I’ve thought about which four manufacturers you’d put on the Mount Rushmore of Vintage MTBs, and narrowing down to four would be very difficult. Do you go with the fathers of the sport like Ritchey and Breezer? Or maybe the ones that really ran with the ball like Klein or GT? It’s a very tough call.
Yeti would have to get serious consideration.
Why? For starters, they were big into racing. I think they were the first team to show up at races with a big box van, rather than a regular passenger van. Yeti was run by John Parker and he saw early on the value of racing to his brand. And not only were they a big presence at NORBA events, their teams features some of the most well-loved racers in NORBA history.
Like; Missy Giove, Myles Rockwell, Jimmy Deaton, Don Myrah (sort of), Paul Tracy, Juliana Furtado, and of course, John Tomac. Back then, the biggest event was the Kamakazi Eliminator and Yeti was always well represented by Deaton, Giove, Rockwell, and Tomac.
The bikes were simply made for that race. Any review you read of them always said that they did not like tight singletrack, but on open fire roads, going downhill at speed, they came into their own.
My favorite racing story involving Yeti is from 1990, with John Tomac needing a ride, had a “gentleman’s agreement” with John Parker to ride a Yeti. Tomac then rode that season with drop bars at the insistence of his 7-Eleven road team coach.
Other Yeti highlights include the C-26 bike, made from Easton C-9 carbon tubes bonded to aluminum lugs, raced by Furtado and Tomac. I believe that two C-26s have been built recently, from tubesets that people have found. If you think finding a Rocky Mountain for $300 is a score, imagine picking up a set of prototype carbon/aluminum bike tubes, and then getting Parker to weld them into a bike for you.
Then there was the Ultimate, a bike that would seem to have been designed by Mountain Bike Action’s Zapata Espinoza. The same steel, squared off top tube, “loopstay” rear end, but elevated chainstays. The 90’s loved elevated chainstays.
And then the A.R.C. aluminium bikes of the mid 90’s. Yetis had never been the lightest of bikes, as they were all made from 4130 steel, but suddenly, they were right in the game with the double-butted Easton tubes used on the A.R.C. race bikes.
Yeti was big on suspension too, given their Kamakazi connections. Early bikes were pretty primitive, but once they connected with motorcycle designer Mert Lawwill, the resulting Straight 6 and Straight 8 pull shock bikes were as good as anything in the field.
Yeti’s association with Ringle was a big factor too. If there’s anything that a vintage guy likes to do, it’s seek out the rare aftermarket parts that will set off his or her restoration. And nothing does that better than 3D Violet anodized skewers, hubs, bottle cages, stems, and bars. Yetis had these parts in spades. The 3D Violet looked good on Yetis I figured.
And for me anyway, the colours were always great. Desert Turquoise was the colour of the race bikes, which is as iconic now to a vintage MTB guy as Bianchi’s Celeste is to a vintage road bike guy. The A.R.C. added yellow to the mix, which was a perfect compliment.
So, if you really like what you see here, and this is the bike you need to have, well, it won’t be cheap. And it may not be very easy to find period. There’s one A.R.C. on eBay for $1000 right now. Ultimates have appeared on retrobike.co.uk, with a complete one selling for $1600 or so, and a frame/fork going for $500.
Not cheap at all, but hopefully I’ve shown you why.
Check out the Yeti website; Yetifan