Seeing all the 10 Year Challenge memes flying around has us thinking that some of the biggest changes in our lives over the past decade have been the bikes we ride.
Back in 2009, 1x11 was a pipedream still three years away, skinnies were the connoisseur's trail feature of choice and you'd be laughed at if you were riding anything other than 26 inch wheels. In the world of downhill there were contrasting fortunes as Steve Peat finally claimed the rainbow jersey in Canberra, while Missy Giove was arrested for smuggling 400lbs of marijuana. In cross country, Nino Schurter won his first elite World Championship and he hasn't stopped since.
To celebrate ten years of mtb progress, here's a look back at the bikes the Pinkbike editors and certain pros were riding in 2009.
2009 - The Transition Gran Mal
2019 - The Specialized Stumpjumper EVO 29
I was deep into my freeride phase back in 2009, and a well-used Transition Gran Mal was my ride of choice. This bike lived a hard life, and when this photo was taken it had Shimano Saint cranks and brakes, an MRP dual ring chainguide, mis-matched rims (the front was originally on my Iron Horse Sunday), Marzocchi 66 fork with an extra 6 sticker thrown on for good measure, and a white camo saddle that I remember as being the opposite of comfortable.
It wasn't pretty, but it was tough, and that bike accompanied me on all sorts of adventures in Washington, British Columbia, and Colorado. I eventually sold it and replaced it with something lighter and more pedal friendly, but pictures of that white tank still bring back fond memories of skinnies, steeps, and big jumps.
I was a full on XC racer in 2009 and had never ridden a bike with any more than 100mm of travel in my life. The salesperson at my local bike shop in Sainte-Adele, Quebec showed me an image of this Trek Top Fuel 9.8 WSD in the 2009 catalogue and I pre-ordered it without ever having ridden a Trek before. All I remember about the purchase is the glossy catalogue and the fact that Emily Batty was pictured with it. Brands might not do printed catalogues anymore, and fewer people are buying bikes without demoing them these days, but Emily Batty is still helping sell bikes for Trek! I raced it during the 2009 season and then sold it to a guy from the Yukon who didn’t mind the pink colour. I rode the same model bike the following year, but in the black and red version.
Yeti's SB130 holding ever-changing test parts.
I was participating in my first senior year of college at Appalachian State in Boone, NC in 2009. I had become pretty talented at managing a class schedule that allowed bikes to be a priority. I didn't care what kind of bike it was, I just wanted to pedal and be deep in the forest as often as possible. I worked at a ski shop each winter and then went west each summer. The season before, I had based out of Bellingham, WA. Through good friends and good timing, I wound up with a job at Transition Bikes boxing and shipping bikes. I worked for a little money but mostly bike parts.
I bought a Transition Blindside and put a third-hand Boxxer World Cup on the front. I used it for everything from racing DH to day-long trail rides for the next two years. The Blindside made its rounds being sold amongst friends afterwards. I don't know where it is now but I hope it's still delivering as much fun as I had on it!
After getting into mountain biking on a Trek Y26
, this was my first 'proper' mountain bike that looked just like the ones in the magazines. I bought it on the back of a 10/10 review in a Hardtail of the Year test but my first ride was a disaster. I didn't realise that bikes didn't come with decent pedals and spent an unsatisfying few hours slipping off a crappy plastic pair at Whinlatter trail centre.
We soon got to know each other better and enjoyed a good three years of riding, including a week in the Alps that nearly wrote it off. In the end I 'up'graded to an Iron Horse Yakuza
in my own personal bid to become Sam Hill. The Rockhopper stayed with me as a commuter until a couple of years ago, when it got nicked on an estate in London. I was devastated.
Ten years ago I was skint. I didn't have money for a proper DH bike, so my choices were... limited. I found this frame for £400 from the UK Balfa distributor at the time. The Totem which I carried over from the Giant Faith it replaced wouldn't clear the downtube, so I had to source an extended lower cup to stop it making contact every time I went around a corner. The rear shock was a by-then outdated Fifth Element that I shipped off to TF Tuning for some love (I believe they used to strip out the pedal platform) and was a weird gem of a thing, outperforming many of the more mainstream options of the time.
This bike was one my friends would try and come away saying "it rides a lot better than it looks." Which is probably the best summary of this bike I can muster. The rear end is actually a VPP, based on the original Outland patent, from the days before Santa Cruz started adding a hefty licensing fee to use it. While it may have been ugly enough to make small children weep, I had many good days aboard it and even pointed it down the Vallnord WC track.
OK, so maybe it was 10.5 years ago but who's counting?
Back then I was on Solid A-Class Factory racing, yeah, I never managed to qualify at a World Cup again, but, whatevs. After the last five years of me moaning that bikes aren't big or slack enough, I think this proves to me that we are in a much better place than ten years ago. The team owner sent me a medium frame because he thought the 'huge' large frame option was way too big for my 6'1" height. I can't find the numbers, but I think this was around a 400mm reach, with a 66º headangle and 26" wheels. Obviously, I took a file to the frame to cut 5mm out of the top shock mount, lowering the BB by about an inch and taking a degree or so out of the HA.
A tiny bike, which sent me over the bars a few times (funny how that never happens to me on 'modern' bikes), and ultimately sent me OTB to a broken spleen in WC practice in Schladming. I was dropped from the team as I couldn't commit to the following season of racing as the doctor told me to have at least six months rest, luckily, this happened before I could do any more damage to myself. I'm not sure what was a bigger kick in the balls: two weeks in a hospital in Austria with no call from the boss to check if I was still alive, or being dropped after nearly dying racing for them. Anyway, no hard feelings, but thank god I am not riding those tiny bikes anymore!
Notable RidersBrandon Semenuk
We grabbed this bike check with Brandon Semenuk as he was getting a stereo fitted into his new Subaru Impreza STi thanks to a sponsorship deal. He was rocking this Trek Remedy complete with a hydraulic gyro and you can see how beaten up it is from a few competitions. Brandon would take this bike to second place in the Crankworx Slopestyle a few months later. Check out the full bike check here
Fast forward ten years and while his Trek Ticket S slopestyle bike shares some similar lines and features, it's a totally different bike.
2009 was the year Steve Peat finally claimed the World Champs crown and he did it on a Santa Cruz V10 Mk3. This was a prototype for the race with the top tube extended to a virtual 657.8mm (roughly equivalent to the XL of the Mk6), earning it the nickname The Horse.
Set up for Canberra's pedal-fest, the rims were stripped of paint, all the bolts were replaced with Ti versions, smaller discs were used and cross country tyres and tubes were fitted to drop weight. On top of this, the grease in the hub was swapped for a light oil and all the seals and dust shields were left out to reduce rolling resistance.
Ten years later, the V10 is on version Mk7.