Top 10 XC Mountain Bikes for 2021

2021 Best Cross Country Mountain Bikes

Whether you’re a cross-country racer, a mountain bike marathon enthusiast, or just someone who appreciates a lot of efficiency and speed, there’s an XC bike out there for you. These bikes are made for riding fast on trails of low to moderate technicality. That doesn’t mean they can’t rip the occasional double-black run, though, as you’ll see.

In 2021, bikes are in very limited supply. So while we’ve tried to list the best cross country mountain bikes that are in stock, they may be gone by the time you click the link. Be sure to check in with your local retailers to see what they have in stock, too.

Best Cross Country Mountain Bikes

2021 Ibis Mountain Bike

Ibis DV9

The DV9 made our list of best hardtails, too — largely because this bike will suit riders well from the XC racecourse to the weekend trail session. The 67.4º headtube (with the included 120mm fork) isn’t quite as steep as you’ll find on other XC bikes, but it does make for better descending (you could think of this as a downcountry hardtail). Room for 2.6″ tires helps in that regard, too.

The real story behind the DV9, though, is its very light weight. The size-large frame weighs in at only 1,204 grams. Combine that with the stiffness and responsiveness of a hardtail, and you have a super-fast race whip that can handle some rougher terrain in the off-season.

Ibis nailed the build kit on this bike to keep it under $3,000. A Fox 34 Rhythm fork is a solid budget-friendly choice, and the Shimano Deore drivetrain has won awards for being such a fantastic value. There’s no included dropper post, so you’ll have to provide that for trail riding, but with a price like this, you’ll have enough money to add one whenever you want.

Price: $2,775

2021 Trek Bicycles Procaliber 9.5

Trek Procaliber 9.5

As Trek’s higher-end XC hardtail, the Procaliber is one that you’ll see under numerous professional racers. One of the things that really stands out about Trek’s hardtails is the IsoSpeed Decoupler, which lets the seat tube move — albeit very slightly — independently of the top tube. It’s almost like a tiny bit of suspension.

The 9.5 will be the sweet spot for many riders looking for a competitive carbon hardtail. At this level, you get Trek’s awesome OCLV carbon and a RockShox Judy SL 100mm fork. The Deore drivetrain package punches far above its weight.

Basically, if you’re not competing at the top end of the elite level, you don’t need anything more than this bike. Even if you are competing at that level, the Procaliber 9.5 will serve you well. All you get by spending hundreds of dollars more is a bit of weight savings.

Price: $2,099.99

2021 Trek Bicycles Supercaliber 9.7

Trek Supercaliber 9.7

If you follow cross-country mountain bike racing, you’ll recognize the Supercaliber as Jolanda Neff’s go-to full-sus race bike. And it’s easy to see why: there’s nothing else out there like it. The IsoStrut suspension gives you about 60mm of rear wheel travel, but cuts out many of the pivots of a standard full-suspension setup. That keeps weight way down.

It’s a strange design when you first see it, but it’s highly awarded (both by reviewers and race results). That’s not all the Supercaliber brings to the table, though. The 9.7 packs a RockShox Reba SL fork with 100mm of travel and a set of Bontrager carbon wheels, making this a great deal if you can afford almost $5,000 worth of bike.

With a mix of SRAM SX Eagle and Bontrager parts, you get a quality build without springing for the top-end gear that will cost you a fortune. The bike also gets a bit of added versatility with room for up to 2.4″ rubber. It’s not huge, but it’ll let you get some trail rides in without sliding everywhere.

Price: $4,799.99

 

2021 Sage Optimizer

Sage Optimator

Sage got a lot of love last year for their Powerline hardtail, a titanium all-mountain machine that’s as beautiful as it is badass. The Optimator is Sage’s cross-country bike, and it’s no less artistic. Just look at it. Try finding a more beautiful bike.

The bike is built around a 100mm fork for XCO-style racing. The 69.5º head tube angle is just a touch slacker than similar bikes, which is nice to see on a modern racing rig. The components choices you get are all suited for riding as fast as you possibly can.

Sage makes it easy to customize this bike, with options for just about everything. You can choose what you want even down to the chainring size. Because of that, pricing this one out is difficult. But getting it under $7,000 is a bit of a challenge. That said, this is an absolute dream bike and one that you’ll keep forever.

Price: $6,900

2021 MONDRAKER Bike

Mondraker Chrono Carbon

The Chrono Carbon has one of the most unique silhouettes in cross-country hardtails. Does that make it faster? No. Does that make it cooler? It might! And when you’re spending this much on a hardtail, it’s nice to stand out a little.

Of course, you can always use your race performance to do that. The Chrono Carbon uses Mondraker’s ultra-light Stealth carbon frame and puts only race-ready components on it. A RockShox Judy Gold RL fork provides 100mm of suspension up front with a remote lockout so you can maximize efficiency. A combination of SRAM SX and NX handles the shifting. SRAM’s Level brakes aren’t super confidence-inspiring, but they fit well with this build.

One thing to note about the Chrono Carbon is that it uses Mondraker’s signature Forward Geometry to get you more over the center of the bike. It may feel a little strange at first, but it helps a lot to keep you planted while climbing.

Price: $2,499

2021 NINER AIR 9 RDO

Niner Air 9 RDO 2-Star

Another great XC hardtail under $3,000, the Niner Air 9 RDO combines a great racing frame with reasonable components for the 2-star build. The Fox 32 Float Rhythm fork is a good choice for 100mm of travel.

SRAM’s SX Eagle components and Level brakes are fairly standard for a bike of this build level, and Niner’s 25mm wheels come with Schwalbe’s Racing Ray and Racing Ralph combo for super-fast rolling right out of the gate.

Like many modern XC bikes, the Niner Air 9 RDO can fit tires up to 2.4″, which is nice for higher-volume casings on the racecourse and off.

Price: $2,600

2021 Top Fuel 9.8 GX

Trek Top Fuel 9.8 GX

You can argue about whether “downcountry” is a thing. But there’s no doubting that the Top Fuel is meant for the racecourse just as much as it’s meant for exploring backcountry trails. The industry has currently settled on about 115mm of rear suspension for this kind of bike, and that’s exactly what the Top Fuel packs.

The 120mm SiD fork is a bit bigger than the 100mm you’ll see on other XC rigs, further showing the intentions of this bike. This is often the kind of setup you’ll see on marathon race bikes and under FKT attempters.

The 9.7 build includes carbon wheels, SRAM SX Eagle components, and a dropper post, another item you’ll be glad to have when you’re not racing cross-country. Everything on this bike screams speed over long distances.

Price: $5,999.99

2021 Trek X-Caliber 7

Trek X-Caliber 7

The X-Caliber is Trek’s lower-end, aluminum XC bike and possibly the best bike for getting into cross-country racing. You won’t find much to compete with it at this price. Trek included some very smart spec to keep it this affordable.

For example, there’s no dropper post. But if you’re thinking about trying your hand at the local XC circuit, that’s probably fine. The RockShox Judy SL fork provides a solid 100mm of travel with a lockout for long fire road climbs. A lower-spoke-count front wheel reduces weight compared to the rear.

Components in this build are largely Deore, which, as you’re probably getting tired of hearing, provides great value for beginner and intermediate riders. This bike is built to provide value all around and help beginning XCO racers try out the sport.

Price: $1,099.99

2021 Yeti SB100

Yeti SB100 Turq T2

If it weren’t for the combination work-of-art-and-mountain-bike that is the Sage Optimator, the SB100 would be the most expensive bike on this list (and you can probably find ways to get the Optimator under $7,000). But there’s no denying that this is an absolute rocketship of an XC bike.

Yeti’s Turq carbon is some of the best out there, and the Switch Infinity suspension platform has gotten lots of accolades. If you’re paying $7,000 for a bike, these are the things you need to think about.

100mm of travel out back combined with a 120mm of Fox Step-Cast fork travel up front make for a nearly downcountry build, but now that Yeti has the SB115 to fill that role, they can keep the SB100 focused as one of the best cross-country bikes out there. It’s crazy expensive. But if you want to go as fast as humanly possibly on a bike, there’s no better steed for it.

Price: $6,999

2021 Norco Revolver FS2

Norco Revolver FS 2

The full-suspension version of the Revolver is Norco’s “all-day” bike, well suited for marathon racing. Marathon bikes need to be a bit better at descending than normal Olympic-style cross-country bikes because of the wider variety of terrain they’re likely to encounter. The Revolver packs versatility that’s perfect for day-long races.

That versatility also makes it a great option for someone who would like to try XC racing but also wants enough suspension and the right geometry for longer days of trail riding, too. The Revolver has 120mm of front and rear suspension, giving it a tiny bit of a leg up on other XC bikes for this kind of riding. Clearance for 2.35″ tires is slightly larger than some other XC frames, too.

The FS 2’s build kit shows its XC/trail crossover intentions. A dropper post, G2 brakes, and Forekaster tires are more toward the trail side. But the SiD fork is all cross-country. Stan’s Arch D rims with 26mm internal width are, too. The combination is one of the most versatile you’ll find.

Price: $4,699

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Ibis DV9

About the Author

Mike Hardaker
Mike Hardaker grew up surfing and snowboarding in Orange County and followed his love of surfing to Hawaii before eventually moving to the mountains to concentrate on snowboarding. He went on to found Mountain Weekly News where he is still CEO and Editor in Chief.

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