Retro enthusiast Steffen Dobke explains how an adolescent dream has turned into an adult obsession
As a teenager I’d dribble over early 90s Yetis and Fat Chances in MBA (Mountain Bike Action) magazine. They were the superbikes of the day. I knew a guy at the time that had a Yo Eddy in the blue to green colour. That was the bike I really used to love, and now I’ve got one of my own.
I’ve been into Yeti from the time I bought my first one in 1995. As well as the FRO Tomac replica, I’ve got an ARC and an Ultimate. The Ultimate was a collaboration between Yeti, Ringle and Zapata ‘Zap’ Espinoza, the editor of Mountain Bike magazine, to build the ultimate bike.
It’s got elevated chainstays to solve mud clearance and make it stiffer, but it’s just plain gauge cromoly tubing. It’s really solid — there may be a hole in there somewhere! I haven’t even ridden it yet, but I know they’re rubbish — they’re way too short and they ended up being really heavy, but they’re iconic!
I’d love a Yeti C26 with the carbon tubes. I doubt I’ll ever get one unless I prise it out of someone’s cold, dead hands. They’re like unicorns — if I see one, I’m having it.
Specialized is the other brand I’ve got a real thing for. My first proper mountain bike was a Rockhopper, and at the time I really wanted an S-Works bike. Now I have got every S-Works M2, from ‘93 to ‘98.
The other side of it is that I like tracking down old parts. Tyres are really hard to get hold of, because we’re talking about 20-year-old rubber. Saddles wear out. Grips are impossible. Specialized Umma Gumma tyres are like hen’s teeth — which is why they’re so expensive.
Last year I was in a bidding war with someone over a brand new pair, but they were perfect for one of my builds so I had to have them. I’ve got a Ned Overend replica at home and that’s taken three years so far. I’m just waiting for a grey saddle now. I could put a black one on it, but it wouldn’t be right.
Most of the bits come from eBay. Some stuff I find on RetroBike.co.uk, but most of the guys there know what they’ve got and they want big money for it. There’s a 1995 XTR M950 groupset on there now, and it’s $3,000. But, what do you do? If you want it on your build you’ve got to have it.
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My fleet is currently running at 16 bikes, and that’s after having a big clear-out recently. I have ridden them all, but it’s silly to spend money on new-old stock, then go out and hammer it. So it’s light trails and towpaths only.
It’s not so much about the riding, anyway, because the way you ride has changed so much. Technology has moved on and the trails have evolved as a result. So now, it makes me happier to see them in my shed or to look at them on the wall.