As part of MBUK's testing process, each member of the test crew is given a bike to ride/test over the course of 12 months. Every year we try to cover as broad a range as possible with the mountain bikes we choose, and then share our thoughts with you as to what works and what doesn’t.


We're looking to find out how well the bikes perform through the different seasons and the changing terrain they bring, and look for ways to improve the experience with component swaps or upgrades. The team also use their designated rigs as test benches for other products they need to test for MBUK.

You can read about our Technical Editor in Chief Robin Weaver and Features Editor Alex Evans' bikes here but now it's the turn of Deputy Editor JCW and Art Editor Jimmer to talk us through their steeds.

JCW – Deputy Editor

Norco Optic C9.2 £3,199 (reduced from £3,699)

James Costley-White riding the 2017 Norco Optic C9.2
With only 110mm of travel the Optic's not the comfiest over the rough stuff. JCW has started making some tweaks to rectify that

After enjoying riding Whyte’s T-129 last year, I wanted to stick with a short-travel but progressively-angled 29er for 2017. The Optic seemed to tick all the boxes, with a decent reach (486mm on my XL), plenty of standover room and 110mm of travel. Its carbon frame was the icing on the cake.

I’ve been having a blast on it, but have made a few changes, such as ditching the plasticky hard-compound Schwalbe tyres after one too many sketchy moments on wet trails, and going 1x, using the narrow/wide single ring supplied with the bike.

More like this

To make things comfier over rocky terrain, I've been fiddling with the set-up a bit. I've switched to a bigger front tyre (a 2.5in Maxxis Minion DHF) run at lower pressures, to improve grip, slacken the head angle ever so slightly and give me a bit of well-needed cushioning over bigger obstacles. My next plan is to extend the fork travel by 20mm, to see if that'll improve downhill performance without upsetting the bike's geometry too much.

Action shot of Norco Optic C9.2
The addition of a bigger front tyre has given JCW's Optic a much more aggressive feel than when he first received it
Side shot of Norco Optic C9.2
The Norco is pretty steep as stock, with a 68.5-degree head angle
Front view of Norco Optic C9.2
News just in - UK distributors Evans Cycles have recently reduced the price of the Optic C9.2 by £500!


• This bike is capable of everything from all-day XC rides to bike park runs (be prepared for arm pump and tired legs though!), with great geometry, a decent-weight frame and a reliable kit selection

• Norco’s ‘Gravity Tune’ concept, where the rear centre of the bike increases in length along with the front centre as you go up the size range, makes a lot of sense for taller riders like me


• 110mm isn’t a lot of travel. I’m interested to see how the bike handles with a longer fork, which will also slacken the head angle slightly

• The left-hand RockShox Reverb remote supplied with the Optic is the best compromise when running a 2x drivetrain, but as soon as I switched to a 1x set-up I was keen to fit a dropper lever with better ergonomics – first a right-hand button, run upside down on the left side of the bar, and then SRAM’s new 1x remote

Spec changes

Burgtec Ride Wide 35mm bar, £69.99,

DMR DeathGrips (Thick), £16.99,

Maxxis Minion DHF EXO TR 29x2.5in front tyre, £49.99,

Maxxis Minion SS EXO TR 29x2.3in rear tyre, £45,

RockShox Reverb 1x remote, £90,

James Blackwell – Art Editor

Giant Trance Advanced 2 £3,399

James Blackwell riding the 2017 GiantTrance Advacned at Glentress in Scotland
In theory the Giant ticks my (many) boxes for a perfect ride.

I’m pretty particular about what I want to ride so I was really keen to be riding a 150mm-travel trail bike that could competently take on tough trails but would be a really good all-day bike too. Oh, and it needed to climb well to boot! RockShox suspension and an 11-speed drivetrain were also on the wishlist. Don’t ask for much, do I?

I’m really happy with the Trance so far. The bright colour scheme makes it stand out from the crowd, although it has taken a bit of a battering of late, thanks to my duck-footed riding style! The Giant TRX 1 carbon wheels have really impressed me so far. They're stiff, nimble and able to hold a line through some pretty spicy terrain – plus I recently converted to a tubeless set-up, which is holding up well.

The carbon frame helps make it pretty rapid, light and a fun bike to ride. It's a shame, then, that I overcooked the red run on a recent trip to Wind Hill B1kepark in Wiltshire and landed myself with a broken collarbone. I'm out of action for a while now, and already the frustrations of not being able to ride are driving me mad!

Jimmer wheelie on Giant Trance Advanced 2017
Mega-grippy rubber and tight-tracking wheels make for grin-inducing levels of control
Jimmer sliding 2017 Giant Trance Advanced 2 at Forest of Dean
It's called Advanced because of its carbon fibre frame and rims


• Really fast and nimble, but can take a proper thrashing

• Fork and shock tuned to (near) perfection by Sprung Suspension

• Fantastic on the climbs too

• 11-speed SRAM GX gearing


• Paintwork is getting well worn around the chainstays

• Stock Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres are pretty poor

You can keep up to date with JCW, Jimmer and the rest of the team’s long term test bikes every month in Mountain Biking UK by taking out a subscription here.


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