Despite the dawn of so many new categories of bike, so much new technology, an entire universe-worth of wheel sizes and tyre dimensions – plus more ‘international standards’ than you an shake a big stick at – it’s still the humble trail bike that we come back to when we just want to get out for a blast with our mates. Trail bikes are the constant in our life. A trusty, dependable trail partner with the legs to tackle almost any climb and the tenacity to help you get back down again in one piece.

To this end, we’re celebrating five of the best trail bikes to pass through the IMB test office in 2017. Price and spec sheets have gone out the window in favour of an outright fun ranking, so in no particular order here are our picks of the bunch for 2017:

Pivot Cycles Mach 5.5

The Firebird is a very big travel machine, and the Switchblade’s personality is just a little highly strung. The 5.5 flatters both your fitness and your technical finesse in equal measure and only comes unstuck if you go full enduro and hunt out the steepest and roughest terrain. The mix matched suspension, the 2.6 tyres and the phenomenal wheels add together to make it hard to argue that this is not a quintessential trail bike.

Pivot Cycles Mach 5.5 2017

Pivot appear to be on a non-stop bike producing mission. The last year has seen new models and revisions across the range including the well-received Switchblade and Firebird. As I write this they have done it again with the launch of their e-bike; the Shuttle, at Eurobike adding yet another bike to the range. The Mach 5.5 dropped into the…...

Rose Bikes Root Miller 3

Trail bikes have taken a back seat to the overwhelming dominance of ‘enduro’, but this is a prime example of a trail bike done well. Fast handling, efficient pedalling and confidence inspiring geometry. The Root Miller does everything you could ask of a trail bike, plus a bit more. It’s not the most playful bike out there and nor does it pretend to be, but as a one-bike-to-rule-them-all solution, it offers speed mile-munching and confidence by the bucket load.

Rose Bikes Root Miller 3 2017

Rose Bikes may not be the first name that trips off the tongue when you ask anyone about big bike brands, nor are they even that well known when talking about the convenient and expanding world of mail order bikes. However, do your research, and you’ll find a company steeped in history and offering a banquet of bike build options…...

Orange Mountain Bikes Four RS

For those in ‘the know,’ an Orange bike is a great bike, but the Four is truly an excellent bike. It requires plenty of rider input and skill to get the best from it, but the rewards are fantastic, capable of turning its hand at anything. The single pivot has some limitations in braking, but keep off the brakes and on the gas and it won’t let you down. Forget what you thought you knew about suspension, the single pivot is alive, kicking and disappearing down the trail.

Orange Mountain Bikes Four RS 2017

With so many new bikes and revised versions of the iconic single pivot machine coming out of Halifax, it's easy to forget that the Orange Four is still a very new bike. Having just dropped the Stage 5 and Stage 6 only recently, the focus seems to be clearly on the big wheelers, yet this short travel 650b trail bike…...

Marin Bikes Hawk Hill

What a great bike! The Hawkhill has endeared itself to me as a bike with a strong, no-frills personality, not overly produced with carbon and media hype. Just a bike to get people out riding, and riding hard too, not just a dumbed down trail bike for beginners who know nothing better. The trickle down is in full flow, and one by drivetrains, air suspension, decent geometry and proper cockpits should not just be the preserve of the mountain bike elite. Sure it’s not perfect, but its a £1200 full suspension mountain bike, what do you want? The moon on a stick?

Marin Bikes Hawk Hill 2017

Change is afoot at Marin, the long established brand with more MTB heritage than most is returning to form in a gradual and purposeful way. Those who have a keen eye for the detail may notice some subtle changes in the 2017 range, but they won't be found at the top end, rather it's happening where most riding occurs, in…...

Specialized Bicycles Stumpjumper FSR Comp 29

In a world of multiple bargainous mail order bike options the Stumpjumper FSR Comp 29 is exceedingly good value for money. But it’s not just the monetary value that shouts volumes about this bike; it’s the ride factor, the huge grin it kept putting on our faces and its ability to elicit a series of small yelps of excitement each time it was pinned through a succession of tight berms or boosted off a drop. Incredible straight line speed and an ability to hold its line over moderately rough ground is just one more feather in its cap.

Specialized Bicycles Stumpjumper FSR Comp 29 2017

Specialized’s Stumpjumper has been around longer than most of us have been in long trousers, first hitting the market in 1981 in steel hardtail guise and since then it has gone on to become the go-to, do-everything, jack-of-all-trades trail bike of the Specialized range, reinventing itself year on year to stay with - and often just ahead of - the…...

Sat 18th Nov, 2017 @ 9:30 am

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