Fast Forward Friday – Mammoth Mountain Bikes

By blackmountaincycles,

Filed under: People Places Things

I’m not 100% certain how it started, but I imagine it went a little something like this:  so, do you think this mountain bike thing is going to really take off?  Can we do something different that would be rad?  Probably something like that.

Several years before that conversation took place, I remember meeting Russ Callahan and John Kemp on the starting line of the Tecate – Ensenada bike “race.”  They were both riding steel mountain bike frames, shod with slicks, that Russ made and were painted red and white.  Soon after that, Russ and John were regulars among a small group of mountain bikers seeking out adventures near and far.  Russ was the designer/engineer of the Mammoth Mountain Bike and John was the early marketing guy.  John would later go on to create the Devo junior development team.  It’s highly likely that all the current junior development teams/high school mountain bike racing leagues can be traced to John and his Devo team.

At the Grand Canyon

Me, Russ Callahan, John Kemp, and Jeff Lind at the Grand Canyon after a Moab trip

Mammoth Mountain Bikes was created under the umbrella of the Transworld empire and Tracker Trucks, specifically.  Larry Balma, owner of Transworld and Russ were long-time friends.  A third friend, Frank Fahey owned a BMW performance motorsports shop and supplied the initial work space and the welder.  Can’t remember the welder’s name, but he was supposed to be pretty much THE guy who could weld anything.  And that was very important because the Mammoth Mountain Bike frames were created out of 2024 aluminum which is supposed to be unweldable.  Seriously.  Look it up – google “weldability of 2024 aluminum.”  But it was weldable and that’s how the Mammoth Mountain Bikes were produced.  “Can we do something different that would be rad?”  Yes, yes we can.  A few of the prototypes broke.  I never broke one.

After maybe 2 years of protyping and testing, they went into production.  The first 50 frames were made at Frank Fahey’s shop and signified with the serial number FF01 – FF50.  The later frames were made at Matthews Welding in San Marcos, CA.  San Marcos has a long history with bicycle frame production as it has been the home of Masi, Cyclart, CycleSmith, Dave Tesch, Dave Moulton, Leo Castellon.  Some of the VooDoo frames came from San Marcos.  Quintana Roo and later it’s owner, along with Litespeed and Merlin, had a shop in San Marcos.

During this early time at Mammoth, I had left Pacific Coast Cycles and joined Mammoth as … can’t recall a title, but I did several things including sales.  Sales were tough and I suck at sales.  A lot of money was thrown at Mammoth in those early days and the returns were just not there.  After not much time, I left and went back to Pacific Coast Cycles.  Mammoth eventually shuttered after struggling for a short time and was left to the dustbin of mountain bike history.  Pretty much forgotten except by a few.  Russ went on to do some engineering consultation and after I became Product Development Manager at Haro, I was fortunate to be able to contract Russ for his skills at AutoCAD where we developed some BMX and full-suspension frames.  John continued the Devo team for a number of years and eventually ended up on the central coast of California.

And all that was about to slide into the dark reaches of my memory until a friend emailed me asking if I was watching the Mammoth on ebay.  Nope.  Don’t want to see it, don’t need another bike, don’t tempt me.  Dammit!  I saw it.  And I wanted it.  Bad.  Everything about it said to me “you need me.”  The size, XL, was my size.  It was the traditional diamond frame (I never much liked the elevated stay model).  It was chock-full of WTB parts – brakes, headset, seatpost.  The fork.  Oh, the fork.  The fork is a custom fillet-brazed Koski fork made by Ross Shafer at Salsa Cycles and the paint is by a ceramic artist friend of mine from back then, Susie Ketchum.  The bike was built and sold by Pacific Coast Cycles to the boyfriend of a woman who used to ride with a group of folks in Orange County, who were good customers of PCC.  Yeah, I had to have it.  And now I do.  I rode it last weekend at a vintage mountain bike gathering at China Camp.  It rides as well and is as much fun to ride as anything I have.  Keeper.  And it seems that Jon Bon Jovi had a hand it it’s purchase as it was a “thank you” gift for the original owner.  But that fork!


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14 responses to “Fast Forward Friday – Mammoth Mountain Bikes”

  1. Nash says:

    I saw that on eBay too. I didn’t know anything of the history but could tell it was something special. Yowza. Thanks for the mtn bike history lesson!

  2. Tim N says:

    What a great find. The seat post is puzzling to me, not sure what is going on there.

    • blackmountaincycles says:

      Seat post is a Cunningham design fixed angle. No micro-adjust, hence no slipping. The top of the post had to be angled according to seat angle, seat, and degree you liked the saddle angle.

  3. Jeff Lind says:

    Those were the days, Mikey. Have fun riding that bad boy.

  4. Flavio Colker says:

    That fork is art… and the rest is pure bicycle bliss.

  5. andy says:

    That is a fascinating history. You should publish more stories like that. My friends and I are perhaps a bit younger than you and back then we were on the east coast scheming ways to get out west and ride our Fishers and Bridgestones. Made the mecca to Moab and so on in the very early ’90’s and would devour copies of MBA while we drooled over bikes like this. Very cool Now I ride a BMC of course!.

  6. Doug says:

    What did it go for?

  7. Bruce Denton says:

    Originally built for my late brother, Gary Denton. After he passed away in ’92, I kept it in my garage in Memphis until last year. Rode it a couple of times but was concerned about frame breakage rumors at 250lbs. Hated to part with it and didn’t know it was going to be resold or I would have kept it for my grandson. Hope you enjoy it – sounds like you’re putting it to good use. BTW – it was a gift from Richie Sambora for building his house in Laguna Beach.

    • blackmountaincycles says:

      Bruce, thank you for reaching out and adding that bit to the story of the bike. It’s still here in the shop as one of the center pieces and still gets ridden.
      Cheers,
      Mike

  8. Bruce Denton says:

    Mike – did you replace the original Cook Brothers cranks, or were they already gone?

    • blackmountaincycles says:

      Bruce, no Cook Bros cranks when I got it. The only thing I changed was the tires when I got it.

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