The December issue of Bike magazine has an interesting article titled “12 of the Greatest Mountain Bikes Ever Made”. As you can imagine, most of the bikes featured in the article are from the early days including Gary Fisher’s 1937 Schwinn, a ‘77 Breezer, an ‘81 Stumpjumper, a mid eighties Fat Chance, and an early nineties Bontrager Race. Looking at those old bikes reminded me of the mountain bikes that I rode in the late eighties and early nineties; Ahh the fond memories of long wheelbases, bullhorn bars, and overpriced CNC machined parts. As I flipped through the article, one of the classic bikes really stood out, the Cunningham Racer. Pictured above is a circa 1991 Racer (one of the later ones) that belongs to Geoff. You can see more pictures of his Racer, and a few other Hams that he owns, on his website. Another example of a 1988 Racer can be seen here.
Charlie Cunningham was way ahead of his time when he started making aluminum mountain bike frames in the late seventies. At the time, Gary Klein was making road bikes from oversized aluminum, but the other mountain bike pioneers were building frames with geometry inspired by the newsboy bikes with which they started the sport. Today, a 20-year-old Cunningham looks a lot like a modern hardtail. The sloping top tube, oversized tubing, and sculpted dropouts may have looked funny to some when the bike was new, but this design really did pave the way for the next generation of off-road bikes. My wife still rides her early nineties Klein Pinnacle, a design no doubt influenced by Cunningham. That old bike still looks really great and always attracts more attention on the trail than my much newer but less exciting dual suspension K2 Razorback.