The Best Trail Mountain Bikes

Best Value Short-Travel Trail Bike

Giant Trance 29 2 2019

Giant’s Trance 29 2 is an affordable short travel trail bike that is practical for a broad range of riders and terrain. This bike is playful and agile and boasts a high fun-factor. It feels efficient with excellent climbing abilities despite its 31-pound weight and is plenty capable for any length of ride. Downhill performance is composed and impressive, especially considering its short 115mm of rear-wheel travel. Handling is quick and precise and it excels in technical terrain and rips corners with the best of them. This is a great bike for the rider who appreciates solid climbing abilities and wants a moderately aggressive geometry and prefers the liveliness of a shorter travel bike. Our test model is also an impressive value with a rip-able build, although there are several other builds available for anyone looking to go a little lower or higher-end.

Another Excellent Short Travel Trail Bike

Santa Cruz Tallboy Carbon C S

The Santa Cruz Tallboy recently underwent a complete redesign turning this short-travel 29er into a super capable and versatile trail shredder. The new Tallboy bears little resemblance to the previous version and it sports a modern progressive geometry, 130/120mm of front/rear-wheel travel, the low-link VPP suspension layout, and flip-chip adjustable geometry. The long-ish wheelbase and generous reach combine with the slack head tube angle to create a super stable and planted feel at speed and unflinching confidence in steep and rough terrain. The VPP suspension design isn’t our favorite over high-frequency chop, but it is stellar on mid-sized and big hits giving it a “more travel than it actually has” feel. The modern geometry also translates into a comfortable climbing position and the VPP platform is ultra-supportive for an efficient uphill performance. Our biggest gripes with the Tallboy are that it’s a bit heavy for a carbon bike at this price point, and it didn’t strike us as especially playful. That said, if you’re looking for a composed and capable short travel trail bike, the Tallboy is worth serious consideration.


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