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What Bike Should I Buy: A Lightweight Trail MTB

Every day, TPC’s expert Ride Guides help riders find their next (or first) bike. This time, they help Abe find a lightweight trail bike that can race some marathon XC and shred rocky and rooty East Coast trails.

Written by: Bruce Lin

Published on:

Posted in:MTB

Abe is looking for a new mountain bike for the upcoming season. He already owns a lightweight hardtail, so he wants a fast, do-it-all full-suspension bike that can race marathon XC events on rough East Coast trails but still handle shuttled downhill runs. Let’s see what the Ride Guides at TPC can find for him!

"Last year I raced Marathon Mountain Bike National Championships here in Maryland and it was really, really rocky. I did it on my hardtail and was able to finish, but I would have been more competitive with a full-suspension bike. 
All of the terrain here is extremely rooty and rocky, so this year, I’m looking at getting a nice trail bike that’s a little more playful and “downhilly.” I am 52 years old, so I'm not going to be hucking, getting big air, or taking huge risks. I want a bike that's a great climber, and that I can occasionally race, but if my buddies do invite me to go shuttling I can still go along with them, and maybe just ride a bit slower. I hate to admit to being a weight weenie, but… I definitely like light bikes. I don’t think I’d dig a 30-pound bike. 
I’m 5’11, so looking for a size large. I’m interested in newer (2020+) bikes and willing to splurge for a higher-end model, especially if it cuts weight. The very top of my budget is probably around 8K but I would be happy to come in well under that." 
-Abe

Location: Maryland
Budget: $8,000
Size: Large
Wants: Full-suspension, great climbing, playful downhill, under 30 pounds, 2020 or newer

Our Ride Guide team is based in the U.S. and staffed with former bike mechanics, bike shop managers, and other certified bike nerds. They provide expert advice on bikes and gear, sizing, comparing build options, or finding your next upgrade. If you want help finding your next bike, you can contact our Ride Guides via chat, phone, or email. 

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The Capable Downcountry Bike

Rocky Mountain Element

2023 Rocky Mountain element Carbon 70

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He wants something playful and he has a hardtail, let’s get a little distance between them (in terms of capability). I’d go with the Element, a capable downcountry bike that'll be ideal for his needs. It moves like an XC bike but it’ll really shine when pointed downhill. If the top of the budget is 8K, we could even add a cool carbon wheelset, which will cut even more weight.

- Matt McCulley

I like the Element because it’s lightweight but it has geometry that will really come alive when you’re going fast, especially downhill. The Smoothlink suspension, steep seat angle, and XT 12-speed drivetrain will put the power down no matter what Abe throws at it.

- Lincoln Bradley

An XC Racer with Extra Bite 

Orbea Oiz TR

2022 Orbea Oiz M-Team TR

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Kind of an odd name (pronounced “Oy-eth” — it's Basque in origin), but the Oiz TR is an awesome bike. It comes more from the XC racing end of the spectrum, but it’s been made more trail-friendly with an extra 20mm of travel front and rear. If you still want to compete, I think this platform is ideal for your needs. It’s super light (under 24 pounds is pretty sweet for a bike like this) and super efficient. It won’t be as “downhilly” as some options, but I ride a 68-degree headtube and I think it’s super versatile and capable, especially for the East Coast.

- Megan Schmidt

I’m a hardtail rider too and personally, this is the bike I’d move to since I want an efficient bike more focused on going uphill well. That said, this bike can still handle some shuttling. Modern XC bikes are incredibly capable, especially this TR model with the extra travel. You might not be able to get quite as rowdy as your friends, but you’ll still have a good time.

- Duncan Benning

The Most Tricked-Out Trail Bike

Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper

2021 Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper

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This current generation Stumpjumper comes LOADED with a full AXS kit (dropper too!), FOX factory suspension, carbon wheels, in-frame storage, and a super impressive weight of 26 lbs 14 oz even with enduro-spec tires installed. This is the bike you want for those shuttle runs but with the low weight and flex-stay rear suspension, I wouldn’t hesitate to do a marathon race on it. Putting some more XC-centric tires on (I'd go 2.4WT Rekon/Rekon Race myself) and flipping the compression dials to the middle position will make it an efficient, yet capable machine to go win that National title ;). 

- Andy Heuser

Colorado-Style XC

Yeti SB115 T2

2021 Yeti SB115 T2

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I raced XC on the original SB100 and it felt just as fast as my old Canyon Lux but way more capable downhill. The more updated SB115 increases the travel, but the TURQ frame keeps the weight around 27 pounds, which is respectable. Getting some carbon wheels later will cut even more weight. This is the bike for what I call "Colorado-style" XC. The Switch Infinity suspension is super efficient for steep climbs but it just eats rocks and roots going downhill. I recommended one to my friend in Vermont, and he’s loving it for East Coast terrain. If you're going to race some XC, I’d stick with the SB115 over the new SB120. I think i's a better do-it-all machine for your needs. 

- Bruce Lin


We’ve picked out four bikes that we think will be perfect for Abe because they'll let him race AND shred. Let us know which bike you think he should pick. Or if you have other suggestions, be sure to let us know in the comments! If and when Abe does purchase a bike, we’ll update this post with what he chose.

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