Standards and Practises

You may or may not be familiar with the term industry standard. If not, it refers to a set of guidelines that are (generally) adhered to by all of the companies within a given industry.

For instance; if you wanted to start a company that made tires for cars, and you decided that a 16.5” tire is what the world needs, you wouldn’t get very far because automakers make wheels that are 16” or 17” in diameter. You’d be making a product for an industry standard that doesn’t exist, and you’d fail miserably.

There’s no sense in re-inventing the wheel, is there?

Try telling that to the bicycle industry.

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Freeride Revival is go!

Well, it’s not really a go yet because we don’t have the bikes, but, the time is right.

First though, we need to talk about what Freeride was, just in case you don’t know.

In the mid to late 90’s, a group of BC riders were getting themselves into Bike magazine regularly thanks to their ridiculous skills on the skree slopes of Kamloops.  Eventually, a large chunk of an issue was devoted to these guys – Richey Schley, Wade Simmons, Brett Tippie, and others – and the scene was blown wide open.  But, the scene needed better bikes.

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1998 Rocky Mountain Pipeline

The first bike that comes to mind when you think “freeride?” The Rocky Mountain Pipeline.  However, Cannondale desperately wanted their bike to be one you thought of first.  So much so that they trademarked the name “freeride.”  Which was kinda dumb given that skiiers had used it for years, but we’re talking about trademark law in the U.S. – logic and reason do not apply.

This threw a wrench into Rocky’s plans to use it obviously. Until someone at Rocky came up with Froriders.  History was made.

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Norco

When talking about the brands that vintage guys are looking for, Norco is rarely mentioned.  I can’t even picture what their good bikes from ’91 or ’92 looked like.  I’m not entirely sure they even existed.  Cheap Norcos from that period are out there, but I’ve never seen a Norco from that time period with XT parts.

They were just late to the party though, as they had some very nice bikes by 1994.  I think they are underrated as well, because when most people think Norco, they think cheap bikes and kids bikes. Let’s have a look at some of the good ones.

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1999 Norco Team 853

The owner of the first shop I worked at had a Team 853 like this one here.  And it was a beauty; XTR parts, RaceFace cranks, and a Marzocchi Z.2 Superfly.  I should have bought it from him, but he always liked to ride a size bigger than I wanted.

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1999 Norco Team Ti

One of the kids that worked in the shop raced this Team Ti that ran the same parts group as the 853.  Of course he rode a size smaller than me, so no Ti for me. (Sometimes I wonder if I’m destined to never own a Ti bike…)  Another great bike that flew under the radar.

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1999 Norco Torrent

According to Bikepedia, which sadly only goes back to 1993, Norco had high end Ti and steel bikes with XTR and Rock Shox forks.  I’d say these bikes are the hardest to find nowadays.  It used to be that there were zero old Fishers out there, but now it’s these Norcos that hold the rarity crown for me.

I’m not sure why that is though.  I think part of it is that Norco didn’t really gain a reputation as a maker of really good bikes until the VPS line came along.  Norco was always the brand you found in small town shops, or in the shops that sold hockey equipment in the winter.  It just didn’t have the same reputation as Rocky Mountain or even Specialized.

I really doubt that for bikes from 1994, there is a great deal of difference between Norco and KHS, or Specialized, or Kona, or Marin.  They were all made overseas, all had good parts and were made from good frame tubes.  Somehow, the other brands are just cooler.

Specialized

I’ve just never been a big fan of Specialized.  I’ve owned three of them over the years, but all were purchased on snap decisions.  I can honestly say that I’ve never lusted after a Specialized.  The very idea is comical to me in fact.  They are now the largest bicycle company in the world, and are even less lust-worthy than ever before.

We’re going to dig deep into Specialized here, so you may want to get yourself settled with a snack or a drink before you begin.

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1997 Specialized Stumpjumper M2

Specialized is of course known for being among the first to mass produce a mountain bike, the seminal Stumpjumper. I do have to give credit for them maintaining the Stumpjumper all these years – although it’s not same bike at all. Rocky Mountain built the Blizzard for 31 years, and it was still steel at the end, but the current Stumpjumper is a aluminum carbon fully suspended hardtail 29er 650b.

I’ll explain that later.

What I didn’t know though, (and this comes from Wikipedia so have those large grains of salt handy) is that Specialized founder Mike Sinyard just bought a Fisher/Ritchey in 1980 or whenever it was, shipped it off to a factory in Taiwan, and said ‘copy it.’

Full disclosure; this is what the Wikipedia article says;

The first Stumpjumper was produced in Japan and was based on a design for a custom-made bike originally marketed by Tom Ritchey, Gary Fisher and Charles Kelly

I read that as ‘Sinyard had a Ritchey copied’ but I could see how that’s not necessarily what happened.

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