Words and photos by Jeff Archer
These days, it’s tough to go on a group ride without at least one rider on a Trek mountain bike. Let’s take a quick look back to see how we got to this point. Trek was founded in 1976 and produced high-quality road bikes in Wisconsin. By 1980, the Marin County, California, mountain bike movement was gathering strength and starting to spread nationwide. Bike manufacturers are always on the lookout for trends, and by 1981 both Specialized and Univega were importing mountain bikes from Japan. Although Madison, Wisconsin, wasn’t a mountain bike mecca like Marin County or Crested Butte, Colorado, Trek didn’t want to be left out.
Tim Isaac had been building bikes since 1974 under the TS Isaac name, including building road bikes for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. While the USA boycotted the ’80 Games, the bikes were still ridden by the team members in events around the world. Isaac joined Trek in 1979 as a lead design engineer. As 1982 rolled around, Trek decided it was time to put some effort into mountain bikes to see what they could come up with. Isaac took on the project and built a bike for Harry Spehar, Trek’s West Coast sales manager, and another for Brad Thorne of Dia-Compe USA (which became Cane Creek Cycling Components). These bikes were built up with sample materials and submitted as a potential for the Trek brand; many of the components are the same as seen on the production 1983 Trek 850 (subject of Specialty Files in Dirt Rag #178).
Custom touches on this bike include a chainstay-mounted spoke holder along with braze-on straps to carry a fishing rod.