Top 5 weirdest mountain bikes

When bike designers are determined to forge their own path

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These bikes dare to be different.

Here are the top 5 weirdest mountain bikes over the last few decades in our opinion. These are bikes that defied convention and marched to their own beat. We won’t judge their rideability or mechanical genius. We’ll just say they will stop traffic and always garner a second look and start a conversation with other trail users.

MBA graduate project from the Kyoto Seika University in Japan

1. FL-01 Outset

Initially, we were just going to stick with production bikes but how can we ignore this gem, a graduate project from a radical mind from Kyoto Seika University in Japan. There’s so much to look at and take in. There are a lot of pivots and a lot of cables. And that front hub is an enigma. That saddle height as well.

The key question is how does it steer? A closer look reveals that it is a steer by cable system as the handlebar pulls cables that are connected to the front wheel. Truly a radical design and answers the questions that no one has asked before it.

Even with a normal looking rear end, the front end of the Structure Cycleworks bike dominates its persona

2. Structure Cycleworks

The Structure Cycleworks bike makes the list for two reasons: First, it has one of the oddest front ends of all time. Linkage forks are usually at another level but this one takes it up a couple notches. The other reason is it seems to celebrate its odd persona with swooping lines, innovative construction and a lot of industrial design.

They have a lot of science justifying the ride quality and the slackening of the head angle during travel and we’re not going to debate that. It’s just a lot to take in. Many will stare and some owners will love it. But this bike will always call attention to itself.

They designed the WTF front suspension platform to make it more stable. The head angle slackens throughout travel, with 40% less brake dive, increased trail, and nearly constant front-center early in suspension travel. The rear suspension looks fairly normal in comparison.

Most bikes make our list with a very strange fork or rear suspension. This Scott forges its own path with a saddle from another dimension

3. Scott Octane DH bike with saddle extension

This bike already has a lot going on with a high bb, complex linkage, and what looks like an extra damper. But it gets on our list for something usually nondescript, the saddle. This saddle is huge! In fact, it’s so big that it requires another seatpost. It pays homage to the Schwinn Stingrays of old with the banana style seat. There’s really a lot going on but one’s eye just gets fixated on that saddle and its sheer dominance.

How does one adjust the saddle height, you might ask? Simple! With a dual dropper post waiting to be developed!

Designed for mountain bikes, this rear suspension found a home in triathlon bikes.

4. Softride Powercurve

Originally intended for the use in mountain bikes, Softride produced its first full-fledged mountain bike, the PowerCurve, in 1991. During 1996 Softride released its first aluminum frame road bike, the Classic TT.

The rear lever suspension is complemented by a spring-loaded parallelogram stem that absorbs hard hits and transmits less of the shock to the handlebar.

It all looks elegant enough with its strange flowing lines but these undamped springs seem like a menace on a real mountain bike trail. It gained more popularity in triathlon bikes as it provided a little comfort and perhaps a nice pogo effect on pedaling power. But perhaps it worked as the design was banned from UCI races.

Few other bikes of its time garnered as much head-shaking as the Slingshot mountain bike.

5. Slingshot

One bike that always started a conversation on the trail is the Slingshot bike with its cable down tube. It was just so weird not only in looks but in functionality. In their mid-frame suspension system, the conventional down tube is replaced with a steel cable suspended from a spring. There is a hinge spring on the top tube right in front of the seat tube that promised to return the energy lost during the pedal stroke. Perhaps one can pedal in squares and still ride efficiently with this system that utilized lost energy.

The idea of a frame held together by a taut cable proved to be a stumbling block that many riders couldn’t overcome. The other key downside is of the frame’s compliance came in the form of lateral flex. Lateral stability was not this bike’s strong point. That and it was very hard to go on a peaceful, uninterrupted ride when riding this bike around other folks who all of a sudden become physics students.

Final word

Agree or disagree? I’m sure we missed some gems so mention them in the comments below.


About the author: Mtbr

Mtbr.com is a site by mountain bikers for mountain bikers. We are the best online resource for information for mountain bikers of all abilities, ages and interests.



Comments:

  • Greg Monroy says:

    The Trimble comes to mind as well

    • Eric says:

      I met Brett Trimble out in Arkansas and he let us ride some of his prototypes he had laying around, very unique bike that was actually pretty fun to ride. Cool guy too

      Had a chance to ride one of those softrides…yeah, damping is sorely needed

  • Al Clark says:

    Pong!

  • Bob Wright says:

    the slingshot was an awesome bike for a hardtail. I ran mine with a suspension fork.
    It drifted predictably and handled great.
    (For its time) and took the edge off without the complexity and weight of rear suspension
    I did get a lot of questions but a hour ride on my bike would erase all doubts.
    I’ve still got the yellow team edition frame hanging up in my barn.

  • David H Dallas says:

    I had a Softride Sully. It was a cushy ride but when you slid off and behind the saddle for a steep descent, the unweighted beam would raise the saddle up and you couldn’t get back on it. I wish I had kept it, if just for fun gravel riding.

  • Gregory Tillery says:

    Redalp!

  • Dom says:

    What!?!? No Kestrel Rubicon??

  • Robert says:

    I had a slingshot with a first gen Scott suspension fork. Let me tell you it was slingshot all right. Every time I ran into something, everything would compress forward and then release and slingshot me over the bars.

  • Sevo says:

    Slingshot was actually ruined by forum junkies. Having owned a few of them In the past and have another in the process of being built, the concept worked better than you’d think. Key thing, like any suspension, is setting the spring tension right on the down tube cable.

    You’d be hard pressed to find someone who owned one that was set up right who will say a single bad thing about it. Might find someone who was heavier than the bike’s owner who got on one that said it’s a noodle. Will find a ton of armchair engineers on this site’s forums who love to dig at it but never ever have ridden one (much less seen one in person) who love to knock it.

    But reality is, the overall concept worked. It does take the edge off. It corners beautifully and finds traction on climbs even many suspension bikes can’t. A little refinement and the concept will kill it. Stay tuned……

    • Ron says:

      Or kill you,
      Anything but casual riding risks breaking your neck with aggressive riding.
      There is no compressive forces to stop the bike from buckling the top tube.

      Add a bottom tube that is a front fork side. Perhaps a lefty would be a good starting point.
      This allows concept to advance, yet no kill anybody.
      A simple down tube and elastomer would also work.
      But tnen why not do that on rear triangle.
      The concept does not add any up and down suspension only give between front wheel and back wheel. Your arms become the shock absorbers and dampers.

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