MTB Trail Bike Choice - Finding Your Travel

Photo by Chris Kochanski.

Finding Your Travel

Look through the list of any manufacturer’s full suspension bikes. All the travel options can be enough to make your eyes go googly. If you’ve been riding something recent, then you already have a good idea what works for you and what won’t - but we also see a lot of returning riders coming back to the sport, after a decade or so away, who see all the choices and can’t make heads nor tails of it all.


It’s easier than you think.

The simple, straight fact of the matter is this:  If your last bike was 12… 15?... 18 years ago?... then you’d remember 100~120mm being about the limit for a full suspension bike that you could still pedal up a hill (if a bit grudgingly). The bikes were heavy, the spring rates were spiky, and standing up to attack the trail suddenly made the bike feel like it was bobbing all over the place (because it was).


A lot has happened since then… Welcome to today.

Any one of our new bikes from Specialized or Santa Cruz - in any travel - is going to be lighter, more efficient, plusher, and faster than even your fondest memories - all while being more precise and nimble than you’ll be willing to let yourself believe. These days, 130~135mm travel bikes like the Stumpjumper ST, Hightower, and 5010 are considered edgy and playful all-rounders that like to charge the trail, while 150mm bikes like the Stumpjumper, Hightower LT, and Bronson are the plush, terrain gobblers that love the downhills and will still climb right to the top of the next descent.


So if that’s where we’re at, what’s the right choice?

Try to make it simple for yourself. It’s so easy to get caught up in debates over what setup is perfect for which rider on what trail, but you’re not picking a bike for one trail on one day. You’re picking one bike to do it all.

There’s an elegant truth that cuts right through all the numbers. The right bike for you is the one that excites you. It’s the bike you can’t walk by without thinking about the last ride and the next. It’s the reason the lawn doesn’t get mowed.


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