Top Pick Aggressive Trail Bike
Santa Cruz Hightower CC XO1
For 2020, the Santa Cruz Hightower has been completely redesigned. The updated version has a very modern long and slack geometry, flip-chip adjustability, and a low-mount VPP suspension design. The result of these changes is a very hard-charging 29er trail bike that is impressively stable at speed and is capable of getting as rowdy as you want. With 140mm of rear-wheel travel paired with a 150mm fork, the Hightower falls at the upper end of the mid-travel category though it rides and feels like it has more travel than that. Thanks to the supportive VPP platform, steep seat tube angle, and a roomy cockpit, the Hightower is an efficient and comfortable climber as well. While the Hightower has undoubtedly become more capable when things get gnarly, its maneuverability at low speeds and in tighter technical terrain suffers a bit due mostly to the long wheelbase and slacker front end. That said, we still feel this burly downhill crusher is deserving of our Best Aggressive Trail Bike Award. The high-end model we tested is quite expensive, but this bike is offered in a number of builds and prices to meet a range of budgets.
Best Short Travel Trail Bike
Ibis Ripley GX Eagle 2019
The Ibis Ripley has undergone a complete overhaul for the 2019-2020 model year. Other than keeping the same travel as the previous version, 120mm in the rear and 130mm in the front, the new Ripley is fully redesigned. Building on the success of the longer travel Ripmo, Ibis took many of the design features of that bike and applied them in this shorter travel package. The reach and wheelbase have been extended significantly, the head tube slackened, and the seat tube steepened to bring the Ripley’s geometry up to date. The result is a much more well-rounded bike that climbs even better and descends with far more confidence. It still maintains much of its lively and playful trail manners, though that is no longer its defining characteristic. This versatile short travel ride scampers uphill and charges back down, it’s only limited by its travel length. If you’re looking for a short travel trail bike that can do it all, check out the new and improved Ripley.