The two most popular bike brands in the United States, Trek and Giant, are both excellent options if you’re in the market for a new bike.
But which is the better choice for you: Trek vs Giant?
Both Trek and Giant cater to all types of riders: from complete beginners to seasoned pros, from road cycling purists to daring downhill mountain bikers, there’s a Trek or Giant bike for everyone.
However, any rider looking to buy a bike will likely find a viable option from both Trek and Giant. So, when it comes down to it, which should you choose?
In this article, we’ll be comparing two of the biggest bike brands in the world, Giant vs Trek. For each of the most popular cycling disciplines, we’ll compare like-for-like models released by both Trek and Giant. We’ll be covering:
- Trek Vs Giant: The Background
- Which Is Better: Giant vs Trek?
- Trek Vs Giant Case Study: Madone SLR 9 Vs Propel Advanced SL 0
- Trek Vs Giant Case Study: Fuel EX Vs Trance X Advanced Pro SE
Let’s get started!
Trek Vs Giant: The Background
Both Trek and Giant were founded in the 1970s, and have rapidly grown since then to overtake the dominating European brands and become the two most popular bicycle manufacturers in the United States.
However, demand in the United States was rapidly increasing, and European brands were failing to keep up, resulting in huge waiting times and backlogs. This period of time is referred to as the “bike boom“.
There was a clear gap in the market. Firstly due to the increased demand for bicycles in the US, but also because of the cost of importing these already expensive models from Europe was extortionate.
Many household-name brands started popping up all over the place in the US during this time, including Trek, Specialized, and Cannondale, in the hopes of disproving the notion that “Americans don’t do bikes”.
This phenomenon wasn’t limited to the States, however, and many popular brands were founded globally at this time, including Giant, which was born in Taiwan.
Nearly half a century later, Trek and Giant now control a huge 33% of the bicycle market in the United States, and have become the dominating forces in bicycle manufacturing.
Trek: A Brief History
Trek, founded in 1976, was actually one of the latest of the bike boom American brands. However, today, they are by far the most popular brand in the States, representing a whopping 22.5% of the total bicycle market in the country.
They gained the respect and trust of the cycling market through consistently producing reliable and quality bicycles – and they now cater to any and all cyclists, across a wide range of disciplines, experience levels, and budgets.
After its founding, Trek began making artisan hand-brazed upper-mid-range racing and touring bikes, in the hopes of biting a chunk out of the market dominated by the likes of Bianchi and Pinarello.
However, through the ’80s and ’90s, they began to broaden their horizons. Since the release of their first mountain bike in 1983, mountain bikes have represented a large portion of their business, and they remain an extremely popular choice for mountain bikes.
They also helped to pioneer aluminum and carbon bikes in this period, something that immediately led to the rapid growth of the company.
And, of course, it would be impossible to talk about Trek without mentioning the tempestuous and infamous partnership with cycling’s biggest anti-hero: Lance Armstrong.
Trek was the sponsor of Armstrong’s team, US Postal Service Pro Team, from the late ’90s into the ’00s, and provided the bikes for Armstrong and his teammates.
They even signed Armstrong to the team in 1997 and remained the sponsor of the US Postal Service Pro Team for all seven of Armstrong’s consecutive Tour de France wins (which have all now been stripped).
Armstrong’s incredible successes immediately shot Trek into the highest class of bicycle manufacturers, where they remain to this day (despite the scandal that followed).
- Lance Armstrong Bikes: The Story of the Disgraced Champion Told Through 9 Iconic Tour de France Bikes
Giant: A Brief History
Founded in Taiwan in 1972 by King Liu, Giant began manufacturing components and parts for other companies. However, in 1977, they landed a contract to begin manufacturing bikes for Schwinn, then one of the biggest brands in the United States.
Schwinn wanted to outsource the manufacturing in order to save money and keep up with the demand of the bike boom, since at that time, they were the most popular brand in the United States.
For 10 years, Giant continued to manufacture bikes for Schwinn, allowing them to expand their operations and make a name for themselves in the cycling world. Around 1981, Giant began manufacturing bikes under it’s own name, though, when the Schwinn contract ended in 1987, this still only accounted for 25% of the company’s business.
It was the Schwinn contract ending – a seemingly catastrophic event for such a company to lose 75% of their business – that was the turning point for Giant.
They began to really focus on the manufacturing of their own bicycles, a field in which they found great success.
Since 1987, Giant has grown exponentially to become the behemoth it is now. Giant still manufactures components for other firms, such as Trek, Scott, and Colnago, but their main focus is now on their own bicycles.
Giant-branded bicycles make up two-thirds of their revenue, and they continue to grow this side of the business. Giant is now the leading bicycle manufacturer in the world – really putting into perspective how quickly they became so successful.
Which Is Better: Giant vs Trek?
Well, it really depends what you’re going for. Here we have compared the flagship models for mountain bikes and road bikes. Which, of course, are aimed at a certain type of cyclist.
However, what is clear from our comparison, is that it should come down to a case-by-case basis. You can’t really go wrong with either Trek or Giant. It just comes down to the particular models and your needs.
There are some arguments for and against each company in general though.
Trek are the leading manufacturer in the US, and their manufacturing is (mostly, except the part executed by Giant) located within the US. If you’re buying a bike in the US, not only is this the more environmentally friendly option, but it also might arrive quicker.
Giant on the other hand, are the world-leading manufacturer. There is a reason for this: their bikes are of exceptional quality at a reasonable price.
Additionally, they actually manufacture a portion of Trek’s bikes anyway, showing that it’s likely their manufacturing processes are more streamlined and better value.
But, it really does come down to the individual models you’re choosing between. You can’t go wrong either way!
Trek Vs Giant Case Study: Madone SLR 9 vs Propel Advanced SL 0
The Giant Propel Advanced SL 0 is the flagship model in Giant’s latest Propel range. The fully-carbon frame with integrated seatpost is designed to be more aerodynamic than previous models, saving a few Watts for the average rider.
The Giant Propel Advanced SL 0 weighs in at a feathery 6.9 kg. This is just 100 grams above the UCI weight limit of 6.8 kg.
As you might expect, this bike does not come cheap. At $12,500, it’s aimed at those who are extremely serious about road cycling, and want the latest and best kit they can get their hands on.
The newest model, the Madone SLR 9, is Trek’s flagship aero road bike. Utilizing the latest version of Trek’s proprietary OCLV carbon fiber, it remains very light, at 7.3 kg, though still 400 g more than the Propel Advanced SL 0.
However, like the Propel, the shape of the frame and componentry is streamlined to minimize drag to such a degree that it will make a notable difference to pro-cyclists, using their KVF aerodynamic technology.
Both the Trek Madone and Giant Propel are outstanding bikes, regularly featuring in industry round-ups of the best blue-chip aero road bikes on the market.
That being said, we feel the newest iteration of the Propel ever-so-slightly has the edge over the current Madone, as we love the stiffness and compliance, and the trimmed weight sees it sneak ahead of the marginally heavier Madone as a lightweight aero all-rounder.
Trek Vs Giant Case Study: Fuel EX vs Trance x Advanced pro
A fully OCLV carbon design, it comes in at a hair over 14 kg, so not the lightest mountain bike you’ll find. However, it does have a lot of suspension travel, at 150 mm, making it really well suited to rough terrain.
This version of the Fuel EX also makes use of SRAM XX1 Eagle as it’s groupset, SRAM’s flagship MTB group, matching the quality of such a bike. However, all of this, once again, will set you back a pretty penny, at $10,000.
Giant’s flagship full-sus MTB, the Trance X Advanced Pro 29, features an advanced-grade, fully carbon fiber frame, and their TXR2 carbon fiber wheelset (other options also available).
The frame and wheelset are optimized for strength and compliance to handle even the roughest of trails, with 150 mm of front and 135 mm of rear travel to match.
At 13.5 kg, you will save yourself nearly 600 g when compared to the Fuel EX, too, though in practice this is unlikely to make too much difference.
This version of the Trance X Advanced Pro comes equipped with a SRAM GX Eagle groupset, which is below the XX1 in SRAM’s hierarchy.
Having said that, it’s still an exceptional quality groupset, and, as is well-known with modern groupsets, the phenomenon of diminishing returns is ever-present in SRAM’s lineup.
The GX Eagle still makes use of SRAM’s proprietary XD driver freehub body, something many would consider a must on a mountain bike with a SRAM groupset.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s possible to find both bikes with a range of groupsets, so if you’re set on the Fuel EX but can’t afford the flagship groupset, there may be an option for you.
Likewise, if you’re set on the Trance but feel ready to step up to a blue-chip professional groupset, you should be able to find that combination too – and the differing groupsets will be reflected in the price.
However, there is little to choose between the two framesets themselves. If you’re not sure which to go with, the only solution is to test ride them both!