Skip to content

From the Vault: Greg Herbold's 1991 Miyata Ridge Runner Team MTB

Nothing screams early-90s louder than a tension disc and a pile of anodized parts.  Back then the starting lines were full of color and the vibe was electric. At the forefront of that scene was mountain bike legend and downhill World Champion, Greg Herbold. 

Written by: Zapata Espinoza

Published on:

Posted in:Bikes

Photos: John Watson / The Radavist

A Special Bike For Downhill World Champ Greg Herbold

Of all the pro riders who made a name for themselves in the early 90s, few played as important of a role in pushing new technology forward as Greg Herbold. Although he’s best known for winning the inaugural UCI Downhill World Championship title in 1990, Herbold was already a celebrated champion having previously won the NORBA National Downhill title three times. 

Greg Herbold MiyataWhile he was a Miyata-backed rider for the length of his 10-year pro career, a succession of component sponsors flocked to his door seeking the fruits of both his motorcycle-derived tech skills and his celebrated crowd-pleasing persona. In short, “H-Ball” was a true sensation, and it was his celebrity status that helped him maintain a successful stint as a brand ambassador for another decade after he quit racing. 

Owing to his mechanical prowess, Greg proved himself an adept R&D rider and always maintained a stable of highly modified race bikes and test rigs. This was especially true as the push into full-suspension bikes began to take hold in the mid-90s. But before the dynamics of full-suspension, disc brakes, and niche-specific frame designs took over, there was the do-all hardtail. And despite his renown as a downhill specialist, Greg was quick to remind, “Back then we were chasing handling, but also comfort because we would also use our downhill bikes for XC racing as well!” 

Greg Herbold DH world championOf the many bikes Greg Herbold raced and rode, this bike has a particular resonance with the Colorado rider as it was a celebratory gift to him from his bike sponsor for winning the world championship title — and thus worthy of display within the halls of The Pro’s Closet.

Ed. Note: Be sure to check out our TPC Museum video featuring Greg Herbold and his World Champs winning Ridge Runner!

[button]Shop Mountain Bikes[/button]

The Bike


Greg Herbold Miyata“Miyata was a Japanese brand, and their main factory was used for either making the carbon frames or welding steel frames while the aluminum frames were made in Taiwan. Back then, most of the mountain bikes were made from either steel or aluminum. With its cast lugs with bonded carbon main tubes and an aluminum rear end, this was a pretty modern bike at the time. The model I had been racing was the steel Ridge Runner Team, but in 1991 they re-named the bike the ‘Elevation 10,000’ which I wasn’t a fan of. Miyata marketing needed new names for a new bike and the top of the Purgatory resort (where the 1990 Worlds were held) was at 10,000 feet, so it was cool for them and the Japanese market.

“This is a very special bike in a lot of different ways. Miyata wanted to bring some of its road bike technology into mountain bikes and it allowed for easy custom builds. It eventually turned into a limited-edition bike that Miyata was selling to celebrate their 100th anniversary. That bike had gold lugs and was selling for around $10,000. Miyata had an in-house custom paint program long before Trek or anyone else did and the paint scheme on this bike was meant to match my rainbow jersey from winning the downhill race at the 1990 World Championships. Those bikes were very exciting to unpack!”


Vintage MTB Tension disc“A lot of people think the rear wheel was a Tioga disc, but it was actually an updated version designed by a guy named Tadashi who also designed the original Tioga Tension Disc. But this one was lighter with only 32 spokes and it had a different stringing pattern with tighter tension. Both Ned Overend and I were sponsored by him, and he would send over the wheels completely built. They were a little flexy, but they were fast! I drilled my rims with an offset hole for the valve because using the little hose adapter you needed to get air into the valve was a pain in the ass!”

Greg Herbold Tension Disc“The front wheel was built by this great east coast wheel builder by the name of Knapps. It was a Mavic rim mated with an early Ringle hub. You can see the end caps are a different color and that’s because I had been asking Geoff Ringle to make bigger end caps to tighten up the front end. This was all the sort of product testing evolution that came from the feedback from racing and eventually, it led to Ringle developing the Super Bubba hubs.” 


Answer Hyperlite vintage handlebar“Thanks to all the long-travel suspension that everybody rides today, no one can imagine what a breakthrough the Answer Hyperlite handlebars were. I’m not saying they added suspension, but if you’d spent any time racing with a rigid fork then you’d realize what a technical breakthrough they were. Although Answer Products marketed the handlebars, Easton was actually responsible for their design. And inside Easton, it was Chuck Teixeira who made them happen and I believed in Tex. The way the bars were drawn with such a thin wall at the ends I thought they’d fold for sure, but they didn’t, and they made such a huge difference in ride quality. On top of that, they also came in a range of sweet colors!”

Answer Atac vintage stem

“The Answer ATAC stem was also a big step forward in tightening up the front end of the bike. This was a custom 140mm stem that might’ve been built by Frank the Welder and it was internally tapered to save weight, but it was also welded at a lower angle to make it suspension adjusted. Can you imagine someone running a stem that long these days?! The funny thing about this bike is that I was using Oury grips on it and those are the same grips that I’m still running. Of course, I’m running the Onza C-Cut welded bar ends. I remember those things were made somewhere in the depths of Los Angeles and they were never straight, so I’d usually have to lower one side or the other to be even.

Tune Miyata saddle“I was using a Suntour XC seatpost because they were so light, and it’s topped off with a custom, limited edition Tune Miyata saddle with textured zebra print fabric for the cover. Two years later, I swapped it out for a python skin cover. They sold the saddles for $300 each and I made $10 from each sale and I’m pretty sure I still have a few leftovers!” 


Vintage RockShox Mag-21“That’s a prototype RockShox Mag-21 with a single bolt, magnesium crown. That would be the same crown that Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle would use at Paris-Roubaix a year later. I remember the bolts in Duclos’ bike came loose just before the start and [Paul] Turner had to run up there and tighten them at the last minute! This fork also has a welded bridge because the stock ones would often break the cable stop if your handlebars spun around. 

Vintage RockShox Mag-21“My forks were custom tuned to have less lock-out, which let’s be honest, Paul Turner only made the lock-out to keep the cross-country guys who didn’t know anything about suspension happy! And depending on the course, I would lower or raise the fork in the crown to adjust the ride height. I have to say, that was all stuff I knew just from racing motorcycles that a lot of riders with just cycling backgrounds didn’t know about.”  


Grip shift Shimano Deore XT“As you can see the bike has a mixed drivetrain. Although I’d been riding and testing with Shimano for years, they didn’t want to pay me to race with the parts, so I signed with Grip Shift in February of 1991. I was running some special twist-shifters and Shimano derailleurs.

Cook Bros crankset"That 2x Cook Bros crank I was running has 48/34t chainrings, which was kind of ballsy at the time, but if I got chain suck with a triple it would be close to impossible to get the chain out. I was also using an SRP titanium bolt kit which I loved because all these multi-colored titanium bolts would show up in a little box. That was so cool. On occasion, I’d get carried away using them and they would call yelling, “You’re killing us!” because each box would be worth a couple thousand dollars! And of course, I had stockpiles of Shimano 737 pedals.”  


RockShox Mag-21 Onza Porcupine“Onza Porc’s all day and all way! It was always such a battle back in the day because to fend off flat tires we’d have to over-inflate them, but that would just beat the crap out of you over the bumps.” 


Greg Herbold DH world champion“Oh man do I love stickers! I love peeling the backs off. I love the smell of them. And I love putting them on anything with a flat surface! When I was a kid, my grandpa got me an STP sticker kit that had all these different sizes, and I would take them through the neighborhood and try to sell them. I love the colors that they add and most importantly, the sponsors loved them as well! I also had Jim Conquest from Imagine-It Graphics make a lot of custom stickers with bright colors for me just to have more to stick on. In fact, just two weeks ago, I built up a bike for John Tomac, and when he saw it the first thing he said was, “What’s up with the HB sticker kit?!” I told him he could either keep them on or take the parts off!”


Ringle hub“In addition to the hubs, I was also running the full complement of Ringle parts including the bottle cage and Ti-Stix skewers. Man, I can’t believe how much those parts are fetching these days with all the collectors!”

The Build

Greg Herbold MiyataYear: 1991
Frame: Miyata Ridge Runner Team w/ cast lugs and bonded carbon
Fork: Rock Shox Magnesium
Stem: Answer ATAC
Handlebars: Answer "Tie-Dye" HyperLite
Grips: Oury
Headset: Shimano Deore XT HP-M736
Shifters: Grip Shift 7 Speed SH-R1 Rear and SH-F3 Front
Front Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT FD-M735
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT RD-M735 7-Speed
Brake Levers: Dia Compe SS-7
Front Brake: Dia Compe 986
Crankset: Grafton Speed Stix with Shimano 48T and Onza Buzzsaw 34T Rings
Bottom Bracket: Shimano BB-UN70
Rear Tire: Onza Racing Porc 2.1
Front Tire: Onza Racing Porc 2.1
Rear Wheel: 846 Competition Tension Disk designed by Tadashi Yashiro
Seatpost: Suntour XC
Saddle: Limited Edition Tune Miyata Saddle with Textured Zebra Fabric
Chain: CN-HG91
Cogs: Shimano CS-HG90-7 Speed
Pedals: Shimano Deore XT PD-M737

[button]Shop Mountain Bikes[/button]