Downcountry Mountain Bikes - Five of Our Favorites
Cross country bikes have always been so close to being the ideal mountain bike. Trail bikes have typically been the bike you choose when you want to ride all kinds of trails, but what if you like the lightweight and responsive climbing performance of cross country bikes? Enter the downcountry mountain bike, the beefed-up cross country bike, the enduro XC bike, or cross-country bikes for non-racers.
Which downcountry bike is best for you? We have our list of our favorites that we’ve deemed the best gravel bikes of 2022. The best part is that they’re all available here at Contender Bicycles.
What is a Downcountry Mountain Bike?
The phrase downcountry bike is a relative newcomer to the mountain bike scene, but they are bikes we've really come to enjoy over the past few years. Bikes in this category feature between 110mm and 130mm suspension travel, and are typically lighter than a traditional trail bike. Many of these bikes are based on race-ready XC bikes, just with more suspension travel, a dropper post, and stickier tires to help you through your favorite tracks.
While slightly heavier than race bikes, many people love bikes like these because they still offer responsive handling that's fun regardless of how fast you're riding, excellent pedaling performance, and the low weight people want on long climbs.
Check out our list of our favorite downcountry bikes to help you decide which bike is best for you.
Santa Cruz Blur TR & Juliana Wilder TR
Finding the right mountain bike can be tough. But with all the changes we’ve seen to the Santa Cruz Blur and Blur TR, the Blur might just be the ideal downcountry bike for the Wasatch Mountains pedaller: light, strong, forgiving, and able to handle more trail riding than you’d expect.
Those dissuaded by the weight of the Santa Cruz Tallboy will be sure to find a home in the new Blur TR and or the women's-specific Juliana Wilder TR, featuring a unique suspension tune and touch points.
See our first look review to learn more.
Orbea Oiz TR
With the choice between Orbea Oiz and Oiz TR (trail) models, the Oiz now has two demeanors. Choose the XC models for a World Cup-ready platform ready for ruthless efficiency. Looking for a more forgiving option? Then the Oiz is the ticket. It is nearly as good a climber, but has much more to give when the trail is less than perfectly-groomed. A dropper post, more travel, more aggressive tires, and a stiffer fork make this an easy choice.
Not yet convinced? Try Orbea's MyO program that allows you to customize the bike's paint scheme for no extra cost.
See our Orbea Oiz TR first look review for more.
Cannondale Scalpel SE
Cannondale has made their mark working outside of the margins, and the Cannondale Scalpel is no exception. The Scalpel SE adds more suspension, bigger tires, and a dropper post to the tune of 120mm suspension front and rear. The addition of suspension makes this even more of a traction machine, climbing the loose and slippery better than many other mountain bikes.
The Cannondale Scalpel SE comes with four models, from the Cannondale Scalpel SE 2 to the Scalpel SE LTD.
The SCOTT Spark arguably started this phenomenon of beefed up cross country MTBs made for regular everyday people. The latest iteration of the Spark is arguably the most integrated mountain bike yet and furthers the lightweight downcountry bike genre forward. An internal rear shock and fully-integrated cable routing, progressive geometry, and 120mm suspension regardless of whether you choose the race bike or the downcountry version pushes the Spark ahead yet again.
Between the 26 different models available in the Spark family, you're sure to find a bike to fit your needs.
See our our complete guide to the 2022 SCOTT Spark mountain bike for more.
BMC Fourstroke LT
Meet the BMC Fourstroke 01 bike, with an industry-first Race Application Dropper (RAD) seatpost. For the first time in quite a while, a mountain bike can claim to be ‘rad’, technically speaking. And with 120mm and grippier tires, the Fourstroke LT means you can get rad on the descents to take advantage of BMC's unique geometry.
There are two models of the Fourstroke LT, both of which feature a SRAM drivetrain. Frames are the same as standard Fourstroke models, including the inclusion of BMC's unique integrated dropper post.
See our guide on all the tech behind the BMC Fourstroke mountain bike for more.