The Vintage Mountain Biker


Last week I came across a little piece of mountain bike history at my local library, a book simply titled The Complete Mountain Biker. Written in 1989 by Dennis Coello, this book offers a glimpse into the state of the art in mountain biking more than 20 years ago. The chapters on backcountry touring and riding technique offer many tips that today’s riders can use and the chapter titled “The ATB Controversy – Trail Etiquette and Wilderness Prohibition” could have been written just last week. The accessories chapter, however, offers some photo nuggets too good not to share.


Obviously mountain bike stems have changed a lot in the last 20 years and these pics show two interesting early configurations. The top stem features a triangle shape called a “bull-moose style stem.” The second is a single piece stem that appears to offer exactly zero adjustability.


I can remember the days when the Nike Calderas were the heat and I actually owned a pair of Nike mountain bike shoes at one point. The Nike Zealand, however, looks like a cement worker’s safety boot.


In the days before Camelbaks, apparently people were fond of the fanny pack for mountain biking (the caption says the pack shown is by Nike).


Shimano XT shifters may cost a little more but just look at the quality! Knit mesh gloves offer unmatched ventilation and endless design possibilities.


It’s strange to see a derailleur brand that doesn’t start with ‘S’. (oh wait)


I actually learned a thing or two from the section on mountain bike brakes. The one pictured above is a roller cam brake and there was also something called a “U-brake” that was mounted underneath the bike’s chainstays. Mountain bikers quickly realized a brake mounted down low became a dirt and mud magnet so the U-brake went the way of the Dodo bird.


His technique is mostly right but what happened to his helmet and shirt? (Ironically this photo comes just pages after the section on bike helmets that says “Always wear a helmet.”)


I’m no trials rider but to me this technique for hopping a curb doesn’t look right. Perhaps this should be retitled, “How to taco your front wheel.”

It’s amazing to look back and see how far mountain biking has come in the last 20 years. Believe it or not, you can still purchase one of 40+ copies of the 1989 edition of The Complete Mountain Biker on for as little as $0.01 (plus shipping). Such a small price to pay for a piece of mountain biking history!

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