Racing Then and Now

As most of you know I retired from bike racing a couple of years back. I decided after 50 years of racing I had done everything that was possible for me.  

When we moved to our new house I decided it was time to clean house and Matt, from Sunnyside, ended up with my beloved Bridgestone. He has since restored it as seen below. It gave me pause to reminisce about those early days of mountain bike racing. My first mountain bike race was in 1983--no suspension, heavy wheels, toe clips or flat pedals, no index shifting, cantilever brakes, steel frames. Those were the bikes of the day. The courses, well not really much single-track. One of our favorite races was The Revenge of the Siskiyous. It was 40 miles long with 200 yards of single track.  

As the years went on there was more and more but, until the late 90’s, I would say most races were double track road with spots of single track. That doesn’t mean to say it was easy--it wasn’t.  

Brakes were a huge issue. There were courses with long rocky descents that would wear out a set of pads before the descent was over. In the mud we would end up dragging our bikes because the brakes got clogged with mud and the wheels wouldn’t turn.  

As I ride my new bikes I wonder what I would have thought in 1990 about a modern bike.  

Here's a list of changes: My handlebars are 10” wider today. I would have thought "how dumb is that?" Terrible body position--I would have just shaken my head. 

29er wheels: Really? Too heavy, you can’t turn. What’s the point?

Full suspension: Way too squishy, you lose all of your power. The weight? No sense in that. 

Dropper seat post:  I think I would have just laughed. 

Hydraulic Disc Brakes. Wow.  I would have said "I want those--now."

The courses are more technical today, and we have learned how to steer bikes with big wheels. Dropper seatposts are almost always faster downhill. Wider bars give us so much more leverage that mud holes, rock gardens, and steep switchbacks are possible with speed.  We realize that by sitting on a proper full suspension bike we get more power, not less.

It's fun to see my MB-Zip together, but I love my new bike with all the gizmos, as my friend Ed likes to call the new additions. 

I will say the MB-Zip is the lightest bike I raced on, and some of my best results were on that bike. 

It's nice to have been there at the beginning, and it’s nice to enjoy a modern bike on our awesome trails. 




Racing in Durango, Co at the 1990 World Championships. 


With the same Bridgestone MB-Zip today.  

My Trek Pro caliber. What I would race on today.

My Trek Pro caliber. What I would race on today.

Don Leet