Great bike brands never die; they only re-invent themselves and their products. Most of them live on in our memories by the fast descents, breathtaking vision of epic rides, and the endless climbs renowned riders have made using them.
While most legendary brands established in the 70s and 80s still live on, many other bike companies have emerged since. Their designs, construction, and sizes are pretty similar, but avid cyclists always have that one brand they prefer.
In this article, we look at the seven best bike brands and explain the companies’ significant contributions to bike technology and design.
1. Trek Bicycle Corporation: Best for Value
It’s undeniably one of the best bike brands that provide value for your money regardless of your budget. Established in 1976 in Wisconsin, Trek is one of the largest bike brands in the U.S., producing more than 40 unique models.
Its founders, Dick Burke and Bevill Hogg, started the company with only five employees, and the company has grown since. Their first bike model was made of touring steel frames, but as the business evolved, they increased the selection to include mountain bikes and road racing bikes made from carbon and aluminum.
Trek later moved most of its production overseas, but it still makes some models locally. As of 2014, the company was making about 25,000 bicycles which is half of all the bikes used in the U.S.
Some of the features, which many companies have adapted to improve their customers’ cycling experience include:
- IsoSpeed suspension: The feature decouples the seat tube from the top to reduce the fatigue caused by cycling.
- OCLV Carbon: It’s an acronym for Optimum Compaction Low Void, Trek’s patented carbon fiber process for producing the stiffest and the lightest carbon frames in the world.
- RE:aktiv: This is an advanced suspension system that enables the bike’s dynamic flow to adapt to the rider’s performance and terrain.
- Mountain bikes
- Electric bikes
- Touring bikes
- Triathlon bikes
- Hybrid and city bikes
- Gravel and Cyclocross bikes
2. Cannondale Bicycle Corporation: Best for Road and Mountain Bikes
This is another legendary bike brand that dates back to the 1970s. The American brand has had its ups and downs throughout its 50-year long history but is still one of the leading bike companies in the U.S.
Unlike Trek, which started as a bike company from the beginning, Cannondale initially produced precast housing. It then ventured into bicycle production, making its first cycling-related product called Bugger.
In 1983, the company manufactured the first bicycle, a Touring model made from aluminum and a dated track frame design. Cannondale followed it up with a racing bike, and the brand has since flourished. It became one of the main sponsors in Grand Tours throughout the 1990s.
In 1997, for example, members of the Saeco cycling team from France rode on the brand’s bike, and the team’s leader declared Cannondale bikes the best.
Most successful bike brands tout a list of in-house technologies they invented and used on their bikes, but Cannondale’s seems to break the record. Here are the most memorable:
- CAAD aluminum frames: CAAD is an acronym for Cannondale Advanced Aluminum Design, a series of robust, lighter, and more durable aluminum frames introduced in 1996. They were an improvement from the previous flexible structures that made handling challenging
- Kingpin Suspension: It’s a recent innovation and was first introduced on its carbon gravel bike models. This suspension system uses a thru-axle pivot on the seat tube to allow the back of the frame to flex up to 30 mm instead of using the regular shock and linkage system. This new feature improves traction and comfort without adding weight.
- Lefty Fork: This was Cannondale’s ground-breaking invention. The company combined the right and left leg to create a suspension fork that offered 30 mm of travel using one leg. The result is a lighter and stiffer fork ideal for short travel applications.
- Road bikes
- Hybrid bikes
- Adventure bikes
- Fitness bikes
- Cyclocross bikes
- Gravel bikes
- Electric bikes
- MTB bikes
3. Bianchi: Best for Racing Bikes
Bianchi produces some of the best racing bikes, with some riders hailed for winning Grand Tours using this brand’s bikes. This Italian bike brand is also famous for its unique color scheme-Celeste 227. Its origin remains a mystery, but it’s believed to have been designed to match the eye color of the then Queen Margherita.
The company dates back to 1885 when a 21-year-old Eldoardo Bianchi invented a way of developing safer bicycles with equal-sized wheels and lower pedals. With John Kemp Starley, a Coventry-based inventor, having invented the first safety bike, Bianchi only needed to modify it to enhance safety.
In 1888, Bianchi added pneumatic tires, making the bicycles steadier, safer, and more functional than previous models. It was this modification that made Bianchi’s creations popular, especially among racers around Europe.
His fame raged on with his company producing 45,000 bikes a year. Today, Bianchi bicycles are sold in more than 60 countries, ranging from mountain bikes to electric bicycles, aero bikes, and kids’ bikes.
Bianchi didn’t have as many inventions as other brands but, its Countervail technology was ground-breaking. The company collaborated with Material Sciences Corporation to develop an anti-vibration system for bicycles.
Countervail is a carbon material reinforced with a unique fiber construction and viscoelastic resin that reduces vibration by 80% while increasing the strength and stiffness of carbon frames and forks. Some of Bianchi’s high-performance bike lineup feature this technology and others like Specialissima, Sempre Pro, Oltre, and Infinito CV.
- Endurance bikes
- Racing bikes
- Cyclo-cross bikes
4. Giant: Best for Budget Road Bikes
Established in 1972, the company adds to the long list of old bike brands that still produce high-quality bikes. This Taiwanese-based company has become the most prominent bike manufacturing company globally.
Giant is located on an island with a close-knit supply chain rich in machinery development and well-versed in technology. Its proximity to OEM companies and suppliers translates into short lead times, giving Giant an edge over its competitors.
The company can produce bikes half the time other companies take to manufacture and bring them to the market at low costs.
At first, Giant produced bicycles for other brands (Schwinn, Trek, Colnago, Scott, and others). The company’s breakthrough came after a few years when Giant negotiated a deal with Schwinn to produce bicycles using its label.
It has since manufactured its bicycles using carbon and aluminum, but its frames are produced in-house. Besides bikes, Giant makes other items like service gear, wheels, GPS computers, shoes, and helmets.
Giant introduced the CADEX carbon fiber road bike, making it the first bike manufacturer to use computer-aided design and produce carbon bikes for the masses. Previously, high-end bicycles were produced using space-age materials like Titanium and aluminum.
Carbon fiber was also available, but it was pretty expensive. Giant changed this narrative by producing carbon fiber road bikes to the masses — the CADEX.
Giant is also credited for introducing compact geometry frames in 1997. With this feature, bikes are produced with a shorter wheelbase, a sloping top tube, and a smaller rear triangle on the frame.
As a result, bikes provide a stiffer and more responsive ride compared to the traditional geometry frame. Giant was also among the first brands to produce women-specific bicycles, which they called Liv.
Giant classifies its bike offering by user:
5. Electra Bicycle Company: Best Bikes for Leisure
Electra is a relatively new bike brand in the market, having operated for only 25 years so far. The company produces comfort bikes for everyday activities like daily commuting, city riding, and beach cruising.
Electra is a California-based bike company that was established in 1993. Its founders, Jeano Erforth and Benno Baenzinger, wanted to introduce a different bike model from the regular racing, mountain, and road bikes.
As a result, they combined classic and modern designs and developed laidback models that were easy to own and ride.
They also re-launched the cruiser bike and introduced a range of comfort bicycles, hybrid bikes, classic Dutch-style bikes, and more. Over the years, Electra has added to the range by introducing the Loft, the Townie, and kids’ bikes.
Electra introduced the unique Flat Foot Technology that allows riders to sit upright when riding bikes. The feature also introduced a crank-forward design that enables riders to put their feet on the ground when making a stop, eliminating the previously-mentioned tiptoes motion.
This new invention meant beginners, kids, and older folks could ride bikes without fear of falling or the need to balance the same way road bike riders do.
The company produces a wide range of bikes classified into the following categories:
- Cruiser bikes
- Comfort bikes
- Hybrid bikes (urban and commuter)
6. Colnago Bicycles: Best for High-end Racing Bikes
This Italian-based company has been manufacturing high-end road-racing bikes for years. The bikes have been ridden to victory at World Championships, classics, the Giro d’Italia, among other places.
While most critics find Colnago bikes a little traditional, they remain the world’s most robust carbon and steel road bikes of all time. What’s more, customers can choose from a wide range of colored frames, not to mention the ability to order a custom color from the manufacturer.
The company dates back to 1952, when Ernesto Colnago, the founder, decided to venture into the cycle trade and start his business.
At 13 years, he joined an apprenticeship at a bike company, leading him to start bike racing. However, after experiencing a grisly road accident that ended his racing career, he decided to venture into the cycling trade by building frames for racing bicycles.
He then launched his company, which focused on building high-quality steel-framed bikes for the demanding professional racing environment. Legendary cyclists like Fausto Coppi and Giorgi Albani used Colnago wheels.
Being a mechanic for many years, Colnago has been a master of several innovations in the bike industry. To begin with, he designed and built light cycling frames for Giro traders who were uncomfortable riding earlier designs. Also, the company is credited with producing the most innovative bicycles, including:
- The Colnago Mexico: It’s similar to Colnago Super in appearance, but Mexico bikes feature a thinner Columbus Record tubing making a lighter frame for easier cycling.
- The Colnago Master: Various modifications have been made on this bicycle which features a straight fork and a unique star-shaped tubing to reduce fatigue.
- Road bikes
- Mountain bikes
- Cyclocross bicycles
7. Cervelo Cycles: Best Aero Road Bikes
This company’s bikes remain the most sought-after in the cycling profession. While a relatively new entrant into the market, it has upheld a name for creating racing pedigree top-end machines.
The company designs speedy time trial bikes to help beat opponents, but it also has a lineup of classic road bikes for beginners and world tour professionals.
The company was established in 1995 in a university basement. The founders, Phile White and Gerard Vroomen, came up with the brand name-Cervelo- to communicate their focus on smart performance.
At the time, Phile and Gerard had acquired vast experience in making human-powered vehicles that helped develop time trial bikes, now referred to as the P series (the time trial and triathlon bikes). They are still regarded highly and continue to push boundaries with regard to frame development.
Cervelo has set itself apart by focusing on engineering fast and comfortable bikes using five design features-aerodynamics, stiffness, weight, usability, and ride quality.
Aerodynamics plays the most significant role as it determines how the bike breaks through wind resistance when cycling. The company has developed three aerodynamic features:
- Pro-Fit: This is an aerodynamic handlebar position that helps riders keep their bodies perpendicular to the ground.
- Extended seat tube cutout: This is a unique frame design that protects the wheel’s leading edge to reduce wind resistance and improve aerodynamics.
- Speed riser: This user-friendly, aero bar post system enables triathlon riders to adjust their aerodynamic position and change their custom fit at any time.
- Track bikes
- Road bikes
- Triathlon bikes
- Gravel bikes
Knowing the best bike brands provides a brief glimpse of what companies focus on when manufacturing their products. For example, Cervelo concentrates on improving aerodynamics to reduce wind resistance and enhance performance.
However, with so many brands producing nearly similar products, it can be challenging to find a suitable one for your needs. Having a bike review and blog at hand should give you a headstart.