Recently, some guy writing for some bicycle website picked the 15 worst products ever. It was a fairly pointless list, since a lot of the parts were just evolutionary steps to something that was good. Much of the early days of mountain bikes involved adapting parts from motocross (which were typically too heavy) or road bikes (which weren’t tough enough), so no surprise that they’d be crap compared to today’s parts.
But there was one suspension design listed there that reminded me that I never finished my series from last year on the worst suspension bikes ever made. So, I’ve gotten all my thoughts together finally, and here it is.
This looks familiar I know – it’s mine. You can read a detailed summary of why I think it’s one of the worst here. For the purposes of this post, I’ll just say that any forum thread I’ve ever found about the worst bikes, this one is always brought up.
I have to say, the RS-1 looked great. It was designed by Mert Lawwill, member of the American Motorcycle Association hall of fame, and the Mountain bike hall of fame. His signature linkage design was later featured on the Schwinn Four Banger and Straight Six, and Yeti DH bikes.
The problem is that in 1992, cantilever brakes were the industry standard, and there was just no way to make them work on this suspension design. So, they had to create a disc brake for it too.
It didn’t work all that well.
And like the Trek 9000, it had elastomer strings, but these were tiny.
These look like they might be good for a softtail-type arrangement, but certainly not for a genuine full suspension bike.
So, the Fisher was ahead of it’s time for sure – but once shocks and disc brakes became useful, then it proved to be a solid deisgn. But the RS-1 was not good.
Mountain Goat Whiskeytown Racer FS
Mountain Goat was one of the better small frame builders from the early days of mountain biking. Today they are among the most sought after of brands, and their bikes were known for being great for racing, and for their eye-searing custom paint. The Whiskeytown was named after a popular point to point race from BITD – which is something that is only lately making a comeback to the racing scene.
Sadly, Mountain Goat’s attempt at full suspension bike was really quite awful. For starters, it just looks like it would flex like mad. Maybe that trellis-like rear section isn’t really that bad, but it really looks sketchy.
Even worse though is the elastomer spring. It appears that there is a threaded rod attached to the swingarm which compresses the elastomer elements from the bottom up when it hits a bump. There is a nut visible on the end of that rod that’s for setting the preload on the spring. Somehow, that’s attached to the frame. Not sure how though.
This has been a countdown actually – even though I didn’t identify it as such – and, we have arrived at #1. But before we get to that, my honourable mention.
URT suspension designs
The Unified Rear Triangle design caught on fast back in the day, mostly for it’s simplicity. All it is, is a bike frame cut in half and put back together with a pivot and a shock. It became the most popular design for department store bikes because of that simplicity.
It worked fine though, as long as you weren’t pedalling too hard, or braking hard, or standing on the pedals. All of those activities would fight the suspension, in effect, locking it out.
If you’ve spent any time riding trails, you know those three things happen about 85% of the time. A lot of good bike companies used this format, but I’ll bet that only one or two still made them after 2002.
So, worst suspension bike ever?
IRD Suspension bike
In the swingarm, somewhere, is a shock. A cable runs from the shock, loops under the bottom bracket, and then back up to the shock. I would hope there is something for the swingarm to rest up against when it’s not compressed at all, otherwise, when you picked up the bike, the rear wheel would stay on the ground, the cable would go slack, and you’d just have a mess.
So it’s got that going for it, and on top of that, it should flex like crazy with the one pivot being the only place the swingarm connects to the frame. Going around a corner must be a terrifying adventure. This particular example of the bike also has a bunch of holes drilled in the crank. Because you know, it’s just not quite dangerous enough as it is.
I don’t know much about this bike, and for the longest time, I thought this might be the only one, but I recently found pictures of two others. It’s unlikely many more than those three were made.