What better endorsement could you get than a place in Mick's garage?
Three bike garage. This is where our favourite people pick their ultimate bike stable. This month’s are chosen by Mick Kirkman, mountain bike tester.
What better endorsement could you get than a place in the garage of one of the most prolific bike testers in the UK? Mick has been riding, reviewing and competing (even when he’s not racing) on mountain bikes since the mid-Nineties, giving him an unbeatable overview of the market, both past and present.
Retro rig: Cannondale Prophet
Back in the early 2000s I was living in central London in a flat with no room for anything. As a perk of being a friend of the magazine (and starting to do a few bits of writing and photography), I used to get to take some test bikes out of the MBR cages at the weekends heading to the Surrey Hills or trips down to Wales.
Despite having tons of choice and many exotic bikes of all prices, I loved a humble, mid-priced burgundy Prophet. I’d get the train down to Croydon, grab it and put a lot of miles into this particular version, if editor Danny hadn’t grabbed it first. The Prophet was a simple, high-ish single pivot rig, but with adjustable geometry, it was one of the first trail bikes you could have a genuinely slack head angle on. If memory serves, that meant 66°in the low position, which was pretty radical on a 26in bike back then.
The ‘Dale had a regressive leverage rate, so you smashed through the travel a bit, but that made it grip amazingly well, and it was a such a blast jumping, playing and railing turns that it kind of set the blueprint for the kind of aggressive trail riding that’s still my favourite today. Like the Specialized Pitch that followed it, the best thing was that ultimate fun and performance could be yours for around £1,300.
Trail Ripper: Evil Following MB
The Evil Following closes the loop on everything I’ve ever wanted a mountain bike to do, which is to provide maximum fun on all the funnest bits. I’ve never craved ultimate pedal efficiency, the lightest bike or necessarily the best suspension, I just wanted to rip turns, feel good and be able to ride my best without the bike getting in the way.
The Following isn’t perfect; it has limited tyre clearance and the seat angle is too slack, but the alien-looking carbon rig has a special X-factor that’s hard to explain and even more difficult to resist. This is despite reasonably traditional numbers that aren’t my usual cup of tea on paper – reach and head angle are moderate, and the rear suspension isn’t as good at tracking the ground under braking as some bikes.
None of this matters a bit though when you’re flying around on this thing. It’s so fast whether up, down or along and the meagre 120mm travel lets you keep pace with mates on much longer travel bikes. Sometimes it’s pretty hard to believe how capable it actually is, and it rails corners and spits you out at the perfect instant, just as the rear tyre is braking traction, in a way that’s perfectly intuitive and pure magic.
It’s my favourite of many Evils that all share a supreme manoeuvrability and flickability without ever feeling sketchy at high speeds. Whatever’s in Dave Weagle’s DELTA Link sauce, he’s totally nailed the Following.
The classic: Turner Burner DH
Back in the late 1990’s there were only a handful of proper DH bikes you could actually buy, and just a couple you’d race on if you wanted to be successful. The Intense M1 was one, and the Turner Burner downhill bike the other (what about the Yeti Straight 6? – Ed).
Both were four-bar suspension designs and similar in principal to many successful bikes today, albeit with much worse geometry. As a privateer who fancied my chances and the freedom to choose my own kit, I saved up and bought the Turner.
It was a bike I won a National Champs medal on (dual slalom!), and I loved it to bits. It all just worked and tracked the ground better than nearly anything else at the time, and was tough enough not to fall to pieces. The rear Fox Vanilla coil was driven by box section aluminium stays with a Horst-Link pivot and a big alloy rocker link.
I remember the bushing on the chainstay pivot needing replacing, so in those (pre-Internet) days I rang a US phone number printed on a card that came in the box with the frame and owner and designer Dave Turner’s wife took the call in his kitchen, and handed me over. Dave was super-friendly and chatted at length about the Burner and sent me a set free in the post.
Legal hassles eventually forced a switch in the design to a seat stay ‘faux bar’ pivot and with that the mystique was gone and the bike was never the same, to me at least, but I created some amazing racing memories on that thing.