Down The Trail

Our September 1998 issue featured a ton of ’99 bikes and products that were ready to hit the bike shops. Besides the test of the Cannondale Fulcrum DH seen on the cover (with test rider Christ Hartwig in the saddle), there were numerous other stories of interest. 

Brian Lopes was in his racing prime back then. He narrowly beat John Tomac to win the NORBA National downhill at Big Bear, California, one of the biggest races in the country.

We featured some of the rising junior and U23 racers, including future downhill champ Kathy Pruitt, then 15. She had become a pro motocross racer first at 13, then took up mountain biking the next year and was racing pro downhill at 14. Among the other young riders mentioned in the article were future superstars Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (a multi-time national champ), France’s Miguel Martinez (the 2000 Olympic gold medalist) and Australia’s Cadel Evans (the future World Cup champ and Tour de France winner). 

We also highlighted 10 cool spots to ride in hot weather. Among the places mentioned were Mount Pinos and Mammoth Mountain in California; Lake Tahoe, which lies on the border of California and Nevada; the Snake River in Oregon; Helen, Georgia; Deer Valley, Utah; Fairbanks, Alaska; Flagstaff, Arizona; Mount. Snow, Vermont; and Whitefish, Montana. 

One of the most striking changes from those days to now is how many pages of mail-order advertisements were in the magazine. Irvine Bike Source had an eight-page ad. Jenson USA had four pages. Mail Order Sports and Pricepoint each had one page, and Supergo had six pages. The internet would drastically reduce that number in years to come.

One of the more fun articles in the issue was one where we asked some of the most famous people in our sport what they would do if they were the king of mountain biking. Ned Overend told us, “I would eliminate dust.” Keith Bontrager said, “I would abdicate my throne immediately and go for a ride. Being king is no fun; just ask one.”

Impressive technology: With downhill pro Myles Rockwell out with an injury, Cannondale loaned us his Fulcrum DH. It offered a 68-degree head tube, a 73-degree seat tube angle, 6 inches of suspension and one of the most complex drivetrains we have ever seen. We found that the 39-pound bike pedaled easily uphill, but, “The rear suspension was not isolated from the drivetrain, and we could feel the pedals pulsing against our efforts as we hammered over the bumps.” Rockwell would win the UCI Downhill World Championship two years later.
Flashback: When it came out, this 27-pound KHS Pro was a good buy at $900, although it looks a bit dated now. Check out the Power Tools bar ends, the stem, the seatpost, the Power Tool V-brakes and the RST Mozo fork. The bike came with a 71-degree head angle, a 73-degree seat angle, a Shimano Deore XT rear derailleur and a Shimano Deore LX front derailleur.
Innovation: Horst Leitner created the AMP B-5 full-suspension bike to isolate the rider’s pedaling torque and braking forces from the suspension. That freed the rider to pedal smoothly over any terrain. Editor Richard Cunningham said then, “Even though it has been ridiculed, criticized, bad-mouthed and downgraded, it has also been the most copied of all full-suspension mountain bikes.”
Mountain bike racing on pavement: Europe’s Bart Brentjens (1) had won the first Olympic mountain bike race in 1996. The late Steve Tilford (118) was battling with him here for the lead in the Specialized Cactus Cup’s Fat Boy Crit race held a few months earlier.
Still refusing to slow down: Ned Overend, who turned 43 in August 1998, was still one of the top XC pros in America. (He also won the X-Terra World Championship in 1998 and ’99). He told us in this issue that ever since he started racing his Specialized FSR XC full-suspension bike that he couldn’t imagine going back to a hardtail again. Ned would place fifth in the USA Cycling National Championship in the Pro class seven years later at the age of 50.
Legend status: Shaun “NaPalm” Palmer was one of the fastest pros in the sport in both downhill and dual slalom in 1998. Manitou ran this ad with the action shot from the Sea Otter Classic’s dual-slalom race to promote their ProTaper handlebars and X-Vert suspension forks.

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