Singletrack Magazine is 15 years old this April, having launched on April Fools’ Day, 2001 (in the middle of the Foot and Mouth crisis – good timing, people; good timing), so we’re running a series of ’15 Things’ – and here we have our list of 15 bikes that we owned, wish we’d owned, or just gazed at dreamily from afar.
It is said it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. Chipps, Mark and Barney have loved and lusted, but never owned these 15 bikes. Pass the Mansize tissues as they explain why these bikes have made their list of unrequited love.
1. Orange P7
Mark: My first proper MTB was a Trek 930 Singletrack. Then it was an Orange Clockwork that I bought using ‘cheque spread’ at Bury Leisure Lakes in the mid 90’s. I raced XC on that bike. I raced quite a lot as it happened. My bike had a silver paint job but the P7 was real silver… it was chrome! At races I just thought it looked so much faster than mine. I kidded myself that if I owned one I would easily up my average finish position. If you look fast then you’ll be fast. I never got my P7 although I did get to ride someone elses for a day a few years back. It featured in mag – I wore Lycra out of respect for the bike if not my fellow staffers. Don’t bother looking it up. It wasn’t pretty.
2. GT STS Lobo DH
Barney: The Lobo looked like nothing else when it appeared. Made from GT’s carbon-precursor proprietary thermoplastic, which was heavier, more expensive and more breakable than the aluminium equivalent – but still ineffably cool – it had a pull shock, colossal amounts of travel (6.5 inches!!), and it made you look like you really, really knew what you were doing. The downside, of course, was that when it became abundantly clear that you didn’t, you’d look ridiculous. But still. You’d look ridiculous riding a Lobo, which made everything alright again. If Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator rode a mountain bike, he’d ride one of these.
3. Trek Y Bike
Mark: Before I knew anything about mountain bikes I new suspension forks as ‘shockers’. The Trek Y was the first bike with ‘two shockers’ that I lusted after. Yes, it looks like an Apollo now… but then…. And we are talking more than 20 years ago now.. then it was amazing. A bit like looking at a picture of a Grifter now, when as a kid it was a huge monster of a tank of a bike, now the Trek Y just looks a bit shit. Still, I really REALLY wanted one.
4. Klein Attitude
Chipps: You’re either with me, or you’re wondering ‘what on Earth?’ – for me the Klein Attitude sums up the excitement and wonder of the early mountain bike scene. Back in 1990/1991 the nascent mountain bike scene looked to America for inspiration; the pages of MBA were awash with fluoro and dust. The Klein Attitude (in Green/White/Pink, natch) embodied all that. Huge tubes, the ‘rigid is better’ ethos and the fact that Dave Hemming rode one to a Durango World Champs medal in 1990 all added to the magic. Still want one.
Chipps: Along with the ‘rigid is better’ movement in the 1990s was a sort of ‘Let’s see if we can have suspension without suspension’ movement, and so we saw suspension seatposts, suspension hubs (yes, really), suspension stems and the Slingshot. Replacing the downtube with a metal hawser and a coil spring made tons of sense at the time, plus the idea that it could ‘inchworm’ up climbs. Jo Burt (and therefore one of Mint Sauce’s pals) owned one with Spin three-spoke wheels, so we all wanted one.
6. Muddy Fox Courier
Barney: Well, the Courier is the bike that started it all – at least in my brain. Mountain-biking as a *thing* rather than merely as a bike was kindled in my youthful noggin by looking at pictures of the coolest of the cool in lifestyle magazines. And these people were riding Muddy Foxes. You’d see them occasionally on the streets, and I’d always stop and stare, and lust. Before my obsession kicked off properly, and before I properly knew my Zaskar from my Timberline, or my Mountain Cycle from my Apollo, come to that, there was the Muddy Fox. I’d head of them. They were very expensive. They were unimpeachably cool. And, sequestered somewhere in a corner of my mind, they always will be.
7. GT Zaskar
Barney: The Bike To Do It All. I hate the phrase ‘quiver killer’ with a passion rare in one so
young middle aged, but it could legitimately be used to describe the Zaskar, even before middle aged paunch-meisters like me had the budget for more than one bike. A ball-burnished GT Zaskar LE, with full XTR, Chris King hubs on ceramic Mavic rims (Panaracer XC Pro tyres too, please) and a pair of Judy SLs bolted to the front. Bling as anything, but legitimately a bike to do it all – XC, Trials, even a bit of light downhilling. And naturally, it’d utterly rip at trail riding.
SOMEONE TAKE MY MONEY. No, wait, I couldn’t afford it then, and I probably can’t afford it now. Kidney anyone? Part used?
8. Mongoose with Mag Wheels
Mark: After I grew out of my Grifter (I melted the mudguard flap by bending under so it ran against the tyre and made a motorbike noise – we all did that though, right?) I got a BMX. My mum and dad took me to the local bike shop in Padiham where the grumpiest bike shop owner on the planet pointed to a row of BMXs before getting on with his crossword. My parents had no idea what a good bike was and I knew they had precious little money to spend on one, so when my mum said, ‘which one do you want?’ I lied. I picked the red Saxon Raider with yellow tyres that was the cheapest in the line. I really wanted the one next to it – the Mongoose with the mag wheels. I did love my Saxon Raider though and I learned to jump over streams and build ramps out of bits of wardrobe doors thanks to that bike.
9. Bontrager OR
Chipps: Back in 1990, you were either a Fat Chance fan, a Salsa fan or a Bontrager fan when it came to steel. All the bikes had a different perceived character. The Yo Eddy (more of that in a bit) was an oversized bag of precision engineering with beautiful welds and a pristine paint job. The Salsa, made by Ross Shafer’s crew up in Petaluma was an easy-going, fun machine from California. Salsa riders kicked back, while the Bontrager OR – from The Professor, Keith Bontrager, in Santa Cruz was old school engineering and mechanical knowhow. There were Imperial threaded bolts! There were gussets to support tubes too thin-walled to survive on their own. It was all so thought out. There was a bolt-crown rigid fork (the same style crown as used on the first RockShox) to complete the package. They never excited me enough at the time – too much emphasis on the bike and not enough on the ride, I thought, so it was clear that I was cut out to be a Salsa owner. However, now, looking back at old Bontragers, I appreciate the amount of thought that went into them and the attempt to bring real engineering to the previously traditional world of bicycle building.
10. Fat Chance Yo Eddy
11. Ibis Bow-Ti
Barney: one of Bristol’s local trail crew, Ivo, had one of these, built as bling as you can possibly imagine. Essentially, it’s a high ‘pivot’ URT, built out of titanium. Designed and built by Ibis’ resident genius at the time, John Castellano, it offered 5 inches (colossal for the time) of travel. With no actual pivot. The Ti would flex instead, and it offered a ride which was regularly described as unreal and fantastic – especially by its owner. Ibis claimed it was by some distance the most complicated frame they ever made, and it’s easy to see why. And it wasn’t cheap, by a long shot. $3,500 in the nineties was a LOT of money for a frame. Ivo rode either a M or a S, though – and it’s easy to see that if you scale the BowTi up to Barney-size (XL) there’s a whole lot of places that flex could appear – and apparently did. So I continue to lust from a distance, but regretfully our love can never be consummated – much like my passionate affair with Kylie Minogue, it’d never work unless I was about a foot shorter. As I kept telling her at the time.
12. Klein Palomino
Mark: Look at that seat tube angle! LOOK AT IT! let me tell you a story about when it was launched to us at a Trek press camp back in 2002. – It was revolutionary in that it had a fork leg for a rear shock. Back then we thought that was clever. What was not clever was the fact the initial run of pre-production bikes they’d flown out to Germany for all the press to ride were wrong didly wrong wrong wrong. See that seat tube angle? When they pulled the white sheet off the demo bike at the launch every journo in the room tilted their head to the left. The pre-production models had a steeper seat tube angle than this one. Steeper in a comedy way that meant the seat post clamp was pretty much over the rear axle. Sometimes it’s best to have someone else check the numbers on the spreadsheet before you rush a batch of frames through for a press launch. We never got to ride one of the mental seat tube Kliens that day, which is why I want one. I have always wondered what ever happened to that batch of mitred Kleins (or indeed the person who scanned the spreadsheet of angles and said, ‘just do it’). I don’t want a good one (for a given value of good) – I want one of those mental ones that made us all tilt our heads.
13. Mountain Cycles San Andreas
Barney: There are very few machines that broke the mould in quite as many ways as the San Andreas. Working full suspension. Monocoque main frame. Inverted fork. Disc brakes. In 1991, people; 1991. It took the rest of the industry about 10 years to catch up, and even now this thing looks like a bike from the future. Quite, quite astonishing. ‘Interesting’ pedal feedback due to that high pivot, mind, but you can’t have everything.
14. Litespeed Tellico Hardtail
Barney: Oh, Ti! Back in the nineties, Ti was the frame material that everyone lusted after – none of this carbon nonsense. Carbon was restricted to road bike seatposts, and even those used to splinter alarmingly often (two words you don’t want in the same sentence, thankyouverymuch, are ‘seatpost’ and ‘shard’). So Ti it was. Which (for the chichi NASA-type stuff – cheaper Russian stuff used different alloys with molybdenum in) came in 2 flavours, depending on the amount of Aluminium and Vanadium used – 3Al2.5V, and 6Al4V. Most frames are made from 3Al2.5V, as it’s slightly easier to work – you can draw it into tubes. But not the Tellico, oh goodness me, no. The Tellico was totally made from 6Al4V. It was incredibly light, and very, very stiff, and incredibly spendy. I wanted one so, so hard.
Mark: I had a Grifter. My mate had a Chopper. I wanted it. This is not a picture of a good one. This here is the modern ‘elfinsafety’ version that actually works. I wanted the one with the banana seat and the double toptube mounted gear stick that never bloody worked! What is it with my obsession with bikes that failed?