B’TWIN ROCKRIDER 920 SE – £749
Decathlon say this was designed by a “team of experts” and I don’t believe them. This bike feels like it was put together by one individual who was given a budget, knew what they were doing, and stuck to it. It does NOT feel like it was designed by a committee.
It’s the cheapest bike on this list and you can get perfectly decent B’TWIN bikes cheaper. I’d struggle to recommend another brand I’d recommend in their price range. But this bike comes with some impressive specs, including SRAM GX 1×11 drive chain and Manitou Minute Comp forks.
Heller Barghest NX – £2,130
Immediately, the design of the frame strikes you as sophisticated, paired-down and restrained – with minimalist decals to match. This is a good thing, as the techy look of the 2010s needs to morph into something new. So, beyond the cosmetics what does it have to offer?
The Barghest offers 130mm travel in the rear suspension but the chainstay is only 17.4”, which should offer you a bit more control when you’re leaning back on slow technical descents. Coupled with the full carbon frame, the whole bike weighs in at 14.5kg – reducing the risk your bike will pull away dramatically when bunny-hopping across outcrops.
Specialized Women’s Epic Comp Carbon – £3500
A major selling point will be the Brain 2.0 technology coupled with the “Rider-First Engineered” frame. The latter means the geometry changes depending on the size of bike, and therefore rider, rather than just shrinking or enlarging the proportions wholesale.
Specialized tell you that Brain 2.0 technology, developed in partnership with RockShox, is now even better to reacting to conditions under the tyres. In practice you now get a “Brain Fade” lever which enables you to change the reaction time of the suspension through five different settings.
Whyte S-150 C – £3,850
Carbon fronted with an aluminium backend, the Whyte is a tale of two cities. Not exactly the best-looking bike, it more than compensates by being one of the most versatile bikes in the list. If you can’t choose between 29 or 27.5 tyres, you should know that the Whyte can handle both.
Buying a second set of premium wheels more than doubles the value of this bike and, if I’m being honest, takes the sting out of deciding what your next frame purchase will be. We very much approve of any design feature that increases the life cycle of your bicycle.
Orange T7 – £5,900
If you’ve ever ridden an Orange P7 you’ll know their steel frames help them glide over rough ground like a tank filled with helium. The T7 ditches the steel in favour of a titanium frame, combining the comfort of steel with the lightness of carbon. And the result is an agile, comfortable hardtail.
The T7 is likely to go down as one of the greatest bikes ever made. If you’re lucky enough to have got your hands on one of the 15 made, you’ll get to enjoy SRAM X01 12 gearing, Race Face Next R carbon bars and stem. Oh… and the Hope Tech discs are a special edition anodized gold.