Now THAT Was a Bike: John Tomac's Raleigh Signature

Sep 1, 2021
by Nick Bentley  



John Tomac’s Raleigh Signature
Frame: John Tomac’s Raleigh Signature
Fork: Rockshox Mag 20
Rims: Mavic 231 26"
Hubs: Shimano XTR M900
Tires: Tioga Psycho-k
Drivetrain: Shimano XTR M900
Cassette: Shimano XTR M900 8 speed 12-32
Brakes: Grafton Maglite
Shifters: Shimano XTR M900 (One piece) XTR Brake levers
Seatpost: Tioga Carbo Carbon
Saddle: Selle Italia Flight
Handlebar: Tioga FL 2000
Stem: Tioga T-Bone
Grips:ODI Tomac Attack
Size:19.5"

How could we not take a closer look at the Retro Show and Shine Winner's bike from the Malverns Classic? Mick, who won the event and is the custodian of this little bit of mountain bike history, didn't want the piece to be about himself but about the bike and I think that's fair. I did, however, want to thank him for all his help with the article and most importantly for taking such good care of such an important bike.

bigquotesJohn Tomac had the rare mix of being not only World Champ winning level fast, but exceptionally stylish amp; flamboyant on the bike. Yet off the bike, he was softly spoken, quiet without arrogance. I massively admire those traits. This is a very rare frame that I never dreamt I'd own. My unicorn. It's also exceptionally well made.Mick





With only 10 frames made, the John Tomac Raleigh Signature is a very rare bike. This is, in fact, is one of John's frames as the platform was for racers only and was never available to the general public. The frame itself is constructed using the similar manufacturing techniques to some modern brands with machined titanium lugs made by Merlin Titanium bonded to Easton carbon tubing. It truly is a thing of beauty. The frame has a 72.4deg head angle, 74deg seat tube. The bottom bracket is a press-fit paragon titanium grease guard bottom bracket for XC but was swapped to a Tioga 134mm Steel for DH as it needed 56T chainring clearance.

Group-set wise we find a Shimano XTR M900 fitted in a 8 x 3 with a 12-32 cassette in what would have been the XC setup. Along with the classic XTR groupset, there is a set of Shimano Deore XT SPD 737 pedals that look like they are still in full working order. The other obvious feature of the back of this bike is the Classic Tioga Disc Drive, a cutting-edge addition in 1991 when this bike was built up.




The cockpit is a full Tioga set up with a T-Bone stem to which a set of FL 2000 flat bars are mounted. These are only 580mm wide, which is tiny in comparison to today's handlebars.

Mounted to the bars is a set of XTR M900 brake and shifter combined levers. This series of components marked the birth of the XTR range for Shimano and was driven by the needs of racers at the time. In this case, the RAPIDFIRE PLUS shifter was an advancement on what Shimano had already done on their Deore XT range.

The Shimano levers operate a set of Grafton Maglite cantilever rim brakes, which to us now look terrifying but in 1991 these were cutting edge. Finishing off the cockpit is a classic set of ODI Tomac Attack grips that still have plenty of life in them despite their age.




Wheel wise, there are some classics here. The wheel size is of course 26" with some Mavic rims laced to Shimano XTR hubs: a classic combination. The stand-out feature for me on the front wheel is how shallow the rim is, yet another reminder of how far bikes have evolved since this beauty was at the top of the sport.

Out back, like we touched on before, we have the same Mavic 231 26" rims but this time laced up to the Legendary Tioga Disk Drive. This is not simply a cover for the spokes but instead the plastic and kevlar lattice system, known as geodesic webbing, was designed to be slightly compliant and offered some suspension and extra grip for the hardtails of the day. It also sounded pretty cool going along too. The Disc drive on the back of this bike is in amazing condition considering it's been ridden hard by one of the greatest riders in history.



Suspension is handled by RockShox and a set of Mag 20s. The lowers of the fork legs bear one or two battle scars from the racing they have seen - this is a bike that has some battle stories. It's interesting to see that even this early there were some adjustments on the fork crown for the damping but even the most featherweight of modern xc forks look like a downhill fork in comparison to these Mag 20s. It's amazing how well John Tomac rode given the era in which he was riding and the technology he had available!

Lastly, the bike is finished off with a Tioga Carbo seat post and a Selle Italia saddle.







80 Comments

  • 52 0
 I can still hear that back wheel.
  • 5 0
 Always at least one guy that would show up to the local XC races with one of those. Always knew when they were close to you.
  • 26 0
 I love how this isn't restored. It is just all original and used by the legend that Tomac was. We really are fortunate to see the evolution of the mountain bike. The experimentation with various materials and construction has brought us to the present where nearly every mountain bike available is a joy to ride.
  • 6 0
 Agree. Truly a "time capsule."
  • 4 0
 This is the kind of sweet bike we need to see: a bike ridden hard with real scars and grease. I think it was in a Chris Boardman interview when he was talking about his original Lotus track bike racing years in the early 90s. To paraphrase, he was like back then you didn't have massive budgets and you basically used the same components at every race, then replaced and improved as you went along. So there was no such concept as 'the bike itself' that existed in a vacuum; it was more of an evolution of parts around a frame until it was replaced by a technologically superior successor. A lot of it was the product of wild experimentation and custom parts made in a shed. Today the tech is so interchangeable and top-down, the performance so similar, and the bikes so rider-agnostic that there aren't really things we can point to that makes certain bikes game changers.

Don't get me wrong I love seeing a Dangerholm creation but let's face it, they are the result of lots of money and very little dirt.
  • 21 0
 I worked at Raleigh (Derby Cycle) back in 93-96 and then again in 98-02 when they had bought Diamondback..in Kent WA. We had a factory that bonded (glued) the frames together and a warehouse/paint/assembly all in house. Appx 150 employees worked there building appx 400/500 bikes per day. We had a model shop that all the prototype bikes or next years samples would be stored, as well as some classic memorabilia. We had one of these Tomacnesium's Ti/Carbon/Tioga bikes all built up and it was I believe the one Jonny T raced to win the Grundig World Cup finals with, hanging in this shop, still with # plate on a the euro dirt. And unfortunately, once we closed the factory, some disgruntled workers who still had keys to the shop took this bike (as well as a bunch of stuff like tools/spoke cutter/threader etc..I remember being bummed as that bike belonged in a museum, and it's great to see one of these in pristine condition and in all it's glory. Jonny T and now his son Eli are just so so amazing!
  • 2 24
flag owl-X (Sep 1, 2021 at 12:09) (Below Threshold)
 doubt it.
  • 2 0
 I had a Raliegh Ti Tomac edition that was made 100% of titanium. That was russian Ti tubing back then wasn't it?
  • 14 0
 "Shimano Deore XT SPD 737 pedals that look like they are still in full working order" I've got a pair of those somewhere, I'm pretty sure they'll still be in working order even after the apocalypse!
  • 5 0
 You can't kill those pedals or or the original 636's (red DH ones). Truly "Nukeproof"
  • 3 0
 Still have a pair in working order. And also the cleats that went with them.
  • 1 0
 I actually prefer the 525s because the "bail" (part that moves) is just a piece of steel, without the alloy "shell", so when you inevitably smack a rock and forcibly flip the bail extra-closed, it's a bit easier to shove something in and push it back to normal position.

The bearings on my 525s never really got the love they deserved so they don't spin very smooth anymore, but the clip mechanism is still working 100% after almost 25 years. Granted, they haven't been used for like 10 years, but during that first 15 years they got a beating that turned them from mostly black to pretty much all silver.
  • 3 0
 I still run a pair on my 2012 Demo, they have survived multiple trips to Whistler, easily my oldest functioning bike part.
  • 2 0
 @noplacelikeloam: "the cleats that came with them"... that's the thing: you don't need those specific cleats, because SPD cleats are all the same!

(well, there is multi-release, so not all the same, but even those are still 100% forward and backward compatible)
  • 4 0
 Crank Bros could learn a thing or two
  • 2 0
 @justinfoil: agreed. But I literally have the same ones from 30 years ago on some old cannondale MTB shoes
  • 10 0
 30 years later, Atherton bikes is putting Titanium lugs to Carbon tubes. What goes around, comes around.
  • 7 0
 Tioga is like the lancia of the cycling world. They were everywhere and dominated the sport, and now They are gone. Very sad... hopefully They return. And I hope, this for Lancia and Tioga!
  • 2 0
 They are still alive:

www.tiogausa.com/glide-g3.html

Bring us the Tioga Psycho K in butter color, I am sure it would be an instant hit:

www.retro-mtb.de/retro-fahrradteile/felgen-reifen/tioga-psycho-k-amber-oder-butterscotch
  • 2 0
 @zoobab2: I know they are still alive, but they are just a shadow of their former self. Let's hope both brands get back to their glory days!
  • 1 0
 The Lancia Fulvia HF was one beautiful rally racer but it was front wheel drive, I believe.

Was there a Tioga tire named a Psycho? I think I gad a pair back in the DAY.
  • 1 0
 @suspended-flesh: Yeah I think the K in Psycho K stood for Kevlar so there would have been a steel bead version if I remember correctly.
  • 3 0
 @suspended-flesh: The Fulvia was nice, but so was the Aurelia, Stratos, Delta integrale, Gamma, 037, Thema 8.32, ... To many to name. At one point they were at Ferrari level and better(1950's), but somehow it all went wrong.
  • 2 0
 @RidleyRijder: Indeed. I still see late 60s-early 70s Fulvias around here being driven as daily drivers, hence my mention. A Stratos would be a bit of a handful, but how sick would that be? (not the Stratos reboot)

I still want an (old) Alpine A110 - weird that those came back as well.....
  • 1 0
 @zoobab2: Don't forget about the Comp III. This was the quintessential BMX racing tire.
  • 1 0
 @RidleyRijder: the stratos had a Ferrari Dino engine in it, I believe.
  • 1 0
 @gotohe11carolina: the thema 8.32 also had a Ferrari V8. A family saloon with a Ferrari engine... how good must that be in the alps on a family holiday
  • 8 1
 So cool! Although I have to admit it's really hard to look at bikes of this era and not be overwhelmed by how rickety they are.
  • 8 0
 Of course those XT SPDs are in full working order, those cannot be killed, they will last well beyond the end of time.
  • 7 0
 Yes, this was the only bike that really stood above the rest during that era. Maybe more beautiful now than then.
  • 10 0
 Ibis Bow-Ti enters the chat.
  • 1 0
 @alexsin: ^^^ yes! I've always wanted to see one of these in person
  • 2 0
 Only? Need to expand your horizons, or at least your recall.
  • 4 0
 love these old bikes! was at ride meetup last night and one of the riders, post-ride, pulled a '92 Stumpjumper off his rack that was just recently fully restored (with all of the original parts), it was quiet the conversation piece.
  • 7 0
 The Tomacnium! This bike and some of the Kleins were the bikeporn of my childhood.
  • 4 0
 Has enough magnesium that it could make a fire hot enough to recycle its own titanium.

Bring back magnesium bike parts! Perfect for bike-packing: if you need to start a fire in an emergency and it's wet weather, just scrape some magnesium off your bike and you have a nice hot fire starter.
  • 1 0
 I snapped the cage on a pair of Magnesium DMR Vaults, I'm half tempted to chuck them on a fire and see if they'll burn...

I can't imagine they'd last long, but still longer than the bushings on DMR pedals Smile
  • 11 4
 Machined titanium lugs and carbon tubes is not additive manufacturing.
  • 5 0
 They added the glue didn't they...
  • 1 0
 @stiingya: So all manufacturing is additive then?
  • 1 0
 Was there made a mention of additive manufacturing then? It was clearly mentioned in the article that the lugs were machined (which is surprising as the welds tricked me into thinking of a different process) so either way no additive manufacturing. The similarity with Robotbike/Atherton (if that's what you're aiming at) is that the carbon tubes are glued to titanium lugs (though Robotbike actually has double shear lip joints so they're doing it properly).
  • 1 0
 @vinay: Yeah they originally said it was additive manufacturing. They must have edited the article recently.
  • 3 0
 @smokingtires: Ah sorry for that. It sucks when they make a mistake, the comment section goes wild and then they change the article without a mention. Of course it is perfectly fine to correct the article but common/correct practice is to make mention in or under the article that it has been edited, what and why.
  • 1 0
 @smokingtires: Not CNC machining. That's subtractive.
  • 1 0
 @Mike-Jay: haha touche. I might have been a bit hyperbolic there haha
  • 3 0
 Not sure why the Grafton's are described as terrifying, when set up properly (not easy) they had a hydraulic feel to them with way more power than other canti's. Unless of course it was wet out, in which case they weren't so great...
  • 4 0
 I like that the winner was picked for what it was and how it was loved instead of how flawless each and every component was made to look.
  • 2 0
 I remember those pedals, they wouldn't die, but one micron of clay soil stuck in them and they were useless. I remember multiple people taking their shoes off because they were stuck to the pedal due to some mud jamming up the pedal.
  • 2 0
 Had a disc drive, they where awesome! Sounded like thunder an gave ample rear end grip. But! MTB's where way more ground based back then, pretty useless nowerdays with how much time we spend wheels off the ground!
  • 6 0
 Manitou fork please
  • 1 0
 That mag 20 has mag 21 knobs, and that Flite is not period correct by the rear logo
  • 2 0
 Any article showing that Tomac didn’t run drop bars aways all the time is good enough for me (just so uneducated Gravel fans know what they’re talking about) but this one takes it one step further, thanks for that
  • 1 0
 My 1991 Raleigh Technium Chill is still my daily commuter to this day, but apart from the frame, seatpost and rear brakes nothing is original. Amazing to think that Tomac was riding before the first ever UCI DH world champs in 1990, and his pro career overlapped with Greg Minnaar who is still winning today.
  • 3 0
 still drooling, I'm 20 again, I loved that bike,Tomac ruled at his time no question! His son is on the same path ;-)
  • 2 0
 1992 Tioga Components Video Catalog w John Tomac, Greg Herbold, Tioga Tension Disc: www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1hvGmyuKys
  • 3 0
 Another video with Greg Herbold and his Tioga Tension Disc: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ptku1Uz-IOg There is also a Tioga Tension Disc FB group: www.facebook.com/TiogaDisk
  • 1 0
 There is also an Instagram account: www.instagram.com/tiogadisk
  • 4 0
 My wrists hurt just looking at it! Bloody lovely tho!
  • 1 0
 I am fascinated by this bike as much now as I was first time around when Tomac was like a miniature version of God to me.
How did the owner come to possess this bike, I have to ask?
  • 3 0
 Not additive manufacturing, unless adding a weld bead counts
  • 2 0
 As someone who's been a fan of Tomac (and now Tomacs) since the '80s when he started on Mongoose...my pants are tight.
  • 2 0
 Sure looks like a Ringle Super Bubba front hub to me, definitely not an XTR
  • 2 0
 That is a Bubba or Super Bubba for sure.
  • 2 0
 Wow! That brings back some memories of when I first starting riding in 1991. Crazy how far the sport's steeds have come.
  • 3 1
 I would argue that it still is a bike
  • 2 0
 This was state of the art at one time....
  • 2 0
 Beauty- that XTR still drips
  • 2 0
 Imagine winning money for having a sweet bike...
  • 1 0
 Gotta provide some incentive for people to bring them together for show. And, I would think procuring a celebrity bike costs more than you could win by owning it.
  • 3 1
 Love these new gravel bikes.
  • 2 0
 What a guy. Wonder if his son went on to do anything interesting.
  • 3 0
 The Best!!!!
  • 2 0
 This BIKE is truly BAD ASS! I am glad I never got rid of my 2000 Litespeed Pisgah. Fully Built up and Gucci'd out. This bike here is the inspiration for my Litespeed, and they both look kinda the same. Considering this bike was built up in 1991, looks like not much changed between 1991 to 2000.
  • 1 0
 Wish I still had my hammer pads to pull off the look.
  • 1 0
 Mature bike porn right here...
  • 1 0
 And drop bars
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