BikeRadar 2022-05-10T08:00:23Z https://www.bikeradar.com/feed/atom/ Alex Evans <![CDATA[Best mountain bike tyres in 2022 | Top-rated tyres for XC, downcountry, trail and enduro riding]]> https://www.bikeradar.com/?p=444891 2022-05-10T08:00:23Z 2022-05-10T08:00:00Z

Getting the best mountain bike tyres for the type of riding you do and the conditions you typically encounter can be a real headache.

Get it right, however, and tyres – which you’ll need to match to your mountain bike wheel sizes – can make a big difference to how your ride behaves. You can spend all you want on the best mountain bike wheels, but they won’t fulfil their potential without suitable tyres.

Why is it so tough to find the right tyres? First, there’s a lot of assumed knowledge with MTB tyres.

You’re expected to know what a mud tyre should look like and where it will perform best. The best winter mountain bike tyres are worth considering if you ride a lot in the wet.

You need to know what type of tread pattern works well on smooth or bumpy terrain, and you need a decent knowledge about carcass thickness and rubber compound.

But, fear not, we’ve done the leg work for you.

For each tyre we’ve added what that model is good at, what it’s designed for, whether it’s available with different rubber compounds or carcass thicknesses, and which discipline it’s most suited to.

What to look for when buying mountain bike tyres

You can’t overstate the importance of a good set of tyres. They drastically affect how your bike rides, so skimping is a false economy. Finding the best tyres for your needs is far from straightforward though.

Although the range of tyres on the market may at first seem overwhelming, it’s never been easier to buy a set of tyres that are suitable for your preferred style of riding.
Russell Burton / Our Media

Width

Width is crucial. Wider tyres roll faster over soft or bumpy terrain – in timed tests we’ve consistently ridden DH tracks faster on them – so many brands now offer 2.6in options. But a fatter tyre won’t suit everyone, because they can have a bouncy ride feel and won’t fit all frames.

Tread

Tread pattern is a key consideration too. Tall, widely-spaced knobs are ideal for muddy or loose terrain, while shorter tread blocks tend to be faster – rolling and more predictable on hard surfaces.

Tyres can make or break a bike’s ride quality.
Andy Lloyd / Our Media

Compounds

Most MTB tyres are available in several rubber compounds. Softer compounds grip better on roots and rocks, and have a more ‘planted ’ ride feel, because the rubber absorbs more energy from bumps. The downsides are that they wear faster and have more rolling resistance.

Casing

Many tyres come with a choice of casings too. Our guide to mountain bike tyre carcass construction has all the detail.

But in short, thicker carcasses are less likely to puncture. Due to stiffer sidewalls, they can usually be run at lower tyre pressures without the sidewall collapsing when cornering. They also provide more damping, so are less bouncy over bumps.

Thinner casings roll faster, especially over bumpy ground, and transmit less feedback at a given pressure.

Be aware that there are front- and rear-specific tyres.
Russell Burton / Our Media

Front or rear

Tyres are becoming increasingly specialised for the front or rear wheel. Rolling resistance and puncture protection are more of an issue on the rear, as it supports most of the rider’s weight, whereas grip is more important up front, to stop your front wheel sliding out.

That’s the basics covered but we’ve also added an in-depth buyer’s guide and glossary at the end of the article, to help you find exactly what you need.

Many of the MTB tyres we’ve tested recently, and have been impressed by, have been orientated towards trail and enduro riding, and this is reflected in our current list. We have more tyre reviews in the pipeline, and will only recommend tyres we’ve tested and that are current models.

Best mountain bike tyres

Best cross-country tyres of 2022

Cross-country tyres are optimised for tamer trails than their downcountry, trail, all-mountain and enduro counterparts. They are typically lighter weight, given that this is a keen focus for cross-country racing.

Schwalbe Racing Ray Addix Speed

5.0 out of 5 star rating
It’s a great, fast-rolling and grippy front tyre.
David Arthur / Immediate Media
  • £51 / €58 / $65 as tested
  • 692g claimed weight
  • 29×2.25in tested
  • A fast-rolling tread pattern
  • Best as a front tyre

The Racing Ray is a lightweight, fast-rolling option that corners well. It has a front-specific tread pattern and is designed to be used in tandem with a Racing Ralph rear tyre. The Addix Speed Rubber compound is designed to balance optimum grip, speed and durability. The tyre works very well in most conditions, be it dry or damp. It has great straight-line rolling speed, offers a reassuring feel on corners and is confidence-inspiring when braking.

Schwalbe Racing Ralph Evo TLE

5.0 out of 5 star rating
It’s got a real focus as a race-day tyre with low weight and fast-rolling qualities.
David Arthur / Immediate Media
  • £51 / €58 / $65 as tested
  • 697g
  • 29×2.25in tested
  • Exceptional traction and control
  • Best as a rear tyre

The Racing Ralph excelled with its fast-rolling ride with class-leading traction and control designed for cross-country racing. Although it’s best to use on the rear, you could run the tyre on the front in dry conditions.

The low-profile tread is designed to reduce weight and keep rolling resistance as low as possible. A red stripe around the tyre’s circumference denotes the Addix Speed compound, designed to provide less drag, more grip, durability and damping. The Racing Ralph Evo TLE is a versatile tyre and grips well in all conditions, great for everyday riding and big distance epics.

Specialized Ground Control

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The casing means it’s possible to push limits on an XC bike.
David Arthur / Immediate Media
  • £49 / €49 / $60 / AU$65 as tested
  • 791g claimed weight
  • 29 x 2.3in tested
  • A versatile tyre that is capable in a wide range of conditions
  • Using as a front or rear tyre

We were impressed with the versatility of the Ground Control due to its tread pattern and Gripton compound, which would also make the tyre a good trail riding option. The Ground Control’s are fast-rolling in the dry and they stick to slippery roots and rocks for longer than most lighter cross-country tyres.

 

Vittoria Barzo TNT

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Our Barzo test tyre has got tan-coloured sidewalls.
David Arthur / Immediate Media
  • £55 / €60 / $65 / AU$75 as tested
  • 676g claimed weight
  • 29×2.25in tested
  • A fast and aggressive tyre for technical courses
  • Using as a front or rear tyre

The Vittoria Barzo makes for a strong choice on technical courses with its carefully aligned centre blocks, particularly on intermediate to muddy terrain. The open design of the tread pattern helps shed mud quickly and you could use them for trail riding too. The trade-off is that the Barzo suffers on drier terrain.

Schwalbe Rocket Ron Super Ground SpeedGrip

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The test tyre inflated on tubeless rims without issue.
David Arthur / Immediate Media
  • £67 / €65 / $60 as tested
  • 687g claimed weight
  • 29×2.25in tested
  • Focused on speed but decent amounts of grip
  • Using as a front or rear tyre

The Rocket Ron is a fast, grippy tyre that is versatile enough for a range of uses and trail conditions. You could use it for anything from cross-country racing to marathon riding. This particular tyre has Super Ground SpeedGrip casing, signified by the blue stripe on the tyre’s circumference.

This model also foregoes the additional Snakeskin layer – which would denote better sealing, lateral stability and sidewall protection properties – for ultimate weight saving.

Continental Race King BlackChili ProTection

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The ProTection sidewalls give the casing a beefy-feel.
David Arthur / Immediate Media
  • £60 / €69 / $76 as tested
  • 626g claimed weight
  • 29×2.2 in tested
  • A lightweight option
  • Using as a front or rear tyre

Continental’s Race King is an extremely lightweight tyre, even with the ProTection sidewall reinforcement. This tyre is best for dry and hardpacked trails and suffers on the worst of mud due to its closely packed tread pattern. It offers a smooth ride over chattery imperfections and encourages tight lean angles.

Best downcountry tyres of 2022

Downcountry tyres are a little heavier than cross-country tyres, since weight is not the main focus. They are optimised for slightly burlier terrain and would also be a good choice to fit on a cross-country bike if you want to take it on more technical terrain.

Schwalbe Wicked Will Super Race

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Closely packed across the width of the tyre, but relatively spread out along its length, the square blocks roll fast yet grip well.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
  • £62.99 as tested
  • 816g actual weight
  • 29×2.4in tested
  • Lightweight and versatile
  • Can be used as a Winter-ready XC tyre, as a Summer front tyre or as a rear all-year round

Schwalbe’s Wicked Will Super Race tyre rolls fast and grips well, and proved easy to install on a range of rims. Acceleration and braking are excellent. Its tread consists of a series of square blocks that are relatively closely packed and not too deep in construction.

The Speed Grip rubber isn’t the stickiest, although it’s only slimy rocks and roots that will cause it to slip up, and it’s not the most confident tyre on corners.

Maxxis Ardent EXO TR

4.0 out of 5 star rating
These aren’t the best tyres for outright speed, but more than make up for that with their versatility.
David Arthur / Immediate Media
  • £50 / €54 / $61 as tested
  • 839g claimed weight
  • 29×2.25in tested
  • Tough and reliable
  • Best as a front tyre

Although we’ve classed the Maxxis Ardent EXO TR as a downcountry tyre, it could also serve as a lightweight trail option too. It’d be on the heavy side if you were to use it for cross-country racing.

The Ardent impressed us with its assured cornering and fast-rolling ride. The sidewalls are beefed up for puncture protection. Their stability is noticeable when sprinting out of corners and building up speed over crests and climbs. They maintain their momentum well once up to speed. The shoulder blocks are massive compared with cross-country tyres, allowing you to take more chances in corners.

Best trail tyres of 2022

Trail tyres are heavier than cross-country and downcountry tyres and are designed for improved grip and control on more technical terrain. There are a range of trail tyres for different purposes and conditions.

Schwalbe Magic Mary Super Trail Addix Soft TL Easy

5.0 out of 5 star rating
The Magic Mary lives up to its name.
Ian Linton / Immediate Media
  • £62 / $89 as tested
  • 1,244g claimed weight
  • 29×2.4in tested
  • Impressive cornering predictability
  • Best as a front tyre

This iteration of the Magic Mary seriously impressed with their best in-class cornering, surprisingly low rolling resistance and well-damped carcass.

They feature strong shoulder knobs for cornering and grip to all terrain types, from mud to hardpack. The sticky compound glues to hardpack terrain whereas larger knobs dug into softer ground. They were easy to set up and a true fit-and-forget option. We can’t fault them.

We’ve also tested the Schwalbe Magic Mary SuperTrail Addix UltraSoft EVO which scored 4.5 stars. We found these tyres also offered amazing grip but at the expense of rolling speed and durability.

Tioga Edge-22

4.5 out of 5 star rating
There’s no denying how much predictable traction was on offer, especially when pushed hard.
Alex Evans
  • £64.99 / $65 as tested
  • 905g claimed weight
  • 27.5×2.5in tested
  • Predictable cornering
  • Best as a front tyre

Another tyre with excellent cornering predictability, the Tioga Edge-22 is lightweight and easy to control. Its blocks closely resemble a Maxxis Minion DHF front tyre, with a large central channel. We’d like to see more casing and compound options to suit a greater variety of trail conditions.

Read our full Tioga Edge-22 tyre review

Maxxis Shorty 3C Max Terra EXO

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Maxxis’ Shorty 3C EXO TR is becoming a classic winter tyre in the UK.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media
  • £60 / $75 as tested
  • 1,028g claimed weight 
  • 29×2.5in tested 
  • Class-leading mud-shedding ability 
  • Best as a front tyre

The Maxxis Shorty 3C Max Terra EXO is a mud-specific tyre that offers exceptional levels of grip thanks to its tall, aggressive blocks that bite through soft ground.

Despite its large blocky tread, the Shorty still grips fairly well once it dries out. We’ve seen downhill and enduro racers use the Shorty in completely dry conditions with deep dust.

WTB Verdict TCS Light High Grip + Slash guard

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Aggressive tread and soft compound make the Verdict a solid performer.
Ian Linton / Immediate Media
  • £50 / $71 as tested
  • 1,139g claimed weight
  • 29×2.5in tested
  • Ideal for the gnarliest conditions
  • Best as a front tyre

Built for the muddiest, softest conditions, the WTB Verdict has chunky and widely-spaced knobs. The impressively soft compound stuck to rocks and roots predictably, regardless of speed. Braking traction was great and the light casing was well-damped. It took several attempts to seat the bead correctly on our test tyre though.

Best all-mountain tyres of 2022

All-mountain bridges the gap between trail and enduro. The tyres here are adept in technical terrain but will also be a solid choice for all-day pedalling.

Maxxis Minion DHF EXO+ TR 3C MaxxTerra

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Minion DHF’s tread is iconic.
Ian Linton / Immediate Media
  • £75 / $79 as tested
  • 1,239g claimed weight
  • 29×2.5in tested
  • Great for cornering
  • Best as a front tyre

The Minion DHF has been long been a versatile stalwart of the Maxxis range and its latest edition continues that trend. The tread pattern is designed for cornering prowess and rolling speed. The side knobs angle slightly outwards, increasing cornering capabilities and predictability.

We found the Minion DHF to have excellent grip, particularly on hardpack. That said, the MaxxTerra compound suffers in wet conditions and it’s not the best tyre for braking traction. The Minion DHF in this variant is ideal as a dry-weather, speed-focused tyre.

Best enduro tyres of 2022

Enduro tyres are designed for more gravity-focused riding and they need to instil confidence and control on rough, technical downhill descents. They also need to pedal well uphill, but there is less of a focus on this aspect compared with trail and all-mountain riding.

Maxxis Minion DHF Wide Trail 3C TR EXO

5.0 out of 5 star rating
Maxxis’s Minion DHF Wide Trail 3C TR EXO 2.5in tyre.
  • £65 / $85 as tested
  • 980g claimed weight 
  • 29×2.5in tested 
  • Great for hardback, dust, rocks and roots 
  • Best as a front tyre

Arguably the benchmark of performance for the best mountain bike tyres, the Maxxis Minion DHF Wide Trail 3C TR EXO is a favourite with gravity-fed DH and enduro riders and all-day trailblazers alike.

Its time-proven tread pattern offers predictable grip on a wide range of trail surfaces and the large centre blocks mean it rolls well to boot. The Minion DHF’s lack of grip in properly sloppy and boggy conditions is its only pitfall.

We tested the triple-compound 3C version of the DHF, which offers the ultimate mix of grip, damping and suppleness, but there’s also the cheaper, dual-compound DC version, while the DD is reinforced for flat-out downhill riding.

Maxxis Minion DHR II 3C MaxxGrip DD

4.5 out of 5 star rating
The DHR II combines the DHF’s cornering tread with larger central blocks for better braking.
Ian Linton / Immediate Media
  • £70 as tested
  • 1,239g claimed weight
  • 29×2.4in tested
  • Great damped feel with predictable grip
  • Best as a rear tyre but could be used on the front if you’re riding trails that are very steep with lots of braking

The Maxxis Minion DHR II impressed with its ride feel and high grip in almost all conditions. It has an assured feel under braking and easily attainable lean angles. This is largely due to the fact that the DHR II’s side knobs are shared with the Minion DHF.

In Double Down casing, which is what we have here, they will handle a serious amount of abuse. The one thing to be aware of is that the tyre clogs in thick mud.

Schwalbe Magic Mary SuperGravity ADDIX Soft

4.5 out of 5 star rating
There’s plenty of sidewall support from the SuperGravity casing.
Andy Lloyd
  • £65 / $98 / AU$99 as tested
  • 1,340g claimed weight
  • 29×2.6in tested
  • Fantastic traction in all conditions
  • Best as a front tyre

Schwalbe’s Magic Mary scored highly for their exemplary traction and are particularly well suited to soft mud (although they’re not quite as confident in sticky mud, compared with dedicated mud tyres). The tyre has great amounts of braking grip due to the tall tread pattern. There is plenty of edging tread and a generous gap to the centre tread to help bite into corners and off-camber slopes.

Schwalbe Hans Dampf SuperGravity ADDIX Soft

4.5 out of 5 star rating
It’s brilliant through rocky descents, especially under braking.
William Poole
  • £59 / $98 / AU$99 as tested
  • 1,168g claimed weight 
  • 29×2.35in tested 
  • Grippy and fast-rolling
  • Best as a rear tyre

Best-suited to rocky, hardpack terrain, the Schwalbe Hans Dampf SuperGravity ADDIX Soft has great straight-line grip with impressive rolling speed. It’s also predictable when leaned over for cornering thanks to its bulky side knobs and the ADDIX Soft rubber is well damped.

It’s not quite up there with the best-performing mountain bike tyres on soft, boggy terrain, though.

Vee Tire Co Attack HPL Top 40 Compound Tubeless Ready Enduro Core

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Super tacky and super aggressive, the Attack is all about grip.
Ian Linton / Immediate Media
  • €59 as tested
  • 1,151g claimed weight
  • 29×2.5in tested
  • Fantastically predictable on corners
  • Best as a front tyre

Vee Tire Co’s Attack proved impressive on corners with its excellent carcass strength and provided great grip, no matter how hard they were pushed. The sidewall is tough and the tread compound satisfyingly tacky.

The downside to stability and grip are slow rolling speeds on flatter sections, despite the rounded profile.  Our sample also leaked air, requiring constant top-ups while riding, which was unfortunate.

Vee Tire Co Snap Trail Top 40 Compound Tubeless Ready Enduro Core

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Top40 compound offers plenty of grip on a host of terrain types.
Ian Linton / Immediate Media
  • £55 / $65 as tested
  • 1,050g claimed weight
  • 29×2.35in tested
  • One of the grippiest tyres out there
  • Best as a rear tyre

Vee Tire Co says the Snap Trail Top 40 can be used for all disciplines except lightweight cross-country. On the trails, we found these to be one of the grippiest tyres out there and it was nigh-on impossible to force it off line. It has great turning ability and braking performance. The tyre features a rounded profile that increased lean angles, allowing more predictable turns. We also found they sealed easily on installation.

They are though quite slow rolling on most terrains, and that is the price paid for the exceptional grip.

WTB Judge TCS Tough Fast Rolling

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The tough casing and fast-rolling compound are a formidable rear tyre combo.
Ian Linton / Immediate Media
  • £58 / $84 as tested
  • 1,352g claimed weight
  • 29×2.4in tested
  • An aggressive tyre with plenty of traction
  • Best as a rear tyre

WTB’s Judge is the most aggressive rear tyre the brand offers. Even with Fast Rolling compound, there is plenty of traction on offer. This is thanks to the large central knobs that alternate between long and wide to blend braking performance and reduce rolling resistance. WTB recommends pairing with a Verdict up-front.

The Judge has a fairly rounded profile, which helps to provide consistent and predictable cornering grip. The traction is so assured that our tester struggled to ride off-line. They provide all-round grip for different terrain types and work well in slimy terrain too.

The only negative is that we couldn’t achieve a permanent seal on our sample.

Schwalbe Big Betty EVO Super Gravity Addix Soft

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Big Betty is a seriously aggressive rear tyre with large central blocks.
Ian Linton / Immediate Media
  • £65 / $94 as tested
  • 1,396g claimed weight
  • 29×2.4in tested
  • Great grip on all terrain other than wet roots
  • Best as a rear tyre

The tread pattern of the Schwalbe Big Betty EVO features large, widely-spaced central horizontal blocks to create plenty of braking traction and clear mud. There are also side knobs for improved cornering grip.

We found the carcass to be well-damped over rough terrain, offering plenty of braking traction. The tyre would only drift when pushed to the limit. They grip well on rocks but they’re not a fan of wet roots, despite the soft compound. We found the tyre tricky to mount but it fully sealed once inflated and held air over the test period.

WTB Verdict 2.5 TCS Tough High Grip

4.0 out of 5 star rating
On the trail it has a comfortable, well-damped feel over rocky terrain.
Immediate Media
  • £58 / $84 as tested
  • 1,345g claimed weight 
  • 29×2.5in tested 
  • One of the grippiest tyres for sloppy conditions
  • Best as a front tyre

The WTB Verdict 2.5 TCS Tough High Grip offers fantastic wet-weather grip, especially if the trails are sloppy and soft.

WTB also makes a Wet version of the Verdict with even bigger knobs, but we never felt like the standard one needed more to contend with the best mountain tyres. Its compound makes it stick to wet rocks and roots, too.

It doesn’t roll very fast though, and isn’t very grippy or predictable on hardpack trails, or when you’re leaning the bike over in turns.

Mountain bike tyres buyer’s guide

Your tyres make a massive difference to the character and ride of your bike. We bring you the lowdown on what to look for when buying new mountain bike tyres.

Should I use tubeless tyres?

Most bikes come specced with tubeless-ready rims and tyres.
Alex Evans

Traditional tyres use an inner tube to keep them inflated, but how do ‘tubeless’ tyres work?

Tubeless tyres ditch the inner tube in favour of a tyre that’s specifically designed to be airtight, either through the use of an additional layer of rubber or the use of a latex-based tubeless sealant.

Mavic’s UST (Universal System Tubeless) system uses a thick side-walled tyre that locks into a specific sealed-bed UST rim. The advantage is an airtight seal with or without a sealant liquid inside, and very stable, pinch puncture-resistant, low pressure performance.

The downsides are that these tyres are more expensive and also heavier.

Most mountain bike tyres on the market today use some sort of ‘tubeless compatible’ system. These tyres use a tubeless bead but require sealant in order to make them airtight. They also require rim tape to seal the spoke holes off.

The benefit of this system is that it is lighter than a full UST system and offers the user a wide variety of tyre choices.

The downside is that there is not an established standard between the various tyre and rim manufacturers, so some rim and tyre combinations work better than others. Even so, this is the most common tubeless option you’ll encounter.

What is better, light or heavy mountain bike tyres?

The Minion DHF has great turning performance and is suited to most conditions until it gets really muddy and boggy.
Andy Lloyd

Weight has a big effect on the agility and acceleration of your bike. Light tyres are much easier to spin up to speed, change direction with and even stop, so make sense for cross-country use.

Heavier tyres are generally thicker, which means they resist punctures and pinch flats better and are less likely to flop and roll off at low pressures. Heavier tyres also increase the gyroscopic effect of the wheel, making the bike more stable on the ground or in the air.

At the really heavy end, reinforced-carcass downhill tyres are designed to be run at low pressures without popping or tearing off the rim, and rely on the help of gravity to get their 1kg-plus weight moving.

What width mountain bike tyre should I use?

Maxxis Assegai tyres were designed with input from Greg Minnaar.
Steve Behr

There’s a massive range of tyre widths available from 1.5in to 5in fat bike tyres. The majority of mountain bikers run tyres in the 2.2in to 2.5in range, and more recently up to 2.6in has become commonplace.

Tyres in this range offer good protection and grip for more aggressive riding. Narrower tyres offer less cushioning and have less ‘footprint’ to grip with.

Pinch flat resistance is lower, too, unless narrower tyres are running higher pressures. They are lighter and roll faster though, and often cut through sticky mud and gloop better.

Square-profile tyres have more edging grip but are harder to lurch into corners. Rounder tyres roll more easily into corners and slide more predictably. Edge grip isn’t as aggressive, though.

There’s a massive range of tyre widths available, from 1.5in to 5in fat bike tyres. The majority of mountain bikers run tyres in the 2.2in to 2.5in range, and more recently up to 2.6in has become commonplace.

Cross-country tyres are likely to be at the narrower end of the scale, while trail/enduro tyres tend to be a little wider. Tyres in this range offer good protection and grip for more aggressive riding.

Narrower tyres, on the other hand, offer less cushioning and have less ‘footprint’ to grip with. Pinch flat resistance is lower on narrower tyres, too, unless they are being ran at higher pressures, which in turn could negatively affect grip.

Narrower tyres often cut through sticky mud and gloop better, though.

Ultimately, the ideal tyre width depends on what you’re riding, where you’re riding and how you’re riding. Weighing up all three aspects will help you find the right tyre.

For a more in-depth explainer on the subject, head to our ultimate test on mountain bike tyre size to determine the fastest width for trail mountain bikes and enduro riding.

How grippy are mountain bike tyres?

Addix Ultra Soft is the enduro and downhill compound found in the Magic Mary and Dirty Dan.
Russell Eich / Immediate Media

This depends on the profile of the tyre, tread pattern, its durometer rating (how soft the rubber the tyre is made from is) and the overall build of the tyre.

Bigger gaps between tread blocks help a tyre shed mud, while taller spikes grip better in soft conditions. This type of tread has more rolling resistance than a lower-profile, more tightly-spaced design though, and can squirm on harder surfaces.

A tyre with a square-profile will have more edging grip but is harder to lurch into corners. Rounder tyres roll more easily into corners and slide in loose terrain more predictably. Edge grip isn’t as aggressive, though.

It’s a slightly simplistic summary, but a tyre that grips well because of a sticky/softer rubber compound and tall square-edged knobs will have more drag than those that don’t. But within this generalisation there are some notable tyres that reduce drag with a slight sloping of tread patterns, multiple tread compounds or the use of a ‘fast’ carcass.

Conversely, some tyres that have barely any tread actually bite as well as some mid-knob rubber.

Some tyres use different compounds for the centre and edge tread blocks, to balance rolling resistance, grip and durability.

All of this depends on your local terrain as well – a super chunky aggressive tyre won’t be as useful on the slick rock of Moab as a lower profile tyre.

Glossary

  • Shoulder: The edge tread that provides off-camber and cornering grip
  • Sidewall: The bare side of the tyre, between the tyre tread and rim bread. Double or ‘two ply’ on DH tyres for extra stability and pinch flat resistance; airtight on UST tyres for tubeless running
  • Damping: Ability of a tyre to absorb energy as it rolls over a bump. More damping means the tyre rebounds slower, giving a less bouncy ride with better grip and control but more rolling resistance
  • Bead: The steel wire or Kevlar cord at the base of the sidewall that locks into the rim lip to keep the tyre in place. Kevlar or Aramid fibre beads are lighter and let the tyre fold, but are more expensive and the tyre is more likely to detach from the rim if flatted
  • Carcass: The fabric body of the tyre made from overlapping nylon threads encased in rubber. A more supple carcass enables the tyre to deform around lumps for extra grip but is less stable at low pressures. A reinforced carcass is more protective and less wobbly at low pressures but heavier and less comfortable. Lighter carcasses are more likely to get punctures too
  • TPI: The number of threads per inch in the carcass. Tyres with more threads are generally higher quality with a more subtle feel, but companies such as Tioga use a smaller quantity of fatter threads
  • Multi-compound: Tyres that use different rubber compounds; dual compounds are normally harder in the centre or underneath for fast rolling and long life, but soft on the shoulders for cornering grip. Schwalbe and Maxxis now do triple-compound tyres too
  • Durometer: The softness rating of the rubber; 70 and above is hard, 60 medium and anything below 50 is soft. The softer the tyre, the stickier it is on rocks and so on, but the faster it will wear out
  • Ramps: Ramped tread blocks have a leading edge which is angled like a wedge to decrease rolling resistance
  • Sipes: Small grooves cut into tread blocks to allow them to splay out like a goat’s hoof. Siped tyres offer increased grip, especially on wet surfaces
  • Squirm: Lateral movement of a tyre as the sidewall or tread folds during hard cornering
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Stan Portus https://stanportus.com/ <![CDATA[Brompton CEO on building a ‘green’ factory, the contradiction of net-zero and the future of cycling in cities]]> https://www.bikeradar.com/?p=673635 2022-05-09T15:21:52Z 2022-05-09T16:00:41Z

In February this year, Brompton announced it will be building a new factory at Ashford in Kent, which is expected to open in 2027.

Brompton is currently the largest manufacturer of bikes in the UK, producing roughly 80,000 per year across its current factory in Greenford, west London, and its specialist titanium facility in Sheffield, in the north of England.

The new factory in Ashford will increase production capacity to approximately 200,000 bikes per year, with staff numbers rising from 850 to 1,500.

The project isn’t just about upping the scale of production, however. Speaking to BikeRadar, Will Butler-Adams, Brompton’s chief executive, is keen to express that Brompton’s vision is much larger than that.

“We want to deliver something that redefines the perception of manufacturing,” he says.

Brompton hopes the factory will change the image of manufacturing away from a remote industry to one more entwined with the local community and ready to find solutions to the world’s problems.

Designed by Kent and London-based architecture practice Hollaway studio, and in collaboration with Ashford Borough Council, which will provide financial support, the round factory building will stand on stilts in a 100-acre floodplain next to Ashford’s retail park. Sixty acres of the floodplain will remain untouched and rewilded into a public nature reserve, with the aim of increasing biodiversity in the process.

The plan, for Butler-Adams, also has a great deal to do with the role he sees Brompton playing in the future from educating consumers to helping reduce emissions through sustainable transport.

Why build a factory in Ashford?

The new factory will be accessible via foot and pedal power.
Brompton

Brompton moved into its current factory in Greenford six years ago. According to Butler-Adams, the building “was basically an empty grey box” originally intended for logistics rather than manufacturing.

As a result, Brompton has spent close to £5 million over six years making the building suitable for its needs, from upping power supply capacity to installing extraction and developing research facilities.

Over this time, Brompton has also expanded to take on six units on the site, and Butler-Adams says the company has effectively already outgrown the location.

Part of the reason for finding a new site was to ensure Brompton has enough space to grow in the future, Butler-Adams says.

He points to Frank Williams, founder of the Williams Formula 1 team, who Brompton has collaborated with in the past, as an example of someone who got this right.

“Frank Williams was very smart,” Butler-Adams explains. “He bought a plot of land outside Oxford that was way too big. But over the last 30 to 40 years he’s built out. And that is phenomenal because [while] you might not know what’s going to happen with a business, if you do need to grow, it’s right there.”

Butler-Adams says Brompton wants the factory to redefine people’s perception of manufacturing.
Brompton

Butler-Adams says that despite having looked across the whole country for a new location, being close to London was ultimately paramount. This is because the brand creates a product designed specifically for use in cities and having a workforce that can commute to work using a Brompton will help the brand refine its product further, according to Butler-Adams.

The problem, however, with trying to secure a location near London is space is in high demand – and cost.

“We moved into Greenford on £11 a square foot. The most recent space we’ve taken is £30 a square foot,” Butler-Adams says.

The fact that real estate in and around London is expensive will come as a shock to few. But Butler-Adams says the problem has become even more acute since Covid. The demand for grey logistics spaces near cities has increased as people have relied more on online shopping and delivery, he says.

Ashford wasn’t initially on Brompton’s radar as a possible location, but proximity to London and the local council’s enthusiasm both increased its draw.

Brompton was initially offered a traditional industrial space. This was eventually bought by the UK government to be a lorry park to deal with the overflow of customs checks caused by Brexit. In any case though, Butler-Adams thought the site was boring and wasn’t in line with Brompton’s ambitions.

Guy Hollaway, principal partner at architectural practice Hollaway Studio, suggested the floodplain site and Butler-Adams felt it matched Brompton’s desire to have a park around its site and be part of a community.

Butler-Adams hopes the factory will draw people in from the neighbouring retail park.
Brompton

Alongside creating a nature reserve and developing a park with trails and cycle paths for the public, there will be enough space at the site to ensure Frank Williams-style growth can take place. This will allow Brompton to expand without having to find another site in the coming decades.

The initial factory will take up 200,000 square feet but Butler-Adams says Brompton has put in planning outlines for up to 500,000 square feet.

The factory itself will be open to the general public with a cafe, museum and visitor centre. This will potentially help integrate Brompton into the community, but will also serve another purpose.

“My belief is we have a serious problem with our environment and we need to consume less,” he explains.

By drawing people from the neighbouring retail park into the building, where they will be able to see into the factory itself, Butler-Adams hopes to help change people’s attitudes toward what they consume.

“If we can drag some of them who are getting a bit bored with a fifth shop to come and see stuff being made, and tell our story about maybe buying a bit less,” Butler-Adams says, “that’s really important to us.”

The difficulty of hitting net-zero

The public will be able to look down into the main manufacturing space of the factory.
Brompton

Calling for people to change what and how much they buy for the sake of the environment, while simultaneously announcing your business will potentially increase production by more than double, might strike some as contradictory. It could be argued that this responsibility should fall on the manufacturer, rather than the consumer.

But Brompton says it is taking steps to be more sustainable and reduce emissions. A press release from the company said the amount of embodied carbon in the new factory will be minimised and the development will “support Brompton in delivering 1.5°C-aligned emission reduction targets as part of Net Zero ambitions.”

Butler-Adams echoes these sustainability and emissions reduction aims, saying the brand is “going to try and be smart.”

He cites as an example of this the integration of ground-sourced heating and cooling into the pylons the factory building will be built upon.

The massive roof of the factory will also be fitted with photovoltaic solar cells, helping Brompton produce its own green electricity.

The factory will also have no new car parking. Instead, it will only be accessible via foot and pedal power.

However, Butler-Adams is under no illusions about the significant energy consumption of the new factory.

The factory will be built on stilts in a floodplain.
Brompton

“The first thing that’s going to happen at Brompton is we are not going to reduce emissions – if you’re being truthful – because we’re trying to grow,” he says.

Butler-Adams is confident that the emissions per bike will drop, but Brompton will not be able to cut its overall carbon footprint if it is increasing the number of bikes it produces at the same time. This, he says, is where factory work differs from other industries.

“That building will not be net-zero. It would generate power if all we did was go in and fiddle around on computers all day. But if you’re talking about robots, CNC machines, annealing of materials, paint plants, forget it.”

This hasn’t stopped Brompton from signing the Shift Cycling Culture’s Climate Commitment letter, which includes the commitment to reduce C02 emissions by 55 per cent by 2030, among others.

But Butler-Adams says he signs such commitments to force the conversation around environmental responsibility and bring the conversation to the board level, even if he believes “we haven’t got a cat in hell’s chance of delivering net-zero in this industry.”

When it comes to cutting emissions Butler-Adams says the biggest problem in its current bikes is the steel, and he isn’t hopeful we will see green steel in the immediate future.

“That is a massive, industrial, heavy industry. It’s going to take 15 to 20 years to turn it around,” he says.

Scale that problem up to industries significantly larger than cycling, such as construction, which consumes the majority of the world’s steel, and if Butler-Adams is to be believed, it’s hard to feel hopeful.

After all, cycling is just as enmeshed in global supply chains and resource extraction as any other industry, regardless of its comparatively small size. So if steel is a stumbling block for cycling, what chance do other manufacturing industries face?

‘Cities need to change’

Brompton wants to move people out of cars and onto a more efficient mode of transport.
Lucy Rowe / Our Media

Butler-Adams is conscious of the role bicycles – which have the lowest carbon footprint of any mode of transport – can play in reducing emissions.

“What we are trying to do is move people out of cars and move people out of motor transport, onto a far more efficient mode of transport. So the product itself has a role to play in diminishing the carbon footprint and ongoing emissions from other forms of transport,” he says.

Butler-Adams sees Brompton’s main job as developing the products that enable a change in how people travel. But the brand’s Campaign for Movement, launched in 2019, was intended to show the potential of cycling to help solve issues from pollution to wellbeing, a sentiment shared by many including Chris Boardman at COP26.

Butler-Adams says one of the areas Brompton wants to work on is street parking. Like the problem of where to place a factory, he sees this issue in terms of space and its cost.

When choosing a location for the factory, being close to London was paramount.
Joseph Branston / Immediate Media

“For some reason, in the last 50 years, car owners believe they have a right to park their car for free in the public realm”, he says, explaining that this is at odds with how precious a commodity space in a city is.

“Having a metal box, electric or non-electric, rusting, and taking up precious space, which is community space, is outrageous,” he says.

While Butler-Adams by no means thinks urban space should be used solely for cycling, he does see the prevalence of cars in cities and drivers’ assumed right to space as things that need to change.

“If you want a car, you ought to be responsible for where it lives and it should not take precious space away from the community that lives there.”

An enormous journey

We’ll have to wait and see whether Brompton begins trying to tackle the use of urban space and community. In the meantime, the new factory offers one vision of what ‘community’ in the eyes of Butler-Adams can be.

It also expresses Brompton’s vision for how manufacturing can play a role in the climate crisis, at least in terms of raising awareness. But Butler-Adams’ assertion that the cycling industry hasn’t a cat in hell’s chance of reaching net-zero might knock the optimism off this vision.

Do Butler-Adams’ comments fall into a familiar pattern of cycling companies asserting the green credentials of their products over actually tackling the issues at the point of production? Possibly. Assessing whether the increased emissions of Brompton will be offset by more people trading cars for its bikes will have to be left to more capable hands.

But at least the frankness is a starting point from which to move forward, something Brompton’s CEO is keen to do.

“There are lots of things we’re doing, but we’ve still got an enormous, enormous journey,” he says.

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Alex Evans <![CDATA[Tech Q&A | Elusive 16t cassette sprockets, the best cycling kit for bigger-sized people and more questions answered]]> https://www.bikeradar.com/?p=673110 2022-05-09T22:30:32Z 2022-05-09T12:00:15Z

It’s time for another Q&A on the BikeRadar Podcast and with your usual host, Tom Marvin, off on sabbatical, Alex Evans is stepping in for this month’s tech feast.

Alex is joined by our technical editor-in-chief, Robin Weaver, and senior road technical editor, Warren Rossiter, to impart their vast knowledge and answer this month’s questions from you, our dear readers and listeners.

Warren recommends a Shimano-compatible 11-speed Miche cassette that includes the sweet-spot 16t sprocket, while Rob tells why you need to carefully research whether your enduro bike frame is compatible with dual crown forks (or not as the case may be).

We also discuss cycling kit for bigger riders and the best tyres for a mountain bike that’s been converted into a commuter.

Subscribe to the BikeRadar Podcast

Make sure you subscribe to the BikeRadar Podcast via Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your chosen podcast provider, so you don’t miss a future episode.

The BikeRadar Podcast takes you to the heart of the issues that matter, whether you’re a roadie, mountain biker, gravel rider or commuter.

From the latest tech news, reviews and debates, to interviews with the biggest personalities in cycling, the podcast is your direct line into the BikeRadar team.

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Simon von Bromley <![CDATA[New Scott time trial bike spotted at the Giro d’Italia]]> https://www.bikeradar.com/?p=674096 2022-05-09T20:23:51Z 2022-05-09T11:44:36Z

A new Scott time trial bike, believed to be the Scott Plasma 7, made its WorldTour debut during stage 2 of the 2022 Giro d’Italia.

Ridden by Team DSM’s general classification hopes, Romain Bardet and Thymen Arensman, the new bike combines deep, truncated aerofoil tube shapes with dropped seatstays and an aero seatpost.

The front of the bike tapers to a narrow point on the leading edge, and all of the cables and brake hoses are internally routed through the handlebar and into the frame.

It has more than a passing resemblance to many other recently released time-trial bikes, such as the Merida Time Warp TT, Canyon Speedmax CFR Disc TT and Specialized S-Works Shiv TT Disc.

All of these bikes are designed to optimise aerodynamics within the strict technical regulations set by cycling’s world governing body, the UCI, while still being light and nimble enough for the increasingly hilly and technical time trial courses found in WorldTour races.

The unreleased Scott time-trial bike combines large, truncated aerofoil tube shapes with an integrated cockpit and disc brakes.
Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Disc brakes and a new cockpit

As expected, the new bike also uses disc brakes, with the Team DSM riders using the latest Dura-Ace C60 front wheel and RT-MT900 rotors from Shimano’s new Dura-Ace R9200 groupset, combined with brake callipers from the previous Dura-Ace R9100 groupset.

The bike also appears to have a highly adjustable integrated cockpit, with carbon aero extensions that can be adjusted for height, angle and length.

The carbon aero extensions appear to use split spacers that enable length adjustment without disconnecting any cables.
Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Typically, time-trial specialists have turned to third-party manufacturers, such as Wattshop and AeroCoach, for integrated aero extensions. These can offer ergonomic and aerodynamic performance that surpasses that of standard, round 22.2mm aero extensions.

It looks like Scott has found a way to incorporate at least some of those improvements into its stock design, however, while retaining a wide range of adjustability to suit different riders.

Given previous Scott Plasmas have often used cockpits made by Profile Design, it’s possible this new cockpit is of the same origin.

The unbranded armrests, for example, bear a close resemblance to Profile Design’s Race armrests.

The front end is clean and tidy, as we’ve come to expect of WorldTour time trial bikes.
Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Is this the Scott Plasma 7?

A new bike called the ‘Scott Plasma 7’ recently appeared on the appeared on the UCI’s list of approved framesets, so it’s fair to assume this is that bike.

Given the current UCI-legal time trial bike in Scott’s catalogue is the Plasma 5, and that the Plasma 4, Plasma 3, Plasma 2 and original Plasma came before it, we might have reasonably expected this to be the Plasma 6.

The only problem with that logic, however, is that the Scott Plasma 6 already exists, in the form of a non-UCI-legal triathlon bike.

Scott’s Plasma 6 is definitely not UCI-legal.
Jochen Haar / Scott

Rather than following other manufacturers and simply adding a ‘TT’ suffix to the name of its UCI-legal TT bike (as Canyon and Specialized did with the Speedmax CFR and S-Works Shiv Disc, respectively), it looks like Scott has simply decided to keep the count going.

The extensive amount of armrest stack each rider used might suggest Scott doesn’t yet have the new bike available in every size.
Tim de Waele/Getty Images

That only Bardet and Arensman were riding it, and both were riding frames that were – based on the amount of armrest stack added – on the small side for riders of their height, suggests Scott only has a limited number of these framesets available, and not in every size.

Alternatively, given the challenging course profiles of both time trials at the 2022 Giro d’Italia, it’s possible both riders simply opted to ride smaller-than-normal frames in search of marginal weight savings (Bardet was even riding an unpainted frameset – a weight saving trick we often see on dedicated hill climb bikes).

Bardet rode an unpainted version of the new bike, presumably in order to get the bike weight as low as possible.
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

We contacted Scott to ask for details about this new bike, and will update this article if we receive any new information.

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Katherine Moore <![CDATA[Cycology: from work of art to cycling kit]]> https://www.bikeradar.com/?p=670370 2022-05-09T09:38:06Z 2022-05-09T09:30:53Z

A wife and husband tag-team turned global cycling brand, Cycology offers striking, design-led cycling kit that doesn’t compromise on technical performance.

What started as a design project for a fashion brand headed up by a keen cyclist has evolved over the past decade, and is now the choice of many style-conscious riders around the world.

A decade of Cycology

Cycology started out producing fun, cycling-themed casual T-shirts.
Cycology

From humble beginnings in 2012 with a dozen T-shirt designs, growing customer pleas led Cycology into producing technical cycling kit.

Cycology aligned itself from the start with a factory team that the brand still uses today – a team that were so excited about Cycology’s proposition that they offered small product runs as a passion project to get them started.

Fast forward a decade and there’s a huge range of Cycology kit available, from road cycling apparel to printed handlebar tape, saddle bags and mountain biking clothing, all featuring its proudly original designs. The brand is now distributed internationally beyond its home in Australia to Europe and North America.

From canvas to kit

Sarina in the studio designing her latest Cycology artwork.
Cycology

Endurance cyclist, runner, triathlete and former commercial artist Sarina Tomchin is the person behind the unique designs that set Cycology apart from other kit brands.

“I find inspiration everywhere,” Sarina explains. “When riding my bike, there’s constant stimulation and ideas. Due to Covid, I was riding a lot on my own, and there’s plenty of time to think about how cycling makes you feel: happy, joyous, fit, healthy and motivated.”

Group rides often yield conversations that lead to ideas for Sarina, as does listening to music and enjoying poetry, art, books and newspaper headlines. Designs have even originated from customer requests, with the brand’s loyal fan base offering up some novel concepts.

“I’ve done artwork recently for a David Bowie, a Led Zeppelin and a Motown jersey,” Sarina reveals. “At my studio, I have a big artwork on paper nearly finished that is based on poetry, graffiti and sketches from one of my many notebooks in lead and red pencil.”

Sarina and her husband Michael launched Cycology to share the thoughts, emotions and feelings that cyclists, runners and triathletes experience. “Through the artwork,” Sarina explains, “we try to portray these thoughts, emotions and the mantras we live by, hoping they’ll resonate with our potential customers.”

Where most modern kits are designed digitally, Sarina takes to paper and canvas with her ideas, with a true multimedia approach including pencil, paint and oils.

Once complete, Sarina’s hand-drawn designs are then photographed and laid onto digital garment templates in Adobe Photoshop. The large-format files are then sent to Cycology’s factory to produce a run of samples.

The sample kit is then worn and laundered by a team of wear testers to make sure they live up to the brand’s high standards, and any tweaks are made before final production.

Fashion and function

Designer Sarina uses a multimedia approach to her artwork.

Besides creating the original artwork, Sarina puts her background in textiles and pattern-making to good use during the design process.

“The fabrics and tech [Cycology uses] have always been super-important to me and we try extremely hard to get our fabrics to feel so good you don’t necessarily ‘feel’ them while wearing them,” says Sarina.

“We want soft, light, sweat-wicking, stretchy-in-every-direction fabrics and we’ve also been trying wherever possible to be environmentally friendly.”

Besides the material choice, safety features are also paramount for Sarina, with high visibility and reflective elements woven into the design of each product, and bright, fluoro colours featuring heavily throughout the range.

“I want to be seen for miles when I’m on my bike, whether it’s dark or light,” Sarina says.

“Too many friends have been hit, maimed or killed by motorists, which was the reason I painted ‘See Me’ with tears. I never intended to make it into a kit, but a customer asked us to make the artwork into a jersey.

“At the time, I didn’t think it could work, but it has. I love wearing it, and it is one of our best sellers. Pure emotion, pure colour.”

Cycology offers an extensive range of kit and designs for men and women, with artwork and cuts tailored for each. The goal? To make cycling a more comfortable, and more fashionable sport, encouraging more women who want to look and feel good on bikes.

Sustainability is also a key factor in the design, with the team sourcing recycled fabrics as well as recycling as much as possible in-house.

“Personally, we also do as much as possible, we only eat plants, we recycle madly, mend, fix, compost, reuse,” says Sarina. “Every little thing we can do helps the planet we love and we ride whenever, wherever we can.”

Cycology range overview

From complete road cycling kits to more trail-oriented pieces, a whole raft of accessories and casual wear, there’s plenty to feast your eyes on with the Cycology range.

​​Frida short-finger gloves

The Frida short-finger cycling gloves.
Cycology
  • £20 / €24.90 / $24.95 / AU$34.95

Who said matchy-matchy has to stop at accessories? Available in an impressive range of designs, Cycology’s short-finger cycling gloves feature foam-padded palms with a grippy silicone finish to give you both comfort and control on the bike.

For cooler weather, consider the fleece-lined and windproof winter full-finger cycling gloves also on offer.

Road cycling jerseys

Two of Cycology’s vibrant road cycling jerseys.
Cycology
  • From £70 / €84.90 / $99.95 / AU$129.95

Choose between the standard performance fit, figure-fitting aerodynamic race fit and more casual relaxed-fit jerseys on offer from Cycology, with myriad designs for men’s and women’s cuts.

There are also long-sleeve and winter windproof jerseys to keep you cycling in comfort throughout the winter months.

Cycling socks

The See Me cycling socks from Cycology.
Cycology
  • £15 / €16.90 / $16.95 / AU$24.95

We cyclists love a fun pair of socks, and there are both printed, reflective and more plain options from Cycology. All measure 18cm from the ankle, a popular length among riders, and the printed socks use a light compression fit to keep them in place while you ride.

Mountain bike jerseys​

A few of the Cycology MTB jersey designs on offer.
Cycology
  • From £40 / €44.90 / $49.95 / AU$69.95

Why save the fun kit just for the road? Cycology has recently branched out into looser-fit, off-road jerseys, with both short-sleeve and long-sleeve options for your favourite MTB and gravel rides.

A sweat-wicking, lightweight mesh material is used for the mountain biking jerseys to keep you cool and fresh while shredding, whether that’s a local cross-country loop, enduro race or simply hitting the trails with friends.

Casual T-shirts

There are a huge number of different T-shirt designs, including this Road Trip tee.
Cycology
  • £22 / €26.90 / $24.95 / AU$39.95

Share your love for all things bike with Cycology’s line-up of soft combed cotton T-shirts featuring original artwork. Road, mountain bike or triathlon: there’s something for everyone.

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Alex Evans <![CDATA[Alex’s custom-specced Marin Alpine Trail E2 ebike]]> https://www.bikeradar.com/?p=672449 2022-05-09T09:57:29Z 2022-05-09T09:00:04Z

When Marin launched its first electric mountain bike, the Alpine Trail E2, at the very tail end of 2020, I was lucky enough to swing a leg over one of the first test samples in the country to bring you all a full review.

I was seriously impressed with the Californian brand’s debut attempt at electrification.

Its top-notch spec, reasonable price tag and awesome performance meant I awarded it 4.5 stars in my Marin Alpine Trail E2 review, which in turn earned it a place in our list of the best electric mountain bikes currently on sale.

Of course, I wouldn’t be a technical editor if I didn’t think there was some room for improvement.

This edition of BikeRadar Builds kicks off with the Alpine Trail E2’s already stellar performance, and looks to build on it with a number of choice upgrades and changes designed to coax out every last drop of available performance, and make this ebike truly mine.

Welcome to BikeRadar Builds

BikeRadar Builds is our occasional look at the team’s personal bikes, including custom rigs, commuters, dream builds, component testbeds and more.

This is our chance to geek out about the bikes we’re riding day-to-day, and explore the thinking (or lack of it!) behind our equipment choices.

The perfect starting point

The E2 looks similar to Marin’s Alpine Trail XR.
Alex Evans / Our Media

Having raved about the bike in my review, I put my money where my mouth is and purchased this Alpine Trail E2 from Marin with my hard-earned cash.

Along with using my heating even less to finance the purchase, it also meant I had a great starting point from which to begin my customisation journey.

At the heart of the E2 is Shimano’s DU-EP800 motor and large 630Wh capacity battery. Heavy-hitting parts such as Fox’s venerable 38 fork and DHX2 rear shock also feature, bolstering the Marin’s exceptional value.

The EP8 motor has plenty of power, but is also impressively frugal.
Alex Evans / Our Media

The frame boasts internally-routed cables, chain slap protection and space for a water bottle within the front triangle.

It has a linkage-driven single-pivot rear suspension system offering 150mm of rear wheel travel, and is roughly 17 per cent progressive.

The E2 uses a linkage-driven single pivot suspension design.
Alex Evans / Our Media

All these elements are combined with near-Goldilocks mountain bike geometry.

The head angle is around 63 degrees, while the seat tube angle sits at 78 degrees.

The size large I own has a 485mm reach figure and 435mm chainstays. These combine with a 1264mm wheelbase and a seriously low 686mm standover height, plus a short seat tube with a large insertion depth for long-travel dropper posts.

A full bike, modified

This spec and build meets all of my gravity-focused needs.
Alex Evans / Our Media

From the first time I rode an Alpine Trail E2 I was convinced it had more to give, and being able to buy one has given me the perfect opportunity to make all the modifications and changes I wanted to prove that theory.

Want to build your own Marin Alpine Trail E?

If you’re interested in building your own Marin Alpine Trail E, two models are available.

The Alpine Trail E1 costs £4,465 – a relative bargain in today’s market – and is fitted with with Shimano’s E7000 motor and 504Wh battery, with RockShox rather than Fox suspension.

It features the same geometry and frameset as the E2, however, and would be an awesome starting place to build your own dream version of an ebike.

The more costly E2, which retails for £5,765, is the starting point for my custom build.

Mullet massacre

Let’s start with the biggest and most important change first.

In an attempt to provide full disclosure I wouldn’t say I dislike mullet bikes (29in front, 27.5in rear), and I’ve certainly loved riding several in recent times (keep your eyes peeled for our 2022 Ebike of the Year reviews, which include loads of mullet-wheeled monsters).

But if given a choice, I’d always fit 29in wheels front and back to one of my personal bikes.

Like all of Marin’s alloy full suspension bikes, it’s made from the brand’s Series 4 aluminium.
Alex Evans / Our Media

The wagon-wheel setup is arguably quicker, gives more grip and provides a smoother more stable riding character.

I’d also argue the mullet setup doesn’t ‘create the best of both worlds’ (in terms of stability and agility) because a bike can only really be one thing. It’s either stable, agile or somewhere in between, but can’t be simultaneously the most stable and agile.

And that’s why I went feet-first into tuning up Alpine Trail E2’s pet hate of mine: its 2.8in wide, 27.5in diameter rear tyre and wheel.

I swapped out the stock wheels for a set of Roval’s Traverse Alloy 29in wheels front and back, with the latter fitted with a normal-sized 2.5in wide Maxxis High Roller II, to de-mullet it.

The DoubleDown casing on the High Roller II tyre has proven to be sturdy.
Alex Evans / Our Media

I’ve specced the DoubleDown casing, 3C MaxxTerra compound version of the popular rubber because I feel it offers the best balance between traction, wear rate and carcass stability.

Up front, I’ve fitted an EXO+ casing Minion DHF, but had to forego the preferred 3C MaxxGrip compound as this isn’t a combination available in my preferred 29×2.5in size.

Geometry stability

The E2 looks similar to Marin’s Alpine Trail XR.
Alex Evans / Our Media

So what has changing out the rear 27.5in wheel for a 29in hoop done to the marvellous geometry? Well, not all that much.

To get a flavour of the changes, you only need to look to Marin’s human-powered Alpine Trail XR. This bike has 29in wheels front and rear from the factory, but because the two bikes share almost identical geometry, the swap to a big wheel on the E2 brings it very close to the XR’s figures.

Bike-Stats has an incredibly useful tool where you can compare the geometry of different bikes.
Bike-Stats

The head angle now sits at 63.5 degrees, while the wheelbase has extended to 1,283mm and BB lifted marginally to 339mm – which is still seriously low.

There’s more than enough tyre clearance at the rear of the E2 to take the 29in wheel and 2.5in rubber… it’s almost like the brand designed it to be both 27.5in and 29in compatible.

Always wanting more

I’ve increased the travel of the Fox 38 fork to 170mm by installing a different air spring; something that can be done to any Fox 38 fork.
Alex Evans / Our Media

Not satisfied, I wanted more. But this time from the front end.

Although the 160mm-travel Fox 38 fitted to the E2 has plenty of squish, and adding an extra 10mm doesn’t seem like much, out on the trail that extra give meant a few things.

Firstly I could run the fork a bit softer than the 160mm version, while maintaining my preferred handlebar height without needing to add loads of stem stackers.

It also meant I could create a larger negative air vacuum within the fork’s lowers, by releasing air from the lower leg bleed valves while the forks were compressed, without dramatically impacting ride height.

The GRIP2 damper has a large number of adjustments, but I found it feels best with all the settings fully open.
Alex Evans / Our Media

Releasing air from the bleeders improves small-bump sensitivity and traction, and produces similar results to increasing the negative air spring size or pressure by making the forks more eager to compress or suck down into their travel.

Swapping out the Fox 38 air spring was relatively simple, requiring only a few basic tools, some of the recommended Fox suspension fluid and a small amount of knowledge.

All Fox 38 forks can be changed between 160mm and 180mm of travel with an air spring swap. A new air spring costs £159.95.

The extra volume air spring is one of the 38’s best features… and with 170mm of travel, it’s even better.
Alex Evans / Our Media

Of course, if you’re looking to change the fork travel on your bike, please check whether the longer distance is within your manufacturer’s recommended travel specifications before fitting them to avert voiding your warranty.

Shimano EP8 spotlight

Shimano’s ebike display is one of the more discreet units.
Alex Evans / Our Media

Shimano’s EP8 motor offers impressive battery life, user tuneable modes, is relatively light and has proven to be seriously frugal. Combined, these virtues make me think it is the best electric mountain bike motor currently on sale.

But it’s not without its faults.

The biggest of these, in the context of the Marin E2, relate not to the motor itself but to the e*thirteen e*spec cranks fitted from the factory. These cranks have been linked to cases of EP8 bottom bracket spindle failure.

Replacing the e*thirteen e*spec cranks with Shimano versions was a move I decided to make after reading about EP8 bottom bracket axle failure.
Alex Evans / Our Media

Not wanting to suffer from this issue, I fitted a pair of Shimano’s own EP8 compatible FC-EM600 cranks for the princely sum of £31.99.

With these cranks fitted from new, and installed according to Shimano’s instructions, my EP8 motor warranty should be preserved if the worst happened.

A rather special spec

Ebikes are awesome.
Alex Evans / Our Media

This wouldn’t be a BikeRadar Builds bike without taking a look at each of the hand-picked, top-performing and hyper-functional parts, curated for my rather specific needs.

Shimano XTR M9120 four-piston brakes

The XTR brakes have masses of power.
Alex Evans / Our Media

Rescued from an old long-term test bike, my Yeti SB165, these are enormously powerful brakes, and are super lightweight too.

Swapping out the stock Shimano SLX M7120 stoppers for these was a doddle thanks to the like-for-like brake hoses and fittings.

A simple gravity method bleed – where the bleed nipple is opened, a full-of-oil bleed up is attached to the lever, and gravity is left to its work to pull fluid through the system – was required to get them working without having to do any internal cable routing surgery.

Unusually, however, I’ve paired the Shimano brakes with SRAM’s CenterLine rotors (rather than the new HS2 which are fitted to my other bike). Although not officially recommended, I had no choice but to go for this pairing.

Although mixing SRAM disc rotors and Shimano brake callipers isn’t officially recommended, I’ve had no problems with performance.
Alex Evans / Our Media

To the best of my knowledge Shimano doesn’t make a STEPS ebike compatible six-bolt disc rotor with in-built speed sensor magnet. That means users of Shimano motors with six-bolt hubs need to get a little creative or change their hubs for Center Lock versions to fit official STEPS discs.

Using a widely available Bosch speed sensor magnet with the EP8, while not recommended, is common practice even among OE manufacturers – including for Santa Cruz on the Bullit.

I had to use SRAM’s CenterLine disc rotors so I could attach Bosch’s speed magnet, because Shimano doesn’t make a six-bolt STEPS disc rotor with integrated magnet.
Alex Evans / Our Media

Thanks to the shape of the six-bolt Shimano XT SM-RT86 Ice Tech rotors I wanted to use, I wasn’t able to fit the magnet without it fouling the frame.

That meant using SRAM’s CenterLine discs, where between each of the rotor’s spokes is a large gap the magnet could fit into, was the only option.

OneUp Components Carbon bar, EDC stem and Dropper Post V2

I’ve reduced OneUp’s 210mm travel to 190mm because I don’t like my seat totally slammed when descending.
Alex Evans / Our Media

These components from OneUp are all favourites of mine and have been fitted to many previous test bikes.

I love the shape and feel of the Carbon bar and have paired it with OneUp’s EDC stem. This means I have the option of installing the brand’s EDC tool inside the steerer tube without having to tap threads into it.

I love the shape of the OneUp bar.
Alex Evans / Our Media

The OneUp Dropper Post V2 offers one of the shortest lengths for the most travel of any post out there. Plus it’s really simple to service and has proven to be incredibly reliable after miles and miles of testing.

A OneUp cockpit setup is a real favourite of mine.
Alex Evans / Our Media

On the Marin E2, I’ve fitted the 210mm-travel version but have installed 20mm of internal travel spacers, taking post drop down to 190mm.

Although more travel is frequently better, I don’t like to have my seat totally slammed on descents because I use the inside of my thighs against it to control the bike, something that isn’t possible if it’s too low.

Using the I-Spec adaptor for the dropper post lever has cleared some of the handlebar clutter.
Alex Evans / Our Media

Thanks to the dropper lever’s I-Spec compatibility, I’ve also managed to reduce some of the bar clutter and fix the compatibility issues I moaned about on the stock Alpine Trail E2.

This means I’ve cleared up a bit of space on the bars, fitting the motor controller between the brake lever and grip.

Fabric Funguy grips

Fabric Funguy grips are some of the best.
Alex Evans / Our Media

Although these have officially been discontinued, with Fabric ceasing trading, remaining stock is still available to buy from certain retailers for reduced prices.

I absolutely love these grips. They’re soft, comfortable, the right diameter and have just enough movement and flex to reduce vibrations and harshness rather than enhance them.

If you can find a set (that I’ve not already bought myself) then I would strongly recommend buying them.

Fizik Terra Aidon X5 saddle

I found Fizik’s Terra Aidon saddle to be massively comfortable.
Alex Evans / Our Media

I got a bit of a preview of the Aidon X5 saddle’s comfort while I was doing the testing for 2022’s Ebike of the Year, where I spent many hours sitting on the ebike-specific perch from Fizik.

Fortunately it proved to be incredibly comfortable and shot to the top of my ‘must have’ list when it came to building up my own dream-spec ebike. This alloy-railed version weighs 272g.

Mudhugger Evo (long)

The Mudhugger Evo (long) offers plenty of coverage.
Alex Evans / Our Media

Living in the UK, a fit-and-forget front mudguard is a must. While Fox makes its own mudguard for the 38 fork, I find it doesn’t offer enough wheel coverage, allowing more mud to spit up onto my face than is ideal.

The Mudhugger Evo (long) is the solution to this problem, and this Evo version has received iterative changes over the old one.

The Mudhugger guard fits snugly under the fork’s crown.
Alex Evans / Our Media

Its stepped design now offers more crown clearance to stop it banging against the guard at bottom out. The lengthy rear portion provides plenty of mud protection to boot.

While this version is attached to my forks using zip ties, velcro straps are supplied with the guard and Mudhugger even makes a direct mount version that screws directly into the back of the fork arch.

Pedaling Innovations Catalyst flat pedals

Pedaling Innovations Catalyst pedals are massive.
Alex Evans / Our Media

My love for flat pedals started the day I took up mountain biking and has never waned.

These ludicrously sized (128(L)x95(W)mm) pedals represent a change in direction for flats, where the maker claims they’ll revolutionise flat-pedal riding with unparalleled foot stability and traction

Testing is still ongoing – which is why they’re fitted to this bike – but initial impressions are positive, where foot twist and clawing have virtually been eliminated.

Keep tuned for a full review soon.

Shimano drivetrain upgrades

Drivetrain upgrades, including fitting an XT M8100 10-51t cassette, have helped reduce weight.
Alex Evans / Our Media

Although the E2 comes fitted with a Shimano Deore XT M8100 rear derailleur that I’ve kept bolted to the bike, the shifter and cassette are from the Shimano SLX M7100 range.

On my quest to shave grams where possible and make functional upgrades, I saw these two components as easy targets.

I swapped the shifter for a Shimano XTR M9100 unit, much preferring the positive click of the lever, and lost three whole grams in the process.

The cassette – now upgraded to an XT M8100 10-51t tooth unit I had from an old test bike – saved a further 46g, but this time from the all-important rotational and unsprung mass of the bike’s rear wheel.

Shimano’s most affordable Deore-level EP8 cranks retail for just over £30.
Alex Evans / Our Media

Are these marginal gains? Yep. Do they offer a significant improvement in performance? Arguably, no.

They do look and feel good though.

Roval Traverse Alloy 29 wheels

The Roval Traverse wheels have impressed me.
Alex Evans / Our Media

Having recently tested these wheels – you can read my Roval Traverse Alloy 29 review – I was seriously impressed by the balance of comfort, steering accuracy and reliability they offered.

At just 1,939g for the pair, they shaved a significant amount of weight off the bike compared with the stock Marin hoops, hopefully without compromising strength.

Although the £650 asking price isn’t cheap, it’s still significantly less than the likes of the Zipp 3Zero Moto, ENVE AM30, and even the DT Swiss EXC 1501 Spline One wheels.

And as I already mentioned, these wheels are wrapped in Maxxis rubber with a DoubleDown rear casing and EXO+ at the front.

In a perfect world this Minion DHF would have a 3C MaxxGrip compound, but for now I’ll have to do with the MaxxTerra version.
Alex Evans / Our Media

How much does my Marin Alpine Trail E2 weigh and cost?

At 24.07kg, the Marin is surprisingly light.
Alex Evans / Our Media

As the bike currently stands – pedals and all – it tips the scales at 24.6kg.

Without pedals that drops to 24.07kg, only 1.37kg heavier than the mind blowing Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo (22.7kg), once I’d fitted GRID Gravity casing tyres to it.

In terms of cost, that’s a tricky figure to pin down.

There’s enough space inside the large size bike for a 630ml water bottle.
Alex Evans / Our Media

The initial £5,765 asking price of the Marin has clearly inflated somewhat, but quite a few of the parts I’ve removed I would be able to sell to claim some money back.

If I was just totting up the cost of the upgrades without spending time on eBay getting cash back I’d be looking at a total cost of £8,407.92.

Alex’s custom Marin Alpine Trail E2 ebike spec

  • Frame: Marin Alpine Trail E2 Series 4 Alloy frame, 150mm travel Multitrac rear suspension
  • Shock: Fox DHX2 Performance Elite, 450lb spring
  • Motor: Shimano STEPS DU-EP800 with FC-EM600 cranks (165mm)
  • Battery: Shimano BT-9036 630Wh
  • Display/controller: SC-E8000/SW-E7000
  • Fork: Fox 38 Performance Elite, 170mm travel
  • Drivetrain: Shimano XTR M9100/XT M8100 mix
  • Brakes: Shimano XTR M9120 with 200mm CenterLine rotors
  • Bar/stem/grips: OneUp Components Carbon bar/OneUp Components EDC stem/Fabric Funguy grips
  • Seatpost/saddle: OneUp Components Dropper Post V2 (190mm travel)/Fizik Terra Aidon X5 (145mm)
  • Pedals: Pedaling Innovations Catalyst
  • Wheels: Roval Traverse Alloy 29
  • Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF EXO+ 3C MaxxTerra TR WT 29×2.5in (f), Maxxis High Roller II DoubleDown 3C MaxxTerra TR WT 29×2.5in (r)
  • Mudguard: Mudhugger Evo (long)
  • Weight: 24.07kg (size large, without pedals)
  • Price: £8,407.92 (approximate)

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Alex Evans <![CDATA[The best mountain bikes under £2,000 / $2,500 in 2022 | Top-rated hardtail and full-suspension MTBs]]> https://www.bikeradar.com/?p=315814 2022-05-07T14:00:26Z 2022-05-07T14:00:00Z

There’s a staggering array of great mountain bikes available under £2,000. Luckily, BikeRadar has done the heavy lifting for you and put together the very best mountain bikes under £2,000 (that’s around $2,500) in 2022.

Between £1,000 and £2,000 is the point that full-suspension mountain bikes begin to make more sense, with decent builds that have few compromises.

If you’re looking to buy a hardtail in this price range, you’ll also have a hard time buying a bad one. This price bracket is a popular one for enthusiast cyclists, which has made for an incredibly competitive market, forcing brands to spec bikes with increasingly high-quality builds, including more expensive mountain bike groupsets.

If you’re looking for something a bit cheaper, be sure to check out our guides to the best mountain bikes under £1,000, £750 and £500.

If you’re feeling a little more flush, our guides to the best mountain bikes under £3,000 and the best trail bike should do the trick.

Lastly, for a more overall guide, check out our guide on how to choose the right mountain bike for you.

The best mountain bikes under £2,000 / $2,500, as rated by our expert testers

Calibre Triple B

5.0 out of 5 star rating
The Calibre Triple B has a top-spec list for its price.
Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media
  • £1,499 as tested
  • Amazing value for money
  • Cracking performance, even when pitted against bikes worth double
  • Grippy tyres are good on descents but a bit of a drag on long climbs

Calibre’s Triple B is the better-specced sibling of the Bossnut (see below), kitted out with SRAM’s Guide RE brakes, NX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain and a RockShox Sektor RL fork and Monarch RS rear shock.

This top-tier spec – for the cash – is backed up by modern trail bike geometry that boasts a 65.5-degree head angle, 74-degree seat-tube angle and a lengthy 460mm reach on the size large, which combines to provide a superb ride.

Our testers loved how the Triple B tackled fast and flowy terrain and supported them through turns and compressions without wincing over trickier ground.

It is a bit on the hefty side, so if you’re really worried about headline weight figures you might want to consider another bike – although we challenge you to find one that performs as well as the Triple B at this price.

Boardman MTR 8.9

4.5 out of 5 star rating
The Boardman MTR 8.9 has the same geometry as the MTR 9.0.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media
  • £1,750 as tested
  • Accelerates quickly and holds speed
  • Supportive suspension
  • Extreme riding exposes the bike’s limits

The Boardman MTR 8.9 is the less expensive version of the MTR 9.0. It has the same alloy frame, geometry and suspension as its pricier sibling but with a more affordable SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain.

The bike is comfortable and has a relaxed riding position. However, the seat-tube angle does feel too relaxed when climbing steep gradients.

The rear suspension doesn’t bob too much under pedalling, rewarding your input with quick acceleration. It still has enough give, absorbing small bumps. The RockShox 35 Gold RL front fork also does a good job at absorbing bumps, even on steep climbs.

Despite only having an 11-50t cassette and 32t front chainring, the bike doesn’t feel lacking in gears, thanks to its low weight and snappy suspension.

The inclusion of a dropper post enhances the bike’s ride and improves flow on trail centre loops, for which it is well-suited.

On descents, the SRAM Guide T brakes can feel wooden and the bike is a little noisy. But despite these issues, the MTR 8.9 is a fun bike to ride. It’s ripe for upgrades and we’d choose to turn it into a light and fast mile-munching machine.

Calibre Bossnut

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Calibre’s Bossnut is another top performer from Go Outdoors.
Laurence Crossman-Emms
  • £1,100 as tested
  • Great geometry
  • Kitted out with decent parts considering the price
  • Great on the trail
  • Non-Boost axles could limit upgrade potential

Because the Triple B and Bossnut share the same frame, you get the same fantastic geometry as the more expensive model.

So it’s in the spec where Calibre has saved the money. There’s a RockShox Recon RL fork and Monarch R shock, a cheaper SX Eagle drivetrain and SRAM Level T brakes.

For the cash, our expert testers really struggled to fault the Bossnut out on the trails, but because it lacks Boost axle spacing, you might have a hard time finding compatible wheels when it’s time to upgrade.

Canyon Stoic 4

4.5 out of 5 star rating
The Canyon Stoic 4 has a modern geometry that provides plenty of control on descents.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media
  • £1,639 / $1,799 / AU$2,649 / €1,699 as tested
  • Gravity-capable all-rounder
  • Well considered spec
  • Modern geometry

Canyon says the Stoic 4 is “the best Enduro hardtail”, and it is true that the bike can fly down descents like a full-suspension bike – as long as things don’t get too rough – while retaining that hardtail simplicity.

It achieves this thanks to a solid rear end that can gain speed from every rise and fall in the trail as well as the modern, slack geometry.

The long wheelbase helps spit you out of turns perfectly and you can maintain control over rocks and roots. The dropper post also opens up plenty of room for you to move around.

This aluminium bike might be aimed at descending, but it won’t make getting to the top of a trail a drag because it ascends surprisingly fast considering its burly 14.86kg weight and gnarly tyres.

With a 140mm travel RockShox fork and SRAM groupset, the Stoic has a great spec for the price, although there are also two less costly versions of the Stoic in Canyon’s lineup, starting from £799.

Kona Kahuna

4.5 out of 5 star rating
The Kona Kahuna offers a superb ride.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media
  • £1,199 / $1,499 as tested
  • Balanced, intuitive ride
  • Excellent drivetrain and brakes
  • More traditional geometry

The Kona Kahuna hardtail mountain bike has been around for decades, with the brand continually refining the bike.

The latest version sees Kona move toward cross-country and trail bike efficiency with superb ride quality. The shape of the bike means you can still take on rough terrain with the aluminium frame smoothing out bumps.

But be warned – experienced riders may find the Kahuna’s limits fairly quickly and it’s not particularly suited to aggressive downhill riding.

The spec is admirable considering the price. The 12-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain performs almost as well as the brand’s XT groupset found on bikes costing up to £10,000. The Shimano MT410 brakes have loads of power and the long levers give plenty of hand positions.

The 100mm RockShox Recon Silver RL front fork does, though, move through its travel quickly, and it would be nice to see a dropper post fitted to the bike.

Merida Big. Trail 500

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Merida has chosen some top-performing parts for its spec.
Ian Linton / Immediate Media
  • £1,350 / AU$1,849 as tested
  • Impressive going downhill and calm handling
  • Balance of Merida parts and branded parts
  • Make sure you pick the right size

Compared to bikes at the leading edge of the sport, the Merida Big. Trail 500’s geometry is relatively short. This means on paper it doesn’t have the stability of bikes with a longer wheelbase.

But the Merida has a shorter seat tube than many other bikes, allowing riders to size up without worrying about standover height, unlocking a longer reach and a more stable wheelbase.

With this in mind, the Big. Trail 500 is a comfortable climber. The longer reach in testing meant there was plenty of room to move around and the steep seat tube improved comfort, made pedalling easier and reduced front wheel lift.

When it comes to descents, the Recon fork has plenty of mid-stroke and low-speed compression helping you go fast and amplifying the aluminium frame’s calm feel.

The mix of Merida’s own-brand kit, including a dropper post, and branded kit from Shimano keeps the bike’s price down but this doesn’t stop it from being one of the most capable bikes for under £2,000.

Vitus Mythique 29 VRS

4.5 out of 5 star rating