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  1. #1
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    What were the first decent full suspension bikes?

    I was just thinking back to the early FS bikes. What were the first bikes that were reasonably good?

    These were my thoughts about some that I remember:

    Bradbury Manitou FS: Our shop had one and it was beautifully made, but it seemed more useful from a comfort standpoint than from a performance standpoint.
    - https://www.pinkbike.com/news/now-th...anitou-fs.html

    Boulder Defiant: Our shop had one and it looked great with the rear shock integrated into the frame. I have no idea how it rode.
    - https://www.bikeman.com/the-attic/bi...cycles-defiant

    Cannondale SE2000: We also had these in our shop. Just from the looks of it, this seemed like a pogo stick.
    - https://sydneymountainbikerescue.wor...ondale-se2000/

    Trek Y-bikes: These looked interesting and different for the mid-90s, but I don't think the Unified Rear Triangle design worked that well as a full-suspension bike.
    - Trek Y Series Mountain Bike

    Klein Mantra: Same comments as for the Y-bikes, but with its high suspension pivot, these had the additional challenge of wanting to fold up and shorten its wheelbase when going down steep drops.
    - https://www.pinkbike.com/news/1996-k...as-a-bike.html

    These were bikes that I remember hearing good things about:

    Mountain Cycles San Andreas: With their monocoque frame, inverted forks, and disc brakes, these looked completely different from the typical hardtails of the era.
    https://www.pinkbike.com/news/now-th...n-andreas.html

    AMP Research B3 and B4: When everything was working on these bikes, they apparently were good performing, but a little flexy.
    - https://www.worthpoint.com/worthoped...bike-142784245
    - https://www.pedalroom.com/bike/amp-research-b4-29200

    Specialized FSR: Though Specialized copied the Horst link suspension design, the FSR was one of the first big brand bikes that I remember being halfway decent from a suspension performance perspective.

    Santa Cruz Tazmon: The first full suspension bike that got me to consider buying a FS bike. Though it had a simple design, it seemed like one of the first FS bikes that was reasonably durable and usable.
    https://www.santacruzbicycles.com/en-US/bike/tazmon/1

    Santa Cruz Superlight: I came really close to getting a Superlight. It felt solid when pedaling due to suspension extension which was reasonable for the time.
    https://www.santacruzbicycles.com/en...e/superlight/1
    Last edited by Spectre; 04-15-2020 at 02:05 PM.
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  2. #2
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    I raced for Boulder on one of their first production bikes back in 93. It was a very heavy bike for Cross country bike but had nice handling. That was my best season of racing and I attribute it to how much faster I was on descents!

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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spectre View Post
    Though Specialized copied the Horst link suspension design
    You mean purchased the patent?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mudguard View Post
    You mean purchased the patent?
    Yes, just did some research and you're right. For some reason, I thought Specialized won the right to own the Horst Link patent through litigation.
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  5. #5
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    I suspect Specialized did some fierce work protecting it once they had the patent. Which is now expired I believe.

  6. #6
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    My Cuz won the NW DH Champs in 95' on a prototype Foe's with 155mm travel front and rear....photo of my 95' Dagger B4 23lbs with rear AMP first one made of 10. Not good for DH, but awesome XC racer....LBS still has a MTN Cycles San Andreas in the shop hanging on the wall.
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  7. #7
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    Among all of the bikes in OP's list.... only the Mountain Cycle San Andreas and Santa Cruz Superlight clearly stood out. The rest were still Pogo Sticks, or simply rattled-out tooth fillings.
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    Outland VPP was the first one anyone I knew talked about as being really decent and not needing constant, helicopter-like maintenance.

  9. #9
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    my 2001 superlight was an OK bike at the time. it still didn't climb like my ibis alibi but glory be to god, i loved how it handled. i'd still take my hawk hill as it is set up now over that superlight.

    when i went from a manitou sx-ti to a coil sprung fox float the F/R balance got all out of whack, though. (not that an elastomer-sprung fork was really special)

  10. #10
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    if you weighed 80 lbs the AMP was workable
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  11. #11
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    Trek Y bikes were absolute garbage. I had a Fisher Joshua and it made me swear off any FS bike for 20some years.

  12. #12
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    1998 Marin Mount Vision sold me on FS.

    After that, the only thing that steered me away from FS was in the early days of 29" when all you could get was a custom hardtail. I think I rode 29" HT's for the bulk of '00, '01, and '02.

    Convinced Devin Lenz to build me a 29" FS bike in '03, and haven't owned a HT as my primary bike since.

  13. #13
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    The amp was the first that really made a mark as "this works". the Amp made frames we very light as mentioned above, but the design propagated pretty fast, despite specialised trying to control it. if you ran a mountain cycle with discs as a DH bike I think it was fine, but people really weren't doing that til later in the 90's.

    The GT LTS was a good evolution of the basic AMP principle in 1994/5.

    Most of the single pivot and oddball geo bikes at the same time as the AMP were abysmal - not really due to the concept, but due to the restrictions of cantilever brakes and 3x gearing (and often a complete lack of damping at both ends didn't help). The AMP design was the first that really properly got around these issues "well enough'. Of course, many of those bikes that we thought sucked back then might actually do well today, cause we have just one front ring and discs - and computer simulations available to everyone.

    I think its worth noting here that virtually all of these bike designs have their roots in the 80's.... that is, the 1880's. Nothing is new here except that we can make them at a quality and precision level that makes them viable.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by smartyiak View Post
    Trek Y bikes were absolute garbage. I had a Fisher Joshua and it made me swear off any FS bike for 20some years.
    That was the first time in my life I had heard a dealer / rep say "well, they need new designs to make people buy things". They KNEW it was garbage in other words.

  15. #15
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    no, the Trek Y bikes were not absolute garbage...

    if you are talking absolutes, you need to include Trek 9500. That thing...
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by smashysmashy View Post
    The amp was the first that really made a mark

    I raced for AMP in ~'96. Primarily 12 and 24 hour races, but some 100 milers too. I liked how light they were. The bushings would last ~3000+ miles before developing slop, and then they were relatively easy to replace.

    The main downside is that the shock was a structural member of the frame, and wasn't designed for it. So, assuming I started with a brand new shock, the damping would be gone within ~3 to 4 hours. Yes, hours.

    Fortunately they used coil sprung units, so you still had support and absorption - though no damping - indefinitely.

    They would only send me 2 shocks at a time, so I got used to riding with no damping.

    Some of that explains my predilection toward *very* fast rebound even to this day.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    I raced for AMP in ~'96. Primarily 12 and 24 hour races, but some 100 milers too. I liked how light they were. The bushings would last ~3000+ miles before developing slop, and then they were relatively easy to replace.

    The main downside is that the shock was a structural member of the frame, and wasn't designed for it. So, assuming I started with a brand new shock, the damping would be gone within ~3 to 4 hours. Yes, hours.

    Fortunately they used coil sprung units, so you still had support and absorption - though no damping - indefinitely.

    They would only send me 2 shocks at a time, so I got used to riding with no damping.

    Some of that explains my predilection toward *very* fast rebound even to this day.
    I had a mantis profloater of similar ilk. It use the shock as a main member of the frame but it had a newer style nitrogen charged shock, vs what AMP used. It literally used hardware store bolts and screws to hold the suspension together. I bent the shock on a bump, had it replaced then broke the swing arm on a bump. It wasn't great at bumps actually but was an attractive looking bike.

    I had an early Turner Afterburner I used as an all arounder. For its 3.5" of travel it did really well, tracked trails nicely, was quite stiff, and looked cool. I broke the frame on the notoriously rocky AZ trails of my town. I swapped the rear end to a new XCE triangle and it was good. Not as good as the afterburner but worked.

    I moved to single pivots from SC and then just bailed on suspension in general. Haven't gone back but would eventually like to but am waiting for the geometry and wheelsize debates to settle :P
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by 127.0.0.1 View Post
    no, the Trek Y bikes were not absolute garbage...

    if you are talking absolutes, you need to include Trek 9500. That thing...
    The y bike is worse, because it came at a time that they should have (and did) known better.

    The 9500 was one of the worst suspension bikes ever made, but it was still early, so it can be forgiven... a little...

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by smashysmashy View Post
    That was the first time in my life I had heard a dealer / rep say "well, they need new designs to make people buy things". They KNEW it was garbage in other words.
    It seemed to me that the Y-bikes had two design considerations.
    1. Create a unique looking frame design.
    2. Figure out how to add a shock into that mix.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spectre View Post
    It seemed to me that the Y-bikes had two design considerations.
    1. Create a unique looking frame design.
    2. Figure out how to add a shock into that mix.
    The Y bike was Trek just responding to the flavor of the month. At the time there were either single pivot bikes and 4-bar links. As we all know, Specialized purchased the rights to use that suspension design and were fairly litigious regarding anyone infringing on it, even so far as defining the boundary protected by patent for the rear pivot at the rear axle. Along come Castenello with a different design that gave some ok suspension and companies were all over it, as it was different than the single pivot.

    The unified rear triangle was best designed with the pivot over the chainrings but there were a handful of those on the market already so trek just lowered the pivot to give them the y-bike shape. So it was different than the Specialized, different that the single pivots, simple looking, and didn't suffer from chain growth, and didn't look like the castenello design (rocky pipelines, et al).

    I think there was thoughts involved but the experience to design a suspension that actually worked wasn't with the company, so they did what a lot of companies did and used a similar design as the flavor of the month. Lots of companies did this and to be fair most suspension in this era sucked.
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  21. #21
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    First really good FS were the SC VPP stuff and a few other brands around the same time which I would put around 2002 or so, although there were major geometry changes in the following 6 or 7 years which have stuck, separate from suspension design. There were definitely usable FS before that, but IMO those sorts of change from single pivot and URT and other stuff was the game changer. SC Blur 1.0 and similar were the ones people would still ride now. And yes superlight and other frames have made single pivot more usable but IMO the multi pivot designs are what really changed everything.
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    My first FS bike was a 2001 Titus Switchblade with 100mm of travel and a Marzocchi X-fly 100 fork. I had decided that the Horst Link was the way to go and the Titus seemed more solidly built than the Specialized FSR bikes. I came close to getting a Santa Cruz Superlight, but the Switchblade's Horst Link design had less pedal kickback which allowed more efficient pedaling. With a pretty typical Shimano XT build with no particularly unique parts, the bike weighed a surprisingly light 26.5 to 27 lbs.

    What were the first decent full suspension bikes?-titus-switchblade.jpg
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by jestep View Post
    First really good FS were the SC VPP stuff and a few other brands around the same time which I would put around 2002 or so, although there were major geometry changes in the following 6 or 7 years which have stuck, separate from suspension design.
    Enduro, Stumpy,Giants, a heap of Konas, there's a big list by 2002 or so. I still think the 05/06 Enduro is one of the most enduring (pun intended) bikes made. The only thing holding back from a modern bike is the seatpost angle.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockcrusher View Post
    I think there was thoughts involved but the experience to design a suspension that actually worked wasn't with the company, so they did what a lot of companies did and used a similar design as the flavor of the month. Lots of companies did this and to be fair most suspension in this era sucked.
    Good point. Trek being located in Wisconsin really seemed to lack mountain bike expertise in the 90s. A lot of what they did , even with their early 90's hardtails, was pretty conservative in their geometry choices. The build quality of their higher end steel mountain bike frames (the 900 series of bikes vs the lower-end 800 series of bikes) was quite nice though. I think they were even made in the US.
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    Turners were pretty nice. I have a Schwinn Straight 6 which is not bad, suffers from brake jacking though.
    Friends Mantis Profloater was nice for its time.

  26. #26
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    I'll buck the trend here and say that what made early suspension bikes less than awe inspiring, wasn't the design, or pivot placement, or name on the frame, or which "guru du jour" laid their blessed hands on the design page.

    It's the shock units themselves that has transformed our rides.

    Single Pivot bikes get a bad rap, mostly with the "I want 6 inches of travel but I never want to feel it moving", AKA, racer boy, suspension action is robbing my efficiency, crowd.

    And sure, any SP bike with a coil over on it, will boing boing boing, down the trail. Does it allow for faster perambulation, which makes up for a bit of *energy loss*? I'd venture it does, but, whatever.

    However, they also EAT IT ALIVE, compared to Horst link designs, or now, the lotsa pivots makes it lotsa better, designs, that all seem kinda stiff and high, and otherwise underwhelming in their own ways.

    Someone mentioned the Cannondale EST. Crazy bike, and certainly hampered by it's utter junk, shock unit. Much like the Trek 9500. Load it up and watch the rider fly..... =: /

    But, toss a modern shock, onto a solidly designed, older SP bike, like, say, a Super V, and suddenly, it's alive!!! The Uber V trend of a few years ago, bears that out.

    It's not so much the carefully curated precision placement of pivots X, Y or Z, it's controlling what those members do, when in motion.

    So, yay for the folks who pump out rear units that get the job done. But you can stop micromanaging improvements now, and calling them *game changing*, it's time to let bikes be bikes, and stop thinking that because you smoothed the edge of the compression stroke curve, you suddenly found nirvana in a box, and need to market it to the world as such.

    There's a young guy who's joined us on rides a fair bit lately. He's all consumed with the tech. He was telling me about some new Fox rear, going all poetic about it's been totally redesigned, valving changed, and "now it sit's higher in the mid stroke, and is more resistive to compression".

    Oh, I said, so they made it firmer?

    He fought that so hard. No, you run the same pressure as before.

    Oh, so, they made it, firmer?

    I was being somewhat facetious of course, but honestly, technology plateaued at very awesome, about 10 years ago, and the industry has been running on fumes of promised improvements that in all honesty, 99% of the riding public, will never be able to even detect, and for what, exactly?

    I have a full suspension, single speed, 29er, from 1896 hanging in my shop.

    Anyone who thinks the industry is capable of coming up with something truly new, is deluding themselves in hopes of profits.
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  27. #27
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    I reckon we started to get into interesting usable suspension around 2000. Maybe you could argue 96-97 for 4" bikes. To be honest they were fairly shit. Around that 2000 mark dampers were getting reasonable and there was longer travel options as standard.

  28. #28
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    You forgot to list "This new [1992] frame from IRD"

    "It looks neat. And Paul [Thomasberg] says it works great."

    What were the first decent full suspension bikes?-ird.png
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  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by plummet View Post
    I reckon we started to get into interesting usable suspension around 2000. Maybe you could argue 96-97 for 4" bikes. To be honest they were fairly shit. Around that 2000 mark dampers were getting reasonable and there was longer travel options as standard.
    Kids always thinking their stuff was the first / best.

    :P

    The only really meaningful difference between the 1995 LTS and the 2020 LTS force, is about 4LBS of beef, a better tuned shock, and better / easier math to get the pivots in the right spot. Oh, and 40mm travel. New one is better in every way, but the old one very much DID work.

    The bigger change has been that bikes back then were "mountain bikes". Now, they tailor them much more specifically for riding types and need to compromise less. People rode the LTS in downhill world cups, and in XC world cups. For downhill they put on the Judy DH with a whopping 60mm travel :P

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by smashysmashy View Post
    For downhill they put on the Judy DH with a whopping 60mm travel :P
    That is completely and utterly false. It had 63.5 mm of travel. And that extra 3.5 mm made all the difference. (:
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    Ritchey made a rear suspended bike in the early 90ís for Thomas Frishnect. I think he won a World Cup or a world championship on it.


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    mid-late 90's... it has a judy SL, which came out in '95.

    There were lots of bikes like that one with 1-2" travel. they sucked, mostly cause it was just a bit of rubber for the shock. Some hipster today would call it a cutting edge gravel bike.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by smashysmashy View Post
    mid-late 90's... it has a judy SL, which came out in '95.
    I couldn't get over how much better the 99 Judy SL I bought was over the 2001 Judy TT. The latter being absolutely awful.

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    judy sl was a high end fork. the TT was... uh... not. they shared the name, and not much else.

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    Thinking back to my first FS bike in 2001, having a decent fork was as much of a motivation to get full suspension as was the quality of the shock and the suspension design. My Titus Switchblade had a Marzocchi X-fly 100 which was light years better than the RS Judys. It didn't seem to make sense to get full suspension with forks that were better suited to a hardtail frame.

    Suspension pivots that seemed reasonably durable was another consideration that I remember.
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  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mudguard View Post
    I couldn't get over how much better the 99 Judy SL I bought was over the 2001 Judy TT. The latter being absolutely awful.
    I've said this many times but the 97/98 gen 1 SID is still better than many forks being made now. I have 2 of them on old bontragers, but they were such an upgrade over the elastomer and air or coil stuff at the time I still can't believe that fork was made when it was. Pretty sure the Judy SL went to that same air air setup on 28mm stanchions before it went to crap in 2001 or so.
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  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by jestep View Post
    I've said this many times but the 97/98 gen 1 SID is still better than many forks being made now. I have 2 of them on old bontragers, but they were such an upgrade over the elastomer and air or coil stuff at the time I still can't believe that fork was made when it was. Pretty sure the Judy SL went to that same air air setup on 28mm stanchions before it went to crap in 2001 or so.
    What made the gen 1 SID work really well? I never got to ride one of those. Did it have a negative spring to reduce initial stiction?
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    SID had a negative spring. So did the bomber - which I would call one of the first "good" forks. SID was definitely the first rockshox for that was "good". I don't know if Id say it was better than a new one - I had a 2000 model. It was fine.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by celswick View Post
    Ritchey made a rear suspended bike in the early 90ís for Thomas Frishnect. I think he won a World Cup or a world championship on it.


    https://images.app.goo.gl/TMj589sWMnaTzfVc7


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    I would not call that a great or even decent FS bike. Moots made a bike like that as well. They took a slight edge off of hits but that was about it. Henrik Djernis raced on a pro-flex but they basically locked everything out and it was a fully rigid bike.

    In the early 90's - Amp, KHS, GT and eventually specialized made good active FS bikes (all HL bikes). The original Santa Cruz Tazmon and the Heckler were amazing SP bikes that was rock solid and reasonably priced. I had a 1998 Specialized FSR with a BETD link and a Pushed Fox Vanilla that was fantastic.
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    I think this is a very fun topic.

    The Superlight is just a Heckler on a diet, right?

    Anyway, those early days were a time of great experimentation. I feel like the modern bikes are all pretty good, but there were some major duds back then. And forks -- most of them were quite bad on several fronts. The old Bombers being a notable exception!

    I have a 2000 Diamondback X-Link that has a modern X-fusion shock on it, and I think it's pretty good. Linkage-driven single pivot is what folks would call it. Pivot is about at the height of the middle chainring.

    I had a Proflex 897 and it was... just OK. Mac Strut with a highish pivot. My friends had the Cannondale Super-Vs, Ravens, and early Jekylls, and they were all pretty good, just a simple single pivot.

    I agree with the guy who said shock technology is the big change on modern bikes. A simple single pivot with a well-designed shock can make a solid all-around bike.

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by phantoj View Post
    I agree with the guy who said shock technology is the big change on modern bikes. A simple single pivot with a well-designed shock can make a solid all-around bike.
    Makes me wonder what my 2001 Titus Switchblade might be like with a more modern shock.
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  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by phantoj View Post
    I think this is a very fun topic.

    The Superlight is just a Heckler on a diet, right?

    Anyway, those early days were a time of great experimentation. I feel like the modern bikes are all pretty good, but there were some major duds back then. And forks -- most of them were quite bad on several fronts. The old Bombers being a notable exception!

    I have a 2000 Diamondback X-Link that has a modern X-fusion shock on it, and I think it's pretty good. Linkage-driven single pivot is what folks would call it. Pivot is about at the height of the middle chainring.

    I had a Proflex 897 and it was... just OK. Mac Strut with a highish pivot. My friends had the Cannondale Super-Vs, Ravens, and early Jekylls, and they were all pretty good, just a simple single pivot.

    I agree with the guy who said shock technology is the big change on modern bikes. A simple single pivot with a well-designed shock can make a solid all-around bike.
    I would argue the move to a single front chainring was the biggest change in suspension design. Many suspension designs such as VPP and the dw link were designed to allow for great pedaling in all front chainring combinations (22, 32, 42) - something that was not easily achieved with other suspension designs. That is, in the old days, bikes with the HL would try to optimize pedaling in the granny ring (max anti-squat). The single front ring has allowed the HL and SP bikes to be perfectly fine for most riding.
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    There were decent shocks by 1995. I agree that it was discs, then later single chainrings that allowed suspension designs to work much better.

    A lot of the old "bad" designs were straight from motorcycles, where they worked perfectly fine because they didn't have to compromise the way bikes did. We now have gotten rid of 2 of the main compromises. The last one is the irregularity of human drive, which of course will never go away.

  44. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by smashysmashy View Post
    There were decent shocks by 1995. I agree that it was discs, then later single chainrings that allowed suspension designs to work much better.

    A lot of the old "bad" designs were straight from motorcycles, where they worked perfectly fine because they didn't have to compromise the way bikes did. We now have gotten rid of 2 of the main compromises. The last one is the irregularity of human drive, which of course will never go away.
    The old Manitou twin shock design was one too the worst things I have ever ridden. The bike shop that had one made a big deal of how it came from motorcycles and was a good design. I have never been so scared turning on a bike....
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    Ha Ha. I guess we need to be wary of "came from motorcycles" as marketing garbage.

    About the only thing that had in common with a touring bike was 2 shocks...

    I more refer to things like the san andreas, which was more or less a light weight motorbike with no engine. If they built it today with modern geo, refined for single ring, disc only, it would probably be well received for dh or enduro. (I expect there are some bikes more or less like it on sale today)

  46. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by phantoj View Post

    I have a 2000 Diamondback X-Link that has a modern X-fusion shock on it, and I think it's pretty good.
    I always wanted the Diamondback X10 which must've been out around the same time. I never saw one locally though.

  47. #47
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    I was away from the sport at the time, but didnít Tomac have some pretty advanced stuff back in the day?




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  48. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by smashysmashy View Post
    SID had a negative spring. So did the bomber - which I would call one of the first "good" forks. SID was definitely the first rockshox for that was "good". I don't know if Id say it was better than a new one - I had a 2000 model. It was fine.
    Sorry, new mid to high end stuff is incomparably superior, just thinking of what I look for if I'm outfitting a 26in bike, I'd take older high end SID or Reba or Fox compared to much of the low end stuff that's the only new things available these days. Some of them weigh more than the coil-over shocks on my xterra and feel about what I would expect them to on a bike...
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    I'm not the one that said they were better. that was the other guy

    Someone needs to properly compare a suntour XCT to the "best" forks of the mid 90's. mag21, marzocchi 500, original manitou.

    Id bet that the XCT doesn't fare too badly.

  50. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by smashysmashy View Post
    I'm not the one that said they were better. that was the other guy

    Someone needs to properly compare a suntour XCT to the "best" forks of the mid 90's. mag21, marzocchi 500, original manitou.

    Id bet that the XCT doesn't fare too badly.
    Would be interesting to see a vintage vs. modern comparisons, surely someone has the time and a youtube channel to do it now...

    So much of it is largely anecdotal, my own opinion included, although many differences in quality and usability seem painfully obvious and at least weights are available.
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    of all the forks I remember using or friends using:

    quadra 21r - good incentive to buy a nice rigid fork
    judy - bushing life measured in minutes
    amp f3 - dampers blew really fast, but I liked it
    bomber z2 - pretty decent, first fork I had with real adjustments
    sid (2000) - worked more or less like youd expect any fork to work.

    After that I just got rebas. They work fine, are stiff, are light, and can be had pretty cheap. Rockshox really went from 3rd choice if its on sale to the benchmark with the reba/sid chassis in the early 2010's I think - internals change with varying performance, but the basic fork "just works".

  52. #52
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    My son's bike has a SR Suntour XCR Air: https://www.srsuntour.us/products/xc...nt=27528271747

    It seems comparable in suspension quality to the Marzocchi Z-2 with a coil spring. Rebound damping is not super sophisticated but works about as well as the dampers in late 90s and early 2000s forks. I do think that mid to high end modern forks are far superior in the quality of their compression and rebound damping.
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  53. #53
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    The xcr air is actually a good fork. The xct is the entry level sub $100 model that has the big "do not use for mountain biking" label on the back :P

  54. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by smashysmashy View Post
    The xcr air is actually a good fork. The xct is the entry level sub $100 model that has the big "do not use for mountain biking" label on the back :P
    Yeah, the XCT is basically a rigid fork made to look like a suspension fork for the OEM market. I had put an XCR Air on my son's 24" bike and was surprised at how decent it was as a $180 fork.
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  55. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by smashysmashy View Post
    judy - bushing life measured in minutes
    i remember crappy judy bushings, too.

    my LBS was sent several blown cartridges in a row for a judy SL back in '97 or '98.

    the mechanic would send the bad one back and he'd get another bad one in return.

    i ended up getting one of the new manitous at the time; i think it was called the sx-ti. back then, i thought it was the bomb.

  56. #56
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    first time someone ever commented on my Judy they said no lie... is the damper blown out yet ? ...it was...
    "Put your seatbelt back on or get out and sit in the middle of that circle of death." - Johnny Scoot

  57. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spectre View Post
    Yeah, the XCT is basically a rigid fork made to look like a suspension fork for the OEM market. I had put an XCR Air on my son's 24" bike and was surprised at how decent it was as a $180 fork.
    Isn't the XCT basically what comes on kids bikes although often unbranded? Looks like suspension but just makes a 25lb, 20 or 24in wheel bike 30lbs+ and less usable than it should be!

    Not even joking, I couldn't compress the fork myself on my daughter's first 24in bike a few years back.
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    Nah. XCT is a common fork on bikes in the $500-$600 usd range. 100mm travel, 27.5 and 29er sizes. First level of fork that could be considered "real" suspension. Not "good" suspension by todays standard of course, but it's a real fork.

    That's why it would be fun to compare to things from the 90's. Is todays "bottom" fork as good as the top from back then.

  59. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by smashysmashy View Post
    Nah. XCT is a common fork on bikes in the $500-$600 usd range. 100mm travel, 27.5 and 29er sizes. First level of fork that could be considered "real" suspension. Not "good" suspension by todays standard of course, but it's a real fork.

    That's why it would be fun to compare to things from the 90's. Is todays "bottom" fork as good as the top from back then.
    XCT vs. Marzocchi Z1:

    XCT-DS
    coil spring
    100mm travel
    28mm steel stanchions
    lockout: none
    damping: none
    lubrication: grease on replaceable plastic bushings
    weight: 2635g

    Price: $70


    https://www.modernbike.com/sr-suntou...m-travel-black

    Marzocchi Z1:
    coil spring
    100mm travel
    30mm aluminum stanchions
    lockout: none
    damping: twin adjustable rebound cartridges
    lubrication: open bath oil
    weight: 1769g
    price: ??? a lot

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    Bomber is no contest. I mean older forks. Bomber was the transition to "good" in the 90's.

    but also, not a paper spec test. On paper the old forks sound very high end... in reality, not so much.

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    Here is list of forks I've had experience with. Some are from my kids' bikes:

    Manitou SX-R -- probably pretty good, but I was a noob and then I took it apart and broke it.
    Girvin Vector -- J-shape travel makes it deadly on downhills. OK for XC I guess. NR2 shock is not reliable.
    Cannondale Headshok (air w/ adj damping) -- smooth operator that tracks brilliantly. Not much travel. Durable for me.
    Marzocchi Z2 BAM -- About as plush as 63mm of travel will get you, pretty good fork if you're not chasing lightness and efficiency
    Manitou Magnum R -- Noodle with some unadjustable damping
    Manitou Magnum -- Noodle with pogo, can take the guts of the "R"
    Judy TT -- stiction is my damping, squeak squeak
    Suntour XCM LO -- heavy, wears out quick, some unadjustable damping from HLO cartridge
    Duke SL -- ok for its time

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    KHS soft tail? Figure you can't go wrong and if you do it's just a bit wrong.
    I upgraded a Judy back in the day with an Englund Total Air Cartridges. Thought it was a huge improvement, others though otherwise.

  63. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by smashysmashy View Post
    Bomber is no contest. I mean older forks. Bomber was the transition to "good" in the 90's.

    but also, not a paper spec test. On paper the old forks sound very high end... in reality, not so much.
    didn't the bombers evolve from the XC series? i had an XC400 with about an inch and a half of travel; it even had a threaded steerer!

  64. #64
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    Ya'll remember the Arlo Englund Air Cartridges for Judy's.

    GAME CHANGER!!!

    LOL!
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    Quote Originally Posted by jestep View Post
    Isn't the XCT basically what comes on kids bikes although often unbranded? Looks like suspension but just makes a 25lb, 20 or 24in wheel bike 30lbs+ and less usable than it should be!

    Not even joking, I couldn't compress the fork myself on my daughter's first 24in bike a few years back.
    Yes, the XCT is one. I think Spinner also makes an OEM kids bike fork.

    I think a lot of manufacturers realize that a lot of non-cyclist buyers get excited by the promise of having a suspension fork on a kids bike but don't really understand how a suspension fork actually needs to work.
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  66. #66
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    Quote Originally Posted by shekky View Post
    didn't the bombers evolve from the XC series? i had an XC400 with about an inch and a half of travel; it even had a threaded steerer!
    my friend had the xc.. er, 250?

    I think those forks were rated better than the mag21's, but I don't think id go so far as to call them good. id put the XCT up against it and see what happens

  67. #67
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    First full suspension bike that I ever rode that convinced me - as someone who used to remove the suspension forks from my annual employee bike - that not only was suspension here to stay, but that I could probably live with it, was the 1998 Jamis Diablo.

    Using that bike for a 24hr race was a total game changer for me in terms of fatigue and speed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by smashysmashy View Post
    Bomber is no contest. I mean older forks. Bomber was the transition to "good" in the 90's.

    but also, not a paper spec test. On paper the old forks sound very high end... in reality, not so much.

    Most of the "good" stuff in the 90's was LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT as I remember it. Four inches of fork travel? What, are you going to race DH? 63mm is plenty, but go for 80 if you really want to shred the gnar! If your full-suspension bike was over 27 or 28 lbs, you were riding a real pig.

    Eventually, people figured out that stouter, stiffer bikes with more and better suspension travel were the way to go, even if they were a few pounds heavier. Plus, technology could keep the weight reasonable.

    So that's how we get the incredibly heavy low-end XCT fork... It weighs a ton, but it's probably stiffer (at least when new) than most of what was being ridden in the 90's... JMO

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    Weirdly, my 2018 100mm reba weighs 3.4 lbs, not really any heavier than those 90's forks, but oh so much stiffer. My 160mm lyric is 4.2lbs if I remember right - considerably lighter than the Z1 - and considerably stiffer. Also cheaper I think. Lyrik select about $900cdn retail (cheaper online of course) and the z1 was over a grand in 1997.

    It's kinda amazing how much things have progressed in 25 years, even though bikes more or less look the same.

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    I really think around 1999-2000 is when the worst of the rear suspension designs (URT, mac strut) were gone or soon to be gone and most bikes started being "decent". JMO as usual, and my "decent" is pretty bad.

  71. #71
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    This is a great memory lane thread. Not sure why, but I think I still have a couple of left over parts from my 1990's pogo stick FS bikes. I think for me, the first FS bike I felt was more than a novelty, was a '98 Mongoose Pro NX 8.1. Got it new for $1,100 in 1998. I had mixed feelings about Mongoose Pro, and it's comparison to the other Mongoose bikes. The latter known for it's $100 Walmart BMX stuff, while the Pro version was making titanium frames for $2k in the mid 90's. Man, that brand went through the marketing wringer.

    Name:  mg.jpg
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    But it wasn't until my 2003 Gary Fisher Sugar 3+ Disk that I took FS seriously. Cost me $1,900 in '03.

    What were the first decent full suspension bikes?-gf.jpg

    I still ride the Sugar from time to time. It's original XT rear derailleur still works like new, and the original Fox R shock is performing perfectly. It's rear suspension travel can be adjusted from 2-4". To this day, it's still a capable, fairly light, XC speedster.

    Good times...
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  72. #72
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    Mongoose got bought and "positioned" as a Walmart brand. Terrible decision if you liked them, but I guess it could be considered better than just folding up the name. They are now with dorel, who has Schwinn, GT and cannondale among others.

    From memory the mongooses were just rebadged from another sister/partner brand, even in the 90's though. The weren't low end though. I'll have to lok that up. I remember having the double swingarm on in the store, but with the other brand name. (was it just marzocchi branded?)

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    Oh, right. the mongoose amplifier. ha. Just the amp B2 frame rebranded.

    the marzocchi was branded iron horse (now the same company too)

  74. #74
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cayenne_Pepa View Post
    Among all of the bikes in OP's list.... only the Mountain Cycle San Andreas and Santa Cruz Superlight clearly stood out. The rest were still Pogo Sticks, or simply rattled-out tooth fillings.
    I totally second this - though biased because I have owned both, in fact still do - both have been pensioned off but I still have both frames.

    I would though, replace Superlight with Heckler. The Superlight was a derived from the Heckler so really, the Heck gets the nod, as brilliant as the Superlight is. Also, the Superlight was, from memory, 1998 or 1999 so not an early dually.

    The other addition to the list, though not totally early (in my ageing time scale) is the GT LTS.

    Grumps

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    Yeti, Boulder, Cheetah, to name a few.
    **Merry Christmas**

  76. #76
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Grumpy View Post
    I totally second this - though biased because I have owned both, in fact still do - both have been pensioned off but I still have both frames.

    I would though, replace Superlight with Heckler. The Superlight was a derived from the Heckler so really, the Heck gets the nod, as brilliant as the Superlight is. Also, the Superlight was, from memory, 1998 or 1999 so not an early dually.

    The other addition to the list, though not totally early (in my ageing time scale) is the GT LTS.

    Grumps
    it was a heckler that sold me on FS.

    it was a rental, so i ended up buying a superlight frame early the next year.

  77. #77
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    I think good full suspension bikes arrived when the Vanilla R/RX coils and Bombers showed up in 97 on bikes like the RM Element and SC Heckler. Kona too. Or course that was regional. Not too many RM's or Konas outside the PNW. GT was in there with the LTS series but used RS for suspension.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 127.0.0.1 View Post
    first time someone ever commented on my Judy they said no lie... is the damper blown out yet ? ...it was...

    My wife's bike had a Judy (in the mid-late 90's) XC. We went through 1 cartridge every summer. It would generally blow before but I would just wait. I ended up replacing it with a white brothers cartridge and it is still in there. And working almost 20+ years later. Only has compression dampening but actually still works.
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