Probably the most experienced bike tester in the world reveals the five hottest MTBs he can't wait to ride this year

Riders in bracken
(Image credit: GuyKesTV)

With many top mountain bike models already well past their sell-by-date, we're anticipating a slew of new bikes in 2024. After testing 58 bikes last year, Bike Perfect's technical editor, Guy Kesteven, has been pondering which of the upcoming models he is salivating the hardest to try.

1. Specialized Stumpjumper

The orginal Specialized Stumpjumper

The full-suspension Stumpjumper has come a long way, but you can always rely on Specialized to dial up the development another notch. Especially for their 50th birthday (Image credit: Specialized)

It’s 50 years since Mike Sinyard sold his VW camper to buy a bunch of bike parts from Italy and launch Specialized Bicycle Components, so the Californian brand are bound to go big this year. In fact, I’ve already ridden two superb new bikes from them that would reset the benchmarks in their respective categories if they were launched now. They’re not live for a couple of months though and I’ve signed stuff that means I can’t tell you any more at present.

One bike that I can speculate on is the new Stumpjumper though, which has to be on the cards. Not only is it four years since the last Stumpy and Stumpjumper Evo launch snaked its way through the chaos of Covid, but the Stumpjumper is also the original Specialized MTB. Alongside Fisher/Ritchey, Univega and Koski, it was actually one of the original production MTBs from anyone when it debuted in 1982, and as everyone knows, 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything.

So what should we expect? TBH, the travel, masses of geometry adjust and internal storage of the Stumpjumper Evo are still extremely competitive with the competition. Specialized have ramped up the anti-squat numbers on their recent Levo SL launch though and more positive pedaling was about the only thing on my wish list the last time I tested the alloy or carbon bike. Specialized also seem to be moving away from the ‘sidearm’ asymmetric frame strut design so expect a cleaner chassis on both Stumpys. The straight Stumpjumper is also likely to get a bump in travel to at least 150/140mm make it more competitive with other lightweight trail bikes like the Mondraker Raze and Santa Cruz Hightower.

2. Calibre Bossnut

CALIBRE Bossnut MTB on white

I still regularly see Calibre's Bossnut putting big smiles on riders faces everywhere, but the bargain bike world has been stagnant for several years now (Image credit: CALIBRE)

To be honest, a new Calibre Bossnut seems a big ask as the company seems to be in a more reactive than proactive part of its lifecycle now. To the point where the only mention of the old Bossnut on the Calibre website is a spare parts listing for rear axles. What I really want though is somebody somewhere to create that same cut price, full-suspension over-achiever that really captures the imagination. Something I can categorically say will give a rider a great time on the trails for a grand and that will put a big smile on my chops when I see one being ridden.

Because going through a list of all bikes I rode last year, it was a shameful shock seeing how pretty much everything I’d tested had become so top end. That’s a real dereliction of duty considering the current combination of cost of living crisis and folks like Rider Resilience and DMBinS showing how important bikes can be to helping mental health issues. But truth is that whole market – both full-suspension and hardtail – has been stale for years and bikes in that segment now cost more but perform worse than they did five years ago.

So come on Calibre, Boardman/Voodoo, Decathlon/Rockrider, Jamis, Haro, Alpkit/Sonder, the new value refocused GT/Cannondale or even Whyte (where original Bossnut designer Mike Sanderson now works his magic). Can one of you – or ideally all of you – give mountain biking what it really needs. Not another $15k e-MTB but a $500 hardtail and/or $1000 full-suspension bike that’ll totally outperform the oligarchs in terms of smiles per mile. And if brands fancy some pointers, call me, because I’d love to atone for my aspirational only sins of the past year. But not until decent geometry, 29er wheels, tapered headset and Boost axles are already on your essentials list, OK?

3. Scott Spark

Nino Schurter competing in the 2016 Olympics XCO course

Surely Nino needs a new Scott Spark this Olympic year so he can add another gold medal to his collection (Image credit: Photo by Tim de Waele/Corbis via Getty Images)

Nino Schurter has won nine World Cup XCO overall titles including last season, so there’s no doubt the GOAT of cross-country MTB is still very much in the ring to take his tally double figures. It’s an Olympic year too, which with Warner/Discovery’s MTB media world domination plans still very much in their infancy is about the only time ‘real people’ pay attention to people doing clearly very exhausting, dangerous things on bicycles while wearing Lycra fetish gear. So surely we’re going to see Scott bringing out a new Spark and redefining the literal gold standard in cross-country bike performance?

To be honest, it doesn’t need to be a biggie either. The current Spark geometry and 120mm of travel were game-shifting moves when they appeared years ago and are still totally fine today. That signature hidden shock setup looks absolutely sick too, so I’m sure they stick with that. Nino has already been racing and winning on prototypes of the XC version of RockShox Flight Attendant AI suspension, so that would tidy up the rat's nest of cables that clutters the current production bikes. They’ve built one-off superlight carbon versions for Nino before though and Dangerholm is currently working on one of his stunning concept bikes based on – what seems to be – a current Spark, so maybe, just maybe, they’ll do something really special for Nino in time for Paris. We’ll certainly be looking very closely at what he's riding if he starts his season at the Cape Epic stage race as usual.

4. Santa Cruz Heckler/Bullit e-MTB

Santa Cruz Hecker SL being jumped on a rocky trail

The new Santa Cruz Heckler SL is right on the money but the 'full fat' Heckler and Bullit bikes are long overdue a revamp (Image credit: SCB)

The much anticipated Heckler SL lightweight e-MTB is the next bike on my test schedule and judging by other reviews and early rider feedback, the Fazua powered bike is a proper sweet spot machine. The full power Bullit and Heckler are significantly behind the curve in terms of their electric tech though. While the Heckler has at least hopped up to a 720Wh battery from the tiny 504Wh of the first gen bikes, the Bullit is still on a 630Wh battery. Both bikes use the old Shimano Steps 800 motor though, so surely it’s time they got an upgrade to put a Bullit in the Heckling the current models are getting from riders expecting the latest kit.

Geo on the bikes is OK and going off recent Santa Cruz model introductions, like the Tallboy and 5010, any changes in the VPP suspension are likely to be subtle. That might mean we might just see them getting the latest Shimano motors with electric gears and Auto Shift on top models? Or maybe they’ll be the first major brand to switch to SRAM’s Powertrain Auto Shift transmission? They’d also be the perfect spring board for Fazua or TQ to release a full power motor and battery system on, so it'll be interesting to see which way they'll go.

5. Canyon ???????

Top secret Canyon Lux spotted at the Cape Epic

Canyon are another brand we'll have close eyes on at Cape Epic as that's where we spotted the last Lux upgrade (Image credit: Max Sullivan)

Canyon Bicycles, the Koblenz based, direct sell superpower, are bound to be doing something this year but I’m not sure what. With Puck Pieterse coming off a whirlwind 2023 XCO World Cup and Mathieu Van Der Poel destroying everyone in the current Cyclo-Cross season, Canyon have potentially got a dream team for the Olympics this summer. The Lux XC race bike got some small changes and 120g of weight loss last year, taking the team version down to a claimed 10kg. The head angle is definitely still a lot steeper than most bikes it’ll be lining up against though. That could be answered by using the longer, slacker Lux Trail they launched last year but with the Team version of that bike weighing in at 11.25kg, they could do with losing some weight from the top line CFR frame. 

Alternatively, maybe Canyon will introduce a new version of the Spectral? The 160/150mm travel bike is still very competitive and a top seller but with six different formats, from 125mm travel to coil shock mullet versions, there’s a potentially confusing amount of choice available – something that’s definitely proved to be a problem for brands like Orange recently. Given the spectacular weight saving they managed with the Spectral:On e-MTB and the super stretched geometry of the recent Strive enduro bike, we wouldn’t rule out something radical either.

Guy Kesteven

Guy has been working on Bike Perfect since launch in 2019. He started writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.

Current rides: Cervelo ZFS-5, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg