Updated January 2017
The 29er has come a long way. Initially hamstrung by weak rims and awkward geometry, the so called “wagon wheelers”, that were once relegated to just cross-country racing, have proven their worth at the highest levels of enduro racing.
If you enjoy the speed and ability to push headlong through the roughest terrain, then a 29er trail bike might be in your future. There are plenty to choose from these days. Here are our top picks for 29er trail bikes.
Evil The Following
- Stiff frame
- Envelope-pushing geometry
- A short-travel 29er for the gravity set
This might go down as one of the most important bikes in the history of 29ers. The Following has ushered in a whole herd of short-travel 29ers that are low, very slack and incredibly fun to ride.
The Following has 120mm of suspension travel and is designed around 120-140mm suspension forks. It’s not designed for plush comfort, its race-tuned suspension feel is intended to get the rider from point A to B as quickly as possible — and annihilate every rock, root and gap jump in between.
Pole Evolink 140
- Longest and slackest bike in the category
- Active suspension design
- 140 rear, 150 front suspension travel
In case you’re not familiar with this small Finnish company, Pole has been pushing the boundaries of mountain bike design by making its bikes very long and very slack.
The Pole Evolink 140 lays claim to the title of the longest and slackest 29er on the market.
With an expansive wheelbase, a 64.5 degree head tube and an active suspension design, this 140mm travel 29er performs best in the hands of a skilled rider with an unbridled need for speed.
Santa Cruz Hightower
- Balanced suspension feel
- 29 and 27.5+ compatible
- Great for all-day epics
The Hightower replaced the Tallboy LT as the longest-travel 29er in the Santa Cruz line. Like it’s predecessor, the Hightower has 135mm of rear travel, however this bike is longer upfront, shorter in the rear and properly slack for a contemporary trail bike.
The Hightower’s climbing prowess and ability to descend with haste give it an aptitude for big-mountain riding.
- Uses Yeti’s Switch Infinity suspension system
- Light and stiff frame
- Great climber that gives up nothing on the way down
The SB4.5c borrows heavily from the Enduro World Series-proven SB6c in the shortest-travel incarnation of the Switch Infinity suspension system to date.
The SB4.5c sports just 114mm of rear suspension travel, though that’s combined with a long, slack front and a 140mm suspension fork. The result is a trail bike with impressive climbing chops that’s eager to be pushed through corners and boost off lips on the way down.
Specialized Enduro Elite 29
- Supple suspension
- 155mm of rear travel
- Short chainstays
Specialized’s engineers managed to stuff a lot of bike between those big wheels. The Enduro has 155mm of rear wheel travel and short 430mm chainstays that make it easy to manoeuvre.
Our tester felt that the Horst-Link rear suspension struck a good balance between pedaling efficiency and small-bump sensitivity. If you’re a Strava narcissists or enduro racer you’ll love how fast the Enduro 29 covers ground. The light and fast-rolling rubber, big wheels and fairly efficient yet comfy suspension enable it to accelerate and ascend remarkably fast.