You're looking for a new on-road commuter and would also like to do a touch of off-roading at weekends. Or maybe you're keen on just the off-road bit. Or maybe - again - you're keen on the look of a mountain bike, but its knobbly tyres will get no nearer dirt than the average Chelsea tractor. With mountain biking at new levels of popularity, there's a plethora of brands out there, some new and untried, some very much tried and tested. We've sorted out 10 of the best mountain bike brands for you to choose from. Watch out mud, here we come.
Best mountain bike brands in 2023
Swiss-based Scott started out conquering the slopes on skis rather than on two wheels. That expertise has transferred effortlessly to mountain biking, with Olympic and world titles won on Scott's high-end machines. Pioneers in aerodynamic handlebars and the use of carbon fibre, Scott today offer cross-country, downhill, dirt and sports mountain bikes for us non-Olympians, with electric mountain bikes offered too for the more sedentary.
Founded in a barn in Wisconsin in 1975, Trek are still proudly American-owned and stand up their claim to be the market leader in mountain bike technology with a comprehensive selection to suit all terrain tastes, including cross-country, trail and electric, plus a fat bike range for added traction on sand dunes and snow drifts. Lifetime warranty on all frames is reassuring as is Trek's long cycling history - and commitment to being at the cutting edge of what's possible on two wheels.
Innovation, craftsmanship, inspiration. Three words this worldwide company likes to say are built into each bike. Giant started small, in Taiwan in 1972, and have, you might say, very much grown into their name. Their mountain bikes have been competing professionally for more than 25 years and the company's huge range today includes deep suspension machines for full-fat off-roading as well as what the company calls "Adventure" mountain bikes for both tarmac and dirt track.
Renowned as one of the best mountain bike brands since the mid-1990s, the Californian company Santa Cruz like to place themselves a little leftfield in this highly competitive world. Their motto is "simply advanced" and the Santa Cruz image is at once funky - founded by a skateboarding professional - and also totally committed to the highest possible quality. Theirs is a more compact range - of mountain, trail and e-mountain bikes - in aluminium and carbon fibre.
There's history and then there's history. Ribble have been hand-making bicycles in Britain since 1897 and today their mountain bike range includes the toughest, lightest machines aimed at the roughest off-road trails. Ribble's so-called hardtail mountain bikes have suspension at the front only, allowing for greater traction for the rear wheel, if a little rougher ride for the rider. Gravel bikes are also offered, along with electric options.
An important first for these Californian bicycle obsessives: their Stumpjumper lays claim to being the first production mountain bike produced, in 1981. Pioneers, too, in co-founding the International Mountain Biking Association, Specialized would be in the mountain biking aristocracy if this democratic sport had such a thing. Now a household name, Specialized have exactly the wide selection of cross-country, trail, downhill and electric mountain bikes that you'd expect.
"Revolutionising cycling for the better, for everyone." That was a founding credo of Cannondale in 1971, and it's been borne out since whether in Cannondale's pioneering suspension advances, or its first mountain bike in 1984. Full suspension and aluminium or carbon fibre construction have long been Cannondale hallmarks. Its competition mountain bike team is honoured as the most successful ever. Cross-country, e-mountain and trail bikes are all offered, with hardtail options.
Carbon is the key story at Pivot, an American brand that's only been around since 2007, and that's pushed its way to the front of high-technology mountain biking. Hollow, super-strong, super-lightweight carbon frames are put through their paces in and around Pivot's headquarters in Arizona, whether they're for trail, gravel, dirt jump or e-mountain bikes. Pivot are very serious about what they do, and are all the better for that.
Getting in at the start of the mountain biking revolution in the mid-1980s and now based in a state with plenty to climb, Colorado-based Yeti like to say they began by building no frills bikes for core riders. Distinguished since then in downhill mountain bike racing and pioneering suspension concepts, Yeti have climbed to the high end of the mountain bike market. Compact, beautifully engineered mountain bikes form a small but exceptional range.
Valleys and hills are easily accessible just five minutes' ride from Canyon HQ in the German city of Koblenz, which makes test-riding their wide range of mountain bikes a doddle. Enduro, trail, e-mountain, cross-country, downhill, dirt jump and fat bikes form a large and high quality range for aficionados to choose from at all price points, from professional bikes through to those aimed at the more casual rider.