This is a tough question, both Trek and Specialized mountain bikes have established themselves and offer great bikes in different categories and price ranges. There are a few differences between Trek and Specialized bikes which come more apparent when looking at the high-end mountain bikes.
Trek vs specialized which is better? There isn’t a clear winner. Both offer similar bikes and components in the same price range. Trek has a wider variety of bikes to choose from compared to Specialized. At entry-level, you get slightly better parts when you go with Specialized. Both offer competing high-end bikes with slight variations in geometry.
Both brands offer a wide range of mountain bikes like hardtails, full suspension, hybrids, etc. There are a few differences when it comes to design and technology which impact how a bike feels and handles.
Differences Between Trek and Specialized Mountain Bikes
Differences are hard to notice when you’re a beginner, more experienced mountain bikers will notice differences even if they are only minor. The differences can be seen in the more expensive line-ups and geometry. Each brand will feel different when riding their mountain bikes and it comes down to personal preference and body type which brand or bike suits you best.
Bike fit is the most important factor when you’re looking for a new MTB. Hardtails of both brands are quite similar but the full suspension mountain bikes have a few differences.
Both brands have women’s mountain bikes, but I won’t be going over these as it’s more of a marketing thing. A woman can perfectly go for a ‘men’s’ mountain bike, there’s no difference honestly.
Trek allows you to build your own bike to your liking. You can select the frame, fork and other parts to have it fully customized. This isn’t offered by Specialized but it doesn’t favor one brand over the other.
There’s a difference in rear suspension design, Trek developed the Full-floater and Active Braking Pivot where Specialized has the Future Shock Rear. Both claim their systems are far superior to their competitors however this remains to be seen. In essence, it comes down to how the bikes deal with rough terrain and bumps and reducing impact.
So let’s look at what Full-Floater means. It’s designed in a way to pedal more efficiently, the shock mount doesn’t increase movement when your pedaling meaning more energy goes into actually paddling than it being wasted by the suspension.
Active Braking Pivot gets rid of the problem of locking the suspension while breaking. The rear suspension keeps working allowing for more chatter and your wheels will skid less, exactly like most modern car braking systems. This is a unique feature only found in Trek bikes.
Future Shock Rear is a lightweight suspension that deals with rough roads. Future shocks are located above the head tube which increases stability and gives the rider more control.
Either way, both suspension systems are perfectly fine, it just depends on what feels more comfortable and you need to decide for yourself.
Both Trek and Specialized use the same materials for their MTB frames depending on the type of bike. Lightweight A1 premium aluminum for the cheaper bikes and FACT carbon fiber for the more expensive and high-end MTB’s. It also depends entirely on how the budget you bring, you can’t compare a cheap Trek to an expensive Specialized MTB.
Parts and Components
Both brands offer parts and components from Shimano and SRAM depending on the bike and price. Both manufacturers can be considered equal in quality if they cost the same. Not everybody will agree though.
Types of Mountain Bikes
Both brands offer a variety of mountain bikes for both men and women. The most common mountain bikes can be roughly divided into hardtails (only front suspension) and full suspension bikes. Full suspension is often used for trails, tracks, and downhill, and hardtails are better suited for cross country but are also great for trails.
Not all bikes are designed for trails, some are more suitable for speed, freeride, dirt jumping, etc. Both have rigid fat bikes with oversized tires for dealing with snow, sand, and mud.
If you look at the lower end or entry-level hardtail mountain bikes there isn’t a clear answer of which one is better but riders often favor Specialized. This is where it really comes down to geometry and bike feel.
The best way for you to find out is to go to your local bike shop and see if you can test ride them. After that, you can make a decision based on your personal experience and what feels right to you.
Trek offers a bit more choice when it comes to hardtails compared to Specialized but stay away from the cheapest models (which goes for both brands). These bikes aren’t very responsive and feel a bit uncomfortable riding trails. The bikes can’t take much of a beating and you’ll find yourself replacing parts sooner than later.
Both Specialized and Trek offer full-suspension mountain bikes (FS) starting at around $2,000 all the way up to $10,000. When comparing the two pick bikes in the same price range and look at which components you get.
Full suspensions are expensive mainly because of the materials and technology used. It’s an entirely different experience riding a full suspension and it comes at a price.
Let’s have a look at how much Trek and Specialized bikes cost starting with the entry-level bikes around $700. Specialized entry-level mountain bike costs (29″) $710, Treks entry-level MTB is $760, slightly more expensive.
The specialized bike has better slightly bike parts and the biggest difference is the fork. It has a stiffer, rigid platform which helps to ride with confidence. Treks bike seems less precise and people question the fork they picked.
People that rode both bikes note that shifting is a bit smoother and you get a remote lockout. So when you’re looking at entry-level bikes. Specialized sometimes is a better option. Don’t take my word for it though, try and test the bikes yourself.
I’m not taking deals into consideration that you can get at your local bike shop. I personally never met a Trek or Specialized owner that wasn’t happy with their bike.
Looking at the more expensive bikes, the same applies. You get slightly better components when you buy a Specialized, assuming you compare mountain bikes in the same price range. This probably has to do with Treks’ reputation, they won many competitions and this probably adds up to the price.
In the end, you can’t go wrong with Trek or Specialized, both offer great high-quality bikes. They also both make cheap crappy bikes, I would stay away from them. Here’s a table with bikes in the same price range if you’re looking to compare entry and mid-level hardtail MTB’s.
|Marlin 4 ($470)||Pitch ($500)|
|Marlin 7 ($780)||Pitch Comp ($725)|
|X-Caliber 7 ($1,020)||Rockhopper Expert ($1,010)|
|X-Caliber 9 ($1,660)||Chisel Comp X1 ($1,620)|
After researching all the cons and pros of both brands it’s hard to tell which truly is better. It’s such a general question and you really need to look at the individual parts, how it fits, and bike feel. There’s no such thing as ‘best brand’.
Sometimes you’re better off buying a Trek and sometimes you should go for a Specialized. Even when one MTB seems to have better specs it’s still a matter of how the bike feels when you ride it. Also comparing a $400 MTB to a $1000 MTB is just insane.
Also, note that new bikes are introduced every year, technology is moving forward and an MTB introduced 3 years ago usually can’t be compared to the latest model.
My advice is to look at other brands as well, there are so many good brands out there that offer great bikes and parts for a great price. Giant comes to mind if you’re really constrained by your budget they often provide the best bikes at the lowest price. They aren’t as shiny and people generally don’t like their designs but I would seriously consider looking into it.
Remember that both brands come from the same Taiwanese factory!