Top 10 mountain bikes – brands

What are you looking for when searching for a bike to purchase? Do you want to start a healthy life style or are you just looking for a vehicle? Depending on your goals you need to have some understanding of what kind of bike should it be and what characteristics should it have. Rich and diverse assortment of bikes in stores makes it harder to find differences between bike models from different manufacturers.

In this article we are going to look at top 10 bicycle brands (in no particular order). Practice shows that when choosing a bike it’s not always a good idea to look at price alone. When it comes to bikes, the rule “more expensive = better” doesn’t always work.

Brand names speak for themsefls and it’s a good reference point for choosing what we need. Some manufacturers were pioneers and made a grand contribution to development of technologies, some had innovative ideas, others were simply making their high-quality product year after year. Now we can make a decision which brand name to choose based on brand’s philosophy, their design, fame and accessibility.


 

1. Trek

We start off with Trek. Bicycles of this brand are one of the most demanded today, moreover, they have repeatedly taken, if not the first, then top places in the Tour de France races. In addition to road and mountain bike models for professionals, Trek focuses on production of models for kids, urban(city bikes), bikes for women and touring bicycles. When we say Trek – we are talking about their legendary status.

First and probably the most productive collaboration in world of cycling happened when Trek merged with the company of brilliant designer, inventor, and cyclist Harry Fisher – a true legend. He is the founder of such a phenomenon as MTB (mountain biking) and downhill races. To him we owe the appearance of “Niners”, as well as the fact that women’s bicycles have become a class of their own. He also developed first full suspension frames, without which it is impossible to imagine a modern mountain bike. A lot of his other engineering solutions are implemented in modern mountain bikes. And yes, most likely on your bike as well.

Lance Armstrong is probably one of the most popular cyclists. On Trek bikes he won 7 times in the most famous competition – Tour de France. With all the doping scandals surrounding him and his difficult fate, his life experience and his “LiveStrong” foundation helped many people in overcoming cancer.

Greg Lemond, the legendary 3-time Tour de France winner, began producing his bicycles under the brand “LeMond Bicycles”, but due to unsuccessful marketing, the company merged with Treck.

The legendary American brand (at one time) – “Klein” Bikes also went under the wing of the Trek corporation and stopped producing bicycles under it’s name, but it’s creator Gary Klein continued to work for Treck company. He invented and patented many things that are used in modern bikes.
Trek gathered under it’s wings the best engineers, the best brands, and the best athletes. Perhaps this is the secret of the success of this manufacturer.

Read more about Trek bicycles here


 

2. Scott

Next on the list is “Scott”. This company is considered to be one of the most promising, although initially they started their activity in field of skiing and products related to skiing. But their new direction – production of bicycles, is developing at the highest pace and on the highest levels. Scott’s mountain bikes have become their most popular product, but road bikes are very popular as well.

According to the owners of “Gambler” model from Scott, their frames are very strong, i.e. no cracks appear on frames during usage. But even if such misunderstandings happen, the manufacturer guarantees a full refund or replacement of the frame.

The brand name “Scott” immortalizes the name of it’s creator and designer – Ed Scott, and now it flaunts on accessories for skis, motocross, and of course on bicycles. This brand name prides itself on their light frames and claims that first aerodynamic handlebars, wich they invented, helped to win Gregg LeMond “Tour de France” in 1989.

In the 80s, the company’s headquarters moved to Switzerland (closer to the capital of skiing) and now the brand has a “residence permit” on 2 continents.

Scott supports more than 13 professional cross-country, triathlon, road and downhill teams. A representative of the most famous team of Scott – Odlo MTB Racing – Nino Shurter confidently won the Olympic gold in cross-country, and got a “perfect season” in 2017. Gold among women went to his colleague Jenny Rissweds.

Read more about Scott bicycles here


 

3. Specialized

A truly American brand. The founder – Mike Sinyard, from California, began by delivering bicycle parts from Italy. From there he also brought the name of the future firm, which was registered in 1974. Love and dedication towards his business resulted in creation of one of the most successful global brands.

When Mike realized that bicycles with thin tires can not ride in the mountains, and for this they need something more, about that time the first series of mountain bikes started to appear in the world.

Specialized in the 90s, has made a successful, provocative advertising campaign – they “dressed” Gorbachev in a bicycle uniform and drew his birthmark in the form of their logo.

Specialized brand bicycles can be bought only in their bicycle shops, this is the company’s policy. When they started selling their products in the mass market, they almost went bankrupt. Optimization and investments led to a merger: 51% of the shares are now owned by Merida company. Merida does not promote it’s bikes on the American market, because there is a well-known and popular Specialized, which takes 4th place in terms of sales in the country. This is despite the fact that their bikes are not cheap.

One of the manufacturer’s motto is: “modernize or die”. In collaboration with the research department of Formula One team “McLaren Applied Technologies”, a light and ultra-technological line of S-Works bicycles was born, which became a kind of fetish of our time among cycling enthusiasts.

Specialized patented “Brain” technology wich is used in Specialized mountain bike shock absorbers. It locks the suspension on flat surfaces and turns it back on bumps and uneven terrain.

The silver medalist of the Olympics in Rio and the winner of the London Olympics, Jaroslav Kulhavý, has won the most challenging 7-day marathon in the world on a Specialized bike in Cape Epic in Africa.

The politics of this brand is to support regional amateur teams. Specialized supports the best amateur cyclists around the world, who often win prizes in different competitions.

Read more about Specializes bicycles here


 

4. Cannondale

A very popular American brand. In many ways, brilliant, with a bright personality and a strive for innovation. Cannondale got it’s name thanks to a small town with a train station in Connecticut, where 3 friends founded this company in 1971. One of them, Joseph Montgomery, before setting up a company, was a financial market analyst and captain of the ship. He was expelled from college 3 times, but in spite of all this, Cannondale was bound to become successful.

They were the first to use aluminum in production of frames – and their frames are considered to be among lightest and strongest in the industry. The SuperSix EVO frame weighs only 695 grams and until 2016 it was the lightest in the world.

An interesting story happened in 2000: the International Cycling Union (UCI) set the lower bar for road bikes at 6.8 kg, and some Cannondale models did not fit into this limit and were lighter. In reaction to this, an advertising campaign was launched: cyclists rode in a striped uniform that was resembling prison robes calling for legalization of their bicycles (Legalize my Cannondale).

Cannondale has won many times the award of “Best Bike of the Year” at exhibitions and different ratings. Cannondale developed and patented 2 revolutionary technologies for shock absorbers. The “Fatty” fork suspension, wich is located in the head tube, and the “Lefty”- one-legged fork wich is considered to be the best in the world in terms of stiffness. All this looks a bit unusual, and owners of Cannondale bikes often hear jokes about their forks being broken.

Cannondale sponsors professional teams on the Road, MTB, Cyclocross, Enduro and Triathlon. Cannondale’s Pro Cycling Team racers won the Giro d’Italia race 5 times, enduro racer Jerome Clementz won the world champion in his discipline, and the number of medals at the Olympiads was overwhelming.

Cannondale bikes are great but they are quite expensive.

Read more about Cannondale bicycles here


 

5. Cube

This brand definitely has it’s place among the top brands. After all, a well-known manufacturer comes from Germany, which speaks for itself – the unsurpassed quality of every detail on every bike model. Every year dozens of thousands of models of Cube bikes are sold around the world, besides, they regularly participate in road cycling and cross-country competitions.

The assembly, engineering and design process is carried out in Bavaria, in a picturesque corner surrounded by the Alps mountains with rocky slopes and marshy lowlands. These people understand exactly what a mountain bike should be, sponsor their own professional MTB team “Cube Action”, develop clever modern technologies in collaboration with Munich Technical University.

Their bikes are created with special approach, taking into account even the most insignificant needs of riders. Wheels are produced and assembled on their own factory, with all German meticulousness. The love for Cube bikes from fans of MTB comes from their design.

Beautiful and original design and high functionality of components. They paint their frames with the technology provided by BMW concern, and on top models engrave their logo with lasers.

And they are really very beautiful. Guys from Cube claim that they are number 1 brand when it comes to sales of bicycles in the highest price range in Europe.

Read more about CUBE bicycles here


 

6. Giant

The Taiwanese manufacturer Giant strengthens every year it’s position on the bicycle market. To date, the company’s management is working hard on releasing models for extreme riding. In their lineup there is a huge number of models for outdoor activities for every occasion.

It would seem that the cost of bicycles of such quality should be significantly higher than the established one, but the company’s management focuses on buyers of different social groups, therefore prices for Giant bicycles are quite affordable.

Giant is a fascinating success story of Taiwanese engineer King Liu, who lost his eel farm during a hurricane in 1970, and in 50 years has become one of the biggest bicycle makers in the world. He collected start-up capital from his friends and organized a small factory, from which it all started.

The name Giant turned out to be prophetic in the end – now more than 55% of the bicycles of the whole world are produced at the facilities of the factories of this truly giant corporation.

The long success story began with 4 years of simply learning how to assemble bicycles correctly, then they entered the American market, and after breaking relations with US partners, they began to produce and sell bicycles under their own brand.

Quality and new technologies were able to win the hearts of cyclists in America and Europe. The right response to the needs of the bicycle market and the industrial revolution in China, plus the expansion of production, made Taiwan a bicycle island: many of our favorite racers come from there, and there are a lot of cyclists on the island itself.

Giant is synonymous with high quality and new technology. It was they who were the first to use carbon fiber, and in 1987 they released the world’s first carbon bike, available to a wide range of consumers.

We wonder why there wasn’t a movie made about his life, and we wish many years to the visionary engineer who made a huge contribution to a modern bicycle.

Read more about Giant bicycles here


 

7. GT

GT or Gary Turner. The most important advantage of this brand is a lifetime quality assurance. Thanks to the triangular aluminum frame, welded in a unique way, bikes are much easier, moreover, it makes them even more durable and resistant.

Frames of more expensive models are made out of carbon, which decreases their weight and increases their stiffness and cost of a product. Another distinctive feature of Gary Turner bikes is the unique suspension system, which is designed exclusively for the bike (the rest came from motocross). This design allows to reduce sway and improve efficiency of pedaling, and it really works.

Today, the range of GT bikes is diverse: from children’s models to professional mountain bikes. GT bicycles got their name from the abbreviation of founder Gary Turner, a talented welder who came up with the world’s first BMX frame (Bike Motocross) for his son, who was a fan of motocross. The frame is welded in such a way that it creates 3 triangles – this patented technology is still used today, and it is a feature and trademark of GT brand bicycles. It was revolutionary when it was created in 1973, and surpassed all competitors due to it’s strength and high rigidity characteristics.

Due to it’s bright appearance and excellent quality, the brand has gained fans all over the world. GT supported many athletes when BMX was still developing, and now they have enduro, trial, downhill and cross-country teams. Downhill world champion Gee Atherton is working with GT team and was participating (and wining) in races since 2012.


 

8. Merida

The history of Merida company begins in 1972 with the owner of a small Taiwanese bike shop Ike Tseng. Today, his son Michael Tseng is the owner of the huge Merida bicycle company. The company has become a world leader, with it’s own engineering and manufacturing workshops in Germany and factories in Taiwan.

This brand’s models are of high quality, they have an original design, and most importantly, affordable prices. Several models of bicycles are in production: hardtails, full suspension, women, tourist, as well as children and many other types. In addition, the developers have taken care of a variety of accessories.

This brand is well-known and loved in Europe, as it is the partner of several major competitions. This is the second company that made Taiwan a bicycle island, but in this case, the partnership with Europe resulted in success on market.

Just like Giant in the early 70s, the company was supposed to beat the stereotype that only low-grade products and goods are produced in Taiwan. Therefore, in the title ME-RI-DA founder Ike Tseng (Ike Tseng – a talented engineer and persistent Taiwanese guy) encrypted the message of his mission: we produce only beautiful high-quality bicycles that will give comfort to anyone (in Chinese, thanks to hieroglyphs, such a long message can be conveyed by one word).

The company is the world leader working with aluminum, it uses only robots when welding frames, so the welds are perfect each and every time. Owning two professional teams in MTB and Road cycling, the company likes to test, and at the same time to advertise their new products at competitions on a grand scale.

The six-time world champion and the current champion in the MTB marathon Gunn-Rita Dahle claims that since 2002, no matter what competitions she was participating in, she could always rely on Merida. Gold at the 2004 Olympics made her famous, and other awards are a good confirmation of her words.
Other victories at numerous competitions also prove that the mission of this brand – to make high-quality and beautiful bikes has been achieved, and they do not stop there.

Read more about Merida bicycles here


 

9. Orbea

Orbea – beautiful bikes originated from Spain. It all started with 3 brothers who founded the company in 1860 manufacturing weapons. Company was named Orbea Hermanos. In 1930, the factory changed production from weapons to bicycles. Having survived many difficulties and crises, the company took the path of globalization, moved it’s production to China and began to enter global markets. Now this brand is sold in 65 countries.

The bet on quality, design and new technologies together with a big name has justified itself. At the same time, the company claims that their bikes are so wonderful because they are produced in the Pyrenees – in a beautiful place where almost everyone has a bicycle since birth.

Now the production center, scientific and technical base and management of the company is conducted from the city of Malabia, which is located in the Basque Country in the north of Spain.

The company is proud of it’s eco-orientation, and produces bicycles for the diverse needs of people. The company started making a name for itself a long time ago, first in Spain and later in Europe.

One of the first famous riders – Mariano Canardo took the second place in first Vuelta 1935 (one of the 3 most eminent motorway rallies in the world).

The brand sponsored several professional road cycling teams and created the MTB “MBK Orbea Team”. The 2008 Beijing Olympics glorified their bicycles even more: Samuel Sanchez won gold in the group race, Julien Absalon won the MTB and Jean-Christophe Perot brought the silver on his Orbea.

These bikes are popular among triathletes thanks to the legendary Andrew Starikovich, who repeatedly won the “Ironman” competition.


 

10. Schwinn

The American legendary company Schwinn has been producing reliable and high-quality two-wheeled vehicles for more than 116 years. Throughout it’s history, this brand has experienced many ups and downs, and it all started with production of bicycles for kids

The company was founded in Chicago by a German emigrant, an engineer Ignaz Schwinn in 1895. The company managed to outlast it’s competitors and the Great Depression by creating a reliable, cheap and classic Aerocycle (a bicycle for postmen)

Schwinn became an icon of style for many generations of Americans. But in 1993 the company went bankrupt by not hopping on the “hype train” which was the mountain bike at that time. By the way, it was on the Schwinn bike that Harry Fisher came down first time from the mountain, and realized that he needed to invent a mountain bike.

A well-known company acquired and saved Schwinn from oblivion. It was the Dorel Industries corporation, which owns such brands as GT and Cannondale. Production of parts is based in China, and in the US Schwinn company is developing technologies and designs.

For the first time, the designers of this company proposed and developed wings (mudguards), which made a real revolution in the world of cycling. President Ronald Reagan himself preferred the bike of this company.

As of today, these are good quality road and city bicycles, which are produced under the legendary American brand and sold all over the world. Schwinn does not focuses on production of mountain bikes, but not willingly, Schwinn has played a big role in mountain biking.


This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Great information for anyone that is either an avid biker, or just does it for enjoyment and transportation. I don’t ride a whole lot, but for anyone who does, this information is great. I never knew a lot of things about those companies mentioned. I actually didn’t even know some of them existed. I really found it suprising that Schwinn was at the bottom of the list, so it makes me think they may actually be better just for leisure as opposed to serious biking and racing. This will help anyone that is looking to buy a new bike and needs to know more before purchasing.

    1. Schwinn is a great company. but their bikes are mainly for city/comfort riding

  2. That is a great review on 10 mountain bike brands. You mentioned some great brands that will help people to make an informed decision. I personally have a Giant and I did not know that back story about how engineer King Liu had lost his eel farm in a hurricane and then went on to making a world wide known quality mountain bike.

    When I decided to get a MTB I was inspired by rider Danny MacAskill and his custom made bike by Santa Cruz Bicycles. But then again I had no plans to be as much of a daredevil when it comes to riding like he is. So my friend recommended Giant, because he has one, and I am quite pleased with the performance.

    1. Santa Cruz has some great bikes. I’m thinking of writing a post on “10 more MTB brands” and i will include them 100%

  3. Oh wow! Thank you for this post. You seem very knowledgeable in the department of bicycles and their history. I actually am looking forward to purchasing a bicycle but I will get a used one. At least I’ll know which used one I should get : )

    1. Check out my guide on purchasing a used bicycle.

  4. This is really great information and will be useful when I start shopping for a new bike. I used to love riding my bike, but where I live now, there isn’t many places to ride. I would have to haul it somewhere other than home.
    I’ve recently found some bike trails not far from my house that I would like to try out.
    Thanks for this detail information.
    All the best,
    Devara

    1. Thanks for the comment, glad you founds this info useful.

  5. I have a Schwinn mountain bike, it seams like just a starter version of a true mountain bike. It is not as comfortable and lightweight as my sons bike.
    I will look at your information here when I look to purchase my next bike when this one gets a couple years older. It works well for me now as I do not do a lot of off trail riding.
    I don’t know the name of my sons bike, it is not here now, do you think there is an advantage for a Carbon frame for the novice rider, neither of use do any competitive riding off road.
    John

    1. There’s always an advantage to carbon frames, but they are very expensive. If you are not doing any competitive riding and not planing to, then aluminum frame will do just fine. I’ll advise you not to use steel frames as they have bad riding characteristics and they are heavy.

  6. I was thinking to buy a bike, in order to exercise and get more stamina. Before, I was running, and I love to run, but due to heavy injury of my left ankle, I am not able to run anymore, as it has a high impact on joints. So I am considering to purchase a bike.
    What would you suggest for me? I am male, 35 years, 173cm and 90kg weight. My body shape is good, but since I was sedentary for some time, I need to get my condition back.
    I was thinking of driving it through the city, so no need for mountain bike or something specialized. What would you suggest for me?

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