"Cross-country racing was approaching its heyday in 1992, and the top racers from that era have become legends of the sport. Ned Overend, John Tomac, Thomas Frischknecht, Juli Furtado, Ruthie Matthes – those names are forever etched in the history books as part of the first wave of mountain bike racers to make their marks on the national and world stage.
Bike technology was rapidly advancing, but looking at the top bikes of the day makes it glaringly obvious just how far we've come over the last two decades. The advent of V-brakes was still a few years off, and disc brakes were even further down the road. For this edition of 'Now THAT Was a Bike' we're diving into the details of Ned Overend's 1992 Specialized Stumpjumper M2, the bike he rode to the lead in the NORBA National point series, along with two World Cup victories.
The team edition Stumpjumper was constructed from Specialized's M2 alloy, a mix of aluminum and aluminum oxide that the company developed in conjunction with the Duralcan Corporation. According to Ned Overend, “The bike was pretty light for the time and durable - I never broke one. There were some issues with getting paint to stick on the frame as you can see on the downtube.” The weight of the bike as shown is 26 pounds, 14 ounces, which wouldn't have been anything to scoff at in the early '90s, but is quite heavy when compared to a modern World Cup XC race bike.
This was the era of disc wheels, and bystanders could hear the top racers before they could see them thanks to the drum-like pounding of the rear wheel when it went over an obstacle. Designed by Tadashi Yoshiro, the wheels rely on Kevlar strands running between the hub and rim to provide tension, although they were nowhere near as stiff as a traditional spoked wheel, and in Ned's words, “The wheel was a little too flexible. I had to be careful how I adjusted the cantilever brakes, if the pads were too low on the rim the wheel would flex and the brake pad would fold under the rim.” On the topic of brakes, a set of Suntour XC brakes are mounted up front and rear, but the stopping power they provided was limited, and it took a few fingers on the brake levers and strong forearms to keep speeds in check.
A Specialized Future Shock (which was manufactured by RockShox) provided a miniscule 50mm of air sprung travel up front, although the 1992 version of the fork was recalled a couple of years later due to the tendency for the crown bolts to loosen, which led to a number of instances where the crown separated from the stanchions. The fork uses a threaded steerer, and a Zoom quill stem holds the zero rise handlebar in place. Bar ends were still prevelant at this time, and Ned ran a set made by Profile for most of the season. Over the next decade, bar ends grew smaller and smaller, and are now something of a rarity on the XC race circuit.
The 1992 Stumpjumper Team was outfitted with Suntour's XC Pro MD drivetrain, with three rings in front and a seven speed, 12-28 cassette in the rear. The original chainring configuration was 42 / 34 / 20, but on this bike the big ring appears to have been switched for one with 44 teeth, likely to increase the top end speed. By 1992 trigger shifters had been on the market for a few seasons, but Ned's bike is still equipped with top mounted thumb shifters.
There's often a story behind how a historic race bike makes its way into the hands of someone other than the original rider, and this Stumpjumper is no exception. According to The Pro's Closet, the bike's current owners, “We got the bike from Zap Espinoza, here's what he had to say about it:
"Ned gave me the bike as a thank you gesture for getting him the Zoom components gig. It was his race bike that year, it came from him dirty and with the number plate that I later had him sign at Interbike. I can't say for sure about the parts...as you know about Ned has always been a purveyor of different parts and experiments. I could ask him, but I know he'd forgotten that he even gave it to me when I asked his permission to sell it. It was definitely one of I think 2-3 bikes he had that year."
For those unfamiliar with the name Zapata Espinoza, he was the editor of Mountain Bike Action until 1993 before moving on to Rodale's Mountain Bike magazine, where he gained notoriety for his outspoken demeanor and larger-than-life personality. Shortly after purchasing the Stumpjumper from Zap, The Pro's Closet caught up with Ned Overend to ask him about it. His response? 'I don't remember getting rid of this one, but there are a lot of things I don't remember.'"
-Mike Kazimer // Pinkbike