Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Bruce Gordon, (who plays a prominent part in my "The Beginnings Of The Modern 29"er: A History" story found here), has been making a model called the "Rock & Road" for more years than you can shake a stick at. Noted for its adaptability for off road trails, this 700c bike, at least at first, was the bike that sported the biggest knobby 700c tire you could get. It was oft sold as a flat bar bike as well, so this isn't necessarily a one trick pony when it comes to set up. How is this misunderstood today?
Well, some folks are saying it was/is a "monster-cross" bike. I say, no. It isn't, and here is why....
First of all, the whole "monster-cross" thing is almost laughably undefined. What some folks think is a monster-cross bike is another person's plain ol' cyclo-cross rig, and then some of these bikes are too "mountain bike-ish" for others to see any "cross-bike" in them. Some say disc brakes are a no-no, some say they are okay. Some say a level top tube is a must, some say it don't matter none.
See what I mean? And I haven't brought up the entire tire width debate. To toss the "monster-cross" tag on Bruce Gordon's fine, influential 700c off-roader would be a disservice. Did it make folks pursue the "monster-cross" ideal? Well, I seriously doubt most folks into the whole "monster-cross" scene even know who Bruce Gordon is, much less anything about his Rock & Road bike. Influential, maybe, but definitely not a monster-cross bike here folks. My take is that Mr. Gordon helped perpetuate the "adventure" side of cycling, which has been expanded upon recently, most notably by Salsa Cycles, but I digress....
The Diamond Back gets credited the most with being a 29"er, but, even though it had 45mm wide, true off-road rubber, it falls short by the measuring stick we use today. (Pun intended) Yes- like Bob Poor's example shown here, you could shoe-horn in a Nanoraptor with an appropriate amount of chain stay manipulation, and then I suppose you could qualify it as being a 29"er. However; it wasn't ever sold that way, obviously, and was never intended to have tires, (which didn't exist at the time), that big stuffed in there.
Once again, it took "The Tire"- the WTB Nanoraptor- to usher in the 29"er movement as we know it in 1999. These other bikes faded into obscurity before the Nano's introduction, and 700c mountain biking morphed into the contemptible "hybrid" bike of the late 90's. So, any way you look at these bikes, the most you can say is that they were slightly influential on what became 29"ers, but really, more than that they were failed attempts at big wheeled off roading, which the Nanoraptor helped fix after its introduction.
Two bicycles, two misunderstood takes on big wheeled fun. These bikes should be looked at in the context of the times they were introduced in, not through the eyes of what we understand today as "monster-cross" or 29"ers.