Throwback Thursday: Mert’s Moab Magic
Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the MBA wrecking crew would make the annual pilgrimage to the (then) sleepy, old mining town of Moab, Utah to partake in their annual Fat Tire Festival. From the Slickrock Loop to Poison Spider, and of course, the Porcupine Rim Trail, Moab’s plethora of rough trails was the perfect test bed for all the tide-turning full-suspension bikes that were beginning to arrive.
The Gary Fisher RS-1 was certainly unique, and it stood out with its fanciful front and rear Mert Lawwill-designed suspension. Mert (above) was of course the 1969 AMA Grand National Champion made world famous for his starring role in Bruce Brown’s epic moto-movie, On Any Sunday.
The rear end started with a hand-fabricated box-section aluminum swingarm and was based on Lawwill’s own quadrilateral linkage design that provided a whopping two-inches of travel (via tunable urethane bumpers borrowed from a skateboard).
As was our daily ritual at the festival, a small bike industry collective would meet at Rim Cyclery in the morning to plan the day’s ride. On this particular day we shuttled to the outskirts of town where a group of over a dozen riders had collected. Among them was ’84 Olympic road race winner Alexi Grewal (above) who surprised everyone by showing up on a “prototype” steel Clark-Kent hardtail with a Scott Uni-Shock fork. What was soon to ensue was a high-speed duel through the Utah desert where modern mountain bike technology – though still in its infancy – would win out.
As the trail got rougher with a succession of rocky drop-offs and stutter bumps, Alexi was forced to slow given the limits of his bike. I on the other hand was able to exploit the benefits of both suspension and disc brakes to surge past and promptly drop him! For me, this was yet another clear example of the impact that motorcycle inspired technology could and would have on a mountain bike. Thanks, Mert!
Funny thing, but fast forward some 30 years later and here I am still arguing with many cyclists about the merits of disc brakes and suspension on road/gravel bikes. How does that old saying go; “The more things change, the more they stay the same”