for riders who like to get some air, get sideways, and ride playfully.

 Fork TravelRear Travel Wheel Size Original Price
 130mm130mm27.5" $4,899

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Yeti SB 130 T2

Best trail bikes of 2021
 
 

The Yeti SB 130 is the middle bike in their 29” wheeled SB lineup, and as such it makes sense that it’s the most well-rounded. On the trail, the SB 130 is very similar to the Santa Cruz Hightower, they have similar geometries and travel numbers, and both are designed to do everything well, with a slight nod toward descending performance. That said, Yeti’s Switch Infinity suspension system does a remarkably good job of balancing pedaling efficiency with small bump compliance. The sensation it produces can best be described as it feeling like the bike is accelerating along the trail without needing you to turn the pedals. This bike feels fast.

The T2 build is Yeti’s top-end option, and as such, no expense is spared. The suspension travel is controlled by Fox Factory dampers, and the drivetrain is a mix of SRAM XO1 and X1. That means there are no weak points in this build, everything is high-end and built to perform. It also means that the SB 130 gets Yeti’s higher-end “Turq” carbon frame which is lighter and the same stiffness as their regular frames. If you’re looking for a premium trail bike that can handle a little bit of everything, from mellow group rides to bike park laps, the Yeti SB 130 is happy to do it all.

 Fork TravelRear Travel Wheel Size Original Price
 150mm130mm29" $7,700

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Orbea Rallon M20

Best trail bikes of 2021
 
 

Where’s the line between long-travel trail bikes and full-on enduro bikes? It’s hard to say, but the Orbea Rallon is determined to push that arbitrary boundary. This is by far the heaviest hitter on this list, with more travel, more aggressive geometry, and a proclivity for the steepest, techiest trails around. The Rallon’s 160 mm of rear travel, combined with a 170 mm Fox 38 upfront mean it's a bump-eating machine. There aren’t many trails in, or outside of bikeparks that this rig can’t handle. That doesn’t mean it’s not capable on the climbs though, Orbea has managed to make the Rallon pedal efficiently as well, so it’s ready for all-day exploratory rides. The Rallon has the slackest head tube angle on this list at 64.5° degrees, and it makes sense for a bike with this amount of travel.

The M20 build comes stocked with a sensible mix of Shimano SLX drivetrain and Fox Performance level suspension, along with DT Swiss wheels and Maxxis tires. While this bike is comfortable on more mellow trails, it’s definitely not for everyone. If you don’t have access to steep shuttle trails or a bike park, the Rallon is probably overkill, and you’d be better suited by a shorter travel option. That said, if you like to go fast, in gnarly terrain, you’ll find no other “trail” bike as likely to land you on the podium of your local enduro series.

 Fork TravelRear Travel Wheel Size Original Price
 170mm160mm29" $4,899

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