Home > MTB

Top 5 XC and short travel trail bikes for 2022

Bikes that let you go faster and have more fun

There are a ton of exciting new cross country bikes rolling out in 2022 and, for the most part, they follow a trend. More travel, more relaxed geometry, and more fun mixed in with the traditional light weight and efficiency.  As XC bikes gain travel and follow the general trend to progressive geometry, they’re getting closer and closer to the traditional territory of trail bikes. Lines may be blurring, but one thing is crystal clear: all of these bikes are a good time.

What separates a short travel trail bike from an cross country bike these days? Travel numbers mean less than intention these days. Honestly, most of these bikes would be happy pulling double duty. Want to race one weekend and head out on trail shreds or a big epic ride the next? No problem. All of these bikes are efficient enough to ride with intention but still solidly build to slow down, cruise through corners and hunt for fun side hits instead of always sticking to the race line.

Top five 2022 short travel mountain bikes

2022 Giant Trance Advanced Pro 29 1
2022 Giant Trance in Victoria, BC, November 26, 2021. (Photo by Nick Iwanyshyn)

Giant Trance Advanced Pro 29

Giant is clear that the Trance isn’t an XC race bike but its travel numbers, 120-mm out back with a 130-mm front, put it in the short travel category. Instead, it’s focused on maximizing enjoyment while climbing and descending. Paired with Fox’s Live Valve electronic suspension technology, it’s a spry and responsive ride that makes even the most mellow trails exciting while staying composed when the going gets rougher.

RELATED: First look: 2022 Giant Trance Advanced Pro 29

Canyon Lux Trail

Canyon takes its World Cup pedigree Lux and adds a bit more forgiveness and a bit more fun and calls it the Lux Trail. It’s still whip-fast and highly capable as a cross country race bike, especially for marathons or stage races. But, with slightly more relaxed geometry and an extra 10-mm geometry, it’s more enjoyable to ride on days when you’re not racing or when you venture onto more challenging trails. The Lux Trail doesn’t shine less than the pure-race Lux SL, just glows with a little different light.

RELATED: Canyon Lux Trail adds travel without losing race pedigree

2022 Rocky Mountain Element
2022 Rocky Mountain Element. Photo: Margus Riga

Rocky Mountain Element

Traditionally Rocky Mountain’s cross country race bike, the Element gets a major re-invention for 2022. It’s still a cross country race bike, if your idea of cross country includes the roughest trails and rowdiest stage races around. At 120-mm rear travel and 130 front, this lightweight XC-whip is ready for whatever trails you throw at it. With space for two water bottle cages in the front triangle and a longer dropper post, the Element is all set to take you on big adventures or short track races.

RELATED: Rocky Mountain rolls out sleeker, more powerful Element

2022 Trek Top Fuel. Photo: M.McIntire

Trek Top Fuel

With the Supercaliber laser-focused on racing, Trek frees the Top Fuel to roam farther afield. The bike’s cross country heritage still shines through in efficient pedalling and sharp handling but, with balanced 120-mm travel and more progressive geometry, the Top Fuel is more comfortable and more capable than in years past.

RELATED: Trek trail tunes the Top Fuel

Scott Spark 2022
2022 Scott Spark RC

Scott Spark 120

Scott’s world championships-winning cross country race bike looks a little different than most. Cleaner, even when it’s covered in mud. That’s because Scott’s gone all-out on the engineering, creating a sleek looking frame that hides cables, hoses and even the rear shock out of sight. It’s also part of the new breed of XC bike hitting the 120-mm travel range, front and rear, to keep pace on the new-school World Cup tracks. Looks pretty. Goes fast (or at least Nino Schurter does). Might not be the easiest to wrench on at home, but who cares when you’re winning races, right?