Down The Trail – Spy Photos From The 1996 Cactus Cup


The victims of the MBA spy camera

It was late at night in the spring of 1996, and the moon was covered by the clouds. The MBA spy crew made its way across the Cactus Cup pits wearing ninja hoods and soft-soled shoes. We made no sounds, expect the sounds of our camera shutters opening and closing. Okay, not really. However, acquiring some of the coolest spy shots in the business is one of the things Mountain Bike Action became known for in the early days of riding. These are some of the gems we found.

Racer man: Robby Gordon, an ex-motocross racer turned off-road truck jockey turned Indy driver, was just starting to take up mountain biking in 1996. Brent Foes built him this handmade bike with all the bells and whistles, including a sweet-looking custom paint job.

Holy titanium, Batman: Litespeed took the floating drivetrain concept to the most expensive level known to man with their radical-looking Machete prototype. The Tennessee-based company incorporated 6/4 titanium top and downtubes with a bizarre, curved and interrupted seat tube.

Speed Racer Mach 5: Manitou came ready to launch a special new version of their previous elastomer-sprung Mach 5 fork. The new twist? Titanium coil springs. At the time, this was about as high tech as any front end available and a huge step forward in the suspension world.

No more Mr. Nice Guy: Answer showed up with the gnarliest downhill bike at the Cactus Cup: an “ultra-long-travel” version of Manitou’s downhill linkage suspension bike with a radical triangulated swingarm. The tires and rims were 17-inch motocross units.


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