Benji and the team set out to stick to the trail, without veering off into the enduro or cross-country.
Words: Benji, Photography: Amanda
We can’t remember when the term ‘trail bike’ came into being. It feels like it kind of snuck into the conversation sometime around the surge of enduro into the mountain biking mainstream. Like most bike niche names it’s annoying, but also useful.
A trail bike is almost defined by what it is not, as opposed to what it is. It’s not a weight-focused cross-country bike. It’s not a stopwatch-checking enduro bike. It could be argued that a trail bike is no longer ‘allowed’ to be a hardtail. A trail bike has got to consciously have no wilful restrictions about what sort of riding it gets up to. A trail bike has got to have suspension at the back and a healthy amount of travel up front. We’d say we’re now at the point in the evolution of mountain biking that the minimum amount of fork travel that can be truly classed as un-compromised is 140mm (maybe a very good 130mm fork).
With that in mind, here we have three mountain bikes that fall within the suspension bracket: 140–160mm forks, 125–150mm rear travel. Kitted out with realistic finishing kit. Nothing OTT in terms of needless bulk nor limiting weight weenieism.
In alphabetical order then, first up is the Canyon Spectral 125 CF 8, from Canyon’s totally new model range. Seriously modest amounts of travel (140mm/125mm) paired to eyebrow-raising progressive geometry. Next up is the Pace RC295. We’ve been waiting a long time to have a go on this unique looking 135mm travel (150mm fork) mountain bike from one of the most storied Brit bike brands of all time. Rounding off our trail bike trio is something of an obvious choice. It’s a Stumpy. But not just any old Stumpy. This is the Specialized Stumpjumper Evo Alloy. It’s a benchmark bike. It’s indicative of where we’re at with trail bikes.
Are we any closer to defining what a trail bike is in the Year of our Lord 2022? We think we might be.
A trail bike has to be capable. Capable on any type of terrain it is likely to encounter. And, crucially, it has to be enjoyable on any type of terrain. A trail bike is not a cross-country bike. Cross-country bikes aren’t capable on bike park or enduro track insania. A trail bike is not an enduro bike. Enduro bikes are not enjoyable on mild moorlands.
Of the three bikes we tested, the different amounts of rear suspension travel did have an impact on the ride experience but it was not the governing factor. How each bike’s suspension was dished out, regardless of amount, was key.
The Canyon Spectral 125 turned out not to be a trail bike even though its travel numbers would put it there or thereabouts. The Spectral 125 is a… dunno. It’s a delicious oddball. It’s a ragging playbike for off-road BMXers.
The Pace RC295 was unashamedly MOReish (Middle of the Off-Road) and makes for a great dance partner for the more balletic bikers. It was a better bike than we ever thought it would be and it’s great to see the Pace marque on such a modern machine.
The Specialized Stumpjumper Evo Alloy was the excellent every(wo)man. It’s not a compromised Jack of all trades. It’s more like a renaissance ripper that is pretty genius at everything. Easy to set up, easy to ride, easy to trust, easy to live with.
The crazy Canyon was firm AF. The purring Pace was an elegant absorber. The stunning Stumpjumper was Artificial Intelligence aceness.
|Tested:||by Benji for 2 months|