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