Two Wheel Time Machines

By Adam Newman, photos by Jordan Clark Haggard

Almost as soon as mountain bikes burst into the public consciousness in the late 1970s, the bikes themselves began to stratify. Downhill, trials, cross country, enduro—the list goes on and on. But it wasn’t always this way. For a few glorious years, the mountain bike was just a bike, and all racers competed in all types of races with essentially the same machine.

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While there’s no disputing modern bikes outperform the bikes of a generation ago in every way, riders are rediscovering the simplicity and camaraderie of those heady times. For 28 years, mountain bikers have been gathering at the Keyesville Classic stage race in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The bikes that were cutting edge when the racing began are now organized into their own vintage category, competing on the same course as modern, carbon fiber wünderbikes.

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“This race always has a downhill and cross country [segment], and both are hard and challenging by today’s standards,” said Sky Boyer, who raced at Keyesville for the first time in 1990 and houses a substantial vintage bike collection in his bike shop, Velo Cult, in Portland, Oregon. “Back in the day, we [raced] them on rigid bikes so there’s really zero excuses for anybody showing up on a vintage bike. We did it back then, so you can do it now.”

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For Eric Rumpf, the passion to both collect vintage bikes and to race them is fueled almost entirely by nostalgia. He takes special joy in finding bikes he idolized as a kid.

“Once I got older, not only could I afford the dream bike from my youth, they were cheap! The challenge became how many dream bikes could I find? How many could I rebuild just as I would have as a kid? There’s great satisfaction in finding something you’d only ever seen in magazines, rebuilding it back to a running mountain bike, and actually getting to ride it.”

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Boyer saw that collectors had a passion for their bikes but were looking for a be er way to enjoy them, not just put them on a pedestal. He worked with the race organizers to start the vintage category in 2006. Now there’s such a diverse collection of vintage mountain bikes at Keyesville that the race has divided them into categories of “1986 and older” and “1987-1996.” The course itself has a variety of terrain to challenge anyone with a rigid fork, super long stem, rim brakes and sketchy tires.

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“There’s no arguing that modern sports and muscle cars are faster, but the soul of driving an early 911 or classic Mustang is something that can’t be replicated. It’s the same for vintage mountain bikes,” Rumpf said. “Vintage mountain bikes are more challenging to ride. You get the same thrill of being on the edge of control, it just comes a little sooner.”

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Despite the challenge, or perhaps because of it, more and more people are discovering the joy in simplicity, Rumpf said. Half are riders were barely even born when these bikes first hit the trails and are looking for a way to connect with a bygone era, he said, and half are folks who have been riding since these bikes since they were new and like things just the way they are.

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“The number of racers grows slightly each year, but there is always a core group of collectors who make their way back year after year. I think that’s telling of a quality event.”

Boyer cites the laid-back vibe of the weekend and the positive camaraderie as the biggest draw.

“The general vibe of the race is exactly the same as back then,” he said. “Seriously, this race has never changed.”

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Review: Seagull Bags Trail Buddy

Bum bags. Fanny packs. Enduro fashion. Call it what you want, but a hip pack is actually a pretty useful piece of kit. What goes around comes around, and now that it’s safe to be seen in public with one again, options are flooding the market.

Seagull has been sewing its bags by hand in Columbus, Ohio, since 2003, and they sent us their new Trail Buddy to try, and so so far I’ve been using it on all kinds of rides. I’ll do anything to get a backpack off my back and not content with the sweat mess it leaves behind. The Trail Buddy holds the basics for short rides or keeps the essentials close at hand while touring.

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Built from 1000d Cordura, it’s super thick and tough. I have no doubt this thing will outlive the cockroaches at the Apocalypse. While not 100-percent waterproof, the YKK zippers are water resistant and it kept the contents clean through a generous dousing of mud. The zipper pulls are huge and easy to grab with gloves on. The main pocket has a double zipper to make it easier to get into.

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There is a U-lock sleeve in the back, but I actually preferred attaching it to the daisy chain loops on the front so it wasn’t touching my back. There is a secondary exterior pocket behind them with room for small items like keys or a phone.

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The main compartment is big enough for a thin jacket, bike tools, a book, a beer (or two), or whatever you need to keep within reach. It can also attach to your handlebars with two Velcro straps, but there’s no way to tuck the waist strap in so it kind of gets in the way.

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The waist strap is thickly padded and has cinch straps at either end that can help keep the bag snug against your hips even when it’s not full. The main buckle is BIG, but luckily it is adjustable on both sides, and I found it most comfortable wearing it slightly off-center.

There really aren’t any downsides to this pack except there were a few times I wish it were a tiny bit bigger. It won’t fit my Amazon Kindle, for example, or an external water bottle.

The Trail Buddy is available in black, olive, rust (pictured), plus two more Spring 2016 special colorways.

Price: $65
Measurements: 11.75 inches wide, 5.5 inches high and 2.75 inches deep.
More info: seagullbags.com

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What’s your take? Do you ride with a hip pack? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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