XC Bike of the Year
Scalpel Si Carbon 3
When the new Scalpel was announced it was clear that Cannondale wasn't trying to play it safe or please the masses. They set out to develop and build the fastest possible XCO / XCM / XCX racing machine and they did a mighty fine job.
Read the full Scalpel Si review here.
You can always trust the underdogs to take on the big boys. I think it's safe to say that Silverback have established themselves as an honest player in the bike market. With bikes spanning most genres, they certainly have grown up since their humble beginnings. The Sesta is living proof.
The Sesta is a great bike that can run with the big boys while leaving you with some change.
Read the full Silverback Sesta review here.
One of earlier XC / Marathon bikes with contemporary geometry. Long, low, and slack with great pedalling manners. I only had it for a couple of days (Admin reviewed this one), but that was enough for it to show its true colors.
Read the full Puga Stage review here.
Trail Bike of the Year
Evil The Following
Many times throughout the year I found myself looking at images of Evil's The Following. It is arguably one of the best-suited bikes for local conditions and more than enough bike for most riders. With its bang up to date geometry, great pedalling manners, and rider-friendly handling, The Following deserves its time on our trails.
I would argue that it is light enough for any of our stage races, yet capable enough to huck all but the blackest of black routes on local soil. Having returned it after our review period, I got to ride it again later in the year and immediately felt comfortable. It was a bit like finding your favourite pair of jeans at the back of your cupboard. It just felt right. Fast, good looking, capable, and fun. What's not to like?
With all that said, what sums it up best for me is the fact that after all the bikes we rode this year, including all the excellent bikes we rode in 2015, this is the one I would like to have parked in my garage the most.
Read the full Evil The Following review here.
Scott Spark 940
I only recently got to spend some time on Scott's new Spark and even though it sits closer to a pure trail bike, it certainly is capable and fun once dialled in.
Read the full Scott Spark review here.
Let's hear it for 27.5" bikes! Looking back now, I think it's safe to say that the Thunderbolt would not have scored as high on my fun-o-meter if I had ridden the The Following before it, but that's not quite fair to the Rocky. It is a super fun bike that wants to pushed hard all day long and will reward you for it. The Following and Spark are perhaps better all-rounders thanks to the bigger wheels and the rolling they bring. Having said that, if your focus is more on fun than distance, the Thunderbolt will do just fine.
Read the full Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt review here.
Products of the Year
They gave us the Pike, they gave us the Reverb dropper post, and then 1x11 drivetrains. Then they launched the 12 speed Eagle drivetrains and with it a broad enough spread in gear ratios to put the final nail in the 2x drivetrain's coffin.
Shifting is everything one would expect from a top of the range groupset, and with the option to buy an upgrade kit only, there are few reasons not to go 12-speed when the time comes to replace your current groupset.
Read our first ride review of SRAM Eagle here.
The Power saddle has ruined most other saddles for me. Before the fateful day that I tried a Power saddle for the first time, my sitting area was happy with most saddles. I've always preferred low-profile saddles with a slight raise towards the rear and a cut-out or relieve channel running down the middle. The Specialized Power ticked all those boxes, but managed to throw in a stubby nose and a fit and feel like a glove.
Since then a Power saddle has been fitted to my hardtail all mountain bike, trail 29er, and road bike. I can't bear riding without one.
Read the full Specialized Power Saddle review here.
I love these. I love the fit, the tech, the quality and most of all how they disappear once on your face. Coverage is great with excellent field of view and ventilation. No corners were cut and no compromises made in the design and manufacture of these.
Read the full Oakley Jawbreaker review here.
I will remember 2016 for ...
The year 29ers decided to rather go big than go home. Evil's The Wreckoning & The Following, Santa Cruz Hightower (full review to follow soon) and Pyga Stage Max all showed that 29ers have arrived in a big way. Thanks to boost and the advent of 1x drivetrains, bike designers and manufacturers have found ways to make chainstays shorter and shorter and crank the fun factor of these once called wagon wheelers to eleven.
I'm not sure what the future holds for all the different wheel sizes and how each will finally be pitched but what I do know is you no longer need a smaller wheel size to play in the twisties.
For me, 2016 will also be the year of the Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo FSR 6Fattie. The way it rides (like a mountain bike), the integration of the motor, battery and other bits that make this an e-bike. The app that lets you "tune" the "e" in the e-bike sets it apart from other offerings currently on the market. With the Levo range, Specialized gave us a pedal assist bike that can be fussed about for just how good a mountain bike it is when out on the trails.