Rad tools to get rad on

By Antoine Abou-Diwan

I began mountain biking in 1989, and have shared the trail with many of interesting people and wild personalities over the years. A guy who I rode with just once, had a huge impact on my bike setup and riding style, and I don’t think he knows it. His name is James, and he rode a killer maroon Yo Eddy. But we’ll need some background first.

The year was 1994. I was a sophomore in high school and didn’t care about getting a car. I had spent all my savings on a disgusting low-end orange Diamond Back and had a lot to learn. I read Mountainbike Action religiously, wanted to hang with Tomac and Herbold, had a crush on Missy, and approached mountain biking like a BMXer and skateboarder seeking new spots: find the most difficult, technical and interesting trails possible, try to clean them and share their locations with just a select few.

It was an amazing period in mountain biking. Aluminum race bikes with colorful machined bits were exploding, some catastrophically. And in Somerville, Chris and his crew had just built the Ti Fat, one of the coolest mountain bikes ever. It was ridiculous: externally machined tubes (with feel my butt stickers), dope dropouts and a ride that took the steel Yo to 11. But back to California and my neck of the woods.

1994-Yo-Eddy
1994 Yo Eddy! Team Fat Chance.

I’d been riding with a crew from the local bike shop for a while. They were a bunch of expert and pro-class DH racers who rode hard Sunday nights liked to party afterwards. Their bikes were cool but not on my wavelength. My idea of a good time was ridiculously technical XC rides with long climbs and big ring descents. The bike shop boys rode early full suspension bikes, like the GT RTS and LTS. One guy had a sick Mountaincycle San Andreas. Another guy rode a Zaskar set up for dual slalom.

And then there was James that one autumn evening, with his dope maroon Yo with riser bars, Rock Shox Judy and Shimano SPDs. James’ setup wasn’t exactly DH or XC back then. It was perfect. While the guys on FS bikes tried to pedal smooth circles to reduce bob, James took the loosest, ugliest and most rutted lines up the climbs. And when the trail tilted downward, he turned into a beast. James went as deep into the corners as the DH fools and accelerated harder than anybody else. He hopped ruts, launched off roots and pulled away on the straights. He didn’t say much but looked visibly stoked.

We grabbed dinner and drinks at Jack’s Deli (RIP) in Westlake that night, and James gave me a ride home afterwards. Remember that beat to shit Diamond Back that I was riding? I was worried that it would get scratched while sliding around in the back of James’ pickup truck. James, on the other hand, didn’t have such petty concerns. He threw his bike in the back and jumped in the cab.

I never saw James again but his Yo Eddy and his riding style still inform my bike setup and riding style. To this day I favor beautiful steel bikes that are set up to haul ass on ugly terrain. Rad tools to get rad on. If they get scratched is irrelevant. I don’t know if James still rides. I never saw him again. Does he still have that old Fat? How hard could he shred a new Fat with modern wheels, geometry, disc brakes and dropper post? We may never know. But I’d like to think he’s still out there.