Vintage Velo: 1988 Ibis Mountain Trials Prototype

Trials Bike Yellow-1

Words and photos: Jeff Archer
Originally published in Issue #40

Since we don’t ride bikes on paper, the best way to design a bike is to ride it. The absolute best way is to have a series of bikes with small changes so they can be ridden back-to-back and compared. Get them into the hands of riders and then collect their feedback. It appears as if this bike is one of these test sleds.

Trials Bike Yellow-8

Trials bikes were popular in the mid-1980s, but they were single purpose machines. They were great at going over obstacles and hopping around, but not so great on trails. Scot Nicol, founder of Ibis, thought there might be a market for a bike that could be ridden as both a trail bike and a trials bike. Thus begat the Mountain Trials model, a “traveling trials bike.” Since it was a new type of bike, samples were ordered up. This one has a serial number of 0004 and some of the details, such as the cable routing and dropouts, are different from the production bikes.


After this particular bike finished testing, it found its way into the hands of a trials rider and was modified to his preferences. It had a Fat Chance box crown fork installed along with Bullseye cranks, which included a homemade bash guard. When the frame was repainted, the crank and fork were painted to match.


The brakes are from the first Campagnolo mountain bike group, Euclid, where one arm actually pierces the other. The other parts are from somewhat mixed eras and were based on the owner’s preferences, so they aren’t necessarily “period correct” but they are “correct” to this particular bike.


A review from 1988 of one of the Mountain Trials stated, “The result is one of the sweetest riding bikes for technical riding we’ve tested.” Sounds like the prototypes did their job!

This bike can be seen at the Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology, which is housed at First Flight Bicycles in historic downtown Statesville, North Carolina. If you can’t visit in person, check out the collection at



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