It’s finally time to talk about Trek.
Starting out in Waterloo, WI, in 1976 with five employees, Trek has grown into a company of 1600, and revenues of $600 million. If you believe Wikipedia that is. First making touring bikes, they moved to road bikes, and marketed their first mountain bike in 1983.
But, as they moved through the Golden Age of Vintage, they did very little to stand out – until the Y-bike was introduced in 1995 at least – making plain steel and aluminum bikes. Compared to the “Canadian” geometry of a Blizzard or Brodie or a Kona, the Treks just looked like small road bikes with more tire clearance.
Couple that with really dull paint styles and colours, and it really felt like they just weren’t trying that hard. A Trek was the bike you bought before you realized what other companies were doing.
But, vanilla sells, so here we are in 2015, and Trek is still cranking out bikes while so many other companies aren’t.
Of course, Trek is the reason why some companies aren’t making bikes any more. In 1993 Trek purchased Gary Fisher – from a Taiwanese company though, not the man himself – and then in ’95 they bought Klein, Bontrager, and set up Lemond with a line of road bikes.
Not one of those four companies make bikes anymore. Bontrager’s name is all over the components Trek uses, but who knows if Keith himself has any input on the products. Klein was phased out in 2007, with no real fanfare that I recall. And most of Fisher’s lineup was axed in 2010, the rest – presumably the names that Trek’s marketing people liked the best – became the Gary Fisher Collection.
The Gary Fisher Collection disappeared, again with no fanfare, last year.
So, that’s three mountain bike pioneers all relieved of their duties by Trek in about 20 years. The Bontrager name is still there, but does anyone buying a bike in 2015 know what Keith Bontrager did for mountain bikes?
Klein was instrumental in aluminium construction, but there’s no evidence that he ever existed as far as Trek is concerned. And Fisher has a few names left in Trek’s lineup (Marlin, Superfly, X-Caliber), but the retirement of the Collection was the end of his run. There is no mention of Gary Fisher at all on Trek’s website.
Now things get interesting.
In 1997, Trek was instrumental in Lance Armstrong joining the US Postal team – which rode Trek bikes – where he went on to win the Tour de France seven times in a row. But, as his amazing run went on, some people wondered if he was doing this legally. One of those people was Greg Lemond. As early as 2001 Lemond publicly wondered if Armstrong wasn’t doping.
Eventually Lemond went too far, making comments that upset Armstrong, and this resulted in Trek’s John Burke suing to shut down Lemond, famously saying; “His actions are inconsistent with our values—values we believe in and live everyday.”
What exactly are those values Mr. Burke?
Do they include cheating at one of the world’s largest sporting events, for SEVEN YEARS?
Do they include lying to the press, or fabricating stories about the governing bodies of professional cycling?
Do they include being a systematically destroying anyone that would oppose you, or would dare to expose you to the world?
Do they include admitting that you’ve made a mistake, and apologizing to someone who’s livelihood you’ve ruined in order to maintain your own?
You all know me, you know my jimmies get rustled over some pretty dumb stuff. But this is one thing that I can’t believe isn’t front and center whenever Trek is discussed. There should be WAY more rustling here. John Burke killed Lemond’s business because Armstrong told him to, and nobody is holding him to the flame now that his golden boy turned out to be a sham.
Burke forced a public apology from Lemond for suggesting that Armstrong was cheating. Did Burke apologize when it turned out that Lemond was right?
Do I even need to answer that question?
I don’t care what miracle bike Trek releases in the future – a bike that weighs 5 pounds, never needs a new chain, never flats, and transforms me into Gianni Bugno overnight – you will never EVER see me riding a Trek.
(I do rather like that red 8000 at the beginning though.)