A bit of history. I wanted to be John Tomac so bad back in the late ’80s and into the ’90s. Of course, I couldn’t ride anything like him but I could set up my bike like his.
Here’s what my race mountain bike looked like for a couple years during Tomac’s transition from mountain bike champion to European road racer.
I loved this bike. It was great for offroad and road riding. This idea, for me, evolved into a 700c drop bar bike that was sort of like a cross bike but longer and lower.
It was a blast. Youth.
Here’s Zapata Espinoza‘s photo caption from Mountain Bike Action, June 1991:
“[Rob’s] bike: When R&D chief [Rob] Vandermark isn’t holed up watching bad videos on TV or designing the latest in titanium technology, he’s out hammering his drop bar Merlin that uses a front triangle made out of 1.5″ tubes. [Rob] made the bike for comparison tests to see how much stiffer the ride would be versus a standard Merlin’s smaller-tubed front triangle.”
A few R&D aspects of this bike:
- First 1.5″ front triangle on a titanium bike. This machine was too stiff – particularly before the days of decent front suspension.
- First 1.5″ seat tube on any geared bike – titanium or otherwise.
- First ‘braze-on’ 1.5″ XTR front derailleur. I modified the derailleur to bolt directly onto the tube without a clamp – because there’s no such thing as a 1.5″ FD clamp.
- This bike idea evolved into a 700c drop bar offroad bike I built in 1991. My first steel bike.
- I had a flat bar set up and a drop bar set up. I used quick connects to swap the system over in a matter of minutes. It turns out I kept the bike as drop bar almost all the time.
- To get a stem length short enough to work on a traditional mountain bike top tube length, I used an old cruiser stem. Super short and tall and weighing about 5 lbs. Super dangerous.
- I used bar-end shifters since there weren’t any integrated levers at that point. I also tried modifying a SRAM Gripshift and an adapter to mount a mountain thumb shifter to a road brake lever.
- I used to use Mickey Mouse bar tape for some reason.