The Hot Mess Parts Bin Trek MTB That Stole My Heart

This quirky, vintage carbon hardtail mountain bike build is priced high for good reason.

I am one of those old gray bike riders who was racing and riding when Craigslist was king. We prowled its listings for anything with horizontal dropouts, ravenous to convert those old towel racks from barely ride-able garbage to barely ride-able garbage with one gear.

Yes. I realize Craigslist is zombified. Still accepting missed connections that will, unquestionably, remain missed. Still taking job listings with all-caps titles. It’s not what it was. And yet, there is life for some.  

I still troll Craigslist “bikes” and “bike parts.” I am not ashamed. I’ll do it again. 

Trouble is, sometimes I see things on CL and I fixate on them. That’s what happened to me with this Trek 9800 mountain bike. Like Ahab, I am tormented. It surfaces on the ocean of my mind from time to time like a great big sea thing. It is a beast inscrutable and immutable, a glistening seaborne muscle the size of a coffee shop. 

The first thing that caught my eye was the price. Though it has been lowered to $1,750 as of press time, previously the bike was listed at $2,000. Both price points are ludicrous enough to make an NFT owner giggle coquettishly.

Then there’s that Amazon fork. Look. I’ve ridden bikes built by completely inept buffoons, the worst of those being myself. But there’s no way in hell I’m riding a carbon fork off Bezos’ Late Capitalism Barn. Even if I trusted those forks, I hate that guy. A lot. 

Then there’s the inappropriately erect stem and riser bar combo. Whoever is riding this thing exists in a state of bliss, gliding along upright, giving nary a toss what anyone thinks. 

Look at that 11-speed XT rear mech on a 9-speed cassette. Look at the way someone has curated those red anodized parts: the skewers, the headset, the top cap, the rear brake. It is a gorgeous mess and if I’m wrong for loving it, well, damn your hides, it’s society that’s wrong. 

I regularly post and repost the ad to my cycling friends. I harangue them for not purchasing it. “Fools,” I yell. “Tasteless clods!”  

Unfortunately, I did this enough that it reached the eyeballs and earballs of a certain editor of a certain web site who has called my bluff. “If you love it so much, why don’t you write something about it?” Well, hell. 

As it turns out, the owner of the bike is a perfectly reasonable guy. His name is Curtis Thomas, he runs a mobile bike repair business called Velocity Bike Service, and he rides this bonkers bike for the best reason: because he wants to. Good on you, Curtis. 

He agreed that the fork was an odd choice but said it was the only thing he could find that would fit the 26” wheelset. That’s the reason for the mechanical disks up front and the vee brakes aft. 

As for the price, Curtis had a great reason for that too. He said he rides the bike a lot. He doesn’t mind keeping it. If someone comes along and wants to pay his price, well, he’ll let it go. 

I think he’s lying. I don’t think he wants to let it go at all. I think, like me – possibly even worse than me – Curtis is captivated by this weird 90s artifact laboring under a pile of misfit parts and will never let it go. Good on him again. 

I decided to share Curtis’s bike with its progenitors at Trek. Ross Rushin, MTB Product Marketing Manager, fell under its spell immediately, calling it, “a beaut.” Moved by its appearance, she provided the following from Stephen Stills circa 1970

Get it together, make it nice
You ain’t gonna need any more advice
And there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you’re with.