Spend a little time shopping for a road bike, and you’ll quickly find that there are many brands on the market today.
You probably have heard and seen some of the popular bike brands such as Specialized, Trek, and Giant. If you take a closer look, you’ll see that there are many other lesser-known brands out there that make equally good, if not better bikes.
In fact, navigating through the different brands can quickly become overwhelming. From my own experience when buying my first road bike, and speaking to many cyclists over the years, I’ve noticed that the bike brand plays an important role in the decision-making process.
- What bike brands are well established?
- Who can you trust?
- How is their warranty and customer service experience like?
- Are they easily available in my local area?
This article will cover the leading bike brands’ history, and the bike models they’re well-known for.
One of the younger bike manufacturers on this list, Argon 18, was founded by retired cyclist Gervais Rioux in 1989. The Montreal-based company is named after the element Argon, which is number 18 on the periodic table of elements.
One of the company’s central technologies is its Argon ONEness System, an integrated aero bar and a stemless fork combination designed for improved aerodynamics and ergonomics. The company’s top-of-the-line bike is the Argon Gallium Pro.
Most of the bike manufacturers on this list are babies compared to the venerable Italy-based bike manufacturer Bianchi, making bikes since 1885.
Although its production takes place in Taiwan, its heart is still in Treviglio, where its bikes are still designed. If you know Bianchi, then you know Bianchi green, which is the celeste color that bedecks virtually all of the company’s bikes.
Over the years, the company has been the bike supplier of numerous pro teams. Bianchi was the bike supplier for Team Jumbo-Visma until 2020. The company scored a grand tour win in 2019 when Primoz Roglic took the general classification win (red jersey) of the Vuelta D’Espana all the way to Madrid riding the Bianchi Oltre XR4.
Like many bike companies on this list, BMC, an acronym for Bicycle Manufacturing Company, started out making bike parts for another company. Swiss company BMC was once a distributor of Raleigh bikes in the 1980s. When Raleigh ended its contract with BMC in 2001, the company struck out on its own, manufacturing bikes specifically for the performance market.
It focuses heavily on the development of its Impec road bike. The company even has what it calls Impec Advanced R&D lab. BMC’s top-end road bike is the Team Machine SLR01, which is ridden by AG2R Citreon Team in 2022.
More reading : Guide to BMC Road Bikes Lineup
Although Cannondale has been around since 1971, it didn’t start manufacturing bike frames until the early 1980s. The company, which was named after a rail station across the street from its factory, got its start making bags and other apparel for bicycles. The company pioneered the first bike trailer with its Bugger trailer.
Since then, Cannondale has become one of the most highly regarded bicycle manufacturers in the world. The company’s credited as a pioneer in the development of aluminum frames, having launched its first aluminum-framed bike all the way back in 1983.
Today, the company’s known for its Synapse line of endurance road bikes, its CAAD aluminum bikes, and its carbon racing bike, the SuperSix Evo. Its top-of-the-line road racing bike is the SuperSix Evo Hi-MOD racing bike ridden by the EF Education-EasyPost pro cycling team.
More reading : Guide to Cannondale Road Bikes Lineup
Perhaps the only thing faster than Canyon’s bike is the meteoric rise of this company. Part of Canyon’s appeal is its decision to sell directly to consumers as opposed to through dealers, which allows it to offer excellent value.
Like so many other companies on this list, Germany-based Canyon started out in the 1980s making parts for other bike companies. Eventually, it began selling its own offerings directly to consumers online in 2001. Since then the company has disrupted the cycling industry by quickly gaining a following at the pro level.
In the 2022 Tour de France, Canyon provided bikes to three teams; Movistar Team, Alpecin-Fenix, and Team Arkea-Samsic. The teams ride the Canyon Aeroad for flat and rolling stages and the Canyon Ultimate CFR for mountain stages.
More reading : Guide to Canyon Road Bikes Lineup
Although Cervelo is one of the younger bike companies on this list, it already has made quite a name for itself thanks to its success on the pro level. Cervelo was founded in 1995 by Gerard Vroomen and Phil White.
By 2003, Cervelo was already making a name for itself as the bike supplier for Team CSC, which rose from the 14th ranked pro team to become the top team with Cervelo.
Cervelo specializes in performance road bikes with its lightweight Cervelo R5 serving as its lightweight climbing bike and the Cervelo S5 as its aero bike. Cervelo is currently the bike supplier for Team Jumbo-Visma from 2021 onwards.
More reading : Guide to Cervelo Road Bikes Lineup
Similar to Pinarello, Italy-based Colnago’s road bikes are also focused exclusively on the high end. The company was started by Ernesto Colnago, a much sought-after bike mechanic, who began building his first frames in the 1950s.
Even after starting his company, Colnago continued to work as a mechanic, once serving as head mechanic for Eddy Merckx’s famed Molteni team. Although the company offers cyclocross, gravel, and e-bikes, its main focus is on its performance road bikes.
Colnago’s top-of-the-line road racing bike is its ultra-stiff and ultralight Colnago C64 and Colnago V3RS, which is the model ridden by the UAE Team Emirates and Tadej Pogacar en route to winning the 2020 and 2021 Tour de France.
This is the bike brand you’ve never heard of before, but wish you had. Factor, based in Norfolk, England, was born out of F1 racing. The company is led by former pro-Baden Cooke.
The first superbikes the company put out back in 2007 boasted unbelievable performance. So incredible, that the bikes weren’t UCI legal. A few years ago and with the help of former pro-David Millar, the company unveiled three new models aimed at satisfying the UCI.
This boutique bike manufacturer only develops high-end road bikes with a focus on advanced aerodynamics. The Factor O2 VAM is a lightweight bike for the mountains while the Factor Ostro VAM is an aero bike.
With more than 6.5 million bikes sold and nearly $2B in revenue each year ($2.45B in 2020), Giant is the world’s biggest bike manufacturer.
The company got its start in Taiwan in the early 1970s by making bicycle parts. In 1977 the company landed a contract as a major parts manufacturer for Schwinn bicycles. When Schwinn cut Giant loose in 1987, the company decided to make its own brand. The rest is history.
Giant is the bike supplier for Team BikeExchange Jayco for 2022.
More reading : Guide to Giant Road Bikes Lineup
While Look is well known for designing the clipless pedal system that is used on so many road bikes, the company has also gained quite a name for itself as the manufacturer of impressive high-end performance bikes.
Look got its start in the sport of skiing in 1951, manufacturing ski bindings, which served as the foundation for its innovations in clipless bike pedals. Look’s frames won their first Tour de France with the legendary Bernard Hinault in 1985 and then again with Greg Lemond in 1986.
Today, Look continues to be a pioneer in the sport. The Look 795 Blade is their flagship, aero bike and the Look 785 Huez is the flagship lightweight bike. Look is also well known for its track bikes, which feature Look’s ultra-aerodynamic carbon frames.
Although it may not have the same name recognition as some of the other bigger names on this list, Merida has actually been around for quite some time.
The Taiwan-based bike manufacturer launched back in 1972 after its founder Ike Tseng realized during a trip to the U.S. that Taiwan had developed a reputation for poor-quality bikes. Tseng set out to change that and change that he did.
Today, Merida produces a range of high-performance road and gravel bikes. Merida has a presence on the world tour as the bike supplier for Team Bahrain Victorious who rides the Merida Reacto (aero) and Merida Scultura (lightweight).
This Italian bike manufacturer began producing bikes in the 1950s, which makes it relatively young as Italian bike manufacturers go. Like other smaller road bike manufacturers, Pinarello focuses entirely on performance bikes.
Pinarello boasts impressive victories, having been the bike sponsor for Team Sky from 2010 through its switch to Ineos Grenadiers in 2019. In that time the Pinarello’s bikes have been ridden to multiple Tour De France victories by Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, and Egan Bernal.
The company was acquired by US-based private equity group L Catterton in 2016 but continues to maintain its base in Treviso, Italy.
More reading : Guide to Pinarello Road Bikes Lineup
Ridley was launched in 1990 by frame builder Jochim Aerts in Belgium. The company gained renown for its frame designs and climbed to the top of the Belgium market by 1997.
Ridley produces a wide variety of bikes from youth to off-road to e-bikes. It’s best known for its performance road bikes. Ridley’s top-end bike is the Ridley Noah.
Ridley, the bike supplier for pro racing team Lotto Soudal. Top Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan claimed three victories riding the Ridley Noah including a coveted victory on the Champs Elysees in the 2019 Tour de France.
Scott, a company that got its start inventing aluminum ski poles in the 1950s, is legendary in the cycling world for one big invention; the clip-on aerodynamic handlebar.
It’s hard to imagine a single piece of technology making a bigger impact on the pro cycling world than when Greg Lemond attached them to his bike to steal the yellow jersey off Laurent Fignon’s shoulders in the 1986 Tour De France.
Since then, Scott, which got its start with ski poles, has been turning out high-end lightweight bikes. The company sponsored the Mitchelton-Scott team from 2012 to 2020, and Team DSM from 2021.
More reading : Guide to Scott Road Bikes Lineup
Specialized was started in 1974 by cycling enthusiast Mike Sinyard. The company first began selling imports for Cinelli before manufacturing its own bike parts in 1976. Its first road bike offerings, the Allez and Sequoia, debuted in 1981.
Today, the company is best known for its S-Works Tarmac road racing bike and S-Works Roubaix endurance bike. It is ridden by the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, Bora Hansgrohe, and Team Total Energies which features triple road world champion, Peter Sagan.
More reading : Guide to Specialized Road Bikes Lineup
Trek is another one of the largest bike manufacturers in the market. Much like Specialized, Trek began in the mid-1970s by producing bike parts including steel frames.
In the early 80s, the company began putting out complete bikes. The company grew rapidly from there and flourished in the early 2000s on the strength of Lance Armstrong. This later backfired on the company when it became embroiled in Armstrong’s doping scandal.
Trek emerged from those dark days and continues to be one of the biggest bike manufacturers, best known for its Trek Madone (aero), Trek Emonda (lightweight), and Trek Domane (endurance) bike lines, both of which have a following among pro riders.
Trek is a title sponsor on the world cycling tour with the Trek Segafredo team.
More reading : Guide to Trek Road Bikes Lineup