Along with Klein, Ritchey, and Yeti, Bontrager is a strong candidate for the Vintage MTB Mount Rushmore. His claim to fame was innovation and science. He worked in steel (and a few Ti bikes) and was famous for the saying “Strong, light, cheap; pick two.”
I doubt he was the first to say that, but who am I to argue? This is what happens over time. There are a lot of younger people that think Jeremy Clarkson was the first person to quip that “it’s not speed that kills, it’s the sudden stop.”
If you believe that, let me be the first to congratulate you on winning the lottery! You’ll just need to send me a small fee in order to collect your winnings.
Nothing in mountain biking is truly new. Bikes have been around for a long time, and like Avril said, it’s all been done before.
Suspension? Yup, guys did that back in the late 1800s.
Curved seat tubes? Yeah, again, late 1800s. Those guys tried everything – clearly they were all over slack headtubes.
Dropper posts? Sure, we used to have that, it was called Hite-Rite.
So last year…
Changes in mountain bikes are often about fashion just as much as they are about technology. I recall reading about a racer asking Paul Turner if he had a set of the shiny new, gold Rock Shox Mag21s they could use, and when he said no, but he did have some old, black RS-1s, they declined. Old in this context is from last season, which is so five years ago.
What’s about to be the next big thing is wide rims. Ibis recently released a wheelset with 41mm wide rims. Typically, a mountain bike rim is in the 20mm range, so this is a big change.
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.