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Can a quiver-killer MTB really do it all?

By Bruce Lin

Published

Quiver killer mountain bike for XC trail and EnduroTwo disciplines, one bike. Photo: Eddie Clark Media (left), FinisherPix® (right)

Do you only need one mountain bike? New trail bikes are so versatile that the bike industry describes them with a catchy buzzword: Quiver-killer. These mid-travel bikes can supposedly handle any riding discipline, replacing your entire fleet. But can one bike really do it all? I decided to buy a quiver-killer and go racing to find out. 

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My quiver-killer trail bike

A true quiver-killer needs to keep up with XC bikes uphill and enduro bikes downhill. I purchased a 2020 Canyon Neuron CF 9.0 SL from The Pro’s Closet that slots almost perfectly between my Cannondale F-Si XC hardtail and Reeb Sqweeb enduro bike. 

Bike

Cannondale F-Si

Canyon Neuron CF

REEB Sqweeb V3

Suspension travel

100mm

130/130mm

160/150mm

Head angle

69°

67.5°

65°

Seat angle

73.1°

74.5°

76°

Reach

420mm

435mm

460mm

Stem length

90mm

70mm

50mm

Weight (with pedals)

22lbs

29lbs

36.5lbs


2020 Canyon neuron CF quiver killer mountain bike trial bikeThe Neuron in enduro mode with downhill casing tires and inserts.

With lightweight XC tires and carbon wheels, the Neuron felt efficient on cross-country trails and even occasional gravel rides. For gnarlier trails, I swapped to downhill tires with CushCore inserts. This added nearly 2.5 pounds to the bike but gave me more grip and confidence.  

Popular quiver-killer mountain bikes

I went with the Canyon Neuron, but here are a few similar options that might kill any mountain biker's quiver. Like the Neuron, these are 29” trail bikes with 120-140mm of travel that weigh in the 27-30 pound range. 


Bike

Suspension travel

Head angle

Seat angle

Reach (Med)

Santa Cruz Tallboy

130/120mm

65.5°

76.3°

448mm

Specialized Stumpjumper

140/130mm

65°

76°

450mm

Trek Fuel EX

140/130mm

66°

75°

440mm

Cannondale Habit

140/130mm

66°

74.5°

430mm

Pivot Trail 429

130/120mm

66.5°

75.5°

460mm

Ibis Ripley

130/120mm

66.5°

76°

450mm

Quiver-killer for enduro 

Canyon neuron enduro race quiver killer mountain bikeHanging on for dear life through a rock garden. Photo: Eddie Clark Media

For the enduro half of my experiment, I raced a Session Series event at Floyd Hill, Colorado. The race track is a purpose-built downhill trail with plenty of drops, jumps, rock gardens, and technical features.

At the start, I had the least amount of travel (not counting the guy on a hardtail) and a few racers expressed concern for my safety after seeing my bike. My race run went well and I rode all the A-lines until halfway down when I went off the trail and fell into a bush. I managed to stay upright to nab a modest 17th place finish in my age group. 

My tire choice was spot-on and the bike also felt pleasantly agile in tight corners. The biggest limiter was the suspension. Riding at race speed, I bottomed out several times and got bucked around in rock gardens. Crossing the finish, my hands ached. I found myself wishing for a bigger fork and a shorter stem to improve downhill performance. 

Quiver-killer for XC

Canyon Neuron XC cross country race quiver killer mountain bikeGaining time on the descents. Photo credit: FinisherPix®

I’ve done a lot of cross-country races but never one longer than 40 miles. To really test myself and the Canyon, I decided to race Sunrise to Sunset at Elephant Rock, a 12-hour endurance race

Most racers used XC bikes, but I was surprised to see several other mid-travel trail bikes. I battled riders all day and didn’t feel like I was at a huge disadvantage on climbs, and on descents, I was able to push much harder than many of my competitors. After 12 hours of racing, I managed a sixth-place finish in the solo category, riding over 100 miles and climbing over 10,000 feet. 

When I was extremely fatigued, I appreciated the extra comfort the Neuron’s suspension provided. However, I was very jealous of XC bikes that could carry two bottles. In the extreme heat, I struggled to stay hydrated and ended up borrowing a hydration pack halfway through the event. 

Final thoughts 

Canyon Neuron xc cross country race quiver killer trail bike mountain bikeThe Neuron shined as an XC racer. I'll stick to the enduro bike for enduro racing though. Photo credit: FinisherPix®

If you want one bike that can do it all, mid-travel trail bikes with 120-140mm of travel are ideal. They’re efficient uphill and capable downhill. But should you really use one bike for both XC and enduro? Well, that’s up to you. 

I’ll probably never race enduro on the Neuron again. Riding it fast on gnarly terrain required extreme focus. I had a lot of close calls. An enduro bike increases your margin for error and makes a huge difference in your speed and confidence. Fortunately, there are plenty of versatile trail bikes with bigger forks, longer reach, and slacker head tubes. If you lean toward gravity riding, that’s what you need. 

However, I was pleased with how well the Neuron worked as an XC race bike. Sure it’s heavier than a true XC bike, but weight doesn’t really matter, and fast wheels and tires make the biggest difference. Ultimately, the engine turning the pedals matters much more than the bike. 

In a surprise move, I decided to sell my XC hardtail and will continue racing on the Neuron. It’s more comfortable over long distances, descends better, and since new XC bikes are getting closer to trail bikes anyway, I don’t think I’m losing out on much performance. 

What do you think of quiver-killer mountain bikes? Do you ride one bike for everything? Let us know in the comments!

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