Now THAT Was a Bike: Yeti Lawwill DH6

Dec 7, 2017
by Richard Cunningham  
Yeti Lawwill DH6
Yeti image


Yeti Lawwill DH 6 - 1996

Midway through the 1990s, sponsorship dollars were pouring into mountain bike racing. Downhill had finally shirked off the stigma of cross-country and was exploding in popularity. Large automakers were underwriting teams. Network television was covering key races, and Yeti Cycles was in the center of the action. John Parker, Yeti's owner, founder and self-proclaimed bad boy, had committed to downhill early on. Almost every top racer at the time was wearing his colors or had recently been drafted from the powerhouse team by his competitors. Team Yeti was poised to cash in.
Yeti Founder John Parker poses with a Lawwill DH6
John Parker - Yeti image

Few anticipated what came next. Yeti was abruptly sold to a conglomerate in 1995 that owned Schwinn and Scott USA. Parker was retained to steer the business and, energized by the new source of corporate cash, he doubled-down on Team Yeti, hiring motorcycle racing legend Mert Lawwill to bring his suspension and tuning expertise into the fold. The collaboration produced the Yeti Lawwill DH, one of the most beautiful downhill bikes in the history of the sport. The welded aluminum chassis used Easton's breakthrough butted and shaped tubes, and it showcased Lawwill's "Quadrilateral" rear suspension - a four-bar, parallel-link configuration that he had developed and patented a few years earlier.

Merrt Lawwill and Chris Monkey Vasquez Assembling Lawwill DH4s for Team Yeti
Mert Lawwill (left) and mechanic Chris "Monkey" Vasquez prepare to assemble a DH6 in the Yeti pits. The Lawwill DH4 in the stand was often used for dual slalom. RockShox made its novel pull-shock. - Yeti image


Lawwill's suspension debuted as a cross-country trail bike with much fanfare and limited success as Gary Fisher's RS1. Lawwill, who had spent a significant measure of his adult life at over 100 miles an hour, jumped at the chance to return to the fast lane. With Lawwill on board, Team Yeti became a true racing development program that created the bikes, and also many of their key components. Team Yeti became a showcase for innovation.

Initial prototypes suffered teething problems. The rear brake was mounted to the short, vertical link at the end of the seat and chainstays. Braking torque didn't have a negative effect upon the short-travel Fisher RS1, but when applied to the four-inch-travel Yeti prototype, it caused wild brake jacking. Lawwill worked out a floating brake mount which solved the issue and the Lawwill DH4 became Team Yeti's new weapon.

Mountain bikes had rim brakes in 1995. Up front, the Lawwill DH used dual-crown RockShox BoXXer forks with either Shimano XTR or Magura hydraulic rim brakes. Lawwill's suspension design, however, required a disc brake, so Yeti had to make do with what was available. Yeti experimented with a few types that they modified to function on the DH4. Team racer Kirt Voreis said that the bikes were one-offs that were constantly being updated, so when something broke, or Lawwill thought up an improvement, the mechanics often had to fabricate the parts in the team truck. Serial production began in 1997.

The learning curve could be harsh. Voreis tells the story about testing the first iterations of the longer-travel Lawwill DH6 that we feature here:

bigquotesThe upper suspension pivot was attached to the seat tube. Riders knew it was a weak spot, and we wanted to have a gusset added there. Parker refused, saying that gussets were a designer's admission of defeat. I'd be riding my DH6 at full gas, I'd hit something really hard, and the bike would just fold in half. It kept happening like that for a long time before we finally got that seat tube gusset you see on the production bikes.Kirt Voreis: Team Yeti DH Racer

Some "learning opportunities" were unanticipated. The DH6's suspension and geometry were more capable than its predecessor. Voreis said that the speeds they were attaining created some new surprises. The suspension required a pull-shock. For the uninitiated, the shock shaft extended through the bottom of the shock body, where it was pulled by the upper suspension arm. The coil spring sat on the
Kirt Voreis racing his DH6 to second place at the 1996 Big Bear World Cup DH
Kirt Voreis on his way to second place at the 1996 Big Bear World Cup DH. His Boxxer fork is equipped with Magura hydraulic rim brakes. - Yeti image
other side of the shock, retained by the opposite end of the shock shaft. Voreis said that the spring retainer would occasionally fail at full shock compression, firing the spring and top cap parts like a cannon. More than once, the DH6's frame tubes were torn open by the impacts.

bigquotesRacing in the '90s was so much different than it is now. Money was just pouring in and racing was where all the new stuff was being developed. It will never be like that again.Chris Conroy, Yeti Cycles President

It didn't take long for Yeti to work the bugs out, but the reign of the powerful Yeti Race Team and its Lawwill DH6 would be short-lived. As the '90s came to a close, Schwinn grew tired of playing second fiddle to Yeti at the races and withdrew support. Mert Lawwill and his quadrilateral race bikes showed up in Schwinn colors in the pits and Yeti, along with its massive presence at the World Cups, simply evaporated. Reportedly, Schwinn's corporate leadership were losing money on Yeti hand over fist, and Yeti's story probably would have ended there. Fortunately, a couple of Schwinn employees put together some investors and rescued the brand. One of those men is Yeti's current president, Chris Conroy, but that, as they say, is another story.


133 Comments

  • + 91
 Maybe 4 years ago I bought a DH-6 frame (with rear wheel and brake), then painstakingly built the rest of it up. Took more than a year to source all of the parts.... Here was the finished product. Not entirely perfect, but close enough to ride it!
www.pinkbike.com/photo/11712450

Rode it like that for a while, then decided to rebuild it again in a modern way. Here it is today: Fox 36, Saint front brake, tubeless wheels, modern drivetrain. I love it.
www.pinkbike.com/photo/15431211
  • + 4
 That's so cool. I'm very jealous.

How does it compare to a modern am bike?
  • + 3
 That looks fantastic...the before and after!
  • + 2
 what, no dropper post?
  • + 9
 Holy **** you win
  • + 5
 Well that needs in own post with a shredit video.
  • + 5
 I dig the modernization on it! Definitely hang onto that classic RS fork!
  • + 1
 Props, mang.
  • + 2
 Holy sh&t! I bet people just mob around your bike at the trail head!!
  • + 1
 Wow
  • + 2
 Did you resolve the issue with the rear shock exploding and shooting you in the balls or do you just wear a cup and extra padding in your shorts?
  • + 1
 First like ,then click on links.
  • + 90
 Look at that chain ring! POWERRRRRRRRR
  • + 53
 Jeremy Clarkson? Is that you?
  • + 78
 the reverse eagle
  • + 46
 @LuvAZ: I call it the Regal. 54 tooth chainring worthy of a prince.
  • + 1
 @bartb: More like Terry Cruz and a can of OldSpice
  • + 6
 You could run that chainring with an Eagle cassette and still have roughly the same low gear that today's DHers run!
  • + 4
 @bartb: My mistake, Terry Crews*.
  • + 5
 object of my wet dreams back in the days! Smile
  • + 3
 @THomer: Terry Crews?
  • + 3
 Terri Summers
  • + 2
 @chillrider199: Terry crews isn't mexican
  • + 2
 @makripper: But Terry Crews screams power so hard and frequently that he recharges near by batteries by screaming.
  • + 0
 Chainring is normal size - its just a tiny tiny bike!
  • + 38
 I totally remember that bike. One came in to the shop in the mid-90s for a tune up. It was like a Porsche 918 coming in to the shop to get an oil change! Still good looking IMHO.
  • + 11
 For those who dont know. (Because this is Pinkbike after all.) Porsche 918, a hybrid super car that retails for $850,000. 0-60 at 2.6 seconds. And top speed of 211 mph. Not the fastest car out there for the price, but definitely a fancy "classic". Smile
  • + 5
 @chillrider199: This car is awesome, but the 917 is one of the greatest cars ever built IMO, and my personal favorite
  • + 1
 @rpinney206: 917 is a classic, and in its light blue and orangey colour combo it looked like a car from Speed Racer or something. That said, the 918 is probably the last full tilt Super Car that had no traction control and whatnot. Both just incredible, and neither will ever be touched in terms of pure awesomeness...
  • + 1
 ...
  • + 46
 Mountain bike dorks only here.....car nerds are meeting down the hall on the right....
  • + 4
 @aharvey: what if we are both?!!!
  • + 1
 @chillrider199: Someone around here owns one. I've seen it on the road a couple of times. Soooo hawt!
  • + 2
 @cunning-linguist: They are down the hall and to the left.
  • + 3
 @drummuy04: if you can afford a yeti, and a 918/917, you are definitely a dentist....
  • + 1
 @aharvey: Or a shop mechanic.
  • + 5
 @VwHarman: 918 has both traction control and stability control. Carrera GT had traction control only (which could be disabled). For no driving aids at all you'll have to go back to the 80s - www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSMCfPASImQ
  • + 4
 @aharvey: Im pretty sure dentist dont make that much...
  • + 1
 @GorgeousBeauGaston: I must be blending my super cars. Last one with a proper manual trans Maybe? I could have sworn 918 was a last of something supercar. Sexy as either way.
  • + 3
 @VwHarman: I think you're confusing the 918 with the Carrera GT. The Carrera GT was the car the Paul Walker died in. That was raw, manual transmission only, no traction or stability control, naturally aspirated, rear wheel drive, all that stuff. The 918 is Hybrid, All Wheel Drive, turbocharged, and automatic only. It's also about 12 years newer.
  • + 2
 @BlackVR: yeah, the real car was the 917, Derek Bell's favourite car of all time. Now that's saying something!
  • + 1
 @drummuy04: or a drug dealer XD
  • + 2
 @aharvey: Not my dentist. She is in Algodones MX. Super hot, but can't afford a Yeti.
  • + 2
 @cunning-linguist: I was fortunate to meet Derek Bell a number of times through my father (who is a motor racing journalist and television commentator). Fond memories of the Rothmans Porsche days...
  • + 1
 @BlackVR: yup. Nailed it. This is what happens when I go purely off my hazy memory and not clarify things first. Can't say I knew Paul Walker died in a GT though.
  • + 1
 @VwHarman: You mean the Carrera GT without traction control and whatnot. The 918 has electronic stabilization out the wazoo! All three are simply amazing machines!

- Sorry, I just saw the rest of the comments. Anyway....
  • + 32
 Bring back yeti DH!
  • + 7
 I hope they do... and I hope they don’t... my wallet can’t afford it.
  • + 2
 @Cbc4447: another rail replacement! Oooooooohhh
  • + 22
 Moooonk! Hero.
  • + 15
 Word. We need to have a commemorative festivity in his honor. That guy wrenched for and had the true friendship of most of the historic pros out there.

Will he be indicted to MTBHOF someday? I hope so!
  • + 7
 Beat me to it. RIP Monk!
  • + 5
 RIP Monk
  • + 5
 RIP
  • + 19
 "gussets were a designer's admission of defeat." Well that is kinda disturbing.
Pride over catastrophic frame failure...surprised no one was seriously hurt.
  • + 10
 I had the first Trek 9000 full suspension bike, like 1991 or 92. Orange and black bike. I went to California to visit a friend that worked for Mountain Bike Action. I was literally just crossing the street, riding to the gas station and going from street to sidewalk, and the frame lug bonding agent failed just above the BB. The front chain ring hit the ground, no back brake, the bike got 6 inches longer instantly. I brought the bike into the office and asked if they had a loaner bike I could use, I was 2500 miles from home on day one of an 8 day trip. Zap saw the frame totally lost his sh** and called Trek and went nuts. I guess there was an issue with those frames, like people were getting seriously hurt, I knew 1 guy that broke his arm. Think someone close to MBA broke a back or neck... Zap threatened to run the photos of my bike in the next issue. (Cool part, John Kerr did a photo shoot with my bike!!) Trek just blew it off. I also think Trek pulled their ad's. I received a loaner from Trek for the rest of the trip. Sold that bike once the frame was replaced.
  • + 1
 @oldschool43: haha cool story. who would have guessed. I know a story about a guy who purchsed new carbon slash 29er with cracked rocker arm , trek refusing to replace or at least fix. Made in USA
  • + 17
 Check out the film ‘on any sunday’ if You want to see what Mert Lawwill did before designing suspension
  • + 1
 T H I S !
  • + 1
 So THAT'S where I recognize the name from!
  • + 12
 that's it? that's the whole article on the legendary lawwill 6? this could have and should have been 2-3x as long, easily. i'd probably get more info on the bike and its development and tech from voreis' instagram feed.
  • + 11
 I wonder how we will look back on DH bikes today, 20 years from now.
  • + 31
 Wow those wheels back in 2018 were kinda small....
  • + 12
 I suspect in a handful more years they'll re-release bikes like the Bottle Rocket and talk about how playful their new park bikes are or something. "You can really throw a whip with these new fangled 26" wheels!"
  • + 14
 @Rucker10: followed by a slew of #29aintdead comments
  • + 10
 @Rucker10: "these narrow bars and 135mm axles provide superior clearance on the increasingly tight enduro trails of the modern era"
  • + 11
 I wonder what downhill trails are going to look like 20 years from now. Looking at races from the 90's "downhill" was a lot of high speed fireroad descents where the tech parts were more like an XC race. The teens in 2037 will probably look back at Rampage and laugh.
  • + 4
 @singleandluvinit: That's true for the early 90's,but if you look at some tracks (mostly european) from the mid-nineties on,you'll find that the sport progressed so much because the terrain demanded it.
  • + 22
 I suspect they will laugh and say ‘where the f*** is the battery?!’
  • + 1
 @ilovedust: ok, now this battery comment i agree with totally.
  • + 1
 Just look at the photos of jack moir's black and green carbon bike. Straight out of THRON
  • + 1
 @ilovedust: yep, I think you hit the nail on the head with that!
  • + 4
 Every time I see an old bike and not even that old if in honest, I just think it looks like someone has run I to a wall on it. Bikes have got a lot longer and slacker over the past five years. You don't really notice until you look at an older bike.
  • + 9
 Ah, look at that stem...the length of which even XC racers nowadays would cringe to use.
  • + 6
 Yeah. Loved this bike.

Eventually got a Schwinn version which a friend rode with Monster T's upfront.

Can be seen here: www.pinkbike.com/photo/7549152
  • + 2
 So so awesome
  • + 3
 Still in love with this bike... a friend of mine had a Yeti Lawwill in 1998, I rode it once on a DH course during the training, it was sad to have to give it back to him and do the race on my Schwinn S-10...
  • + 4
 Does one live at 2nd Ave Sports in Durango? m.pinkbike.com/photo/11945492
  • + 1
 I literally watched Mert and Monkey assemble what looked to be one of the first prototypes at the 1996(?) Specialized Cactus cup, included laying down Kurt Voreis vinyl name on the top tube. The Rock Shox boxxer was a rim brake version. That early version had a super small aluminum swing arm compared to the beefier version that showed up later in that summer.

Shortly after it was built, Kurt went into the parking lot and hit this pile of dirt and threw up a huge cross up for the cameras that later appeared in a Dragon Optics Ad. Those were the days ...

There are some awesome images of that year showing a bunch of Yeti and Schwinn riders on this frame here: mercurypress.photoshelter.com/search?KW=1996&I_DSC_AND=t&I_DSC=1996+&I_USER_ID=U0000zxTZXoLR0UQ&_ACT=search
  • + 3
 Have we fallen through a 90's time warp, yesterday with three spoke plastic wheels and some dude stripping his bike of paint for weight saving and today this?
  • + 4
 bring back bar ends in dh!
  • + 2
 Damn, feeling nostalgic for the "days"--companies like Yeti, Salsa, Ibis and even GT (haha)...what the hell happened to those companies?!
  • + 1
 Ibis still going strong. Everyone else either fell to gimmicks, no marketing, or big box retail.
  • + 1
 @YouHadMeAtDrugs: Ibis was sold, died, then ressurected.
  • + 2
 Salsa is still around, though they mainly build fat bikes and gravel touring bikes. Their Horsethief FS 29er is a decent bike but mountain bikes don't really seem to be their focus anymore. They're basically Surly in carbon fiber now.
  • + 1
 @BlackVR: the whole Salsa thing these days is all about adventure bikes in the dirt, more like the early days of MTB... they are MTB focused, just not enduro/dh/pinkbike style... the roots still are connected to the old Ross Schafer days... you can see a nice video about him here: bikepacker.com/ross-shafer-founder-of-salsa-cycles
  • + 2
 sharpest looking of "all" time is a stretch, sharpest looking at "the" time maybe.
  • + 2
 I've still got the Schwinn version of this bike, fun to take it to the bike park now and then, turns heads every time!
  • + 3
 Was my dream bike. Was not solvent enough to buy. ::
  • + 1
 There’s one in Durango still...
  • + 1
 How we lusted after these, still sexy AF today. We've come a long way since cantilever brakes and 1 piece bar/stems LoL
  • + 1
 RC got any pics of those Mantis bikes?
Now there is a sexy bike from the past!
  • + 1
 I remember those HED wheels.... makes me want aero wheels on my enduro 29...
  • + 1
 I've still got a Fox prototype pull shock from a DH8. Loved my old Lawwills!
  • + 1
 One of my favorite bikes of all time. Never rode one or even seen it in the flesh.
  • + 2
 I have two 4-Bangers and a Straight 6
  • + 2
 That's nice... but I'd prefer to hear about your collection of bikes. Ha Ha.
  • + 2
 My first downhill bike! Still have the frame hanging in the basement.
  • + 1
 nice....i awlays wanted an old school yeti but was too poor at the time....think i was running an old alpine trail around the time of this.
  • + 1
 Me too! Kinda... I have a dh-8 and a schwinn straight 8 hanging in the garage.
  • + 2
 It's turquoise. Philistine...
  • + 1
 Love the old Lawwill designs. That new bike from Eminent has me intrigued. Anyone ridden one yet?
  • - 2
 Major point missed?? - you could adjust the geometry by spinning the pull shock into different positions. Could set the bike up extremely slack and long. Yes, Slack and Long - This is not new. I owned one of these and experimented with slack and long before this "new Fad".
  • + 7
 When long, low and slack meant a 69 head angle, 14” bottom bracket and 22.5” toptube with 600mm bars and a 120mm stem.
  • + 1
 Thats what so funny about this industry. Companies make a product that people have been effectively doing for years and years, and then the industry acts as though the new product is some kind of revelation. Single front rings, I'm looking at you!
  • + 0
 "Hey look at me i'm all special and clever"...
  • + 1
 @carym: You could make it so slack it was unsteerable.
  • + 1
 Mert's design came back in the form of the 4" Trophy/Lawwill bikes just before Yeti/Schwinn adopted the design.
  • + 1
 That front ring would suit perfectly in any modern cassette.
  • + 1
 Ah, I suck. That was meant to be a reply to @preach
  • + 1
 I had the dh6 and after 2 dh9s.........the best of dh times cheers
  • + 1
 That suspension design is still used in modern day bikes. Go figure
  • + 1
 Very good, I really appreciate this kind of story
  • + 2
 Now THAT was a shirt!
  • + 1
 Geez, how many legends rode for Yeti?
  • + 1
 Well if that ain’t the cats wang dang doodle.
  • + 1
 I've still got my M636 dx spd pedals. On my commuter now
  • + 1
 i still use them on my canyon strive cfl haha
  • + 1
 My wife has a barely used set that's sitting in a box in the garage.
  • + 2
 RIP monk dawg.... legend
  • + 1
 I love Yeti. Such an epic brand in the story of mountainbiking.
  • + 1
 It is Desert Turquoise, gotta love it.
  • + 1
 Man I lusted after that bike back in the day...
  • + 1
 I would ride that!
  • + 1
 55 teeth chainring??
  • - 3
 Before they became dentist bikes?
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