Author Topic: In praise of early 90s MTBs  (Read 8120 times)

In praise of early 90s MTBs
« on: August 02, 2017, 06:31:11 pm »
Steel, rigid, elegant.  I'm building up a 1992 Kona Kilauea but, for obscure reasons, have also acquired a cheap and complete Kona Fire Mountain (almost the same geometry but heavier) and it's a revelation.  I found my 2013 Kona Cinder Cone very disappointing to ride - it was fairly light but very stodgy to ride, and the fork lockout didn't really do much when riding on the road.  Probably OK for chucking down a rocky slope but not much good for anything else.  The Fire Mountain looks better and you can actually ride out of the saddle without it pogoing.  And you don't have to bleed the sodding brakes every six months when the fluid swells up and the rear brake starts to drag.

I think MTB design reached a kind of apogee around 1992/93, just before they all went fat-tubed and bouncy.  V-brakes were slightly later, I think, and are much easier to set up than cantilevers* so I'll maybe extend that timeline a little.  It no doubt sells bikes but makes them ugly and horrible for general use.  This may be why an early 90s MTB in decent condition sells for as much as a nearly new one on the Bay of Thieves.  They don't make them like that any more, there's nothing expensive to wear out like suspension, and a 25 year old steel frame is usually a good bet - a well-used aluminium one less so.

*there are two theories for the introduction of V-brakes; one is that they don't need cable stops so are easy to fit to a suspension frame but the other is a product liability one; a conventional cantilever setup (straddle cable and yoke) on a bike without mudguards can throw you over the bars if the cable from the front brake lever snaps, as the straddle catches the knobbly tyre.  Mind you, I've never broken a brake cable.
Never tell me the odds.

Morat

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Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2017, 09:04:25 pm »
I still miss my Cannondales of that era even though one of them dumped me unceremoniously with a snapped stem after less than a year of use.
Tandem Stoker, CX bike abuser (slicks and tarmac) and owner of a sadly neglected MTB.

Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2017, 09:10:51 pm »
I had a Cannondale M1000 and always regretted it...it was a good enough bike but I wished I'd bought a Kona Kilauea instead.  They were the same price in the Evans sale but the Kona had Suntour XC Comp kit and the Cannondale had Deore DX...it was obvious in 1993 that Suntour was finished because Shimano shifted better.  The Kilauea with DX would have been perfect but it was sold out everywhere.
Never tell me the odds.

Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2017, 09:39:04 pm »
I love the Orange Clockworks of that period (I've had 4).  They make for the perfect all-round workhorse with mounts for guards and rack.  The one I'm using at the moment has been on many foreign trips and is my daily commuter.  I run them with bullhorn bars but they could be equally converted for drop-bar use.  Absolutely bulletproof.

From bitter experience I now make sure they are liberally internally waterproofed - the bottom bracket shell and chainstays are prone to rusting from the inside out.

As you say, shortly thereafter in the mid-90's the geometry of MTB's goes to pot with steeply sloping top tubes and raised head tubes.

Morat

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Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2017, 09:48:08 pm »
To be honest, I always hankered after a Kona but my LBS didn't stock them. Back then everyone wanted an Explosif like the pros or dreamed of one day being a millionaire and owning a Hei Hei.

I've scratched that itch now with a Roadhouse and a Jake the Snake. They've been worth the wait!
Tandem Stoker, CX bike abuser (slicks and tarmac) and owner of a sadly neglected MTB.

Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2017, 09:52:54 pm »
The sloping top tube is Kona's fault, since they popularised it (then Giant adopted it for the road).  Kona admit it was a very old idea but on MTBs it has a practical use because it gives greater standover height; on road bikes it's just a way of making fewer standard frame sizes fit more people.

It has become extreme these days, with very high front ends meaning the frames are almost BMX-like in proportion.  An 18" frame on a new MTB is really quite a large one, whereas it was medium 20 years ago.

GT frames were nice too; I was waiting to open up our Mutley Plain, Plymouth branch the Friday morning before the Worlds at Newnham Park when Juli Furtado rode past on her GT Xizang.  Trufax.  The only issue with GT was that everyone secretly knew the "triple triangle" was marketing BS and just added weight; it hasn't endured like the sloping top tube.
Never tell me the odds.

Torslanda

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Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2017, 11:13:05 pm »
My stable includes a 92 Trek 950 which I've owned since 94, a 94 model which I bought as a frameset when I got the shop, a pair of DynaTechs, a Marin Bear Valley and at least a couple of other frames languishing in the cellar.

Oh! And a purple Saracen Powertrax (which IIRC came originally from Tiermat) and was recently donated back by Polar Bear.

No pics I'm afraid, blame photobucket, rapacious thieving gits . . .
VELOMANCER

Well that's the more blunt way of putting it but as usual he's dead right.

Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2017, 09:15:32 am »
My second commuting bike was a Muddy Fox Courier comp, late 80s rather than 90s tho'. It was pretty advanced, STI rather than indexed thumb shifters.

No internet, and no-one I knew cycled. I had no idea that certain parts needed to be replaced at intervals so, although I cleaned it and oiled it, I never replaced anything until failure, which was fairly infrequent (transmission will keep going a good long time if it all wears together). Didn't replace the bike until '99 when I bought a steel Marin MTB, sloping top tube, V-brakes.

Also, pre-internet, I had no-one to suggest that more than one bike was required so those bikes were used for everything, which they were both very good for.

Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2017, 05:52:36 pm »
The bike I use most is an early 90's vintage steel framed Raleigh Kalahari. No suspension but came with a Girvin Flexstem. It can only take tyres up to about 1.75" which is laughable for an MTB these days, but came with a decent batch of braze-ons so I'm running it with 26x1" SLicks and Dirt Monkey mudguards, plus a cheap rack and a bracket for a Carry Freedom Y trailer. 21 speed setup with fairly decent standard Shimano kit. Cost about £250 25 years ago.   It's not pretty and weighs so much it has a sizeable gravitational pull of its own, but that means it's unattractive to tea leaves and makes it an excellent tool to park at Mr Tesco's Emporium of Toothy Comestibles.

The only thing wrong with it is it's tricky to make it more useful. The frame is too short for panniers without heel clipping and the frame spacings are too narrow for most sensible wheel upgrades.

Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2017, 07:15:09 pm »
My stable includes a 92 Trek 950 which I've owned since 94, a 94 model which I bought as a frameset when I got the shop, a pair of DynaTechs, a Marin Bear Valley and at least a couple of other frames languishing in the cellar.

Oh! And a purple Saracen Powertrax (which IIRC came originally from Tiermat) and was recently donated back by Polar Bear.

No pics I'm afraid, blame photobucket, rapacious thieving gits . . .

I too had a Trek 950.  Excellent machine.
We are making a New World (Paul Nash, 1918)

Arellcat

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Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #10 on: September 06, 2017, 07:19:58 pm »
The sloping top tube is Kona's fault, since they popularised it (then Giant adopted it for the road).  Kona admit it was a very old idea...

Strictly speaking, the sloping top tube is Joe Murray's fault.  He worked for Marin before setting up Kona; you see a less radical approach on the late 1980s/early 1990s frames, so Murray certainly popularised it.  But Charlie Cunningham (Jacquie Phelan's hubby) was also in Marin County and was building sloping top tube frames much earlier, so it's not unlikely that the early designers fed off each other.

I still have my 1991 Specialized Stumpjumper Comp.  Tange Prestige tubing and originally in a vaguely pearlescent battleship grey, before I had it repainted blue.

mattc

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Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #11 on: September 06, 2017, 07:39:17 pm »
Strictly speaking, the sloping top tube is Joe Murray's fault.  He worked for Marin before setting up Kona; you see a less radical approach on the late 1980s/early 1990s frames, so Murray certainly popularised it.  But Charlie Cunningham (Jacquie Phelan's hubby) was also in Marin County and was building sloping top tube frames much earlier, so it's not unlikely that the early designers fed off each other.

Sounds like they're all guilty to some extent; chuck 'em in the metal smelting tank.
Has never ridden RAAM
---------
No.11  Because of the great host of those who dislike the least appearance of "swank " when they travel the roads and lanes. - From Kuklos' 39 Articles

Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #12 on: September 06, 2017, 08:38:32 pm »
I was the happy owner of a 96 vintage Stumpjumper until a recent house move caused me to pass it onto the daughter's boyfriend (of 5 years). He loves it. She loves it when she can get ride it, and wants one just like it, and the same goes for the other millennials in the household. I wish I still had room for it, it was a great all-round ride. Still is, by all accounts  :)

Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2017, 08:49:54 pm »
Sloping top tube. 1983 Cleland Aventura.  ;D


dim

Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #14 on: September 06, 2017, 09:00:13 pm »
I bought an old Bridgestone MB-2 and converted it with drop bars.... It was in a garden shed of one of my clients.... they brought it with from the USA, and it was placed in the shed approx 10 years ago and never ridden again .... I paid £15 for it

I added Carradice bags, a rack, water bottle and I used it for thousands of km's as my daily commuter ....

the photo shows the original tyres that was fitted when I bought it, but soon after this photo, I fitted a 2 inch wide pair of Schwalbe Marathon Supreme slicks, and a black Brooks C17 Carved saddle ....

the bike was in original condition (the green and red paintork)

I sold it for a hefty profit, and still miss it ... I would have loved to ride it with Compass Rat Trap tyres but sold it before I had the chance



“No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.” - Aristotle

Karla

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Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #15 on: September 06, 2017, 09:36:29 pm »
My first full-size bike, and first bike that wasn't a gas piper, was a GT Timberline in 1998, when they were still rigid.  That bike opened up the cliched world of possibilities, riding out of my door and escaping life through the woods.  That bike has a lot to answer for. 

I outgrew it and got a Dawes MTB. What I really drooled over was an Orange - yeah right - or else a Kona - still over-budget for my teenage self.  Muddy Fox still had a vestige of credibility left, as they were shit by this point but were still within living memory of not having been shit.  Other brands I lusted after in the mags were Cannondales with their funky Fatty forks, or else some super exotic XC machines from an obscure company called Pace, who existed at some secret location in the back end of Yorkshire and made ultralight rigid forks for riders who were hard as nails (or just liked having said nails driven into their hands through the bars). 

I bought a Cannondale as my first non-1970s road bike: an early 90s vintage R400 for 100 squid from outside a shop.  I got an old Muddy Fox Seeker Mega off Freecycle when I was an underpaid youth worker and ran it as a fixed beater with a magic gear before freecycling it back when I moved (and incidentally sold the 'Dale to my now-ex boss).  A distant cousin turned out to have an Orange Clockwork he didn't ride anymore, so I got a wish-fulfillment ride in on that before he moved to Australia.  I've now got a Kona Jake as my winter/CX/touring bike, so that box is ticked too.  All it leaves is Pace.  I now work three miles from Pace HQ but I haven't been in, as that would be an  extremely financially bad idea. 

Also, nobody ever try to sell me a Timberline frame.  Please, please don't tempt me.

Torslanda

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Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #16 on: September 17, 2017, 06:49:29 pm »
I'll have a look in the cellar tomorrow...  :demon:
VELOMANCER

Well that's the more blunt way of putting it but as usual he's dead right.

fruitcake

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Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #17 on: September 17, 2017, 07:32:08 pm »
Early 90s MTBs are good around town, partly because 559mm wheels are more manouvrable than 622, and fat tyres are less prone to pinch flats. It helps to have overbuilt stays when carrying luggage too. And yet the forks on many rigid MTBs are similarly overbuilt with one inch tubing top to bottom, designed to survive being ridden downhill but not to soak up vibration. The exceptions are those bikes with tapered forks, the butted cro-mo GTs and Marins among them. Go back to the 1980s and MTBs had tapered forks (and slack geometry) as seen upthread, resembling touring bikes more closely. Those early MTBs bikes were your transport to the trailhead too.

Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #18 on: September 18, 2017, 06:13:56 pm »
Kona Project Two forks came in a triple-butted version which allegedly has more vertical compliance, while still remaining stiff enough laterally.  Mind you, everyone says that about their diamond frames and it's BS.
Never tell me the odds.

Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #19 on: September 29, 2017, 01:03:00 pm »
Of the steel bikes back in the day, I wanted an Orange Clockwork, but I lusted after a Rock Lobster (with the wishbone seatstay). Now they are built under license by Merlin. :(
There were only 2 alloy bikes I wanted - a Klein Attitude or a Pace RC200.  8)

Unfortunately I never achieved any of the above - I replaced my Townsend MTBSO piece by piece (to such an extent that a few years later I was able to build it again from the original components), but the frame was a no-name cheapo alloy one that was stupid rigid and beat the hell out of me!

Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #20 on: September 29, 2017, 01:53:05 pm »
My first full-size bike, and first bike that wasn't a gas piper, was a GT Timberline in 1998, when they were still rigid.  That bike opened up the cliched world of possibilities, riding out of my door and escaping life through the woods.  That bike has a lot to answer for. 

Also, nobody ever try to sell me a Timberline frame.  Please, please don't tempt me.

Ooops!

I have one sitting in my garage just taking-up space.

Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #21 on: February 12, 2018, 02:07:27 pm »
I've  had a rush of blood to the head and picked up a mid-90s 'fully rigid' Saracen Powertrax in good nick - still with what looks like the original tyres (amber wall Ritchey Z-Max as per '95 catalogue).  Frame is a 'Made in England', Tange Chromoly double butted, and whole bike weighs about 12kg.  atm it will be for around town/Ridgeway etc. 
Destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal.  EOW.

Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #22 on: February 28, 2018, 02:45:33 pm »
Of the steel bikes back in the day, I wanted an Orange Clockwork, but I lusted after a Rock Lobster (with the wishbone seatstay). Now they are built under license by Merlin. :(
There were only 2 alloy bikes I wanted - a Klein Attitude or a Pace RC200.

Someone at work was on a Klein the other day - lovely condition. Pace 2000 - square tubing and expensive as I remember. Must still be some out there

EDIT

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Pace-RC200-Mountain-Bike-Silver/232678593452?hash=item362cb993ac:g:EtoAAOSwOb9akwnM

ElyDave

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Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #23 on: February 28, 2018, 03:56:44 pm »
I've  had a rush of blood to the head and picked up a mid-90s 'fully rigid' Saracen Powertrax in good nick - still with what looks like the original tyres (amber wall Ritchey Z-Max as per '95 catalogue).  Frame is a 'Made in England', Tange Chromoly double butted, and whole bike weighs about 12kg.  atm it will be for around town/Ridgeway etc.

I'm still riding my 1997/8 Saracen Backtrax in Kermit Green.  It's had 2 new BBs a new crankset, chain and cassette, brakes and cables. Still on the original front and rear derailleurs and shifters. I span the wheels today whilst putting the Marathon Racers back on it - they are still smooth as silk.  I now use this as my run-about with a rack on the back, and have been up to 50km on it at a decent enough pace.

Since that I bought and then resold a Be-One 29'er with front suspension. Sold it again because it didn't ride anywhere as nicely as the Saracen, even with the boingy front end - or perhaps because of.

I am toying with the idea of converting it to drop bars, but that would also need new quill stem adapter, stem, brifters etc, so I'm not thinking about it too hard. A 9 or ten speed conversion might be more useful overall.
“Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.” –Charles Dickens

fruitcake

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Re: In praise of early 90s MTBs
« Reply #24 on: February 28, 2018, 04:47:09 pm »
My lugged steel Dawes MTB really came to life when I fitted smooth tyres, drop bars and bar end shifters. Lovely ride, helped by the tapered fork which gives a little bit over potholes. The drop bar flexes slightly when I'm on the drops, unlike the original steel flat bar. It's a good work out, and I'm noticeably tired after a ride, unlike with my 700c tourer. I think when a bike is satisfying to ride, it makes you want to put more power down.