Cycling was booming during the pandemic. More people were taking to the roads and trails to find safe fun in the great outdoors and that influx of riders, combined with COVID-19’s impact on the bike industry has made bikes very hard to get. But now, as supply chains normalize and manufacturers catch up on pandemic backorders, bike companies are announcing their latest and greatest rides for 2022. For cyclists looking for their next set of wheels, the choices have never been better, especially when it comes to off-road bikes.
New technologies and advanced designs have made dirt-loving off-road bikes, from gravel grinders to e-MTBs, lighter in weight, better performing, and overall more fun than ever before. No longer do you have to suffer with obscenely heavy electric bikes while going up twisty trails or wonky frame geometry that made gravel biking twitchy and loose on varied terrain. And suspensions on mountain bikes just keep getting more adjustable and with more range. So, if you’re in the market for an off-road cycling machine (we even threw in a lightweight beach cruiser) there’s a bike for you.
1. Pivot Shadowcat
If you’re ready to experience the most fun you can have on two wheels, hop on Pivot’s carbon fiber Shadowcat. The 150mm front travel, 140mm rear travel make this bike energetic, playful, and agile. It’s also delightfully light for the travel—28 pounds, 6 ounces—on our scales for the medium size in the Pro XT/XTR build. Shadowcat’s 27.5-inch wheels make any trail fun. When the going gets gnarly, there’s plenty of travel to help you sail through it. Other light bikes can feel like they get tossed around on chunky trails. This stays planted until you’re ready to get the wheels off the ground. On flow-y trails, the Shadowcat comes alive, encouraging shenanigans over speed. It’s snappy in corners, and lots of fun to hop, drop, and jump. To save ounces, the Shadowcat uses a 148mm boost rear end, not Pivot’s go-to Super Boost Plus. But it does use the Pivot DW link, which feels sporty with magic-carpet-ride smoothness that’s still energetic. The bike is tuned to let you put power down and pump through the trail without sacrificing efficient climbing. The balance is intuitive on descents, and it cruised through corners, landed drops, and hammered everything it gets pointed down.
[From $6,199, pivotcycles.com]