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Travel to any popular trail centre in the UK and have a gander at all of the different bikes whizzing around the trails. While your wandering eyes may be drawn to the pretty Santa Cruz, Intense and Yeti frames being loaded onto the roof racks of European sportswagons, try to look past the colourful bling distracting you, and take note of which brands you see more than once.

Start to identify some patterns? I thought so. Because once you start paying attention, there’s a very good chance that over half of the bikes being wheeled around the car park belong to less than half a dozen brands. Big, well-known brands.

Of course, we may all like to lust after the exotic. The unusual. The rare. The left-of-centre. The exorbitantly expensive. We certainly do here at Singletrack Towers. Mind you, it is our job, so I don’t really need to pretend otherwise.

But, while we all love reading stories about boutique custom builds and artisanal hand-crafted frames, the reality is that when it comes time for a new bike purchase, chances are that all of us (brand loyalists aside) will be seriously considering options from those bigger names.

During some recent trail centre missions, we conducted our own audit of the different bikes we could spot. Whether it was on the trail, in the car park, or leaning up against the walls of the visitor centre cafe, we discovered that there were three brands represented in greater numbers than any of the others. Those three big names? Giant, Specialized and Trek.

For this test, we chose some of the most popular mountain bikes currently available in the UK. We spoke with Giant, Specialized, and Trek in order to find out what their bestselling full suspension trail bikes were. Not necessarily the lightest, longest travel, or most expensive models, but the most popular. The sort of bikes that you’d regularly see down at your local trail head, or hovering around the start line at a mountain bike event.

There are a few reasons why these particular models are some of the most sought-after by British mountain bikers. For a start, they’re widely available, with established global dealer networks that mean you’ve got a very good chance of seeing them on a showroom floor wherever you are in the country. And while the direct-toconsumer brands are enjoying rising popularity in today’s market, the reassurance of buying from a local shop is still a highly important factor in the purchasing process for many riders.

Given that these models come from three of the biggest bicycle brands in the world, they’re also built for mass appeal – both in a performance and in a monetary sense. All of our test bikes hover around the £3k mark and feature full suspension designs with 110– 130mm of travel. They’re neither full-blown cross-country race bikes, nor radical long-travel all-mountain rigs. Instead, they occupy that hazy space that lies somewhere between the two. They’re designed to be light and efficient enough for pedalling up the climbs, and equipped with sufficient suspension travel to handle the vast majority of technical riding you’d come across at the average trail centre.

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About Singletrack

International Adventure: Switzerland – Winter in Switzerland doesn’t haven’t to mean skis and snowboards. Sim checks out the growing fat biking scene there. Editors’ Choice – Chipps and the gang pick out their very favourite products, events and locations from the year. Interview: Tom Ritchey – Chipps talks to this man of steel (tubing) about framebuilding, fast racers and innovative product design. Trail Hunter – Nan Bield – Tom Fenton adds one of the Lake District’s hardest challenges to your must-ride bucket list. Dressing for winter – How can we best recommend winter gear for you? By starting with a shivering Australian, of course… Bike Test: Battle of the Titans – Three bikes from the biggest names in the industry: Giant, Specialized and Trek. Grouptest: 27.5in Trail Forks – Seven, 130-140mm forks for every price point tested. Classic Ride: Aviemore – Pete Scullion takes us on a tour of this area of Scotland better known for its skiing than its shredding. Grinder Bike: Stif Morf – Is this hardtail as playful as it looks? Through the Grinder: The team bring you their verdicts on products that have survived the first frosts of winter.