What do you have stored in your garage? A handful of beloved bikes? A collection of superfluous, cycling crap? While everyone’s hoarding habits are different, I can assure you that whatever you’re keeping a hold of, it isn’t nearly as impressive as what former XC world champion, José Hermida has stowed away in his garage.
Clearly quite the sentimentalist, José has made a point of keeping at least one bike from every season of his 20 year career. Plus, if you throw in to the mix the odd occasion when he’s raced on bendy-barred bikes, his collection is unsurprisingly extensive.
Stepping into the tightly packed space, my eye was immediately caught by this colourful, thermoplastic-throwback, which was hiding among the plethora of bikes.
With so many bikes in his collection it should come as no surprise that José struggled to remember many specific details about the bike, but a cursory search around some of the darker, retro-obsessed corners of the internet reveals that this particular model is a top-end, 1999 Scott Endorphin Pro World Cup, which José rode during his time with the catchily named “Scott — One Life, Live It” team.
To a self-confessed bike nerd like myself, this bike is absolutely fascinating because it was introduced at a time when mountain bike tech was making a sudden and tangible leap towards the future; carbon technology was coming of age, suspension had become more advanced than squishy rubber and we’d got over the whole colourful anodizing thing.
As is still the case today, the most advanced cycling tech is introduced at the high-end level of riding and this bike is a delightful horror show of late nineties’ mountain bike tech.
Starting with the frame, I was immediately struck by the bizarre layout of the rear end. E-stays, or elevated stays, were a (mercifully) passing fad in the mid- to late-nineties that seemingly no veteran staff member in the BikeRadar office remembers fondly.
While the aesthetics of the frame may be jarring, the ride quality of this design certainly wasn’t — this bike in particular was known to ‘wag’ from side-to-side during hard and out of the saddle efforts.
The oddities don’t end there either. The frame is constructed from thermoplastic composite, a material which enjoyed very brief popularity with some manufacturers during the decade.
Thermoplastic composite is an interesting material that uses regular carbon fibres weaved alongside thermoplastic fibres to form a tube. The tubes were placed into a mould with a bladder inside, which once inflated to a very high pressure would press the tubes against the then heated mould, forming the shape of the frame.
Just like E-stays, no one is quite sure why the process became popular in the first place compared to regular thermoset composites (the process we’re most familiar with today). Although thermoplastic composites are easier to recycle and can reputedly be made stronger than epoxy set materials the process was a far less mature technology at the time. The Endorphin in particular was plagued with issues (primarily snapping in half), which resulted in its eventual recall and then the discontinuation of the model.
Today, thermoplastics are occasionally used for smaller parts on bikes, but as far as we’re aware no one is producing an entire frame from the material.
A retro collector’s dream
The build features some of the most memorable, late-nineties mountain bike tech: a Rapid Rise XTR M950 rear mech in that deeply attractive graphite grey? Check. A rollamajig-like cable roller? Check. Perilously narrow flat bars, capped off with gut piercing bar ends? Absolutely checked.