The ‘Mericans – Classic USA Brand Bike Test

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The team get rolling on some old school American brands to see how they’re moving with the times.

Words by Benji, Fahzure Freeride, Hannah and Ross. Pictures by Amanda.

Yee-haw! Hot dog! Awesome! Have a nice day! From my cold dead hands! I did not have sexual relations with that woman! Cowabunga! Covfefe! (Have we offended every single American reader yet?). Yes, it’s time to celebrate all things American. Not really. It’s just time to have a look at three bike brands that have been making mountain bikes pretty much as long as anyone. 

Sure, we can all make arguments that A.N.Other nation invented the mountain bike. “The French did this in the 60s”… “Geoff Apps did this in 1966”… but that’s all just so much contrarian fluff. America invented the mountain bike as we know it. That’s just how it is. Much like it was Herr Benz who invented the motor car but it wasn’t until Yankee Doodle Henry Ford actually did Something Big with it that it had any effect on anything, if we left it to a small bunch of willfully uncommercial oddball European mountain bike ‘inventors’, we wouldn’t have mountain bikes as we know today. You’d probably be golfing right now. God bless America.

What bikes have we gone with then? Cannondale is here with its Habit Carbon LT 1. Intense has proffered its Tracer 29 Pro. And we have Yeti and its SB160 rounding out the Transatlantic Test Trio.

NB: All Americanized spellings are deliberate.

Cannondale Habit Carbon LT 1 review

  • Price: £4,750
  • From: Cannondale
  • Tested by: Ross

“The Habit LT is a great trail bike. It pedals well. It is comfortable to spin away for hours, but more than anything, it puts a massive smile on your face when you do the downs. It’s the sort of bike that would suit a huge spectrum of riders. It’s happy to put in the miles and cruise along some singletrack, but when it comes time to open the taps and properly “‘ave it”, it shines.”

Read the full review of the Cannondale Habit Carbon LT 1

Intense Tracer 29 Pro review

  • Price: £5,799
  • From: Intense Cycles
  • Tested by: Fahzure Freeride

“The Tracer 29 is two bikes in one and that’s not necessarily a good or bad thing. Who is the Tracer for? If you ride at pedal-up bike parks and trail centres or have access to moderate climbs this could be the bike for you. The combination of lightness and pedalling efficiency will far outshine the compromises in rider position on the Tracer 29.”

Read the full review of the Intense Tracer 29 Pro

Yeti SB160 review

  • Price: £7,299
  • From: Silverfish UK
  • Tested by: Hannah

“I’ll grant that the Switch Infinity gives a magic carpet ride feel, but I remain to be convinced that’s a ride quality I want enough to warrant all the extra stanchions and cost that comes attached to it. But I don’t think most people that buy the Yeti SB160 are buying it because it represents a great value package and premium performance. They’re buying it for the great performance and the prestige of Yeti history, fandom, and the chance to be just a little bit more like Richie Rude.”

Read the full review of the Yeti SB160


And so comes the time to draw our conclusions. What have we all earned from this Transatlantic Test Trio? It’s hard to say. This test wasn’t meant to be your usual head-to-head-to-head shoot-out winner-takes-all rosette-fest. It was about assessing just where in tarnation the American ATB scene is these days. And in that regard these three brands have three very different tales to tell.

Cannondale is arguably not very American anymore. It’s a very International brand. It feels more European than American. And, while that’s no bad thing in terms of actual bike performance – the Habit LT is an excellent trail bike – it doesn’t feel like Cannondale is continuing anything genuinely in the way of brand heritage or ethos. Where’s the system integration? Where’s the classic font? Where’s the… weirdness?

Intense has perhaps the wildest – certainly most up and down-est – tale to tell. From being unarguably the most desirable mountain bike brand on the planet in the 90s through to a tricksy time in the 2010s where it seemingly lost focus, Intense has seemingly calmed the waters. It no longer offers high-zoot very metal boutique bikes available though only the very best bike shops. They’re mail order carbon fibre bikes. It’s still Jeff Steber though. Intense still clearly loves its World Cup Elite DH racing. Its bikes still look like Intenses. They’re still quirky. Intense is still deliberately or accidentally (who knows?) avoiding making proper all-round trail bikes. We still have a soft spot for it and its bikes.

Yeti then. Plus ça change, as an American would most definitely not say. There are some things in life that you can rely on. Yetis will never be cheap. Yetis will always have fans. Yetis will always look like Yetis. Yeti may no longer do much in the way of supporting XC or DH but it has a genuine passion for MTB racing still (Enduro). We hold these truths to be self-evident.

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Tested: by Benji, Fahzure Freeride, Hannah and Ross for Singletrack World Magazine Issue 151

Orange Switch 6er. Stif Squatcher. Schwalbe Magic Mary Purple Addix front. Maxxis DHR II 3C MaxxTerra rear. Coil fan. Ebikes are not evil. I have been a writer for nigh on 20 years, a photographer for 25 years and a mountain biker for 30 years. I have written countless magazine and website features and route guides for the UK mountain bike press, most notably for the esteemed and highly regarded Singletrackworld. Although I am a Lancastrian, I freely admit that West Yorkshire is my favourite place to ride. Rarely a week goes by without me riding and exploring the South Pennines.

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