By Karl Rosengarth and Eric McKeegan. Photos by Justin Steiner and Jon Pratt.
For all of Pittsburgh’s endearing qualities, its wet, pre-spring weather sucks. There are weeks on end when the trails are just too wet and muddy for responsible riding. The optimal solution is to load Dirt Rag’s “trusty” Ford E-Series van with test bikes and head south, where spring is already busting out all over (or is close enough to permit proper bike testing). This year’s spring trip wound its way south and east—to Wilderness Adventure at Eagle’s Landing, located in the mountains near Roanoke, Virginia.
With acres upon acres of cool bikes and gadgets on display at the annual Interbike trade show, it’s tough to get noticed. Exhibitors battle to attract the roving hordes to their booths. Most employ tried and true tactics: booze, booth babes and boatloads of booty (as in pirates’ booty, a.k.a. swag).
Dirt Rag has always been know for rolling its own. In 1996 our booth buzz scheme was a “Show Us Your Tattoo” promotion. We invited ink-bearing attendees to stop by our booth and have their body art documented via color Polaroid snapshots, which we posted on the back wall of our booth.
Dirt Rag Issue #55 featured a full-page black-and-white collage of our favorite 20 tattoos from the show. While rummaging through the Dirt Rag “hardocpy” archives, I stumbled upon the original tattoo Polaroids.
Eureka! This gold mine needed to be shared—in living color.
So without further ado, I give your “Our Favorite Tattoos” from Interbike 1996.Tweet
Let’s get this out of the way first: SLM stands for Super Light Mountain. They ain’t lyin’. The $5,799 SLM 1.1 is the flagship of the Fuji SLM fleet and its frame is made from C15, Fuji’s highest grade of carbon fiber. The end result is a 29er frame weighing less than 1,000 grams (nearly 300 grams lighter than the 2013 version). The size medium bike tipped Dirt Rag’s scale at 22.2 pounds (without pedals).Tweet
The first edition of Dirt Rag’s Dirt Fest took place in 1991 at Camp Soles, a YMCA youth camp located in the Laurel Highlands, just east of Pittsburgh. For me, that era represents a magical time, marked by glorious tribal gatherings known as mountain bike festivals.
In fact, I’d learned about Dirt Fest from some friends that I met at the legendary Jim Thorpe Mountain Bike Weekend. I attended the first Dirt Fest as a “civilian.” A few months after the event, I became friends with the Dirt Rag crew by showing up at their weekly rides in Pittsburgh, and about a year later I landed my first job at the magazine.
Compared to Dirt Fest’s current incarnation, the original event was decidedly chill. There was no vendor expo bristling with the bleeding edge of bicycle technology. Demo rides amounted to swapping bikes with a newfound friend. I seem to remember a bonfire, and somebody playing a guitar—a far cry from The Earthtones jamming for a circus tent full of free-beer-lubricated mountain bikers.Tweet
One bike to do it all—that’s the idea behind Pivot’s Mach 5.7. While the definition of “all” depends to a large extent on the rider, with its 145mm of rear travel and 26-inch wheels, the versatile Mach 5.7 is exactly the style of bike that would top my shopping list.
Chris Cocalis of Pivot Cycles gave me his take on the intended applications for this steed: “The Mach 5.7 is not an XC race bike, and it’s not a freeride bike; it’s really designed for everything in between. We consider it a do-all mountain bike, and that is the reason it is our best seller.”Tweet
The Stache is an all-new addition to Trek’s 2013 lineup, a rugged trail bike designed to be versatile enough to serve as the elusive “one bike that’s does it all.”
Rather than give the Stache a substantially different layout, Trek adapted their tried-and-true 29er G2 geometry. The Stache’s 68.6 degree head angle is about a degree slacker than Trek’s 100mm-travel Superfly, and its 12.44-inch BB height is 0.16-inch taller. Both models have 17.5-inch chainstays.
The aluminum frame looks quite robust, thanks to the large hydroformed main tubes, tapered head tube, 142x12mm thru-axle rear and press-fit bottom bracket. Bonus points for ISCG tabs and dropper post routing (including stealth routing). The seat tube has a flattened shape at the bottom for tire/mud clearance (which hardly seems necessary, considering the ample room provided by the 17.52-inch chainstays). The total package looks agile and muscular, but not burly. With pedals and a bottle cage, the Stache 8 weighed in at 27.5 lbs.
The $2,420 Stache 8 comes with a Fox Evolution Series 32 Float fork (with CTD) and a solid 2×10 kit. Proven Shimano SLX parts include brakes, shifters and front derailleur (there’s an XT upgrade on the rear). The Bontrager Duster tubeless-ready wheels and meaty Bontrager 29-3 Expert 29×2.3 tires are ready for rough-and-tumble action.
I found that the Stache was neither a slack play bike, nor was it a razor-quick race machine. The bike’s handling fell in between those two extremes. Dare I describe the Stache’s handling as neutral? I think I just did.Tweet
Over the course of an amazing 19-year run, Bill Boles stepped into a nearby phone booth seven times per year, and emerged toting yet another installment of The Old Coot. Starting with Dirt Rag #15 and running through issue #153, The Old Coot dispensed a potent blend of riding tips, mechanical tricks, and practical New Englander wisdom—in a unique, homespun style.
Contributing a legacy of 139 columns was not only a mind-boggling demonstration of journalistic superpowers, but it was also a boon for artists. All of those columns would need illustrations, after all.
Over the years, Dirt Rag has been graced with a dazzling array of artists’ interpretations of the Coot. I thought it would be fun to recap the artistic history of the Old Coot, and share some of my favorite Coot artwork.Tweet
The idea behind the Silver Series from Lynskey is to offer titanium bikes with a lower price tag, relative to the higher-end models in the company’s lineup. The Silver Series saves some shekels by eschewing extensive tubeset manipulation, sticking to stock sizing, and offering a single build kit.
The tweener MT 650 rings the register at $4,123 with a build kit featuring a Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes and a 120mm X-Fusion Velvet RL2 fork. If you want to build your own, the frame will set you back $1,678. If you still have sticker shock, remember that the “lower price tag” is relative to upscale titanium bikes costing much more.Tweet
In its present format, The Specialty Files is a recurring print column in Dirt Rag that is written by Jeff Archer, and features a vintage bike from his collection at the Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology in Statesville, N.C.
However, the earliest installments of The Specialty Files featured serendipitous discoveries that Maurice spied while jaunting cross-country, during the heyday of the Dirt Rag World Tour. Maurice leaned on Jeff to help provide background details on the unearthed rigs.
The Specialty Files first appeared in Dirt Rag issue #104, which was published on Nov. 15, 2003. It featured Dan Smith’s sweet 1987 Cannondale SM600, with its unique 24/26-inch mismatched wheels.
Dan is a Pittsburgh homeboy that was a regular fixture on the infamous Dirt Rag Thursday night ride back in the early 1990s. Some years ago Dan and his mountain biking wife Sara relocated to Salt Lake City.
As I re-read the original story, my mind got to thinking about that old bike. Did Dan still have it? Was it running? Did he hit any sweet jumps on it?Tweet