The end of 2017 is hanging just out of reach and it’s almost time to usher in the new year along with all the challenges and opportunities that entails. Not much about your mountain bike is going to change as the month rolls over, however, so if you’re growing discontent with an old standby or might be thinking about jumping into 2018 with something flashier and more dependable than a decade-old cycle that has seen its share of beatings, you’re on the right track.
Trends in 2018 are tending to slide towards longer, lower bikes that allow a better push up steep inclines with a center of balance that just can’t be achieved on shorter options. That’s something of a footnote compared to e-bike popularity rising steadily in Europe and promising to cross the ocean at any moment. Traditional bikes will almost certainly stay relevant, but there’s something terribly tempting about investing in a motor-assisted bike for harsher trails.
So as long as you know what size of tire you need and have an idea of your budget, these five bikes are strong contenders for your hard-earned money going into 2018.
1.Santa Cruz Hightower C R 2018
Make no mistake: The Santa Cruz Hightower is not an entry-level bike. Clocking it at almost four thousand dollars, this is a bike designed for a rider who knows exactly what they want to get out of their ride and delivers exactly what it promises.
The Hightower offers excellent all-around performance without suffering from the fragility that can plague highly maneuverable bikes. It’s light, handles well and yet doesn’t shy away from being taken onto aggressive trails that can bash the living daylights out of other lighter-frame bikes.
If the trails on your agenda involve climbs that end in wild downhill races, the Hightower makes the transition without skipping a beat or a gear.
2.Specialized Epic FSR
Recognizing a Specialized Epic is about as difficult as watching the Olympics or nearly any high-level competition, considering how many of those have been tackled with a capable rider sailing along on an Epic. It remained mostly unchanged for nearly four years and that’s something of an oddity in the competitive racing scene, yet that doesn’t seem to have slowed it down any.
The 2018 model boasts a lighter overall weight and better body shape to make climbs more manageable. It’s still a bike with cross-country racing at heart, but taking to the trail with an Epic is still something akin to overkill when you’re not training for a big-name race. If you can afford to buy into it, chances are it’ll impress you for years to come.
3.Ibis Ripley LS NX 2018
In a word, the Ibis Ripley LS NX wants to be fun. It’s not the bike you load up the night before a competition, but rather the bike you take out for a weekend ride where you want to sail down a trail with a smile on your face.
It’s a bike with big tires that responds well when taking on many a downhill challenge, but this sort of easy response to small problems can put an inexperienced rider in over their head in short order. Don’t ride beyond your capability if you aren’t sure what you can handle. For your average rides it’s going to still be plenty enjoyable without leaving you face-down in the mud.
Ever tried a bike with 29-inch tires and thought it wasn’t for you? The Sentinel wants to be the mountain bike that changes your mind. As Transition’s first long-travel 29er, it has a lot to prove in a category they haven’t stepped into yet shows a lot of early promise in its frame design and a tried-and-true Giddy Up suspension linkage that only gets better as you bounce it off of harder trails.
It’s even got a custom fork to make sure that longer body doesn’t leave something to be desired when it comes to steering and handling. If you’re on the fence about tire size, a Sentinel could easily push you towards the category of bigger being better.
5.Santa Cruz Nomad R 2018
When the descent is all you live for and staying upright while conquering challenging rock gardens is the only goal you’ve set for yourself, the Nomad R is the bike to reach for.
Much like the Specialized Epic, taking out the Nomad for your average ride is beyond overkill unless you only take on the harshest challenges that call for a bike that won’t back down from a road that is more jagged than cruise-friendly. Getting it uphill is another story: Expect to break a sweat.
Rolling into 2018 with a new mountain bike under you is a fantastic idea for experienced riders and curious newcomers alike considering positive trends towards easier-ride bikes with nice, smooth bodies that cruise over harsher terrain.
Find one that fits you and take on even the most heart-pounding trails without worrying about bending the frame on your trusty weekend cruiser!
Amanda Wilks is a writer, contributing reviewer for Mountain Bike Reviewed, and veteran MTBer. She has always been fascinated with the sport and she’s always ready to tackle new and exciting trails. Learn more about Amanda on Twitter.