1990 Trek 8900 Pro
A thirty year old mountain bike. That’s a pretty long time… Is it any fun?
More than you would imagine,
We’ve taken this one out on the trails a few times and have been surprised as much by the ways in which this old bike feels awesome as by the elements that are really irritating.
First, the overall design. This is from 1990 so of course it’s a hardtail with 26” wheels with 2” wide tires. The frame has some carbon fiber tubing and there’s Rock Shox’s first suspension fork on the front with about 2” of air-sprung travel. The handlebars are narrow and the reach is fairly long.
On smooth singletrack with a lot of tight twists and turns, this old Trek handles better than a modern bike (surprise!). The wheelbase is much shorter than a modern bike, so it’s easy to change directions. Now, we did switch the flat & narrow vintage handlebar for a slightly more modern (and 4” wider) riser bar, and we found ourselves avoiding roots and rocks instead of hitting them head on, but still.
The Rock Shox fork? The original air-sprung suspension took an edge off of the big hits, but the rebound was really slow and you had to rely on the tires alone to absorb small bumps. The 2” wide tires? The traction and stability associated with modern 29” wheels or wide 27s was missed.
How about the brakes? The Grafton cantilever brakes worked great, and the Suntour levers have a spongy rubber cover that is really nice and comfortable but we’ll have to call the test ride an easy one for the brakes. The trails were dry, and the test rider is light. Modern disc brakes are fabulous.
What about the shifting and the gearing? Well, it was pretty nice having 21 possible gear combinations. That said, actually shifting among them with the old Suntour Xpress shifters was noisy and not very precise, and while we didn’t have to deal with “chain suck” thanks to the Cook Bros. crank, the whole gear range was pretty high.
Shimano’s original SPD pedals work just as well as new ones with two exceptions: There was no cleat float on the original, so you better set your cleats correctly, and watch where you step! There is no space for mud to squish through the old pedal body, so the pedals are pretty easy to clog up.
Riding around the Port Gamble trails, we didn’t miss modern frame design (or even a dropper post) one bit. The ride was a little harsh, maybe more similar to a new gravel bike that a true mountain bike, but it was still really fun.
Of course, lack of confidence in the brakes, the tires, and the suspension probably kept us in control on steep descents and technical trails as much as dropping our center of gravity with a handlebar-mounted switch ever would.