Welcome to DH Bike WeekThis 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.
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.
There's a Fox DHX 5.0 hidden in there somewhere; entry ports to the right-hand side of the top tube.
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.
A neatly concealed Rohloff hub takes care of shifting duties.
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.
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!