The other day when I was out riding, I noticed there are a lot of different mountain bike brands out there. A lot of the brands I had never even heard of before. Each bike seems to have its suspension configuration and geometry. Seeing so many different options out there, how do you know what mountain bike brands are the best?
Not every bike is created equally. Some bikes are just designed and built better than others. That being said, not everyone has the same body shape and size, so we need a variety of different bikes to fit those needs. Most bike brands have a variety of different bikes in their mountain bike line up depending on what you want the bike to do.
Another important factor in what makes a good mountain bike is the parts. Parts on a mountain bike include the wheelset, brakes, drive train, etc. Many bikes come in a variety of different tiers that get more expensive as nicer parts are included in the initial package. Some argue that the quality of the parts on your mountain bike is more important than the quality of the frame.
Let’s look at some of the best mountain bike brands you can buy.
Specialized is a bike company that has been around for a while and is well known. Based out of California, these bikes can be found all over the world. As a company, Specialized seems to have a bike for just about anything, as well as a variety of bikes in their mountain bike lineup.
Of course, I am biased toward Specialized since I have been riding the Rhyme for a few years now. Although I have now upgraded a few of the parts to make the bike lighter and faster, I can see myself riding that frame for years to come.
What makes Specialized bikes so great is the simplicity. When you look at the suspension, specifically the rear suspension configuration, it’s fairly simple. If you are looking at a Specialized bike in comparison to a Yeti bike, you’ll notice that the rear triangle is much simpler. I believe that is what makes Specialized mountain bikes so great, their simplicity.
If you’ve done any amount of research into mountain biking, then you’ve probably heard of the Specialized Stumpjumper and maybe even know someone who has that bike. The Stumpjumper has been around for nearly 40 years and is a staple in why Specialized mountain bikes are some of the best. There are now over 10 different versions of the Stumpjumper available.
Another great mountain bike company based out of the United States is Rocky Mountain. Perhaps I am biased toward Rocky Mountain also because I know a lot of people who ride them. But would a lot of people ride their bikes if they were bad?
My fiancé has had his Rocky Mountain Altitude for at least five seasons now and you would never know his bike was that old. Granted, he takes really good care of it as he should. One thing I like so much about Rocky Mountain mountain bikes is they are really easy to maintain. The suspension connects is straightforward and all the parts are fairly easy to replace and swap out.
Another great thing about Rocky Mountain bicycles is that they are lightweight. Without doing much upgrading to newer and lighter parts, these bikes are already lightweight out of the box. This makes them great for the climb and still ride well on the way back down.
When you see a mountain bike frame with bright colors, it’s probably a Santa Cruz or Juliana mountain bike. Based out of Santa Cruz, California, this is a popular bike company for more than just mountain bikes.
Like Specialized, Santa Cruz bikes have a relatively simple frame build. Where the rear triangle attaches to the bike is fairly straightforward. This makes Santa Cruz bikes easy for the bike shop to work on and fix.
Juliana is the women’s version of Santa Cruz. Most mountain bikes in the Santa Cruz lineup also have a female counterpart under the Juliana lineup. Even though these bikes are branded differently, they are for the most part the same.
For both the Juliana and the Santa Cruz mountain bike lineup, there are a variety of different bikes with different geometries and suspension travel depending on what you are looking for. Within each lineup, there are a variety of different packages you can choose from. For example, the Santa Cruz Bronson is a popular trail bike. The Bronson comes in an aluminum and carbon frame package as well as a few other different packages that have different quality parts.
One downfall to Santa Cruz and Juliana’s bikes is that they become creaky. This happens as dust works its way into the pivots on the suspension. Taking care of your bike and wiping down dust after a dusty ride can significantly help out your bike.
Click below to compare prices and check availability
A Colorado-based company, Yeti is a rider-owned company that focuses on you, the rider. Over the years they have sponsored several up and coming young riders, including Juliana Furtado (the same Juliana from Santa Cruz/Juliana).
If you’ve been looking at different mountain bikes on the trail, then you’re probably familiar with the classic Yeti blue color. Although the bikes come in a variety of different colors now, all their bikes still feature the Switch Infinity rear suspension.
The Switch Infinity rear suspension is rather complicated looking and not the friendliest to work on either. However, the vertical rear shock does look pretty cool. Unfortunately, Yeti bicycles seem to cost a significant amount more than bikes from other companies in the same tier.
Click below to compare prices and check availability
Trek was one of the first companies to make mountain bikes, although they are often overlooked in this category now. Trek is also an American based company out of Wisconsin. Over the years they have made innovative changes to mountain bikes.
Trek was also one of the first companies to create a women’s specific mountain bike. Women often prefer different geometries than men on their mountain bikes. Most companies rebrand the same men’s bike as a women’s bike but not Trek. At Trek, they understand that just changing the stem, bars, and seat height is not enough of a difference to call the bike women’s specific.
Over the years, Trek has sponsored several professional mountain bikers and uses that feedback to improve their lineup of bikes. They also have a lifetime warranty for their frames which they do stand by and offer quality customer support for unlike some other companies.
Based out of Arizona, Pivot is a relatively new mountain bike company having only just started in 2007. That being said they do make quite a lineup of carbon frame bikes. Carbon frame bikes are great because they are stiff and lightweight for pedaling. However, carbon frames break much easier than an aluminum frame and cost substantially more.
Since they focus on producing carbon frame mountain bikes, Pivot focuses on the lightweight quality of their bikes, and the price reflects this. Pivot mountain bikes tend to be much more expensive than other bike companies. While these are great quality bikes, if you don’t have the money to spend, don’t worry about getting a carbon frame. An aluminum bike with the right parts upgrades can still be incredibly lightweight.
Pivot mountain bikes use DW-Link in their suspension. This patented rear suspension system provides one of the smoothest rides of any mountain bike. However, what makes the DW-Link suspension so good is the ability to counteract pedaling forces. When pedaling uphill on a mountain bike, you lose a certain amount of force due to the rear suspension getting pushed down even if you can lock out your suspension. The DW-Link uses duel links to counteract the pedaling forces to feel stiffer while pedaling. This is especially useful for someone worried about their time on the uphill pedal.