1991 Alpinestars AL-Mega
What a crazy-looking old bike.
This Alpinestars is designed around one big frame tube, which made for a modern-looking machine (in 1991) that gave the rider a low stand-over height. Depending on the salesperson you talked to, this design was either stronger or much more flexible while traversing rough trails.
The Shimano Deore DX components worked pretty well. The new under-handlebar shifters were a little hard on your thumbs, but they worked all right. Gear options had recently expanded to 21 speeds (up from 18), and Bio-pace oval chainrings were thankfully replaced with round ones again by ’91. V-brakes were still a couple of years off at the time. The Deore cantilevers brakes on this bike required a skilled mechanic for proper set-up and really strong fingers to activate.
In 1991, the shop where I worked had been selling mountain bikes (and I had been riding them) for roughly five years.
Five years seemed like forever to me then, and it certainly felt long enough to see some design trends and to form some insight into the way bike design was headed (or so I thought).
I thought for sure that bikes like the Nishiki Alien and this Alpinestars would be the way all mountain bikes would look in the future. Suspension hadn’t really become a thing in the mountain bike world yet, with suspension fork travel being only an inch or so and most suspension options adding a tremendous amount of extra weight.
I figured weird designs like this one would be the way forward. A common problem in the early ’90′s was having your chain jam between the crank and the frame chain stays. Designs like this one fixed that issue. Freed from the traditional diamond-shaped frame, bikes could be crafted with all kinds of different ride characteristics. New bike materials like carbon fiber, titanium and even aluminum would be all that we would ride in the future.
Funny thing is, 30 years after my first ride on a mountain bike I’m riding a pretty old-fashioned looking Ritchey that’s made out of steel tubing.