Blast from the Past: Every advertisement tells a story

By Karl Rosengarth

In my previous post, I shared some cool reader art from the Dirt Rag Time Machine. It turns out that Uncle Karl was holding out on you. I also have a sweet stash of vintage advertisements.

As I’ve said before, time travel is notoriously rough on paper, so forgive the less-than-pristine quality of some of the following images.

If you think composite handlebars are a recent development, think again. Polycycle offered these little gems, way back in 1990. That’s little, in the literal sense. Their 560mm bar width is laughable by today’s standards. Sadly, it took a while for everybody to figure out that wider was better, with respect to bars.


And how about chain guides? Sure, they’ve seen recent gains in popularity, especially with the gravity gang. But chain guides have been around for quite a while, and they started out as a plain old XC product. The Bullseye Chain Tamer was about as simple as it gets.


The Kore Chain Reactor came a bit later and was more eye-catching. It featured the “CNC-machined and anodized” motif of the period.

Speaking of CNC machining, I can’t think of a more elegant example than the Paul Powerglide rear derailleur. Made in America. It was in production, really! "Unless you’re fully-loaded" indeed—these things are fetching crazy prices on eBay these days.

Speaking of made in America, Durango-built Yeti hardtails were objects of considerable lust and desire back in the day (present company included). Yeti has come a long way, with a present-day lineup that includes all sorts of whiz-bang suspension bikes (still lust-worthy).


Santa Cruz Bikes is another company that has come a long way. This vintage Heckler ad ran in the Classifieds section, way in the back of the Dirt Rag. That’s a far cry from the stunning two-page-spreads that SCB runs nowadays. Movin’ on up! Speaking of, keep an eye out for Dirt Rag Issue #169, where Santa Cruz will unveil a whole-new bike. 

And finally… you know it’s a “vintage” advertisement when it’s pitching a “trials” bike. Are there still trials competitions anymore? The other tip-off is the oh-so-young-looking money shot of Jason “Monkey Boy” McLean on the rear wheel.


Until next time, don’t forget the old-school trials mantra: Fear is death. Hesitate and die.