"The early nineties were the hey day of mountain biking, and Cairns was doing it in a way that no one on the planet was doing at the time." I reckon Shem Guthrie must have heard the panting, huffing and puffing before he could see me crest the short, sharp hill at the base of Brisbane's Mt Cootha.
The first production Zaskar's were made in 1991, being one of the earlier production aluminium bikes, available to the public. Originally prototyped a few years prior with Hans Rey being the primary test pilot. Handmade in the USA, producing a very strong and stiff frame, which at the time was a big advancement over steel.
Waiting at Slaughter Falls, Shem had brought along his '92 GT Zaskar. The plan, to photograph Shem's retro aluminium mount, in it's native habitat, the Mt Cootha bush. We headed for a goat track that took us to the top. Once the trail headed skywards the panting started again, so it quickly became clear that it was time for the photoshoot to begin. For the next couple of hours we talked bikes, kept pedalling and shot the Zaskar. In the end we'd drawn one conclusion …. individuality …. a bike can become anything to anyone … one major reason why bicycles have always been so popular everywhere.
Anyone remember that scene in the David Lynch film, Wild at Heart, with Nicholas Cage as Sailor Ripley, a punk says "You look like a clown in that stupid jacket." Ripley "This is a snakeskin jacket! And for me it's a symbol of my individuality, and my belief... in personal freedom."
Here's why there's a '92 Zaskar in Shem's shed.
In 1991 I was at school in year 11, up in Cairns, FNQ. A good friend Ben Bramham was getting right into the mountain bike scene with the Cairns MTB club which was at the time really edgy, pioneered by a jungle culture and BMX, motocross, skate, punk rock, metal and just about any other alternate culture going. The mountains are big up there and loom large, brooding with cloud and rain, full of danger and excitement. Ben rode Glen Jacobs' 91 Zaskar to school one day, and I was transfixed. GT was the bike of choice, they were strong, looked amazing and had roots in BMX which many club guys came from. From that point essentially just had to have one. Over the years, I have owned a few, but this one is special, its a 92, and has all the details and graphics that transfixed me in 91. The font of the downtube really resonates with how the club was doing its graphics for posters at the time also. Glen, Tom Kosic and Wade Lewis were all driving members of that club, they were all traditional sign writers and had amazing graphic skills. They all rode GT and owned the first Zaskars in Australia. Its a big part of the way the club evolved.
I ride this bike for lots of reasons, but essentially it all boils down to one reason. It reminds me every time I ride it, about my childhood, growing up in a place I still think of as home, and some simply amazing rides in the phenomenal rainforest of the wet tropics in Cairns. The early nineties were the hey day of mountain biking, and Cairns was doing it in a way that no one on the planet was doing at the time.
All photographs by Robert Cobcroft
FRAME: 1992 GT Zaskar 20" handmade in USA 6061 T6 Aluminium
FORK: GT Bologna Cro-mo double butted fork.
PAINT: Fork resprayed by Roberto's Custom Powder. (guru)
HEADSET: 1 1/8th Tioga Alchemy Aheadset
STEM: Syncros Cattlehead 130mm 0 Degree. Courtesy of Chris Davis, who used it on is bike back in the day
HANDLEBARS: Syncros 7071 Hard Core. 580mm 5 degree sweep
GRIPS: GT A’ME waffle grips
FRONT BRAKE: Shimano M730 XT Cantilever
REAR BRAKE: Shimano M730 XT II U Brake
BRAKE LEVERS: Shimano M730 X
FRONT DERAILLEUR: Shimano M730 XT Band Clamp
REAR DERAILLEUR: Shimano M735 XT Short Cage. Courtesy of my Brother, Jake SHIFT LEVERS: Shimano M732 XT Thumb Shifters (7sp)
CASSETTE: Shimano M950 XTR (12 cog not affixed to run as 7sp and better climbing ratios)
CHAIN: SRAM 7sp
CRANKSET: Cook Bros Racing RSR, 175mm 110 BCD. Courtesy of my Brother, Jake
CHAINRINGS: Onza Buzz Saw granny and middle ring. Shimano M730 XT SG-X big ring.
BOTTOM BRACKET: Shimano Cartridge
PEDALS: Shimano M737 SPD. The original first ever SPD design.
FRONT HUB: Shimano M730 XT 32H
REAR HUB: Shimano M730 XT 32H
SKEWERS: Ringle Holey. Courtesy of Chris Davis, who used it on is bike back in the day
FRONT RIM: Mavic 231
REAR RIM: Mavic 231
FRONT TIRE: Kenda Nevegal 1.95 folder
REAR TIRE: Kenda Nevegal 1.95 folder
INNER TUBES: Yep
SADDLE: Selle Italia Flite
SEATPOST: Tioga Carbo