GT GTw Sensor 2.0 ($2,500; www.gtbicycles.com) [4.8 out of 5 stars]
Surprise, surprise. This mid-level-price-point bike exceeded testers’ expectations and delivered a smooth, comfortable ride that proved its worth on flowing Colorado singletrack, slick and wet technical climbs, and slickrock swoops in Utah. Cool cosmetics—feminine without being over the top—added appeal, but it was the bike’s nimbleness combined with comfort that really won points with testers. The Sensor’s geometry shifted the riding position and allowed for an upright, but still aggressive ride. Testers loved the lightweight aluminum frame; the cushy suspension anchored by a new easy-to-maintain pivot system GT introduced this year; and all 120 mm of rear-wheel travel, which more than one tester appreciated on tough trails. A Shimano drivetrain, Avid breaks, and one of our favorite saddles (WTB’s Deva) round out the high-quality specs.
Giant Anthem X1W ($2,850; www.giant-bicycles.com) [4.3 stars] Balanced and stiff, Giant’s Anthem delivers race-ready handling and performance to everyday riders.
Cannondale RZ One Twenty Féminine 2 ($3,199; www.cannondale.com) [4.2 stars] Cannondale’s left-side shock reduces weight and handles technical trails without compromising on style.
Trek Fuel EX 8 WSD ($2,300; www.trekbikes.com) [4.1 stars] A burly, stable ride requiring muscle and finesse on tough terrain. Bontrager components complement a full 120 mm of rear travel.
Kona Lisa 120 ($2,199; www.konaworld.com) [4 stars] Upright geometry and a solid, stable ride. Any added weight from tubeless tires (standard) is canceled by the light load on your wallet.
Ergon GR2 Grips ($50; www.ergon-bike.com) Updated with an extra 10 mm of bar, the GR2’s larger surface grip increases blood flow—and comfort—on all-day rides.
CrankBrothers Power Pump Pro ($33; www.crankbrothers.com) Pump it up. This high-volume, high-pressure aluminum hand pump is one of the smallest with a gauge, and it fits Schrader and presta valves, so all flats are fair game.
Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight .5 ($17; www.adventuremedicalkits.com) Lightweight, waterproof, and with enough first-aid equipment to get you back on your bike—or at least limping to the trailhead.
Seca Light & Motion 900 Ultra LED Bike Light ($650; www.bikelights.com) With the best weight-to-output ratio on the market, this easy-mount lithium-ion-powered light can flood (or spotlight) the trail ahead for 2.5 hours on high power.
Deuter Compact EXP 8 ($99; www.deuterusa.com) Close fitting and super breathable, this hydration pack holds 3 liters of water and enough kit for an afternoon full of singletrack.
The North Face Gidja jacket ($129; www.thenorthface.com) Representing TNF’s first (and successful) attempt at mountain-bike-specific gear, this technical, hooded hard-shell is built for the trail but has go-anywhere styling and a feminine graphic detail.
Specialized S-works MT Helmet ($200; www.specialized.com) High-impact, lightweight and low-profile, a helmet you can rock on the trail.