15 Bikes We Wish We’d Owned

by 45

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

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.

klein attitude, retrobike,
The iconic Klein Attitude (pic by Dan Jones)

5. Slingshot


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

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

Early nineties goodness: Check out the length of that stem!

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

Bontrager OR. Pic thanks to: Eric Lafferty

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

Pic thanks to northernerindevon. (Permission pending)
Pic thanks to northernerindevon.
Chipps: The Yo Eddy was one of the first mountain bikes to bring bike making into an art form. While many mountain bikes were utilitarian machines designed for the ‘rough stuff’, the Yo Eddy presented itself with oversized steel tubing, non-tapering chainstays and that lovely five piece rigid fork, all wrapped up in a cartoon-bright paint job – complete with Eddy himself. At its heart, though, it was more than a caricature – it was a beautiful, steel rider’s bike made by folks who really knew what they were doing.

11. Ibis Bow-Ti

BowTi Ibis
Pic from ibiscycles.com

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

A canti-equipped Mountain Cycles San Andreas. Light years ahead? (Thanks to JoeG for the pic)

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

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 11.50.53
Pic from Litespeed.com

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.

15. Chopper


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?

Did we pick your favourite? What did we miss? The Iron Horse Sunday? The original Ibis Mojo, a Cunningham or the Mountain Goat Whiskeytown Racer? Let us know in the comments below

 Iron Horse Sunday


Comments (45)

    I wanted a Overburys Pioneer so very badly. Growing up in Bristol in the late 80s I’d see them often. I knew immediately that a sloping tt was the way. My Dad made me buy a Emmelle cougar with steel mudguards and 4 sizes too big. I did get the explosif splatter after grafting in a pub kitchen washing up for a psychopathic ex navy chef. Well worth it. Oh and McMohan ti..

    You’ve missed out the Doug Bradbury Manitou hard tail and FS bikes, also the Yeti ARC.

    GT Zaskar LE, for me! I lusted after that bike!!!

    Nothing with a unified rear triangle should be in that list WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU! (I can accept the Kleins inclusion for being a cock up but really any URT was a cock up)

    I badly wanted a Pace RC200 saved up and finally bought one. Loved that bike and it is still in the shed though rather neglected these days

    Barney : I had a muddy fox explorer back in 1987 aged 15 as my first introduction to a “proper mtb”, I bought it from a bike shop in Oban where I had stared at it during every school lunchtime for months previous, took me all the summer holiday to save up for it by working with my dad in the woods and my sideline of bags of firewood supplied to all in the village I stayed in on the shores of Loch Awe. That bike was the ultimate definition of “exploration” growing up in deepest darkest Argyllshire and I can still remember the day I walked in to the shop with £400 and walked out with what turned out to be the best bike I’ve ever owned. The images I can recall and the experiences I had on that bike whilst exploring for miles around will forever be ingrained to my mind.

    I owned a Palomino and it was lovely. The paint was like nothing else and I got on with the suspension even though others didn’t. I did end up riding a Maverick ML7 which was to be fair, much better. Dissapointed that there was no Merlin Extralight on the list…

    Nit picking, but I’d have listed the Muddy Fox Explorer rather than the Courier which was more their town hybrid than MTB.

    No Proflex? That was the bike on my wall and the GT LTS.

    I had a thing too for the cannondale super v. All out of my price range as a 16 year old!

    A mate at work still has his GT STS, it’s had very little use, which is probably why it isn’t broken. 😉

    To continue the nitpicking, that “Mongoose” is a Skyway Streetbeat.

    P7 wins it for me. The old nickel colour with rc36 forks was my object of lust for a long long time.

    BIG UP for the Muddy Fox Courier. I always aspired to one, back in the day. It was the original ‘steel is real’ iron horse. Still see a few originals doing the rounds in Bridport area.

    My first bike was a mid 80’s Saracen Tuff Trax. Followed by a Kona Lava Dome (Project Two’s, hallowed be thy name). I had a rigid P7 for a few years (frankly I found it a bit dull, solid but dull).

    Now I’m on a Marin Pine Mountain 1. Absolutely love it – feels like the bike I rode as a teen. (suspension? Meh,)

    That said, always wish I had had a MF Courier, back in the day.

    @somafunk – superb comment.

    Some bighat nicked my Muddyfox back in the early 90s, I was so upset it took many years to get over it and buy another bike.

    My realistic object of desire was an Orange Prestige with a Suntour XC Pro groupsets, in matt black, but the one I listed after was Dave Jennings Rocky Mountain Ti-bolt, with all the red anodized parts. Got to touch at the Plymouth world cup. Magic!

    Pro-flex for sure, and any Yeti, just cos missy rode one!

    And Neds M4 stumpy

    Orange Vitamin T, that was my object of lust, with Pace forks lovely. Zaskar i had its little brother the backwoods absolutely loved it, with 2″ marzocchi forks awesome. Ball burnished gt finish was so pimp.

    Classics of my time were the Merlin and Dean ti bikes and the (I’m surprised it’s missing) Pace RC200

    My Bontrager OR is still going strong! First thing I bought with my first proper pay check after finishing University in ’96.

    P7 was nickel rather than chrome – I saved up for one with an lx groupset in 1996 when I was 17 after seeing it in the mbuk buyers guide (it only slightly pipped a kona to the post). Eventually upgraded to girvin forks the rc35s. It then got SSed/kawasaki green with troy Lee flames, then painted black and turned into a commuter…

    Nostalgia aint what it used to be….

    No Pace square frame lovely in there? I am surprised.

    That Trek Y brings back memories. My first proper MTB was a Trek VRX – like a Y only more monocoquey. Wrong size for me too – it was far too small ’cause the man in the shop said that’s how people are riding them. But I started riding off road and haven’t stopped since so for that I’m grateful. What larks, Pip.

    Whyte PRST-1, I actually got the chance to buy a second generation 2004ish one a couple of years back and it was awesome! Until the frame cracked. It was the most robust suspension design I’ve ever come across and the big gripper dropouts were ace, fast and accurate to get the wheels in and out. It absolutely tanked along on technical rough flat stuff, just swallowed everything under the wheels at speed but was worrying divey under braking and steep stuff. Better times!

    @mima: Nobody regrets not owning a PRST-1! Ugliest bike ever and rode like a boat.

    I’m disappointed that you’ve not got the AMP B4 with an F4 fork on it.

    I used to dream of owning one of them in the early ’90’s. Got to sit on one briefly once but that was as close as I got to it.

    @pictonroad – absolutely. Can’t remember the model name but Pace square tubes, with external butting. I think it was finished with just a lacquer coat. At least that’s how it is in my memory…

    Believe me, people, it was a proper bun fight getting it down to 15…

    Yes, I probably should have lusted after an Explorer. But I didn’t. Soz. 🙂
    Keep the comments coming!

    I was hoping the San Andreas was going to be on the list. But it’s a shame you illustrated it with possibly the ugliest example I’ve ever seen.

    Kona Hei Hei would be top of my list (with titanium P2s, of course). No surprises there 🙂

    And if there was a dodgy early Trek full-sus to lust after, for my money it wasn’t the Y frame, it was the 9200:


    Best use for a Y-frame was this, obvs 😉


    Out of that list, I’ve owned the Bonty and the Palomino. I’d happily have another Bonty. I’m not fussed. About the Klein

    The mk2 courier was a much better off-road bike: indexed rear shifting, chain stay mounted U- brake, funky lilac fade paint job and best of all, 24-carat gold inlaid Muddy Fox logos on the chain rings! It was even available in sizes that didn’t make penny-farthings look small.. My how I wept when I found my dad had forgotten to lock the garage one night and some local scum had made off with mine.

    Used to use my Lobo to commute to work, I was so cool!

    I’m sure it was impossible to get down to 15…
    Pace RC200 should be in there, but maybe Chipps owned one of them, along with a pro-flex of course.
    I would say I lusted after a Kona Explosif and of course a Chas Roberts or Dave Yates……

    M4? M2, surely? In red with yellow graphics.

    Orange Sub 5 (until I rode one)
    A palmer intense

    I forgot I had a a Sub5… I’m sure we could do ‘Another 15 bikes we wish we’d owned’ and many of the suggestions above would be on it: Merlin, Pace, Marin Bear Valley (in matt black Zolatone… mmm…) Anyway! 🙂

    Going way back, the very first MTB I can recall lusting after was a Saracen Kili Flyer Pro e-stay in red. No much after that some sort of Giant Cadex – I think part of it was made from carbon, and it had purpleness. Later on, I absolutely had to have an RC-200, but never did.

    Always fancied a deKerf. Don’t hear so much of them now.

    I was offeredd a Muddy Fox ? which had knackered hub brakes as a university hack bike. In knew nothing about bikes at the time and The bike shop I took it to just scratched their heads. I must have given it back. It would have been a nice project now.

    Another surprise not to see a Pace on there. The ones I came close to buying and regret are the Orange Evo2 in bright green and the original Marin Mount Vision (I built an Airborne TI hard tail with Pace RC36 that I never fell in love with)

    I’ve lusted after a Cannonade since my mate bought a yellow Super V 900 (that he still has and rides). The closest I’ve come was toying with a lefty on a Nicolai but got distracted by other things.

    No Kona Explosif?? 🙁

    GT RTS 1, I lusted after one of these when I was still a teenager. Probably rides terribly but back then it just looked awesome.

    My Courier comp cost me an 1/8th -HTH.

Leave Reply