2 New MTB Brands, Two Different but Similar Approaches

Mountain bikers looking to Scor a new Karbon mountain bike this year have two new brands to choose from.

While browsing bikes at a local shop recently, I came across a pair of good-looking mountain bikes from a brand I had never heard of before called Scor. As the editor-in-chief at Singletracks, I of all people should know about MTB brands, especially ones that sell well-equipped bikes in brick and mortar shops. But that’s not a part of Scor’s plan. (It turns out Singletracks first wrote about Scor in October 2021 following that year’s pared-down Sea Otter Classic.)

New bike brands launch all the time, and often make their big public debut at the Sea Otter Classic. Both Scor and another new mountain bike brand, Karbon, presented their lines at the festival last week, and while their stories share many similarities, they’re both on very different paths.

A Scor is born

As the brand tells it, Scor was born in 2021 out of rider passion. A few employees of the Swiss bike brand BMC worked on a mountain bike prototype in their spare moments, and over time the project gained momentum. The about us page on the Scor website says, “True to the original concept this was not a purebred race machine. It was a bike for good times not lap times, one created out of a passion for riding for the most important reason – fun. A bike built to play the mountains. It was also a bike that didn’t fit the performance-driven BMC brand.”

With the backing of a large, global bike brand, Scor bikes are already available in dozens of bike shops around the world, and their full-carbon bikes look every bit as refined as anything you’ll see from an established brand. The non-electric 4060 LT enduro and 4060 ST trail bikes utilize the same frame, offering 160mm and 140mm of rear travel, respectively. Scor uses an angle adjust headset and flip chip to optimize the geometry for either configuration, and both bikes run on 29er wheels. Two builds are available for each bike, priced at $4,899 and $7,199, and a frameset costs $3,299.

Naturally Scor has electric mountain bikes too, the 4060 Z LT and 4060 Z ST. The all-carbon eMTBs feature the same geometry as the non-electrics and are specced with Shimano EP8 motors and big 720Wh batteries. Two available builds are priced at $7,499 and $9,499. The brand also offers a couple aluminum mountain bikes for kids.

All of the bikes feature stunning paint and finishes, and the prices place the bikes in the high-mid to premium tier. In part, this is because Scor doesn’t skimp on suspension components, speccing Fox Factory shocks on all framesets and the top-end builds. The brand’s marketing strategy relies in part on making the bikes stand out. Overall the Scor branding and marketing materials feel very cohesive, and some independent dealers are giving the bikes prime placement. Currently U.S. consumers can purchase framesets directly from Scor online, but complete bikes are only available through local retailers.

And yet, we’re told the pandemic-adjacent launch has been intentionally muted. Parent brand BMC is slowly and cautiously rolling out the brand, perhaps to ensure an adequate supply and also to gauge consumer preferences. Separating the new brand from race-focused BMC is a strategic move clearly calculated to reach new consumers. Only time will tell if Scor catches on with mountain bikers.

The Karbon Stampede enduro bike.

Karbon calling

Karbon is another mountain bike brand that’s just getting started, and one man — Tarek Tabbara — is the driving force. Tabbara has launched multiple businesses over the past 25 years, successfully scaling many of them across diverse industries from financial services to consumer goods manufacturing. In 2022, roughly two years into the pandemic, he started Karbon “to pursue his passion for the great outdoors,” according to the Karbon Bikes website.

The brand new brand is not short on ambition, launching a hardtail XC bike, trail and enduro full-suspension bikes, and two electric mountain bikes plus branded carbon wheels and handlebars. In their mission statement, Karbon says they are focused on building the “best and most exclusive mountain bikes and electric bikes in the world,” a tall order given the resources required to do so. To reassure customers about their commitment, Karbon offers a 30-day money back guarantee and a limited lifetime warranty on frames and wheels.

Based in Holliston, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, Karbon is located far away from the center of the US bike industry. This could give the brand an advantage, reaching east coast consumers who don’t necessarily identify with the terrain and riding styles found in western states. At the same time, it could also be a disadvantage, preventing the brand from connecting with the latest trends and overall mountain bike culture.

Like Scor, Karbon is leaning on flashy frame finishes and high-quality builds to grab attention. The Karbon Krusher trail bike features 140/130mm of travel front and rear, and builds are priced at $4,499, $6,499, and $8,499. The 170/160mm Stampede builds are priced slightly higher, while Azur hardtail XC bike builds start at $3,499. Electric Powerline enduro mountain bike prices range from $6,499 to $10,799.

Unlike Scor, Karbon is selling all their bikes directly to consumers from the get-go. Without ties to a legacy dealer-focused brand, Karbon is free to experiment with various business models and see what works.

The future

There’s no telling what the future holds for these, or any other mountain bike brands in the industry, for that matter. Scor and Karbon launched around the same time, with all-carbon trail and enduro, electric and analog bikes, and with builds offered around the same price points. However one has the backing of a larger, more established brand with a network of dealers; the other, an outsider with startup experience and a passion for the outdoors and a direct-to-consumer model. Will one or both of them go on to be the next big mountain bike brand? Stay tuned for my follow up article in 2028.