Now THAT Was a Bike: 1996 Klein Mantra Pro

Jun 24, 2016
by Vernon Felton  


Most of PB's “vintage” bike articles are odes to a model that was so remarkable, so innovative and so absolutely brilliant that it deserves a rousing eulogy. This isn’t that kind of article. Behold the Klein Mantra: the scariest bike to ever roll on dirt.

Birthed in 1996, the Mantra was one of the hottest, most lusted-after models of its time. But let me tell you, from first hand experience, the Mantra was, and still is, a bike to be feared. Should you run across a Mantra (and there are still plenty of them floating about), whatever you do, DO NOT attempt to ride one down any kind of hill. Not if you cherish your collarbones. Consider this a public service announcement with a backstory.



Klein Adroit Vintage Bike
Klein's Adroit was arguably, one of the best performing XC bikes of its time. Note the "supple" riding rigid fork.


It Started Out So Well...

Let’s start at the start, with the bike’s designer, Gary Klein. There might not be a nicer person on earth than Gary Klein. Sincere, soft-spoken and undeniably brilliant, Gary Klein earned a degree in engineering from MIT and was, arguably, the guy responsible for pioneering fat, aluminum tubes on bicycles back in the `70s (you could make the same argument for Charlie Cunningham, but it’s a close call either way). My point here is that when it came to crafting bikes, Gary Klein was no fool. He made ultra-light, wickedly fast aluminum road bikes and by the mid-80s, was cranking out very cool mountain bikes as well.

When mountain biking truly boomed in the mid-90s, Klein hardtails were the hottest things on the trail. Tinker Juarez rode one. There was always a Klein hanging in Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment. And if you wanted the raddest bike on the planet, you picked one of his hand-built, piece-of-art frames on which to hang all those ultra-expensive, very purple and often poorly-executed CNC’d parts. Klein mountain bikes, in short, were the shit.

...Then Came the Mantra

By 1995, however, the tide was turning. Hardtails such as the famed Klein Adroit were still king, but full-suspension bikes were undeniably on the rise….which is kind of remarkable, because if you look at those early crops of full-suspension bikes, there were buck-toothed, sway-backed, web-toed, flipper-limbed abominations as far as the eye can see.

Most early full-suspension rigs were heavy, crudely-executed diving boards full of so much ugly that just looking at them could kill your inner unicorn. And yet…there were plenty riders and engineers (usually the ones who’d cut their teeth riding moto) who could see the potential in suspension. If, they argued, we could just create bikes with more travel, while also making them lighter, more efficient and stiffer…if we could do all these opposing, seemingly mutually exclusive things, we could have truly great bikes. There were also plenty of people who looked at all those Ifs and said, “Screw it. I’ll just go ride my ultra-light, ultra-reliable hardtail, thanks anyways.”
Klein Mantra Vintage Bike
Want to get somewhere tall and lofty? The Mantra was your pony. Want to descend back down that trail? That's where it gets complicated.

And then Klein dropped the Mantra like some kind of candy-coated bomb. Let’s consider the facts: The bike doled out (on paper, at least) a then-astounding 5.3 inches (135 millimeters) of rear suspension, yet weighed about 24 pounds when decked out in XTR. In other words, it weighed less than most XC hardtails yet somehow boasted as much rear travel as a freeride bike. Ticket price for that first top-shelf Klein Mantra Pro? $4,000.

Klein mountain bikes were famous for both their wicked-sharp handling and their ability to scoot up a fireroad; this was clearly what Gary Klein was aiming for with the Mantra as well. Short (16.38-inch/416-millimeter) chainstays were mated to a belly-dragging, 11.7-inch (297-millimeter) bottom bracket height. Did I mention the 41.21-inch (1046-millimeter) wheelbase? It was sporty as all hell.


The Unified Theory

By now, you’ve probably also noticed that the Mantra was a member of the URT (Unified Rear Triangle) tribe. In other words, the bottom bracket was fixed to the swingarm. The idea here was that you could stop the bike from bobbing around on climbs by simply making the suspension “lock out” the moment you got out of the saddle and started mashing the pedals. Your weight essentially countered the swingarm’s ability to compress the shock. It worked in the sense that the bike did, in fact, climb like a hardtail when you were out of the saddle.

Klein Mantra Vintage Bike
Early designers were vexed with the question of how to make suspension bikes feel like they didn't have any rear suspension. One novel solution? Fix the bottom bracket to the rear swing arm! Voila - instant crap.
The URT design also lacked the many pivots that tended to poop the bed on more complicated designs. It was also durable and relatively stiff. And, last but not least, the Mantra Pro made so many other full-suspension bike out there look like they were cobbled together by well-meaning, developmentally-delayed toddlers who’d somehow been handed TIG welders and piles of scrap aluminum.

Gaze now at the marvel that was the Mantra Pro—it had a “Torque Control Bream fuselage", for chrissakes! Torque Control Beam? That’s some Star Trek shit right there. The Klein looked about a thousand times “radder” than everything else on the market and one can never underestimate the massive selling power of perceived rad-ness. Could you get other full-suspension bikes in a “Blastberry Chameleon” fade paint job? Not a chance.

Hell, Klein even cooked up their own dual elasto-cellular shock. Whuh? See that thing in the photo at the top of the page that looks like a nuclear missile silo aimed at your nethers? Yeah, that thing—that’s the Klein Suspension Cylinder. They made it themselves and it housed “Two parallel Elastocell springs and a Fluid Logic Damper that provide more cushion and less bounce than other conventional bike shocks.” A whole lot of people read that bit of marketing gloop, frowned in confusion…and immediately slapped down their Visa cards to get themselves some of that.

Say what you will about the Mantra today, but back in 1996 when production units rolled out, this was a bike that looked like it was designed by the very hand of God or Ganesh or Thor or whoever happens to be your deity of choice. All signs indicated instantly awesome times out on the trail. You’d ride the Mantra. You’d shame the lesser mountain biking hordes and you’d head back to town for a microbrew and a trip to the tattoo parlor to get inked up with a totally unique Kokopelli or tribal-design arm band. You’d bro out with your bros. You would become the Undisputed King of Dirt.

Huzzah! Right?

Klein Mantra Vintage Bike


Descent Into Hell

Not exactly. The Mantra rode a whole lot better on paper than it did on dirt. True, it scaled climbs like a mofo. It even boasted good traction when you hunkered down on the seat and muscled your way up hills. It was way ahead of the competition on that score.

But on descents? Oh, dear Lord…. It was as if the bike had been dreamed up, designed and built on top of desecrated Indian burial grounds. The Mantra was possessed of an unholy grudge against anyone brave or dumb enough to climb aboard. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not suggesting the Mantra Pro was a “bad” bike on the downhills. I’m telling you it was an evil bike. There’s a difference.

For starters, there was the whole URT thing. The problem with a bike that “locks” its suspension when you ride out of the saddle is that you ride out of the saddle whenever you are going downhill. In other words, when you wanted the rear suspension to act like a rear suspension, it was off taking a lunch break somewhere while you were getting your teeth rattled out of your head. It was a shit idea.

Klein Mantra Vintage Bikes
One place where the Klein Mantra truly excelled? In Klein catalogs.
But that’s not the bad part. Not only did the Mantra sport a fiendish auto-firming rear suspension, the bike also had a tendency to simply buck you off the front of it. Hit the front brake at high speeds and the front end (with its whopping three inches/75 millimeters of travel) would dive, the swing arm would hinge forwards, completely extending the rear shock, which radically reduced the wheelbase and created the steepest possible head angle at the absolute worst possible moment... It was hard to fully appreciate all of this, of course, because you were now busy flying over the handlebars. There was no shortage of f*ckery afoot.

I’ve lost count of the number of outstanding riders—guys who raced downhill at the semi-pro and professional level—who were unceremoniously flung from the stink-bugging bike. It was as if every Mantra bitterly resented being ridden and was merely biding its time before it drew first blood. The first time I piloted a Mantra, I was floored by how well it ate those uphill miles. It was 1998, The Mantra was an undeniably gorgeous bike. Moreover, the rear tire felt as if it was glued to the fireroad climb.

Then we dropped down this trail we called Cheating Death. Cheating Death plummeted straight down the side of Sullivan Canyon and it was so steep that our V-brakes would heat the rims to blistering temperatures and we'd occasionally blow out the sidewalls on our tires. It was a treacherous, heart-in-your-throat kind of descent. And I’d cleaned it every time I rode it. On hardtails. On that first descent aboard the Mantra, however, I was bucked off the bike no less than three times before I got halfway down. My co-workers were grinning evilly as they waited for me. Getting tricked into riding the Mantra was a kind of rite of passage at the magazine—a hazing ritual akin to waking up and finding that one of your "friends" has Super Glued your hand to your crotch.

In the years that followed, I did my best to steer clear of every Mantra that crossed my path, but the bike would rear its brutish head at damn near every Trek press camp (Trek owned Klein). During those press launches each editor would try his best to avoid his turn on the thing, clambering atop any dreadful Gary Fisher Level Betty or Trek Y-Bike in sight. As in any game of Russian Roulette, however, there comes a point when you find yourself pointing the barrel of a gun at your temple, knowing full well that there's a bullet in the chamber with your name on it. At times like that, you just prayed you wouldn’t break a body part that couldn’t be mended.

These were the dark days for Trek, when they were an absolute powerhouse in road cycling, but were developing plenty of dirt models that were woefully behind the eight ball. Oh, sure, the Mantra was updated over its six-year lifespan. It’s not as if Klein and its parent company weren’t trying to make it a better bike.

That MCU-spring was quickly replaced with various coil and air-sprung shocks. Less expensive options floated out, as did sexier carbon versions, and in an array of dazzling paintjobs, because no one, to this day, offers bikes with better finishes than those old Kleins. But, it was all just so much lipstick on a pig. The basic, bucking bronco design never changed.
Klein Mantra Pro Carbon
You could make the Mantra Pro out of carbon, but you couldn't actually make it a good bike.

Klein retired the Mantra after the 2001 season, replacing it with the Adept; an ultra-light, Klein-flavored version of Gary Fisher’s Sugar design. The Adept had less travel than its predecessor, but didn’t hate the mountain bikers piloting it, so it was a monumental improvement. Soon after, Klein offered the Palomino—a Klein-badged version of the Maverick ML-7. Klein made those early Mavericks, so it was an easy transition. For a few years, the Palomino did an admirable job of what the Mantra was supposed to do—climb like a scalded goat-monkey and descend with respectable grace.

But, it was all for naught. Trek pulled Klein from American and European bike shops in 2007. Like Spinal Tap, Klein remained big in Japan for a couple years and then it was all over. I have no real evidence here, but I can’t help but think the Mantra (and the inevitable second-classing of the cross-country hardtail) put a nail in the coffin of that company. It’s not as if you could ever say that Klein produced slip-shod bikes. Every model with that name printed on the top tube was still a well-executed bike. The Mantra proved, however, that a well-executed nightmare of a design is still a nightmare.

Klein Mantra Vintage Bike
A Mantra circa 1998, note the Fox ALPS shock, first-year RockShox SID fork and the undeniably great, 8-speed XTR drivetrain. The Mantra was top-shelf stuff. Terrifying, but top-shelf.

Of course, there are riders out there who will disagree with me to this day—collector types who cherish the five or six Mantras hanging in their attic showrooms. I still see the occasional Mantra flying up a trail and then being ridden gingerly down the other side. People call them “nimble”. They argue that it takes “an experienced and skilled rider” to handle the descents on a Mantra. To each his or her own, I guess. There are, after all, also plenty of people who like to swallow flaming swords or juggle chainsaws before retiring to bed each night. Like the Klein Mantra, these things are an acquired taste. My advice to you, however, is this: Don’t ride one down a hill. And if you do, be real careful when you squeeze those brake levers. I’ve ridden plenty of bikes that I haven't liked in my nearly two decades of testing bikes for a living. There’s only one, however, that continues to terrify me—you’re looking at it right here.


MENTIONS: @vernonfelton





221 Comments

  • 107 2
 This, this right here... "Hit the front brake at high speeds and the front end (with its whopping three inches/75 millimeters of travel) would dive, the swing arm would hinge forwards, completely extending the rear shock, which radically reduced the wheelbase and created the steepest possible head angle at the absolute worst possible moment" Sounds like a Horror film that easily could make horror films legit again.
  • 58 2
 It was almost as if someone asked, "Hey, what are all the things you never want a bike to do when you are descending something scare? Let's make a bike that did all of those bad things simultaneously!" That was the Mantra. It was, however, a hell of a climber for its era and I think that's what Gary was really aiming for with the design.
  • 11 0
 @vernonfelton: i remember back in like '96 as a 17 yr old bmx kid walking into my lbs and seeing the schwinn s 9 six on the floor with it's urt goodness and thinking "why would you want suspension that doesnt work when you stand up?" i never even looked at a mt bike yet and i knew it was a bad idea.
  • 65 0
 @keystonebikes: It boggles the mind, doesn't it? And yet the Klein was one of many such bikes. I think the leading magazine at the time pronounced URT as the best suspension system available. Amazingly, relatively few people were still snorting coke at the time. It's hard to explain.
  • 5 0
 really surprising RMB went with a URT on their Pipeline back in the day.
  • 1 0
 @vernonfelton: lol it made me think "wow, mt bikers must stay on the seat for everything, even rough downhill stuff"
  • 1 0
 @vernonfelton: They actually briefly sold this bike with a triple clamp fork. No sh!t.
  • 43 1
 Where was @protour when they made this bike?
  • 25 0
 c'mon pb, show these boys a slingshot!
  • 11 0
 @dsirl: I remember. I think that was 98 (the Mantra Race LT), back when you could put a four-inch travel Manitou X-Vert triple clamp on a bike and call it "freeride". Back when four inches of travel was "long travel". That's worth pondering all on its own. Cheers.
  • 6 1
 It's hard to believe that anything could be worse than the Trek 9000... But yeah, this is it right here.
  • 11 0
 @fullbug: just googled the Slingshot.... I'm physically shaking from fear!
  • 7 0
 @vernonfelton: you forgot to mention the crappy rear dropout that faced out the back!..bye,bye rear wheel when casing a jump...
  • 2 0
 @jaydawg69: Lol! Oh the Pipeline. Earned many a bruise/contusion riding/breaking those!
  • 2 1
 @vernonfelton @keystonebikes according to wikipedia
Klein Bikes
Founded: 1985
Ceased operations: 2009
Parent organization: Trek Bicycle Corporation

Klein Bikes becomes Trek ? May you explain for me guys.
  • 4 0
 @FabienTT: trek soaked up klein like they did gary fisher.
  • 1 0
 @keystonebikes: Thanks gentlemen
  • 2 0
 @Drago: Good point. Yes, the odd rear-facing micro drops... because, well, just because.
  • 6 0
 @FabienTT: Just like @keystonebikes said, Trek acquired a host of companies in the mid nineties, including Bontrager, Klein, Gary Fisher and Icon (a component company). Some things worked out. Others, less so. People stopped buying the Bontrager bikes because they felt Trek's welding quality couldn't be up to par (not true, but perception is reality and all that), so Bontrager became a component and accessory brand. Gary Fisher was recently (about five years back) absorbed back in to the general Trek line and Klein just whispered away into the night. Sort of a shame as their road bikes and hard tails were stunning.
  • 1 0
 @FabienTT: trek bought the name of the company, just like they did bontrager. Gary made money after losing it all when shut down by the EPA by selling the rights to the name.
  • 1 0
 @fullbug: As soon as I read the line "the scariest bike to ever roll on dirt" my next thought was, "These guys never rode a slingshot!"
  • 3 0
 @full15: The scariest part is the slingshot is a bike they are still making today
  • 1 2
 @fullbug: Sling shots are great . They are awesome climbers and not bad on the downs .
  • 1 0
 @aoneal: To be fair, at least the Klein used a real (ish?) shock in their design. The Trek 9000 had an elastomer ball on a metal rod that was used to control compression and rebound...
  • 2 5
 I already knew that bike was trash back in 1996 before most of you were born but looking at it now its hard to imagine the mentality of someone willing to buy a contraption like that. Or any klein for that matter. Going out of business is the best move they ever made.
  • 1 0
 I read somewhere that the Klein factory had major water spills that polluted a nearby river,in the mid-nineties.
The brand was fined for large sums of money,and I guess that it's from that finantial difficulties that enters the Trek dela.
Can someone confirm?
  • 1 0
 @keystonebikes: They Also absorbed Lemond bikes as well as bontrager. I think there may be more.
  • 2 0
 @krisrayner:
I was always a vocal critic of this design back the day. Any version of the URT is like putting the footpegs on the swingarm of a motorcycle. It is unbelievable that many at the time thought it was the holy grail of suspension design. I believe Scott Nicol of IBIS was guilty of this delusion.
  • 14 0
 The worst feature of these bikes was trying to do any kind of ladder drops, any kind of drop off. When I rode my yellow mantra friends would eagerly wait for me at the landing zone of the ladder drops. My Mantra would compress on landing, my knees would bend on landing. My balls would get closer to the saddle. The shock would rebound. The seat would smash into my balls. The friends would wet them selves laughing. I hate this bike more than I hate cancer. Until I die I will not buy anything from Trek, my balls won't let me.
  • 1 0
 @Protour: ah, had a little motorcycle once with URT!! A very rattling ride.
  • 2 0
 It's a shame the Mantra is such a pig as the Adriot is stunning even by todays standards. I am also old enough to rememner URT. They were sold as the XC riders full sus bike. 5" travel was massive for the day. The only thing bigger was the Foes LTS with 6". Now that thingthing was ahead if its time - Vernon could you do an article on it?
  • 3 0
 @fartymarty: RC is a better guy for the Foes--I'm guessing he rode that one. I've got a few cool bikes waiting in the wings, though...
  • 1 0
 @jaydawg69: The pivot point on the Pipeline was much lower and I think gave better leverage on the shock while standing...it was cush in the seat but still some decent suspension while standing. Had a friend who had one and it didn't behave in an unpredictable or "evil" way....it was actually quite a fun ride.
  • 1 0
 @vernonfelton: I rode a Catamount! For years! Equally bad, although the overpumped SID on the front helped with the brake dive a little bit. Smile
  • 1 0
 @vernonfelton: I can't wait. These are my favourite articles on PB. Takes me back to the good old days.
  • 1 0
 @vernonfelton:
Just read your article, it's come out too late for me. I am literally taking delivery of a Mantra Carbon 2000 today. Always thought it was a cool design with unbelievable pain job. Always wanted one and thought it would be fun to have. Currently I ride a trek stumpjumper.
Am I really taking my life in my own hands on a trail ride with some short down hills that are not of expert difficulty?
  • 52 0
 I do believe this is THE very first time I've ever heard anything negative about any bike written up on pinkbike. Ever. Its official: Vernon Felton has balls
  • 9 0
 This and the new Jamis AM bike, didn't that get berated? (flexy 160 bike for smooth trails)
  • 3 1
 @WasatchEnduro: Ha yup the Jamis Defcon.
  • 18 1
 I know right. This really going to cut into Klein's' sales figures. They might even pull their ads off Pink Bike
  • 1 0
 @Fattylocks: Phahahhahaha. Top comment, for sure.
  • 33 0
 I love that one guy on Craigslist who still thinks his 20 year old Klein Mantra is worth it's weight in gold, always gives me a good chuckle
  • 6 0
 @Longrider: It's got the Boom Tube! LOL!
  • 1 0
 @Longrider: a steal at 400$ Smile .....right
  • 2 0
 There are two of them on Portland CG.
  • 6 0
 hudsonvalley.craigslist.org/bik/5591381582.html

$1600! With the stem raiser I'm assuming.
  • 1 0
 @WAtrailmaker: I just saw one being ridden in Lincoln Park here in Seattle. It looked mint. Crazy.
  • 3 0
 @Endurahbrah: Boom tube you say? Sold!!
  • 1 0
 There's no shortage of overpriced late 90s bikes that, for the same price, you can get a carbon framed modern bike (a 1997 Kona hardtail or a 2015 Ibis Mojo HD? Tough choice).

But yes, for some reason, Klein Mantra sellers always demand an extra luxury tax.
  • 4 0
 @Longrider & @EndurahBrah:
I went through the trouble of sending this awesome pinkbike link to the sellers of the bike. Lol
  • 1 0
 Hilarious, if you are still running one of these bikes it is mandatory to run a long stem to compliment it pro properly.
  • 40 7
 Looks like a session.
  • 5 0
 Prelude to a session. haha, and just have a look at that rear axle path!!! Dangja dangja dangja *Steve Irwin voice*
  • 3 21
flag Boardlife69 (Jun 24, 2016 at 13:46) (Below Threshold)
 How the fuch does this get up voted? Go home PB, your bipolar opposite is out again.
#26 ain't dead.
  • 28 0
 this article is gold.
  • 19 0
 Man I feel old . Klein true heritage will go down as one of the sickest hard tail builders every . Before trek bought them out kleins bikes where true works of art . Braised welds custom paint jobs and impeccable handling . Full suspension in the 90's was a complete gamble , with about 200 different manufacturers all with there own designs and no internet for research it was all magazine articles and word of mouth .
  • 4 0
 That trend changed really fast by the late nineties.
  • 3 0
 The Intense Spyder was a capable full suspension rig in the mid to late nineties.. A buddy of mine was riding for Intense in the expert class and was on of the few blokes on a full boinger at the NORBA nationals CC at Mammoth mountain in 1996. I was on a hardtail struggling with the pumice... Not all fulll suspension bikes of the day were as poorly designed as this Klein... going downhill...
  • 7 0
 I've said for a while Trek should resurrect the Klein name for a line of killer burly hardtails... I remember seeing my brother in law getting pogo-ed off his Mantra like a Bugs Bunny cartoon. I don't think I've laughed that hard ever again. He still has it.....
  • 7 0
 If Klein were resurected they would have to have killer paint options.
  • 1 1
 agreed, it's been all downhill since 1996- this was the pinnacle of mtbs!
  • 18 0
 My first experience with MTB was Klein. Before I'd ever heard of Trek, before I knew who specialized was, my 6th grade teacher, in my podunk ass town, had moved in from "someplace else", & apparently that someplace had discovered MTB(I know you younger people can't conceive of a place being so out of the loop that we didn't even know what MTB was in the early 90s, but there was a time before the internet.)

& he rode his chameleon green/purple Klein hardtail to work every day. it sat next to his desk, & it blew my mind. This was probably one of the first things I'd ever seen in my life that was truly expensive, something that had no compromises whatsoever. & then he brought in those videos Klein used to send out to promote new bikes, my god, the idea that someone would send out a VHS to anyone who owned your product, & the way they made these bikes look, it was amazing.

& I've spent the last 22-23 years being obsessed with bikes since. Thanks Mr. Reed, for the equivalent of a coke habit.

I really miss Klein though. I'd love to have an old school hardtail(with matching rigid fork, of course) hanging on my wall, & I really miss when they'd get really nuts, like glow in the dark bones on Tinker's 24 hr racing signature frame.
  • 16 1
 If I hadn't looked at your profile, I never would have known this existed. Was this published anywhere?

This piece had me rolling. I never had the opportunity to ride one of these. What's funny is when I first started getting to MTBing, this bike mesmerized me. I remember thinking that this was the pinnacle of bike engineering. My 10 year old self ripping pictures of Kleins out of magazines and posting them on my closet and lockers doors. The LBS was a Trek dealer and had a couple of these on display, and I loved just looking at them (along with the Redline BMX's I could never afford). I really had built it up in my mind as one of the kings of mountain bikes.

It's funny to read this piece with that background. It's akin to when I learned Bill Cosby was rapey. Total nostalgia boner kill (or NBK as the kids are calling it). Goes to show you the power of marketing and advertising on young minds. Maybe I will just buy one to fulfill a now empty childhood dream

#mywholelifeisalie /s

BTW: I've been following you since I started watching the Bible of Bikes and am pretty stoked you're with PB. Do you guys intend to do something similar? The Sutras of Shredders.The Talmud of Two-Wheelers. The Vedas of Velocipedes. I grant permission to use any of those names for the price a signed Pinbike t-shirt.
  • 5 0
 Its only just gone up on the front page. Articles tend to take while to go from some journos profile to the front page
  • 17 0
 Hey @ghettoflash, thanks for the kind words. I wrote the piece about a week ago, but it just went live. Like you, I remember being bowled over by how sexy the bike looked. I was one of the first people to ride one of the first carbon versions and it was in one of those amazing pearlescent "chameleon" paint jobs. I loved it until about 20 feet into the first descent. Just horrible. Of course, to be fair, a lot of bikes were horrible in one way or another back then. It was a brave new world full of crazy ideas. There were also, as my associate RC points out, a number of bikes that were ahead of their time as well. Exceptions to the rule, but, on the whole it was a time when a lot big companies were thinking "Hey, what if we put a big pivot up here and painted this yellow and made a suspension bike that wasn't really a suspension bike!" It was like one big hippy commune of bad engineering ideas just free loving their way from bad idea to bad idea.
  • 3 0
 @vernonfelton: buy we all want to know, were you able to clean things on this bike? My guess would be the kitchen floor.
  • 1 0
 * but. Cause I like them round and big.
  • 4 0
 @vernonfelton: As a postscript, let's let readers know the silhouette of the Mantra lives on to this day. Just google "Hummer folding bike". No, it's not f/s but maybe suggests the only useful feature of the design is that it can be made smaller... presumably for better storage in your campground under the freeway.
  • 8 0
 @Boardlife69: No. I was terrified after that first descent, though I wound up riding them at a couple press launches afterwards. True story: We had a Mantra kicking around the office at Bike for a year or so and none of the editors would ride it because they were so scared of the bike. We kept it reserved for times when the upper management types would want to go for a ride. On those occasions, we'd roll out the shiny, carbon, XTR-clad Mantra Pro and laugh behind their backs as they were bucked off the beast. It was always good for a chuckle.
  • 1 0
 @vernonfelton: Who would dare to object Klein's genius by that time? It looks easier, almost 20yrs later, to be honest about big brands products, particular if they are just a piece of history today.
I am sure if I look in my storage I will find the MBA issue praising the Mantra or the Trek Y series, which I treat my self as well, many many years ago.
I fairly understand and accept how marketing works together with the advertisement and usually the publications "respect" the companies they pay them their salaries. There was a big joke behind the URT design that was never told "on time".
I am just wondering how often this is happening today?
  • 13 0
 Fantastic retrospective - I had a friend who bought an alloy version near the end of its run in 2001 and bragged about all the rear travel it had, and subsequently tried to adapt it to the emerging freeride scene in our late teens.

However, even then I knew enough to question how all that travel was supposed to work when you were standing on the pedals, out of the saddle (i.e. descending, landing any kind of drop or jump, blasting down rooty chutes). And yes, he did break a collarbone on that thing. Remember the original, URT Rocky Mountain Pipeline? Same question, but perhaps more forgiving geometry.

Still, Klein did produce staggeringly beautiful paint jobs and welds.
  • 1 0
 "bragged about all the rear travel it had, and subsequently tried to adapt it to the emerging freeride scene in our late teens."

Thanks for the laugh.
  • 10 0
 Did a quick search in the buy and sell, and found one for sale. The write-up is apparently in keeping with this article's author's experiences with the Mantra. The for sale write-up goes,

"1997 Klein Mantra, Large frame - all aluminum front boom and rear triangle. Pivots in good shape. Front and rear shocks in decent shape. Bike has some era-appropriate upgrades. Clip pedals. Great trail bike.
I recently had surgery on both shoulders, have to sell.

Mantra WINS!!!
  • 7 0
 I would love to dig up some old MBaction and Mountain Bike Magazine's from 1996 to see what the editors said about the mantra, Trek Y, and Schwinn Homegrown. I don't remember reading any negatives about the bikes back then...

@vernonfelton
@RichardCunningham
@ZapataEspinoza
  • 1 0
 I do remember articles talking in general about URT versus 'everything else'. Similar to elastomer versus spring debates.
  • 7 0
 "My father was a relentlessly self-improving bicycle designer from San Martin, CA with low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for stink-buggery. My mother was a fifteen year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet"

A. Powers
  • 1 0
 * Dr. Evil
  • 7 0
 In its early days, mountain biking had a whole "suspend the rider, not the bike"...this is the apex of that philosophy.
See 'Flex stem', or better yet the 'Shit bike' from BIKE magazine.
  • 3 0
 Hahahaha! Love the 'Shit bike'!
  • 3 0
 Hey reformed Roadie... do you remember Softride ? road bikes only I think... One of their marketing mantras (no pun) was 'Suspend the rider, not the bike' I never heard this idea applied to off road bicycles though...

I was doing Triathlons back in the day and alot of folks were riding those Softride bikes... Hmmm
  • 6 0
 @oneplanka: Oh, sir, they made mountain bikes too. It was that kind of era. I think the infamous "Shit Bike" is still clicking and limping about the halls of Bike Magazine like some kind of wounded spirit animal. That said, at least the Softride didn't radically reduce its wheelbase when you hit the brakes. It had that going for it. The Mantra was special that way.
  • 6 0
 I would love to dig up some old MBAcation and Mountain Bike Magazines from 1996 to see what the editors said about the mantra, Trek Y, and Schwinn Homegrown. I don't remember reading any negatives about the bikes back then...
  • 1 0
 True, but I don't remember anything written there anyway.
Except for that what they wrote about my Marble Peak FS..."delivered a slight play in the main pivot during our test" or so...that's what one calls industry friendly. Mine fell apart after the first ride lol ...
  • 7 0
 I have wanted one since 1997. I have read what you wrote here, I have understood and digested it. It all makes perfect sense. I believe you 100%. I still want one. Just f*cking look at it! Its mental.
  • 6 0
 "this was a bike that looked like it was designed by the very hand of God or Ganesh or Thor or whoever happens to be your deity of choice". Sooooo jealous that I could never have thought of writing up anything that well. Applause
  • 9 5
 He obviously doesn't take DMT... for he would know that all of those deities are unified images of the One, created by limited consciousness of the older cultures of men. None the less we cannot deny the intent of sharing good and love by those who met the One, who awaits in the Palace of Present, the transdimensional It, one that transcended enthropy, the other warmth of the fabric of space and time, conquering the inevitable ultimate cold of infinite sparsity. The Palace of Present and it's visions are free to see for all creatures of all world of this universe. Fod Nagashma Pagrratimo Dmped - said the joker head, cut off by a dark swordsman, and laid in hawk's nest on a tree growing from the sky, and it's branches were elk's horns, romboid spinned twice and touched heavens. The the rain of pink poop came down and slowly covered hipster girl's face. And nafta poured from her eyes forming a heart. All creatures of earth drank from it and turned into angels who disappeared behind the events horizon of the yellow hole. I felt your heart beat Leelau, I swear I did.
  • 9 0
 @WAKIdesigns: i totally understood everything you just said.
  • 8 0
 @WAKIdesigns: where did you get your weed from? Seems like some good shit. Mellow out and the mumbo jumbo just keeps flowing.
  • 7 1
 @Rainozeros: you can't trip like that on Weed, Jezuz... Weed will make you aware of the One, but it is unlikely to allow you to talk to it. Insomnia though...
  • 9 0
 @WAKIdesigns: must say i have noticed an increase in your ramblings of late. You always provide interesting reading but i am genuinely concerned. I trust you are looking after yourself!?
  • 6 0
 Hilarious piece, Vernon. I had a '98 Mantra. Yeah, it looked damn cool. I had that POS matching Manitou fork on it that the Mantra comp came with. In '99 I actually did something that seemed insane to everyone around me at the time that improved the Mantra's descending ability immensely. I was already wowed by all the crazy freeride stuff routinely published in Bike and that's what I wanted to do. Thus my poor Mantra ended up with coil shock (scored one of the old blue MRP springs), DH tires and most importantly a 130mm Z1 Bam. That slacked the front end a bunch and offset the bike's jackknifing to a manageable degree. All my riding buddies looked down their noses at me perched atop their SID-equipped IF's, Moots, etc. However, I could lower the seat and beat them down all the descents...if I made it down in one piece. Thanx for the trip down memory lane.
  • 3 0
 I had the same bike. I was a 15 year old in 1998. Not much experience with bikes in general but at the time it was so beautifully simple and crazy ass at the same time. It was as light as a hardtail with this humongous downtube/top tube and ridiculously steep angles every other full suspension bike I rode felt slow and soft. I could bunny hop over anything since it was basically a huge pogo stick. It squirted up hills like a donkey with a flare up its ass. An inchworm that contracted and expanded itself depending on the terrain, popping its rider over 90s obstacles. It was the only mountain bike I ever had until I went to college, lost interest, and returned to mountain biking, got addicted again and bought an all mountain sled in 2010. All modern bikes are monster trucks in comparison. Seriously this Klein is special and doesn't deserve the hate. It was groundbreaking for its time and deserves its rightful spot on the podium of most epic bikes of all time.

The reason is this: you will never get an insane bike like this ever again. The industry/consumer will never allow it. It wasn't a horrible bike per se, it was super fun to pilot on anything but down, and it is genuinely a work of art beyond any engineering credentials it may have possessed.

If they were to resurrect the platform with progressive geometry, a Fox 36 fork and minimal rear travel, I'd buy it. Just imagine a slack bike that got even slacker everytime you hit a bump. Crazy idea but it might be fun.
  • 5 0
 Gotta go with the 1989-1990 Klein Rascals and/or Top Guns there. I was a kid living in Cambria, CA and would clean the rental bikes at Cambria Bicycle for a buck or so for candy. Back then those things were handmade and around $4,000.

I’ll never forget the day the owner or manager, not sure, his name was Mike, let me take the Top Gun down the block to the candy store. I was probably 12! I was ‘king of the world’ for a half hour!
  • 4 0
 @jeremiahwas Those hardtails were things of beauty, no doubt. When it came to building razor-sharp handling hardtails, Gary Klein knew his stuff.
  • 3 0
 @vernonfelton: Indeed.
Btw, I appreciate all your bike (and related) reviews! Think I’ve read most of them going back a few years. I’ve had two Stumpy Evo Expert 26”s due in part to your guys’ glowing reviews back in 2012. and the recent Enduro 29 video on the Bible of Bike test really helped me on my recent purchase when I was stumped on the 650 or 29 version. When you’re dropping many thousands of dollars on a ‘toy’ and still have diapers to buy great no-b.s. reviews are invaluable. Thanks.
  • 2 0
 @jeremiahwas: Sure thing. Cheers.
  • 5 0
 I owned two of these over the years, including the chameleon green one pictured in your article Vernon. Your assessment of that bike is spot-on. I don't own the Mantras anymore, but I will forever carry the orthopedic hardware they gave me.
  • 1 0
 Well put, @Ringtail. Those paint jobs were dope though. If only the bike rode as well as the paint job promised...
  • 5 0
 If I recall correctly, Gary Klein developed these frames to be run with a rigid fork. The powers that be at Trek decreed that the bike needed a squishy fork and made what (likely) would have been a bad bike a terrible bike.

I never rode one of these bucking broncos that way, but wonder if any of you PB folks ever did. If so, was it better?
  • 5 0
 good laugh and distraction on an ugly day in the UK. I borrowed a Mantra for my first ever FS experience. Thought it was great at the time....didn't know any better in truth :-)
  • 4 0
 Ugly day for UK yes. Good day for me though as stuff I was going to order from CRC was significantly cheaper due to exchange rates this am. Now I can get the bike parts and a nice bottle of whiskey!
  • 2 0
 @onemind123: Cool! For every reaction there's always an equal and opposite reaction, or something, so I'm glad you've profited :-)
  • 5 0
 Pressfit botton bracket, oversized internal headset bearings, oversized main tubes, internal cable routing, vibrant color schemes. Congratulations Gary Klein you was a visionary!
  • 4 0
 Great article Vernon. Both funny and an important bit of mountain bike history.

I think it's worth mentioning that the URT design originated from the brilliant engineer John Castellano. He should be a household name (within the MTB community) just like Dave Weagle. Unfortunately the prevailing suspension design goal back in that era was to create as much pedaling lock out as possible. When Castellano approached Trek/Klein with his "Sweet Spot" suspension design, they insisted on raising the pivot point to create maximum stiffening when riding out of the saddle. It was nice idea, but this article perfectly explains the ruinous effect on the original design.

Ultimately, the Sweet Spot URT design ended up with a terrible reputation, and John Castellano was brushed off as a hack designer. I would wager that Trek ruined his career in the bike industry by creating an abomination of his original design. I bet he laments the day he chose to conform to their requirements in exchange for food on his table...

Interestingly, if you look at Castellano's preferred interpretation of the URT design, you will see that it has just a bit of increased spring rate out of the saddle, is simple, durable, active with no pedal feedback, and could be run with triple chainrings (or single, or double, or single speed) with no compromise. It pretty much achieves what complicated linkages like VPP does but In a far simpler, more reliable package. It's a shame the URT was ruined by bad timing and poor management of the design intent. It's also a bummer that a great designer had his career cut short. But who knows, maybe the URT will be re-discovered a few generations from now and hailed as a brilliant "new" design?
  • 2 0
 I had the chance to talk with Castellano about this a few years back. Apparently, the relathionship between he and Trek was not quite as rosy as you make it sound, with Trek fighting hard to overturn his patents. Coincidentally, the pivot on the Mantra is precisely at the point top range Castellano's sweet spot patent (73cm off the ground) and the pivot on the Y bike was just about at the bottom (43 cm). Which makes me wonder if Klein and other Trek engineers knew how awful the bikes were that they were selling.
  • 6 0
 I passed a Klein Mantra on a local trail last night. They're still out there pounding out the miles.
  • 3 0
 I see a guy riding one of these at a local park where I take easy rides on rest days.. I always try and strike up a conversation with him but he never wants to chat.. ? He and another guy on an old Girvin proflex full boinger never want to shoot the shit ? old stuck up aloof lycra lizards perhaps ?

I just want to speak with them about the dinosaurs they are pedaling... Ha, it's all good..
I can tell you from following him down a steep fire road.... they stink-bug quite easily... scary indeed.
  • 1 0
 hes too busy being awesome.
can you imagine how good he would be if he werent on a death machine though?
  • 7 0
 This article really makes me want to try descending on a Mantra!
  • 13 0
 Is this one of those situations where you tell your kid not to touch the hot stove, so they reach out and touch the hot stove? Granted, you're not my kid, but for the love of God, man, don't do it. Or, at the very least, don't say I didn't warn you.... Good luck.
  • 7 0
 @vernonfelton: what we need is a UCI racing series where everyone is on Mantras
  • 4 0
 @tigen: Could be more spectacular than Rampage by the sound of it.
  • 4 1
 i worked at a trek dealer during those years, They will never be forgiven. If you are a mountain biker you should never give that company a dime, They only took mtb serious and got their act together when the profit could not be ignored,
  • 2 0
 To be fair, it's kinda hard to develop mountain bikes when your R+D is located entirely in flat-as-it-gets Madison, WI. They did pay big $$ to support the VW team, and they eventually invested in R+D facilities in more appropriate places.
  • 3 0
 Funny story for me and this Klein --- back in the day, when those were new, I had a guy come into the shop looking to have a set of wheels custom built for that same frame. OK, I can do custom wheels, sure...

he slaps a what must have been a 30lbs hub on the counter, then slaps another hub that seemed just as heavy and they both were about 15 inches in diameter

"with these" he says, very seriously

these hubs were an early addition of a motorized wheelset he was trying to sell to the US Army. the front hub was the motor, the rear hub was the battery and he wanted them laced to a standard issue rim (straight lace mind you).

I'm like.... err ahh, I don't have spokes that short..

Seeming almost insulted, the guy says... "ahhh, why not, I need these built today".

in my mind, I'm thinking ---- "I don't have a custom spoke cutter you idiot" but I politely tell him that the spokes required to make such a unique wheel not only are a lot shorter than even the shortest spokes I had, I couldn't just wup them up in a jiffy like that AND I couldn't even guarantee they'd even be strong enough for the job.

THEN!!!! the hot shot pulls a $100 bill out of his wallet and says something like ---- "will this change your mind?".


By this point, I'm 85% sure the guy might be a electrical genius while at the same time, actually a complete idiot when it came to street smarts and basic logic.

I really didn't have a way to lace the wheels up that day without a spoke cutting machine but, he didn't seem to care and he simply couldn't understand why it wasn't something I could just wup up on such short notice. He left in a huff and I never saw him again.

years later, I ran into one of his hench men ... I asked how that wheel project turned out and if they were ever able to pitch it to the US Army. the guy told me the company folded--- go figure

why on earth would the US Army want such a thing anyway? the whole bike must have hit the scale at 100lbs
  • 2 0
 There is just no shortage of crazy in this world, is there?
  • 3 0
 Vernon you are quickly becoming my favourite writer on the mtb net. This particular article was a trip down memory lane. It made me both laugh and cry remembering some of my own personal disasters on my Proflex 954! My work colleague kept asking what i was laughing at and when i told him that f@#kery was afoot he stared at me blankly!! Thankyou Vernon and please keep em coming!
  • 2 0
 I was taking break the other day and one of these comes rolling along. My friends and I were waxing nostalgic, though ignorant having never ridden one. The guy's riding buddy says "pretty amazing huh? It's a pain in the ass to ride"
  • 2 0
 My friend got one of the first trek full Sussers, the one with the elastomer shock that looked like a michelin man's bl#ck cock. First ride straight outta the box, landed a six inch jump an got immediately buckarooed to a broken collar bone!
Early full Sussers sucked balls
  • 1 0
 Thanks for the laugh. I know exactly the bike you describe.
  • 2 0
 I worked as a mechanic in a bike shop that was a Klein dealer. I had an alloy version AND the carbon version. The carbon bike still sits in my basement today. So tempted to get it back together and ride it around just to blow some mines! Yes, it was kind of a turd but, at the time it just looked so cool.
  • 2 0
 Bought myself a Pinnacle frame in 88 as a grad gift after college, by far the best hardtail I've ever owned. Maybe the it was the hot red/pink color and killer welds. The fantastic BB I never had to worry about and the sweet looking internal cable routing. Rode that bike everywhere including Northstar the first year they ran the lift, of course it no longer had the Koski fork on it but rather a bulk/purple Manitou with maybe an inch of travel....
Still have the bike although it's now a beautiful dark green after I broke it on a drop. Klein covered it and even sent me a color palet to pick a color I wanted, great service!!
Hell I'd buy one now in a 29'r, add a nice fork and dropper.
  • 2 0
 Man, I feel old - had just started MTBing, and I remember these bikes, and those Judys, and that first Sid - uber light, if you didn't mind riding a piece of wet spaghetti apparently, but they looked the shizz... I didn't have a Mantra though, I had a '96 Kona Sex Too (yeah that actually was its name!), still using the '96 XT rear mech shown in the first pic.

The day when my mate got his RST 381 DH fork, and the rest of us were like kids in a sweet shop - oooh, dual crown, massive plush 3.5 inches of elastomer travel, lets go huck down some stairs! Those were the days! Big Grin
  • 2 0
 Read this article earlier today and just had to break out my old 1995 TREK Y33 URT bike. Just got back from thrashing it on the local XC trail system. I had forgotten how fast that bike was in the tight twisty stuff. It had me grinning madly in those spots. But then it had me clenching my a-hole hard during fast rough downhill sections where standing was needed. I had forgotten how "responsive" (ummmmm, SKETCHY) that bike was in that environment. And lets not get into the whole Brake- Jack thing just as those old rear canti's would finally start to grab. But all in all it was a blast to ride it off-road (usually religated to pavement rides) once again......hell, my time was not that much slower than with my 2012 Titus X-Alloy. Just a little more "interesting" getting there.
  • 4 0
 Didn't Seinfeld have a Klein bike? I don't know whats whackier, that bike, or Kramer.
  • 3 0
 Yes it was a Klein hanging up in the back
  • 2 0
 Actually it was Kramer's idea to hang the bike on the wall of the house!
  • 3 0
 Most seasons it was a Klein, but there was at least one season where it was a cannondale. They also would do scenes in front of a specialized bike shop regularly.
  • 2 0
 @unrooted: I came across "Kramer," Michael Richards near the top of Mandeville rolling a custom XXL Cannondale hardtail back around '95.
  • 4 0
 Probably the most dangerous bike ever produced... with the exception of a new Demo. Right Protour?
  • 2 0
 I had one of these back in the day! Still the best climbing bike I ever owned. It also taught me how to wheelie drop, because riding down even small ledges one wheel at a time was just too dangerous Smile Good times.
  • 1 0
 I was selling Norco's and Rocky Mountain when that thing came out, never got the chance to ride one but always heard the stories of people getting thrown off. Mind you, back then anything with full suspension was a pogo stick.
On another note, I ride Sullivan twice a week. No idea where cheating death is?
  • 1 0
 It's been about 15 years since I lived down there, but we'd ride the road up to that dead end (fancy neighborhood) and jump on the usual fire road climb to the Missile Site, but very early on, like within the first half mile of that fire road climb, there was a faint single track that took you straight down to the canyon floor. There was another similar trail on the opposite side of the canyon that we used to call Goat Trail. Andrew Juskaitis (my partner in crime from back then and now Giant's global marketing guy) would know if it still exists--he's still down in that general neck of the woods.... It was a steep descent, though not technical per se, just really steep and loose. It'd be interesting to go back and ride all that stuff today on more advanced bikes. Back then ('97), we were considered Kooks for riding hard tails with riser bars and 100-mm travel forks.
  • 3 0
 I still have a mantra pro sitting in my dads barn!! I loved all the Pre trek kleins personally owned an adroit and an attitude. God this makes me feel old.
  • 1 0
 Don't we all feel old after reading this? Wish I'd never sold my attitude. Loved those old Klein paint jobs before they got shut down!
  • 1 0
 Although I know that bike is "special when riding down" I still love it and would like to hang it on my wall next to Klein's beautiful hardtail frame. There was a time when I was seriously thinking about doing that Wink

My friend has cracked Android in his basement and every time I pick up that frame I'm truly astonished by the design, quality of welding and paint job.

I really miss Kleins' HT frames. There just beautiful pice of design and workmanship.
  • 1 0
 My brother in law had 2 or 3 of these, even got the company to use DuPont chomillusion paint (he worked for DuPont). I always thought he was just being a puss on the way down the hill, know I know he was on the asked from hell.
  • 2 0
 I once read that the paint cost $1,800 a gallon. Sounds crazy, but I do know it cost them a pretty penny. The paint jobs were (and are) unrivaled. Of course, you can't ride a paint job, but if you could...
  • 4 0
 they should have a mantra pro rodeo downhill event where pro's compete for distance down the hill!!
  • 1 0
 With unified triangles its ALL about the pivot location. Sweet spots and catamounts (which both have the pivot in the middle of the frame) are the most neutral handling, high pivots like the klein launch you over the bars, low pivots like Fisher/Trek tend to squat too much. Legendary freerider Wade Simmons used to ride a Rocky Mountain Pipeline, and that was a six inch travel sweet-spot pivot URT, and we didn't see him having a lot of over the handlebar launch episodes while descending in the north shore.
  • 1 0
 Pipelines were six inches? When I rode one, they were four. And that was 98-99. You sure on that one? Way better geo than Klein by Rocky for that type of riding at that point in time...and it was wade.
  • 1 0
 @sgsrider: Pipelines had 4/5/6 selectable travel.
  • 1 0
 Great read. Man, I feel like I missed out on some real engineering f!@kery! I took a break from mountain biking for about 10 years from 1997 to 2007 while my kids were little, and I knew this whole full-suspension thing was going on but didn't pay any attention. A buddy of mine had a GT RTS that seemed pretty cool. I seem to have taken a break at just the right time while things settled in and got a little less crazy. But I think I am one of those crazy people, now I am dying to try to ride one down a hill. I have the parts to make that $400 frame in the craigslist add a whole bike . . . nah, not quite that crazy . . . but maybe tonight after a few beers.
  • 1 0
 I have ridden a Klein Palomino for the biggest part of my mountain bike career, and although it climbed extremely well (better then my current bikes), the descends were absolutely terrifying! I dont even want to know how badly the mantra descends if the palomino is "okay" compared to the mantra. I learned a lot from my palomino though, fun bike!
  • 1 0
 A Gator Fade Adroit is still on my wishlist now, stunningly beautiful frame and forks, although one in nice condition will set you back as much as it would have new. I never tried a Mantra, but when in the market for my first full suspension I decided straight away that URT was a stupid idea, Tried an Orange X1 and a Trek Y something which proved it was a stupid idea! Then bought a Santa Cruz Tazmon because the suspension worked and the swingarm pivoted on bearings! Something we more or less take for granted now but it was mostly plastic bushes in those days.
  • 1 0
 Very entertaining, well written article, thanks for sharing. However, so far as drool worthy's concerned, the Mantra was nothing compared to the Foes Weasel, which looked f*cking awesome, and actually performed remarkably well.
  • 1 0
 I head few versions of mantra from 1996 up to the carbon pro.
it was great fun to ride very fast bike the only scary part was a very steep steering angle. which was used on some other XC models of the day too.
if you compare it to other dual suspension XC bike of this years there was hardly any that was as light high quality and that actually preform as good or better on top of this reliability was an issue too with most brave companies that dared making high-end full suspension XC bikes.
I respect Gary Klein and his designs. All his designs. we ware in a different place without his creativity and inversions in alloy manipulations, large steering bearings, top of the dreams paint jobs, internal cable rooting, unique back drop outs and derailleur hanger and the list is long.
I think a bike design should be tested to the values of its era.
please give us more of this vintage tests / writ ups.
  • 1 0
 Awesome article, has bought back some amazing memories of my old 98 mantra comp. And yes, downhill unless it was smooth always made my bum pucker faster than a rabbits nose!! Many a trip was spent dragging my ass from the bushes after being catapulted from that wheeled bastard bucking bronco!
  • 2 0
 Need to show a photo of a CR 250 from 1996 compared to these shitty old bikes from 1996. The tragedy is that it took 20 + years to come up with what we all wanted in the the first place. MX bikes without motors.
  • 1 0
 This article really only applies those people that were not smart enough to lower their seat post before going down hill. If you are smart and don't try to ride it like a road bike and maybe upgrade the rear shock so it has better rebound adjustment then you are golden. Now with dropper posts and good shocks with rebound even normal(or pros who need their seat way way up to maximize pedal force when sitting) can handle this bike. The real answer is to stop riding this bike while sitting down, despite what this article says, the suspension still works when standing on the pedals. Yes it is the best for climbing steep hills, but once again, stand on the pedals and do not stay on the seat. Not a bike for many perhaps, but the best for some.
Two things that killed this bike besides Trek, is putting the seat way too high and as in 1999 when all the entry level mantras came with a shock with almost no rebound control so that the seat would jump up hard and fast. All those problems are easily avoided these days.
  • 1 0
 We sold Klein at my old shop and they were gorgeous frames. The linear fade paint jobs were a sight to behold in person. And they did custom paint options on the high end frames with custom lettering. Great bikes and company!! Where did they go??
" no shortage of f*ckery afoot" i spit my dinner on the table laughing. They sure did exactly as you described and i have experienced that very otb to face on these, and the trek Y bike....good memories from the public beta test team!
  • 1 0
 Yep Klein's had KILLER paint jobs and welds. I did not own a Mantra, but did own an Adept Pro. That bike was fun and fast. Except I broke the swing arm 4 times. The last time Trek did not even paint it the right color so I sold it. Always regretted that decision. Should have got it repainted and hung it on my wall.
  • 1 0
 A funny bit about Gary Klein was he took Cannondale to court over his "patented" oversized aluminum tubing for bicycle frames, and lost.... because of Cannondale learning and producing one Bill Shook (brains behind American Classic) who brought to court one of the aluminum bikes he welded up in the early 70s, when Gary was still in highschool (and hadn't obviously gone to MIT yet, or learned anything related to designing/building bicycles) which featured oversized aluminum tubing (as least compared to the Al frames that had come before it from other designers/manufacturers). He'd raced it, talked about it in the press, and had built copies for relatives who had attended U.C. Berkeley if my memory is correct.
  • 1 0
 Anyone here remember the full-suspension Brodie Libido? Cromoly steel with a unified rear triangle. I owned two amd they both buckled at the same spot -- a quarter way down feom the head tube on the down tube. Fun while they lasted. This said, I really loved the Brodie Expresso I had previous to the mentioned albatrosses.
  • 1 0
 I just bought one off a co-worker for 150 bucks lets the descents begin hahahahaha, actually i'm taking it down to mexico to ride some trails and leave it at my parents... After reading this I'm excited to try to get bucked off lmao
  • 1 0
 Lol, I still pull mine out once in a blue moon to share the smiles: This one pic is about 2008. I put on a taller front fork to slacken the head tube and it worked a lot better, but I had a 2005 reign and 2008 reignx and this was just for training days.

www.pinkbike.com/photo/16743914
  • 4 0
 Hahahahahahaha pure dung.
  • 2 1
 It was a horrible piece of crap compared to my FSR I got a year earlier (before I realized the evils of Specialized). And it was crap compared to Yeti AS I got next.
Really, it was a crappy performing bike.
Truth.
  • 2 0
 Half of the office is looking at my face and trying to understand my sudden burst of laughter. I am literally crying here! Funniest article I have ever read!
  • 2 0
 Damn I wanted one of the Judy SL forks so bad back then,ending up with a anti gravity full of elastomer haha,so happy with the progressions since those days
  • 3 0
 I feel old, but the way it has been written makes me giggle like a 12 year old Doth my cap to you sir
  • 4 0
 Now THAT was an article: Felton 2016
  • 2 0
 I got into MTB in '99, in BC, so these things weren't on my radar what so ever... But this was one hell of a read. So entertainingly written!
  • 2 0
 "Voila - instant crap" freakin' hilarious. Yeah, I got bucked by one of these in the late 90s. I think words similar to this came out of my mouth
  • 1 0
 "Getting tricked into riding the Mantra was a kind of rite of passage at the magazine—a hazing ritual akin to waking up and finding that one of your "friends" has Super Glued your hand to your crotch." hahahaha
  • 1 1
 Dang it Vernon - that hurt by broken rib! I repped Voodoo back in the URT days and they had a URT bike. I don't have the same dreadful memories but then again I've crashed a lot and drank a lot of beer since then so it's all a little fuzzy. :/ Maybe there was a reason I was riding the Voodoo ti hardtail!
  • 2 0
 Ah, the Voodoo Canzo. Yup, rode that one too. Life is so much better now.
  • 1 0
 Voodoo Zobop,red and black with Rockshock Indy S forks, Tioga DH 'sofa' saddle ,Club Roost oversize risers and stem, Oddessy Black Widow pedals with Powerstraps. I rode this DOWNHILL using a 850lb Eibach spring (the pretty blue ones). I weighed about 370 back then and used to scare the shit out of the guys on san andreas,GT LTS and Sintesi Bazookas.
  • 2 0
 We have a MINT carbon version of this turd hanging in our shop. It's avail to demo actually but you must bring your kite board or wind surf set up for deposit.
  • 1 0
 Might be ideal for EasyCLIMB
  • 1 0
 These blast from the past bike articles are great reads. I hope there will be a feature on the original Mountain Cycle San Andreas. If there ever was a mountain bike that was a "game changer", it had to be that for sure.
  • 1 0
 Love the article.
I just wish someone, anyone, would do paint jobs on production bikes that are as cool and varied as Klien used to.
Favourite colour, storm rising! What's yours?
  • 1 0
 I must admit, this was untypically good for Vernon. Probably because this was his first honest, no-holds-barred review in his life. Klein being out of the picture probably helps, too.
  • 1 0
 Put a 140mm fork on the front and a halfway decent air shock on the back and this bike gets a new life. You can actually go downhill on it, and it still climbs like a scalded goat. Wouldn't give up this bike for anything.
  • 3 0
 Experiments of the 90s Smile
  • 2 0
 I had one!! I used as a slalom bike! Yes, I know that wasn't it's purpose, but it worked.
  • 3 0
 "There was no shortage of f*ckery afoot." There is it.
  • 3 0
 still looks better than an ellsworth!!!!
  • 3 0
 @zmcycle Lookin' at you Ziggs!
  • 2 0
 I would like to see a GT I drive 2001 xcr4000 "now theres a bike" or Ventana Pantera!!
  • 2 0
 Sweet irony, a full suspension design that completely defeats the point of having full suspension...
  • 1 0
 I had a 96 Klein hardtail that was sweet, drooled over the mantra for how light it was but knew it was a terrible pivot placement. Glad I couldn't afford one.
  • 1 0
 Is the Cheating Death trail the one that connects Backbone trail to Sullivan Canyon trail where the decent ends just south of Camp Josepho??
  • 1 0
 Great read. Got into the sport in the early 90's, wanted a Klein but probably good I never got one. Still bummed that Trek killed the brand. Legendary paint.
  • 1 0
 Vernon, I have a selection of short stories by hunter Thomson. This article would fit right in. Remember his ducati review?

I expect your work will be published someday.
  • 1 0
 Great article! I worked at a bike shop in the mid to late 90s and remember we had one of these bad boys in at one point! I love seeing the vintage stuff
  • 1 0
 there's been some damn good history and stories on this thread. it's brilliant to read, we need more historical front page headliners like this please PB
  • 1 0
 There is one for sale in Oz for 3.4k (2k US)...
Wonder if it comes with a free coffin?
Cracking article, made me giggle a wee bit!!!
  • 1 0
 So, here we have high suspension pivot hence a nicely rearward axle pad. @Protour: could you please elaborate why you prefer this bike over, say, a Specialized Demo?
  • 2 0
 Great article sir! Thank you for making my Friday better.
  • 3 1
 After seeing this I'm glad I was riding BMX in the 90s.
  • 2 0
 9 speed XTR? on the last photo
  • 2 0
 Great read. Well written.
  • 2 0
 All I ever used to think was is it pronounced clean or clyne?
  • 2 0
 Endo special! The 150mm stem didn't help
  • 3 0
 Great read!
  • 2 0
 I enjoyed that, nice one Vernon.
  • 2 0
 @vernonfelton : another brilliantly entertaining read
  • 1 0
 ".....so much ugly that just looking at them could kill your inner unicorn." Now that's funny. And true.
  • 2 0
 Demos? No we don't do those...
  • 1 0
 Great article! I think the Mantra today is a great XC bike, I have a carbon Mantra Pro, but the size is too big for me =(
  • 1 0
 Klein hardtails were a work of art. Still have my Klein Attitude in burnt orange.
  • 2 0
 Great article!
  • 1 1
 Never before or since has a bike looked so much like it was bumming itself...
  • 3 6
 Sounds like you had some horrific moments testing URT bikes.
Funny thing is dropper post are all the rage.
isn't that so you can remain seated all the time when riding?
I bet if you remain seated and just ride xc its probably a fun ride.
I have ridden the Ibis zasbo. Another Urt bike from the same era.
Its not quite the hellish ride you make it out to be.
Even back then i realized five inches or rear travel and three up front is a very bad idea.
Dirt bikes of the same era had more travel up front.
Unfortunately such a fork did not exist u ntill many years later.
I still see and admire old Klein bikes being ridden around.
Generally getting a second life as a commuter bike.
Beautiful paint jobs and top notch welds.
  • 1 0
 The Szasbo would not have been as bad as this because of the placement of the pivot.
  • 2 0
 H E L L O old Coot
  • 1 0
 awesome write up! love it, need more of these!
  • 1 0
 Yes ! More articles like this !
  • 1 0
 Spot on review of a good looking, shit riding bike.
  • 1 0
 The only question I have is:

Where is Protour?
  • 1 0
 Great piece! Love reading about these old shitbuckets
  • 1 0
 Great read. Glad your on the PB team now.
  • 1 0
 seeing this , i'm glad i started riding in 2003- 2004
  • 1 0
 Awesome article, love the anecdotes in the comments too. Keep 'em coming!
  • 1 0
 #ONZA4LIFE
  • 1 0
 I kinda want one

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