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Trek vs Specialized – Mountain & Road Bikes Compared

Trek Vs. Specialized Logo

Trek and Specialized brands are both leader manufacturers in the cycling industry. They offer high-quality and performant products in the mountain and road bike categories.

While they’re direct competitors offering similar models, each brand comes with slight variations, which you may not have noticed, even if you’ve been for a test ride.

When I purchased my first bike, all options looked the same with some small design differences.

Trek vs Specialized bikes aren’t always easy to spot at first. Yet, each brand is best suitable for a specific need.

Selecting the wrong bike could significantly impact your performance and riding experience. Before comparing the two competitors side by side, let’s start with the basics.




Important Terminology

Road Bikes

One stand-out feature of that they’re generally lightweight and feature drop-down handlebars. They come in various styles but are typically for recreational or racing use on sidewalks, pavement, or light gravel.

Trek Bikes
Trek Road Bike

While many beginners think of road bikes as the girly and heavy bicycle, most of them are now designed with performance in mind. They can be used in both steep up and down hills, and some models even come with up to 18 speeds.

Also, their aerodynamic construction typically includes thinner tires for those looking to ride at a fast pace.

Mountain Bikes

Mountain bikes, on the other hand, often look bulkier. They are, however, high-tech products allowing rides on rough ground.




You’ll notice their straight handlebars and various tires’ thicknesses — minimum 2-inch — allowing good stability.

Although dimensions keep evolving, most new wheels now have a diameter of either 27.5 or 29-inch. They also include various types of suspensions — which we’ll further elaborate on — to handle shocks and difficult trails.

Specialized bike
Specialized Hardtail Mountain Bike

Trek and Specialized

Most novices mistakenly use these terms to define a type of bike. In fact, both appellations represent popular and industry leaders’ brand names.

Trek comes with a long history, dating back to 1976. Over the years, the manufacturer improved its bikes’ performance. (1)

Now, each sub-brand — such as Bontrager or Electra Bicycle Company — is focused on innovation while keeping a classic, but elegant, design.

Specialized is also a superior brand that comes with a long experience in the construction of bikes, having started in 1974. (2)

It excels in adventure and sportbikes. The company even built biking mountain trails for this purpose.

Trek or Specialized Bikes — Why the Debate?

Choosing between a road or mountain ride can already be a challenge. You need to assess where and in which condition you’ll be riding.

Comparing these rides from the two main industry leaders, however, takes the complexity to a different level. Among bikers, it’s also the subject of debate and heated conversations.

“Picking the right bike for your needs should make your rides smoother, more efficient, and enjoyable.” 

Although both bike brands make sturdy products that are of a high performance and high quality, they have slightly different offerings.

Differences Between Trek and Specialized Mountain Bikes

Let’s start by diving into the Trek vs Specialized mountain bike comparison.

Models & Designs

Both companies offer models specifically designed for kids, women, or beginners.

Other products target unique uses, such as downhill or cross country. You’ll even find “fat bikes” for riding comfortably in all weather and conditions.

Finally, both brands carry electric mountain models to make pedaling easier, allowing to reach further and higher-speed.

We found that Trek typically offers a larger range of kids’ models. You’ll find models designed for both girls and boys, with according colors and even side wheels.

If you’re looking for a woman’s design, however, Specialized provides more options.

Types of Mountain Bikes

When it comes to Trek vs Specialized mountain bikes, both brands divide the rides into two classifications: front suspension only — “hardtail mountain bikes” — or full suspension mountain bikes.

Hardtail Mountain Bikes

Most beginners start with hardtails models, which are generally more economical.

“With suspension only located at the front of the bike, these rides are generally lighter but also require less maintenance. Also, they’re often used on smooth gravel trails.”

While both brands offer hardtail mountain bikes, Trek comes with an active braking pivot — or ABP. This braking pivot means the suspension shouldn’t lock up when the rear brake is engaged. (3)

Specialized, however, placed a future shock rear on the head tube. In essence, the future shock rear enables the bike to handle tough trails and increases the bike’s balance.

Full-Suspension Mountain Bikes

If your budget allows, full-suspension models give easier access to technical trails, where you may need to ride between rocks and roots. They also tend to be more comfortable and stable than the rear-only type.

Specialized Full Suspension Mtb
Specialized Full Suspension Mountian Bike with Disc Brakes

It’s here where it’s critical to try out the bike and the feel it gives. Trek does offer a few more options than its competitor.

Rigid Suspension Mountain Bikes

Unlike its rival, Specialized carries a model without suspension.

While these types of bikes may not be the most comfortable, they also require the least amount of maintenance. They’re also typically more responsive, especially when turning.

Materials

Both companies build products with a similar body type containing aluminum and carbon frames, which are the most popular materials for this type of bike.

Trek carries one model with a steel frame — the “820” — in both male and female versions. None of these companies, however, offer products made of titanium frames.

Parts & Components

If you’re looking to customize your bike or are concerned about having to replace parts down the road, there’s no need to worry. Both manufacturers offer a wide variety of replacements — saddles, shock mount, wheels, tires, handlebars, grips, frames, pedals, and more.

Keep in mind, however, that Trek offers fully customized bikes. If you’re not looking to get one off the shelf, this is something to consider.

Pricing

If the price is an important deciding factor, Trek bikes are generally more cost-efficient. Options start under $400, with electric products reaching over $12,000.

On the other hand, entry-level Specialized mountain models start between $700 and $800. Their higher-end models, however, go up to almost $20,000.

Mountain Bike Summary

Both manufacturers offer high-quality and performance options. If you like a multitude of choices, Trek offers a few more options, especially if you’re looking for an inexpensive model.

“Although Specialized mountain bikes typically come at a higher price point, they make excellent and popular adventure and mountaineering rides.”

Differences Between Trek and Specialized Road Bikes

If mountain biking isn’t your thing, both manufacturers provide products suitable for road rides. Wondering which company is best — Trek or Specialized road bikes? Here’s what you need to know:

Types

Road bikes come in various categories, which can be regrouped in two main ones, both of which are offered by both competitors:

Race Bikes

Race models include both performance and endurance. Subdivisions include triathlon and aero road models, which also focus on speed.

Trek Segafredo Part Of Bike Frame

In this classification, you’ll find the Madone — Lance Armstrong’s Trek bike. (4)

Adventure Bikes

Adventure bikes include gravel and cyclocross bikes — such as Specialized “Women’s Diverge E5” — which are extremely versatile. They can be used to commute to work or to ride on easy off-road trails.

Models & Designs

While both companies offer similar types of bikes, Specialized carries a much larger choice when it comes to models designed for women.

If you’re looking to purchase a road bike for your wife, some products are even available in light pink and purple colors.

Materials

Just as for mountain bikes, road models come in both aluminum and carbon fiber materials. Trek is the one to offer a rigid steel frame — 520 Disk — for those looking for a tough but real feel of the road.

Parts & Components

For both companies, suspension forks remain similar to mountain bikes, yet full-suspension rides are rarer.

If the type of brake is important to you, Trek offers more attention to detail. They divide between hydraulic and mechanical disc brakes, but also caliper or integrated types.

Elite Riders Riding On Trek Road Bikes
Elite cyclists in action on Trek bikes in Paris-Nice (2017)

Prices

When it comes to the lowest price range, the debate of Trek vs Specialized road bikes is clear. Trek’s least expensive ride averages $850 in price, which is about $250 less than its competitor.

Both manufacturers promise endurance and performance, but if you’re looking for a fun and bright bike, our heart goes for the Specialized “Allez” bike.

Both companies’ high-end models surpass the $10,000 price range, with Trek offering its high-end race models over $12,000.

They come with 12 speeds and an aerodynamic design, which do go some lengths to govern the higher price, I must admit.

Road Bike Summary

Both brands offer bike roads designed for casual/recreational use and performance/speed.

Because their offering is quite similar, differences are minimal, and the best road bike, here, comes down to personal preference and feel.

* FAQ *

Where Do Trek and Specialized Make Their Bikes?

The manufacturing location isn’t really a piece of information broadly communicated by either brand.

What we do know, however, is that the production of a small number of Trek’s bikes seemed to remain in their main facility in Waterloo, Wisconsin. Most rides are now manufactured overseas, in Europe — The Netherlands, Germany — and China.

Specialized is also an American company — based out of California — producing most of its bikes in China and Taiwan.

While both brands mainly build their products overseas, they still offer high-quality rides.

Is Trek Better Than Specialized?

Unfortunately, there’s no definite answer to the “Specialized vs Trek” ultimate question. Both brands produce various types of high-end quality bikes, and being suitable for all uses.

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly model, however, Trek generally has less expensive entry-level bikes.

Is Specialized a Good Bike Brand?

Specialized indeed makes good bikes for racers, mountain bikers, and everyone in between. The company has a long history and experience in producing all types of bikes.

It constantly creates innovations and technologies to make its products always more performant.

Is Trek the Best Bike Brand?

Trek is one of the best bike brands and has been around for 45 years. Because of the entry-level bikes’ lower costs, this brand makes a great choice for beginners. You’ll also have plenty of choices for kids and women.

If you’re looking for top-performing models, both companies stand side by side, meeting various requirements and needs. While some bikers swear by one brand or the other, it often comes down to personal use.

A proper bike fit is critical for a comfortable ride. The best thing to do is to ask a bike shop to go for a test ride and decide which brand feels most comfortable.

Conclusion – Specialized and Trek 

For non-experienced bikers, comparing Trek vs Specialized mountain bikes and road bikes can quickly become frustrating. While you can’t make a wrong decision going for either brand, they do come with a few differences, including in their price.

Trek tends to offer more variety of choices for all bikers, while Specialized seems to have found its main niche in high-end and more pricey products.

Both are great bikes and focus on innovation and new technologies to provide high-quality rides, though.

Either way, they both make for excellent choices if you’re looking to replace or buy your first mountain or road bike.

TIP: If you are interested in  more articles, reviews, tips and guides about cycling. Be sure to check the homepage for more! 

References

1. Trek Bikes – Inside Trek, retrieved from https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/inside_trek/heritage_global/
2. Specialized Bikes – About Us,  retrieved from https://www.specialized.com/ca/en/about-us
3. Trek Bikes – Active Braking Pivot, retrieved from https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/inside_trek/active_braking_pivot/
4. Biography –  Lance Armstrong Biography, retrieved from https://www.biography.com/athlete/lance-armstrong

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Erik

Erik

My name is Erik, and I love everything about cycling. I ride because I love it.

I’m an experienced cyclist with almost 20 years of experience. I compete in races and like to ride some group-rides from time to time.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

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