Tag Archives: GT

10 of the Best Vintage Full Suspension Mountain Bike Frames

The nineteen-nineties saw an explosion of innovative new mountain bike technology, one of the most important being suspension systems, which allowed a mountain biker to ride faster, for longer, across the more rugged trails. While suspension has continued to evolve year upon year, the fundamental design of the most popular modern suspension systems come from the 90s.

And as such, there are a number of suspension forks and suspension frames that remain surprisingly capable by today’s standards. Although highly subjective, and by no means exhaustive, this is my list of what I consider to be the 10 best full suspension frames from the 1990s.

Marin Mount Vision / Rift Zone / East Peak / Alpine Trail Photo from this retrobike thread.

Santa Cruz Heckler Photo from here.

Raleigh Special Products Division 300 rsp300cat Specialized FSR

Photo from this webpage.

GT RTS furtado-rts1_velonews-superbikes1993 GT LTS Image from this MTBR thread.

Proflex

Photo from this site, but originally scanned from the “Pro Mountain Biker” book (Jeremy Evans and Brant Richards, 1995).

AMP Research AMPB4_MBA_slider Mountain Cycle San Andreas Photo from www.mombat.org

Answer Manitou FS

Photo from this mtbr thread.

100 of the best vintage mountain bikes

This is something I thought would be interesting to share. It’s adapted from a list I’ve written myself in recent years, as I’ve  searched for interesting vintage mountain bikes for my own collection.

As one might guess, there is an obvious bias towards the following:

  • bikes from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s, principally 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995
  • MTBs with steel frames
  • mass-produced MTBs
  • MTBs that won’t cost an arm and a leg
  • MTB brands that were available in the USA, Canada, and the British Isles

It’s not exhaustive, and it’s not especially objective either. It’s simply a list of what I consider to be the best 100 vintage mountain bikes. These are all bikes I’d like to own, and would consider buying for myself, in the right size and condition.

I plan to add links to photos or catalogue scans for each of the listed bikes, in the near future.

The list

Alpinestars Cro Mega (e-stay or normal)

Alpinestars Alu Mega (e-stay, without cracks)

Alpinestars Ti Mega (e-stay, without cracks)

Bontrager Race / Race Lite

492Bonty1

Breezer Storm

91breezerstorm

Bridgestone MB-1

mb1

Brodie Sovereign

93-brodie-sovereign

Cannondale Killer V series

Cannondale M series

Diamond Back Axis

Diamond Back Axis TT

Diamond Back WCF / Vertex

Giant ATX

Gary Fisher Montare, or any pre-Trek steel Fisher

GT Psyclone

GT Zaskar and Xixang

GT RTS

GT STS

Haro Extreme

20150806_093418

Ibis Mojo

KHS Montana Comp

Klein Attitude (pre Trek)

Koga Miyata Ridgerunner

Kona Hei Hei (Titanium)

Litespeed Titanium (without cracks – lifetime warranties no longer valid after buyout)

Mantis Valkyrie

Marin Rift Zone

Marin Eldridge Grade

Marin with late 80s to early 90s splatter paint

Merlin Titanium (without cracks – lifetime warranties no longer valid after buyout)

Mountain Cycle Moho

Mountain Cycle San Andreas

Muddy Fox Courier Comp

Nishiki Alien

Orange Clockwork

Orange P7

Orange Vitamin T (or T2)

Overburys Pioneer

Pace RC200 (and other RC frames)

Panasonic MC Pro (rare but awesome)

Pro Flex 855 (and similar)

Raleigh Dynatech Torus

Raleigh Dynatech Diablo LX, DX, or STX

Raleigh M Trax Ti 3000 or 4000 (1995 model with UGLI fork)

Raleigh Special Products Division 853 (hard-tail or full suspension)

Raleigh lugged and brazed 531 frames from the late 1980s (Moonshine, Thunder Road, White Lightning, and others)

Raleigh USA Technium Chill

Ridgeback 704 XT (and similar)

Rock Lobster / Amazon

Rocky Mountain Fusion

Rocky Mountain Blizzard

Santa Cruz Heckler

Saracen Kili

Schwinn Paramount

Scott Team or Pro

Slingshot

Specialized Stumpjumper (steel)

Specialized Stumpjumper (M2)

Specialized FSR

Trek Singletrack series (steel)

Trek 8000 Series, bonded carbon composite

Trek Y33

Univega Alpina 500 (and similar)

Yeti Ultimate (steel)

Zinn (anything)

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5 Ways Mountain Bikes Were Better In The 90s

Modern mountain bike technology is incredible. The arrival of decent suspension, hydraulic disc brakes, tubeless tires, and many other innovations all help today’s hard-core mountain bikers go faster than ever before, for longer, over more challenging terrain.

The contrast with the technology we used in the 90s couldn’t be any stronger. It’s actually quite hard to believe we rode off-road with rigid forks, cantilever brakes, and so few gears, and lived to tell the tale.

Few would seriously argue that modern mountain bikes are not better overall than their 90s ‘retro’ ancestor, but here are some ways that 90s mountain bikes were better…

1. Low maintenance, low cost

One of the great things about mountain bikes during the 90s was their simplicity. No shocks to tune up, no hydraulics to bleed. Keeping your bike in good working order was pretty easy, and rather cheap by today’s standards.

Thinking about going out for a ride? Just grab the bike, check the tire pressure, squeeze the brakes, double check the most crucial bolts are tight enough, and off you go.

2. Just one wheel size

When everybody used 26 inch wheels, borrowing a suitably sized replacement inner tube from a riding buddy was a heck of a lot easier than today, what with 26 inch, 650b and 29 inch. A single size of wheel also made thing simpler when upgrading to the latest frame – just fit your existing wheels to the new frame, without worrying about whether to make the jump to a trendier wheel size.

3. Steel bikes, built to last

As a material for frames and cycling components, steel is hugely under-rated. Steel is cheap, strong, fatigue resistant, and easy to repair. Rear mech hangers can be bent back into alignment numerous times before they are ruined; damaged or rusted tubes can be removed and replaced; disc tabs can be added easily to usher a retro steel frame into the 21st century.

It’s true that steel frames and components are not the lightest, yet they aren’t overly heavy and some would argue the strength of steel is worth the slight weight penalty compared to aluminium or carbon. In any case, weight doesn’t matter much these days, judging by the 28-30 lb weights of most mid-range modern mountain bikes.

There is also an argument to be made that steel bikes are the ethical choice. A good, hand-made steel frame will last a lifetime if cared for properly. Choosing this over far-eastern aluminium or carbon will significantly reduce the ‘carbon footprint’ of your bike, and as such will help the environment – you know, the wilderness and countryside we ride in.

4. Shifters that allow you to trim your front derailleur

I’ve never understood the need for having indexed front gears. Not only are shifts between chain-rings much less frequent than shifts on the rear cassette. But indexing also forces you to use a single front derailleur position, which can take a lot of tuning to get just right. When not perfectly tuned, the chain can grind noisily on your front derailleur’s chain-guide when using gears at the extreme ends of your cassette.

This is (or was in the 90’s) easily solved if your gear levers are thumb-shifters or grip-shift, because both allow micro-adjustment of your front derailleur. Goodbye grinding chain, hello perfect front derailleur alignment!

5.  Bikes were lighter despite all that steel

Back in the 90’s, a mid-range mountain bike would have weighed in at somewhere around 24-25 pounds – significantly lower than the 28-30 pound weight of a typical mid-range mountain bike today.

However, concerns about bike weight seems to be more about vanity than performance. Dwarfed by a rider’s body weight, the weight of your mountain bike is barely worth worrying about. Unless you find yourself regularly carrying the bike over obstacles, or your bike is super-heavy, just lose some body weight instead.