Bikes Off the Beaten Track

Sam Kessler (Online Editor)
Take the path less travelled with some of the most extreme mountain bikes around

Adventure awaits off the beaten path and, whether you’re scrambling up a mountain trail or tearing down a particularly rugged patch of terrain, your bike needs to be up to the task. Road bikes might be able to manage the occasional incline, but for pure off-road performance you need something altogether more specialised.

Thicker tyres, frames that can survive the constant shocks of uneven, unpaved ground and suspension to make sure that you do as well, there’s plenty to consider when choosing a mountain bike. With any of these however, when you next decide to scale a mountain on two wheels, it won’t be the bike that gives up.

BMC Teamelite TE01 XTR Di2, £7,499

BMC Teamelite TE01 XTR Di2

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Considering how much time the Swiss spend cycling up and down the Alps – in our minds at least – it’s no surprise to find the country’s leading bike manufacturer has particular expertise in the field. That said, there’s nothing quaint or stereotypical about the Teamelite. BMC has a particular focus on advanced technology and new composites, finding new materials and techniques for the perfect ride; the TE01 XTR Di2 embodies that ethos.

The incorporated Micro Travel Technology is crafted from carbon and makes the rear end more stable on rough terrain, creating a far more controllable ride, all with a frame weight of just 1080 grams. That’s staggering by any standards, all the more when you try out this exceptionally stiff construction.

SCOTT Spark 700 Ultimate, £8,999

SCOTT Spark 700 Ultimate

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This is a bike where no extras are optional. The fully-loaded Ultimate version of SCOTT’s already superb Spark 700 is a no holds barred approach to cycling technology: a custom FOX eNude iRD Shock; a FOX iRD Fork with three modes; a FOX Electronic TwinLoc remote, all in combination with Traction Control.  Maybe break this up a bit?

All you need to know really is that the many different components combine to make the Spark 700 one of the more versatile mountain bikes in the world, able to conquer sharp inclines or speed down relatively clear slopes with equal ease. Fortunately all that tech doesn’t weigh you down too much; the carbon frame makes this one of the lightest full suspension bikes around.

Specialized S Works Stumpjumper HT Carbon Di2, £8,000

Specialized S Works Stumpjumper HT Carbon Di2

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Staggering uphill cross country is never ideal and certainly not fast, more a painful trudge than speed run. As soon as you get to the top however, that changes completely; on the down you want pure, unadulterated speed. The Stumpjumper offers just that.

Aggression is at the heart of this hard trail version of the consummate cross country bike. The XC 29 offers explosive power heading down, great climbing capabilities when ascending and thanks to the ultra-light carbon frame, precision handling. As for the ride itself, the advanced fork can differentiate between pressures from rider and trail, meaning it can both stay firm under effort and soften over bumps, keeping all the power from your legs while maintaining comfort.

Trek Fuel EX 9.9, £5,800

Trek FUEL EX 9.9

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Calling the Fuel EX ‘the perfect trail bike’ is a rather ambitious declaration, but it’s one we’re not going to dispute. Trek are one of the most successful performance bike makers out there, with this their flagship mountain bike, one perfectly adapted for long, hard days in the saddle.

Rather than the short bursts of power needed for true cross country, this trail bike is centred on providing a rugged, capable ride over long distances. It’s a bike built to cope with a constant yet low-level of shock, a task harder to achieve than the occasional big collision. Fast, agile and comfortable – that last is a godsend – the Fuel EX could well live up to Trek’s claims.

Giant Glory Advanced 27.5 0, £5,299


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There are plenty of ways to test a bike; in a wind tunnel for aerodynamics, collision tester for shocks, all kinds of lab and factory methods can be funnelled into creating the perfect bike. No method however is better than the simplest – giving it over to the pros.

From its conception, the Giant Glory Advanced mountain bike was tested and refined by professional riders, turning the original Giant downhill racer into an entirely new beast. Leaner, meaner, lighter and faster than ever before, it also happens to be one of the stiffest carbon frames in the world. As downhill racing bikes go, Glory is a pretty apt name.

Sarto Antonio TENAX, £3,310

Sarto Antonion TENAX

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It’s surprising that anything made by hand can actually survive the rigours of the mountainside, yet Sarto Antionio’s distinctly Italian artisanal frames are more than rugged enough. The TENAX is an ideal all-rounded, suited to any situation that you can throw at it. Thanks to the special four bar linkage progressive suspension, the frame offers superior performance even on the most demanding routes, while the lightness and comfort allow bursts of speed and long distance riding in equal measure.

There are countless other nuances incorporated into Sarto Antonio’s mountain-climbing frame, many of which can only be incorporated thanks to its hand produced nature. The most impressive part however is that each is custom made to order; add as many extras as you want and you can quite easily create your ideal off-road companion.

To make an enquiry about any of the mountain bikes featured in this article, CLICK HERE.


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