We sum up our five (least?) favourite MTB tech fails
We’d still be repacking drum brakes and friction shifting if it wasn’t for the countless innovations in mountain bike tech since ol’ man Breeze first clattered his way down a fireroad in Marin County way back in ‘76. However, among many hits there are of course a handful of really, really big misses.
So, here are five bits of flopped MTB tech that you’d probably rather forget.
According to the user manual, Shimano chose to develop the system because the compressed airlines used in the system could flex easily on long-travel suspension bikes of the time.
Airlines was a particularly bulky arrangement
Each 300cc tank that powered the system was said to be good for up to 400 shifts, with everything controlled by an adjustable regulator — think a Di2 junction box… but with air.
According to press at the time, the groupset came in at $1,600, which is roughly $2,300 in today’s prices.
Given this high price, it’s no wonder that new-old-stock Airlines groupsets — a very expensive speculative investment, likely sat in the basements of bike shops around the world for the last 20 years — pop up on eBay with surprising regularity.
3. Whyte PRST-1
The PRST-1 was a truly innovative bike that helped make Whyte the brand that it is today
Truss forks have been used to great success in the motorcycle world. Unlike a conventional telescopic fork they use linkages to ensure the head angle remains consistent throughout the full range of travel, improving stability and control in rough terrain.
The PRST-1 used a truss fork, suspended by an air shock in lieu of a regular telescopic fork
However, the truss fork used on the Whyte PRST-1 — supposedly named after the robot dog from Wallace and Gromit — did the absolute opposite of this.
Prioritising sensitivity over big-hit capability, Whyte designed the PRST-1’s fork to have a J-shaped axle path that, under heavy braking or hard cornering, would cause the fork to dive hard and tuck underneath itself, with predictable consequences.
While the PRST-1 was undoubtedly an admirable effort that helped launch a hugely successful brand, we’re sure this is one Whyte would rather forget.
4. Floating brake arms
Kona was a keen proponent of the floating brake arm
At one point in time nearly all of the big name manufacturers with a long travel single-pivot bike would offer a floating brake arm, such as the ones shown here.
Floating brake arms are a very rare sight these days
Designed specifically to reduce the influence of the rear brake on a bike’s rear suspension — often referred to as brake jack — these ugly little critters were most popular on the World Cup downhill circuit, where they made their way on to numerous bikes from the likes of Kona, Orange and Foes.
Now though, they’re incredibly difficult to find, and that’s probably because many manufacturers have since switched to multi-pivot suspension designs which tend to be naturally less influenced by the same braking forces.
You can imagine how one of these could make for a noisier bike
Those who still make single pivots tend not to bother, either, in fact we can’t remember the last time we saw one fitted. That’s not to say they don’t work — you’ll still find them fitted to plenty of motorcycles — for example, but on push bikes they were often considered too heavy, noisy and for a lot of people they simply weren’t worth fitting.
5. Shimano Dual Control shifters
We certainly don’t miss Shimano Dual Control levers
While tech developed for mountain bikes often inspires innovation on the road — and vice versa — there are some ideas that should never have been allowed to cross-fertilise.
Shimano Dual Control looked to replicate ‘brifter’ style shifting from the road — which sees braking and shifting controlled in one unit — on the trails.
Jack has been riding and fettling bikes for his whole life. Always in search of the hippest new niche in cycling, Jack is a self-confessed gravel dork and thinks nothing of bivouacking on a beach after work. Also fond of his tandem, Cecil, cup and cone bearings, skids and tan wall tyres.