Civilian Bicycle Co. Young Turk - 2012 - $1,049.30

The 29er platform may seem omnipresent now, but it wasn't a smooth ride getting there. One reason for the resistance was that hardtail 29ers not only overshadowed 26-inch hardtails, they also outperformed large manufacturers' bread-and-butter, 26in-wheeled, full-suspension cross-country bikes on the trail and bang for the buck. The dinosaurs weren't going to risk harming ROI by offering a direct competitor to the cash cows, nor were they willing to invest in the new tooling and R&D required to enter the 29er market. If it hadn't been for niche builders like Civilian, we wouldn't have 29ers like the Young Turk we'd still be pushing smaller-wheeled mountain bikes around.The superior technology is clear now; just attend any XC race and you'll see the 29er hardtail is the preferred platform. Or, check out one of those large manufacturer's 2012 lineup. You'll see the 26in XC bike still exists, but in most cases it'll be outnumbered four to one. Because the smaller wheels are better suited for smaller/medium framed riders, they're quickly becoming the 'adolescent ride'. For that reason, you'll find them filling the sub-1200-dollar price point as a transitional size for growing riders leaving 29ers for the higher-end, established rider.Manufacturers may have caught up with the market, but unlike their offerings, the Civilian Young Turk has a history dating back to the days when the only way you could get a 29er was through a custom frame builder. One of those builders was Tyson Hart, Civilian's founder. Unsatisfied with the offerings available from 'the dinosaurs' and passionate about the bicycle, he attended UBI, a respected frame building school in Ashland, Oregon.In 2005, Hart set out building frames under the Civilian brand. Seeing the undeniable advantages of the big wheels, his first bicycle under the Civilian brand was a 29er. And, at six-foot-six, Hart understood the attraction of 29ers to taller riders. - $1,049.30