Mountain biking started back in the late 1970s and early 1980s and like many good old tales, riders back in those days from the areas of Colorado, Cupertino, California in the United States tinkered with cruiser bikes and modified them with better brakes and fat tires for freewheeling down mountain trails. You can say mountain bike was the successor of cruiser bike (in a way). Fast-forwarding a couple of decades, it is one of the most popular sports all over the world. Whilst professionals compete and aim to accelerate above one another within the field, layperson like you and I, who wants to experience the thrill of riding over rocky terrain, countless companies manufacture great quality bikes which are both sturdy and light, overcoming many challenges of mountainous terrain. Top-notch brands come to mind: Trek, Cannondale, Giant, Ibis, Yeti, and Santa Cruz. We will delve into the top 3 brands.
Top 3 Best Brands Of Mountain Bikes
Founded in 1975 during the surge of popularity for cycling, 45 years ago, by two guys out of a barn in Waterloo, called Richard Burke and Bevil Hogg. Today, along with Giant Manufacturing Co, The Cannondale Bicycle Corporation, market share for the trio accounts for roughly 1/3 of the total revenue of mountain bikes’ sales globally. One would beg to ask the question, “What makes Trek so great?”
The constant renewal of technology, it seems. Back in the early 90s, Trek had worked closely with the aerospace industry and by mid-90s, it had exceeded aerospace standards for Carbon frames. In 1993 to expand into the fitness industry and its manufacturing capability, it acquired Gary Fisher Mountain Bikes, then had its manufacturing plant in Taiwan. By 1996, Trek had signed a long term licensing agreement with Greg LeMond, the first American to win Tour de France, and in 1997, Lance Armstrong represented Trek and won seven consecutive races on a Trek bike. However, after the much controversial discovery of drug usage during the tour, Lance’s victories no longer recognized.
Trek moved on to hire a collection of engineers and technicians dedicated to technological development. These days it carries major product lines like the eco-friendly products, LeMond line, Electra, Klein.
Whilst Cannondale is a name that was taken from a train station in Connecticut, it is owned by a Canadian conglomerate, Dorel Industries, and all of its manufacturing is out of Taiwan these days, instead of being handmade and made in the United States. Today, Cannondale manufacturers high-end bicycles but earlier in its inception, it was more well known for making bikes’ accessories and trailers to transport bikes to camping sites.
Founded in 1971 but not until 1983 was the released of its first touring and its first mountain bike was in 1984. Known for its unorthodox design, it made headlines in 1997 with oversized aluminum bike frames and it was the pioneering creator of the Lefty, a suspension fork that only has left blade which supposedly helps in pinpoint control and precision during cornering. Whilst these days there aren’t that many heads turning Cannondale’s inventions and others may argue that it might have lost its way. Certain during the late 90s it did. Cannondale moved into the business of motorsports and was losing money for every vehicle it made because it was not able to reduce the cost of production fast enough, according to Cannondale’s communications director, Tom Armstrong. By January 2003, it filed for bankruptcy protection. Its assets were purchased by a fund and later on, sold to Dorel Industries which probably explains its rather conservative approach today.
In 2020, some of Cannondale’s popular choices are Jekyll 291, Synapse Neo SE, and SuperSix Evo.
Giant is arguably the most well-known household name for mountain bikes because it is recognized as the biggest manufacturer of bicycles. Unlike Cannondale and Trek, it is a Taiwanese company. Established in 1972, Giant’s only advantage at the time was its resource of the cheaper labor force for the more well-known brands, such as Schwinn. If it wasn’t for the agreement with Schwinn to manufacture OEM parts under the exclusive private name, Giant might not have been the Giant that we have come to know.
This deal accounted for 75% of Giant’s revenue back in the mid-1980s and had helped Giant advance technologically. Today Giant’s distribution line consists of some 50 countries and sales of roughly 1.9 Billion US Dollars. The COVID19 pandemic had only aided in the sales of Giant as its target market is not with just the technologically advanced but also with the masses.
Giant understands early that winning the technology battle is already more than halfway to winning more businesses in the real world. It made its research and development center close to heart and in the early 90s, Giant introduced the “formula One” frame, which was its bestseller that is lightweight, sleek fast, and strong. It optimized the use of carbon-based composites. This was also around the time Schwinn filed for Bankruptcy and Giant established itself in China and more presence in North America. And the rest, as the saying goes, “the rest is history”. A few of its best lines are: Trance Advanced Pro, Revolt Advanced Pro, Contend 3.
Thinking of mountain bikes’ brands or any brand for that matter, it seems like looking at the rise and fall of an empire. Whether a brand remains as popular as it once enjoyed does not often depend on what it thinks the products should be but rather dependent on the market. Once it may have been a product-driven society, but it is no longer now. We are living in a market-driven society and if we do not want to be forgotten just like Schwinn (once almost forgotten), the best brands need to remember that they are the best precisely because the consumers still wanting them to be there. So there you have it, the top 3 brands in the mountain bike arena, once again, are Trek, Giant, and Cannondale.