Singletrack Issue 121: XXC: Cross Country Extra

by 2

Three bikes that take the short travel full suspension bike to another world.

Words Chipps Photography James Vincent

It’s a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up mountain bike world these days. We have long travel 29ers winning enduro races, 27.5in trail bikes that are slacker than downhill bikes from a mere few years ago. Even how and where riders are riding is changing. Road bikes are going off road, enduro racers are riding to the tops of mountains… and have you seen the state of cross-country World Cup racing these days? Those tracks are gnarly!

In between all of these extremes, the rest of us fit into a broad definition of ‘trail rider’. We need to climb hills on our bikes, we like to descend with control (usually) and style (always, right?) and we sometimes like to race. Usually racing is of the unofficial ‘mates racing’ variety, but occasionally we stray into actual number-on-a-bike land.

What we’ll call a ‘fast trail racer’ has specific and wide-ranging needs in a bike. For a start, the bike will need to be lightweight and built to go fast, but not necessarily with the blistering changes in direction that pure race bikes are capable of. We’re not bumping elbows with Nino or Gunn-Rita on a start straight. We don’t need bikes that change direction with the flick of an eyebrow.

What is needed, though, is a bike that’s capable of sustained speed. That sat-down, pedalling, ‘I could do this all day’ motoring that 24-hour racers, soloists and long-distance riders are capable of.

Versatility really helps, too. If only 1% of your riding time is ever spent racing, wouldn’t it make sense to have a bike to enjoy the other 99% on? While an out and out race bike is a beautiful, single-minded thing, like a race car, it’s often better on the track than in everyday life, and not many of us have the luxury of a fleet of bikes to suit our moods. For most riders, a bike has to fill many roles, whether it’s on group rides, training sessions or that one day of racing.

For this test, we chose some ground rules for our test bikes: 29in wheels, no more than 100mm of rear travel, dropper posts and a head angle slacker than 68°. Turns out that there aren’t many that qualify, but we found three of the four bikes in the world (the fourth was the Nicolai Saturn 11) and got them in to test. Then we tried them under local cross-country hotshots as well as more sedate, trail racers.

Let’s get them lined up!


Intense Sniper XC elite

The first of our trio is the Intense Sniper. While there is a 120/120mm Trail version of the bike, this is the unadorned, hang-on-to-your-hats 100/100mm, as fast as possible XC version. And it looks as fast as its intended use. We’ve been testing the ‘Elite’ build, which is as good as anyone should need, short of the World Cup circuit.

The thought behind the Sniper was to build a bike that was ideal for those fast, flat-out lunch rides and those after-work thrashes where you want to go as fast as possible, but without sacrificing downhill ability. It’s also intended to be a fast, light, shorter travel bike for riders more used to the forgiving ways of trail bikes.

It’s a welcome addition to the range as the relative explosion of new models launched by Intense a couple of years ago seemed to cover every variety of all-mountain and enduro bike without looking at the shorter, lighter race and light-trail market. “This is no twitchy cross-country bike,” says Intense to those riders wary of something fragile and skittery.

Initially, the look and the spec say the opposite to that. The bike is full carbon, with a carbon back end, even a carbon top linkage and magnesium lower link. Carbon extends to other parts like the Intense brand Recon wheels and handlebars. Those wheels hold some reasonably low tread Maxxis Rekon tyres. Even the grips on the flat 760mm carbon bars are own-brand, lightweight foam.

SRAM’s Eagle is almost a given, though there’s a pairing of GX Eagle shifters with X0 Eagle rear mech, which we like. X0 mechs seem to have a greater tolerance of setup and mud in our experience. Up front, there’s a SRAM Stylo carbon chainset running on a new DUB PressFit BB92 bottom bracket.

The other big S takes care of the braking, with Shimano’s XT brakes making for powerful and precise braking, even with 160mm Center Lock rotors front and rear.

The frame itself features bold, squared-off carbon tubes, covered in a jazzy geometric pattern. Far from looking garish, it looks fast and purposeful, like a prototype with a dazzle-camo pattern. The new Intense silhouette is present, with a steeply sloping top tube and a tall seat mast with supporting strut. While this has the effect of making the bike seem smaller than it is, our Medium frame fitted most testers up to 5ft 9in, bearing out Intense’s sizing chart.

The Sniper certainly features some influences of new-school geometry. Our Medium features a 445mm reach, paired to a 50mm stem and 760mm bars, which gives it a very contemporary set of numbers. The stack is more traditional, though, and the drop to the bars from the saddle puts the rider in a fairly committing position. That, again, isn’t an accident and the head-down riding position almost challenges you to get a move on.

Although all the bikes all arrived at the same time as the autumn weather, we kept the Rekon tyres as specced. Despite the bike’s Californian ancestry, there was room enough for the 2.25in tyres, though you’re never going to get some 2.6s in there. Pleasingly, there aren’t any shelves for mud to build up on and with a bit of regular hosing, the bike kept running free and easy.

It did take us a while to track down a persistent creak, though, which turned out to be the internally routed cables clicking and creaking inside the frame, which was something we just had to live with. No doubt a good mechanic (or a good scrub) would cure that for us.

The Sniper had a few riders queuing up to ride it and shock and fork setup didn’t seem to be an issue for any of them. The JS-tuned suspension stiffens up as you pedal, which means that you can run a relatively soft-feeling shock at rest without it feeling bobby.

The popular Fabric Line Elite saddle sits atop a KS Carbon 125mm dropper post, complete with carbon thumb lever at the bar. The push-down action wasn’t popular with riders more used to under-bar levers, and the post’s movement could have been snappier in keeping with the bike’s purpose, but it was predictable and reliable, so we’ll take that.

The Ride

Hopping on the Sniper, you initially expect it to feel short and steep, just because that’s how it looks. What you find is more of a fitted fighter cockpit experience. Everything seems to hand and while the relatively head-down, weight-forward seated position of the low front takes a little bit of getting used to, it feels very apt for the bike.

There’s a definite weight-forward bias, but this seems to put you more in control of the bike. Combined with the 67.5° head angle, this serves to keep the bike feeling stable at just about any speed (until you start losing the tyres in the wet) and any loss of flickability due to a slacker head angle is made up by that immediate feel of the bars under your hands. While it can be harder to hop and pop without extreme body English, the trade-off is a planted feel at the front, where you can steer very precisely through technical features and loose climbs without losing traction.

Oh lordy is this bike fast! From the first pedal stroke, it’s instantly obvious that this bike was made to speed. The combination of the light weight, a time-trialist’s riding position, a stiff frame and suspension that stiffens as you pedal, means that the Sniper had us bagging PR after PR. Look down under hard power on climbs and the suspension barely budges, but ease off a touch on the flats and the bike will soak up the bumps while you keep the power on. Lock it out on longer climbs if you want to feel you’re riding a carbon hardtail if you must, but it’s happy enough open, all the time.

On descents, the Sniper does need showing who’s boss, usually through a combination of assertiveness and confidence. It’s easy to get nudged off line by ruts and obstacles as the light wheels and slim tyres can scrabble for grip, but that weight bias means that you’re always in control from the bars, where it feels that direct steering works better than subtle weight shifts.

The Sniper is very fun to throw around on twisty and undulating trails. The light weight means that changes in direction can happen quickly, though it takes constant vigilance to control the direction and trajectory. Although it accelerates rapidly, the bike needs steady power to keep it at speed once you’re up there, though further surges in power – even seated in a too-big gear – are easily achieved. It’s feels like you’re a big, powerful engine, rather than a high-revving little turbo. Something about the lack of weight, the riding position and the suspension action act to give you a feeling of smug superiority.

That immediateness of the riding position does wane a little over time and rides over a couple of hours took a toll on anyone not youthful or stretchy enough to enjoy that position for too long. While a riser bar would help with that, you’d lose that fighter pilot focus and a lot of what makes the Sniper feel the way it does. Better to just do some more stretching and some more riding.

Overall

The Intense Sniper is a very fast bike that makes the speed seem easy, fun and justified. It requires a rider who is prepared to ride it and boss it around rather than expecting it to do the work for them, but in return it’ll reward you with some blistering climbs and memorable descents. The component spec all seems appropriate for its intended use and it all works seamlessly enough that you don’t think about the gears or the brakes or the tyres – you just think about getting to the top before your mate does.

  • Intense UD Carbon F & R triangle, carbon link
  • Fox Factory 32 Kashima, 100mm
  • Fox Factory DPS, Kashima
  • DT Swiss 350, 28/28
  • Intense Recon Trail 29in carbon
  • Maxxis 29 x 2.25 Rekon DC/EXO/TR
  • SRAM DUB Stylo carbon. 34T
  • SRAM XO1 Eagle 12 speed
  • SRAM GX Eagle 12 speed
  • SRAM 1295 XO1 Eagle 10-50T
  • Shimano XT M8000, 160/160
  • Intense Recon Elite 50mm
  • Intense Flat 760mm carbon
  • Intense Nano Foam
  • KS Carbon Lev Ci, 125mm dropper
  • Fabric Line Elite
  • S, M, L, XL
  • 23.0lbs/10.5kg (without pedals)

Saracen Traverse

  • Price: £2,999.99 (as tested)
  • From: Saracen, saracen.co.uk

Saracen’s rebirth has been covered well-enough in these pages and the brand has been around long enough in its most recent guise to have outgrown any comparison with the brand and bikes of old, so it’s now big enough to stand up on its own merits.

It does still seem a brand at odds with itself at times. On one hand it has a successful downhill racing team, a monster truck downhill bike in the Myst and a great-looking carbon new enduro bike in the Ariel LT, yet it never seems to find as much love in the lighter trail bike category. This new bike, the Traverse, is aimed at reaching those regular trail riders who want some of that magic that has powered Danny Hart and Manon Carpenter to glory.

The Traverse differs to the other bikes on test in a couple of major ways. For a start, it’s not fully carbon fibre – and even then, it challenges what many brands normally do by having an aluminium main triangle and a carbon swingarm. It is also the most affordable bike here by a considerable margin.

Saying that, though, the Traverse still has a good spec and a lot of character. The bike features 120mm travel up front courtesy of Fox 34 Performance forks and 100mm rear travel from a Fox DPS Evol shock. There are no rear pivots on the swingarm as it uses the flex of the carbon for the few millimetres of give that the suspension needs. (If you’re worried about the durability of that process, we’d recommend never looking to see how much aeroplane wings move in flight.)

The suspension system is simple enough, with a single pivot and that flex stay system, but it’s not a million miles away from what Yeti used to do on its old 575 and the lack of whizz-bang pivots and gadgets should bode well for its longevity. The Fox shock and 34 fork up front is from Fox’ Performance line, which lacks the fancy gold Kashima coating, but instead runs shiny black stanchions and shafts. Regardless of anything else, this fits the bike’s aesthetics well.

A pretty bold electric blue and black colour scheme hides some neat welding and simple, no-nonsense frame design. There’s room for a bottle cage (as with all bikes on this test) in the main triangle, which it shares with the (carbon) linkage-driven Fox shock. The seat tube is wide (or is that deep?) where it meets the bottom bracket shell, curving gracefully, but fairly dramatically back over the rear tyre. There’s a hint of seat-mast, but not nearly as much as on the other two. This laid-back seat angle ostensibly measures a pretty slack 72° and taller riders will find their saddle heading further back as the saddle height increases.

Up front is an equally slack 67.5° head angle with the slender top and downtubes converging on a relatively short head tube. Sitting on this is a 50mm forged own-brand stem and 760mm alloy bars. The cockpit is completed with Saracen grips, Shimano M500 brakes and SLX shifters that drive an XT rear mech over the 11-42T cassette. The chainset is an SLX 30T job and front mech fans will be pleased to see that there is a provision for a bolt-on front mech if you want to increase your range.

It’s hard to visually get a measure on the bike sizing on our Medium bike due to that slackish seatpost, but the bike features a reach of 429mm and a stack of 585mm, which gives it quite a low front end (though not as low as the Intense…).

Wheels are tubeless-ready WTB i25 TCS rims running on Formula 32H hubs, which interestingly feature a boost (110mm) front hub, but a ‘normal’ 142mm rear hub. Saracen claims to have done this to stop heel-rub, but the bike’s dropouts perversely still take a 148mm thru-axle, which doesn’t hold that theory out. It does, however, allow the rear (flat-mount) caliper to sit tidily inside the rear triangle on the chainstay.

Holding the chunky derailleur hanger in place is a large 22mm nut, which we did have come loose once. It’s not a size tool in most people’s rucksacks, so it’s one to check.

Tyres are some fast-looking Maxxis Forekaster and Ikon in 2.35in. Of course there’s a dropper post, and our bike was fitted with an X Fusion 125mm dropper post, though a JD post is specced. We’ve no complaints here about either posts when we’ve used them in the past. Topping that is a Kore Connex saddle, which was comfy enough that it didn’t immediately make us swap it out, which previous Kore saddles have.

The Ride

The Traverse initially gives a wide mix of feelings when you first sit on it. The bars are reasonably low and the slack seat angle makes them feel a long way away, even though the tape measure puts them similar to the other bikes. Once rolling, this translates to a pretty stretched-out feel, which more epic-day-out riders should appreciate. Another symptom of the seat angle is the pedalling position, where the rider feels perched over the rear wheel, with the pedals further forward than they should be. With some bikes now rocking 76° or even 78° seat angles, this can feel very disconcerting. If you rarely get to ride state-of-the-art super-bikes, then you probably won’t even notice, but if you’re particularly sensitive about your bike setup, it might niggle for a while.

The bike’s alloy front end does give the bike some heft, and a couple of our more sensitive cross-country racers swore that they could feel the difference in balance between the alloy front and the carbon rear of the bike, with the Traverse feeling ‘planted’ at the front compared to the rear. This could also be as a result of the slack or the low and long-feeling front end.

Climbing, though, was a pleasant surprise on the Traverse, as the bike seemed to rocket up climbs. It can take a few pedal strokes to get up to ramming speed, but once there, the bike holds speed very well, just like we were promised of 29ers of the future. On more ‘down country’ trails, the Traverse again rode well, with the stiff 34 fork and that planted feel allowing some audacious descending. It’s hard to jump and pop off stuff, but there’s a great feeling of bulldozing invulnerability, which you don’t often get from a cross-country 29er.

The non-series Shimano 500 brakes, while feeling great in the car park, definitely reached the limits of heat and attention span on longer descents and they probably deserve at least a brake pad upgrade as soon as you can afford it. And less fit riders appreciated having the 11-46T cassette on the long climbs as the 30T ring on the SLX chainset is as small as it can go. Other components, though, worked fine and should last for yonks. Even the lightly-treaded Maxxis Forecaster and Ikon tyres performed well on anything that wasn’t slick mud or giant rocks.

Although the Traverse didn’t have that excitable feel of a thoroughbred racer, sometimes that’s not what a non-racer is after. Not everyone wants a bike that needs a double espresso just to mentally keep up with. In contrast, the Traverse managed to feel calm and collected on a range of terrain, whether that was moorland singletrack or steep rocky slabs. The lack of immediate zip was replaced with a ‘bigger picture’ feeling of calmer exploration where you started to look beyond the top of the hill and towards the hill beyond that. If you’re keen to get out and just see where your nose takes you, it seems that the Traverse is an aptly named companion. And while we’re wandering over hilltops, we wonder if the Traverse might suit longer event riding like 24hrs and bikepacking, although the suspension gubbins and dropper post would preclude the fitting of too much luggage, even if the potential to fit a double chainset and front mech is very much there.

For smoother, fast, winding and mostly predictable trails though, like for hot laps at Llandegla, or banging out a South Downs Way or two, the Traverse is a definite winner.

Overall

While some riders never got over that super-slack seat tube, the Traverse delighted most riders who swung a leg over it. We can’t help but wonder if it was originally meant to be a 100/100mm bike like the Sniper that just got a longer 120mm fork fitted. (That would explain the 72° seat angle.) However, just because it doesn’t have the modern trend for steep seat angles, doesn’t mean it doesn’t ride well and we were delighted and perhaps a little surprised to find that it’s a little climbing machine and great fun on swoopy, gritty trails where you can get it up to speed and keep it there.

  • Butted alloy front triangle, UD carbon swingarm
  • Fox 34 Float Performance, 120mm
  • Fox Float DPS Performance EVOL
  • Formula, 110mm Boost front, 142mm rear
  • WTB STP i25 TCS 29
  • Maxxis Forecaster EXO/TR2.35, Ikon EXO/TR 2.35
  • Shimano SLX M7000 30T
  • Shimano Deore XT M8000, Shadow Plus
  • Shimano SLX 1×11
  • Shimano M7000 11-46T
  • Shimano M500, 180/160mm
  • Saracen 31.8 x 50mm
  • Saracen 6061 Alloy Riser, 760mm
  • Saracen Lock-on
  • JD YSP12L – 125mm dropper (X Fusion fitted)
  • Kore Connex
  • Medium
  • S, M, L, XL
  • 30lbs/13.6kg (without pedals)

Yeti SB100

  • Price:  £6,999.00 (as tested)
  • From: Silverfish, silverfish-uk.com

Yeti’s SB100 is a 120mm forked, 100mm rear travel cross-country bike, again from a company that has been coming out with killer mid-travel trail bikes for the last few years, with little to please the ‘endurance over enduro’ crowd. Yeti has form in the ‘fast and light’ world, though, having made some great bikes like the ASR-C not that long ago.

Much of Yeti’s recent attention has been in perfecting its ‘Switch Infinity’ suspension system. This uses a single pivot that moves position as the bike goes through its travel. The pivot’s path is kept in line by using a couple of small Kashima-coated (and co-developed with Fox) stanchions with sliders that run over them. On Yeti’s bigger trail bikes, there’s a window in the frame where you can see this all happening. But on the SB100, this system has been turned sideways and hidden in the seat tube behind an access hatch. This leaves the bike with some very clean lines. Side-on, our size Medium bike achieves that aesthetically pleasing straight line between the top tube and the seatstays.

The name comes from the 100mm of rear travel, and it seems that Yeti is adopting this metric format for its 29in wheeled bikes (there’s a new SB130 and SB150 too) and keeping the imperial naming for its 27.5in machines (the SB5 and SB6 for example). This is a great advance over the previously confusing ‘half sizes’ where the SB5.5 was a 29er and the SB5 was a 27.5.

The carbon frame shapes are very organic, with flowing lines throughout. Yeti offers two different levels of carbon frame – the T (or Turq – turqoise, geddit?) and a less expensive C-series. The C-Series builds start at £4,899 for the 2019 GX build, but ours is the top of the shop spec T-Series XO1 Eagle model for a cool seven grand.

As you’d expect from a bike of this calibre, the spec list is pretty top shelf. Up front, a Fox Factory 34 Step Cast takes care of handling duties and a matching Factory DPS shock does the rear. Completing the Fox family is the excellent 125mm Transfer dropper post.

A SRAM Eagle groupset takes care of shifting duties, with GX Eagle shifters shifting an X0 Eagle rear mech and 30T carbon X01 Eagle chainset running on a PressFit BB92 SRAM DUB bottom bracket. Cassette is a 10-50T Eagle cassette, giving the usual massive range of 12 gears.

Gear cables run internally through neat ports in the side of the head tube – although they’re formatted to favour US rear brake on the left and UK-style brake hoses make a tighter, less elegant bend to get to the port.

A Yeti-branded 35mm by 760mm carbon bar runs on a 50mm Race Face stem and houses the Fox Transfer under-bar lever, the SRAM Eagle shifter and Shimano XT brake levers.

So far, so lightweight cross-country racer, but moving to the wheels and we see a pair of DT Swiss M1700 wheels with a decent 25mm internal width – not your normal cross-country race wheel. And it gets even less racy when you look at the tyres. The Maxxis Minion DHF 2.3 up front and an Aggressor 2.3 out back telegraph this bike’s intentions as a bike with scope way bigger than the cross-country race course. Given the swoopy shapes and top flight components, the chunky tyres come as a bit of a shock, but they soon look like they belong on this bike.

The SB100 looks, and immediately feels, like it’s sitting up more than the other bikes on test, and that’s borne out with the numbers. Reach is a pretty standard 432mm on our Medium, but a 612mm stack puts the handlebars a good 30mm higher up than Intense and the SB100 immediately feels a lot more relaxed and playful than the ‘mere’ 100mm of travel would indicate. In fact, looking down (at the pleasingly off-centre seat tube) at the BB shell, you’ll see ISCG tabs for a chain device. Again, not normal cross-country bike fare. Despite the PressFit BB, the bike remained silent for the whole test, and a look under the inspection plate covering the Switch Infinity mechanism revealed a reasonably grit-free pair of mini stanchions. If you’re in the habit of submerging your bike in mud, though, you’ll want to make sure you invest the time (and faff) of a proper clean and service.

The Ride

The Yeti SB100 is the bike that riders coming from a trail bike felt most at home on right away. The more upright riding position and chunkier looks give the bike a more capable, all-round attitude. Those bigger tyres and trail wheels give a fair amount of confidence and we were soon throwing the bike around without regard for its ‘mere’ 100mm of travel.

Compared to the other bikes, the rear suspension remained constantly active. While there was no squat or noticeable bobbing under pedalling, a glance down revealed a shock that worked all of the time. This was reassuring for trail riders who, if they’ve paid for suspension, damn well want it working, but some of the racier testers worried (as racers do) about their precious energy being robbed by the suspension soaking up bumps under sprinting and climbing. But you’re probably not that bothered, eh? If you’re that worried about efficiency, though, the shock switch is easy to find.

The suspension worked that well, and with such suppleness, that it was possible to feel a little too removed from the trail. If you want your bike to be working away, sucking up the bumps, then you’ll really like it though. On steeper, technical climbs, there was even the feeling that the bike wasn’t going that fast, only to find that it was the quickest run of the month.

For the travel, it comes close to the fabled magic carpet ride, even though that might disappoint riders looking for more of an interactive experience where they have to pick better lines. The SB100 is great at hoovering up the trail and it was very easy to forget that we weren’t on a longer travel bike. With such a supple suspension, it was also easy to worry about bottoming out the bike on drops and faster runs, but the closest we managed was about a millimetre off full travel, helping further the bottomless feeling of the bike.

The Switch Infinity system does its job of subtly altering the pivot position efficiently, hidden behind its panel in the back of the seat tube. It’s probably for the best that it’s hidden as it doesn’t actually move that much and you certainly can’t see it move while riding the bike. The panel could have covered the opening a little better as it acts more like an oversized mudguard for the Switch Infinity than a hermetic seal. At least there’s circulation room to allow the mud to dry, but cleaning it is a wheel-out, panel-off job to do properly, which shouldn’t take long, but might require you to remind yourself of the investment you’re trying to protect when it’s cold and dark and a warm fire calls.

The components on the bike performed excellently, as you’d expect (or demand, at this price) and the bike was free of fuss and drama. The cables remained rattle-free, though where they briefly exit the bottom of the downtube, through the tube armour and before heading to their respective chainstays, there seemed to be room to damage hoses if you were in the habit of scraping your way over rocky steps as the hose and cables are the first bit of the bike to hit when beaching the bike over logs and rocks. Or perhaps we worry too much.

Apart from the eye-watering price, there’s very little to fault either the performance or the spec of the bike. It’s a novelty to have such chunky tyres on a racier bike and, while tyres are easily changed, the fact that they make the stock spec is a testament to Yeti’s vision for the bike.

Overall

The Yeti SB100 does a great job of taking a short travel chassis and beefing the spec up just enough to make it a bike that every rider can enjoy. Having a relatively light and fast bike with the grip of an enduro racer is a rare treat and it shows that Yeti has a good idea what its customers are after.

Saying that, though, the un-racy, middling weight and short travel does make you start wondering about stepping up to the SB130 where, for the same price and probably minimal weight gain, you’d get the key to a whole bigger world of riding. If, however, you want a short travel bike that will go lighter and racier if you want it, but which will be an absolute scream for the 98% of the time it doesn’t see any race tape, then this could be the exact point at which the sometimes disparate worlds of cross-country race and lightweight trail intersect.

  • Yeti T-series, full carbon fibre frame
  • Fox Factory 34, 120mm, Step Cast
  • Fox Factory DPS
  • 29in, DT Swiss M1700/25
  • Maxxis Minion DHF 2.3, Maxxis DHF 2.3
  • SRAM XO1 Carbon Eagle 30T
  • SRAM XO1 Eagle
  • SRAM GX Eagle
  • SRAM 1275 Eagle 10-50T
  • Shimano XT M8000
  • Race Face Turbine 35 x 50mm
  • Yeti Carbon 35 x 760mm
  • Ergon GE1
  • Fox Transfer 125mm dropper.
  • WTB Volt
  • Medium
  • S, M, L, XL
  • 26.6lbs/12kg (without pedals)

The Verdict

If you only want to go fast, everywhere, just get the Intense Sniper. It’s a head-down, arse-up speed machine. Picking your way down a nadgery rock trail, or bumping off tabletops is not where it shines, though it can more than hold its own on the bumpier stuff, but where it’s at home – on a race course, or just on trails you didn’t think you could ride any faster – it really excels.

It’s expensive, yes, but you can spend a lot more money than this and still not come up with anything better. There’s nothing unique or bespoke on the frame and there’s no reason it couldn’t continue to be upgraded as parts wear out. Given the fun we had riding the Sniper, you’re going to be wearing out a lot of tyres, chains and grips as it’s a bike you want to ride day after day.

If you just want ‘enough’ travel and you want a fast, fun bike that keeps its speed and doesn’t have a million pivots, then the Saracen Traverse is well worth a look. We can’t help but think that it’d be better as a 100mm/100mm bike to steepen up the angles a touch as the laid-back seating position didn’t win fans, but for riders looking for reliable comfort on long days out, the Traverse is great.

The Yeti SB100 is a bike that’s looking for a very particular rider. You ride in terrain that doesn’t need big (or even medium) travel, but you ride hard and you’re always pushing the limits of traction. You muscle the bike around and go full-gas whenever you can, but you’re still able to pick a smooth line at a million miles an hour. And needless to say, you like having nice things.

Three different bikes with three very different characters; the flat-out speed machine, the more considered landscape crusher and the fast finesser. You definitely need one of these three, but only you are going to know which one.


Extras Gallery

Click any image to get started

Comments (2)

    There’s too many of these bikes for my wallet to handle! After having a series of 150mm travel bikes, I’ve just gone to a Scott Spark RC and it’s a revelation!

    I’ve not missed the extra travel as the speed everywhere else more than makes up for it. The fact that this sort of bike is seeing a rise in popularity doesn’t bode well for my bank balance (or credit score!). I can be a bit of a serial bike swapper, and have yet to keep a bike for longer than 12-13 months!

    Hello Singletrackworld Team, how are you ?
    We have another bikes that checks the 100 mm rear travel / 120 mm front:
    Orbea oiz TR , Santa Cruz Blur TR and Pivot Mach 429 Sl.
    Do you intend test these bikes soon ?
    Best regards and congratulations for the Great article.

Leave a Reply