It’s easy to get swept away by all the excitement and technospeak that surrounds full suspension mountain bike designs. There are a lot of exciting bikes on the market these days. But while I was cruising the pits at last month’s Sea Otter Classic, one model stopped me in my tracks. It was steel, didn’t have any rear suspension and had drop bars. What? Let me explain…
Here’s a little history lesson about John Tomac for all the kiddos who think Bender invented mountain biking. After winning numerous NORBA titles in downhill, cross-country and dual slalom, Tomac joined Yeti Cycles’ factory MTB team in 1990 (as well as the 7-Eleven road team). During this period Tomac based himself in Belgium, and regularly traveled between the U.S. and Europe to compete in major road and mountain events. In 1991 Tomac won the XC World Cup title, and his broad range of cycling strengths culminated in Ciocco, Italy, where he then won the XC world championship and took silver in the downhill.
During this period Tomac rode a custom Yeti C-26 race bike (yes, he used the same bike for XC and DH) that had been built by Chris Herting, then part owner and head of R&D at Yeti Cycles. Tomac’s extensive road racing experience led him to race off-road with a drop-bar configuration. Joel Smith, the current owner of Tomac Bicycles, remembers this period fondly.
“Johnny raced his drop-bar bike back in 1990, at the time when I was racing Expert-level cross-country, and I saw him race the bike at Mammoth,” Smith said. “He was absolutely flooring it, screaming by people on the descents, and I was highly impressionable when it was my cycling hero. The day I got home, I pulled an old set of drop bars out of a trash can at the local bike shop, took the shifters and road levers off a bike that someone had abandoned in our basement, and converted my mountain bike. Since that day, I’ve always wanted to make another one, but do it the right way.”