Mountain bikes are expensive. The quality, design, and style bike heavily impacts on-trail performance. We're here to help you find a bike that suits your style, favorite trails, and budget. Here is how we go about employing the most comprehensive and methodical mountain bike review process in the industry.
Ride The Bike
We pull the bikes out of the boxes and out onto the trails, logging hundreds of miles. All the while, systematically working through bike setup, including dialing in shock setup. During this process, we require that each rider take each bike on two designated trail loops. One is smooth and flowy and the other doles out the hits like Wile E. Coyote doles out dynamite. We ride the bikes as much possible, on extremely familiar trails, switching out bikes frequently to compare and contrast their relative personalities often.
This part of testing is silent, meaning we give tester time to formulate their own opinions before we start analyzing the bikes as a group. We keep ride journals and our head reviewers interview testers to make sure we don't miss out on first impressions.
Metrics and Final Rankings
Once all the riders have drawn their own conclusions about each bike, we start talking about them. We dive down to get the details of why different riders and riding styles might work better on different bikes. Then, we figure out how to present the information to help people find the right bikes for their riding style and location. We rank the bikes' relative skills with climbing (worth 25%), descending (also 25%) and, well, fun. Fun is always worth the most at 35%. We also rate the build quality of each bike, weighted at 15%.
Measuring Bike Geometry
Since there is no standardized method for manufacturers to measure bike geometry, we measure them ourselves. This lets us compare one directly to another. We use these measurements to discuss the bikes in our reviews. We use a three-foot and six-foot straightedge, a three-foot and six-foot beam level, a laser beam, a digital angle gauge, an extended digital protractor goniometer angle finder, a tape measure, a Park Tool digital scale, and a grease pen.
Effective Top Tube Length — We use a level to mark the center of the seat tube directly across from the center of the head tube and measure the distance between them.
Reach — We run a vertical laser beam through the center of the bottom bracket and measure the distance between the beam and the center of the head tube.
Bottom Bracket Height — We measure from the floor to the center of the bottom bracket.
Head Tube Angle — We put the digital angle gauge on the fork stanchions to find the head tube angle.
Seat Tube Angle — Using an extended digital protractor goniometer angle finder we measure from the ground through the center of the bottom bracket and up to the effective top tube measuring point on the seat tube.
Chainstay — Using a straightedge to measure the distance between the center of the rear axle and the center of the bottom bracket.
Wheelbase — We measure between the center of the front and rear wheel axles.
Front Center — We measure this by using a straightedge and laser to measure the distance between the center of the bottom bracket and the center of the front axle.
Weight — We hang each bike from a Park Tool digital scale without pedals to determine weight.
There's a lot to consider when buying a new trail mountain bike. We hope our in-depth and detailed comparative reviews help you make a more informed decision for this important purchase.