Top 6 Best Cycling Bike Brands
Like most forms of racing, there is a strong association between the competitor and the brand they run in cycling. For example, Eddie Merckx’s lightweight steel Colnago and Lance Armstrong’s Trek 5500 are almost as iconic as the cyclists themselves. Read on for more information on cycling’s top brands and the riders that defined them.
What are the most popular cycling bike brands?
Kona is a Canadian-American brand based in the Pacific Northwest that is known for steel frames and downhill mountain bikes. The company was founded in 1988, in Vancouver, by Dan Gerhard and Jacob Heilbron, who still own the company today, along with champion mountain bike rider Joe Murray. Kona initially sold a series of steel hardtail downhill bikes. They have since expanded into carbon fiber frames and components and offer a full range of mountain, cyclocross, electric, and commuter bicycles. Kona is known for its philanthropy, notably sponsoring public Kona Bike Parks around the world and developing the Kona Africabike for use in the BiketownAfrica project. The Kona Factory Team has a tradition of sponsoring mountain bike racers, beginning with founder Joe Murray. Factory team riders, such as Anne Knapp, Ryan Trebon, Steve Peat, Greg Minnaar, Fabian Barel, Ryder Hesjedal, and Roland Green, have led the Kona team to over 200 national and world championship mountain biking titles.
Trek is an American bicycle company that also functions as its own distributor, with over 1,700 independently owned Trek shops across North America. Based in Waterloo, Wisconsin, the company was established in 1975 by Dick Burke and Bevil Hogg as a small shop that made hand-brazed steel touring frames. The company quickly expanded and began selling road bikes and mountain bikes. The mountain biking craze of the 1980s fueled Trek’s rapid growth. Trek now sells all types of mountain, road, city, electric, and kid’s bikes. The company also sells bicycles under the Electra and Diamant names, as well as parts and accessories under the Bontrager name. The most famous athlete to be sponsored by Trek was Lance Armstrong, who led the Trek-sponsored United States Postal Service Pro Cycling Team to seven consecutive Tours de France victories in the late 90s and early 2000s. Trek continues to sponsor the Trek Factory Racing team in the Pro Tour. Riders currently sponsored by Trek include Luca Guercilena, Ellen van Dijk, Tayler Wiles, Taylor Knibb, Holly Lawrence, Tim O’Donnell, Loris Vergier, and Kade Edwards.
Bianchi is a historic Italian brand that continues to manufacture bikes at the highest level. Bianchi was founded in Milan in 1885 by Edoardo Bianchi and is currently the oldest existing bicycle company in the world. The company has been instrumental in the evolution of bicycle design throughout its history. Bianchi was the first to offer bikes with equally sized wheels and the first to use pneumatic rubber tires. The front caliper brake was also a Bianchi innovation. In the twentieth century, the company made motorcycles and automobiles in addition to bicycles. Today Bianchi is still known for their road bikes, but they also sell cyclocross bikes, mountain bikes, commuters, and e-bikes. The first cyclist to be sponsored by Bianchi was Giovanni Tomasello in 1899. Fausto Coppi, Felice Gimondi, and Marco Pantani are historically famous riders that Bianchi has sponsored. Recent Bianchi-sponsored cyclists include Jan Ullrich, Laurent Fignon, Marco Pantani, Moreno Argentin, Mario Cipollini, Gianni Bugno, and Danilo Di Luca.
Raleigh is a British-based bicycle maker owned by Dutch bicycle manufacturing conglomerate Accell. Raleigh was started in 1885 by Richard Morriss Woodhead and Paul Eugene Louis Angois in a small workshop on Raleigh Street in Nottingham, England. Frank Bowden joined the company three years later, investing a controlling stake. Bowden helped the company expand, leading them to become the largest bicycle manufacturer in the world in 1913. In the 1960s and 70s, the company produced the massively popular Raleigh Chopper, an iconic children’s bike with high handlebars and a long, sloping seat. Raleigh currently sells a complete line of mountain, road, commuter, and children’s bicycles. It also sells products under the Diamondback Bike brand. As of 2017, Raleigh no longer sponsors professional cyclists, but they have sponsored several teams and riders over the years. Notable Raleigh-sponsored riders include Joop Zoetemelk, Jon Clay, Jeff Williams, Paul Watson, Malcolm Elliott, Paul Sherwin, and Graham Briggs.
Colnago is an Italian bicycle brand with a controlling majority stake in the company held by UAE-based firm Chimera Investments LLC. The company was started in 1952 by Ernesto Colnago, a 20-year old frame builder who learned the trade working for Gloria Bicycles. He opened his own workshop, then a retail store, in Cambiago, Italy, a small town near Milan where Colnago still maintains its headquarters. Gastone Nencini won the 1957 Giro d’Italia on a Colnago bike, followed by Luigi Arienti’s gold medal at the Rome Summer Olympics in 1960, also on a Colnago. In addition to building frames, Ernesto distinguished himself as a bike mechanic to champions, serving as head mechanic for the Molteni team during the 1970s. Ernesto’s tenure at Molteni produced several notable victories on Colnago bikes, including wins by Gianni Motta, Michele Dancelli, and Eddie Merckx. Some famous Colnago-sponsored riders are Giuseppe Saronni, Hilton Clarke, Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel. Colnago currently offers several road bike models in carbon fiber, aluminum, and steel, as well as a line of gravel bikes and e-bikes.
Orbea is a Basque bicycle manufacturing cooperative based in Mallabia, Spain. The company was started in 1840 in Eibar, Spain, by the three Orbea brothers, Juan Manuel, Mateo, and Casimiro, as a firearms manufacturer. After being passed down through the family, the company transitioned to manufacturing bicycles as Orbea Bicycles in 1930. After Orbea became financially distressed in 1969, the employees formed a cooperative to buy out the Orbea family and moved operations to nearby Mallabia. They are now known for making hand-built carbon road frames, particularly the Orca, Avant, and Ordu models. Orbea also currently makes mountain bikes and e-bikes. Orbea has sponsored several cycling teams throughout its existence, starting with the Orbea team in 1934, led by Mariano Cañardo. In the 1980s, the SEAT-Orbea factory team saw several major victories, led by Pedro Delgado, Jokin Mújika, and Pello Ruiz Cabestany. At the Beijing Olympics, Samuel Sánchez won a road cycling gold, and Julien Absalon took home a gold in mountain biking, both riding Orbea bikes for team USA. Other famous Orbea-sponsored riders are Iban Mayo, Catharine Pendrel, and Craig Alexander.