Trek vs. Specialized Mountain Bikes: What’s the Difference?

Mountain bikes are the most popular bicycle behind road bikes, and many people wonder which brand makes the best bicycles. The answer, however, isn’t simple. 

Trek and Specialized are two of the most well-known names in the mountain bike industry. Both brands make high-quality mountain bikes that both beginners and professionals enjoy. 

Trek and Specialized mountain bikes fall into similar price ranges and are some of the most excellent bikes you can find in the entire mountain biking sport. 

Which is Better?

When comparing Trek vs. Specialized mountain bikes, there isn’t a clear winner. Both companies offer high-quality mountain bikes, and the main difference in them comes down to preference. 

Certain professionals prefer Trek, while others believe that Specialized mountain bikes are superior. 

For beginners, the difference between a Trek and Specialized mountain bike will be practically indistinguishable. Those who are more familiar with mountain biking will primarily dictate their preference by their body type, personal taste, and riding style rather than the quality of either mountain bike. 

In fact, Luxatic, which is a site that reviews and rates items in terms of their luxury, ranked Trek and Specialized beside each other for the best bike brands in the world. Specialized came in eighth while Trek was right behind it in ninth. 

Similarly, Trek second-best bike brand in the world and Specialized as the third. 

Price

When comparing the price range of Trek vs. Specialized bikes, there isn’t a big difference. Overall, Specialized has slightly cheaper bikes, but the prices don’t differ by much. 

For instance, entry-level bikes run for about $710 at Trek and $760 for Specialized. 

The price difference is probably mostly due to Trek having won many competitions making some people see them as a slightly more prestigious brand. Although Trek has had its accomplishments, Specialized has had several high-profile connections in the past, such as when they sponsored Loic Bruni, the downhill world champion. 

Of course, the price is different depending on what type of mountain bike you choose. For example, cheaper aluminum mountain bikes at Trek cost around $900 while Specialized bikes sell for about $3,000. 

The more expensive option, with carbon frames, has a median price of $7,000 at Trek and $6,000 at Specialized. Yet, overall, when comparing similar mountain bikes, the brands don’t differ much in price. 

Customization

Both brands have many options to choose from, and both offer hardtails, full suspension, and hybrids, but Trek does have slightly more choices. 

Also, Trek allows a customer to build his/her own bike. You can choose from different frames, forks, and other parts for full customization. 

Specialized mountain bikes do not have this feature. 

Suspension

One of the most significant differences when comparing Trek vs. Specialized is that the brands offer different rear-suspension designs.

Only full-suspension mountain bikes have rear suspension. Also called rear shock, the rear suspension helps control impact, which increases rider control and decreases fatigue. 

Trek offers the full-floater and active braking pivot, while Specialized has a future shock rear suspension. Neither of the suspension designs on Specialized or Trek mountain bikes is necessarily better than the other, but it mostly comes down to rider preference. 

Full Floater

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. Therefore, the shock mount doesn’t move in a way that disrupts the pedal efficiency. 

This design is similar to the system that manufacturers build into modern cars. 

Active Braking Pivot 

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 bicycle has less skid, you have to hit the brakes less frequently, and the bike handles better. 

Future Shock Rear 

A feature in every Specialized bike, this rear-suspension design places the future shock above the head tube for better stability and control. Future shock is a lightweight design that improves comfort, reduces fatigue, and increases traction. 

Suspension Forks 

A suspension fork is a front fork on a bike that absorbs a portion of the impact. One of the main ways to compare Trek vs. Specialized on their full-suspension bikes is through the type of rear shox suspension components. 

Trek uses RockShox, while Specialized uses Future Shock technology. 

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

The RockShox hierarchy from entry-level to professional is

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

Specialized’s Future Shock technology focuses on the headset of the mountain bike rather than the frame or fork. They teamed up with a Formula 1 manufacturer to create the spring in the headset that absorbs the shock rather than a suspension fork. 

Future Shock models come in Diverge and Roubaix. 

Options for Women 

Both Trek and Specialized offer mountain bikes for women. 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 what companies consider a men’s bike. However, for many women, whether or not to buy a women’s bike often depends on personal preference. 

Materials 

Overall, both brands make their bikes from the same materials. Cheaper models are made from Lightweight A1 premium aluminum, while high-end bikes use FACT (functional advanced composite technology) carbon fiber materials. 

One difference is that Trek sells different aluminum frame bikes that come in Alpha Platinum, Alpha Gold, and Alpha Silver. Also, their carbon-frame bikes are made from their patented OCLV carbon which is both strong and light. 

Furthermore, both offer parts and components from Shimano and SRAM, depending on the model. 

Mountain Bike Types 

There are a few main types of mountain bikes for sale, and both Specialized and Trek bikes come in all of the categories, from the hardtail bike design to electric models. 

Hardtails 

Hardtail models are bikes that only use front suspension and are best for cross-country. Both companies sell hardtail mountain bikes, but Trek offers a bit more choice. 

When purchasing from the selection of hardtail bikes, the expensive bikes are the better option because the cheap ones, no matter what bike brand you choose, are uncomfortable and need to have their parts replaced often. 

Trek bikes that come in the hardtail model have a mid-range price of around $1,500. For a Specialized mid-range hardtail mountain bike, the price is about $2,500. 

Full-Suspension Models

Full suspensions are great bikes for trails, tracks, and downhill riding. As stated above, the two brands have differing rear-suspension designs, making Trek bikes different from Specialized bikes. 

Full-suspension mountain bikes are the most expensive, and each brand has a similar price range. Both range between $2,000 and $10,000, depending on the type of bike you choose. 

A mid-range price at Specialized is about $8,600 for a full-suspension mountain bike. A mid-range price at Trek is around $4,000. 

Fat Bikes 

Both bike brands have rigid bikes with oversized tires for use in snow, sand, and mud. 

Specialized sells the Fatboy for around $1,800, giving the rider more traction, grip, and flotation without compromising too much of the bike’s climbing ability. 

Trek offers different models of the Farley, which sells for between $2,000 and $3,500. Farley bikes feel like a standard rig but can easily ride through snow and sand.

These bikes are one of the few categories where Specialized is cheaper than Trek. 

Cross-Country 

Olympians and World Champs have ridden Specialized’s cross-country bikes. Specialized focuses on creating bikes that are ultralight, easy to control, stable, and fast. 

Their new mountain bike line, Epics, is one of the fastest in the world. 

Trek’s cross-country bikes come in carbon, aluminum, and steel and have features such as carbon wheels, remote suspension lockout, and electronic shifting. 

Specialized cross-country bikes have a mid-range price of $4,400. Trek bikes have a mid-range price of $3,800. 

Electric Mountain Bikes

Trek has four electric mountain bike models:

  • The Powerfly is one of the best electric mountain bikes to buy. The bike won Best in Test from E-Mountainbike Magazine. 

The battery lasts 3–5 hours, and the bike costs about $4,000. 

  • The Powerfly Equipped has a battery that lasts 3–5 hours and reaches 20mph. 
  • Rail won Mountain Bike Rider’s 2020 E-Bike of the Year. The bike’s battery lasts for 3–5 hours and is one of the most excellent trail mountain bikes. 

You’ll pay between $9,000 and $13,000 for this bike. 

  • E-Caliber weighs 34 pounds and hits speeds of up to 20mph. The bike sells for between $9,000 and $13,000. 

Specialized has three different models of electric mountain bikes. The Turbo Levo and Turbo Kenevo are full-suspension bikes with up to five hours of range. 

The Turbo Tero is a front suspension with up to six hours of battery. 

Brakes

Both companies provide a range of brakes. Some models have hydraulic disc brakes, while others have mechanical disc brakes. 

Add-Ons and Merchandise

Specialized has innovative add-ons so that you can elevate your biking experience. Specialized has interesting components like a power saddle with mirror technology and S-Works shoes that are extremely breathable. 

They’ve also created a helmet that has a live tracking device, crash detector, and safety beacon so you can stay safe on any ride. 

Specialized sells components for their bicycles too, from power meters and computers to seat posts and service parts. They also have all types of riding clothing for men and women and gear like lights, bags, and water cages. 

Furthermore, Trek sells similar components to Specialized, but they add in other items like kickstands and training wheels. They offer a wide range of accessories from computers and GPS devices to cycling glasses and car racks. 

Finally, Trek sells all kinds of apparel from other brands besides their own, like Santini and Bontrager. 

Choosing the Right Bike for You

When you compare mountain bikes, there are many things to take into account. Since both Trek and Specialized are high-quality brands, the main factors to focus on should be your comfort, preference, and the type of biking you prefer to do. 

If the store you are purchasing from allows you to or you know someone who owns a Trek or Specialized bike, ask for a test ride. This way, it is easier for you to tell which brand is better for you instead of spending a lot of money on a bike you may not like. 

You should also consider the type of bike you need. For instance, you should consider whether you prefer hardtails, full suspensions, fat bikes, road bikes, or electric bikes. 

Trek and Specialized differ in the types of bikes they have and the efficiency and rideability of each bike. 

If you are a beginner, bikes with aluminum frames, a suspension fork, and hydraulic disc brakes are the best. Trek offers the Roscoe 8 and Marlin 4, which are popular and well-made entry-level bikes. 

Specialized sells the Chisel Comp, one of the lightest mountain alloy bikes available, and it is perfect for getting into mountain biking. 

Both brands offer great bikes in the same price range, so there really isn’t a clear winner that you should choose. 

Kids and those who are new to the mountain bike world would probably be better off choosing Trek. Specialized offers entry-level bikes but doesn’t have near the number of options as Trek. 

Bottom Line

Overall, both brands offer high-quality bikes in the same price range that work great for rough roads and trails. The two brands are highly similar, and, for the most part, only an experienced rider will really be able to tell the difference. 

Overall, Specialized offers great bikes for people who are in the mid to professional range. Trek, however, has a multitude of options, so they can be great for anything from buying your first bike to heading to a world championship.