Words and photos by Jeff Archer.
One of the best things about collecting mountain bikes is the relative newness of the sport. Since mountain biking is only about three decades old, and many of the founding fathers started in their twenties, most of the pioneers are still available to answer questions. Keeping in mind it was decades ago (and the recreational activities of the era), it can be a little blurry, but is much easier than trying to summon Ignaz Schwinn from the grave.
We recently acquired this Talon Slayer as a frame and fork from a fellow collector. The education begins each time we acquire a new bike. It is time to sort through the boxes of catalogs and magazines, looking for information on the bike and the builder. Then, on to the internet to see what we can turn up—the name Alan Vaughn was on the bike. A quick web search brought up his Flickr account and a reference to his tenure as the director of operations of NORBA in 1987. Using the contact info on the Flickr account, we were able to track Vaughn down. He was excited to see one of his creations again.
In talking to Vaughn we were able to determine he built approximately 16 bikes, including 14 mountain bikes. Fortunately, Vaughn kept pictures of almost every frame he built, which allowed us to see the evolution of his design. Most of them have subtle differences that make each one unique. After showing a frame at a bike show, several frames were built specifically for bike shops, including ours. The shop’s name was the serial number (BIKE BEAT for ours). In one of Vaughn’s pictures, we spied the name Chris Cocalis on the seat tube. It turns out Cocalis was working at a shop where Vaughn brought in his first frame to show to the shop guys. Cocalis went to Vaughn’s house and ended up helping to build a Talon frame of his own. (Cocalis would go on to found Titus Bicycles and Pivot Cycles.) Another interesting bike was one of the two road bikes built by Vaughn. It was used by Michael Secrest to set the 24-hour distance record by riding 1,256-miles at the Phoenix International Raceway in 1990. With Vaughn’s help, Talon may be one of the most documented makers on the MOMBAT website. It isn’t often we can document almost every bike by a frame builder (even if it was only 16 bikes).
This particular frame was built from fillet-brazed chromoly tubing. Since chain-suck was a big problem for many bikes of this era (all you need to do is check out the scars on almost every frame of this age), elevated chainstay designs were popular. The elevated stays are continuations of the small-diameter center tubes, running from the headtube to the rear dropouts. A single, small-diameter top tube meets the twin center tubes. Other interesting frame features include the two pulleys to route the front derailleur cable and the support for the rear brake cable noodle.
This bike can be seen at the Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology in historic downtown Statesville, North Carolina. If you can’t visit in person, check out the collection at www.mombat.org.