Vintage Radness at the 30th Annual Keyesville Classic – Erik Hillard

Vintage Radness at the 30th Annual Keyesville Classic
Photos and words by Erik Hillard

This past weekend was the 30th annual Keyesville Classic, the longest running mountain bike race in the United States. Because of its Vintage Class races, Keyesville is also a gathering of mountain bike restoration artists from across the country. Each year, a group of enthusiasts meets for the weekend with a beautiful selection of historic mountain bikes.

A chit chat vintage ride went out along the XC race course on Friday afternoon. The night was filled with campfire banter over how someone’s modern tires were too big for their vintage brakes and an amazing find of rare Steelman frames at an estate sale.

This was my second year heading to Keyesville to camp and ride with the collector crowd. Last year, Martin from Second Spin convinced me to join him and my interest in mountain bike history was only further fueled spending time with this enthusiastic group. It is cool to see how mountain bike design has grown in 30 years. Did you know IRD made a cable activated dropper post in 90’s?

Saturday, the impending rain held back until after the Short Track and DH races. These guys push their bikes hard on the courses and it’s a blast to watch. The race for first is heated and the fun crowd was smiling through that race face grimace. The famed “DH Snake Pit” is hairy and the new All Mountain crowd has nothing on these folks ripping the course on vintage steeds. Impressive.

Keyesville Classic is a great race venue with easy camping and well worth the trip up the Kern River Valley. I’m already looking forward to next year. Maybe I’ll even race. Maybe.


Follow Erik on Instagram and see more at the Keyesville Classic website.

  • rocketman

    cool pictures, love that camo Salsa. Still remember my 1st race there in 1990.

    • That one is a rare old bike. Ross Shaeffer custom built Salsas under the Scoboni moniker. Ahead of their time. Ride wonderfully.

  • slickfast

    Woah, some cool ideas here. Disk wheel? That nutty Leader 3 fork? Suspension fork with a boot on it? There are so many things in the cycling world that I’ve never seen, I love it!

    • These guys only pack the vintage heat for Keyesville. It’s their life!

  • Daniel Powell

    So much bullmoose!

  • McFook

    Good times on ‘obsolete’ bikes! I showed up – after a long absence – at a Sat AM group ride thru twisty, rocky, New England singletrack. Got a lot of parking lot advice from the youngbloods on ‘modern’ equipment, 29er vs, 27.5 benefits and 1x drivetrains. Some of the old guys smirked a bit. Everyone was very solicitous about calling out trail obstacles and how to clear tough sections. After an hour or so of, “still up”, “on your left”, and “get out of the way” they were not so friendly. A Somerville built Yo Eddy is always up for the challenge! Full disclosure: post ride ritual was Advil/nap on couch, and hand cramps. Retro bike rides are the awesome, post one in you area and see who shows up on what!

  • Justin Scoltock

    Keyesville is the best! Wish you had a full shot of that WTB w/ the Ibis stem. Stay Hup!

    • Carson

      It’s there! Rider is wearing all-black shorts/short sleeves with a blue helmet and a yellow bandanna.

      • Nate-o

        That’s me :)

        • Carson

          Rad bike!

  • benreed

    Yeah, I’m gonna pass on a DH run on a rigid, 26″ bike with rim brakes.

  • So rad! Gotta check this out next year.

  • M.R.

    Lovin’ it. I’m still the proud owner of the Stumpjumper I bought new in 1984 for $525. But I kick myself for selling my late 80’s Mongoose John Tomac signature model. And now I’m back on a new rigid steel bike all these years later. Full circle.

  • Peter Chesworth

    Smoke ‘n Dart.

  • skog_smog

    So rad. Last year I built up a 1994 S-Works Steel with matching (1″ threadless) steel fork using modernish components including a parts-bin set of ultralight Bontrager/XTR 26″ wheels. It was my lightest bike…sub-18 lbs…until I realized I can’t handle 1990s XC geometry and threw a pair of 6.5″ 4130 S&M Bruiser Bars on it.

    • Johnny Rhubarb

      that works just beautifully I guess. I threw a MX bar on my mid-90s Altitude and it turned into the best-riding bike I built. cheers!

  • Pelex

    I had that Bullseye crankset back in the day…so simple and worked flawlessly.

  • Chris Lang

    these are the smiles that only 26ers can give…

  • abellyahknow

    That tri-color Yo Eddy…

  • JerMann

    I guess I could google it but maybe the reporter could tell us where this is?

    • Nate-o


      It’s an area just outside Lake Isabella on the Kern River — lower Sierra, about three hours from LA.

    • Erik Hillard

    Seeing a lot of smiles here, which really makes this piece shine! Great job!

  • Paul Olvera

    Rad AF. Anyone know what kind of tires those 26″ skinwalls are? I’ve got a couple early 90’s Rockhoppers I’ve been building up for my girlfriend and me.

    • Nate-o

      Some are vintage tires that are always at risk of blowing up (it has happened mid-race a few years back). Some are First Flight Bike’s reissued Panaracer Timbuk II’s. Those are long gone I think. Some are cherished NOS tires being finally put to use. Some are recent Onza Canis and something else that people were buying from a site in Germany — high volume tire and they get good ride reviews. And you see some bikes with ‘rider’ blackwall tires – no shame in that.

      • Nate-o

        Oh yeah, and reissue Smoke/Darts. Those are still pretty easy to find in skin wall 26″ flavor.

        • Paul Olvera

          Thanks! Good to know, what’s that German site by the way? I can’t seem to find 26″ Onza Canis anywhere

          • Nate-o

            Used to be here:

            Might pop up elsewhere, too. 27.5 is pretty easy to find but 26″ is a struggle.

          • Nate-o

            Schwalbe makes some skin wall versions of their tires as well.

          • Nate-o

            Oh yeah, and if you aren’t really off roading but more around town cruising, there are some skill tires for 26″ BMX that work great. Like by SE and DMR – you can find those on Amazon.

          • Paul Olvera

            Yeah! Those DMR Supermoto’s look great. I’m not doing too much off road, I’ll see the occasional gravel and hard packed dirt though. I want to do more touring too so a skinwall with good rolling resistance but a bit of bite is perfect

          • Johnny Rhubarb

            Schwalbe’s Nobby Nic is available in 26 x 2.25 in gumwall, and if you’re not in the mud I could recommend Maxxis’ DTH in 26 x 2.3

          • Paul Olvera

            I’ll check those out too, thanks!

          • Ryan

            Check out Swift Tire 26″, made by panaracer, these arent as aggressive as smoke and dart, so if you still want the look but also have some road manners, its a good choice and cheap too. Heres my Chrome Mongoose with a pair

  • This is getting me motivated to get my first mountain bike out of the basement and get it restored… A 1980 Tom Ritchey custom build “Everest” model. Handmade fillet brazing, custom everything components because MTB gruppos hadn’t been invented yet, and an Imron metalflake paint job so thick it looks 3-dimensional.

  • Sage Bornhauser

    The best weekend of racing I’ve ever done. What a blast!

  • rev106

    There’s a vintage mtb race this Sunday April 1st if anyone is interested, g o to for details…