From the first time I rode a Mountain bike in 1992, the technology has leap forward and the best mountain bike brands have expanded greatly from the handful of manufacturers in the 1990s with all most too many choices. Since you are reading this we know you want to ensure you get the best brand mountain bike in your budget for your preferred riding style.
The interactive chart of Mountain bike brands below is designed to help you narrow down a mountain bike brand from the many top manufacturers of today.
With so many choices and different rider personal preferences, this is the best place to start your search. The following is a Mountain Bike Brands Guide to help identify the best manufacturer for you. To better understand the different types of mountain bikes and the top 5 Mountain bike brands in our opinion see below the chart.
Best Mountain Bike Brands Guide
|Specialized||Cross Country XC, All Mountain, Freeride, Downhill, 29er||Carbon Fiber, Aluminum||26, 29||FSR||$-$$$$$|
|Santa Cruz||Cross Country XC, All Mountain, Freeride, Downhill, 29er, Dirt Jumper||Carbon Fiber, Aluminum||26, 27.5, 29||VPP||$$$$-$$$$$|
|Niner Bikes||Cross Country XC, All Mountain, Downhill, 29er||Carbon Fiber, Aluminum||29||CVA||$$$$-$$$$$|
|Giant||Cross Country XC, All Mountain, 29er||Carbon Fiber, Aluminum||26, 27.5, 29||Maestro||$-$$$$$|
|Cannondale||Cross Country XC, All Mountain, Downhill, 29er||Carbon Fiber, Aluminum||26, 29||Lefty||$-$$$$$|
|Fuji Bikes||Cross Country XC, All Mountain, Downhill, 29er||Carbon Fiber, Aluminum||26. 27.5, 29||FSR||$-$$$$$|
|GT ||Cross Country XC, All Mountain, Freeride, Downhill, 29er||Carbon Fiber, Aluminum||26, 29||Travel Independent Drivetrain||$-$$$$$|
|Diamondback||Cross Country XC, All Mountain, Freeride, Downhill, 29er||Carbon Fiber, Aluminum||26, 29||Knuckle Box||$-$$$$$|
|Trek||Cross Country XC, All Mountain, Freeride, Downhill, 29er||Carbon Fiber, Aluminum||26, 29||Full Floater||$$-$$$$$|
|Kona||Cross Country XC, All Mountain, Freeride, Downhill, 29er||Carbon Fiber, Aluminum||26. 27.5, 29||Beamer Independent Suspension||$$-$$$$$|
What are the Different Riding Terrains in Mountain Biking?
As a beginner Mountain bike enthusiast we may only view a trail as a trail, but for the more experienced rider, the trails terrain warrants a different type of bike to make the best work of it (take a look at our mountain bike tips). Here are the most common terrains Mountain bikes are created for:
Cross Country – A cross-country trail is more level and the primary goal of a cross-country mountain bike rider is speed. A cross-country condition typically warrants a light hard tail frame (different frame types described below) with just a front shock fork with less then 4 inches (100mm) travel. There are some cross-country bike with full suspension, but travel is limited. Many cross-country riders have been turning to 29er mountain bikes (29” wheels as apposed to the standard 26”) for their good “rolling” characteristics. Cross country riders are similar to road race bike racers, they balance weight verse durability even in their selection of mountain bike helmets.
Down Hill – A down hill trail is one where the a rider is descending at a fast pace typically over harsh terrain requiring a full suspension mountain bike that has a large amount of travel. Down hill mountain bike riders measure their ability in the speed of their decent and the air they achieve on jumps. Although weight is on the mind of most mountain bikers, durability takes priority with the abuse these machines typically take on this harsh environment. Some extreme descents require a different type of mountain bike favoring a smaller frame with extreme travel up to 7 inches for those hardcore downhill riders. A favorite stomping ground for down hill mountain bikers are off-season ski resorts. Downhill mountain bike riders typically wear a full face mountain bike helmet due to the high speeds and technical terrain.
Urban – The urban terrain is one of the more unique terrains for mountain bike riders. What makes it unique is the lack of trails on this terrain. Urban mountain bikers use man made terrain as their obstacles. Mountain bikes designed for urban terrain typically have small light frames to allow riders to move the bike around more freely to navigate this unique terrain. Urban mountain bike riders are creative in what obstacles they conquer and how they do it. Another definition of an urban rider could include a rider who purely uses their mountain bike for commuting. If a riders intended purpose is purely for commuting then having the best mountain bike brand is not necessary, especially with the increased theft risk and inefficient they roll on pavement verse a road bike.
All Mountain – The all mountain bike terrain refers to one which is faced with numerous different challenges requiring a bike that is more versatile. The all mountain terrain, as the name suggests, is one, which covers going up and down a mountain. This typically requires a mountain bike to be both durable and light to survive tricky descents while allowing the rider to pedal it back up the mountain afterwards with ease. These are typically full suspension bikes, but with less travel then a down hill machine typically ranging between 4-6 inches (100-160mm).
Dirt Jumps – As the name suggested this terrain predominantly consists of a series typically man made jumps. Bikes designed for this type of terrain more look like a larger BMX bike then a typical Mountain bike consisting of a hard tail and a front suspension fork. Riders of these dirt jumps are more focused on what they can do while in the air then on the dirt, so weight and size must be small and light so they can perform to their maximum.
What Mountain Bike types best suit the different Terrains?
What makes these different designs suit each intended purpose lies in its geometry and travel making it more accommodating for each of the prescribed terrains. Before you start sizing your next mountain bike, it helps to know which design will suit your needs.
Cross Country XC Racer Mountain Bikes – The name summarized the intended purpose of this type of mountain bike. Light and fast over the trails is the goal of these geometries. If you try to take a large jump on one of these it will rattle your teeth.
All Mountain Trail Mountain Bikes- As discussed above, this design is meant to accommodate those riders who want a balance of strengths to excel at climbing as well as descending. These are full suspension bikes with travel anywhere from 4-6” inches (100-400mm). What differentiates the All Mountain Trail Mountain Bike from the pure Down Hill Mountain bike typically is in its travel and geometry keeping the rider further back on the rear tire making descents more comfortable.
Freeride Mountain Bikes – This design is suited for those extreme descents with huge air and tremendous speeds. The geometry is typically smaller and their travel can reach as much as 7” inches. These bikes can also be by urban extreme riders (not commuters) due to their extreme abilities and durability.
Downhill Mountain Bikes – As the name suggested these beasts are for conquering those technical grueling down hill runs. The travel is extreme and they are extremely durable. Typically the frame geometry is a little larger then the Freeride Mountain bikes as well.
Dirt Jumper Mountain Bikes – Again as the name implies these are meant for the dirt jumper riders. This is the primary choice of the urban rider. They look like larger BMX bikes with suspension front forks. Built light and compact so that riders are able to pull off their acrobats in the air.
29er Mountain Bikes – This is a relatively new class of mountain bikes utilizing 29” inch wheels to allow the bikes to roll more efficiently over trails. The only disadvantage to the larger wheels is that they are not at easy to navigate in the turns. Many 29er Mountain bikes are hard tails with a front fork suspension, but as with the evolution of the original 26” wheel mountain bike we are seeing more and more full suspension 29ers on the trails. The 29er Mountain bikes are probably most beneficial to the taller riders making them feel less unnerved about being so far over the front wheel as with a 26” wheel (I am 6’ 5” so I am speaking experience on this topic).
What is the best frame material to get – Stainless Steel, Aluminum, Titanium or Carbon fiber?
The answer to this question depends on two factors, which are budget and ride terrain. As discussed already weight and durability should be on every mountain bikers mind, so the best answer is get the lightest and durable frame you can afford for your preferred riding terrain.
Top 5 Mountain Bike Brands
There many great brands to choose from, but the following represent the leaders in mountain bike brands, in our opinion, for consistently producing excellent bike frames year after year. It is really important to under stand also the 2 out of the 5 on this list only make mountain bikes!
Specialized Bikes – What can you say about the first manufacturer of a production mountain bike. In 1981 Specialized Bikes released the Stumpjumper opening up the trails to bikers around the world. Specialized Bikes has and remains to be one, if not the number one in Mountain bike brands.
Santa Cruz Bikes – Santa Cruz Bikes was started in 1994 by a once pro skateboarder converted Mountain biker. They only produce mountain bikes with most being full suspension. A mountain bike brand run by mountain bikers for mountain bikers…nice!
Niner Bikes – Niner Bikes only produces 29er mountain bikes. The company was started by mountain bikers who were looking for a better 29er to ride.
Giant – Giant was founded in 1972 in Taiwan by a gentleman named King Liu. Giant today is best known for their Maestro Suspension Technology introduced in 2004 which neutralizes pedaling and braking forces while still having an active suspension. With their innovative suspension Giant bicycles definitely deserves a place on the list of the best mountain bike brands.
Cannondale – Joe Montgomery, Jim Catrambone and Ron Davis founded Cannondale in 1971 to manufacture backpacks and camping gear. Later Cannondale started producing bikes and became known for their large tube aluminum frames that provided a very stiff and efficient ride. Today Cannondale is still one of the leading manufacturers of aluminum and carbon fiber mountain bikes. On a personal note, my first mountain bike was a 1992 Cannondale M800 Beast of the East (I still have it).