I asked Andrew to send me some information about the bike and to explain why he chose this particular bike to bring back to life. Normally, I would take that and rewrite it, but Andrew's passion is the biggest story here. So, here's what he said about what brought him to the point he's at now with this bike:
"I consider myself lucky to have ridden the wave of the MTB craze in the early 90s. It has been pivotal in shaping my life and career and remains an integral part of my life. After a brief gap from BMX racing, these new, bigger-wheeled off-road bikes came on the scene with their mix of intoxicating, ever wilder colors, progressive designs, riders with serious style and attitude, backed up by accessible magazine media coverage – I was hooked! Out of all this incredible journey of excitement and inspiration in my teenage years, one character stood out as the epitome of what MTBing meant to me. A rider that would win a World Cup XC race in the morning and then take the top spot in the World Cup DH in the afternoon. A rider that always appeared to be pushing the technical boundaries of the sport with cutting-edge kit and advancing performance gains with tech unseen in the MTB cycling world, yet married with unmistakable riding style – oh, and he managed his own sponsorship dealings and race schedule! This Hall of Fame rider needs no introduction, the great John Tomac.
A poster of JT proudly adorned my teenage bedroom wall well into my late twenties, the iconic photo of the American eagle airbrushed BELL helmet, black skin-tight all-in-one aero suit, aboard a Tioga Disk Drive wheel-equipped Giant DH-specific bike. Cornering at full gas with unmistakable JT style, a rooster tail dust cloud in his trail. This is an image that has stayed with me to this day and given immense inspiration, along with still creating a smile inside every time I think about it – this one photo centralizes my unescapable relationship with MTBing and its constant enjoyment.
I’ve been lucky enough to have remained in the cycle industry since starting at the age of 12 as 'the Saturday boy' in the bike shop workshop, moving on to frame building, wheel building, marketing, brand building, management, systems, operations, and everything in between - currently playing my part helping to run UK cycling distributor Saddleback.
The retro MTB bug has featured in my life for a little while now, having started by reliving my youth rebuilding early 90s MTBs I still owned, helping friends with retro RockShox MAG rebuilds and projects, and lusting after those bikes and bling parts that I could never have afforded back in the day. With my retro MTB hero always in mind, I started researching JT bikes, with the YETI and Raleigh replicas quite numerous, but never the first Giant bikes that Tomac transitioned to in early September 1994.
So, the challenge and journey began to build a rideable replica of the 1994 DH bike from the iconic photo that inhabits my passion and relationship with MTBing."
And here is that very bike.
Let's start with the core of the bike, it's a Giant ATX frame. The frame itself has been a bit of a mission for Andrew. He has effectively made a new frame using his skills as a bike builder and a collection of late 90s Giant ATX frames, alloy frame tubes, plus a ton of time to rework the front triangle as well as retro-correcting the geometry to the steeper angle as it would have been back in the day. Andrew didn't do this alone; the aluminium welding was kindly looked after by a welding pro, and new cable guides were added in the exact positions as the 1994 bike by Alan at Ceeway frame supplies.
Just the week before the Malverns Classic, the frame welding was completed, and that left one week to go until the 2023 Retro Bike Show and Shine competition. With all the components required for the build assembled, though all disassembled into individual parts, the challenge was on to see if Andrew could achieve the impossible and get his dream bike done in time.
Andrew's description of that week of madness is this: "Tuesday to Thursday of that week involved an all-night frame sanding session and undercoating. Friday was the first day of the final color base coat and clear coat running into Saturday. Saturday was an all-day mission to get the paint to harden enough to start assembly, with the enjoyable bit of the bike build starting midday Saturday. At that point, it looked like the bike would go to the retro-ball, with decals applied (thanks to Guy at RetroDecals) at 1 am Sunday morning and Magura RaceLines converted over to the Euro brake setup, the final touch." Not that you would notice this was all done in a week; the attention to detail is unbelievable.
The Giant ATX has 80mm of rear travel, which sounds crazy considering this was a DH race-winning bike. How times and tracks have changed. It's a Noleen coil shock on the back of this ATX.
Out front, you find a set of Tioga Showa air/oil forks with 57mm of travel. Again, I think it's interesting to see how far suspension forks have come and from where we have come. Andrew somehow was able to locate the unobtainium Tioga Showa fork, although it wasn't in the iconic blue color. With anodizing the parts blue out of the question, he took the challenge to his local powder coating company, Prestige Wheels in Yate, who located a cobalt blue, and the results were a perfect match. The Tioga suspension brought with it a problem; the front hub needed for it was a tricky beast, as Andrew discovered it not only took straight-pull spokes but also that they were super narrow 15g. The solution was to machine out the spoke holes to accept more readily available 14g spokes, with the challenge then to work out the correct spoke pattern and length for the straight-pull build, just one of the many challenges involved in this bike build.
Now, this being a Tomac bike build, there is no surprise to see the Tioga Disc Drive wheel fitted to the back of this bike; these wheels and John Tomac are pretty much synonymous. The Disk Drive provided some suspension to alleviate the overly stiff rear-end configurations prevalent at the time. The Kevlar strands functioning as spokes enabled the hub to "hover," effectively smoothing out square-edge impacts and considerably boosting traction. Perhaps most notably, the wheel possessed the capability to store energy as it flexed into the apex of a turn and then discharge that stored energy upon exiting the turn, creating a sensation akin to being propelled out of the corner. Tire-wise, there is a set of Tioga Psycho Kevlar 26” x 1.95” tires, and as someone who is a sucker for a set of tan walls, I'm a big fan of these tires.
We are not quite in the disc brake era just yet, but who needs them when you have a set of Magura's RaceLine HS22 hydraulic rim brakes; these things are so powerful they could crush rims, well, depending on your rim, but for sure they're not without power.
When it comes to the drivetrain, we see a 1-by setup (it's a DH bike after all). The Tioga Revolver chromoly 175mm cranks have a Giant Tioga 54T chainring fitted to them with a Shimano M900 front mech standing in as a chain guide. There is more XTR out back too, with Shimano's M900 XTR Mech working on a M900 XTR 8-speed cassette, all controlled by a set of GripShift SRT-500R shifters.
Upfront, there is a set of Tioga DL-2001 straight handlebars cut down to a staggering, by today's standards, 560mm. There is a set of Tioga Powerstuds bar ends, color-matched to the Tioga Alchemy AL2 stem, which is 150mm long, all finished off with a set of ATI Tomac grips.
Finally, there is a Selle Italia Flite with Titanium rails fitted to a Tioga Carbo seat post. It's amazing to think that this bike comes in at 12.98 kg with a set of Shimano M739 SPD pedals fitted.
Congratulations to Andrew on his win at the 2023 Malverns Classic Retro Show and Shine; it's well deserved.