Most Influential Bikes

I recently found this video detailing the The Ten Most Important Mountain Bikes of All Time.  Now, when I say “recently,” I mean “at some point this year,” since it’s been several months since I’ve even logged in here. I had to deal with 1200 comments before I could even start on this post.

It’s an interesting list for sure;

– Joe Breeze Breezer
– Specialized Stumpjumper
– Kona Cinder Cone
– Yeti C-26
– GT Zaskar
– Verlicchi FS Works
– Mountain Cycles San Andreas
– GT LTS
– Intense M1
– Honda RN-01

Some good choices, and some real WTF moments too. Let’s break it down, and then look at my 100% correct list of The Most Important Mountain Bikes of All Time.

We’ll start with the four that I agree with.

Joe Breeze Breezer.

Breezer 1

It’s the original. The first mountain bike built for the purpose of riding off-road. Everyone in California that got into the mountain bike action – like Specialized, Ritchey, Gary Fisher – did it after Joe Breeze showed them just how much better a purpose-built bike was than their modified Schwinn Phantoms.

Intense M1

Intense M1

In the late 90’s, you could find a half-dozen other companies names on Intense M1s at DH races in America; Iron Horse, Mongoose, Giant, Haro, Barracuda. It was simply so good that everyone had to have one. It totally altered the DH landscape.

Mountain Cycle San Andreas

San Andreas

Full suspension, disc brakes, an upside-down fork, and an aluminium monocoque frame sounds like a very modern bike. But the San Andreas had all this in 1991! I’m pretty sure that the Fisher Mt. Tam was the only bike that even came with a suspension fork in ’91. Way way way ahead of it’s time.

 

 

Specialized Stumpjumper

Specialized Stumpjumper

The mountain bike goes mainstream. Thanks to the connections that Mike Sinyard had been cultivating for years with his company, Specialized, the Stumpjumper enabled the 1982 mountain biker to walk into a store and ride out with – as opposed to having to buy a frame and then have a shop spec it out – a fully functioning mountain bike. The Stumpjumper though, is rumored to have been a copy of the Ritchey mountain bike. A copy that they screwed up even.

And here now is where we will agree to disagree. The Yeti, Verlicchi, and the two GTs in the video are surely important, but much less so than the four bikes I’ve replaced them with. The Honda was an interesting experiment in DH racing, but didn’t spawn any other gearbox bikes, nor did it herald the beginning of motorcycle companies getting into MTBs. It’s very cool, but I’m not sure it was influential at all.

And finally, there is the lowly Kona Cinder Cone. The most sore thumb-y bike on the list. I’ll explain why in a minute.

Ritchey MountainBikes

Ritchey 1

Tom Ritchey was a damn machine. Right from the beginning he was known for cranking out an incredible number of frames. After Breeze showed everyone the way, demand was high, or at least it seemed high to the two man operation (Charlie Kelly and Gary Fisher) that was MountainBikes. You might argue that this bike is just an evolutionary step from the Breezer, but, if the Ritchey was the blueprint for the Stumpjumper, then no Ritchey = no Stumpjumper.

Brodie Catalyst

Brodie Catalyst

Paul Brodie made several models – Catalyst, Romax, Sovereign, Expresso, ClimbMax – but I don’t know which was his first production model, I’m just going with Catalyst because I found a great picture here. The Catalyst replaces the Cinder Cone because it pre-dated the Kona. Paul Brodie deconstructed an old Sekine road bike in the summer of 1983, and the result was the blueprint for what became the quintessential Canadian mountain bike for the next 15 years; short wheelbase, sloping top tube, made for tight singletrack.

If you go looking on the Internet, you’ll find a very similar story regarding Brodie and Kona as you’ll find about Ritchey and Specialized. Specifically that Konas were just copies of Brodies, and that the similarities caused some friction back in the day.

Cunningham

A few years ago, I would have said steel was dead – replaced by aluminium and carbon fiber. It’s making a comeback, but the market has dominated by aluminium since the mid-90’s.

It took time for builders to figure out aluminium; while being much softer, and therefore, easier to machine than steel, it was hard to weld. You’ve probably heard of Gary Klein, who figure it out early, but I bet you haven’t heard of Charlie Cunningham.

Cunningham

Charlie built his first aluminium bike in 1979. 1979! His bikes were way ahead of their time; sloping top tubes, 135mm spaced rear wheel, tubular fork crowns, and the roller-cam brake, which seems very antiquated by todays standards, but the springs he used showed up in the revolutionary V-brake years later.

His Wikipedia entry indicates there was controversy surrounding his induction to the MTB Hall of Fame, but doesn’t say why. And it also mentions him being forced out of the company he founded with Steve Potts and Mark Slate, Wilderness Trail Bikes, by the CEO. Now known as WTB, they still exist as a major part supplier. He signed a non-disclosure agreement, so we don’t know why he was forced out, and I imagine we never will.

Guess you have to be pretty damn careful when choosing a CEO.

Surly Pugsley

Surly Pugsley

This is a glaring omission from the video. In 2017 the fatbike is so common that it’s hard to believe there was a time without them. The first examples of the steel Pugsleys were a little clunky looking with their weird forks, but it wasn’t long before everyone made one. And made them in aluminium, carbon, titanium, and full suspension too. If you have a fatbike and you love it, thank Surly for figuring out how to make it a production bike.

Fisher 29er

Fisher Supercaliber 29

There’s lots to argue over when it comes to “most important” or “most influential” but I just don’t see any argument to be made over the Surly and the Fisher Supercaliber 29er. In the last ten years, nothing has made more impact on mountain biking than the 29er. It was an oddity at first, but racers won on them, riders tore up trails more efficiently on them, and even the ever-so-important Enduro class can rock the big wheels now.

26″ bikes are dead, and the Fisher was the first nail in the coffin.

Outland

Outland VPP linkage

The Outland VPP bike appeared in 1998 with a seriously futuristic design. VPP stood for virtual pivot point, and the design allowed for the pivot point of the rear suspension to be a range of locations, rather than a fixed point welded into the bike.

Notice in the picture here there are pivots in front and behind the bottom bracket, which means the pivot “point” becomes an arc instead.

This allowed for five inches of rear wheel travel that was way more efficient than the other single pivot bikes available at the time.

The Outland bikes were unfortunately as sturdy as a house of cards in a stiff breeze, and the company didn’t last. But, Santa Cruz and Intense bought the patent in 2001, adapted it to their existing designs, and made thousands of very good bikes from it.

The DW-link, Giant’s Maestro, and the Yeti Switch link were all variations of the VPP. So many of today’s full suspension bikes owe a debt to this design, which, by the way, came from Calgary, Alberta.

In review, here is my list of the Ten Most Influential Mountain Bikes.

– Joe Breeze Breezer
– Specialized Stumpjumper
– Brodie Catalyst
– Outland VPP
– Surly Pugsley
– Gary Fisher 29er
– Mountain Cycles San Andreas
– Cunningham
– Intense M1
– Ritchey Mountain Bike

 

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