GOLDEN OLDIES
Mountain Bike Rider|October 2021
The retro market is booming as riders seek to recreate the dream machines of their youth; mbr pays homage to some iconic designs and wonders what future collectors will warm to
Sim Mainey

KLEIN ATTITUDE

YEAR 1992

WEIGHT 25lb 04oz

ORIGIN Chehalis, Washington, USA

FEATURES Critical Racing brakes, RockShox Mag 21 forks, Cook Brothers Racing crankset

Mountain bikes are, objectively, better than ever. More capable, more refined and – regardless of what you may have heard – better value than ever. The golden age of mountain biking is right here, right now and it will be even brighter tomorrow – pandemic shortages notwithstanding. For some riders, living in the golden age is all well and good, but they can’t help but gaze fondly through the lenses of their purple-tinted Oakley M Frames at the bikes of yesteryear.

Mountain biking is a relatively new sport, so even some of the earliest bikes are only 40 years old. Needless to say, there’s been a lot of change in those four decades. Even for those with no interest in nostalgia it’s worth taking a look back through the evolution of the mountain bike to see just how far we’ve come. Seeing the ideas that worked and were refined, and those that didn’t and weren’t, helps with understanding why bikes are the way they are now.

But for those who were there (man), who owned, rode, ogled and coveted these early bikes, there’s much more than a detached appreciation to tracing the lineage of the mountain bike. These bikes represent dreams and aspiration, heroic exploits, milestones and high points. They are the bikes that helped define mountain biking and owning one is to be a custodian of a tangible part of the sport’s history.

Bristol-based distributor Saddleback deals with prestigious brands such as Troy Lee Designs, Chris King, Moots and ENVE. Its showroom and warehouse is full of some of the latest and greatest products, but amongst all the cutting-edge gear are some key pieces of mountain biking’s past. Walkthrough the offices and storerooms and you’ll find examples of early to mid 90’s Cannondale, Marin and GT full-suspension bikes rubbing bar ends with exotica from Fat Chance, Klein and Yeti. This might be, quite accidentally, one of the most eclectic collections of vintage mountain bikes in the UK.

YETI ULTIMATE

YEAR 1991

WEIGHT 24lb 01oz

ORIGIN Durango, Colorado, USA

FEATURES Tioga Disk Drive rear wheel, Answer Accu-Trax fork, Bullseye cranks, Grafton brakes

FAT CHANCE YO EDDY

YEAR 1994/1995

WEIGHT 24lb 01oz

ORIGIN Somerville Massachusetts, USA

FEATURES Kooka cranks, RockShox Judy SL forks, Shimano M910 XTR, Ringle Moby seatpost

THE MAKING OF A CLASSIC

Rich Mardle, Saddleback’s brand director, is one of the custodians of what he jokingly refers to as “the rusty gems”. He explains that about four years ago, over some post-work drinks with colleagues, conversation turned to the bikes they used to own, the bikes they aspired to own and the ones that got away. It wasn’t long before the bikes that had cropped up in conversation started appearing at the office. A core of nine people in the office started accumulating the bikes of their dreams, and it was safe to say they had more than one dream bike each. At most places of work, if whole areas of the warehouse were becoming an impromptu museum, the boss would be having a word. Not here. Saddleback’s owner Andy Wigmore has, what some might call, an obsession with bikes of a certain vintage (Klein, pre-Trek era in particular) with a barn full of bikes at home and the overspill kept at work. This is a place that is staffed with proper bike nuts. It might even be company policy.

It’s not just vintage bikes that have started to fill up the mezzanines and corners of the warehouse. Forks, frames, helmets, shoes, jerseys and all manner of classic memorabilia can be found wherever you look. There’s talk of making a purpose-built exhibition to house the ever-growing collection, which could potentially dwarf the new product showroom. It would certainly be an impressive display, one with communal curation.

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