The ugliest bike ever

The Specialized Hardrock.

Specialized Hardrock

Specialized Hardrock

Now, I just found this bike on kijiji, so if you happen to be selling it, please know that I’m not saying that your Hardrock is the ugliest bike ever. It looks like your bike is rather smartly set up to roll around town, and that’s fine.

In fact, it’s not even really the Hardrock that’s the ugliest bike ever, it’s this style of bike that’s ugly.

Actually, it’s not even this style, it’s the thinking behind it.

I’ll explain.

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Louis Garneau

I discovered a rather unusual bike this morning. Like the Specialized Stumpjumper Classic of ’07, it’s a vintage recreation. But, in this case, it’s a recreation of a bike that never existed. Which means it’s not a recreation, but I don’t know what else you would call it.

The bike is the Louis Garneau Gordy. You probably know the name Garneau for their clothing line, but they’ve also had a small bike line for a few years now. Garneau the man, is a former track cyclist from Quebec, who is a member of the Order of Canada, and he’s famous for getting a little too chummy with the Queen.

2012 Gordy

2012 Gordy

To my knowledge, Garneau did not sell bikes back in the early 90’s. But, in the last four years, they’ve been selling the Gordy in Japan.

On the right is – I believe – the ’12 model, and it looks like an old steel bike from 1993, but with modern parts on it. It has cantilever brakes – but it has disc mounts too – polished rims, silver hubs, and black spokes (my preferred setup when I build my own), nice matching saddle and grips, and way too many headset spacers.

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Fashion or Technology?

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...

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.

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Trek

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.

Trek 8000

Trek 8000

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.

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