Now THAT Was a Bike: 2004 Lahar M8 - DH Bike Week

Feb 15, 2021
by Henry Quinney  



Welcome to DH Bike Week

This blast from the past kicks off a whole week of downhill bike content, including reviews of the 2021 Specialized Demo, Cube TWO15, Canyon Sender, and the Commencal Supreme, plus a look a closer look at this year's World Cup race teams, and at the winningest bikes of all time. For now, let's dig into the details of one of the most distinctive looking bikes ever created.



There are few countries that could stake a claim to driving forward the idea of a gearbox bike quite like New Zealand, per capita at least. The island with a population of under five million in the South Pacific seems to brim with tinkerers and engineers alike that are happy to take on the problem with genuine imagination and, more often than not, they seem to contribute something very meaningful to the discussion. For other notable examples, you have to look no further than Zerode, who are still very much fighting the good fight, and DIY projects like Finlay Woods' gorgeous trail bike.

The Lahar bikes were in their heyday around fifteen years ago. They were distinctive and are still easily recognisable. Sadly, they seem to have fizzled out sometime around 2008. In this edition of Now That Was a Bike, we take a look at the 2004 Lahar M8. This bike is part of Queenstown bike shop Vertigo Bikes' famed museum. If you're ever in Queenstown and fancy a look at some wonders and relics alike, be sure to pay them a visit. Paul Angus, a co-owner of Vertigo, is hoping to restore and subsequently race some of these bikes.

The Lahar saw its fair share of success and their national team had notable riders such as Cam Cole and Wyn Masters.

Lahar M8
I've heard the silhouette described as 'like a snake that swallowed a goose'. Accurate, if perhaps not particularly kind.

Lahar M8
Lahar M8
The bikes were all made in New Zealand by Aaron Franklin and enjoyed success at the home 2006 World Championships in Rotorua. Cam Cole won the junior world title on a Lahar downhill bike not unlike this one.

Lahar M8
Lahar M8
There's a Fox DHX 5.0 hidden in there somewhere; entry ports to the right-hand side of the top tube.

Lahar M8
The slender chainstays lie in stark contrast to the oversized tube of the front... well not triangle, but the front of the bike, make this bike look more exotic still.

The linkage would be developed in the following version, the M9, and would actually be more open around the downtube junction to reveal the shock, while simultaneously concealing above the frame-mounted gearbox hub to a greater extent, but we'll come back to this later.

The platform saw many refinements over the years. This bike is dated to around 2004/2005. It's wheelbase measures at 1145mm, the chainstays are a racey 460mm and the BB stands 365mm from the ground.

Lahar M8
The pinch bolt assembly to hold the rear axle looks delicate, but the scarring on the frame would suggest it's taken its fair share of abuse over the years without too much complaint.

Lahar M8
I've always had a soft spot for some kiwi ingenuity. A simple yet effective chain tensioner.

Lahar M8
Lahar M8
A neatly concealed Rohloff hub takes care of shifting duties.

Lahar M8
On the non-drive side of the bike you can see the curved strut that the brake mounts to.

Lahar M8
The hose hugs the frame at every curve.

There's a lot going on, certainly. The following itineration of the frame, coming around 2 years later, saw a revision to this area. The floating arm was moved above the stays and connected to a redesigned housing that also covered the hub. It was certainly more refined, even if it lacked the industrial aesthetic of this model.

Lahar M8
A floating brake caliper setup was something also explored by other brands, most notably Kona, in subsequent years.

Lahar M8
A carbon shelled proprietary hub running a BMX freewheel.

But what was this bike like to ride? And did its pre-eminent, even futuristic looks translate to anything meaningful once you swung a leg over its low slung top tube? I caught up with Wyn Masters, who experienced his first sponsorship deal with Lahar in 2002, to not only ask about the bike but also to finally put to bed a rumour that has persisted since the bikes broke cover all those years ago.


As you remember it, what were the defining ride characteristics of the Lahar?


Well, it definitely felt like it really performed well on the rough tracks and would carry speed through rough sections very well.

How does it compare to other bikes of the era that you rode?


I think it was definitely well ahead of its time vs the other bikes from the early to mid-2000s. Aaron Franklin was a special guy, but an amazing engineer, the high pivot system you now see on some of the most successful current DH bikes so it was well ahead. I wish Aaron would have stuck at it I would have loved to see what he would have progressed to build today.

Are there any of its features that you would like to see explored on a modern downhill bike?


Well the gearbox/internal gear hub in the frame, I feel no one has quite mastered that to date and that could be quite exciting to see where they can go with that.

And finally, the old rumour that persists - is it true about the single pubic hair that was put in every frame?


Yes, that is a crazy but also a true story. He definitely was a one of a kind guy and was building one of a kind bikes!





106 Comments

  • 105 2
 A whole new meaning to BicyclePubes.
  • 15 0
 *Lahar* Scrotum
  • 21 0
 @qualitybarnbro: Well, it was a ballsy design.
  • 2 7
flag pinegrove (Feb 15, 2021 at 19:12) (Below Threshold)
 god whats the reach on that thing
  • 5 0
 Makes me laugh because I once worked for a swiss watch brand who's owner was like the great great great great great grandson of Napoleon and that took pride in putting a tiny piece of Napoleon's hair in each of their watches...
  • 7 0
 @pinegrove: around
  • 1 1
 @Grosey: LOL - underrated
  • 70 0
 Ox from Rockstar dh clothing in Nz here. The real Rockstar Racing est 1996. Energy drinks are for old people! I was team manager for all this carry on as Lahar pretty much just absorbed my team riders and hired me which is how Wyn got on the ticket. So many great stories but it also fu**ed Nathan Rankin and Tim Nelson's careers as the investor had promised there would be a world cup team but went 'catholic' and pulled out in late February. Nathan never got on a team that matched his talent again and Tim wound up getting discouraged by what became a total fiasco in march/april 2003. A real shame as Tim Nelson was my first real protege and truly one of the 'what if's?' of Nz dh. When we catch up we always say what a great movie this would make because enough time has passed to tell the real story. Maybe. The investor was one of the most powerful people in Nz (behind the scenes) and he pretty much put the word on me that I was not to write about what really happened but hey he probably eats Pangolins at Davos so screw 'em! I'll try and dig out some photos and put them on the Rockstar Clothing & Media FB page later in the week. Good times indeed!
  • 8 0
 Watching Nathan Rankin blitzing the Shrooms of Doom on a wet Nationals at Signal Hill was one of best runs I've seen. That Lahar was going at warp speed compared to everything else...
  • 7 0
 @Otago: I'd taken footage with a potato around then. The Lahar didn't slow down in the rock garden
youtu.be/LD204iAdgJ4?t=62
  • 1 0
 That 'investor' wasn’t Bob Jones was it?
  • 1 0
 So legit. Many of local legends up in Nelson have appeared in a Rockstar Jersey from many many moons ago. What a bike.
  • 5 0
 @streetkvnt-kvlt: No not Bob but I will say this ... that fiasco I'm referring to involves a board meeting in the top floor of Wellington's tallest building. Aaron having 3 arguments at once and in hindsight winning all three was rather special..
  • 3 0
 @bonfire: Thanks brother. One of these years I'll write something about /Kelly or 'curly Sue;' as my mate and his hair guru used to call him. Kelly McGarry's 21st was a stand out performance on every level.
  • 9 0
 This would be an amazing story ... a bike well ahead of its time, talented riders, the New Zealand DH scene, and the business realities of sponsorship. Please somebody make this happen!
  • 1 0
 Hell yeah Ox. Your DH races in the 90's were legendary.
  • 1 0
 @RockstarRacingEst1996: that stripper was rank tho!!!
  • 29 0
 In one of his podcasts, Masters talks about how the carbon in the chainstays would become delaminated and a layer even fell off during a practice run. He put it back on, wrapped it in place with a tube, then did his race run.
  • 93 0
 yeah true story that one, but to be fair that was the only Lahar I ever saw break, most of them are still around to this day and in good condition which is impressive considering how much riding some of the bikes would have done and also who rode them.
  • 8 0
 Nothing that a bit of number 8 wire won't fix.
  • 5 0
 @wynmasters: Hey what about your bent brake lever?? You got used to it after a few runs lol.
  • 3 0
 if you cant fix it with duct tape and cable ties... your not using enough duct tape and cable ties
  • 2 0
 @RockstarRacingEst1996: haha that was a good one
  • 2 0
 @wynmasters: there is a guy on ridemonkey forums who still has one and he has been riding it for a looong time.
  • 2 0
 @wynmasters: I still have one!
  • 15 0
 Technically I've ridden two of his pubes.

It was 1996, outside the annual NZ Bike Industry trade show/fair at the Aotea Centre in Auckland. Aaron Franklin (who I'd never met before but knew who he was), was outside the venue in Aotea Square. He had three Lahar bikes with him. Got talking as you do, about the bikes and how he was not allowed to exhibit at the trade show for some lame reason. Aside from that he let me have a hoon around Aotea Square off the multiple stair jumps and other concrete obstacles scattered around. Pretty mind blowing ride the way that Lahar just ate up those bumps and jumps.

The trade show was ok. I remember there was a random Sunn Radical DH just leaning against a wall doing nothing. I got on it had a bit of a squish and some old random bike trade guy got all bent of shape about me sitting on it. Apparently I might break it, or whatever.

And yet outside the was Aaron Franklin letting anyone ride his own bikes off stairs.
  • 13 0
 all the DHV M8 were built in 2002. Then the moulds went 'missing' - thats another story altogether but that's why there are only 6 of them I think. The M8 mould had a whack super steel head angle. Fortunately, it was made with super oversize headset bearings so Aaron made some offset carbon spacers to decrease the head angle. We had to glue them in with epoxy resin. Every now and then you would have to pop them out and resin them in again to get rid of slop. I rode the first DHV M9 2006 Oceanias in a practice run. Snapped the leaf spring halfway down,.
  • 3 0
 This was nicks one, would byron have had the first from the mould ? Would be great to see a part 2 with the actual story on here
  • 4 0
 Nah we need sell that story to Hollywood. PB wouldn't pay a penny.
  • 3 0
 @RockstarRacingEst1996: Ox we should work to source all the bikes, riders and original cinderblock. Im sure there was a rental ute which did a pretty hot time down the 4x course that year too.
  • 1 0
 @RockstarRacingEst1996: you sure about that? Get at me. Smile
  • 12 0
 even had to refresh the main page to make sure it was what i thought it was. nice, Pinkbike.
  • 9 0
 I remember the threads back in the day with a few folks that got stiffed out of money and never got the Lahar they paid for. I wonder what, if anything ever came of that.
  • 12 1
 Unrelated, but where did the status review go? Video is gone as well.
  • 2 0
 @malca: video unavailable...
  • 6 0
 @timotheysski: I think they removed it because they wrote a review about status 160 while pictures show status 140. I still don't know which one they reviewed lol
  • 18 0
 Further fuelling the speculation that the Specialized Status is a figment of our collective imaginations and will never be available to normals like us.
  • 2 0
 @codfather1234: review was gone faster than the actual bikes out of the store
  • 1 0
 @malca: I figured it was because they were sent a custom build to review rather then a oem build spec.
  • 1 0
 @malca: Also said it was $999 for frame and shox. From what I've seen its more like $1300
  • 1 0
 @codfather1234: I got one last week Wink
  • 1 0
 @sjma: lies, slander, conspiracy. Refuse to believe this. They've clearly got to this one.
  • 1 0
 maybe specialized didn't want them to notice the upgrades Big Grin
  • 1 0
 @codfather1234: There's a frame on the shelf at CycleZone in Rotorua...just you Brits having weird imaginations Smile
  • 7 0
 Truly lust worthy exotic bikes at the time. So rad. Real innovation and amazing looking.

Read the ride monkey thread called - "Where is my "Lahar" - which gives an angle on the chaotic rise and fall of the brand.
  • 6 0
 I remember when ridemonkey was the place to go for bullshitting about bikes and this thing was considered one of the things to have... Unfortunately it ended with them going the same way Sick bikes did - the only difference is that this guy was obviously super talented and pushing the boundaries at the time. Takes me back, I want a superco silencer now too....
  • 5 0
 it still is
  • 1 0
 @Sethimus: as much as I enjoy it I miss the days where Doc, Steave M or DW were roaming the forums.
  • 9 2
 They pop up for sale occasionally. There was a really nice M9 that popped up recently. Sadly it was that or the project car. VTEC YO.
  • 1 0
 Did those two bikes actually sell? I thought he was asking a bit much really.
  • 2 0
 @handynzl: yeah I sold them, they were mine Handy. Price was exceptionally great value for the pair and went to the best home possible. Like an air cooled RS Porsche watch the values rise from here on!!
  • 3 0
 @handynzl: yeah i bought em . . ???? . . was offered more than what i payed just for the m9 few weeks after . . turned them down tho . .
  • 1 0
 a man of taste, can't go wrong! What honda you have?
  • 1 0
 @housem8d: An EG9 with a B18CR. 142wkW.
  • 7 0
 Passed up the opportunity to own one maybe 10 years ago, went for a GT iT-1 instead, oh to turn back time...
  • 7 0
 over at NSMB.com ,Perry's M9 is still in museum shape.
nsmb.com/articles/3463-readers-rides-lahar-m9
  • 4 0
 it's been gathering dust the last few years, apart from an annual nostalgic whistler retro rip. just started pulling it apart for a bit of a refresh. some of the parts hanging off it have gotten a bit haggard, but the frame / gearbox are still in surprisingly good shape (for a 14yr old bike). amazing, really.
  • 2 0
 @xy9ine: yours is the benchmark IMO. In my top five for coolest retro bike out there.
  • 5 0
 didn't they have production problems and ended up not shipping bikes even after people paid for them? Company did a karpiel like move...
  • 8 0
 Suppy problems were blamed. Lack of liquidity due to oversupply/consumption of ICE technology was the main factor mentioned by multiple sources. Though I don’t know if shimano has anything to do with it.
About 7 or 8 years ago I meet the guy at the local carbon fiber supplier who said he still had the molds in his factory here in Christchurch
  • 4 0
 I wonder if this is where Rob @ Zerode got the original idea to do high pivot gearbox frames i.e the G1/2. Both kiwi brands doing DH bikes with gearboxes...
  • 3 0
 Well, in every important feature the Zerode G1 copies or refines the Lahar, so what do you think?
  • 1 0
 Rob and Dodzy were working in parallel on their own design at the time. I seem to recall they were demoing a prototype at the 2006 Worlds. Honda were there too of course but no-one was allowed anywhere near those bikes.
  • 1 0
 @SimonNZ: Zerode was way after the first versions of the Lahar.
  • 4 0
 Wyn Masters and Bernard Kerr need to do an old school gearbox bike shoot out. Wyn on a Lahar and Bernard on a Millyard....NZ vs UK!
  • 2 0
 Oh and Ed Masters on a Zerode too!
  • 2 0
 Not this one but in 2007 I saw an M9 at a local race in Reading, PA, USA. It looked so cool and different compared to the standard Demos and V10s etc that were there. Reading is also Neko Mullally's home town. He was there in the Jr category and of course he destroyed the competition.
  • 5 0
 Still one of my all time favourite bikes.
  • 3 0
 This shows us how much time it takes to make a progress.... and progresses;
in a very short time actually.
MTB`s progressed so much and quick lastly...
  • 1 0
 Spoke to the designer/owner Aaron in Fort Bill in 2003 I think it was? He was racing the World Cup or at least doing practice. He had cut halfway through the top tube with a hack saw to prove how strong the bike and carbon actually was. Seemed a bit crazy.
  • 1 0
 Back in October last year myself and a bunch of mates went riding in Rotorua. During some down time we went to the Nzo store and right there in the front window was a Lahar! I couldn't believe my eyes.. It was around 2006 I last saw one of those in Christchurch. I talked to the mech but he didn't really know much about it other than somebody donated it to be displayed in the shop.
  • 3 0
 My brain hurts at trying to figure out this machine, brilliant. A Rohloff hub used as an internal gearbox? Wow
  • 1 0
 This makes me think of Downhill Domination the video game. This frame wasn't in the game as the game was a few years before. But damn. Good times, and a damn cool bike! Big Grin \m/
  • 3 0
 Fox rc4? More like dhx5.0
  • 6 0
 So you are. I'll amend that now. Cheers.
  • 2 0
 How short is that top tube? Looks like I can sit on the seat and bars simultaneously.
  • 15 0
 2004 short
  • 2 0
 I remember seeing a couple of Lahars at a Nationals race at Cardrona in 2003. It blew my mind how futuristic they looked.
  • 1 0
 Remember seeing these at local dh events around 2003-2004. It was different back then but looks even more like a spaceship now
  • 1 0
 I remember this race and bike also! good times!
  • 1 0
 see Nathan Rankin on that bike in a French national cup , bourg d'Oisans or Montriond but i don't remember the year , 2005 or 2006 maybe.
  • 1 0
 I got the opportunity to play with an 02' quite a bit, almost bought the bike. That thing was amazing, and almost silent during an era of loud chain slapping bikes.
  • 1 0
 Aaron Franklin is still about here in Rotorua. He has been into my shop a couple of times and warned me of the dangers of 5G.
  • 1 0
 curious what he's up to currently. such a shame things went sideways for him. his clean slate approach to dh bike design was fairly brilliant (reminds me of john britten - what is it in the water there?); would have been amazing to see where another 15 years of evolution would have led.
  • 2 0
 My bike has Reynolds pubes. Firm but compliant.
  • 1 0
 What a machine. I’ve never seen one before. And I’ve been riding for years.
  • 1 0
 Check out the M9
  • 2 0
 A Sick and Dirty bike for sure!
  • 2 1
 Is @henryquinney working for PB now that he left GMBN?? I thought "he honestly didn't know what he was going to do"?
  • 5 0
 Hello there. Yeah, I didn't have too much of a plan when I decided to move on. Naturally, I'm as passionate as ever about bikes and I'm very (VERY) lucky to have landed on my feet at Pinkbike. Cheers and I hope you enjoyed the Lahar.
  • 2 0
 Get back in front of the camera Henry we’ve missed those dulcet tones!
  • 1 0
 @henryquinney: well done! Now lets see you on camera!
  • 2 0
 I heard the guy spent all the money on the glass bbq
  • 1 0
 Glass bbq? What's that
  • 1 0
 It's what I thought it was Haha. Stop mething around
  • 1 0
 how was the Q-factor on this bike?
  • 1 0
 Bet that Rolloff works like the day it was born.
  • 1 0
 one of best bikes evaaar.
  • 1 0
 SO SICK, THIS IS A THROWBACK! Big Grin \m/
  • 1 0
 A team of GCs Smile
  • 1 0
 Woohoo! DH Bikes!
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