In an attempt to make a short story long, a scene setter journey back into 1991 is required first. Whether you were old enough to remember 1991 or if you arrived on the planet after, here’s a summary; The Gulf War kicked off, the dissolution of the Soviet Union took place, another Space Shuttle took off, Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines killing 800 people, the Olympic Committee re-admitted South Africa after the end of Apartheid, Nirvana launched the amazing ‘Nevermind’ album, Freddie Mercury of Queen died, U2 released ‘Achtung baby’, the airbag to improve automobile safety was invented, the internet reached 1 million computers world-wide, the film, ‘The Silence of the lambs’ was released, the rain forest was shrinking by 1% annually, the Arctic had decreased by 2% in the previous 10 years, the clockwork radio was invented, 50% of India’s population was living below the poverty line, the Tour de France was won by Miguel Indurain, John Tomac and Ruthie Matthes won the mens and women cross country mountain bike World Championships, Fiat launched the tiny ‘Cinquecento’ car, Salsa over took ketchup sales for the first time ever in the USA, and I was working for Sharp Electronics, doing time trials after work, and our eldest son was in his first year of being on the planet. Take a breath after that lot…….
In 1991, I was also, mostly reading about the globally-fast emerging cycling category of mountain biking (MTB from here on). As we lived in North Wales at the time, access to ‘off-road’ riding was good, so the MTB appeal started to create a warming sensation in my loins whenever I looked in the MTB-specific magazines, and in particular, saw all of the great deals that were on offer, as well as the thought of tackling real mountains on two wheels. I continued to read and dream for the next 3 years and finally bought a Kona Lava Dome when seeing the ‘you-must-buy-this-deal-now’ advert in the magazine, and by ringing the shop up, reading out my credit card and address details, and then waiting impatiently (as usual when I’ve ordered something) for it to arrive. In 1991, a consumer trend in the MTB world was starting to take place. MTB production was increasing really fast in the USA and South East Asia, and when the new models were launched, there was always a good stock of the ‘last year’s models’ to shift. A number of dealers became brilliant at buying up ‘last years models’ and selling them off ‘fast’ to people like me at a monumental discount. So my Kona, which I bought in 1994 was actually a 1993 model. Long story short this time, the Kona was a paradigm shift in my cycling world and served me in races and general off-road riding. It was eventually replaced by a Cannondale Super V in the year 2000, which was also a 1999 model, and also bought at a big discount. I sold the Kona to a relative of my wife and he’s still using it to this day (apologies for the photo quality of my Kona below, but it was taken in the 1990s 🙂
There’s a saying, ‘sometimes you have to go there to come back’ and this is exactly what this post is all about. In the 2019 world of 29 inch wheels, monster downhill bikes, carbon everywhere and now the main stream arrival of the eMTB, I’ve recently thought it would be good fun to to get back on one of those 199os hardtail MTBs and remind myself of the experience. Like a lot of good things, my desire to ‘go back in MTB time’ happened not so long ago. Recently, my wife was away in the UK with both ‘The Van’ and custody of the cat because I was doing some travelling with work. However, in between my travelling, I have a weekend or two on my own, so naturally on the first weekend, I head off on the BMW to see my friend Stefan in his amazing shop. I’ve written two previous posts about Stefan’s place so I won’t go into it anymore here.
Usually when I go to Stefan’s place, I have a list. This time I didn’t. I turned up at Stefan’s with the my head torch and after a quick chat with Stefan, I disappear into the amazing building. After about 2 hours of exciting exploring, which included finding another room in the building that I hadn’t found before, I emerged with dirty hands, less battery power in the head torch, pleased, and with a bag of bicycle tools (see photo below), as well as a pair of new-old-stock Yamaha motorcycle handlebars (not shown). I always like to have the right tool for the job and equally, need to be able to locate it in the first 30 seconds of looking for it. I know some people for example, and the first 30 minutes of any job is devoted to finding the tool to do the job. This is ‘nightmare territory’ for me. Anyway, back to the story. Stefan suggests that we go for a lunch-time coffee so we wash our hands and head off to the local petrol-station-cafe. We both have Nespresso cappuccinos and I resist having an amazing fat-boy-apple-pastry as I’m motorcycling home, and not cycling home.
On returning to Stefan’s garage, we chat to another customer who is also looking pleased, and clutching a French, 5-speed freewheel that ‘he’s been looking for, for ages’ apparently. We both pay Stefan for our respective stuff and I load the tools into the BMW panniers. The Yamaha handlebars are too long to go in so they’ll get put inside my jacket, which they will stick out of because they are still too long. Just before leaving, I notice a very early (1989 as it turns out), Scott USA MTB in one of the many rows of bikes for sale, so I go over and investigate. It is in time-warp condition and looks like it has hardly been used. Stefan comes over and points to another one, exactly the same apart from being a bigger frame. Stefan said that he got them off a couple who bought them new in 1989 and were ‘too old to ride them now’. I thought that these two must be quite rare in this condition, and after a quick bit of research on the internet from my phone, I made my decision. So, another deal was done with Stefan in which I spent some more of my pocket money, and I was now the owner of some tools, a pair of Yamaha handlebars and two 1989 Scott MTBs (Note: Scott Sports HQ in Switzerland have recently confirmed that these bikes are actually 1989 models). So, at long last, here’s the 1989-1991 connection. I obviously couldn’t get two MTBs onto the BMW, so I agree to leave them with Stefan until ‘The Van’ returns.
I’m ‘without wife and cat and van’ again the following weekend, so a friend says that I can borrow his car to pick the Scott bikes up. I liaise with Stefan to make sure he’s around and eventually, get the bikes back to the house in readiness for some polishing. As I am ‘home alone’, my weekend time is split with an eMTB ride, a BMW moto ride, getting my clothes washed for the following weeks’ travel, feeding myself and polishing 2 Scott MTBs, with a glass of wine. My wife has bought me an audio book to listen to, which in her words, “you can listen to whilst you are polishing bike stuff”. The audio book is called ‘One more croissant for the road’ by Felicity Cloake, in which she journeys around France on a bicycle and train, and rates each croissant consumed on a scale of 1 to 10. 10 being great. Actually, the croissant plays a small part in comparison to the rest of the food and alcohol consumed, which is good. Felicity reads the book herself, which I always prefer to someone else reading. I would happily do a ‘croissant-taste-off’ with Felicity as croissant is also on one my favourite things, and it would be interesting to see if my rating standards are similar to hers. Not included in her book is anything about the distantly related and amazing bread-stick flutes that we get in Switzerland and France, and just like croissant, every one made by each baker tastes different. Those flaky, buttery bread sticks and a glass of something chilled and alcoholic is ACE!
The two Scott bikes are in such good condition that I have both of them polished and ready to go in two, two-hour shifts, which is several chapters of Felicity’s book. Everything is still greased like they were bought yesterday. Interestingly (maybe…), Scott Cycles have their global headquarters in Switzerland and about 40 minutes down the road from where we live, and their current range of bikes is pretty smart. They’ve also just moved into an amazing new 21st century building, which is of both architectural and environmental merit. History-wise, in 1989, Scott were still working under the brand of Scott USA, which is how my two bikes are branded. Scott was, and is, an innovative company. I remember them trying to change the face of Moto-cross foot wear with a pair of plastic boots. They were based on the same principle as their ski boots with an inner boot and an outer boot. Unfortunately, they never took off and leather boots continued to win the day. However, they do occasionally come up for sale and go for more money than they cost originally.
These two Scott bikes of mine were at the top of the Scott MTB range at the time, hence the ‘Racing’ logo on the cross-bar. As these bikes were origionally bought by a man and his wife, one is a 21 inch frame and one is an 18 inch frame. Bizarrely, the length of the cross-bars and the handlebar stem is the same on both bikes, making the overall reach to the bars the same, and it is the seat tube which dictates the difference in frame size. I would not be surprised if they had not been ridden more than 50 kilometres as the Shimano XT brake blocks and Wolber wheel rims don’t even look like they’ve ever made contact with each other. The gears shift perfectly like new. Both bikes have the same message on each of the seat stays, and which pronounces “For off road use only”. This is either a marketing thing of the time or as MTB-ing was in its infancy, maybe some people actually had to be told the blindingly obvious.
The killer question is; “what am I going to do with 2 amazing Scott MTBs?”. The 18 inch bike is the perfect size for me, whilst the 21 inch is a little bit bit on the large size, and which I’m unlikely to ‘grow in to’. So, in order to stay with the 1989 vintage MTB theme, I’m going to ride it AND do a revival-MTB-back-to-back test between the Scott Racing bike and one of its main competitors of the time, the Kona Cinder Cone. Mmmmmmm, I bet you can’t wait……..watch this site for the test ride!
The larger bike is now ‘For Sale’, so feel free to contact me if you are interested, and I’m happy to ship it world-wide (buyer pays the shipping cost). See my Instagram page for more photos.
If you have read this just because it had ‘cake’ in the title, then I won’t apologise for putting the cake at the end and making you wait for the interesting bit. In the top right hand part of the photo below, you’ll notice, what is, THE most amazing patisserie cake on the planet. This would score 10 out of 10 in anybody’s ratings. It was made even better with the curry soup, great bread and cappuccino. This was what I was eating when I put together this post. Bon appetite!
All photos by the author.