Depending on how old you are, 2002 might not sound like it was all that long ago. And in the grand scheme of things, it wasn't, but the early 2000s were effectively secondary school for development of the mountain bike in that they were polished turds at best but things were getting better. Kinda. I guess that means that we're all in university now?
Anyway, those were the early days for big-hitting bikes like this 203mm-travel 8-Ball from Canadian brand Brodie, and as its 68-degree head angle underlines, geometry had yet to stray far from dated numbers.
2002 Brodie 8-Ball
Intended use: freeride / downhill
Fork travel: 190mm
Wheel size: 26''
Frame construction: aluminum
Head angle: approx. 68-degrees
Reach: approx. 400mm
Hate getting scorpion'd after catching a pedal at speed? Who doesn't, but with a 15.5'' high bottom bracket, the 8-Ball is just the ticket if you struggle with that. However, if you have the bare minimum upper body strength of a life-long cycler like me, ya might struggle with this thing... It's 47.5lb! Eeesh.
Time has a funny way of making some things look silly, doesn't it?
We laugh at those numbers now, but I remember when I saw the 8-Ball for the first time; it was in the glossy pages of some magazine, and 22-year-old Levy knew that he needed
every last one of those 203 millimeters for drops to flat that made zero sense. And for wheelie'ing off loading docks to uphill landings, too. What a dumbass.
No one knew any better at the time and, for the most part, no one is going to know any better when we look back at today a few decades from now. The world is going to be an even more messed up place, I'm sure; Elon Musk will have been ''elected'' as America's Supreme Leader after the robot uprising, and we'll see today's carbon dream bikes as junk that makes us inhale sharply and say things like ''How the hell did we ride those things?'' Or maybe not... I'm not entirely sure about the robot uprising part.
Freedom! But not from kneepads because those cable guides are going to tear you a new one.
Back to our chunky friend, the 8-Ball, where there are a few interesting things to point out, especially in the suspension department. The pocket-sized Fox Vanilla R, a shock that's undersized and overworked on the 8-Ball, is still alive; it's full of oil and has a functioning rebound dial! At the other end, we have one of the most storied downhill forks of all time: Marzocchi's 190mm-travel Shiver. It's funny how these are so revered now; we talk about the Shiver in that ''Oh man, those were the days'' kinda tone that lets us feel special because we were around then. The truth, however, is that the Shiver was severely under-damped, held oil with all the reliability of an air-cooled Beetle, and had a tendency to twist itself up in the crowns.
The single pivot, linkage-activated design delivers 203mm of travel, all of which was controlled by that poor little Fox shock. Remarkably, it's still holding oil and pressure.
What'd the Shiver have going for it? Despite those issues, I vaguely remember that it was one of the few reliable options sixteen years ago. Hell, the BoXXer had 32mm stanchions, the internal hex for the rebound adjuster was plastic, and the axle clamps stripped out if you so much as raised your voice while tightening the lil' suckers.
I was humbled badly when I tried to lift the 47.5lb 8-Ball off the ground.
Despite the 8-Ball's now obvious short-comings, it was a serious rig back in 2002. And like the other fancy bikes of the day, it was also the result of small change after small change after small change. And then a bunch more small changes. Forks and rear suspension got an extra inch every few years, disc brakes and thru-axles were real things, and damping was kinda on its way to getting better. Geometry was apparently lagging behind and was still scary, though.
Is the 8-Ball a terrible bike? Maybe not in 2002 and, depending on what you care about, maybe not even in 2018. But a modern mountain bike of almost any kind is more capable than Brodie's heavy hitter in every way, bar pedaling over three-foot-tall parking barriers. The 8-Ball would win that one.
Over time, smart folks learned that bikes usually corner better when the bottom bracket isn't multiple feet off the ground, that our handlebars don't need to be so close and so skinny, and that moving the fork's axle way out in front of you really lowers the chance of getting tossed out the front door. Bikes got stiffer as materials, design, and standards changed and then changed a bunch more times until we ended up where we are now.
Whether it's axle standards or language or cooking or cars, that's just how this kind of thing happens - incremental and slower than we'd prefer. But it works because, well, look at the bikes we're on today: They're pretty dang light, their reliability makes the early 2000s look like a joke, and modern suspension and geometry has us feeling like heroes. Yeah, I think I'll take all those small changes, thank you very much.
There are sixteen long years between the 8-Ball and my current carbon fiber dream bike that's in for testing, but I suspect that you'd be pretty damn grateful for all the incremental changes between the two if you rode them back-to-back. Unless wheelie dropping loading docks to uphill landings is still your main thing.
Video presented by the Sundial Boutique Hotel in Whistler, BC