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The 12 Best Downcountry Mountain Bikes For Sale Right Now (Aug. 2023)

Part XC race bike, part do-it-all trail bike, downcountry mountain bikes are an in-between category that satisfies riders who want a bike that climbs and pedals efficiently, while still having enough downhill chops to race down steep and technical descents.

Written by: Bruce Lin

Published on:

Posted in:MTB

Right now, downcountry bikes are the hottest and fastest-growing segment in mountain biking. These machines give riders a light and efficient platform for climbing and long-distance adventures, but they don't shy away from technical and fast downhill terrain.  

Now, many manufacturers are making purpose-built downcountry bikes. These range from souped-up XC bikes to short-travel trail bikes. If you're interested in adding a downcountry bike to your quiver or picking one up to be your quiver killer, these are the top downcountry models currently on the market. 

Read more: What is a Downcountry MTB?

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1. Specialized Epic Evo

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I, and many in the industry, consider the Epic Evo the current benchmark for downcountry bikes. I even own one myself! It’s based off of the super-successful Epic cross-country frame, but it ditches the proprietary Brain suspension and increases the travel to 110mm in the rear with a 120mm fork to make it more trail-friendly. Losing the Brain damper reservoir also makes it lighter than the standard Epic, which is a nice bonus. 

2. Santa Cruz Blur TR

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The Blur TR is similar to the Epic Evo in that it’s based off of Santa Cruz’s Blur cross-country frame. It has its travel increased to 115mm in the rear with a 120mm fork. To keep weight low, it's the only full-suspension bike in the Santa Cruz line-up to not use VPP. Instead, it uses a lighter XC-oriented single-pivot suspension design with carbon flex-stays. Like the Epic Evo, it's also capable of fitting two water bottles in the frame. 

3. Transition Spur

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Transition is known in building burly trail and enduro bikes and the Spur is its unique take on a lightweight short-travel downcountry bike designed to take on the gnarly terrain of the Pacific Northwest. It has 120mm of travel front and rear, long reach, and a slack head angle that makes it one of the most downhill-capable downcountry bikes available. 

4. Trek Top Fuel

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The Top Fuel evolved over the years from Trek’s dedicated full-suspension cross-country bike into a dedicated downcountry bike. The previous generation had 115mm of rear travel with a 120mm fork, but the current version has been boosted to 120mm of travel with a 130mm fork, so it now straddles more of the trail bike end of the spectrum. 

5. Yeti SB100 / SB115 / SB120

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The SB100 was arguably the first purpose-built downcountry bike. Yeti designed it to test the limits of a 100mm travel bike. With newer generations, the rear travel has increased to 115mm (SB115) and now 120mm (SB120), with a 130mm fork. It uses Yeti's proven Switch Infinity suspension system which provides an efficient pedaling platform, but opens up nicely for an extremely plush feel, despite the shorter travel.  

6. Rocky Mountain Element

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The Element evolved from Rocky Mountain’s dedicated full-suspension XC bike into a purpose-built downcountry bike with 120mm of travel in the rear with a 130mm fork. Like the Trek Top Fuel and Yeti SB120, it's on the beefier end of the spectrum, but like the Epic Evo and Blur TR, it retains a bit of XC flavor by fitting two water bottles in the frame. 

7. Ibis Ripley

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The Ripley has long been Ibis' short-travel trail bike, and it's now in its fourth generation where it's been refined to be longer and slacker. It utilizes a DW-Link suspension system which is renowned for its pedaling efficiency. The DW-Link controls 120mm of rear travel, which is paired with a 130mm fork. 

8. Evil Following

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The Following is another short-travel trail bike that has been around since before the word downcountry was coined. It has always been a bit more of a gravity-oriented bike, and it uses Evil's unique D.E.L.T.A. suspension system which provides a good pedaling platform, but also plenty of progression to handle big hits on gnarly trails. 

9. Pivot Trail 429

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The Pivot Trail 429 uses a DW-Link suspension design like Ibis, providing 120mm of rear travel which is paired with a 130mm fork (or a 140mm on the "enduro" version). Recent Trail 429 models also use a Super Boost 157mm rear axle, which stiffens and strengthens the rear wheel and allows for shorter chainstays which provide a more playful ride feel. 

10. Cannondale Scalpel SE 

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The Scalpel SE boosts the travel of Cannondale's Scalpel XC race bike by 20mm, to 120mm front and rear with a longer stroke shock and longer travel fork. Like the standard Scalpel, it can also fit two bottles in the frame. At the front, different versions of the Scalpel SE will either come with a 120mm standard fork or Cannondale's iconic single-sided Lefty Ocho fork. 

11. Giant Trance Advanced 29

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The Trance is another short-travel trail bike that found its place after downcountry came in vogue. It has 115mm of travel in the rear, which is paired with a 130mm fork. It uses Giant's Maestro suspension technology with adjustable frame geometry to fine-tune the handling for your riding style and terrain.

12. YT Izzo

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The YT Izzo is a newer model from the German brand which is better known for its downhill, enduro, trail, and dirt jump bikes. The Izzo is its first attempt at making a shorter-travel bike and it has 120mm of travel front and rear. 

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