Wednesday, 30 April 2003

The UK's First 29er (Prototype frame & fork)

As soon as I read about Gary Fisher bringing out the first 29er in 2002, I knew that these were the bikes for me.

Here's the short story of how I ended up with the UK's first, and rather special, 29er mountain bike with a good amount of help from Rory at USE and Brant at On-One.

Coincidentally I happened to contact Brant Richards at On-One in 2002 about treating myself to a new singlespeed and was, naturally, delighted when Brant declared me "just the kind of oversized freak" he was looking for for a project he had in mind. That project was a 29er inbred. I leapt at the chance.

While I was discussing custom geometry with Brant (which ended up with a 22" frame and a 26" top tube!), and opting for a rather flash Bushnell EBB, I set about trying to work out how to finish the bike, notably rims, tyres and a fork!

I was discussing my new frame, excitedly, on my local Tuesday night ride, having concluded that if I was to be successful in having front suspension, I needed an upside down (braceless) fork to accommodate the larger wheel, the internals of which I could then modify to shorten the travel to prevent the tyre hitting the crown. It just so happened I was discussing this with Rory of USE, makers of the upside down S.U.B. fork! Informing me to "leave it with him" and plans for a 29er S.U.B. were put in place.

The first 29er inbred, the first UK29er, finally takes shpe
A minimal amount of searching revealed a source for 29er tyres from the UK and then, best of all, USE, through their US arm, managed to blag some prototype WTB 29er speed disc rims from Wilderness Trail Bikes. WOOT!

The frame eventually turned up at the start of 2003 and, no sooner had I got it then it was off to USE to have the fork fitted and a special upper crown made, to go with the reduced (80mm) travel lower linkage arrangement. I had to make do with a couple of teaser shots from the USE workshop.

Eventually it was declared finished and, my custom geometry (my first and only custom bike), prototype frame, complete with prototype fork and rims, was ready to roll. I finished the bike with UK finishing kit where I could to go with the frame and fork, including Hope brakes & headset, a USE seatpost and handlebar and a set of Middleburn UNO cranks.

I was pretty happy with the finished item and, after the first Tuesday night thrash with my mates, I was, and remain, a total 29er convert. The grip and speed carried through corners were unbelievable, a singletrack weapon.

Here it is:

2012 Update: This bike, which is still going strong, is now featured in BikeMagic's "month of 29ers" as Brant Ricahrds looks back at the creation of the Uk's first 29er and forward to the future of 29ers in general, which you can read about on BikeMagic HERE

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