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.
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.
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.
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.