Table Of Contents

The Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes of 2021

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Long travel mountain bikes are a broad category. There are several different classifications for mountain bikes depending on their purpose. From cross country (XC) to downhill (DH), there are some inbetween categories that fill in the gaps. This article will be covering bikes that would fall into the enduro or trail mountain bike categories.
Each bike style comes with its own geometry “standards” that help us gear nerds categorize them. Essentially what you’re looking for in a long travel bike is one that is more competent on the downhills and is able to absorb more chunder from beneath your wheels while you’re hitting Mach 7 on your local trails. However, most of these bikes can also climb well enough to help you get to the top of the hill before smashing it on the way down. The added travel and overall slacker geometry that you will notice does take away slightly from pedaling efficiency, but they’ll get the job done.
So whether you are new to the mountain bike world or a seasoned berm basher, we think this article offers insight into the fleet of long travel 29ers that will propel you into the great outdoors as you explore unknowns on your mountain bike. These bikes all spread the gap between Trail and Enduro bikes. Each category has its own geometry set ups that will be explained below.
PRO TIP: In the world of mountain biking, just as in every other adventure sports world, there are pieces of gear for every setting, and bikes are no different. Every type of climate and trail will have a bike that may fit that niche better, so use this article as a broad guide of the short travel 29ers. But also research the bikes and trails that you may be riding. Mountain bikes aren’t cheap, but they are a great investment for getting into the outdoor world and staying active. Do make sure that you find the bike that is perfect for your location, build, and riding style.

Terminology

Don’t worry, as, in all sports and outdoor pursuits, it appears like a new language has been invented to describe bikes, trails, or anything really in mountain biking. In many ways, the new language is more challenging than other sports because there is just so much to know. Bike geometry, or how the frame is designed and set up to be ridden, is an important concept to understand when looking to purchase a new mountain bike. Below are a few of the main terms and phrases to understand, even slightly, as a guide to help you make decisions when purchasing a new bike.
The Best Short Travel Mountain Bikes: Bike Terminology - Gear Hacker

A.) Reach: the distance between the center of the head tube (where the handlebars sit) and an invisible line that runs up from the center of the bottom bracket. Short travel bikes are getting longer and longer reach, meaning to keep up with steeper head tube angles (read on), the longer reach allows the rider to have more control over the front end of the bike. For a medium-sized frame, expect to see between 440mm and 470mm for reach.

B.) Rear Center (Chainstay Length): The distance between the rear axle and the bottom bracket. The shorter the measurement means the rider will be positioned closer to the back axle and this allows for easier manuals, greater control over the back tire, and overall, the bike will have a more responsive feel. The longer the chainstay length, the greater stability you will have at speed and over rougher terrain.

C.) Front Center: The distance between the front axle and the bottom bracket. As head tubes get slacker the front center distance is getting longer. A longer measurement again will mean more control at speed on downhills but potentially sluggish responsiveness on uphills and flats. A shorter front center will provide more agile steering and greater control on uphills but may feel sketchy when at speed on downhills.

D.) Wheelbase: Measure from the front center to the rear center of each wheel, and you get the measurement for the wheelbase. This is the distance between the front axle and rear axle. A larger wheelbase will provide stability on the downhills while a shorter wheelbase will be more maneuverable and give slightly better control over the front wheel. Both serve different purposes and each rider will likely prefer a different measurement depending on his or her discipline.

E.) Bottom Bracket Height: This is the measurement of the distance between the bottom bracket and the ground. A lower bottom bracket height will offer more control and a more stable feeling on the downhills, however the trade-off is the potential of bouncing your bottom bracket or pedals off of uneven roots and rocks.

F.) Head Tube Angle: This is the angle of the head tube from a flat plane (the ground). Head tube angles often absorb the most impact on the handling and stability of the mountain bike. You will hear the angles referred to as “slack” if they are a low angle or steep as they get higher. Cross country bikes and trail bikes have steeper head tube angles that allow riders to have greater control over the bike while climbing, whereas enduro and downhill mountain bikes have very slack head tube angles to give the most control while descending at high speeds.

G.) Seat Tube Angle: This is the angle that the seat tube stands up from horizontal. This angle determines the rider’s seated position over the back wheel and the amount of control that they will have over the front wheel. A steeper seat tube angle has traditionally been best for bikes that want to climb and keep the rider in a neutral position so they can power hard into the pedals. A steeper seat tube angle also offers the rider the option to have more weight over the front wheels and, in turn, greater control and traction over the front end.

H.) Trail: The distance between the bikes front wheel contact patch with the ground and the steering axis. Greater tire size will provide more trail as well as smaller fork offsets. The more trail, the greater amount of tire will be in contact with the ground and that equals more traction and control.

Other Terms to Know

Fork Offset: The distance between the front axle and the steering axis. Essentially, where the front fork comes down from the head tube is your steering axis, and the small amount of metal that connects the front fork to the axle is the offset. Traditionally, mountain bikes have gone with a 51mm offset for 29” wheels. However, there is a small push towards bringing in smaller offsets, like 44mm, which provide greater trail and more traction.

Travel: This is how far moving parts move on a mountain bike. Mainly referring to the suspension (rear and front). When reading about mountain bikes, specifically a “120 mm travel bike,” the travel they are mentioning is in the rear shock. Frames are built with a level of suspension in mind and are not often switched for different levels of travel, so that is why the travel often only means the rear suspension. Front travel in the forks is easier to switch around, depending on the rider’s preference and terrain, so those numbers will change more frequently.

Bikes with smaller travel (short travel) are better for climbing as the suspension won’t take away too much of your pedaling power as you move uphill, whereas the larger suspension is better for a more controlled and comfortable descent down choppy terrain. Most suspension systems are lockable, meaning you can reduce the amount of travel on the fly, and this helps with climbs. 

Overwhelmed yet? Me too.
Throughout the article, we will be referring to these terms a lot and throwing some numbers around. Every article would become the size of a large Greek tragedy if we described what the impact of the different sizes would do to the particular bike. So with that said if you run into a measurement and you don’t know what impact it would have on the bike, refer back to this section. Hopefully, it helps!
Now let’s talk about some bikes!
NOTICE: When we considered the weight of each bike, do take note that the weights we have listed were taken from the carbon framed version of the bike, which is closest to the $5000 mark, in order to try and get as close to an average build as possible across these bikes. If the bike does not have a carbon frame version, the lightest build weight was taken. Obviously, the weight will change depending on the bike budget you have, but we needed to measure and compare similar styles somehow.
ALSO: It might go without saying, but all prices are in USD.

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes of 2021

 

Our Top Picks

Santa Cruz HightowerBest All-Around Long Travel Bike of 2021
Giant ReignBest Budget Long Travel Bike of 2021
Yeti SB150Best Climbing Long Travel Bike of 2021
Specialized EnduroBest Enduro Bike of 2021
est Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Santa Cruz Hightower - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Backcountry.com

  • Climbing Ability 90% 90%
  • Downhill Ability 90% 90%
  • Overall Fun 90% 90%

Pros

All-around Ability in a Variety of Terrain

Cons

Weight of Some of the Build Options

Travel: 145mm rear/ 150mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 65.2

Seat Tube Angle: 76.3

Reach: 470mm (large frame)

Weight: Starting at 29 lbs

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Giant Reign 29” - Gear Hacker
  • Climbing Ability 70% 70%
  • Downhill Ability 80% 80%
  • Overall Fun 80% 80%

Pros

Maestro Suspension Platform, Price

Cons

Could Use Some Better Brakes

Travel: 146mm rear/ 170mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 64.6

Seat Tube Angle: 76.4

Reach: 488mm (large frame)

Weight: Varies With Frame Material

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Yeti SB150 - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Aventuron.com

  • Climbing Ability 80% 80%
  • Downhill Ability 90% 90%
  • Overall Fun 90% 90%

Pros

Really Playful Bike

Cons

Expensive Build Options

Travel: 150mm rear/ 170mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 64.5

Seat Tube Angle: 76.9

Reach: 480mm (large frame)

Weight: Starting at 31 lbs

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Specialized Enduro - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Specialized.com

  • Climbing Ability 80% 80%
  • Downhill Ability 100% 100%
  • Overall Fun 90% 90%

Pros

DH Bike That Can Climb

Cons

Needs Steeper Seat Tube, Price

Travel: 170mm rear and fork

Head Tube Angle: 63.9/ 64.3

Seat Tube Angle: 76

Reach: 487mm (S4 frame)

Weight: Starting at 32.5 lbs

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Ibis Ripmo - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at JensonUSA.com

  • Climbing Ability 80% 80%
  • Downhill Ability 80% 80%
  • Overall Fun 90% 90%

Pros

Climbing Ability, Ripmo AF Option

Cons

Stock Shock Not Being Fox Float

Travel: 147mm rear/ 160mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 64.9

Seat Tube Angle: 76

Reach: 475mm (large frame)

Weight: Starting at 28.9 lbs

est Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Pivot Switchblade - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Backcountry.com

  • Climbing Ability 90% 90%
  • Downhill Ability 80% 80%
  • Overall Fun 100% 100%

Pros

All-around Performance

Cons

Price

Travel: 142mm rear/ 160mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 66

Seat Tube Angle: 75.5

Reach: 470mm (large frame)

Weight: 30.2 lbs

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Canyon Strive - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Canyon.com

  • Climbing Ability 80% 80%
  • Downhill Ability 80% 80%
  • Overall Fun 80% 80%

Pros

The Shapeshifter

Cons

Also The Shapeshifter

Travel: 150mm rear/ 160mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 66 - 67.5

Seat Tube Angle: 73.5 - 75

Reach: 470mm (large frame))

Weight: Starting at 31.2 lbs

est Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Orbea Rallon - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at JensonUSA.com

  • Climbing Ability 90% 90%
  • Downhill Ability 90% 90%
  • Overall Fun 80% 80%

Pros

Amazing Climber, Custom Paint Job Option

Cons

Short Reach and Cost

Travel: 160mm rear/ 170mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 65

Seat Tube Angle: 75.5/ 76

Reach: 455mm (large frame)

Weight: Starting at 30.95 lbs

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Kona Process X - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Konaworld.com

  • Climbing Ability 60% 60%
  • Downhill Ability 90% 90%
  • Overall Fun 70% 70%

Pros

Chainstay Chip Makes A Difference

Cons

Sluggish At Slow Speeds, Super Long

Travel: 161mm rear/ 170mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 63.5

Seat Tube Angle: 78

Reach: 490mm (large frame)

Weight: 32.8lbs (large frame)

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Norco Sight - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Norco.com

  • Climbing Ability 90% 90%
  • Downhill Ability 80% 80%
  • Overall Fun 80% 80%

Pros

Strong Climber, Stable Descents

Cons

Not As Playful As Older Versions

Travel: 150mm rear/ 160mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 63.5

Seat Tube Angle: 77.7

Reach: 480mm (large frame)

Weight: Starting at 32.23 lbs

est Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Scott Ransom - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Scott-sports.com

  • Climbing Ability 80% 80%
  • Downhill Ability 90% 90%
  • Overall Fun 70% 70%

Pros

Made For The Downhills

Cons

TWINLOC System Needs Some Work

Travel: 170mm

Head Tube Angle: 64.5

Seat Tube Angle: 75

Reach: 466.5mm (large frame)

Weight: Starting Around 30.20 lbs

est Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Nukeproof Mega - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Nukeproof.com

  • Climbing Ability 80% 80%
  • Downhill Ability 90% 90%
  • Overall Fun 90% 90%

Pros

Now Comes With A Water Bottle Mount, Sportier Geometry

Cons

Climbing Could Be More Efficient

Travel: 160mm rear/ 170mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 64

Seat Tube Angle: 78

Reach: 480mm (large frame)

Weight: Heaviest Build 34.2 lbs

Santa Cruz Hightower

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Santa Cruz Hightower - Gear Hacker

Best All-Around Long Travel Bike of 2021

  • Climbing Ability 90% 90%
  • Downhill Ability 90% 90%
  • Overall Fun 90% 90%

Travel: 145mm rear/ 150mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 65.2

Seat Tube Angle: 76.3

Reach: 470mm (large frame)

Weight: Starting at 29 lbs

Price: $7,299

What We Like: All-around Ability in a Variety of Terrain

What We Don’t: Weight of Some of the Build Options

Santa Cruz has created the perfect one quiver bike with the Hightower. With a suspension system that is capable of handling flowy trails to absolutely nightmarish choss piles, the Hightower will make it through. Every tester has been really impressed and surprised by the Hightower and its overall versatility. There really isn’t much more to say other than this bike will climb and mountain and ford any stream. It was easy to give the Hightower our selection as Best All-Around Long Travel Bike of 2021.

Giant Reign

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Giant Reign 29” - Gear Hacker

Best Budget Long Travel Bike of 2021

 
  • Climbing Ability 70% 70%
  • Downhill Ability 80% 80%
  • Overall Fun 80% 80%

Travel: 146mm rear/ 170mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 64.6

Seat Tube Angle: 76.4

Reach: 488mm (large frame)

Weight: Varies With Frame Material

Price: $3,499

What We Like: Maestro Suspension Platform, Price

What We Don’t: Could Use Some Better Brakes

Giant, though late to the 29” party, have produced some impressive 29ers. The Reign is their second 29er after the Trance, and they are definitely dialing it in. The Reign is a solid climber with the Maestro system and a steep seat angle to keep the rider in a good position. Turn the bike downhill and prepare to bash through anything in your way. The 170mm fork is composed and all-business, while the fairly short rear chainstay with the snappy rear shock keeps it lively and poppy. At the prices Giant is offering on their carbon and alloy frames, it was a fairly easy choice to name the Reign as the Best Budget Long Travel Bike of 2021, though you can still splash out if you so choose.

Yeti SB150

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Yeti SB150 - Gear Hacker

Best Climbing Long Travel Bike of 2021

  • Climbing Ability 80% 80%
  • Downhill Ability 90% 90%
  • Overall Fun 90% 90%

Travel: 150mm rear/ 170mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 64.5

Seat Tube Angle: 76.9

Reach: 480mm (large frame)

Weight: Starting at 31 lbs

Price: $5,900

What We Like: Really Playful Bike

What We Don’t: Expensive Build Options

The Yeti SB150 always impresses with its climbing ability and an easy selection as the Best Climbing Long Travel Bike of 2021. Without going overboard on the modern geometry side of things, Yeti has produced a competent climber that is still really aggressive on the downhills. The Infinity Switch system even got an upgrade making the bike more robust. The added suspension makes the bike really playful in the rough and rowdy sections of trails and it has just become a really good all-arounder.

Specialized Enduro

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Specialized Enduro - Gear Hacker

Best Enduro Bike of 2021

  • Climbing Ability 80% 80%
  • Downhill Ability 100% 100%
  • Overall Fun 90% 90%
Travel: 170mm rear and fork Head Tube Angle: 63.9/ 64.3 Seat Tube Angle: 76 Reach: 487mm (S4 frame) Weight: Starting at 32.5 lbs Price: $4,499 What We Like: DH Bike That Can Climb What We Don’t: Needs Steeper Seat Tube, Price

Built for the descent but will also get you uphill with your own power is a tough combination to find. Specialized has come pretty close to nailing it with their new Enduro bikes. The combination of long travel and modern geo has given this downhill rocket the legs to get back up the mountain. The seat tube could be a bike steeper to really help the pedaling efficiency, but it is a small price to pay for the wild downhill skills this bike comes with. It is controlled and composed but also poppy and playful, it has amazing traction when you need it and really just wants to go fast. Add the cool SWAT downtube storage, and it’s hard to find any flaws in this beast, making it our Best Enduro Bike of 2021.

Other Mountain Bikes

Ibis Ripmo

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Ibis Ripmo - Gear Hacker
  • Climbing Ability 80% 80%
  • Downhill Ability 80% 80%
  • Overall Fun 90% 90%

Travel: 147mm rear/ 160mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 64.9

Seat Tube Angle: 76

Reach: 475mm (large frame)

Weight: Starting at 28.9 lbs

Price: $3,999

What We Like: Climbing Ability, Ripmo AF Option

What We Don’t: Stock Shock Not Being Fox Float

New may not always be better, but in the case of the Ibis Ripmo, it most certainly is. Slackening the head tube angle, slightly longer reach, and some protection for the linkages, the Ripmo V2 isn’t too different, but it is better. The more aggressive headtube angle does not take away from the climbing ability of the Ibis’s we have come to know and has only made it more fun on the downs. Now with room for a 750ml water bottle, what can’t this bike do?!

Pivot Switchblade

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Pivot Switchblade - Gear Hacker
  • Climbing Ability 90% 90%
  • Downhill Ability 80% 80%
  • Overall Fun 100% 100%

Travel: 142mm rear/ 160mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 66

Seat Tube Angle: 75.5

Reach: 470mm (large frame)

Weight: 30.2 lbs

Price: $10,899

What We Like: All-around Performance

What We Don’t: Price

Pivot has nailed it. The Switchblade is a dialed-in all-around trail bike that is ready to tackle any terrain, and it will do it in style. The rear shock has been customized by Fox for the Switchblade and has made the bike super-efficient on the uphills but plush and bottomless on the downhills. With a modern but reserved geometry, the Switchblade is highly maneuverable and snappy through tight sections of trail but will also eat up choppy straights. It really is hard to find a negative with the Switchblade other than the price, but also there is a ton of technology that is available to be added to the Switchblade should your wallet allow.

Canyon Strive

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Canyon Strive - Gear Hacker
  • Climbing Ability 80% 80%
  • Downhill Ability 80% 80%
  • Overall Fun 80% 80%

Travel: 150mm rear/ 160mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 66 – 67.5

Seat Tube Angle: 73.5 – 75

Reach: 470mm (large frame))

Weight: Starting at 31.2 lbs

Price: $8,499

What We Like: The Shapeshifter

What We Don’t: Also The Shapeshifter

Canyon has created something very innovative with the Shapeshifter and for that, it’s pretty awesome. However, it seems that if they had originally adjusted some of the geometry, the Strive could be a one-quiver ride without the bells and whistles that in a way also hinder it. Definitely worth a look for a rider who doesn’t like the modern geo all that much but is looking for a do-it-all bike. The all-around nature of the Strive is present, it just feels like you need to do too much while riding to get the best out of the bike.

Orbea Rallon

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Orbea Rallon - Gear Hacker
  • Climbing Ability 90% 90%
  • Downhill Ability 90% 90%
  • Overall Fun 80% 80%

Travel: 160mm rear/ 170mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 65

Seat Tube Angle: 75.5/ 76

Reach: 455mm (large frame)

Weight: Starting at 30.95 lbs

Price: $7,999

What We Like: Amazing Climber, Custom Paint Job Option

What We Don’t: Short Reach and Cost

The Rallon by Orbea is a very composed enduro bike. While the geometry keeps it out of the hard-charging enduro bike categories, it is a super good climber and comfortable all-day rider. The MyO customized paint option provided by Orbea will allow you to have the stealthiest or flashiest bike on the hill if you so choose. The rear linkage has been updated and raised to increase bottom out support and create a more responsive ride while also maintaining control while braking. This bike is excellent if you are not the biggest fan of all of the new modern geometry these days and live in an area where there is a lot of vertical gains to be climbed.

Kona Process X

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Kona Process X - Gear Hacker
  • Climbing Ability 60% 60%
  • Downhill Ability 90% 90%
  • Overall Fun 70% 70%
Travel: 161mm rear/ 170mm fork Head Tube Angle: 63.5 Seat Tube Angle: 78 Reach: 490mm (large frame) Weight: 32.8lbs (large frame) Price: $4,999 What We Like: Chainstay Chip Makes A Difference What We Don’t: Sluggish At Slow Speeds, Super Long

Kona has brought a stretch limousine to a chicane competition it seems. The new Process X is a far cry from what most of the bikes in this article are in terms of geometry and length. While the length and geo make it a downhill superstar, it does not love tight corners and hates uphills just as much as kids chasing the ice cream truck. The flip-chip that increases or decreases the chainstay length does make a big difference in the ride. So it’s all about finding that perfect set up.

Norco Sight

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Norco Sight - Gear Hacker
  • Climbing Ability 90% 90%
  • Downhill Ability 80% 80%
  • Overall Fun 80% 80%

Travel: 150mm rear/ 160mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 63.5

Seat Tube Angle: 77.7

Reach: 480mm (large frame)

Weight: Starting at 32.23 lbs

Price: $6,399

What We Like: Strong Climber, Stable Descents

What We Don’t: Not As Playful As Older Versions

The 2021 is not very different from the 2020 Norco Sight, but it is very different from the 2019 Sight. So know that before reading any further. The new 2021 Norco Sight is a long bike with long chainstays and steep seat tubes to keep everything calm, cool, and collected on climbs and speedy descents. Paired with Norco’s Ride Align app, you can easily dial in your suspension settings to get the most out of your new ride and get cruising. Definitely not the flashiest bike or the bike you ride if you want to let your hair down and show off to your friends. The Sight is rock solid and a hard-charging all-mountain bike that could find itself in some enduro races.

Scott Ransom

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Scott Ransom - Gear Hacker
  • Climbing Ability 80% 80%
  • Downhill Ability 90% 90%
  • Overall Fun 70% 70%

Travel: 170mm

Head Tube Angle: 64.5

Seat Tube Angle: 75

Reach: 466.5mm (large frame)

Weight: Starting Around 30.20 lbs

Price: $9,223.37

What We Like: Made For The Downhills

What We Don’t: TWINLOC System Needs Some Work

Relying too heavily on the TwinLoc system the Scott Ransom just isn’t the bike it could be if it simply utilized the suspension it chose to its fullest. While being a shredder and a great option for enduro races, the suspension just isn’t quite what we were hoping for, and the rest of the impressive bike fell to the wayside. It is a downhill shredder and great for some laps in the bike park. If you don’t climb a lot and mainly use gravity for propulsion, this is a great option.

Nukeproof Mega

Best Long Travel Mountain Bikes: Nukeproof Mega - Gear Hacker
  • Climbing Ability 80% 80%
  • Downhill Ability 90% 90%
  • Overall Fun 90% 90%

Travel: 160mm rear/ 170mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 64

Seat Tube Angle: 78

Reach: 480mm (large frame)

Weight: Heaviest Build 34.2 lbs

Price: $7,332.72

What We Like: Now Comes With A Water Bottle Mount, Sportier Geometry

What We Don’t: Climbing Could Be More Efficient

With a few modifications on the already awesome Mega, Nukeproof has created an amazing bike. They have even added enough room for a water bottle holder, which is great news for people who hate fanny packs. The Mega now comes with a shorter chainstay and a steeper seat tube to make climbing more efficient and the downhills more lively. The build-outs in all five of the options for the Mega are solid and look after the important parts before adding too many bells and whistles. All in all, the Mega is a super all-arounder that would work for any rider of any skill set.

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