Down The Trail

Down The Trail

Looking Back 20 Years

Fiola’s nearly invisible cable rigging let Eddie lower himself safely down the cliff.

Our April 1999 issue featured Eddie Fiola poised at the top of a huge cliff in Chatsworth, California. Eddie was already a legend in the bike business. He had been known as the “King of the Skateparks” in the early 1980s when he was the top BMX skatepark rider in the world.

Transitioning from a long and successful freestyle career, Eddie became a stuntman and stunt-rigger in the movie industry. He also became a mountain biker, and he’d often join us for our Mountain Bike Action photo sessions when we needed test riders for our bikes.

The Mongoose Pro downhill bike sported the RockShox Boxxer 151 fork. The frame offered 5.5 inches of travel while the fork offered 6 inches.

On the day pictured on our cover from 20 years ago, Eddie joined us to do some test riding for photos, but he also had something else he wanted to show us. He brought out some harnesses, thin cables and rigging setups from his movie stunt work and offered to show us how they worked. He set up his gear and then rode his bike over to the edge of the cliff for a photo. He had put a harness around his waist, underneath his jersey, that would keep him from falling to the rocks and bushes below. It looked spectacular, and we shot a few photos of him right at the top of the cliff on his bike. After that, we went on to get the action shots we needed that day.

When we got the film back, the shot of Eddie at the top of the cliff looked so dramatic that we ended up choosing it for the cover. Eddie hadn’t really jumped his bike off the cliff, but it looked cool, and since it was our April issue, we figured it would be fun to use it as an undisclosed April Fool’s Day joke.

It wasn’t too much later that Josh Bender started launching his bike off cliffs that were nearly the same size as the one with Fiola on our cover. We never knew if that was a coincidence or not.

Shock Therapy provided the fork for Intense’s M1 downhill bike.

Two and a half years after our April 1999 cover shot of Fiola appeared, the very first Red Bull Rampage debuted in southwestern Utah. The top free-riders on the planet came together to see who was the best rider in the world when it came to launching off cliffs (for the record, Wade Simmons won that first event). Fiola didn’t go. He was busy doing stunt work in the movies—and probably taking fewer risks than the riders at the Rampage.


Marzocchi’s Monster T Bomber had to be one of the beefiest downhill forks on the market.













It can be hard to keep track of all the national champions in mountain biking. Our April 1999 issue offered a list of all the men’s and women’s NORBA national champions from 1983 (the first year the races were held) to 1998 (the latest year on record at the time) in cross-country racing. Here they are:

a table norba national champions 1983 to 1999
Balfa offered one of the most exotic-looking downhill bikes 20 years ago. Its rear-wheel travel could be changed from 5 to 8 inches. The Mr. Dirt fork offered 8 inches of travel. Check out the chain setup on the non-drive side of the Balfa downhill bike. Quick-change sprockets on the crank and jackshaft allowed the equivalent gearing of a 30- to 56-tooth chainring.


Downhill pro Toby Henderson shared some of his jumping tips in an article titled “How to Jump Like a Pro.” Toby was very good at that sort of thing. He got on the cover of Mountain Bike Action more times than we can remember now, riding as one of the top downhill pros in the country and also as MBA’s number-one test rider for many years. (Toby is now the founder and CEO of Box Components.)

After cautioning our readers that jumping can be dangerous, we shared a number of tips from Toby on how to jump the right way.

One tip was this: “Sprint and stop pedaling well before the jump. I usually tap the brakes before the jump to get the bike to the right speed. You never want to pedal all the way up to the takeoff. If you do, your body will be off balance when you leave the jump. Try to stop pedaling at least 10 feet before the jump.”

Toby also shared this tip: “Never sit on your seat when you jump. It will buck you right off. You want to be out of the saddle with your knees and arms bent. Know where you want to land and stick it. I can’t stress that enough. You have to focus on where you want to land. I can bunnyhop 10 kids at once, but I can’t go nearly as far without the kids there. The key is picking the place where you want to land.”


The K2 bike was very distinctive looking, especially with the unusual pull-shock suspension system.


The use of a pull-shock on the K2 Razorback RSL is a design that we don’t see much of anymore. We don’t see too many of these Noleen Crosslink forks, either.


Best Race Venues

Among the other stories, there was a guide to the best mountain bike racecourses in America, picked by a group of pros who knew them all well. They were Tipperary Creek in Winterpark, Colorado; Big Bear, California (but only for the amateur course; the pro course was deemed “boring,” according to former NORBA president Bob Hadley); Traverse City, Michigan (Toby Henderson actually rated it as his favorite downhill course in the nation because it had so many jumps, bumps and sandy sections to make it fun); Mount Snow, Vermont (which Dave Wiens picked as the toughest racecourse in America because of how slippery it got when it was wet); the Deer Creek trail in Crested Butte, Colorado (which had the best scenery, according to Dave Wiens); and the Rage in the Sage racecourse in Gunnison, Colorado (which was the home course for Dave Wiens).

Image CaptionSometimes it’s hard to show how steep a downhill descent really is. This view showed it well.


There were a number of other courses that got mentioned, too. One of them was the popular Fontana downhill course, which the top riders in Southern California were already racing 20 years ago.


Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun. Start a subscription by clicking here or calling (800) 767-0345.

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