Cross-country mountain bikes often feature some of the most exciting developments in bicycle design; the bikes must be light enough to handle lung-bursting climbs while also being capable enough to handle increasingly gnarly descents.
So, in no particular order, here is our pick of the top five cross-country bikes of 2020 that we think are pushing the envelope of bicycle design.
Specialized Epic HT
Specialized’s new Epic HT claims to be one of the lightest in the world.Harookz
Starting with one of the biggest releases for 2020, we have the Specialized Epic HT.
The previous generation Epic HT was a firm favourite here at BikeRadar. It was incredibly light and had relatively modern geometry for an XC bike, so when we found out Specialized had updated this already winning formula, we were obviously excited to see what the big S would come up with.
As you’d expect, it’s got even lighter, with an S-Works frame coming in at around 790g for a medium with paint and hardware.
This means a top-spec, complete build is claimed to weigh just 7.8kg. That’s incredibly impressive when you consider that, not that long ago, 7.8kg was thought to be pretty respectable for an aero road bike.
In a move expected by approximately absolutely everyone, the geometry has also been updated, with the head angle getting a touch slacker and the reach a smidge longer to improve handling on the technical XC World Cup courses of today.
And, finally, the seat tube is a more dropper-friendly 30.9mm.
Being Specialized it comes as no surprise that the top-spec S-Works model has a premium price, but we’re interested in the more affordable Epic HT carbon, which comes in just north of roughly 2,100 Great British pounds or US dollars, while still having a claimed 930g frame weight.
Could this possibly be the perfect privateer XC racer’s bike for 2020? Let us know what you would choose in the comments.
Arizona-based Pivot Cycles has long been known for its premium mountain bikes, but the new Mach 4 SL really pushes the boundaries for publicly-available bikes, as does its price tag with a top-spec build coming in at £11,800.
There’s no need to remind us that you could buy a really nice car or motorcycle for £11,800. You could even buy nearly 30 Calibre Two Cubed mountain bikes. Which would you prefer?
The Mach 4 has gone through several iterations and has featured 27.5in and 29in versions in its lifetime. This latest version merges the Mach 4 and Mach 429SL into one superfast racing machine.
It features a revised DW-link suspension configuration with a vertically-positioned shock and settles on 100mm travel and 29in wheels.
And the weight? A size medium World Cup build with a full Shimano XTR groupset weighs a claimed 9.4kg, which is very impressive for a full-suspension bike.
We doubt you’ll be seeing too many of these special builds out on the trails though, but it’s impressive to see what a brand can do with a money-is-no-object design.
Santa Cruz Blur
Santa Cruz’s Blur.Santa Cruz
I’m sure you’ve all heard that famous saying… there are two guarantees in life: death and taxes.
Well, here at BikeRadar we have another saying… there’s one guarantee in life: if you don’t include a Santa Cruz in a mountain bike top 5, no matter the genre, people WILL NOT BE HAPPY.
Obviously, we jest, but in order to prevent commenter Armageddon, we present you with the Santa Cruz Blur.
It’s a thoroughbred cross-country racer, sporting 100mm of front and rear travel, a 69-degree head angle and a relatively steep 74-degree seat angle.
The reach is pretty long for an XC bike, with a size large coming in at 460mm.
This should hopefully mean the bike will be able to descend and climb with the best.
A medium frame claims to weigh just north of 2 kilos, and while there are lighter race whippets out there (sorry, we couldn’t make it past the third bike in this list before we used the phrase ‘race whippet’), the Blur’s claimed weight includes all of the hardware and shock.
But anyway, it’s a Santa Cruz, so everything it does is good because it’s the coolest brand on Earth, right?
Cannondale released the newest F-Si back in 2018, and it’s been bothering the front of XC races ever since then.
The elephant in the room is the polarising Lefty Ocho fork, and we say polarising because you probably won’t have to look too far down the comments to see someone saying the Lefty is the worst fork ever made, while the next commenter will say it’s suspension perfection.
And while Leftys have their quirks, we kind of like them, so make of that what you will.
The F-Si is competitively light for a World Cup-ready hardtail, with top-spec builds weighing less than 9kg.
It also comes with Cannondale’s AI offset on the rear wheel, which pushes the drivetrain 6mm to the right. This means you need to have a neutrally dished rear wheel, but as you’d expect Cannondale claims this is better than the more conventional asymmetric dish.
Just like every other bike on this list, top-spec models don’t come cheap, but more affordable models are available if you’re keen on an F-Si.
Jolanda Neff has been racing on the Trek Supercaliber this World Cup season.Alex Broadway/SWpix.com
We’ve saved possibly the most interesting XC bike of 2020 until last, with Trek’s all-new Supercaliber.
The Supercaliber has been hidden in plain sight, having already been ridden by Jolanda Neff at various World Cup rounds with a sock used to hide the ISO Strut suspension linkage.
But now Trek’s embargo on the bike has lifted and we can finally tell you a bit more about it.
The frame weighs just 1,900g with the shock and hardware, making it lighter than most conventional full-suspension frames, but the compromise is that you get 60mm of rear travel instead of the usual 100mm.
Trek claims this gives you the best of both worlds, with full suspension performance and hardtail efficiency.
The geometry is refreshingly modern, with a 69-degree head angle and 74-degree seat angle.
More crucial for the long-distance racers among you though is that the ISO Strut suspension linkage allows you to fit two water bottles into the frame.
Could this be the perfect marathon machine in 2020? We’ll have to wait and see.