Trek and Specialized both offer great bikes. Trek offers a wider range of models and options. Specialized is known as a higher-end brand that can cost more. The best one to buy will be the one from the local dealer you like the most.
One of the toughest questions you could ask is who makes the better mountain bike Trek or Specialized?
These are two of the best bike manufacturers in the world. Both are well established in the mountain biking industry and while they closely compare to each other there are some differences.
Each brand has a dedicated following and they all have strong opinions as to which is the better bike. Both companies pride themselves on unique designs and innovation.
The following article will help you understand some of the differences between these well-known brands if you are considering a new bike.
While some mountain bikers just want to be told which brand is the best, it is important to have all the information possible before you can choose the right bike for you.
Trek Mountain Bikes
The Trek bicycle corporation was established in 1976 and quickly became one of the most popular brands. They are one of the older brands in the world of cycling. Trek headquarters are in the United States.
Trek was first known as a leading road bike manufacturer. Lance Armstrong is one of the most notable riders to ever ride for their racing team. Mostly for the Tour De France where he won the race seven times (Later he was stripped of these titles).
While the bikes all have American engineering and design, most of the lower priced Trek bikes are manufactured in South Asian Countries. However, the standard of components and quality control is still monitored at a high level by the company.
Overall, Trek offers a wide variety of bikes and after entering the mountain biking arena, the brand has only grown. From the Top Fuel cross country bicycle to the latest racing-inspired Trek Slash you should be able to find a Trek bike for every situation you encounter and all the different terrains you might want to take on.
Bontrager is a smaller manufacturer within the Trek brand that creates and designs all of its components.
Specialized Mountain Bikes
Founded in 1974 by pioneer Mike Sinyard, Specialized (also an American company) offers a huge range of equipment for many different uses.
Starting with road bikes, some say Specialized is one of the best bike manufacturers in the world. 3-time world champion Peter Sagan is one of the most popular road riders in the peloton and rides Specialized.
While Specialized might have started their journey with road and enduro bikes, they quickly became one of the leading mountain bike brands after entering the market in 1995. The Specialized Stumpjumper is one of the very first mountain bikes ever and a legendary model name.
Nowadays, Specialized still designs some of the best road bikes as you will see with teams in the Tour De France with teams like Lotto Jumbo and Bora Hansgrohe.
However, their main focus is on mountain bikes, breaking many records and supplying mountain bikes to some of the top riders on the mountain bike circuit.
Overall, Specialized is slightly more dedicated to the mountain bike industry, but this does not make them the better brand. Specialized bikes are manufactured for some of the pro riders, but the fact that they also have affordable entry-level bikes makes them a great choice for beginners.
Specialized vs Trek Mountain Bikes
To give you a better understanding of Trek and Specialized bikes and all the moving parts on each one, we must dive into some of the smaller details. Components.
We have broken down some of the main components of the mountain bike and compared some of the features. You can use this information to determine which bike has the better components and are best suited for your needs:
One of the first components to look for in a mountain bike is the frame material. Most high-end brands rely on aluminum and carbon fiber when constructing their bikes. It is not just any aluminum and often you will notice that aluminum 6061 (aircraft-grade aluminum) is used for bikes made from the aluminum material.
Generally, an aluminum frame is used for the more affordable bikes and both brands use it for entry-level or mid-level bikes. Carbon fiber is a more expensive material, but due to the weight and strength ratio, it is one of the best materials for mountain bikes.
Most high-end or professional mountain bikes have a carbon frame as well as other carbon parts such as the crank arms.
**Side Note** Steel is the cheapest material to be used for mountain bikes. Trek and Specialized do not have any steel frame bikes due to the greater weight and the lack of performance. But you may find one at Walmart!
Aside from the frame, there are many other features that every brand also needs to deal with. This includes the drivetrain and wheelsets. The manufacturer and the quality of these components have a big effect on the performance and you will need to understand a little bit about these before buying:
The drivetrain is one of the most important parts of any mountain bike. Shimano and SRAM are two of the main manufacturers and they are widely recognized as the two best brands available.
Both Specialized and Trek use the latest models of the SRAM and Shimano drivetrain groupsets for their high-end bikes.
The SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS and the Shimano XT are two of the main drivetrain groupsets you will find in high-end mountain bikes.
The brakes of your bike will be an important part, especially when it comes to downhill riding. These brake sets are also produced by Shimano and SRAM.
However, you need to determine the types of brakes you will use. Mechanical disc brakes or hydraulic disc brakes are two of the most common you will find on most mountain bikes.
Compared to the traditional V-brakes or caliper brakes, the mechanical and hydraulic disc brakes are more expensive. However, they offer reliable stopping power giving you peace of mind.
Trek boasts their proprietary technology called Active Braking Pivot (ABP). It was designed to keep your suspension from locking up under hard braking. They claim their patented technology reduces chatter and skidding. This is especially helpful when riding rough terrain and having to brake at the same time.
- Other Components
Other components include the cockpit and the wheelset. Trek and Specialized generally use their own brands in this area. Trek uses Bontgarer, while Specialized will use S-Works. Occasionally, one might find an exception, but these are generally on custom bikes. DT Swiss Wheels are also common and the KMC chains are highly rated.
Types of Mountain Bikes
Hardtail vs Full Suspension
No matter which brand bike you are looking to buy, first determine whether you want a hardtail bike or a full-suspension bike.
These two types of bikes are very different. The main difference is the additional suspension found in the rear of a full-suspension bike.
Both types will have a front suspension fork. The hardtail bike is easier to pedal when going uphill (because of no rear shock bouncing) and the full-suspension bike has much better shock absorption when going downhill.
Hardtail Mountain Bikes
Hardtail bikes are often seen as entry-level bikes because they don’t have a rear shock. Trek produces many hardtail bikes in their Marlin and Clipper series. However, while most of these bikes are dedicated to the beginner, they are slightly more affordable as well.
While Specialized also focuses on the hardtail bike for beginners, they have a few more advanced hardtail options for higher skill level riders.
The Specialized Hardrock is a very famous and popular hardtail that they have made for years and years. Still in production today it has a retail price of only around $500.
The fork located at the front of the bike is the most important part you will need to consider. The Suntour fork is commonly used by both brands for their entry-level hardtail bikes.
Alternatively, Rockshox is used for mid-level and high-end mountain bikes due to the stability and functionality of the bikes.
Full Suspension Mountain Bikes
Now let’s look at the full-suspension bike. These bikes feature an internal spring/oil fork system located in the front and a full shock (with or without a spring) in the rear of the bike.
Both brands offer a variety of full-suspension bikes. However, Trek is one of the bigger brands and they have a wider variety of full-suspension bikes for you to choose from.
Specialized also offers different suspension designs and components for the rear, which gives you a wider variety of options for your frame design (referring to some of the smaller details like geometry).
Trek makes use of the Rockshox rear suspension for most of their bikes. Alternatively, the Specialized FSR and Fox suspension sets are commonly found on many of the Specialized full-suspension mountain bikes.
Different models from Trek and Specialized can have different rear suspension design in addition to using different components.
One thing you will find in the bike business is manufacturers like to play around with different designs on all aspects of the bicycle. One design type of bike may or may not be a better option for your needs.
The bottom line is a full-suspension mountain bike will offer more of a smooth ride than a hardtail design.
Unique Features Trek vs Specialized
By now, you can see that there are many similarities when it comes to Trek and Specialized. However, each of these brands does offer unique bikes or features that set them apart from one another. These unique features usually are from the suspension design and components.
The Trek Supercaliber is one of the newer bikes from the Trek brand. Trek describes the bike as a game-changing technology of full suspension and hardtail mountain bike utilizing its exclusive IsoStrut shock.
In essence, the bike is a full-suspension mountain with a hardtail design. The rear suspension can be activated and locked out, as you need it.
Specialized Brain Technology
Specialized designed a system that they call “Brain Technology”, which integrates into the suspension. The system allows the rider to manually adjust the stiffness and functionality of the suspension while they are riding.
The main goal is to reduce the loss of power when pedaling by having your suspension set up specifically for certain terrain or trails.
Electric Mountain Bikes
Specialized and Trek both offer a variety of electric pedal assist bikes (eMTB). The idea behind these bikes is to make it easier and more fun for the average rider.
You still pedal as with a normal bike but there is a small motor that ‘assists’ you and helps you go. This is great for going up tough hills where you normally would get very tired.
While designed for pleasure riding electric bikes are now even being used in competitions specifically for them. Specialized has become the standard for electric mountain bikes and highly popular.
They offer a wide range of models and price ranges. Trek on the other hand does not specialize in electric bikes as much but they still have many great electric mountain bikes to choose from.
While these brands are not specifically dedicated to just electric mountain bikes that segment is becoming a larger part of their sales.
Trek vs Specialized Warranty
Finally, the price you pay and the warranty you receive are important decision points.
Mountain bike prices cover a wide range and you want to make sure you don’t spend too much but at the same time get the features you want and need.
Additionally, the warranties can vary by manufacturer.
Trek Bike Warranty
Trek offers different warranties on different parts of the bicycle. Frames and some other components related to the frame have a limited lifetime warranty including their Bontrager wheels with the carbon rims.
Other items have a two-year warranty. None of the warranties cover normal wear and tear or improper maintenance/modifications.
Trek does state, “Each Trek carries a simple promise: We’ll take care of you and do what’s right.”
Specialized Bike Warranty
Specialized is much the same as Trek offering a lifetime warranty on the frame and fork stays. Their branded Roval wheels have a lifetime warranty as well. Most other parts are a two year warranty just like Trek.
The bottom line is both companies offer very similar warranties.
Trek vs Specialized Price
There are so many different bikes from each company it can make it hard to know which one is a better deal. When comparing prices, you need to make sure you compare similar bikes and components.
We have identified a couple of popular bikes that each brand has and you can use this as a starting point for determining prices. Also, read at the end of this article our picks for the best bikes and more pricing examples.
- Trek Marlin Series vs. Specialized Rockhopper
The Trek Marlin and Specialized Rockhopper series are easy to compare. Each series has a variety of different bikes you can look at.
The Trek Marlin bikes range from $550 to $900 for the full bike with all the high-end features. Alternatively, the Specialized Rockhopper prices range from $750 to $1150.
Looking at some of the other bikes from these brands, you will notice a massive difference in the pricing. Specialized is generally known as the more expensive of the two brands. However, many people give the edge to Specialized in terms of quality and performance.
Are 29-inch Wheels the Best Size?
Mountain bikes started with 26-inch wheels. Along the way companies like Trek and Specialized started offering models with 29-inch wheels because the larger wheel makes it easier to get over some obstacles like small rocks.
Today, both companies offer bikes with each wheel size including 27.5-inch.
Determining which new mountain bike is the best is not as easy as it might seem. Both of these companies make a great entry level mountain bike as well as amazing advanced racing models.
The price is one of the most important aspects and Trek can be the more affordable of the two so could be a better value. Trek also wins when we look at a variety of bikes.
However, Specialized is better when looking at high-end bikes, possibly having a better build quality overall. Being generally more expensive bikes, Specialized has a great reputation being at the top of the sport and in the limelight consistently for many years.
Remember, the very best way to pick a great bike for you is to ride them! Head over to your local bike shop for a test ride and check them out.
Editors Choice Trek vs Specialized
Full-Suspension Mountain Bike
We feel the Trek Fuel Ex is a great bike for a wide range of skill levels. Beginners will love it and even more advanced riders will find it a bike that can do everything they need it to do.
The pricing is good starting at $3799.99 or a 2021 model Fuel EX8. If you want more advanced features and higher quality components prices go all the way up to $9499.99 for the high tech Fuel EX9.9 with carbon everything!
Full-Suspension Electric Mountain Bike
It is hard not to pick the Specialized Turbo Levo as our choice for an eMTB. This bike leads the field in electric mountain bikes and for good reason.
They offer a variety of Levo models starting at $5500 and going all the way up to the high-end S-Works Turbo Levo SL at a whopping retail price of $13,525.