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A few weeks ago, we at Singletrack.com took advantage of our proximity to Yeti Cycles in Golden, Colorado to pay them a visit. Since 1985, Yeti Cycles has been pushing the envelope for off-road race bikes, and we wanted to see what makes this little company tick.
In Part One, we take a look at Yeti’s roots and their collection of sweet bikes from the early days. Later on, in Part Two, we’ll chat with company president Chris Conroy about where Yeti’s headed and what keeps the company moving.
Turns out, Yeti’s got no big secrets. They love riding, they’re situated near sweet Colorado Front Range trails and they’re not concerned with the next trend or fleshing out a full lineup of price point bikes. Yeti is all about high-performance mountain bikes, and has been since day one.
“Day One” can’t really be traced to a specific time and place, but it was John Parker in 1985 that got the ball (or should we say, wheels) rolling. At the time, he was situated in Agoura Hills, California. Mountain bike racing’s popularity in Southern California exploded and Yeti adopted the fastest riders for both sponsorships and product development.
“The whole scene of racing is really the concept that Yeti bikes was founded on,” says Sarah Rawley, communications and marketing manager for Yeti.
By the time the adolescent sport organized its first world championship event in 1990, outside of Durango, Colorado, Yeti had become the bike of choice for the legendary Julie Furtado. She won that inaugural race, and shortly after in 1991, Parker moved Yeti headquarters for Durango. The small mountain town had become the residence of choice for off-road racers and a Mecca for mountain riders of all levels.
It wasn’t long before a whole host of renowned riders rode Yeti at one point or another in their careers. The list includes John Tomac, Jimmy Deaton, Missy Giove, Myles Rockwell, Marla Streb, Nathan Rennie and Tara Llanes, to name just a few.
Yeti has seen its share of changes over the years, including being bought by a larger company (Schwinn, in 1995), and then re-sold back to two top employees in the early 2000s. Those guys, Chris Conroy and Steve Hoogendoorn, still own the company. They’ve painstakingly re-established Yeti’s culture of competition and the primacy of quality over quantity.
“Everyone here rides, and it’s a little more of an all-mountain, crossing into gravity influence,” says Rawley.
Stepping into the Yeti office, the archived bikes on display are impossible to miss. There’s a John Tomac edition C-26, a Zephyr cruiser and more.
For now, feast your eyes on this trip through time. Catching a close look at cantilever brakes and suspension travel pushing a whole two inches makes us all the more grateful for how far our sport has come.
And if you want more, find a copy of Yeti’s 2010 catalogue. It reads like an issue of Decline magazine, with giant photo spreads, thick paper stock and a surprisingly candid timeline of Yeti bike development from 1985 to now.
In Part Two, we’ll take a peek at the shop and how Yeti designers prototype and test new frames.