On one of the boards, the topic came up again, as it always seems to. Yup, somebody asked again, so you know I can't make myself shut up about it..."What's your top ten bicycles list" was the question, and my answer looked like this...
There is no number one for me, just a list of 10. You may assign numbers as you wish.
Cunningham - The first of the 'modern' functional. Still looks good today.
Klein Adroit - THE race hardtail and the top of the breed.
MC San Andreas - FS replicated for ages by almost everyone. 20 years later we're still seeing the evidence from the hydroformed-monocoque, disc brake revolution.
AMP B2 and other Horst-Link Mac-Strut variations - first no sacrifice cross country full suspension race frame.
Fat Chance Yo - THE east coast race hardtail. These guys, along with Klein, were the builders that sparked a generation of CNC part-buying madmen like me, with their wild colors and inventive graphics and funky bike names. Would Cook Bros or Grafton or Ringle' be what they are today, reputation wise, if seemingly every Fat built wasn't hung to the nines with gaudy blue and purple bits? Monster good, Wicked better, Shaver in a pinch, but the primo was Yo.
Bridgestone MB-0 and MB-1 - Modern simplicity and the seed for the above mentioned Yo. Grant Peterson had it right, we just didn't know it until it was gone. Now people want the catalogs almost as much as the frames!
Grove Hard Core - East coast meats mean, and inspires many, including my beloved EWRs
Brodie Romax - With Canadian efficiency Paul Brodie sparks a steel frame slope-tube revolution. Feel free to substitute your favorite Rocky or TBG frame, or another Brodie for that matter. Keep your DeKerfs to yourself please.
Cannondale SM and the later Beast of the East - Light, fast and aggressive. An east coast favorite, and with 24 inch wheels out back on the early models and always with high bottom brackets and short wheelbases, very different from offerings from any other major manufacturer.
Pace - And to throw a bone to the boys overseas, The many square tubed variants from Pace. Here in the states, we knew early on that there were mountain bikes in Europe and that you guys were having fun too, and the bikes that made a splash back then were these babies. Reversed forks put them over the top.-
(OK, there's 11 on this list, so shoot me)
Ventana - Sherwood Gibson made welding aluminum an art form, and he did it by hand. Ventanas were (and are) designed very well, and they were durable, and functional. Ericksen and Moots did the same for Ti.
Top Drawer Components Award - WTB - Once upon a time they didn't have that new partner yet who was the 'business mind' of the company, and before that point, their developments, brakes and Grease Guard, were the stuff of legends. Honorable mention to Syncros and to IRD, both a little left field but neither ever dangerous. Good solid stuff only available in silver and black. We still sport IRD 2-bolt style seat posts today! Along with WTB, these guys were the standard bearers for dependability back in the day (with maybe Control Tech, bringing up the rear, say if you were low on cash and needed a single part to get you rolling.)
The Shame List.
1 - Cannondale Super V and Raven - Ugly fragile crap that attracted Cannondale into motorcycle production and nearly sent the brand into the shitter. Biggest failure - that the ugly POS's stayed around as long as they did.
2 - Trek Y bikes - Coming from the boing-boing company was a sus frame that nearly was as bad as Trek's earlier doughnut failure. If it weren't for the fact that it looked like a hair-band guitar, nobody would have wanted one.
3- Klein Mantra - Yeah Gary, I'd have sold that company too! The picture of crappy design. Only a company on the auction block could make a full suspension frame look like a Dahon folding bicycle. Honorable mention for the Dahon Folding Bike Shame Award goes to Sling-Shot.
4 - Nishiki Alien - Richard Cunningham really didn't design much that worked right or didn't break. Seriously, lets admit it. The closest to perfect RC ever got was the Pro-Floater, and one of the more common adjectives assigned to that baby back in the day was 'fragile'. The Alien though, brought all those design missteps to the masses, even featuring dropouts too shallow to properly hold a quick release. By the way, Zapata ran the rag better too.
5 McMahon - MRC - Everything this guy got involved with seemed like it became a lawsuit, and yet he kept going, and going, and going. Brittle frames hung with crap forks and weird brakes. If you don't like your teeth, just ride a Shaka fork.
BONUS! Crap Components Award Kooka - Not a bike company, obviously, but they need a mention on any crap list. More than anyone else, Kooka represented the whole "Machine it pretty and they will buy it even if it doesn't work at all" ethos. Garbage. Honorable mention to Ringle'. Were it not for sponsor deals and promotions with the likes of Yeti and Greg Herbold and GT and just about everybody else on the pro circuit back in the day, Ringle' would be derided for its crap-ness. We love Ringle' because the pros loved Ringle', and not because Ringle' deserved any love.
And I'm spent!