Specialized and Trek are two big heavyweights in the biking ring. Both companies are fast approaching the half-century age and have more than enough miles on the trails to prove their worth. Trying to compare which company produces a better bike is a stretch of road that might take some time to navigate, but I’ll give it a shot.
Specialized and Trek are bike manufacturers from the United States. The companies were founded in 1974 and 1975, respectively, and both are considered to be in the top ten bike companies in the world.
What makes a manufacturer better than another? Is it their community support? Is it their customer service? Is it their warranty coverage? Is it their price? As you can see, depending on your point of view, many factors affect companies standing in the public eye.
To make this a little simpler, I’ve decided to focus on the mountain bike models offered. I’ll also share what I’ve learned about the company’s other pros and cons, but I think the quality, selection, and relative price of the products themselves is one of the best judges of the company’s characters.
Mountain Bike Models of Specialized and Trek
Trek has more models of bikes currently, but Specialized has a more narrowed focus specializing in perfecting fewer models (see what I did there?). Truthfully, it comes down to opinions most of the time. So, in the interest of making that opinion informed, and because mountain biking is the best (in my experience), I’ve created this comprehensive guide to the mountain bike models offered by both companies. I’ve compared the models and brought my information with me to share with you – so you can make your own informed decision about which of these heavyweight bike companies takes the title of Better Mountain Bike Manufacturer. Let’s get this rolling.
Specialized Mountain Bike Models
Mountain Biking used to be a one-size-fits-all term. Now, it’s a class of bikes as the intent for each has refined over the years.
- Cross Country
- Dirt Jump
- The smallest of the Specialized product lines, the dirt jumper category, which in my opinion, is more of a BMX with front suspension and an MTB handlebar than a proper mountain bike. According to the Specialized website, the category holds a single model, the P.3, for $2,649.
In the current selection of MTBs that Specialized offers, I can see they are intensely focused on trail riding first and cross country second. These two aspects of the MTB world dominate the Specialized MTB lineup for 2021, as does a predominantly high amount of electric-assisted intelligent bikes. I’m still waiting for the bike that will ride itself (facepalm).
Specialized offers a wide variety of great trail and XC bikes to choose from, some rather excessive in the pricing department (there are motorbikes cheaper). Still, if you want a quality bike from a reputable name, then Specialized is a great place to start.
Trek Mountain Bike Models
Trek currently offers over 100 models/variations/configurations of mountain bikes. Their website shows a total of 121 results, but some of these are just the frames, so I put it at over 100 available configurations.
Similar to Specialized, Trek also has mountain bikes as a primary class of bikes with the following categories:
- 29er Mountain Bikes
- Rolling along with the big wheel trend from 2020, the 29-inch models Trek is offering is nothing if not versatile, with a massive selection of 23 models/configurations right on their website.
- The 29-inch Trek bikes start with hardtails at $529 and go all the way up to $12,999 for the electric MTB E-Caliber – a power-assisted dual suspension with a carbon frame.
- Full Suspension Mountain Bikes
- Trek rolls in with nine models to choose from in their dual-suspension category. This time the cheapest model is the Fuel EX5 coming in at $2,499, and the E-Caliber again the most expensive at $12,999. Naturally, you can see that some models cross over to other categories.
- Women’s Mountain Bikes
- As I’m not a fan of separating the sexes (equality for all!) and that all the models can be found in other categories, we’ll negate this particular category which, although helpful for would-be shoppers, is not so useful in our context as there doesn’t appear to be any difference in price between men and women’s models.
- Carbon Mountain Bikes
- Again Trek takes many of the same models as the other categories, but this time they are filtered by those with carbon fiber. The list comes up with 58 results, so there is no shortage of choices for a carbon fiber MTB.
- Aluminum Mountain Bikes
- Similar to the Carbon MTBs, a filter applied on their website gives you all of their aluminum-framed MTB models. Again, many of the same bicycle models display, and the difference this time is that we see a model as low as $479, with the most expensive in the group coming in at $6,999.
- Cross Country Mountain Bikes
- If it’s one thing Trek likes to do, it displays their bike models in multiple categories. The XC category holds 41 results, with the cheapest model coming in at $449 for a hardtail and $10,999 for the top-of-the-line SC dual suspension.
- Trail Mountain Bikes
- Trek has durable and versatile trail bikes starting at $1,149 and going all the way to $11,499 for their high-end dual suspension model Slash 9.9 XX1 AXS.
- Hardtail Mountain Bikes
- Hardtails start at $449, and the most expensive is $4,199 for the top carbon fiber racing model.
- Entry Level & Beginner Mountain Bikes
- If you’ve gotten this far, you’ll not find anything new in this section. Merely a collection of the cheaper models, prices again start with their $449 model and go up from there.
- 27.5 Mountain Bikes
- Starting at $1,149 with the cheapest hardtail MTB and topping out at $9,499 with the Fuel EX 9.9 X01 AXS model (Say that three times fast). The 27.5-inch classic MTB size offers plenty of options for the intrepid mountain biker.
- Electric Mountain Bikes
- What kind of a new electric-powered world would it be without a plethora of power-assisted MTB options. The first, the Powerfly 4, starts things off at $3,799, and the last, the E-Caliber, slides in at a cool $12,999. Sure you weren’t looking for a motorcycle?
- Kids’ Mountain Bikes
- Trek seems to classify small 12″ tire, single-speed, training wheel-clad children’s bikes under the classification of a mountain bike for some unknown reason. I’m not sure how these fit the bill, Trek!
- Downcountry Mountain Bikes
- Trek has created a hybrid category of bikes that are a cross between a downhill capable trail bike and a versatile XC bike to make a fun bike that they say is efficient and ready to party at the same time.
The bikes in the “downcountry” category price from $2,999 to $10,499, making them attractively affordable and yet scalable to a high-end premium ride.
- Downhill Mountain Bikes
- With two models, both available in 27.5 and 29-inch wheel sizes, Trek takes the prize for more selection in their MTB downhill category.
- Fat Bikes
- I’ll say this about Trek; they are, if nothing else, inventive. The company has four available comprehensive tire models, two with front suspension. These bikes let you tear up the sand dunes or even snow with the super-wide tires.
Again, Trek takes the prize by offering a new extension to the MTB world with the fat-tire bikes. As mentioned, these allow you to go riding in many different conditions where a standard width tire has difficulty. Great if you live on the beach or frequently ride in snowy conditions, these fat bikes are a breed of their own.
Trek Vs. Specialized (Or Is It Specialized Vs. Trek?)
After a careful and somewhat tedious review of both companies, here are my conclusions of their current lineups.
Specialized has a smaller variety of MTBs to choose from than Trek. The company is putting all its cards on three types: XC, Trail, and Electric assisted. The other categories they offer in the MTB sphere have a laughable selection. Specialized is definitely trying to specialize in these three types of mountain bikes. And judging from the number of electric models, I am wondering if that’s what they see in their future.
According to the Trek website, they offer 119 models of bikes within the mountain bike class. They have more models, more selection, and with the addition of their “downcountry” category, they seem to be on track to take the prize in this contest.
And The Winner Is…
After everything is said and done, if I were to say which company is better, with an eye on Mountain Biking, I’d have to say Trek is the better company in terms of product offering. They have a massive selection and seem to know what riders want. Their focus seems to be more on the rider’s needs than dazzling with their remarkable new technologies, which, although grand, might be the Achilles heel of Specialized, having lost track of the rider for the glamor of technology.
Now, if the dazzle of screens and technology catches your eye, then you may want to look towards Specialized high-end e-mountain-bikes. Although somehow, they seem more like electric motorbikes to me (I’m old school and believe in pedaling by myself), I can see how on those tough rides when your thighs are burning, how a nice electric assist with shock sensors and all the trimmings might appeal to me. At the end of the day, the choice is up to you and what you want on a bike.
MTB Tools I Love and Recommend
I own each of these tools and only recommend things I own and use.
- Bike Hand bike repair stand. Nice mountain bikes don’t have a kick stand so keeping your MTB safe but conveniently stored is essential. I keep my bike on my stand whenever I’m not riding it. This makes it easy to lube the chain, inflate the tires and adjust the derailleur. Highly recommended – Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand (Link to Amazon to see what thousands of others have said)
- A basic MTB toolbox for replacing a chain, adjusting brakes and dialing in the fit. Bike Hand has a 37-piece box that has most of the specialty bike tools to keep your MTB properly maintained. The Bike Hand brand is value packed for the avid rider. Check out the competitive prices with this link to Amazon – Bike Hand 37 pcs Bike Repair Tool Kit
- Get a good air pressure gauge, if you get just a tiny bit serious about MTBing you’re going to start playing with tire pressure. A couple psi can make your tires sticking or not. Get a good gauge, I highly recommend the Topeak Smartgauge D2, it’s accurate, flexible and easy to use. An Amazon best seller, here’s a link – Topeak Smartgauge D2
- Carry a multitool with you on every ride. I’m serious, most of the time you can MacGyver something to get back to the trailhead if you have a multitool. I’ve got the Crank Brothers M19, it’s worn, rubbed and abused – but it still works. Thousands sold on Amazon – check it out with this link – Crank Brothers M19
David Humphries is the creator of DIY Mountain Bike. For me a relaxing day involves riding my mountain bike to decompress after a long day. When not on my bike I can be found wrenching on it or casting a fly on a small mountain stream. Read more about David HERE.