Cannondale vs. Trek Mountain Bikes: Which is the Better Choice?

When thinking about which bicycle manufacturer to buy from, narrowing your choices down to Cannondale vs. Trek mountain bike brands makes sense, considering both are at the top of the market. Yet, their similarities can make the decision process difficult, so it’s best to do your research before heading to your local shops. 

If you are a beginner to the biking world, then it is best to look at all your options before limiting yourself to two brands. Also, make sure you know the differences between mountain and road bikes before making a decision. 

Cannondale Overview

Cannondale mountain bikes are some of the greatest quality mountain bicycles on the global market. A Cannondale bike has been built with only the highest quality components, making the entire bike highly efficient, reliable, precise, and agile. 

Cannondale bicycles are often considered the luxury brand of the mountain bike market, and, as such, they are more expensive than their competitors. But, as a consumer you’re paying for top quality and engineering when purchasing a Cannondale mountain bike. 

Cannondale has made a big name for itself over the last several decades by sponsoring several high-profile riders and teams. They have also won many awards for their innovation and design standards. 

Luxatic, a site that ranks luxury items, placed Cannondale as seventh amongst the greatest bike brands in the world. Meanwhile, Bikes Reviewed put Cannondale in fourth place amongst the best brands. 

Trek Overview

Trek is also one of the top-quality bicycle brands in the world. The brand offers buyers a wide range of bikes so that it’s easy to find a model to fit your riding style, personal preference, and body type. 

They also allow customers to choose several aspects of their bikes to get the exact specs they want and need. 

Trek really broke into the mountain bike market in 1993 when they acquired Gary Fisher mountain bikes. 

Gary Fisher was one of the original inventors of mountain biking and one of the best known in the sport. So, the acquisition immediately made Trek more well known in the market. 

Although Trek bikes tend to lag slightly behind in quality when compared to Cannondale ones, they are still some of the best bikes on the market. Trek is also a more affordable option. 

The Trek brand has become prestigious since several award-winning riders have used their bicycles. Lance Armstrong used Trek bikes to win the Tour de France multiple times. 

Luxatic ranked this company as the ninth-best bike brand globally while Bikes Reviewed placed it at number two. 

Brand Comparison

When comparing Trek and Cannondale, there are multiple factors at play. Both brands offer high-end bikes, but finding the right one for you depends on your body type, where you’re going to be riding the bike, and your budget. 

Materials 

Both Cannondale and Trek make different bicycles from carbon and aluminum. Usually, the cheaper bicycles are created from aluminum, while expensive bikes use carbon. 

The main difference in materials is that Cannondale uses carbon for its frames while Trek utilizes carbon composite material, also called carbon fiber. 

Both options are high-quality carbon, but Cannondale uses a better machining process that takes about two pounds of weight from the bike. The weight of a bike is critical in racing and when maneuvering over certain terrains. 

For comparison, Cannondale bicycles usually weigh about 14 pounds, while Trek’s are often about 19 pounds. 

Brakes 

Cannondale and Trek both use disc brakes in their bicycles. Disc brakes apply force to a small rotor near the center of the wheel to stop the bike. 

These brakes have more stopping power, allow better control, and are reliable under all weather conditions. 

Cannondale bikes use hydraulic disc brakes, which gives the brakes more consistency because of a reduction in friction, and both brake pads can move in and out. The main issue with hydraulic brakes is that their fluid-filled system is challenging to repair. 

Trek, conversely, uses an improvised design enhancement to traditional disc brakes that allow the brakes to have an excellent performance. 

Overall, though, Cannondale bikes have the better braking system. 

Gears

Cannondale’s ultra-smooth gears allow seamless transition regardless of the roughness of the terrain. They also have bikes with simple gears so kids can learn to ride the trails. 

Trek uses Shimano gears which, overall, are better for road cycling than rugged terrain. They also carry single-gear and multi-gear options for kids and beginners so they can get used to mountain biking. 

Bikes for Different Body Types

Trek bikes tend to be a better buy for short people since they have a short top-seat tube design. Conversely, Cannondales are ideal for taller people because they have long tube tops. 

Both brands also have women’s options. Women’s bikes usually have lighter frames, a seat that women often consider more comfortable, and smaller handlebars. 

You’ll find that many people believe that the idea of different bikes for women is more of a marketing scheme created by the bike market since women’s bikes aren’t much different than men’s bikes. However, for many women, whether or not to buy a women’s bike often depends on personal preference. 

Price

When comparing Cannondale and Trek, Trek gives you the better bang for your buck. The company allows customers to walk away with a great bike for a fraction of the price that you’ll pay for a Cannondale. 

Of course, you do have to remember that you are sacrificing some features when you go with Trek, but, for the most part, only experienced riders will be able to tell the difference. 

Yet, if the price is a big concern for you, Trek is definitely the better option when compared to other bikes. A Trek bike will give you superior quality for a low price. 

Their cheap bikes also tend to be of a higher standard than what you’ll find for other brands’ low-end bicycles. 

Also, aluminum bikes tend to cost less money, while carbon fiber frames are usually more expensive. An aluminum bike at Cannondale has an average price of $950, while at Trek, an aluminum bike costs about $920. 

A mid-grade carbon mountain bike is about $5,000–$6,000 for each brand. 

Options and Customizability 

If you are looking for a mountain bike brand that will give you many options, then Trek is the superior brand. The brand allows a lot of customization on their mountain bikes that other companies just can’t beat. 

Also, they offer a lot of options for beginner mountain bikers and kids. 

A favorite feature of Cannondale riders that allows some customizability is the rear axle boost, which is their trademark AI option that moves the rear triangle to the drive side. Axle rear boost allows more room for a water bottle near the rear triangle, minimizes rattling, and simplifies cable routing. 

Cannondale, although it has many exceptional bikes to choose from, just can’t compete with Trek’s options. Cannondale typically target their mountain bikes towards the serious and competitive cyclist, so they don’t have a lot of products for the lower experience levels. 

Full-Suspension

With 60 different models to choose from, Trek has a full-suspension bike to fit anyone. Also, Trek introduced the Supercaliber, a full-suspension bike with a hardtail look for those who prefer that style. 

A full-suspension mountain bike at this manufacturer costs between $2,400 and $13,000. 

The brands also have different rear-suspension designs, with Trek using a full floater and active braking pivot and Cannondale utilizing kingpin. 

When deciding between full-suspension bikes, Trek’s full floater is a versatile option. This rear-suspension design was created for a wide variety of trail riding and rough terrain by offering a more responsive rear shock. 

Full floater mountain bike models have two suspended contact points so that the shock can move through its whole range of movement without bottoming out. Thus, the suspension is not overly active, which gives the rider more efficiency when pedaling. 

Active braking is a feature that is unique to the Trek bike brand. This technology allows mountain bikers to enjoy the benefits of suspension while the rear brake is activated. 

Getting rid of the locking sensation when braking means that the bike has less skid, you have to hit the brakes less frequently, and the bike handles better. 

Cannondale, on the other hand, use the kingpin system for every new full-suspension bike they sell. Kingpin is the first full-frame leaf spring system that allows 30mm of travel when measured at the seat. 

A full-suspension bike at Cannondale is between $2,500 and $13,000. 

Suspension Forks

A suspension fork is a front fork on a bike that helps absorb the impact from trail riding. One of the main ways to compare Trek vs. Cannondale on their full-suspension bikes is through the type of rear-shox suspension components. 

Trek uses RockShox, while Cannondale has Fox. 

RockShox produced its first suspension fork in 1989, and RockShox dominates the World Cup XC. 

The Rox-Shox hierarchy from entry-level to professional is

  • RC/RL/Select;
  • RCT3/RLC/Select+; and
  • Ultimate.

Fox is newer and only made its first suspension fork in 2001. Fox is the top suspension fork used in World Cup DH racing. 

The Fox hierarchy from entry-level to top of the line is

  • Rhythm;
  • Performance ;
  • Performance Elite; and
  • Factory.

Hardtails 

Hardtails only have one suspension in the front and are lighter and cheaper options for mountain biking fans. 

For the most part, the main difference between hardtails for these brands is the selection they offer. Most of Trek’s hardtails are entry-level, while Cannondale has a wider variety in the mid-level section. 

Popular hardtail Trek mountain bikes are the Marlin, Roscoe, Procaliber, Stache, and Powerfly. At Cannondale, they have the F-Si, Trail, Catalyst, Cujo, Fat CAAD. For women, Cannondale has Trail, Foray, Scarlet, and Tango. 

Electric Bikes

Electric mountain bikes have an integrated electric motor to assist with propulsion. Both brands make quality bikes for those who prefer mountain biking in comfort. 

Cannondale e-bikes sell in the $4,500 to $8,000 range, while Trek is in the $3,000 to $14,000 range. 

Which is the Better Choice?

Both Trek and Cannondale make high-end bikes, but the main difference comes down to each brand’s research, development, and conceptual design. Overall, Cannondale has better bikes, but Trek makes quality bikes for all ages at lower prices. 

Trek also has a broader range, but Cannondale bikes give their owners a certain prestige that Trek can’t offer. 

If you are buying your first mountain bike, then Trek has cheaper options that are still of good quality. They also have kids’ bikes for sale, which Cannondale fails to offer. 

If you are looking for high-end mountain bikes, then both make high-quality bikes. Yet, most people see a new bike from Cannondale as a classier option compared to other manufacturers. 

The bragging rights do come with a price tag, however. 

On the other hand, Trek is a great bicycle manufacturer and has bikes for everyone from the beginner to the professional. 

Choosing the Right Bike for You

When deciding on the right quality bike for you, you should consider multiple factors, such as your body type, where you ride, and your price range. 

For instance, if you want to ride mainly on the road, it may be better to invest in a road bike. Or, if you are interested in racing, then you want to think about a race bike. 

It would be best to consider other brands beyond Cannondale and Trek, such as a Giant or Specialized bike. All of these brands offer mountain bike and road bike models. 

If you have narrowed down your choices and you definitely want to compare Cannondale vs. Trek, then the decision primarily comes down to budget. 

Cannondale, overall, tends to offer better-performing bikes with superior disc brakes and versatile gears. Yet, Trek does have good bikes in a more reasonable price range and for various ages. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, there’s no way to flat out say that everyone should choose Cannondale or everyone should pick Trek. The decision that a person makes should come down to the individual’s personal situation. 

Also, beginners and kids should look at all their options, like other brands and road bikes, before settling on a particular bike that may cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.