Trek and Nukeproof take our MTB Bike of the Year titles for 2022

Nukeproof also wins our first-ever eMTB Bike of the Year award

Rob Weaver riding a Nukeproof Giga mtb. BikePark Wales . Gethin Woodland Centre, Abercanaid, Merthyr Tydfil , Wales. April 2022 .

Drumroll, please! It’s time to announce our MTB Bike of the Year winners for 2022 – and this year we have three, with our longstanding trail and enduro categories joined, for the first time, by an eMTB winner.

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Let’s cut to the chase… and the winners. After pitting 24 bikes against one another across the three categories, and thousands of kilometres of climbing, descending and uplifts, these are our 2022 Bike of the Year champions:

Bike of the Year is our most comprehensive test and, once again, this year we joined forces with our sister titles, MBUK and Cycling Plus magazines. You can read about our Road & Gravel Bike of the Year winners, but here we’re focusing on all things off-road.

Trail Bike of the Year

Trek Top Fuel 8

Despite its modest travel, the Trek Top Fuel 8 really impressed us in testing.
Steve Behr / Our Media

The Trek Top Fuel 8 takes the title in our Trail Bike of the Year category, headed up by Tom Marvin. The Top Fuel was updated for 2022 and now has more than a hint of downcountry about it, with 120mm of suspension travel at both ends.

That might be conservative by usual trail bike standards but it’s a machine capable of doing just about anything you could ask of a trail bike.

“A trail bike needs to do it all – climb well, descend with authority, and ask to come back for more and more,” says Tom.

“The Top Fuel gets to the top of the hill without making us yearn for our XC rigs, made me grin like a Cheshire cat on fast flow trails and rarely baulked when gradients steepened and a firm grip on bar and brake lever was required to safely navigate to the bottom.”

Enduro Bike of the Year

Nukeproof Giga 297 Carbon Elite

The Nukeproof Giga 297 came out tops in this year’s Enduro Bike of the Year test.
Steve Behr / Our Media

BikeRadar and MBUK’s technical editor-in-chief, Robin Weaver, took charge of the enduro category, with a stacked line-up containing the biggest names in the business.

The Giga arrived in January 2021 as Nukeproof’s supercharged enduro bike, offering 180mm (or 170mm on the 29in wheel version) of rear wheel travel on a downhill-inspired frame. The result is an enduro bike that truly excels downhill, even if you’ll have to work a bit harder on the way back up.

“The Giga 297’s balance, geometry and electrifying corner-carving speed are what really helps this machine stand out from the crowd,” was Rob’s verdict.

“Get the bike pointed down pretty much any trail and the Giga exudes balance which, along with the impressive proportions and rear suspension, make it a blast to ride fast.

“Through the turns, this thing can simply carve a line harder than most at an astounding pace. It really impresses on every ride.”

eMTB Bike of the Year

Nukeproof Megawatt 279 Factory XT

Nukeproof also took the top step in our inagural eMTB Bike of the Year test.
Steve Behr / Our Media

Electric mountain bikes have come on leaps and bounds in recent years, with slimmer, sleeker designs, increased range and a properly sorted ride.

We couldn’t ignore the rise of eMTB so, for the first time, have a category for pedal-assisted bikes, with BikeRadar’s Tweed Valley-based technical editor, Alex Evans, tasked with sorting the wheat from the chaff when it comes to all things electric.

And Nukeproof has taken top spot again, this time with the Megawatt 279 Factory XT – a bike with proven pedigree on the Enduro World Series ebike circuit. This might be Belfast-based Nukeproof’s first attempt at an eMTB, but it’s a home run.

“Exceptional performance across a broad range of terrain types makes the Megawatt one of the best electric bikes currently available,” says Alex.

“The Megawatt combines super-smooth, long-travel rear suspension with confidence-inspiring but impressively balanced geometry. In addition to the chunky but not excessive headline weight, it inspires calm and composure where it’s needed, but also elements of playfulness in tighter terrain.”

What we tested

Robin Weaver, technical editor-in-chief

As bike and component shortages continue to make headlines, pulling this mega-test together hasn’t been easy. But we’ve done more than just that – we’ve added a new category into the mix, too.

Along with the usual trail and enduro bikes, we’ve included an eMTB Bike of the Year test for the first time. Why? Well, if you’ve been to the trails lately, you’ll have no doubt noticed just how popular electric mountain bikes are. With sales of off-road ebikes continuing to pick up pace, we felt it important to cover them for 2022.

Bike costs are creeping up – some of them even increasing while we were out putting the miles in – so we’ve had to adjust and widen our price brackets in order to include some of the most promising-looking models.

To keep things manageable for the testers, we’ve limited each category in this guide to eight bikes, but have ridden plenty more besides, to give us a solid overview of the market. We think the machines included here give a good idea of what’s currently on offer, so our tests should help to make your buying decisions that bit easier.

As always, we’ve put these bikes through the wringer. It’s taken countless hours of fettling, riding, measuring, re-riding, fettling some more and then riding again to reach the point where we could pick apart the details and see just how each bike measures up against the next.

As was the case last year, 2022’s picks were very closely matched when it came to performance, making testing that bit harder. Riding each bike back-to-back with the others helped to show where some were good while others were great, although it must be said that, this year, the margins are tighter than ever.

The contenders

Trail Bike of the Year

We tested eight bikes as part of this year’s test.
Russel Burton / Our Media

A trail bike should be a great all-rounder – a capable descender but also nimble on flatter trails, good on the climbs and not too much of a drag on longer rides.

This year, the trail bike category spans a price range of £3,299 to £3,999 and includes eight do-it-all shredders with between 120 and 140mm of rear-wheel travel.

With the trail category capturing everything from XC-inspired downcounty bikes to long-travel machines, Tom was tasked with finding the Goldilocks balance of climbing efficiency and downhill pedigree that the best trail bikes should offer.

To take the top spot, we were looking for a bike that wouldn’t make you baulk at the idea of an all-day epic, but equally, wouldn’t leave you feeling like Bambi on ice when the terrain becomes more demanding.

  • Trek Top Fuel 8 (category winner)
  • Canyon Spectral 125 CF 7
  • Cube Stereo 120 HPC TM 29
  • Kona Process 134 DL 29
  • Nukeproof Reactor 290 Alloy Pro
  • Specialized Stumpjumper Comp
  • Vitus Escarpe 29 CRX
  • YT Izzo Core 2

Meet the tester

Tom Marvin, technical editor

Keen on Lycra-clad XC laps as well as rooty off-piste, Tom is well-placed to rate these all-rounders. Tom’s testing took place predominantly in the Forest of Dean or in South Wales, with a trip to Scotland thrown in for good measure.

Tom Marvin profile pic

Enduro Bike of the Year

So-called ‘mullet’ bikes make up nearly half of this year’s Enduro Bike of the Year test.
Steve Behr / Our Media

With more suspension travel and burlier parts than trail bikes, enduro rigs are built to be hurled down the roughest downhills but still be pedalled back to the top.

For 2022, there are some absolute corkers in the mix. While the price bracket started out a little lower and narrower than the final test, availability issues and price increases have pushed it up, to £3,475 to £5,250.

Rear-wheel travel ranges from 150mm all the way up to 180mm, and along with some 29ers, nearly half the bikes on test this year are ‘mullet’ bikes with mixed wheel sizes. Not only that, but a number come equipped with coil shocks, too. The question is, which is the easiest to ride downhill fast, while still being pleasant enough to pedal back to the top?

  • Nukeproof Giga 297 Carbon Elite (category winner)
  • Cannondale Jekyll 2
  • Canyon Torque CF 8
  • GT Force Pro
  • Marin Alpine Trail XR
  • Propain Tyee AL 29 Performance
  • Santa Cruz Bronson C R
  • Whyte G-180 RS MX

Meet the tester

Robin Weaver, technical editor-in-chief

Rob has years of racing experience and product testing under his belt, so knows what makes a good enduro rig. Rob’s 12-week testing window included everything from steep, natural trails, to high-speed bike park tracks, to find this year’s winning enduro bike.

Rob Weaver portrait. BikePark Wales .  Gethin Woodland Centre, Abercanaid, Merthyr Tydfil , Wales.  April 2022 .

eMTB Bike of the Year

We’ve focussed on full-power electric bikes for our inaugural eMTB of the Year test.
Andy Lloyd / Our Media

Electric bikes supplement your pedalling power with up to 250W of motor assistance, to make climbs fun, help you travel further or get you back on the bike after injury.

Adding a motor and battery to a bike is always going to increase its cost, so our price range spans from £5,999 to £7,699 (but would’ve been lower, had there not been mid-test price rises).

We’ve focused on full-power electric mountain bikes that look to offer excellent performance for the cash, spanning trail and enduro. Travel starts at a respectable 150mm and rises to a monstrous 180mm. We’ve looked at how well they descend, climb and endure long days on the hill.

  • Nukeproof Megawatt 279 Factory XT (category winner)
  • Giant Reign E+ 1
  • Mondraker Level R
  • Saracen Ariel 50E Elite
  • Scott Ransom eRIDE 910
  • Specialized Stumpjumper Turbo Levo Comp Alloy
  • Whyte E-180 RS v3
  • YT Decoy Core 4
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Meet the tester

Alex Evans, technical editor

A hard rider with a habit of breaking bikes, motorised or not, Alex pulls no punches with his testing and took charge of the inaugural eMTB test. Alex took to his home trails in Scotland’s Tweed Valley to find an electric mountain bike that could excel on all terrain.

08.04.22.
Mountain Biking UK
Bike of the Year 2022
BikePark Wales

PIC © Andy Lloyd
www.andylloyd.photography
@andylloyder

Thanks to…

Thanks to our sponsors MET Helmets, Bluegrass Protection and BikePark Wales for their support in making Bike of the Year happen.