It is not an easy choice to choose your mountain bike by walking into a store & going just like that for any bike. What a brand has to be offer, what’s the review of it, how good is the quality, how trustworthy is the brand has a major influence on the buying decision. There are a pile of good brands before us which include carbon-only cycle brands like Yeti, Diamondback at high-end of the budget & the brands which stand out as the top one covering all categories. The best brands always test their bikes on what they have promised before launching them in the market. This article will cover all the major players in the mountain biking scenario with a brief on the company as well the plus point & the negative shades of the bike.
If you want to know the best bike brand for mountain bikes, we have put the answer for you in this article.
What Is A Mountain Bike?
Mountain bike is a type of rugged bicycle with flat handlebars, multiple gears & wide tires. These are for riding narrow & dirt track & as the name indicates, are specially designed for riding on mountainous surface. These kind of bikes are durable & come with & without suspension. There are separate models available for men & women. The women’s models come with women’s-specific seats, smaller grips, narrower handlebars & shorter crank-arms. This of course is because of the short arm & leg length of women.
Mountain biking is comparatively complex & trickier than other biking disciplines as it includes the navigation of hills & surfaces where the upper part of your body & the core get involved with the gear. It hence just doesn’t require strength, endurance & courage but also a lot of self-confidence, core strength, balancing & biking skills. Mountain bikers prefer to ride on off-road pathways like fire roads, back-country roads & single-track.
Wheel Sizes of Mountain Bikes?
In general, the wheel sizes for mountain bikes come in 3 sizes –
- 26” wheels are the major size wheels for most mountain bikes. In previous times, it was the only size available. 26” wheels are supposed to be faster & speedy on downhill trails.
- 29” wheels have become very common in recent times. It may be slower to accelerate, but, are faster up hills & shows more momentum overall. They are preferred by taller riders.
- 5”wheels are very newer. As a matter of fact, these combine the best elements of 26” & 29” wheels.
The Big Guns
Without wasting any time, we would come down straight to our list as below:
- Santa Cruz
With only 13 dirt-focused models in the list, this brand has established itself among the well-known players. Though the models have not been many in terms of counting but, the recent add-ons to the party are Nomad, Bronson & Hightower. The brand has legendary models still fresh on the list of the experienced riders include Bullit, Driver 8, VP Free & Heckler.
The good things about this brand include- Boutique feel, top-quality frame & the attention to detail on the bike. The detailing will clearly make you realize how importantly have the designers built it. With full confidence on its product, the company offers lifetime warranty not only on the frames but also on its pivot bearings. But again, these things come at a cost & come under the expensive category. The bike will talk quality from each angle & hence, for the ones with no budget boundations, this might be a good choice.
If there’s one brand that has helped spread the fever of mountain biking, then it is simply Specialized. A brand with its roots in 1970s, it completely defined the mountain biking scenario in the US right when it sprouted. Like most companies, the manufacturing unit lies in Taiwan but the brand maintains its stand in California quite easily. The most successful model is Stumpjumper which was born in 1981 & became the first mass-produced mountain bike in the world. The name has been such a big influence that the company continues to keep 28 versions of the full-suspension design under the series till today. The brand’s expertise in biking makes it cater a wide range from entry-level mountain bikes to road & electric bikes. Thus, even if you’re not a mountain biker, you can have fun.
The most important part is the quality that it delivers as well as all the types of riders that it caters. While Stumpjumper was the beacon light, Specialized continues to come with innovations & add-ons year after year. In the growing trend of e-bikes, Specialized still leads as a major brand. However, when it comes to competition, this brand is a bit too possessive with its stuff which somehow isn’t good PR.
This Connecticut-based firm is popular for the its out of the box approach towards building bicycles as the most number of innovations come here in this brand. A popular choice for the critics as well as the riders, is the one-sided Lefty fork & unique Headshok unit as they broke the trend of standard suspension forks in bikes. If you see oversized aluminium tubing then it is Cannondale for sure. This started way back in 1980s when the brand went ahead with building bikes with the light-weight aluminium which wasn’t the preferred choice for manufacturers. The company has held its roots strong with aluminium tubes still in use.
The bad thing is of course Cannondale losing ground to the competitors. From once being the best teams comprising of the best riders, Cannondale lost the way in terms of market share in the decade 21st century. However, a few setbacks make us do new things & so has been with them as now, they are experimenting more with a motive of reinventing themselves. Example include the normal-looking mountain bike- the Habit. The brand is still one of those who isn’t afraid to do things there way with lightweight aluminum frames.
Also a 70s player, Diamondback started with a focus on BMX bikes in Seattle. But, it has also brought itself as an all-round biking company. Diamondback just like Cannondale was a name to reckon with previously. But ownership changes led to its downfall as they fell apart from the list of serious cyclists.
Diamondback is trying to rise up from the grave in terms of the popularity & customer base. The brand took its time & launched the Release 3. But, the patience paid off as it turned out to be one of the best full-suspension bikes within $3000. Just like its counterpart Giant, Diamondback offers bikes at affordable prices which attracts riders with budget constraints. The website is also available from where you can order it — a USP since very few big brands do so. As a brand that deals competition with its cheap pricing, Diamondback is a good choice.
- Pivot Cycles
If you believe in the magic of delivering quality to users & building a decent consumer base over a short period of time then Pivot Cycles is the brand. Yes, established in 2007 only, this brand has made it to this list in a time of merely 12 years. However, it isn’t quality solely which is important here as the founder is none other than the all time mountain biking legend Chris Cocalis. Pivot is a big gamer in the category of high-quality carbon & aluminum bike manufacturers who span over a variety of disciplines. The best models are long-travel 29er, the Firebird 29 & Mach 4. The list only gets longer here with 16 more models to choose from that cover every category from gravel & cyclocross to fat biking. The company has recently introduced aluminium bikes as well for the low-budget customers which include Mach 6 & Switchblade. However, Pivot is a specialist in carbon frame bikes.
Pivot bikes are expensive to be very honest & you can’t expect them to be cheap if it is the carbon fibre category that you are exploring. Pivot is a few steps behind other brands in terms of warranty with only a 10-year warranty. The pricing is still a bit high as compared to other brands but that doesn’t mean that they’ll not deliver quality. When it comes to mountain trail climbs, the DW link suspension design delivers great output with efficiency as well as the control & comfort on descents. However, the costly range makes it a bit of a tough pill to swallow.
- Ibis Cycles
Ibis Cycles is also a boutique brand just like Pivot & Santa Cruz. It has a good reputation in the mountain biking community as a brand that delivers elite category cycles. It was founded by Scot Nicol in his garage in 1981. However, Nicol sold it in 2000 to an investment company.sadly, within just 2 years of the ownership transfer, the brand went bankrupt & it was not until 2005 that it woke up like Jon Snow. The Mojo carbon full-suspension mountain bike was the first strike after rising up which went very successful. They also launched a long-travel 29er known as the Ripmo. The Ripmo’s USP is the fact that is designed to fit in riders as short as 5’1” – an unusual occurrence with 29-inch wheels.
It is a more specific brand with a very small list of bikes & has only six bikes with four full-suspension models, a newly released & affordable hardtail (the DV9), & one gravel grinder (the Hakka MX). it has shifted focus to making carbon frames only at the moment. But, they are affordable despite being boutique brands & can be spent upon. But, with all benefits, one negative point is the very short seven-year warranty.
- Yeti Cycles
Based out of Colorado, the 1985 based Yeti is on the bucket list of most bikers these days. The brand has its history stuck deep in racing. Talking about popular models, Yeti is heating up the game with their aggressive geometry & varying-front-&-rear-wheel travel of the SB100, SB130, & SB150 models.
Yeti bikes have three major characteristics which make them desirable. First comes the signature vibrant “Yeti Teal” frame color. Second is their unique rear suspension platform known as Switch Infinity, & third of course is high pricing. The bikes are definitely sturdy & performers but the extra expensiveness keep them out of reach of many. In terms of pricing itself, Yeti bikes would come at $400-500 more than the other brands.
- Co-op Cycles
A brand which is known primarily for dirt-track mountain racing, Co-op Cycles had a major rebranding 2016. It was known as Novara previously & the brand had a good name in the urban & traditional road-cycling groups. The bikes also were cheaper compared to other brands with similar configuration & quality. With 26 adult models featuring an array of road, adventure & mountain bikes, the price tags starts at $499 for the basic DRT 1.1 mountain bike.
The brand went up & made big news when it reintroduced a full-suspension bike into their lineup. After a 10-year halt, it came back with the DRT 3.1 & 3.2 models. The highlights included 27.5+ tires & 120-140mm of travel. The bikes are comfortable & pleasant to ride on. However, they are old style in terms of geometry & design & hence might not appeal to many. However, the old design isn’t much of a failure & may give you a vintage feel.
- Evil Bike Co.
Straight from Washington, this brand is surely a tough one in the market & carries a heavy reputation. The brand’s USP is the unique designing. The models are very good for descents as the region that it comes from are known for descent based trails. They are made of carbon fibres only. The Following is one of the most popular ones in the line which gave riders a knowledge on what large wheels could do when it came to mountain biking.
The brand is very sarcastic in terms of marketing where it always takes opponents down with some wit. The brand has a limited line-up of only six bikes with unique personality that distinguish them from other bikes. The biggest downtime is the limited three-year warranty which is actually quite weird compared to lifetime warranties by brands.
- Salsa Cycles
With two to five year warranty period only, the Salsa might not sound a nice mountain biking dance to you, but, there are advantages too. The brand started in 1980s in a garage. Salsa’s models are adventure based & come with no additional & needless features at all. Thus, the package will be something which will deliver all the necessary stuff without much overdo. Models like Fargo & Cutthroat are very much in the category of traditional mountain biking options.
Salsa Cycles has built up a niche in the industry as it serves the backcountry explorers amazingly. Most models come equipped with mounting points for bags, bottles & extra supplies. Salsa’s bikes take you off the beaten path & will always quench your thirst for adventure.
Founded in 1988 in Vancouver, Kona is another good name in the biking industry & has its value amidst the name of the top bike manufacturers. They manufacture bikes of all sorts, & at the same time, maintain their speciality in manufacturing mountain bikes. Kona’s mountain bikes offer a lot of fun to the riders during mountain biking.
Kona had got into the road biking scenario but failed to get the desired outcome. However, it was not impossible & hence it made a comeback with its full-suspension Process & hardtail Honzo models. The bikes will automatically talk for themselves as you ride them & tell you the attention that the company is intending to pay to fun rides. Beyond mountain bikes, Kona features other types of bikes as well with a range covering fat bikes & commuters as well as other sub-categories of bikes. After quite some time on the reading, we are naming a life-time warranty brand & it is surely Kona but, only for the bike frames produced after 2009. The likeable thing is the no-frills bikes with legit pricing. The focus is more on fun but again, limited online availability is & will be an issue that the company would require to work out..
- YT Industries
It is counted among the forerunners in the US market who brought the bikes direct-to-consumer. Coming from Germany, YT Industries has remained one of the popular brands in the U.S market ever since. Despite bringing things up from another country, the prices are quite cheap & the quality is supreme. The brand is indeed popular for high-end parts. Given their quality & price, it is tough to ignore them & move forward. For those who are very very low on budget & every $100 is an asset to, this bike will provide you good parts, quality & biking experience at low pricing compared to other brands & the difference will be of a few hundred dollars. For instance, YT’s Capra (topmost model) can be purchased at approximately $2,500 less than a similarly equipped model from Santa Cruz.
A great deal on this bike is always going to give you the advantage. However, since it is kind of a long-distance relationship with direct-to-consumer thing, the service & warranty process are troublesome. The deal undoubtedly is a steel deal & you can’t get your hands off a better deal like this. Also, as compared to other brands where one can walk into their local bike shop & buying replacement parts directly off the shelf, this process is going to hamper the biking experience for sometime at least.
Where to Buy a Mountain Bike?
There has been a big change in the shopping trends off late in consumers. Certain products are better when bought offline from a store directly. However, since the digital media has kicked in, A to Z products are no available online which is indeed something which has given way to purchasing bikes online. However, a large chunk is still sticking to the old-school style of purchasing mountain bike from the specialised stores but, there have also been people who are getting their pedal directly delivered to their home. It is definitely good that somebody gets a thing sitting right at home, but, since “actual products might differ considerably”, you might not be satisfied with what you got. Rather, you might end up disliking the color or the quality. The bike fit might also not be as good as you expected & can be a big negative for you. Again, there are options where you can return always, but, why carry so much of issues when convenience of getting the bike, seeing it & trying it for yourself is available near your local bike store?
However, when it comes to brands like YT Industries as well as certain others with online presence, the expertise, advice, combined with the fact that you’re able to get from a local store apart from a test ride of the bike before purchasing is completely lost. Online shopping is advantageous, buthere, things can go tough instead of being easy. Offline purchase is thus a more satisfactory purchase. Also, if anything goes wrong, it is simpler & more comfortable for us to go to the nearest shop for advice rather than getting stuck in online process of awaiting a revert, reporting the issue, tracking the status, waiting for an action ,etc.
Tips To Maintain Your Mountain Bike
If you’ve decided on the brand you are going to go for, know these few things which apply for every brand of mountain bikes. The maintenance is necessary since you’re going to spend some good money on you mountain bike. The key points are as below:
- Cleaning the bike
Keeping the bike clean on a consistent basis is the first thing to a well-maintained bike. All it takes is a biodegradable cleaner, a sponge, a towel & an old toothbrush to clean everything as it would help you take down the frame, chain, chain rings, cassette, derailleurs, pedals, brakes & seat. People mistakenly use buckets of water but a gentle rain-like spray will do it just fine to rinse away any soap residue. Removing the seat post for a thorough cleaning is necessary & adding a small amount of bike grease before reinstalling things is important too.
- Inspecting the brakes
Brakes are a vital part of the bike & ensuring their healthy condition will make the actual difference between a flawlessly-maneuvered corner & loss of control, which may lead to serious injuries. The brakes must be thoroughly inspected during each mountain bike tune up. Checking the brake pads, the small rectangular metallic or rubberized surface that actually rubs against the disk or rim) is the first step in checking brakes. These wear go ineffective after sometime due to constant friction & need to be replaced when needed.
- Hot wheels
Wheels hold the tyres in place & provide stability & smoothness during cycling. Elevating the bike & spinning the wheels will show if they are moving smoothly without wobbling. Replacing the wheels if denting or other damage is excessive shouldn’t be given a second thought.
- The drivetrain health
A bike’s drivetrain is a family of parts including pedals, chain, chainring, derailleur (the ingenious little device that moves the chain from one gear to other) & rear-wheel cassette (the set of teeth attached to your rear wheel). The drivetrain is what controls the power going from the rider into the rear wheel. Here, one would need a bike stand to proceed. By raise the rear wheel & spinning as in wheel check, this time, shifting gears would be needed. Shifting should be smooth & easy to perform. A look on the chain, chainrings, derailleur & cassette for any damage must be noticed. The chain should be replaced every 2,000-3,000 miles since it is the most frequently replaced component of the drivetrain. Replacement comes at a price of around $20-50. Waiting long to replace a chain will harm other drivetrain components which is more harmful & expensive. If shifting is rough, taking the bike to a repair shop to have it looked at by a professional is essential.
- Checking the tyres
Mountain bike tyres offer traction with the ground which allows them to travel over a variety of surfaces, like mud, logs, gravel, rocks, roots, etc. They also form a flexible cushion which absorbs the roughness of the bumps & unevenness along the way, making the ride comfortable.
Checking the tyre pressure first is important. The pressure depends on the terrain but, on an average scale, it is somewhere between 30-45 psi. Lower psi aids in more traction on technical & loose terrain, but is more prone to flats. Air escapes from the tyres as we ride & it is much needed to have a nice floor pump with gauge to enable checking tyre pressure. Tyres must also lack splits, cracks & tears, especially along the side-walls. The tread shall also be checked to see uneven wearing off which will ask for a replacement of the tyres. Damaged tyres might lead to burst which will cause a sudden loss of control.
- Cable check
Cables are either made of oil caged in a plastic housing or tightly coiled metal wire. These connect the shifters to derailleurs & brakes to the brake pads. The ones linked to the derailleur, move the chain from one gear to another, while those connected to the brakes aid in stopping the bike when the lever on the handlebars is pulled. Inspecting the cable & surrounding rubber housing for cracks, rust, damage, dirt & looseness. New cables or oil will definitely make shifting & braking smooth. If braking/shifting is not up to the mark, we should get the cables replaced or oil changed. This replacement isn’t a frequent one & should be proceeded with between every 2-5 years based on use & quality of replacement parts used.
Oil lubricant coats the drivetrain from top to bottom & helps them last longer. This increases bike performance as well as enables them to work more efficiently. A few drops of lubricant will also reduce accumulation of dirt & grime which helps in increase performance of the moving parts. The lubricant must be evenly applied to the chain while slowly rotating the pedals in an anti-clockwise direction. Not to forget, lubing the moving parts on the derailleur, the pivot point on the brake levers & any exposed cable wire is of utmost important. Excess lube should be wiped off with a clean, dry cloth, particularly on the chain.
The best brands have been enlisted in this article. Also, the places where they could be available, the best means to get them as well as the best way to maintain your bike in a healthy & happy condition have been mentioned too. So, go forward & start riding on your favourite mountain bike.