MTB

6 of the best cross country bikes for 2019

© Trek Bikes
Written by James McKnight
If you're in need of an excuse to buy a new bike, these XC rigs are it.
When it comes to all-out singletrack speed, there is nothing like a short-travel cross-country (XC) mountain bike.
What makes the best XC bike? Aggressive angles that put the rider in a forward position, seat positioned directly over the cranks for maximum power through the pedals, lightweight frame and components for efficiency, and big 29er wheels to help carry rolling speed over all surfaces. Strength is not the priority here – you won’t be hitting big jumps on an XC bike – but it must be able to survive long rides at high pace.
We’ve selected some of the best cross-country mountain bikes, chosen for their speed, desirability, practicality and credentials.

1. BMC Fourstroke 01 One – €9,999 (about £8,900)

BMC Fourstroke 01
BMC Fourstroke 01
  • Buy it: in-store
  • 100mm travel
  • Material: Carbon fibre
  • 29” wheels
  • 4 sizes
This super-bling ride from Swiss company BMC, sponsor of XC legend Julien Absalon, will make you the envy of all your riding friends, especially when you drop the seat using its sleek integrated dropper seatpost and blast away on the descents. An integrated fork stopper limits how far the fork can spin around during a crash, saving the straight downtube (said to allow better weight-stiffness ratio) from any impacts. The fine-looking carbon frame is finished with neat cable routing, integrated mud stoppers near the lower pivots, and the fastest components in the business. This is a bike with which to lay down the power on your local singletracks or at your next World Cup XC race. The price of this Fourstroke 01 One is enough to make any grownup cry, but there are less pricey models available.

2. Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup Race – £5,699

SCOTT Spark RC 900 World Cup Bike
SCOTT Spark RC 900 World Cup Bike
  • Buy it: in-store or online
  • 100mm travel
  • Material: Carbon fibre
  • 29” wheels
  • 4 sizes
Scott’s Spark is truly one of the most decorated full-suspension cross-country bikes out there, having carried Switzerland’s Nino Schurter to innumerable victories – not least his latest World Championships win in Lenzerheide in 2018. What makes the bike so good? This is a superlight, super-aggressive steed that pedals with incredible efficiency, not least thanks to Scott’s own TwinLoc remote suspension control that switches the bike from 100mm travel to 70, or complete lockout at the flick of a handlebar-mounted switch. The price tag is high, but this bike isn’t only happy on the race track – it’s at home ripping techy singletrack too.

3. Specialized Epic Expert EVO – £5,150

Epic Expert EVO
Epic Expert EVO
  • Buy it: in-store or online
  • 100mm/120mm rear/front travel
  • Material: Carbon fibre
  • 29” wheels
  • 4 sizes
For something a little different, Specialized’s Epic Expert EVO puts a 120mm-travel fork onto a frame that usually sports a 100mm fork. This raises the front end and slackens the head angle, setting the bike up to be thrashed that little bit harder than the other models in the Epic range. Wide 2.3-inch tyres and a dropper seatpost also help state the bike’s intentions. A well-crafted frame layers the carbon fibre specifically for each area of the bike, allowing its manufacturer to reduce weight from previous models without sacrificing strength. This is a cross-country bike made for off-the-race-track shredding, an everyday singletrack weapon.

4. Trek Top Fuel 8 – £2,500

Trek Top Fuel 8
Trek Top Fuel 8
  • Buy it: in-store or online
  • 100mm travel
  • Material: Aluminium
  • 29” wheels
  • 5 sizes
For something a little more budget, Trek’s Top Fuel 8 promises the angles and snappy singletrack speed of its pricier siblings in the Top Fuel range without breaking the bank. An aluminium frame delivers 100mm of trail-smoothing suspension travel with a modern 1x12 drivetrain and reliable components. A TwistLoc remote suspension lockout blocks both front and rear suspension at the twist of a grip (much like that old Grip Shift you used to have), leaving you to lay down the horsepower for every climb and sprint. It’s in the ‘budget XC’ category, but it would still be happy racing against much more expensive bikes. The smallest size features 27.5” wheels, making it an easier ride for littler bikers.

5. Kona Hei Hei – £2,299

Kona Hei Hei
Kona Hei Hei
  • Buy it: in-store
  • 100mm/120mm rear/front travel
  • Material: Aluminium
  • 29” wheels
  • 4 sizes
The Hei Hei is a responsive singletrack slayer that remains fun to ride at not-race pace. It’s a bike that loves hard singletrack riding; its 120/100mm suspension travel and aluminium frame set it up for more trail blasting than full-on, head-down sprinting. This is the cheaper of two Hei Hei models and features a solid components package, which includes SRAM NX 1x11 drivetrain and RockShox Sektor RL/Monarch RL fork/shock – value products but also very dependable ones. A TransX dropper seatpost completes the package.

6. Team Marin – $1,299 (about £1,035)

Team Marin
Team Marin
  • Buy it: in-store
  • 100mm
  • Material: Aluminium
  • 29” wheels
  • 4 sizes
The Team Marin is a fantastic option for people getting into XC riding and racing. Its aluminium hardtail frame is equipped with solid components for this price point, including a RockShox Judy Silver fork and SRAM NX shifter and mech. Even more importantly, it is ready for upgrades – the latest standards such as Boost rear axle and dropper seatpost routing are in place. Marin also donates these bikes to young riders in the US, helping to develop future generations of trail shredders.