It’s not often you get a legendary rider and an iconic bike in one place at the same time, but that’s exactly what happened on Wednesday in the Cwmcarn trail centre car park as John Tomac was reunited with his 1991 Raleigh race bike.
The reason for John Tomac’s rare visit to the UK was the launch of the new Tomac Bikes range, a brief stopover before flying to Italy for the Lake Garda Festival. Having just done a second lap of the Twrch trail, we rolled back into the car park where waiting for us, having gotten wind of Tomac’s rare visit, was Mike and one of the most famous mountain bikes ever produced.
This is one of five Merlin produced framesets made during 1991, and is perhaps one of the most iconic bikes from the early days of mountain biking. The frame used titanium lugs bonded to carbon tubes with a full titanium rear triangle. Geometry was based on John’s personal preferences, with a 72 degree head tube to match his road bikes of the time, he told us.
It’s been built up to almost original spec which here includes a set of RockShox Mag 21 fork, a Shimano groupset including XTR brake levers and rear derailleur, a Chris King headset, Tioga finishing parts and, of course, the crazy Tioga Disc Drive rear wheel – which interestingly Mike had to fuse together the good halves of two Disc wheels to get one good working wheel.
It’s one of the greatest mountain bikes ever produced during the boom years of the sport, and one of the most iconic images in mountain bike history is John Tomac tearing it up in both XC and DH disciplines on this very bike.
Tomac’s career spanned 15-years during which, in 1991, John won gold in the XC and silver in DH at the UCI World Championships in Italy. In the same year he won the XC World Cup series and was NORBA National DH Champion. Then, a year later and he finished second behind another iconic figure of the sport, Thomas Frischknecht in the XC World Cup rankings, but also finished 5th in the DH World Champs!
A rare meeting and one that those lucky enough to witness won’t forget for a very long time.