Down The Trail: Bikes of the Future

In our November 1998 issue we had an article titled, “Do You Really Need Nine Speeds?” Of course, back then, nearly everyone was using triple chainrings and eight-cog cassettes for a total of 24 gear choices. Since we were talking about nine-speed cassettes, the question probably should have been, “Do you really need 27 speeds?” Times change. 

We also had an article on “Bikes of the Future.” The bikes were pretty wild-looking, but the only drawback was that the bikes were designed by artists instead of experienced bike builders. They still came up with some really interesting designs.

In an article on aging, “Are You Too Old to Be Any Good?,” we took a look at some of the older, more successful mountain bikers in the sport. We talked about Ned Overend, who turned 43 that year and was still racing against the top pros in the sport. Ned had won six American cross-country titles after the age of 30, his last one coming at age 37. Another rider we mentioned was Toby Henderson, who was 36 years old and still racing pro downhill. Today, Toby is the founder and CEO of Box Components. 

Elsewhere in the issue we took a look at what was slowly becoming known as one of the top states for mountain biking in the country. The place was North Carolina, and it’s now home to some of the top college mountain biking teams in the U.S., as well as two of America’s top downhill riders—Luca Shaw and Neko Mulally.

Steep stuff: Racers at the 1998 Mammoth Mountain National Championships had to come down one of the steepest descents on the mountain in the pro cross-country event. This same section has been used for pro downhill racing at the Kamikaze Games.
Rider down: Sea Otter crash, circa 1998. The race took place months earlier, but the crashes sometimes have a life of their own.
Striking: Cannondale’s Super V Raven 700 featured the Headshok Super Fatty-D and Fox Air Vanilla shock. It was part of the company’s distinctive Raven line. Prices started around $2000.
Kona Stab Dee Lux: Kona’s top downhill race vehicle boasted 7 inches of travel, front and rear, and sold for $4599.
Flashy looks: The Diamondback DBR X-4 suspension bike offered a RockShox SID fork and a Fox Air Vanilla shock. It sold for $1599.
Big smile: Long-time MBA test rider Toby Henderson was still racing pro downhill at age 36 in 1998. Toby is the founder and CEO of Box Components.
Call it art: Some of the most imaginative bikes of the late ’90s were created by students at the Art Center College of Design. The designs came out of a classroom assignment sponsored by Sachs Bicycle Components. This one, Sol, was created by art students from France, Ecuador and Korea. It featured an asymmetrical aluminum frame designed in three sections to mimic the motion of a bent arm unfolding. Photo: Steven Heller
Early e-bike: “The Kopshok was designed for police bike patrol units,” we said in our write-up on this bike. “Realizing that police officers need to save energy, the designers incorporated an electric power-assist option. Other features include front and rear lighting, rear cantilever seat suspension, a siren and a tool-free ride adjuster. Also, a touch-sensitive screen controls the global positioning satellite system, which allows the officer to locate a destination on a map display on the handlebars.” Photo: Steven Heller


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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