When the mountain bike rolled into town about 20 years ago, it was a pretty simple affair: fat tires, upright handlebars, 15 gears, and a devilish "come play" personality that practically begged you to bust out of the office on sunny afternoons.
Back then, it was easy to buy a mountain bike, mostly because there wasn't much to choose from. You went in, kicked a few tires, picked a groovy color, and plunked down the plastic. Pretty darn simple. Well, those halcyon days are over. Today, choosing a mountain bike is a dizzying and often overwhelming affair. There are hardtails, dualies, and free-ride models, to name but a few, all packing as many as 27 gears. In fact, practically the only thing that hasn't changed is that devilish personality. Which, when it comes right down to it, is exactly why you should keep reading.
OUR WISH LIST OF A HALF-DOZEN
OF THIS SEASON'S BEST BIKES
Enduro FSR Expert, $2,170
408) 779-6229; www.specialized.com
With more than 4 inches of travel available front and rear, the Enduro FSR Expert sits squarely in the middle of the modern "free-ride" market. Free-riding (which, as you can see by this bike's price tag, is a bit of a misnomer) is the fine art of riding steep, foreboding terrain, often riddled with unnerving drops from logs and rocks. Fortunately, you needn't throw yourself off a cliff to appreciate the Enduro FSR Expert; its supple suspension, powerful disc brakes, and top o' the line components also shine on more moderate terrain.
Bad Boy Ultra, $1,630
(800) 245-3872; www.cannondale.com