Down The Trail

Down The Trail

Thirty years ago John Tomac graced the cover of our November 1990 issue. “Johnny T” was covered in mud and looked absolutely exhausted in the photo, which was taken at Mt. Snow, Vermont, by Trevor Graves. It’s easy to think that the top pros are simply in better shape than the rest of us, but this photo is a reminder that the top riders are also the ones who are willing to push themselves and suffer more than the other racers to secure a good result. In 1990, Tomac was very close to the top of his game in mountain biking.

RockShox had just entered the market when we spotted these unusual-looking dual-crown forks on a prototype Alpinestars mountain bike. We said of them, “The non-suspended forks gave fantastic front-end stability.” As we recall, they never caught on.


The bikes from 30 years ago were vastly different from the bikes of today. Almost none of the bikes in our November 1990 issue had suspension forks. RockShox had just entered the market that year, but its product wasn’t offered on production bikes at the time. There were two bikes with rear suspension—the Cannondale EST and Offroad ProFlex 750—in our six-page “Buyer’s Guide” in 1991, and none of the 15 bikes in the feature had front suspension.

Rishi Grewal (3) was a rising star on the mountain bike race circuit in 1990. One of the top U.S. road racers at the time, Rishi turned his attention to dirt and quickly became one of the most celebrated cross-country racers of the 1990s.


Front suspension was just starting to catch on 30 years ago. Elsewhere in the issue, we had a photo of Greg Herbold racing with a RockShox suspension fork at Park City, Utah. We mentioned in the caption that Tomac beat Herbold in that race. Elsewhere in the story, we showed Tomac racing his rigid Yeti mountain bike with drop handlebars at Park City, just as he did in our cover photo from Vermont. We reported that Tomac had spent the first part of 1990 racing with the 7-Eleven road team prior to taking advantage of the summer to get back to mountain bike racing in the United States.

With few suspension products on the market, Allsop came out with its Soft-Ride beam system to help soften the bumps of the trails. Although the Allsop system did offer some comfort, the MBA staff later likened its effect to a diving board that would bounce riders higher and higher with each successive impact.


Tomac had grown so used to riding with drop bars that he kept using them in his mountain bike races in 1990. Nevertheless, he would go back to riding with flat bars for 1991, and he would start using Manitou suspension forks, too. His switch to flat bars and front suspension would work out well: Tomac went on to win the Elite Men’s UCI Cross-Country World Championship in 1991, along with the silver medal in Elite Men’s Downhill. On top of that, he also won the Elite Men’s XC title on the World Cup circuit in the same year. 

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