New ride: 1992 Trek 970 Singletrack

Trek 970 mountain bike

I recently installed a pair of Planet Bike Cascadia hybrid fenders on my 1992 Trek 970.

After almost 20 years I’m back in the saddle of a 1992 Trek 970 Singletrack. I’d been looking for this make and model—in this color (officially “Sour Grape,” per the 1992 Trek catalog [pdf])—off and on for a few years. For some reason, early ’90s Trek 970s are hard to find—or at least they don’t come up that often on eBay or Craigslist.

This is almost the exact same bike I owned through much of college, down to the color—well, except for the handlebars, stem, and seat post. They were all silver on my original 970. (An aside: When I bought that first one, I thought it was blue. For years. Finally someone mentioned “your purple bike,” and I was like, “Purple? Wha?” See, I’m colorblind.)

Anyway, when I moved to Oregon after graduating, I left my Trek at my parents’ house in Kansas City. My mom sold it in a garage sale (with my permission). Turns out, I didn’t know how good I had it with that bike. Every bike since (with the exception of a sweet Raleigh 5-speed English roadster) has failed to live up to the 970.

Trek 970 1992

The bike had the original knobby tires on it when my sister and her boyfriend took it to REI Denver for boxing. I knew I’d be turning it into a commuter, so I had REI NYC put on Kevlar-reinforced commuter tires.

This is the bike as-bought (above). I found it on Craiglist Denver. Lucky for me, my sister lives there. So she and her boyfriend went and picked it up and shipped it to me. (If you need bike-shipping, it turns out that REI does store-to-store shipping and is rather reasonable. Especially if you’re a member—I’m not, but my sister’s boyfriend is, so bingo.)

By the way, good luck trying the same thing with Craigslist if you don’t have someone local to help out. Sellers on Craigs don’t like to deal with out-of-town sales. Cash and carry is the (unofficial) rule.

1992 Trek 970

With the commuter slicks on it, but before the fenderization. Here, you can see I also put bar ends on. I remember having bar ends on my original 970. And I remember liking them, since they give you at least two additional riding positions, but I don’t know if they’re that useful for city commuting.

As soon as it arrived at REI in NYC, I had them put some commuter slicks on (Panaracer Paselas) rather than the knobby mountain-bike tires. I’ve ridden it to work a few times like this, but the weather has gotten rainy lately, which is why I installed fenders this past week (photo at top).

I still need a bell to be completely street legal per NYC law, so that will probably come next. After that, a rear rack, then eventually some new handlebars (I’m thinking mustache bars), and then a new seat.

From semi-rad.com.

From semi-rad.com.

Going back to the rarity of this model, I’m surprised there aren’t more 970s out there. The mountain bike boom was in full swing in the early ’90s, and Trek must have made A TON of these bikes. I’ve seen a lot of 950s for sale, but relatively few 970s. In googling around for Trek 970 info, I found this great post on SEMI-RAD.COM about the author’s friend Nick and Nick’s obsession with buying a 970 to turn into a commuter:

Every time I met him for a cup of coffee, he would tell me that he had been scanning eBay, looking for 970s — lugged steel mountain bikes, which back in the early ’90s sold for about $500. Nothing special, not like Lance Armstrong was riding one. One problem with his search was that he needed the largest size, which seemed to be rare. I can’t even remember why this particular bike build was so special — something about one of the last great American-made Trek frames, whatever.

The thing is, I know just how that guy feels. Once the idea of getting my hands on one of these took hold, no other bike would do. I’m just glad the actual bike has lived up to the memory. I’m looking forward to some more great commutes on this thing.

About the author: Adam Kuban is a one-time foodblogger turned aspiring pizzeria owner — see margotspizza.com. Founder of Slice and A Hamburger Today and founding editor of Serious Eats. He enjoys photography, urban hiking, and naps.

25 thoughts on “New ride: 1992 Trek 970 Singletrack

  1. A bike love story! I love my Schwinn Peloton so much that if we ever parted, I’d be forced to hunt another one down.

    I need a better commuter bike, though. Though I’ve had many good years with my Fuji Crosstown, I need something lighter, something that speaks to me.

  2. Sorry, didn’t finish. I liked the Cannondale, I think it was a CAAD 9, but it had these wretched Lilith Fair vines all over it.

    The perfect street bike is so tough to find! I am jellz that you have yours.

    You should do the Ride to Montauk with me this year!

    • Of those two, I like the Volpe more. It looks more comfortable. The Cannondale looks like you’d have to scrunch down more. But that’s just me. I’ve never liked the hunched-down riding position. And the Cannondale not only looks really rigid, it’s aluminum, so I’d be worried about the feel of the ride.

      How many miles is Montauk? That might be beyond me. I think it took 3 hours by car. I’m going to try to do the Five Borough Bike Tour this year and start there. I think I can manage that.

    • I’ll try to embed a map here below. But roughly, it’s from the very end of the N/Q line (Ditmars Blvd/31st Street) to 53rd and Seventh (near Carnegie Deli, Letterman, Steak ‘n’ Shake). I go south down 36th Street, which is a bike route, then west across 34th Avenue, then down 28th Street to the Queensboro Bridge. QBB dumps you on First Avenue, I ride down that to 55th and then over to Seventh Avenue. The ride isn’t as pleasant as my old Park Slope–Chelsea commute, but I like the Astoria part of it.

      I’ve only ever ridden around Astoria. It’s OK. It’s very suburban-esque/residential, but at the same time, everyone has a car here and people are always trying to park, so I’m really paranoid about drivers not paying attention to bikes or surroundings other than parking-space scouting. For most of the ride to work, I’m in a left-side bike lane, which I feel reduces the risk of dooring (passenger side). But on the way home I really watch it, because I have to ride along next to driver-side doors. I feel safer in Queens than I do Midtown, though. Well, each has their risks. At least in Midtown, around rush hour, traffic is barely moving. Anyway:

      Create Maps or search from 80 million at MapMyRide

      I don’t know how accurate the mileage is. I’ve gotten anywhere from 6.5 miles to 8.1 miles on the same route. I think the MapMyRide app is a little funky.

  3. For Montauk, you choose your starting point – can be 35, 70, 100, or 145 miles. (145 is for the nutters who want to start in Manhattan.) I did 70 miles last year, and it was plenty, but it was mostly flat. It is such a lovely ride. If you do a 7 mile commute daily, you can definitely do this ride. And it’s beautiful. Goes through the fanciest parts of the Hamptons, where the landscaping is absolutely alien and gorgeous.

  4. Olá,
    Tenho uma Trek 970 pintura preta comprada em 1992, são 20 anos de uso e muito cuidado para mante-la em excelente condições. Como moro no Brasil, atualmente a minha maior dificuldade é achar peças originais de reposição, pois, quero manter a sua originalidade. Eventualmente tenho encontrado peças no Ebay, com isso vou mantendo o seu bom estado.
    Espero poder por muito tempo usa-la…

    • Thanks, Antonio. I wish I spoke Portuguese so I could respond in your language.

      You say you have difficulty finding original replacement parts. Which parts have you needed to replace?

      In my case, the only parts I’d be concerned with replacing would be the frame and fork. As long as I could find somewhat equivalent parts, I wouldn’t mind replacing the derailleurs, cranks, brakes, etc.

      Ebay can be a pain, because a lot of times people are selling the whole bike and you might just need a few parts from it. Also, I can imagine that those outside Brazil may not want to ship there.

      Best of luck with your 970, and I hope that you do get to use it for many years to come.

  5. Crazy! A few years ago through Craigslist I bought this model from a local guy here in KC; he said he’d had it through college (KU) and had great memories with it, but needed the cash for his new family. It’s a great bike, the steel and ride are amazing. I replaced the saddle with a Brooks, and also have some bar ends. And yeah, I love it too. Currently thinking about powder coating the frame, as it’s got a bit of rust, but can’t decide on the color. : ) Happy Trails!
    bob in KC

    • Bob: glad you love the 970. If I had a garage or any type of storage, I think I’d end up hoarding 970 frames. I’ve thought about putting on a Brooks, but they’re pricey, and I’m afraid it’d get stolen. Your bike’s gotta look great with that saddle, I bet. Oh, man … It’s finally getting a little warmer here again that I’ll want to start riding to work. Your comment was a good kick in the pants to start commuting by bike again. Thanks!

  6. I just got a trek 970 in craigslist Eugene , deore xt , old but this bike screams and is amazingly light I never knew these frames were that good . I’m not sure the year but its dark metallic grey and purple . The guy said its a 1993 frame I will look it up later .

    • Guy: I wonder if that’s the same one I saw on there a few months ago, when I was looking. I saw one in Eugene, one in Seattle, one in Portland. All bike-friendly areas. I’m happy for you. They’re great bikes. Stay safe!

  7. Adam: can u tell me if trek 950 , 990 frames are any good I assume they are pretty much the same frame or very simular . The 950 is 150.00 and the 990 is 65.00 , curious if these prices are to hi or just right

  8. Guy: I really can’t say. I’ve never done the research on those particular frames. I’d suggest just diving in to Google and reading all you can about them and then comparison-pricing them on Craigslist and eBay.

    I know the 970s pre-1993 or so (can’t remember the exact year) were steel frames, lugged (rather than TIG welded) and were made in the USA. After ’93 I think they went to TIG-welded steel made in China. From what I’ve read, all Trek went to China after ’93 or so.

    Honestly, I’m probably too much of a novice to tell the difference between a lugged steel ride and a TIG-weld, but I know I loved my 970.

  9. Adam: there is a trek 970 pre 93yr in craigslist bend , its red and white …150.00 , just wanted to let u know . I bet it won’t sell lol

  10. Hey Adam, great story. Also I’m glad to know I haven’t lost my mind with my obsession finding another of the the 900 series Treks.
    I had a 96 model 930 and tried to buy it back from the guy for 100 dollars more than he paid 30 minutes after I sold it to him. He wouldn’t do it. When it comes to bikes, letting that one go is my biggest mistake.
    I look on ebay or craigslist daily but so far, none with the 19.5″ frame that I require. Several 17″ ones but too small.
    My son did luck onto a 950 last year and loves it. I had been reluctant to ride it but did l
    a couple weeks ago and it made my determination to find one stronger.
    Just wanted to drop a line to say congrats and I envy you.
    It may take me 20 but I will find one.
    Take care of her she’s one of the great ones.

    • @Sam: I had the opposite problem with frames. Was looking for a smaller one but could only find larger ones. Did you set up a search reminder on eBay? It’s also good to go on Craigslist and search for “vintage Trek”. Sometimes sellers don’t know to put the model number.

  11. 970’s are awesome bikes, I had a white 20 inch and crashed it, its been 20 years and I miss that bike and Im on the hunt as well and Im shocked how hard it is to find one….

    • Dave: It took a couple years for me to find mine. Granted, I was only looking off and on. But they are not a dime a dozen, that’s for sure. Good luck in the hunt!

  12. Hi everybody,
    Nice to see someone else have the same vintage mtb.
    My 970 is from 1993 with ahead set direction; as i want to re install the original fork and i discovered the bearings inside are broken, i dont know wich headset to buy ( 1″ or 1 1/8 ” ?, integrated or semi integrated ?).
    the most easy thing would be to find only the bearing but i cannot find it as it’s hard to name it properly to Google it.
    if someone know about it , i will be thankfull to read about it.
    (im in France and English is not my native language : im sorry for the wrong spelling and grammary)

  13. Still ride my 970 bought in 1992. Had to replace the shifters as they both finally broke, and the bottom bearings. This bike has seen a lot of trails and surface roads, and has held up amazingly. No rust, still looks new. The mag 21 front shock still functions but its tired. Needs a rebuild. If I was to go out on the trails again I would probably pick up a newer bike, as the technology, comfort, has really advanced. But this bike will always be my daily until I can no longer ride. Then I’ll just hang it up on the wall.

    • Good point about using a newer bike for trail riding. I think I’d do the same. Though I won’t be trail riding anytime soon. But for a daily ride, it’s perfect. You’re so right. (And here in NYC it’s relatively inconspicuous, so it’s got a lower theft potential.)

  14. I have a Trek 970 in the garage (Grape colour) that is as new but needs some work as she has not been used for over 6 years and the tyres are probably cracked and the cables will need changing.

    Bought it new in the UK and never got around to using her very much so she sat around and maybe once a year I would get out on the road and go for a ride but that was it. More dust on her than in my hoover!!

    If anyone is interested let me know as I would let her go to an enthusiast.

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