Merida’s ‘do-it-all’ bike is getting the long, low and slack treatment for 2019, following similar updates to the One-Forty and One-Sixty. Merida says the updated geometry and frame design gives the bike a very playful character and more capability on descents but retains the handling precision and speed you’d expect from a 120mm travel bike.
Key changes include a lowered standover for better dropper post clearance and to create more space for the rider to manoeuvre. Head angle slackens out to a fairly balanced 68 degrees on the 27.5 version and 69 degrees on the 29er, while chainstays come into 440mm (27.5) and 445mm (29) for extra nimbleness while still allowing entry level models to run a front derailleur.
Merida are bringing three alloy models into Australia ranging in price from $1,999 to $3,699. The 400 and 500 models are available in 27.5” and 29” versions, with the 800 model available in 29er only. Our pick for the best ‘bang for buck’ model is the One-Twenty 500, which features a 12-speed NX Eagle drivetrain, reliable Shimano MT500 brakes and a Merida own-brand dropper post for less than $2,400.
Merida is also releasing a tricked-out 29er carbon edition for $6,999, equipped with a Pike RCT3 fork, SRAM X01 Eagle and FSA Gradient LTD carbon wheels.
Santa Cruz Bronson v3
One of Santa Cruz’s biggest selling bikes here in Australia is the brand’s long(ish) travel Bronson – and it’s been reworked for 2019. Based around a 150mm travel rear end and 160mm fork, the ‘V3’ Bronson features a low-slung shock mount also used on the V10 downhill rig and the longer travel Nomad. Santa Cruz reckons the low linkage helps with mid-stroke support on longer travel bikes, with the first half of the travel kept soft before ramping it up harder towards end of the shock stroke.
Geometry-wise, the Bronson is 13mm longer in reach across all models, while standover height is 10mm lower. There’s also a more vertical seat tube angle of 75 degrees. This can be steepened to 75.3 degrees by flipping a chip on the shock’s rearward end, which is designed to help manage geometry between both wheel sizes.
Mechanics will rejoice at the threaded 73mm bottom bracket, while the new shock arrangement still allows for the addition of a full-sized bottle. There’s also a mudguard on the rear end to look after the shock and a frame guard under the downtube.
Frames are laid up in regular C and lighter, fancier CC carbon grades. If you want a frame only, it's CC or nothing and it'll cost you $5,249. Kits have been updated too, with the C 27.5 S-kit costing $7,999, the CC-grade X01 kit costing $10,699 and the top end XX1 RSV kit topping out the range at $13,499 with a Reserve carbon wheelset.
Santa Cruz 5010
A new 5010 was also released alongside the Bronson. The 130mm 27.5-inch wheel machine is billed as ‘Danny MacAskill’s wee bike of choice’, so that should give you a good sense as to its character: if you like to get air, this is the bike for you.The 5010 gets the usual updates you’d expect from a modern trail bike: Boost spacing with clearance for 2.8” tyres, a flip chip to alter the geometry, long low slack geo and a steeper seat angle. Pricing and model availability is similar to the Bronson, with with CC frameset options available for $5,249, C-grade S-kits for $7,999 and CC-grade kits either $10,199 or $13,399 depending on running gear.
We’re big fans of Canadian brand Norco here at MBA. The bikes are thoughtfully specced, well-built and well-priced. The return of the full-susser Fluid is a great case in point.
Built around a 120mm four-bar alloy dual suspension chassis, the Fluid FS is quite a bit longer (more than 60mm) in the wheelbase and lower than the 110mm rear-travel Optic, and its 66.5-degree head angle (L size) is a degree and a half slacker, too. These numbers – which also include a relatively short seat tube and a long reach - point to a bike that will be an absolute hoot on fast, flowing trails, but shouldn’t give much away in the tighter stuff save for a bit of crank clearance.
Only available in aluminium, Norco will sell the Fluid in three grades ranging in price from $2,199 to $3,199 (plus a women’s version of the entry level FS3) with two wheel sizes. XS, S and M frames will come equipped with 27.5-inch wheels with 2.6-inch wide tyres, while the M – along with the L and XL – can be had with 29-inch rims.
Norco has also made some running changes to the core bikes in its range for 2019. The Sight, Optic and Range all get a 10mm boost in travel at the front of the bike in both wheel sizes, beefing up all three bikes’ descending prowess. The Sight and the Range also come specced with 2.5” tyres out of the box in A2 model and above, again beefing up the bikes for more confidence on descents.
Specialized Epic Evo
You might be thinking it’s a bit early for a refresh of Specialized’s cross-country platform and you’d be right. The Epic Evo is a less of a redesign and more of a specification tweak to make the unashamedly race-oriented Epic a bit more suitable for ‘just riding along’ – while still retaining its aggressive character.
The changes are pretty simple: first, Specialized have pulled out the standard Epic’s 100mm custom offset fork, replacing it with a 120mm fork. The tyres have been beefed up to 2.3” front and back, with the front tyre switching to a Ground Control rather than the faster rolling Fast Trak. The Epic Evo also gains wider bars and a dropper post out of the box.
The result is a bike that’s well suited for the weekend warrior who wants to hit up single-day and stage races on a reasonably regular basis, but also wants a more forgiving ride on technical terrain. Don’t get us wrong, this is still very much a cross-country bike (for better or worse) but it’s definitely a more versatile ride than its 100mm counterpart.
The Epic Evo is available in two models: the carbon Expert model at $7,200 with a Fox 34 fork, Roval carbon wheels and SRAM GX Eagle; and a $4,000 alloy version with 11-speed GX, a Rockshox Reba fork and Roval alloy wheels.
Giant Trance 29
Well, it’s happened: one of the last holdouts against the industry swing back towards 29er trail bikes has released a 29-inch trail bike.
However, Giant haven’t yet gone for the long-travel option that most other brands have embraced. Rather, the new Trance 29 is 115mm in the rear and 130mm in the front.
The Trance features the same updated trunnion-mount Maestro suspension design found on the Anthem and Reign, which has been redesigned for a longer stroke and smoother feel. It also allowed Giant to use 435mm chainstays, keeping the rear wheel under the rider and improving handling.
Combined with a 66.5-degree headtube angle, a longer reach and bigger fork offset, Giant reckons this hits the sweet spot of agility when climbing and confidence on high-speed, technical descents.
The Trance 29 is available in two carbon models and two alloy models. The top-end $8,999 carbon Pro Advanced 0 features custom tuned DVO suspension, SRAM X01 and Giant carbon wheels, while the Advanced 1 comes in $1,700 cheaper with SRAM GX Eagle and Fox suspension.
Our bet for the bike you’ll see the most around your trails is the alloy Trance 29 2, which comes equipped with NX Eagle, a Fox Rhythm 34 fork, a Fox Float DPS shock and Giant XCT alloy wheels for $3,699.
GT Bicycles is a brand with a storied heritage that’s been undergoing something of a renaissance after years in the doldrums. Its new Sensor bikes look set to continue this return to form.
The Sensor is more of a do-it-all trail bike with 29-inch wheels and 130mm of travel. It features a fresh take on GT’s four-bar Linkage Tuned Suspension (LTS) system, which GT says has improved bump absorption, braking, and pedalling performance.
The new LTS also incorporates a flip chip that changes the bottom bracket height by 7mm, the head angle by 0.75 of a degree, and the reach by 5mm for better climbing or descending performance.
The Sensor is 1x only, and GT has eschewed the current trend for internal routing, instead sticking with external cables routed through a recess on the downtube called a ‘Groove Tube’.
The Sensor looks like an extremely capable bike on a range of terrain. Sensor models start at $2,999 for the alloy Sport model and stop at a carbon Expert model at $5,999. We’d push the boat out for the Expert model as the Revelation RC fork is likely to result in a plusher ride over the Sektor fork specced on the $4,499 carbon Elite model.
In addition to the Sensor, GT also dropped a longer-travel 27.5-inch bike called the Force. Geometry is in line with most all-mountain bikes we’re seeing at present. It looks like it should be a nimble yet stable ride at speed.
Interestingly, chainstay length is the same as the Sensor, even with the smaller wheel diameter, and the headtube angle is only half a degree slacker.
Force models range from the alloy Comp model at $3,999 to the carbon Expert model at $5,999. Our bang for buck pick is the alloy Elite model at $4,999, which includes an NX Eagle groupset, Rockshox Yari fork and a Rockshox Super Deluxe R coil.
The original Ransom certainly made heads turn back in 2006, not least due to its carbon frame. Scott have resurrected the bike as a modern long-travel race bike – with a few twists. As you’d expect from Scott, the new Ransom has some pretty trick engineering. First up, it borrows the adjustable flip chip from the Genius that enables the bike to take either 27.5” or 29” wheels, depending on your terrain and riding style. Big tyre clearance is the go too, with the Ransom happily taking up to 29x2.6” or 2.75x2.8” tyres. The Ransom also employs the popular TwinLoc suspension system – which not only acts as a remote lockout, but also adjusts the bike geometry based on mode – but also introduces something called Fox Nude TR. Flipping a lever mounted on the shock will enable you to choose whether you want a more linear (better for small impacts and lower speed) or progressive (better for bigger impacts) shock behaviour when descending. Three models form the core of the Australian line: two carbon models, the top-end Ransom 900 Tuned: at $9,699.95 and the Ransom 910 at $6,499.95; and the alloy Ransom 920 at $4,999.95. The Ransom 910 seems to be a decent ‘bang for buck’ spec, offering good performance at a reasonable replacement cost when parts (inevitably) get damaged.
UK brand Whyte has been doing a fine job over in Blighty creating future-proofed trail bikes – even if its famed ‘UK-proof’ mud clearance doesn’t often get the full workout over here in Australia.
Its T130 platform has seen significant updates for 2019, not least the use of a 37mm short-offset fork. Whyte says this creates extra front end grip, more neutral handling and allows it to make the most of the 27.5x2.6 Maxxis High Rollers specced on the bike.
There are two alloy T130 models and three carbon models, ranging from $3,999 to $9,450. The T-130C RS is our pick of the bunch, albeit not the cheapest at $6,550: it’s boasting a solid trail hunter spec of a Rockshox Pike RC fork and Deluxe RT DebonAir shock, GX Eagle, Guide RS brakes, and dependable Raceface AR-30 wheels.
The successor to the popular SB5.5 enduro race bike, the all new SB150 not only adheres to the on-trend rules of long travel 29er geometry; make it longer, make it lower and make it heaps slacker – it pushes those rules to the max.
The SB150 rakes things out to a staggering 64.5 degrees, coupled with a 44mm offset, 170mm fork. Reach-wise, the SB150 adds about 40mm over its predecessor, combined with a super-steep seat tube angle of 77 degrees. Yeti says these changes move the rider forward on the bike for better descending performance, while keeping the front wheel on the ground and the steering nimble when climbing.
The SB150 retains Yeti’s Switch Infinity linear translating pivot while adding a wishbone shock extension to maximise standover (it can also take a Fox coil shock). The use of the extender has allowed Yeti to create enough room in the front triangle for a full-size water bottle, which will be welcome news to riders looking for a quick spin. Other features include fully internal cable routing and a new lifetime frame warranty.
The SB150 is available in two frame layups, with the premium Turq frame coming in around 250g lighter than the cheaper C-Series frame. The T-Series frames will be available in GX Eagle ($9,290), XX1 Eagle ($12,590 and X01 Eagle ($11,490) builds, while the C-Series will come as a GX build only for $7,990.
Kona Process Carbon 29
Joining the Kona enduro range for 2019 is the Process Carbon 29, joining the 27.5 version released in the 2018 model year. The new Process uses the same DH carbon as the 27.5 version and using the same geometry as the existing alloy two-niner, Kona claims the carbon version is stiffer and lighter than its alloy counterpart.
The Process Carbon 29 is available in one build, and it’s pretty sweet. A SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain gives riders a full range of gears with four-piston Guide Rs providing the stopping power. A 160mm Rockshox Lyrik RC is paired with a Super Deluxe RCT Debonair and a Reverb dropper from the same manufacturer, while WTB’s reliable KOM Trail i29 wheels provide a robust wheelset for those inevitable moments.
The Process Carbon 29 will set you back $6,899 in Australia, while the alloy versions start at $4,199.