The first time I saw Shaun Palmer riding a bike, it changed things massively.
It was on the cover of MBUK in a dull doctor's surgery some time in 1997, I think I had chicken pox. I picked up the magazine and there he was...
The tattoos, bleached hair and overwhelming attitude blew away the Lycra-clad cobwebs and finally completed downhill mountain biking's progression into the realms of 'cool'. He was the antithesis of the calculated and clinical all-conquering Nico Vouilloz. In short, he brought the rock'n'roll into DH.
Fast forward 12 years and a decade after hanging up his full-face Palmer is back. Not only is he back but he's back aboard a machine from the company with whom his name will always be synonymous: Intense Cycles.
Although in later years a Specialized rider, Palmer made his initial impact aboard an Intense M1 which was itself a seminal moment in DH evolution. He narrowly missed out on gold at the Cairns world champs in '96 aboard the now legendary stars and stripes M1.
Palmer went on to excel at various extreme sports after mountain biking but I'm not sure he hung round long enough to really be accredited with the difference he made and the influence he actually had over a generation of DH riders. Intense went on to flourish into one of the industry's most desirable frame badges and after testing several DH rigs it only seems right that it's their new 951 that'll carry Palmer out of the start gate.
'Na-Palm' will be racing next week's US National along with both Canadian World Cups and Crankworx as far as we know, and I for one can't wait to see him back on the hill. For me it's not about how well he does or whether or not he's still at the sharp end, it's just the fact that he's back. That's enough.
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