Throwback Thursday: 7 Bikes Turning 20 in 2023

Jan 26, 2023 at 8:52
by Ed Spratt  
Following on from our Throwback to 2013 last week, let's now take a look back through the archives at some of the bikes turning 20 this year.



1. Honda

Honda G-Cross DH bike

The Honda RN01 is easily one of the rarest bikes to have ever raced at World Cups, with supposedly just two left in existence. The bike featured a secret gearbox system that led to all sorts of speculation, fueled by the fact that during World Cup races the team engineers would apparently remove the gearboxes from the bikes and take them back to the hotel rooms to avoid anyone getting access to the system without permission.

Its time on the World Cup circuit was short-lived, but remains a legendary bike 20 years later.



2. Yeti 4X Special Projects

photo

Revealed at Interbike in 2003, the Yeti 4X Special Projects frame was numbered and hand-built in Yeti's Factory as part of very limited runs of around 50-100. The frame featured 3.25" of travel with a stiffened boxy rear end to improve power transfer for gate starts and flat-out sprints.

photo

photo



3. Foes Inferno

photo

Another fresh bike showcased on the stands of Interbike was the Foes Inferno. The Inferno was a totally new 7.5" long-travel trail bike from Foes designed around a Curnutt rear shock and an optional floating disc brake arm.

photo
photo

photo



4. Santa Cruz VP Free

photo

Following one and a half years after Santa Cruz released the Blur with VPP (Virtual Pivot Point) technology and shortly after the V10 was the brand's VPP freeride bike. The VP Free was released as a 2004 model year and ran until 2006 before an updated VP Free 1.5 ran until the model year 2007. The first VP Free featured 215mm of rear travel that could be paired with forks from 160mm to a maximum of 203mm.

photo

photo



5. Sinister R9

photo

Engineered and built by Frank The Welder, the Sinister R9 featured nine inches of travel and sealed pivot bearings in locations Sinister called “The Backbone”, a plate section located between the top and bottom tubes that accommodate the shock mount, link plates and pivot bearings. Sinister said this lowered the chance of structural failure associated with pivots and swing arm mounts traditionally located in drilled frame tubes. "The Backbone" could also house the reservoir for Avalanche rear shocks.

photo
photo



6. Intense M3

Intense M3

Another legendary race bike revealed 20 years ago was the Intense M3. After Intense partnered with Santa Cruz to license the VPP suspension system patent the M3 was born. The M3 became Intense's first bike to use 9.5 inches of rear travel. The VPP system on the M3 was claimed to dramatically improve pedalling efficiency, while also offering better small and large bump performance.

bigquotesThe opportunity to utilize the VPP suspension platform was an exciting way to move into a high-performance 4th generation suspension design that was versatile and adaptable. Jeff Steber

Intense M3



7. Canfield Formula 1

photo

Another big travel downhill bike launched in 2003 was the high-pivot Canfield Formula 1. Designed with Canfield's parallel links driving a three inch Manitou Swinger 6-way rear shock the Formula 1 had nine inches of travel to play with. The frame used a high-pivot design with an idler as well as being designed with a small amount of "brake squat" to allow the bike to settle slightly into its travel under braking.

The Formula 1 was built with 160mm X 15mm rear hub spacing, had 20mm bearings at every pivot and could fit a chunky 2.8" 26" tire at the rear.

photo

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Author Info:
edspratt avatar

Member since Mar 16, 2017
3,046 articles

164 Comments
  • 161 0
 Still drooling over the Honda and Canfield!!

Oh and the VP-Free…and the M3…and the 4x…damn (metal) bikes used to have character!
  • 26 1
 The VP Free was my dream bike back then, the M3 was a close second.
  • 7 0
 @scott-townes: I remember coming to the Shore and checking out a VP-Free proto mule being ridden by the local SC rep. It was meeting super man.
  • 11 0
 @scott-townes:
I owned a VP Free for a while, the rear suspension was amazing and felt like it could suck up anything. The problem was trying to find a fork that felt even half as good!
  • 10 16
flag scott-townes (Jan 26, 2023 at 12:44) (Below Threshold)
 @DC1988: lucky bastard. @mammal was it hard to walk in cream-soaked shorts after meeting such a glorious bike?
  • 5 0
 @mammal:
I wonder if that was at our store??
Love these throwback articles - they don't make them like they used to!
  • 14 11
 @scott-townes: man, the VP free was one of the worst bikes I ever rode.
You didn’t miss much my man.
The Norco Shore, and the Bullit were way better bikes than the hot garbage of the VP free. Couple it with the 5th element rear shock, and you immediately had yourself the most unreliable, and poorly handling bike brought to market.

YMMV

That M3 was the real deal though
  • 1 3
 @SteedCycles: Nope, that was my store, Fusion Multisport, in Los Alamos, New Mexico
  • 3 0
 Had 2 VP Frees, first one was stolen (right after a new fork). Ran out and bought another as a replacement. Sold that one in 2006, and I am missing it today: www.pinkbike.com/u/chrod/album/VP-Free-Frame

BB was high AF, 180mm Marzocchi 66 fork and a Progressive 5th element made for a great 33 lb do-anything bike though.
  • 4 0
 I'd rock that Yeti still Those were the original DC bikes
  • 1 0
 The KYB suspension is definitely on point. Even the bar mounts are full moto style.
  • 10 0
 My old VP-Free, racing mt7 Psychosis:

m.pinkbike.com/photo/1643139
  • 1 1
 it was better before Smile
  • 4 0
 @nateb: Friggen gnar.
  • 2 0
 @scott-townes: my derailleur grenaded… made the best of it haha.
  • 1 0
 @SteedCycles: It was at the bottom of some local trails, and long before I lived on the Shore, so I can only guess that it was on Cypress (maybe Fromme). It was a raw proto VP Free.
  • 130 3
 Missing this year's orange from the list
  • 13 1
 lol, ouch
  • 9 0
 Got em
  • 17 2
 File cabinets & shopping carts will be in a separate post..
  • 65 0
 That Honda with modern geometry...
  • 10 0
 I was thinking the same thing. How cool would a modern version of this bike be?!
  • 3 22
flag CSharp (Jan 26, 2023 at 13:18) (Below Threshold)
 Yes, for e-bike motor!
  • 7 2
 @dreamlink87: Looks cool, but not the same bike as the Honda
  • 2 1
 You mean the new ebike from ibis?
  • 7 0
 @bman33: Its more about the high pivot and self contained gear box they're designing for it. Nothing is the same bike as the Honda
  • 2 6
flag notthatfast (Jan 26, 2023 at 13:35) (Below Threshold)
 @dreamlink87:
You should probably get your eyes tested...
  • 2 5
 @dreamlink87: not a gearbox
  • 5 0
 @somebody-else: Really? Directly from the Trinity MTB webpage:

"We believe this will be the first bike to be compatible with every type of drivetrain on the market. Traditional 1x (7-12 speed), Pinion P-Line, and Effigear's Mimic gearbox. We are also working on developing our own drivetrain solution. Keep up with us Instagram to find out more."
  • 1 0
 Check bultaco and gas gas
  • 1 0
 Lets be honest all of those bikes could have been good with modern geo
  • 1 0
 @enki: why is cross compatibility even a thing? If you want a gearbox bike, then get a gearbox bike. I ride a Zerode, once you go gearbox you’ll never look at derailleurs the same.
  • 4 0
 @sanchofula: I wonder if people on moto forums complain the engine from their Honda won't fit a KTM?
  • 1 0
 @dreamlink87: Thanks for the link....very promising design!
  • 1 0
 @sanchofula: of course you do lol
  • 51 0
 That Intense M3 looks like the Grim Doughnut's arch nemesis
  • 3 0
 underrated comment lol
  • 10 0
 45° STA
  • 5 0
 @arrowheadrush: And a 72º HTA.
  • 1 0
 @mattgersib: keeps the front end planted on the climbs and makes the bike playful on the downs Wink
  • 44 0
 Make 4x great again!
  • 16 0
 I wish I could upvote this comment 4x times.
  • 7 2
 I would be happy with 2x ( dual slalom) mailing a come back!
  • 23 0
 That RNO1 still is the most futuristic bike I have seen..
  • 10 1
 Early adopters of the gearbox, but the Milllyard was the most forward bike of all time.
  • 21 0
 Funny how I used to think new bikes looked like they had a piano dropped on them and now I think old bikes look like they've been run in to a wall.
  • 2 0
 Hysterically accurate description.
  • 24 0
 Canfields are timeless
  • 14 0
 Early-mid 2000's was such a great time for DH bike development. Drooled over most of the ones in this list, especially the Honda. Working for a Specialized dealer at the time, I swapped out my Big Hit for a Demo 9 in 2004. Really wish I would have kept the Demo..
  • 19 3
 the inverted dual crown fork is a thing of beauty no matter the brand...
  • 1 0
 The single crown Curnutt is cool too. I was aware of their dual crown forks but had missed the single crown one. Does it take a 30mm axle?
  • 13 0
 Canfield, Honda and Foes still look they'd rip.
  • 12 0
 The foes looks like the inspiration for 83.7% of department store 'full suspension' 'Mountain bikes'.
  • 13 0
 That Canfield looks like a bike that could have been released these days
  • 7 1
 They were way ahead of everyone else.
  • 8 0
 Two things that are Impossible to forget.... Greg Minnaar with the Honda RN01 and Chris Kovarik on the Intense M3 , Legendary !
  • 7 0
 Can't have '03 throw back feature without the ubiquitous dude in jean shorts pic.
  • 3 0
 you got me to scroll back up...found him!
  • 6 0
 I still have an M3 which is currently in storage, and my wife has a Canfield Jedi. I might have to get the M3 out this summer, I had some of my best race results on it.
  • 7 0
 C@nf1ield looking b@ass!!!!
  • 9 0
 That formula 1 was a seriously ahead of its time bike. They were also silly burly. There are still quiet a few running around out there compared to the amount sold.
  • 6 0
 Does that White Brothers fork on the Canfield have a Secus on it? Just how old are you Steve @VorsprungSuspension?
  • 2 0
 Seems like it is on the damper side. Secus is for the air spring. Isn't it something similar to the BOS Rare fork, which also had something like this?
  • 7 0
 Nostalgia is one hell of a drug.
  • 4 0
 For sure - if you look at this without remembering lusting over any of this stuff, there seems to be an awkward teenage phase vibe about this era. Which makes sense - things grew by leaps and bounds and developed radically in that era - so just like people look back and glorify their high school years, people look at this stuff through a sentimental lense. Who wants to remember the fact that much of this stuff broke all the time and things were usually obsolete before they ever made it to mass production? That's like choosing to remember acne and social awkwardness rather than reminiscing about parties.
  • 3 0
 can't talk about early 2000s DH bikes and not have a Karpiel on there, I mean did we forget about the monster drops done by Josh Bender. Also the Rocky Mountain RM6 with Wade Simmons. Those original NWD videos is what got me into biking.
  • 5 0
 That single crown Foes F1 on their Inferno is a rare sight indeed…
A lovely selection of bikes right here. Smile
  • 2 0
 Was that fork ever in production? She's a beaut
  • 1 0
 @mikeaa1CO: No, only this proto on the Inferno
  • 5 1
 It is absolutely shocking that the 2003 Norco A-line isnt included and I feel very strongly about that. What a bike. I somehow still own mine...
  • 2 0
 Was that the year they moved away from monocoque frames to tubes? I had an '02 Launch with a Super T and a 24" rear wheel. I swapped out the linkage and Fox Vanilla R for the Shore linkage and a Vanilla RC, then promptly snapped the compression dial off of the shock lol. I miss that bike. It wasn't light, or an efficient to pedal, and the suspension wasn't that great, but it was fun.
  • 3 0
 @oldmanbucksaw: Still monocoque. The year that it came with the Monster Ts. Definitely the fork a 125lbs kid needed...

Perfect for huck to flats with the upgrade to a 24" rear wheel.
  • 2 0
 Ah yes the R9. My team was sponsored by SInister for a short while. I'd previously raced a modified SC Bullet. I was so amped. Ran remote res. Avy rear and a 888 up front. Was a dream bike. After a half season on the R9 I sold it and went back the Bullet. The R9 was unridable with it's redic. steep head angle. It was like a long travel XC bike. Never won a race on the R9 but won plenty on the Bullet.
  • 2 0
 I had a Sinister R9 when I was a kid, which was what replaced the Spooky Project X I rode before that. My profile picture is of me riding that bike off some huge jump at Post Canyon in Hood River. Might be time to finally update that.
  • 2 0
 So many amazing memories connected to those bikes and parts! Would be amazing to see a modern version of almost every single frame in this article - plus I want to highlight the 5th element shock which was rare even back in the days, but performed so freaking well!
  • 4 0
 I had a Formula One. To this day still the most confidence inspiring bike I ever owned.
  • 1 0
 Man this brings me back to high school lunch I would sneak off into the library and enjoy pinkbike and I am pretty sure I wanted all these bikes at one point, also bring back that old logo on the photos, I remember there was a site associated with pinkbike that was all ski related..
  • 3 0
 If you are ever in South Africa, make the mission to Greg's shop in Pietermaritzburg, and you can feast your eyes on one of those Honda's
  • 1 0
 Still have my mk2 M3 and I take it out for a laugh a few times a year. I still think it's mint, and people seem surprised to be overtaken by such an old anker, though I have cheated with newer parts on it including a 275 front end.
  • 2 0
 What a great collection of bikes, my friend (hi Garry) did the Megavalanche on a Yeti 4x special project , bloody good effort I thought, he still has the bike now.
  • 2 0
 I did a 24hr race on my 4X (as part of a team). I would absolutely smoke all the Lycra clad xc types on both the dh and the flow but would get caught up on the climbs. The bike was such a capable rig and still the most fun bike I've ever owned.
  • 4 0
 Oh the Yeti, the one bike I truly regret selling.
  • 1 0
 The Honda has me wondering if you could bolt a set of Trials motorcycle forks to a DH bike. Yes, Fox 40's and Boxxers are nice, but motorsports products always have next-level trickery and nerding out on components.
  • 3 0
 Back in 1999, a mate had a Cheetah DH bike with YZ80 fork. So plush, but so heavy.
  • 1 0
 @Kiwijohn42: haha, nice!
  • 3 0
 Monster T was a trials fork adapted to mtb.
  • 1 0
 Anything is possible these days, especially with the size of head tubes today. You may need to have a set of headset cups made up, but I'd say it's doable. On the other hand, MTB suspension has been dialed in so well over the years, I'm not sure it would be worth it.
  • 1 0
 @jomacba: It probably wouldn't be worth the effort, you're right. I guess I'm just a sucker for that blue and turquoise Ti Nitride stanchion/ kashima coated body look from the moto world.
m.facebook.com/1153915771285134/photos/pcb.4332157653460914/4332145563462123/?type=3&source=48&__tn__=EH-R
  • 2 0
 @Glory831Guy: Trust me, I feel that. I got a quote for my KYB SSS forks to do the kashima uppers and DLC lowers, and I'm looking at about 2g's for the fork. At that point, I think I'd rather spend a bit more and just go with an A-Kit suspension front and back. You could get an older RS Dominion DC fork, and drop a Charger damper in it. They use steel upper tubes which you could ti-nitride coat. To be honest though, your gonna get better longevity out of DLC. Just not as exciting I guess.
  • 1 0
 @jomacba: That's a good suggestion with the RS Domain , I hadn't thought about that. I do remember reading on a Kawasaki KX450 test a while back that DLC coating was better than Ti Nitride, and Kashima for durability and lubricity.

That Blue/Green Ti-N coating would turn some heads on a MTB for sure though. One of the SR Suntour sponsored riders in XC had fork like that for the Olympics, but I haven't seen anyone else using Nitride coated suspension.
  • 1 0
 @Glory831Guy: RS did it back in the early 2000's to the Boxxer. On aluminum it didn't have very good longevity. Kashima I can't say your going to get better performance, but you will get better longevity.
  • 2 0
 I remember seeing the Hondas at Fort Bill when GM rode them..and yes they took the 'Gearbox out' cool bikes I also won a Dragon DH race on my Blue VP Free..Great bike..
  • 5 0
 R9 FTW
  • 4 0
 I think it has a NYCFreeride stem on it too
  • 4 0
 2003 Specialized Big Hit Comp — the original mullet
  • 1 0
 24" rear wheel never needed to brake in a rock garden, but rocketed out of every turn
  • 1 0
 My buddy's got a wicked raw Sinister R9, I need to get a photo of the beast.
So many nice bikes here, and they still shine. Like looking at an old classic car, these bikes are true time machines.
And Huck Machine(s). \m/
  • 2 0
 Always remember the Curnutt suspension on the Foes being viewed as pretty special, not sure if that was fair or not. Anyone got any experience of it?
  • 2 0
 Owned 4 Foes Fly frames in 2004. 3 of the frames snapped and got warrantied, sold the 4th one. The Curnutt coil shock was an amazing bit of kit but unfortunately never really got to try it properly as the frames it was mounted too kept on disintegrating.
  • 1 0
 The Curnutt stuff was bloody good.
  • 1 0
 Pretty sure I had posters and photos of 75% these bikes cut out of magazines on my bedroom wall when I was a kid. Still lusting after that Intense M3. And the Yeti 4x bikes. And the Honda.
  • 1 0
 Those where the days... in 03 i belive i was riding a Kona Stab, and a a Stab Deluxe. And today my rinding is done in a older bike, a 98 Sintesi Bazooka with Monster T and a few upgrades. Nop no evolution here Smile
  • 1 0
 I'm more excited about the GT STS turning 25 this year! Gawd that thing was sexy...

bikerecyclery.com/1998-gt-sts-1000-ds-frame-thermoplastic-carbon-fiber-rockshox-super-deluxe-rare
  • 2 0
 I thought you guys would have featured the Foes Fly instead of the Foes Inferno. I think the Fly came first.
  • 1 0
 But the Inferno had flames stamped on it! I had no need for that much travel but man did younger me want one of those.
  • 1 0
 I used to dream of owning a Foes back then when I was a teenager and knew nothing about suspension, they just looked so cool with the Curnut shock. Now when I look at those I can't imagine how bad they must have been, full digressive leverage curve with the Curnut shock that also has a lot of platform and blow-off. How things have changed since then ahah.
  • 1 0
 Better selection of bikes than last week, would want any of these in my shed with the favourites being the yeti or intense because the Honda is unobtanium.
  • 2 0
 My 2011 Transition Blindside just turned 22 and I still reside it and I still have an awesome time!
  • 6 0
 Correction, turned 12. I still ride it and just a couple minor head injuries that affected my math skill, LOL!
  • 2 0
 All I can think of is the bike lineup from Downhill Domination after seeing these
  • 1 0
  Came here to see a 24 Bicycles! I'm disappointed, no matter these beauties!
#24bicycleslovers #pornspirit #racingclubdelourdes
  • 3 0
 I miss my (1st gen) Rotec DH
A bike before it's time
  • 1 0
 The first DH bike I ever tried. Absolute beaut of a bike
  • 1 0
 I love the old e thirteen dinner plate bash guards!! They always cracked but I never actually broke one even with all the picnic table hops!!
  • 3 0
 The Honda is the coolest downhill bike ever !
  • 2 0
 No NICOLAI NUCLEON DH? Come on Pinkbike. This was the golden age of crazy. I know you can do better!!!
  • 1 0
 Pinkbike, following the Outside management, tends to prefer American products
  • 2 0
 Man I miss watching Greg shred on that Honda, that bike still blows my receding hairline back. Everytime I see it
  • 1 0
 Great selection of bikes to feature from two decades ago. Love the risky, innovative designs. Still, its hard to fathom just how much mtb geometry sucked then. :L
  • 1 0
 VP Free already had dated geometry at launch. The only ones with out of the box thinking were Honda and Canfield. Too bad none took off commercially.
  • 1 0
 God I wish Honda would have stayed in the mountain bike scene. The bikes they'd have now would be incredible.
  • 2 0
 My main bike turns 20 next year lol
  • 1 0
 man the vp free looks just like an modern enduro bike..... just that those arent 29 wheels, so its just tiny in reality
  • 1 0
 Great article. I love stuff like this. Next — chronicle epic game changing forks and freeride hardtails!
  • 1 0
 No love for the Intense Uzzi VPX? To be fair it is very close to the VPFree
  • 1 0
 Back in the days when they were chasing rear wheel travel over geometry. Still. I lusted after almost all of those bikes.
  • 3 0
 No turner?
  • 4 0
 This man has a point!!! Where's the DHR!!!
  • 2 0
 The Yeti and the Canfield have aged best in the looks department.
  • 1 0
 Yeah, I love how people apparently can stop complaining about cable and hose routing and just look at the complete picture. The Canfield shows a huge loop of outer going towards the rear mech and it isn't bothering anyone. Try to picture a new bike like that, publish it on PB and oh boy...
  • 1 0
 Thank god we don't see Foes bikes in the UK anymore. In 2004 I snapped 3 Fly frames and sold the 4th.
  • 2 0
 I miss my Special Projects Yeti 4X
  • 2 0
 finally got my hands on a Special Projects 4X last year....... #91.
  • 1 0
 That Honda, still stunning. Had a chance to saw it live in a venue at Portugal. What a beauty
  • 2 0
 Maybe this is the year I rebuild my old Bottlerocket finally....
  • 2 0
 2003 ... When Marzocchi was a pro-thing !!!
  • 6 8
 Back when fun trumped speed . The sly marketing department got better funded and convinced everyone to buy plow bikes with wagon wheels . The Honda is at another level . Like a works bike in moto gp.
  • 8 2
 @Sshredder right, because absolutely no one has 'fun' today on any bike that handles and last far better than anything ever built back then... Still 27.5 and 26" DJ's available.........today.
  • 1 0
 Reading "Interbike" added to the nostalgia of things past.
  • 1 0
 I thought the first V10 came out in 2004?
  • 1 0
 I'd love to see these bikes compared to nowadays en/tr bikes
  • 1 0
 That seat angle on the M3 is wild!
  • 1 0
 But can we see the bikes turning 30?
  • 1 0
 HP1, HP2, HP3, and so on...
  • 1 0
 The Foes is a girthy trail bike
  • 1 0
 What about the Brooklyn Machine Works Race Link?
  • 2 0
 @llarrggee:
They were pretty rare in most markets, but I still have mine and my TMX. Sick pieces then and now.
  • 1 0
 Ih Sunday, Karpiel discovolante, Yeti lowwill.
  • 1 0
 I have ridden the Honda bike, the shifting was delayed and wired.
  • 1 0
 What did these bikes retail for back then?
  • 1 0
 About £4000 for a race spec M3
  • 1 0
 I still deeply desire to own both a Yeti 4x and a DJ. Someday.....
  • 1 2
 hmmmm, wonder if some hidden motor shenanigans were going on with that Honda.
  • 1 0
 @maestroman:
Knowing Honda, they are likely last to cheat. Show up and blow minds, take the prize and move on. And I don’t think Greg needed much help other than suspension and geo.
  • 1 0
 Erhm... That long ago??
  • 1 0
 Make Yeti Great Again
  • 1 1
 Corn field
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