When I was doing research about mountain bike brands I kept seeing the same ones pop up over and over again. The information was pretty general. These brands are popular but are they the best.
So I thought what makes a brand the best when it comes to mountain biking. So I came up with 2 important factors technology and a passion for making mountain bikes.
Technology meaning they have developed their own technology for making mountain bikes through research and development and innovation. In order to do this they need to have a real passion for mountain biking, meaning all they do is make mountain bikes.
Evil Bikes headquarters is in Seattle, Washington and was founded in 2009. Its business model is direct to consumer sales which cuts out the wholesaler. There are 11 to 50 employees which manufacture high-end downhill, freeride, trail, and dirt jump mountain bikes.
What makes Evil special is their Delta Suspension System. It was designed so that their bikes will go downhill and uphill better. Many riders say their bikes descend like a downhill bike and climb uphill like a mountain goat.
It was created to provide complex leverage rate curves so that it can be adjusted for various trail conditions, spring and damper ranges. Also, it can be used for coil spring downhill runs, and it takes advantage of the speed sensitive shocks which are on the market.
In order to have a large amount of angle and velocity movement through the travel Delta uses compact links. The leverage rate can be altered to take advantage of the shock’s valving. Early in the travel you will get a lot of suppleness, through the middle you will get high traction, and at the finish of the travel a bottomless ramp.
To achieve the best balance of acceleration and braking performance the right spot of the main pivot was meticulously chosen. This exact location prevents the need for any additional damping when the bike increases speed.
A huge benefit to this system is you do not have to change the leverage rate or the wheel rate if you want to adjust the frame geometry. This is all about personal customization either the rider or the mechanic can do this.
You can change the mountain bike’s feel by using various link kits. Evil’s bike athletes use this to their benefit so they can adjust their bike for various race courses. There are no incorrect modifications, it all come down to want the rider wants.
You can run air shocks and a position sensitive damper. You can have the frame geometry low in the bottom bracket and slack in the head angle or you can have it the opposite way, plus anywhere in between.
The Evil brand is all about self customization of its technology so the rider will get the most out of it bike.
Yeti prides themselves on building mountain bikes that they would like to ride. This passion as a brand is built in to every bike that they build. They began in 1985 when mountain biking was in its infancy. They focus on research and development testing on the trails.
This research and development has given them specialized knowledge in materials, frame geometry, and suspension designs. They are headquartered in Golden, Colorado.
What makes Yeti unique is there Switch Infinity technology. The Switch Infinity suspension system is a device that as the bike moves the translating pivot will switch direction. This improves the pedaling performance by providing anti-squat capabilities. As the travel gets deeper the suspension adjusts to it.
Switch Infinity has more Enduro World Series wins than any other system. The Yeti brand has taken that winning attitude and has improved on its leverage ratio. They have done this in order to provide increased compatibility with today’s shocks and different riders weights and riding styles.
It also improves small bump handling, ramps up faster in the mid-stroke of the pedal for a flexible supportive touch, while maintaining full travel and bottom out control.
Yeti works to improve on its geometry, such on its SB150 model. It has enduro inspired improvements. The seatube angle is steeper, and the head angle is slacker. This is for shorter fork offsets. Plus the chainstay is shorter and the reach is longer.
This enables the rider to be more forward on the bike which increases its downhill capability. This also helps to keep the front wheel on the ground, increases power to the pedals, and keeps the steering fast and reactive when going uphill.
Yeti has created the only shock extender which is certified by FOX to handle a coil shock. It is patent pending and was designed to make the best use of standover height, and support kinematics.
It also enables a water bottle to be positioned in the frame. It sites easily inside the front triangle, which is what riders wanted.
Because Yeti likes to design bikes that they would like to ride means they work harder on making improvements and they listen to rider suggestions. This creates strong brand loyalty.
The Transition bike company began in 2001 in Bellingham, Washington. This brand is a rider owned company. Their motivation comes from their love of mountain biking. Their goal is to make bikes which help you to become a better rider, no matter which skill level you are.
What sets the Transition brand apart from others is their in-house component brand known as ANVL. These components were created for riding performance and coolness. Every rider wants their bike to stand out and kick-butt on the trails. ANVL is Transition’s way of doing this.
The first of the ANVL components is the Forge Stealth Saddle. It was designed so that you can ride all day long and feel great. It is light and slim in size. There are three rail options to pick from so you can decide on the correct weight and cost for your bike and riding type. The base is adjustable so you can set it in the right position depending on the type of riding you are doing.
Next is their Swage stem. This stem is lightweight and very durable. In order to make it race ready all unnecessary weight has been cutout while maintaining a sleek design and look. To give you the most comfortable feel it comes in three sizes. The Swage is made with a 35mm bore bar which is stiff in order to reduce twisting and matches up with their Mandrel bars.
The Mandrel is Transition’s custom handlebars. It was designed for stiffness and strength. The tapers and bends were constructed so they are very smooth. This has resulted in a 35mm bar which has the appearance of a 31.8 bar. The Mandrel can be used for rough trail riding, enduro, and downhill. You do not need to roll the bar forward to get the right geometry.
Mountain bikers need to be able to grip their handlebars powerfully. Another ANVL component is the Punch Grip. This is a new idea in grip ergonomics and unique to the Transition brand. It gives riders a place for the tips of their fingers to grab onto while maintaining the feel of a thin grip. It uses a softer rubber and a single clamp design. This enables riders to be able to grip to the very end of the bar. The result is enhanced gripping power.
The last ANVL component is the Tilt pedal. Its purpose is to improve your foot grip. In order to do this Transition has designed this pedal at 105mm length and width. They use an Arched Radius Concavity design which helps to match the shape of a riders foot with the pedal. This increases gripping power and stability.
4. Pivot Cycles
Pivot is a technology and performance motivated company. They began in 2007 and are located in Tempe, Arizona. They try to break through any limitations of what is possible in bike design and technology. They strive to improve the performance of the riders they service.
They partner and cooperate with Shimano, Fox, DT Swiss, Maxxis, WTB, KS, Reynolds. They do this in order to create the best bike possible, not something that just appeals to a mass market. They do this by using top of the line technology in order to create better mountain bike technology.
They use two in-house 3D printing machines for maximum design capability. Along with that they utilize powerful CNC machines and in-house manufacturing for innovating new models. They manufacture production tools which helps them create prototypes and manage initial production runs.
The people working at Pivot want to and try to be the best in every area. They are driven by their mountain biking dedication, passion, engineering, and meticulous attention to detail. Their target is to make bikes that climb, descend, corner, jump, and jump better than any other bike.
Pivot Cycles technology revolves around their Phoenix Component System which includes the bar, stem, grips, seat post, and saddle.
The Pivot Cross Country and Trail Stem was developed to give riders maximum control. It is manufactured out of 7050 T-6 aluminum with stiffness at the forefront in its creation. It reduces the front end flex in the handlebar stem configuration while maintaining a light stable feel.
The Phoenix Carbon Bar handlebar was produced to give the rider control, accuracy, a snug fit. It enhances vibration damping and small bump handling at the outer ends of the bar. This is because it was made with a carbon layup which produces stiffness in the center stem clamp intersection area.
The Phoenix Padlock Grip system is a very innovative design. When you are going downhill your hands take on a lot of abuse. By focusing on that part of the hand which gets the most abuse the grips have a vibration reducing pad on the outside of the grips.
It took 3 years to design these grips which have an very soft durometer. The grips are designed with a deep hexagon pattern which offers the comfort of a larger diameter grip but with small grip control. Shock absorption and control is greatly enhanced.
The Pivot Saddle is a high class variation of the Vigo saddle. The Phoenix variation of this saddle has DNA padding, which is the top of the line memory foam around. For the ultimate in comfort for your bottom it is equipped with a Flex Tune Shell, and long lasting lightweight Ni-Cro rails.
5. Santa Cruz
This brand of mountain bike was founded as the name implies, in Santa Cruz in 1994. Their goal is the make bikes that are advanced. They prefer to pioneer technology instead of follow which results in bikes that are made to last and perform beyond expectations.
Santa Cruz uses Virtual Pivot Point suspension technology or VPP. VPP can be adjusted to find the correct balance the efficiency of pedaling and being able to handle bumps. Their cross country bikes are set up so that the energy created by the rider is transitioned to the front trajectory.
Their larger longer bikes are very good at isolating bumps and abuses the bike may endure so the rider can ride with more confidence during tough terrain.
One of the aspects which sets Santa Cruz apart from other brands is their experience in making carbon wheels. They only make offroad bikes so they can put all of their focus and energy into making the best mountain bikes.
Testing carbon wheels has become an art form for Santa Cruz. They realized standard testing was not going to be enough, so they came up with their own testing methods. Their impact test is approved by the UCI, Union Cyclist International.
The test consists of impacting two sides of a carbon rim with equal force using a flat rubber pad while not having a tire on the rim. The test is supposed to simulate a rim landing right on a square edged rock from more than 3 feet high, with a lightweight tire filled up to 25psi, and no suspension.
Santa Cruz put many other rims in the market through this type of test. Many of these rims broke they way they thought they would. Santa Cruz makes rims that pass this test. They figured out why the other rims broke and make adjustments to make rims that pass the test.
Santa Cruz has special carbon laboratories which gives them the ability to study carbon layup optimization which they can transfer to production frames so they can test new manufacturing procedures and tactics.
Everything they do, they do themselves and they are proud of it. The work happens in their factory call Skybox. They created this factory for manufacturing in order to control all the designs they make, plus also to protect themselves from anyone trying to copy them.
Devinci was founded by Felix Gauthier in 1990 in Quebec, Canada. The company is proud of the fact that the bikes are made in Canada. This is what motivates them. Felix and his team have put more than 25 years of passion and enthusiasm into their brand.
They have a never ending dedication to quality control and innovation. Their gifted team is close knit and they work well together.
Devinci invests in designers and skilled technicians. Through their research and development they produce women-specific rides, hybrids, XC standouts, ergonomic cruisers, and a World Cup winning dual-suspension mountain bike lineup.
They measure and test their bikes in real life situations at their top of the line testing facilities. Now what used to take weeks now only takes a few days. New designs can be prototyped, tweaked and tested.
Devinci bikes are made using Split Pivot technology developed by Dave Weagle. It is a suspension system for advanced performance bikes. It improves handling, frame stiffness, efficiency, and maneuverability.
Single pivot bikes can not do what the split pivot can do. When you accelerate by pushing down on your pedals that compresses the suspension. The split pivot reduces that compression of the suspension so you don’t lose that force to the suspension.
Instead it can be used to go forward. Plus the split pivot will also reduce compression to the suspension when you are braking. Braking causes compression of the suspension, now this force is reduced by the split pivot system. This increases your stopping control.
Cannondale began in 1971, currently their headquarters is in Wilton, Connecticut. They are known for their innovation and quality. In the biking industry they have created many firsts before anyone else.
These include the bicycle trailer known as the Bugger, large oversized aluminum bike frames, and their carbon aluminum frame. In mountain biking back in 1990 they designed the industries first dual suspension mountain bike.
Cannondale has won many awards for their technology and innovation. This has led their riders to take many first place finishes in races around the world. Their thinking is always rider-first.
Cannondale has designed Outfront Steering Geometry which pairs together a long fork offset and a slack head angle. This will increase handling at fast speeds and keep you swift and accurate at slower speeds. This is the perfect match for going fast downhill and slower uphill.
The longer than normal fork rake has two benefits. First the front-center distance is made longer, which positions the front wheel farther out in front of the rider. This helps the rider get up and over obstacles. This also helps to prevent the rider from flying over the handlebars while going over rough terrain or when needing to suddenly brake.
Second it shortens the amount of trail. The larger the trail measurements are the slower the mountain bike will steer. A longer fork rake will maximize the stability of a slack head angle without the slow speed maneuvering normally caused by it. So when going fast it is slack and stable, and when going slower it is agile and quick.
Cannondale has its own AI, otherwise known as asymmetrical integration. The goal is to have very short chainstays and a stiffer back wheel. This is done by moving the outboard drivetrain by 6mm. Better traction and agility is the result when the chainstay is shorter. You also get a stiffer stronger back wheel.
Short chainstays are perfect for traction because they position the rear wheel right under the rider’s weight when going uphill. Plus it helps bikes with big wheels like 29ers to be nimble and agile. There is not much space in the rear triangle area so something has to be made shorter in order to bring in the rear wheel.
The chainrings, front derailleur, and chainstay are all moved over by 6mm. Other bikes with short chainstays have given up to much to do this. Cannondale has the most effective and intelligent solution for having a short chainstay. The spoke angles are even and the tension is on both sides. This gives you a stronger, more rigid back wheel, without any added weight.
Cannondale is known for their very rigid and very strong carbon construction. Their method is call BallisTec. It enables them to create very light and strong mountain bikes. Using advanced carbon engineering and planning materials are combined in the right amounts to create their specialized carbon bikes.
Very strong fibers are used as the foundational structure. This is the same material used in military ballistic armor. Along with very strong, powerful impact handling resin, the same material used to create carbon baseball bats. These fibers and resin are joined together in a lay up which maximizes the structural integrity.
In order to create an amazingly balanced and precise ride the stiffness of the frame must be adjusted. This is done by creating an interconnected network of stiffening fibers all through the frame. This enables the engineers to adjust the stiffness and deflection in various amounts and at various point on the frame.
Ever since Trek began in 1976 in Waterloo, Wisconsin they have worked to create a brand that stands for craftsmanship. The engineers and designers at Trek are curious, so they are given all the resources they need to create real innovative bikes.
Trek builds their bikes using carbon and they have their own process for using carbon to build their bikes. Its called OCLV Carbon which stands for Optimum Compaction Low Void. The result is a lightweight mountain bike which is also strong and stiff.
The Optimum Compaction process is taking carbon and layering it into a series of plies. Then it is compressed into the perfect fiber resin ratio. Heat and pressure are used to compact the carbon together. How the heat and pressure is used is what makes OCLV Carbon the high quality it is.
Next is the Low Void part of the process in OCLV. When carbon is layered voids are created in between the layers. These voids or spaces weaken the strength of the carbon. The less voids there are the more strength and durability the carbon will have. The result is that OCLV Carbon has less voids than aerospace carbon.
Trek bikes are equipped with their Active Braking Pivot system or ABP. This patented innovation was designed to keep the rear suspension performing during braking. In order to do this the rear suspension pivot’s location was changed. This prevents the suspension from locking up.
Now, while you are braking, the suspension will still absorb any impact, and you will maintain traction. When the tire has a lot of contact with the ground the stopping power increases. More traction also enables you to not have to use the brakes so much.
The most important attribute mountain bike suspension must have is that the shock is firm and supportive while you are going faster by pedaling and as you go through a corner. But also it should be supple and forgiving in order to adjust to sudden impacts without throwing you away from your path.
Trek’s RE:aktiv is their own technology for suspension which does just that. It is an innovative regressive damping system that is dynamic and versatile. Progressive and digressive is what most mountain bikes use on their suspension systems.
Those systems do not react as well when faced with various obstacles one after the other. Formula One race cars use regressive suspension. Trek noticed this and created a partnership with Penske Racing Shocks.
Trek and Fox shocks worked together to make regressive suspension for mountain bikes working off of the Penske custom designs. Eventually RE:activ was developed.
Anytime there is a sudden attempt at compression of the suspension due to powerful pedaling the suspension opens and enables a soft controlled reaction. The same thing happens when there is an unexpected impact from an obstacle.
All these brands have their own unique technology which they have developed. They have demonstrated a real passion and dedication for mountain biking which is why I chose them after much research.