The best of the best

2022 made up for lost time, delivering some of the most exciting products in years. Most bikes and products are pretty good these days, but a select few stand out, earning a shout out from the MBA editors and wrecking crew.



If a little is good, more is better, especially when it comes to power. And when it comes to power, no other electric bike has topped Rocky Mountain’s Altitude Powerplay. It’s not just the punchy assist that makes this bike great. The mid-high pivot rear suspension works exceptionally well, and the enduro-flavored geometry excels on the steeps. Yeti’s 160E and Santa Cruz’s Heckler really impressed, but this bike wowed us. It is so good, one of the editors bought our test bike. Read the full review here.



Another standout that pushed the performance/value needle was the Stumpjumper EVO Alloy. This trail bike impressed us with a combination of dialed suspension, aggressive handling and tons of chassis adjustability. Throw in the SWAT downtube compartment storage and great spec, and this aluminum bike won the hearts of more than one wrecking crew member. Read the full review here.



Our August issue was packed with value-driven bikes and gear, but it was the Ibis wheels that really stood out to us then, and are still impressing us months later with their combination of performance and durability. Clever rim reinforcements allow these hoops to take a beating and come back for more. Plus, they are eMTB approved, and the rims come with a seven-year replacement warranty—just like Ibis’ carbon hoops. Composite wheels may be a little lighter and perform a bit better, but, at a fraction of the price, quality aluminum wheels like the Blackbird Send models make sense for a lot of riders. Read the review here.


Giant Trance X
Pivot Shadowcat


We know what you’re thinking—it was in the “Trends” story that we wrote the wheel war had been won by the 29-inch size. That’s true, but we are thrilled to see manufacturers applying modern designs to the 27.5-inch wheel size. This award is given to both the Pivot Shadowcat and Giant Trance X. Why? Because these bikes are an absolute riot to ride. They may not be “better,” but both deliver an above-average fun factor that only 27.5-inch wheels can provide. On a recent trip to Park City, Utah, we couldn’t help but notice that Eric Porter and his son, Milo, were both riding 27.5-inch-wheeled Diamondbacks when they could ride any model they wanted. The reason? Fun. When they are not racing, they prefer the agility and snap of the smaller wheels. Why do you ride? See the Pivot Shadowcat review here and Giant Trance X review here.



Every now and then a bike comes along that rewrites the rules and expectations for its category, and no other bike did that like Trek’s mid-powered, lightweight Fuel EXe electric bike. It rides more like a regular mountain bike than any other eMTB we have ridden, and it does so with a quiet smoothness that’s almost unbelievable. If that’s not enough, Trek spec’d a nice display and simple remote switch that gives it the clean look of a mountain bike.



It’s a beautiful thing when technology comes along that improves safety as well as comfort and reduces plastic use, and that’s just what Lazer’s new KinetiCore helmet technology does. The Jackal helmet has become an MBA staff favorite because it’s incredibly comfortable, even in stifling heat, and the overall styling is on point, too. Little details—such as soft, lightweight strap webbing; a Fidlock magnetic closure; and a nicely integrated, removable mount for a GoPro or a light—are just icing on this cake.



This bike took us by complete surprise. Not only was it a Kickstarter-funded bike and a prototype made in the garage of a mad scientist, it actually rode really well. Our skepticism was quickly replaced by optimism after riding the bike and meeting founder Tim Lane. The bike is now shipping and in production. We will be reviewing the final version soon, but we give this bike an Editors’ Choice Award for a new startup brand beating the odds.



We love flat pedals, but it takes a great shoe to really make them work. Ride Concepts’ Tallac quickly became a staff favorite, with tons of pedal grip; a lightweight, breathable and great-fitting upper; and just the right amount of sole stiffness. We also like that they dare to look different in a sea of skate-inspired designs. When there’s nothing you would change, that means these shoes are pretty much perfect, right?



It might seem strange to give a heavy steel hardtail any sort of award, but the Honzo ESD’s combination of enduro-flavored geometry and a capable spec made for a bike we simply couldn’t stay off of. Even though it’s overbuilt and ready to send it, the steel frame gives this bike the kind of ride that’s pleasing to the senses instead of a beat-down. This bike is so much fun, it was also bought by an MBA editor. Read the full review here.



When Ibis created a sub-2000-gram carbon cross-county frame and manufactured it in the USA, it was hard not to love it. Its carbon-finish beauty is more than skin deep. This bike performs with cross-country-focused, speedy acceleration and sharp handling. Jenny Rissveds proved the Exie’s mettle with an XCC World Cup win and multiple podiums. Readers with a sharp memory will note that we reviewed the Exie in late 2021, but it’s so good, we haven’t forgotten about it. Read the full review here.

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