This is a pretty good comparison, but the Element feels a little more stable and not quite as quick-handling at lower speeds and in tighter spots (especially at the slacker end of its geometry adjustment range). The Element frame also feels a bit stiffer, especially in the rear triangle. Both pedal very well, but if anything the Element is (marginally) even more efficient. These two are definitely different twists on the same sort of bike, though — the Spur is one of the closer comparisons here.
Both bikes pedal quite well, but the Ripley feels a little more plush and has a touch more traction under power than the Element. The bigger difference is in geometry — the Element is quite a bit longer and slacker, and feels like it. It’s more stable at speed but takes a little more effort to muscle around in tighter spots, and doesn’t feel as engaging on tighter, more rolling trails. The Ripley is a bit more versatile and easy-going on more mellow, XC-type trails; the Element is more capable of going fast on steeper, more technical ones, provided that you ride it fairly precisely.
I tested the LT version of the Occam, rather than its shorter-travel sibling, but they share a frame and so I can make some fairly well-educated guesses here — it’s really just the builds that differ between the Occam variants. The Occam and Element have some real similarities in terms of suspension performance in that they’re both extremely efficient but give up some sensitivity and plushness to get there, through the Occam has notably more travel, with 140 mm at both ends.
But despite that, the Element is actually a little more stable at speed and a little less nimble in tight spots. If you like the sound of the Element, but want a version that’s a bit more plush (mostly due to just having more travel) and a little more easy-going while still pedaling extremely well, the Occam would be a great choice. The Element is the way to go for folks who really want to go fast all the time.
Santa Cruz Tallboy
I don’t have a ton of time on the current Tallboy, but my early impression is that the two bikes are largely reminiscent of each other in terms of handling, especially with the Element at the steeper end of its range. The bigger difference is in suspension performance — the Tallboy still pedals quite well, but it’s a little less snappy than the Element, and makes up for it with significantly more plush-feeling suspension. The Tallboy is, of course, still a short-travel bike — don’t expect it to feel like it’s got a lot more suspension than it does — but it’s notably cushier than the Element.
Pivot Trail 429
Unfortunately, we don’t have any reviewers who have spent time on both the Trail 429 and the Element, but from chatting with our folks who’ve ridden the Trail 429, the two sound fairly similar, particularly with the Element at the steeper end of its geometry adjustments, and the Trail 429 in the slack one. My hunch is that the Trail 429 is going to be a little more easygoing and versatile overall, while still quite quick, and the Element is a little more game-on and always in attack mode, but we’ll need to get one of our reviewers to spend time on both to confirm.
It is worth noting that Pivot offers both standard and “Enduro” versions of the Trail 429, which share a frame but differ in terms of parts spec. It’s not a perfect one-to-one, but the Trail 429 Enduro builds would be a really good call for someone who’s into the idea of my hypothetical Element BC Edition but doesn’t want to piece one together themselves (you can read our review of the Enduro version of the Trail 429 for more on that bike).
I haven’t personally ridden the Phantom either, but from talking with our other reviewers about it, it’s pretty clear that the Phantom is more plush and planted, but not as light or efficient as the Element. Both are relatively stable for a 120mm-travel Trail bike, but the Phantom sounds like the better choice for folks who want a relatively forgiving, descending-focused short-travel bike, whereas the Element is more high-strung and efficient, but not as plush and easy-going for it.
Guerrilla Gravity Trail Pistol
The Trail Pistol is in a similar boat as the Phantom — it’s less efficient and XC-derived than the Element, but more planted and forgiving, and doesn’t take as much precision to stay composed in rough terrain. They’re not far off from each other in terms of stability if you’re riding cleanly, but the margins for error feel bigger on the Trail Pistol. The efficiency tradeoff is very real though — the Element pedals quite a bit better (and is a lot lighter), even with a lighter build on the Trail Pistol than I had for the bulk of my review (see the link above for more on that).