Specialized S-Works Epic
Every year, it seems, a Specialized bike is on top. This is the dream race bike if you have $9,000 to $10,000 to spend on a bike and you are a serious endurance racer. It handles like a race car, quick and snappy, but is forgiving enough that even driver error won't necessarily result in a case of dirt rash. That's important in the long hours of a race when you're feeling tired. Of course, if you have this bike, you probably won't get tired, ever.
Best of the 29ers Full Suspension
Two years ago, I rode a Pivot and fell in love with it. I love how it handled the bumps and loved how responsive it was over tricky sessions. This year, I jumped on a Pivot Mach 429 carbon outfit (more than $7,000, depending on the setup) and was happy with it, but not blown away compared to the other bikes I rode. This perhaps isn't any fault of Pivot, but a sign that 29er technology is being mastered by enough bike companies out there to make several comparable rides.
Felt Edict Nine full suspension
I rode this bike at the end of a long day and was only planning to take it for a short spin. Instead, I spent nearly two hours playing on the Felt Edict Nine full suspension (ranges from $2,000 to $10,000 depending on the setup). It was nimble, fast and forgiving.
Using its FAST technology, the Edict Nine has 100 millimeters of travel and was super responsive, but didn't feel choppy either. It was a smooth ride that had my legs saying, 'yes please, let's go for more."
The Santa Cruz Tallboy • This bike actually was released in April (retails about $5,600) and offered a blast of a ride. The handlebars positioned me upright, but I still felt very centered over tricky stuff and didn't feel a loss of power on the climbs.
The Kona Satori • This bike had me grinning (retails about $3,600) and will have those responsible for purchasing it grinning, too. It had a lot of travel and a playful feel, but also was a very efficient climber. This bike is definitely worth a look.
The Yeti SB-95 • This bike felt sluggish (retails about $4,600), and at this price tag, I want a responsive feeling bike. Instead, I had a hard time feeling the power transfer. Perhaps if I'd spent more time toying with the suspension, I could have gotten it dialed in more, but other riders noticed the same thing.
Best of the 26-inch bikes:
Pivot 5.7 • If you want to stick with the traditional 26-inch wheel, consider the Pivot 5.7 (retails about $5,000), an award-winner that continues to please. It's stiff, fast and light, all of which makes for a super-efficient ride. At this price point, it's a serious purchase, but the bike will take a rider far into his or her biking routine.
Best luxury bike:
Last year, it was a Spot single speed that wanted to add to my arsenal. This year, if I had a few extra grand to toss about, my luxury would be a Fatback bike. Built in Anchorage, Ala., these bikes are built for snow. The big, fat tires make the bike look almost like a clown bike and I expected it to be bulky and hard to handle in Moab. Instead, it was a blast, plowing through sand and light enough on the dirt I didn't feel like I was on an oversized Big Wheel. Conveniently placed on the dirt road leading into the festival was a police speed reader warning drivers to keep their limit to 10 MPH. I'm happy to say I got the Fatback up to 22 MPH without any trouble. (Note to Santa: Lya wants a Fatback bike.)
For the undecided:
Tweener bikes are the latest innovation, catering to the undecided crowd waffling between the 26-inch standard wheel and the 29ers with 27.5-inch wheels. I checked out the Jamis Dakar XCT 650 Pro. Jamis has been ahead of the curve in designing the tweeners, and while interesting, it didn't wow me. Perhaps it's a good fit for those who aren't big enough for 29ers, but I didn't like how it handled. It felt gangly to me, it wasn't a comfy trail bike and it didn't respond like a race bike. It was in between, which seems appropriate.
Lya Wodraska is a certified CHEK Practitioner and holistic lifestyle coach. Email questions to Lwodraska@sltrib.com.