In this challenging year, when so many things are difficult, we’re here to make finding your next bike easier. Our annual Bike Awards are the culmination of a year’s worth of rigorous testing, during which we evaluated hundreds of exciting new models and rode them as you would—on the trails, up double-digit grades, on bike paths, to pick up dinner, or to find solace. We looked closely at their performance, value, availability, and how the components on each measured up against those on similar models. Whether you’re looking for a new road, mountain, gravel, or city bike—or just dreaming of something fresh—one of these 50 will be right for you.
PRICE: $6,599 (as tested) / WEIGHT: 17.2 LB (L)
Six-year-old Ventum made its name among triathletes with its radical Z-shaped frame. Now it’s expanding into drop-bar bikes with the NS1, which borrows from the company’s aero heritage but has a more conventional design.
The NS1 is a compelling all-arounder, with a long-and-low, racy fit and frame angles that make the bike handle sharply. Its appeal grows when you consider the brand’s easy-to-use custom builder and the value its consumer-direct sales model delivers to riders willing to buy online.
Leaning into the brand’s wind-cheating background, the NS1 carries a decisively aero profile—the brand optimized frame tubes to shave time off QOMs, gave the bike an aggressive carbon one-piece bar-stem, and offers riders the option of adding tall-profile Enve Foundation 45 wheels like the ones on our test bike.
On the road, the NS1 responded definitively when I put down watts and generally felt easy to handle, even on windy days. This stiff ride did have downsides, though, and felt harsh on anything rougher than fresh asphalt. Even with usually super-supple Vittoria Corsa 28mm tires, the bike let me feel (and not always in a pleasant way) every minor road imperfection or change in texture.
Luckily, the NS1 fits tires up to 30mm, so I added wider Donnelly rubber to cut down on unwanted feedback. This added to the versatility of the bike, even tempting me to add in gravel or dirt-road sections to road rides. Though the frame does not accommodate mudguards, the wide-section down tube does a good job deflecting road spray, which adds to the bike’s all-season potential.
Ventum’s consumer-direct sales approach allows you to customize many aspects of your NS1. Our test bike came with Shimano’s consistently reliable Ultegra Di2 electronic-shifting groupset, but the company also offers Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 and SRAM Force AXS options. You can also upgrade to a Ceramic Speed Oversize Pulley Wheel cage and Enve wheels. Ventum allows customers to choose component sizes, crank length, and gearing, as well. And if your preferred option isn’t available, Ventum’s service team will try to get you what you want.
Our test bike did have some fit and component quirks. Both the seatpost and stem required generous application of carbon paste to keep them from slipping. Additionally, the thin handlebar dug into my palms, and it’s likely too wide for all but the largest-sized hands to confidently grip. The bend transition of the bar also limits how high you can position the hoods on the drop compared to a traditional road bar.
Still, there’s enough to like about the bike. Ventum has put together an overall solid offering at a good price—that makes it attractive in the competitive aero-road category. The NS1 lacks a flashy appearance and it may be too stiff for some, but its tire clearance, dependable Ultegra groupset, and standout Enve wheelset make the bike an alluring, high-value option.—Tara Seplavy
Argon 18 Subito E-Road
PRICE: $4,800 (SRAM Force) / WEIGHT: 26.8 LB (as tested, 55cm)
An e-bike doesn’t have to be a blunt instrument. It doesn’t need to be super-powerful, or heavy, or even look like an e-bike. Argon 18’s Subito is proof.
Instead of employing a big mid-drive motor, the Subito’s Mahle X-35+ motor is neatly and discreetly built into its 100mm-diameter rear hub. And its 250Wh battery is so small, it fits into a down tube of almost-normal proportions. External controls consist of a subtle, lighted push button in the top tube. This means, from most angles, the Subito doesn’t look like an e-bike. And with a weight in the mid-20s, it doesn’t much feel like one either. You get a regular double chainring with normal q-factor (note: Our 2020 review bike has a Shimano Ultegra drivetrain and brakes; 2021 models come with SRAM Force).
With super-quiet operation, 40Nm of torque, and a 20mph-assist cutoff, the Subito provides a more subtle experience than you get with a high-torque, class-3 e-bike. The assist is noticeable and helpful for making climbs go quicker and pushing through a strong headwind, but you don’t get cheat-mode levels of boost. And with little perceptible drag, you can ride naturally without engaging the motor.
This all-road platform has tire clearance up to 40mm (stock tires are about 27mm), and a smooth, cushy ride. The frame puts you in a slightly upright position (Argon 18’s 3D+ system provides every frame with a whopping 60mm of stack adjustment). The Subito feels alert and efficient, but you won’t mistake it for a frenetically sharp road-racing bike. There’s a strong undercurrent of stability, and with the wide tires the bike feels pleasant and capable on dirt and gravel roads.—Matt Phillips
PRICE: $3,992 (frameset) / WEIGHT: 1,350g (56cm)
There’s so much to say about this bicycle, too much, so let’s start with something that is simple but sends us deep into the ineffable, as good a summation of this bike as anything else I can tell you here. DeAnima means “of the soul.” And this bike is. But already that’s too much. Simpler facts: This is a steel frame both classic and modern, made by hand, one person doing one frame at a time, in Italy, 72- and 73-degree angles front to back (on the 54 I tested), threaded BB, 27.2 post, rim brakes, external or internal routing, carbon fork mated with custom Dedacciai Deda Zero tubing and proprietary stainless steel dropouts, aiming for 1,350 grams in an unpainted size 56. My fully built tester, shown here, with Campagnolo Super Record 12, Keo pedals, King cages, a Wahoo mount, and no light-at-any-cost componentry, registers 16 pounds, 7 ounces on our Test Zone scale. Another fact but one we must also acknowledge then set aside and come back to: It was built by Gianni Pegoretti, brother of the legendary Dario. Another fact and fight me: Almost every hyper-optimized carbon wonder-bike is like an exquisite floor upon which you dance—an ideal medium on which to perform—whereas a modern steel rim-brake bike is like a partner you dance with, a living collaborator who brings more joy and rhythm if not love to the performance. There’s so much more to that, and we’ll get to it in an upcoming Bicycling member newsletter. But for now a final fact: This is one of the best I’ve ever ridden.—Bill Strickland
Privateer 141 SLX-XT
PRICE: $3,949 / WEIGHT: 34.5 LB (P2)
Meet the bike I call The Beast. It comes from Privateer, part of the family of brands that make up U.K.’s TheRiderFirm (other brands include Hunt Bike Wheels and Cairn Cycles).
Normally, I’d call a bike with the 141’s travel (141mm rear/150mm front) a trail bike. But with a wheelbase that’s almost 1,236mm long (that’s more stretched out than some current 160mm-travel bikes), a 64.5-degree head angle, and a robust build, the 141 is something else. Something that’s cool and compelling but definitely not a typical 29er trail bike.
Its weight may be its greatest weakness and its greatest strength. The aluminum frame is chunky, with large-diameter pivots on big sealed bearings (three in the main pivot). The build consists of proven parts like Fox suspension and Shimano’s (mostly) SLX drivetrain. OneUp’s V2 dropper is consistent and can be serviced at home. The Hunt wheels and Magura brakes have parts that are easy to service or replace when worn (though the Magura brakes don’t measure up to the performance or consistency of a comparable Shimano or SRAM brake). The Schwalbe tires come in at 1,200 grams each because they have sticky rubber and enduro-grade casings. Brake-hose and derailleur housing run mostly external, and you’ll find a threaded bottom bracket as well.
It’s a great bike for riders who are hard on their equipment or who flinch at the extra care that lightweight frames and parts require. But the 141 asks more of its owner in other ways. It takes more effort than most to pedal it uphill, and its extra-long wheelbase makes it feel sleepy until you get it up to speed, and even then it requires a strong hand to throw it around.
Despite its weight, the bike feels efficient and crisp, thanks to generous anti-squat, and the almost 79-degree (effective) seat angle puts you in a great position for spinning up straighter, steeper climbs. But the seat angle is so steep and the seated cockpit short—about 3cm shorter than a Pivot Switchblade or Evil Offering—that I felt cramped and too far over the BB on shallower climbs and flatter trails with the seat raised.
No surprise then that the 141 wakes up on descents—fast, steep, or both. Drop the seat out of the way, and the long reach, generous wheelbase, and deep BB drop put you in a position well inside the cockpit where you can push the limits of yourself and the frame. The tough construction (no carbon anywhere) and chunky frame are built to take some tumbles. The suspension is smooth: sensitive off the top with good mid-stroke support and plenty of progression (it’s coil-spring friendly) for picking up bigger hits and flatter landings. I won’t pretend that a bike this heavy and long is flickable, but the handling suits its purpose: It’s planted, predictable, and accurate.
This isn’t the average trail bike. But there are few bikes in its travel category that ride like the 141. It feels like a bigger enduro bike but with a touch more directness and pop because of the shorter travel. It’s not a cheap bike, but it has good parts for the money, with the promise of longevity and reliability.—Matt Phillips
Giant Trance E+1 Pro
PRICE: $5,600 / WEIGHT: 53 LB (M, claimed)
At $5,600, the Trance E+1 Pro is not cheap, but it’s one of the lowest-priced full-powered e-mountain bikes you can find. And after testing nine of the leading models over the past year, I found it offers the best value of any of them. There are lighter options, and ones that may better meet the needs of some riders, but none that cost less.
The bike’s performance surprised me, considering its weight and traditional geometry. On flowy and technical sections of my local trail system, the Trance felt natural, easy to control, and energetic.
It’s a long bike with 27.5-inch wheels and 140mm of rear travel, one that corners well and that you can ride with finesse. Despite the long 470mm chainstays and a 66.5-degree head angle, it feels almost agile, which isn’t how we’d describe many other e-mtbs. That’s appealing when you’re popping over a double or fighting to hold your line through a rocky section. The low (15mm) bottom-bracket drop, short stack, and tighter offset likely help.
Giant’s Maestro suspension system provides smooth support and some pop without bogging down under the weight of the bike. It feels lively. The Yamaha-made motor has more torque than most, 80Nm, and it controls it well so the bike rarely lurches ahead when you’re not expecting it to. It also delivers that assist at slightly lower rpm than some similar options, which is helpful when you hit a steep climb in a low gear.
The motor’s control unit lacks an LCD screen, which reduces clutter. But its square shape and placement on the bar (just inboard of the left-side brake clamp) makes it feel less refined than some others—the only real flaw on an otherwise exciting, easy-riding e-mtb that offers a lot for less money than most.—Louis Mazzante
Evil Following X01 i9 HYDRA
PRICE: $7,399 / WEIGHT: 28.6 LB (M)
This third-generation Evil Following is so good at so many things that it’s hard to compare it to other bikes. I’ve had a test sample in my possession for months—which I feel guilty about because it’s Evil CEO Kevin Walsh’s personal bike—and it’s the one I choose to ride when I don’t need to test something else. And that’s given me a lot of opportunities to compare it to not just other trail bikes, but XC and enduro models, too.
With 120mm of rear travel and 130mm up front, this 29er can cover a lot of ground quickly. It can climb efficiently and descend well. It’s a downhiller’s cross-country bike and an XC rider’s downhill bike all in one. It’s just plain fun to ride. Its 66.9-degree head angle and 51mm offset fork go slightly against the trend to stretch out frames, but that’s part of this bike’s magic. It rips downhill and over jumps, but it’s also sharp and fast, a precise instrument for riders who like to feel the contours of a trail and work with them. It pops and skips over terrain. You don’t let this bike pull you down the trail. You ride this bike.
To push the limits of what the Following can be, I rebuilt it as a 25-ish-pound bike with a 120mm RockShox SID fork and lightweight parts. Then, I threw on a Push ElevenSix coil-over shock, burly tires, and a –1.5-degree AngleSet (which changed the head angle to 64.9 degrees). Both builds felt great—proof that the Following allows you to experience trails any way you want.—M.P.
Niner RLT e9 RDO
PRICE: $5,695 / WEIGHT: 38.4 LB (53cm)
This is a lot of bike. Not in the sense that it’s heavy (which it is) or because of its funky profile (check out the kinked down tube). It’s a lot of bike because it can be ridden in so many ways. It’s a carbon-fiber, class-3, drop-bar e-bike that takes 700c or 27.5-inch wheels and fits tires up to 50mm wide in either size. The geometry accommodates a suspension fork, and the frame has mounts for racks, fenders, bottle cages, frame bags, and cargo carriers. It uses the wider Boost mountain bike hub standards front and rear, which lets you run heavy-duty wheels, and a clutch-endowed rear derailleur, which keeps the drivetrain stable when the terrain gets bumpy. It has tubeless-ready rims and tires, provisions for a dropper, and green metallic paint that looks questionable in pictures but great in person.
A bike like this that leans so hard toward versatility risks losing its purpose. And if it were unpowered, it might. But this is a 28mph bike with a smooth and torque-y Bosch motor and sleekly integrated battery, so it succeeds. It’s stable with a glassy-smooth ride and graceful handling that provides confidence on gravel and when loaded up, but its steering isn’t so neutered that it feels sluggish.
At first, I struggled with how and where to evaluate this bike, so I did it all: road and gravel rides, singletrack, liquor-store runs. I took it to the ends of roads and the tops of climbs I’ve never before explored. Then it was clear: The Niner is for the rider who rarely does the same kind of ride two days in a row.—Matt Phillips
Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 3
PRICE: $4,000 / WEIGHT: 24.3 LB (L)
Despite having 47mm-wide tires on 650b wheels and 30mm of suspension front and rear, this burly bike is surprisingly agile and lively on pavement and dirt. It comes with a Lefty Oliver fork and has the same frame as the other Topstone Carbon bikes in the line, one that touts
rear suspension without the weight and complexity of a shock and linkages. A thru-axle pivot in the seat tube allows the entire back of the frame—rear stays, seat tube, even the rear of the top tube—to flex like a series of connected leaf springs to provide comfort and traction on rough terrain while retaining pedaling efficiency. The 1×11 drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes and levers are mostly Shimano GRX. Cannondale’s integrated wheel sensor provides data like speed, route, and distance, and can even send you reminders to perform routine maintenance.
This bike is rugged enough for big, off-the-grid adventures. It’s dropper-ready, it has a bunch of mounts, and it practically floats over gravel and aggressively digs into singletrack. But unlike other gravel bikes with big tires and small wheels, which can sometimes feel out of their element when the trail ends, the Topstone feels quick and nimble on smooth roads. It’s a super option for riders who like the feel of a drop-bar bike and also like venturing into terrain where they’re more likely to see mountain bikes than gravel ones.—Bobby Lea
State Bicycle Co. 6061 Black Label All-Road
PRICE: $1,400 (as tested with 650b wheels) / WEIGHT: 22.5 LB (M)
This aluminum drop-bar bike straddles the line between rugged road bike and adventurous gravel bike. Its frame fits tires up to 45mm with 700c wheels and 2.2 inches with 650b hoops. You can choose either size (the cost is the same) or go with a set of both—including tires, tubes, rotors, and cassette—for an extra $400.
The early version of the bike we tested came with a carbon fork, Tektro mechanical flat-mount disc brakes, 47mm-wide Vittoria Terreno Dry tires on 650b wheels, an 11-42 cassette, and a SRAM Apex 1x drivetrain; the bikes you can buy now come with a State-branded 1×11-speed drivetrain manufactured by Sensah.
Rolling on 650b wheels, the 6061 All-Road was smooth, if slightly underwhelming, on pavement. But it came to life on the dirt. The fat tires and relaxed angles were a huge asset on fast descents and choppy singletrack, and the bike proved
to be an excellent choice for mixed-terrain rides with a variety of road and trail conditions. It’s as well-suited to urban adventure riding as it is to off-the-grid excursions.
The All-Road isn’t perfect, but few bikes offer this much performance and versatility at such a low price.—Dan Chabonov
PRICE: $9,098 (as tested, with suspension fork and upgraded battery) / WEIGHT: 69.2 LB (M)
Switzerland’s Stromer makes only e-bikes: high-end, class-3, city e-bikes. It’s been that way since the brand began in 2009. The ST3 we tested comes in at just over nine grand, and it’s not even Stromer’s top-of-the-line model (that’s the ST5, which starts at $10,499). The bikes are entirely Stromer: The brand designs its own hub motors, motor controls, and rider interface. All models feature an integrated battery, integrated lights, and Bluetooth connectivity.
The ST3 uses the brand’s OMNI connect interface, a wireless touchscreen in the top tube that controls the bike’s functions—whether directly from the touchscreen or through the Stromer app on your smartphone. From your phone, you can track your bike’s location, get an overview of your ride data, activate Stromer’s anti-theft mode, and remotely lock and unlock your bike, among other things. OMNI also connects to mobile data networks, so Stromer can perform diagnostic tests, push out updates, and notify you if someone tries to move your bike (or track it if it does get stolen). And if you’re scatterbrained and forget the self-selected PIN code, Stromer can unlock your bike for you.
All Stromers can be customized on the brand’s website. My review bike has a base price of $7,499, but I upgraded from the stock 814Wh battery (with a claimed range of up to 90 miles) to a 983Wh battery (claimed range: 110 miles) for $500. I also opted for a suspension fork ($1,099) instead of the stock rigid aluminum fork, which added some welcome comfort and control—I know because I rode the bike with both forks. Those options also helped push the ST3’s weight to nearly 70 pounds. This is not a walk-up-friendly bike.
But it is a highly refined e-bike. Stromer’s experience and knowledge show. The handling, in particular, was excellent. Many class-3 e-bikes feel underbuilt with overquick steering, like someone slapped a powerful motor onto a regular bike. But I could tell this Stromer was built from the ground up to be a class-3 e-bike. It’s reassuringly solid, and the brakes are appropriately powerful for quickly stopping a 70-pound bike traveling at almost 30mph. It’s stable at speed, it steers smoothly and accurately, and it’s heavy and fast yet light on its toes.
The hub motor is quiet, smooth, and strong—though not as punchy as some mid-drives. And unlike a mid-drive, this one has regenerative braking, which converts your kinetic energy to electrical energy and feeds it back into the battery. Pull the brake levers and the rear light blinks brighter, helpful for letting cars know your next move. Its horn is powerful enough to cut through the earphones of pedestrians and other cyclists on the bike path.
The ST3 is expensive, but it’s meant to be a daily driver, and it’s built like it.—Matt Phillips
Trek Powerfly FS9 Equipped
PRICE: $6,000 / WEIGHT: 59.5 LB (L)
Built like a mountain bike, the Powerfly has a 120mm Suntour Zeron 35 fork, a RockShox SIDLuxe Select+ shock, an aluminum frame with 100mm of rear travel, a dropper post, 27.5- or 29-inch wheels (depending on frame size), hydraulic disc brakes, and a 12-speed Shimano XT drivetrain. And while it may not be the hard-charging mountain bike you expect from a bike with those parts, it did perform admirably on singletrack.
That said, the bike’s narrower tires and utility-minded features—lights, fenders, racks, and a kickstand—reveal its ideal use: This is an incredibly capable commuter that feels most at home on rides with a mix of paved streets, dirt roads, and smooth trails.
No matter where you take the Powerfly, its Bosch Performance CX motor paired with a 625Wh battery will help get you there fast (up to 20mph) with minimal effort and an exceptional range. The system’s eMTB Lite mode delivers torque smoothly, and more closely mimics the feeling of riding unassisted. It also extends battery life and makes the bike easier to control off-road. It’s an unusual but satisfying bike—one made for riders whose road commute may include a detour through the park or long stretches of gravel paths and rough roads.—Bobby Lea
Gazelle C8 HMB
PRICE: $3,499 / WEIGHT: 61.6 LB (L)
Gazelle (in partnership with Phillips) successfully manufactured and sold its first production electric bike in 1937. It weighed 110 pounds, had a range of 24 miles, did just over 11 mph, and took a full day to charge.
In other words, the C8 comes from a brand with serious time-tested cred. I dare you to find one flimsy-prone part on this bike that jiggles or rattles. You can’t. Nothing about this thoughtfully designed and equipped model looks or feels cheap. There’s a sleek, 500Wh battery in the down tube, a ring lock on the rear wheel, reliable hydraulic disc brakes, an adjustable dynamo-powered headlight, and a taillight cleverly integrated into the rear rack. I loved that blend of reliability, style, and utility when I tested the brand’s Ultimate T10+ HMB last year, and Gazelle delivers it again with the C8. When you make the commitment to part with $3,400 for an urban e-bike, you want to do it without reservation.
Looks aside, a bike has to ride well, too. Powered by a Bosch Active Line Plus mid-drive motor, the C8 steadily hums along paved and unpaved surfaces at up to 20mph, and its low step-through frame is pleasantly stable and balanced. I leaned it over so far during a parking-lot race with my kid that the pedal scraped the ground; the strike bounced me a bit, but the C8 stayed upright.
Busy people will love the low-maintenance Gates Carbon Drive belt (the C8 is the first bike in Gazelle’s North American line to get one) and Shimano Nexus 8-speed drivetrain, which has all the gearing you want for typical urban—and suburban—hills. Add in comfort touches, like ergo leather grips, a squishy Selle Royal saddle, and a bit of suspension in the steerer tube and seatpost, and the C8 is a smart choice for riders who want an upscale downtown e-bike—and who want to feel good about their investment.—Jennifer Sherry