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The 7 Most Underrated Mountain Bike Brands

There are tons of solid brand-name mountain bikes out there, but what if you want something a bit different? These are the MTB brands I consider underrated, who are building great bikes that punch above their weight class.

The 7 Most Underrated Mountain Bike Brands

Written by:Bruce Lin

Published on:

Posted in:MTB

The Banshee Prime is an under-appreciated shredder. Photo: Banshee Bikes

If you want a great mountain bike, it’s hard to go wrong with top brands like Specialized, Trek, Giant, Cannondale, Santa Cruz, and Yeti. But what if you want to stand out from the crowd? What else is out there?

Fortunately, the market is full of hidden gems, forgotten legends, and young upstarts. I’ve picked out 7 brands that I think make great bikes but don’t necessarily get the attention that the top brands do. You might call them underrated. Read on to learn more about where these brands come from and why they might be making your next bike.

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Banshee Bikes

Banshee PrimeThe Banshee Prime. Photo: Banshee Bikes

Banshee is based out of British Columbia and has been around for over 20 years. They’re a bit rare here in the US, especially if you don’t live in the Pacific Northwest.

Banshee is pretty small. Its core team consists of four passionate riders. It doesn’t have a race team. It doesn’t sponsor any big-name pros. Instead of heavy marketing, it has focused entirely on making rugged aluminum mountain bikes for everyday riders. Born and bred on the legendary trails found on Vancouver’s North Shore and Whistler Bike Park, Banshee bikes are designed to perform on the gnarliest terrain and stand up to abuse.

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Banshee bikes use KS Link or KS2 suspension and swappable dropouts that allow riders to easily run different wheel sizes and alter geometry. These features allow riders to easily experiment with plus-tires, mullet set-ups, and coil shocks to suit their terrain or riding style.

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Several TPC employees have ridden and raved about Banshee’s bikes over the years. Our Head of Purchasing just built up a Legend downhill bike to race our local DH series. We have several employees riding the big-travel Titan enduro bike, a couple of riders on the Prime and Spitfire trail bikes, and one guy riding the short-travel Phantom. They’re all shredders who beat the crap out of their bikes. Their bikes just take the hits and keep on going. 

Alchemy Bikes

Alchemy Arktos 150The Alchemy Arktos 150. Photo: Alex Rawal/Alchemy Bikes

Alchemy is a small bike builder based in Golden, Colorado that has made its name building high-end custom road bikes from carbon, steel, and titanium. In more recent years, it’s been making inroads into the mountain bike space with its carbon full-suspension Arktos models. It can produce carbon frames right here in the US (though the Arktos is still made overseas — custom frames are built domestically), and it has its own high-end paint studio, Ethic Paint Works, that is used to produce its beautiful paint jobs.

TPC actually knows Alchemy pretty well because we used to share a warehouse in Denver. We’ve seen firsthand the passion and attention to detail its team injects into every bike. It’s still a small company, with only 9 employees. But they’re designing and building bikes that ride as well (or better) than many high-end carbon superbikes. 

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The Arktos uses SINE suspension, which describes the s-shaped kinematics of the suspension. It’s designed to optimize pedaling efficiency, mid-stroke support, and bit-hit absorption. One of our Master Techs rides the Arktos 125 and finds it efficient and fast enough to race XC competitively, while still having the chops to rip down all our gnarly Colorado descents. 

Guerrilla Gravity 

Guerilla Gravity GnarvanaThe Guerrilla Gravity Gnarvana. Photo: Guerrilla Gravity

Based in Denver, Colorado, Guerrilla Gravity is another small manufacturer making big waves in the industry. The main highlight is that "GG" is manufacturing carbon frames in-house and it’s using Revved Carbon, an aerospace technology that is over 300% more impact resistant, but matches the strength and stiffness of traditional carbon, while also being more environmentally friendly.

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What's also super cool about Guerrilla Gravity is that its mountain bike models are super adjustable and modular. They use flip chips and adjustable headsets to give riders a lot of geometry adjustment, but if you get the hunger for more or less travel, swapping out the rear triangle, shock, and fork lets you convert the frame into any of Guerrilla Gravity's other full-suspension models. With a seatstay kit, and an extra shock and fork, you can essentially have two bikes in one.

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Also, it’s worth noting that Yoann Barelli rides Guerrilla Gravity. He’s my second favorite French MTB YouTuber (sorry, Yoann, Remy is my fav), and if you want to see what Guerrilla Gravity bikes are capable of, check out his channel

Marin Bikes

Marin Alpine TrailThe Marin Alpine Trail. Photo: Marin Bikes

Marin Bikes is based in and named after Marin County, California, which many consider the birthplace of mountain biking. Established in 1986 by Bob Buckley, it is one of the OG mountain bike brands. Its first bike, the $199 Madrone was an affordable mass-produced alternative to hand-built options. It also produced some of the earliest production titanium frames and the 1993 Titanium FRS was one of the earliest production full-suspension bikes.

Unfortunately, Marin fell off the map a bit in the 2000s. These days, it doesn’t have the recognition that contemporaries like Yeti and Specialized do. I’ll be honest, I’d once considered it a fallen brand, much like Schwinn.

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But in recent years, it’s had an impressive resurgence. It’s building modern, well-designed, and well-specced bikes that are being offered at reasonable prices. In fact, when people come to me for recommendations for a high-quality but affordable mountain bike, Marin is one of the first brands I suggest. They make great, progressive steel and aluminum hardtails, and their full-suspension bikes leave little to be desired. As long as you ignore the super-weird Mount Vision, its bike line-up is pretty good looking too.

Marin’s comeback has also been helped by pro slopestyle rider and YouTuber Matt Jones, whose hugely successful channel has showcased what Marin’s mountain bikes are capable of.   

Salsa Cycles

Salsa Rustler CThe Salsa Rustler C. Photo: Salsa Cycles

Salsa is another OG mountain bike brand (check out our video on Salsa founder Ross Shafer) that I feel doesn’t get the modern recognition it deserves. Shafer is a talented builder, and I love that he chose to give his brand a “spicy” name rather than name it after himself as many other builders do. He was a no-frills type of guy, and to this day, Salsa is still known for creating practical and hard-working frames and components.

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Selfishly, I also want to include Salsa because the steel El Mariachi hardtail was my first mountain bike. It was also one of the best mountain bikes I’ve ever owned. I liked it so much that I bought a second steel El Mariachi years later, followed by a titanium version after that.

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The El Mariachi’s spiritual successor, the Timberjack, is my top pick for multi-day bike-packing adventures. Drop bar mountain bikes like the Salsa Fargo are regular contenders at events like Tour Divide. And I think Salsa’s modern carbon full-suspension options like the Spearfish, Horsethief, and Rustler are some of the best-looking bikes on the market today. 

Canfield Bikes

Canfield lithium and tiltThe long-travel Lithium and mid-travel Tilt. Photo: Canfield Bikes

I’m a Canfield fan because they’re based in nearby Fruita, CO, one of the best riding destinations in Colorado (and the world), and because they build bikes that rip it on downhill trails but are still super competent climbers. That’s all thanks to Canfield’s patented CBF suspension system, which decouples suspension and braking force to provide smooth, active suspension travel but also a firm, efficient pedaling platform.

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Over the years, I’ve owned an old Balance, a progressive enduro bike ahead of its time, and a Nimble 9, one of the original all-mountain hardtails. When the Nimble 9 debuted over ten years ago, very few bike builders were making hardtails with big-travel forks designed to shred. (Chromag was, should Chromag be on this list?) The legendary Jedi downhill bike was using a high-pivot before it was cool. Now, I think Canfield bikes look better than ever. 

Fezzari Bicycles

Fezzari La Sal PeakThe Fezzari La Sal Peak. Photo: Fezzari Bicycles

Okay, yes, Fezzari has a goofy faux-Italian name. But if you can look past that, it also makes some very nice bikes. Hailing from Lindon, Utah, Fezzari’s goal has always been to build top-quality bikes that regular riders can afford. It also offers a “23-point Custom Setup,” a fit system that uses your body measurements to choose a frame and components that ensure you get a perfect bike fit, even without a test ride.

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For me, Fezzari comes to mind because one of my good friends used to smoke me constantly on a La Sal Peak. After trying his bike, I was super impressed with the geometry, especially the ultra-slack 63.5-degree head angle. I felt instantly comfortable and fast, which is rare on an unfamiliar bike. My old co-worker Spencer also managed to finish Leadville Trail 100 in under 8 hours on a Signal Peak, which says to me that it’s a competent XC bike. Fezzari doesn’t do much marketing, but if they did, I think they’d be super successful.

Honorable mentions:

Obviously, with this list limited to only 7 underrated brands, I can’t feature them all. So who did I miss? Or who am I wrong about? Let me know! I’m going to cheat a bit and list 3 more as honorable mentions…

REEB Cycles

Is REEB still underrated? I love REEB. They’re located down the street from me and I have owned 2 of their bikes myself. They’re a bunch of smart guys designing and building innovative bikes in a barn. But with its new SST and Steezl steel full-suspension bikes, it’s recieved a lot of hype on Pinkbike and other MTB publications. Maybe REEB’s time in the spotlight has come. 


Unlike other brands on this list, Mondraker is a “big” manufacturer from Spain. They sponsor pro race teams and have an international presence. But we don’t see many here in the US or hear them talked about much in North American mountain bike media. I think they deserve a mention here because I credit them with popularizing modem long, low, and slack MTB geometry. Plus, Mondraker bikes just look so cool. 

Whyte Bikes

Whyte is a British brand that makes super cool and affordable bikes. I also love how they took on Rich Energy in a trademark dispute. But again, we just barely see any in the US. My buddy rides one that he won in a Pinkbike giveaway (lucky jerk) and he absolutely shreds on it. But I’ve never ridden one. Is it underrated? I need to do more research before I can confirm!

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