Taken from my notes for the OWMTBC presentation, here is the MS Racing/alpinestars story so far. Ultimately, I'd still like to get in contact with Bernie Schreiber, Bill Stevenson or Roger Malinowski to get the full story, if I do get in contact with them I'll update the thread. Many items remain "to be updated" as I was referring from seperate notes for these, i'll update this later. If you know any better than what is printed below, then please don't be a stranger and post up what you know, it will be of great interest and help.
OWMTBC 2010 North Wales, ((L-R) myself, Neil (mrkawasaki) and Tim Davies)
MS Racing. Was formed in 1969 and was named after its founder Malcolm Smith, a hugely successful motorcycle rider and star of the film "On Any Sunday" alongside Hollywood legend Steve McQueen and Mert Lawwill of Lawwill mtb suspension fame. MS Racing produced motorcycle apparel in the form of leathers, shirts and gloves to both road and off-road riders. Its most popular period was during the late 1970’s and the early 80’s when it supplied many of the US’s top motorcyclists with their equipment. Malcolm Smith sold MS Racing just prior to the manufacture of MS Racing mtb's, he does however still own an MS Racing bike. Malcolm is currently the owner of the legendary ‘Malcolm Smith Motorsports’ store in the USA and was recently inductee to the ‘AMA hall of fame’. MS Racing produced mountain bikes for just one year, 1989.
Alpinestars. Founded in 1963 by Sante Mazzarolo in Asolo, Italy. The company takes its name from the English translation of the Italian word "stelle alpine" which, when translated into English, literally means "Alpine stars". The company started out making hiking and ski boots, but quickly focused on making boots primarily for motocross racing. In the 1990s, the company branched out into manufacturing all types of protective and technical gear ranging from gloves and jackets to full leather suits for motorcycle and automobile racing. From 1990 to 1996 they produced there own brand of mountain bikes.
The two brands have always been entirely separate, so how did MS Racing bikes become alpinestars bikes?
In 1989 2 former employees of Fisher Cycles started designing and building bikes for themselves, based in San Luis Obispo, California. These employees were General Manager Roger Malinowski and Product Manager and Designer Bill Stevenson. They were joined by Businessman and Entrepreneur Jim Phillips and former world motorcycle trails champion and star of ‘On any Sunday II, Bernie Schreiber who joined the team as Technical Advisor and European Sales Coordinator. MS Racing g possibly got involved in the sport thanks to Malcolm Smiths son Joel Smith, a keen enthusiast of this growing sport. The bikes were to be designed in the USA and produced in batches in the Far East. The bikes would then be shipped directly to the MS Racing Importers.
At the end of 1989 MS Racing decided this wasn’t a venture that they wished to continue with, which left the ex Fisher Cycles men with no name for their new 1990 bikes. Regardless they travelled the world looking for distributors for their new bikes. Many of MS Racing distributors were happy to continue their arrangements of 1989, Bernie Schreiber often using his motorcycle contacts to locate importers.
Whilst looking for importers they visited alpinestars factory in Italy. Bernie Schreiber still had close links with the company, links forged from his trials riding days using alpinestars boots on his way to the 1979 world trials championship. Bernie approached alpinestars purely as a distributor for Italian operations, but when alpinestars owner Sante Mazzarolo’s daughter Lucia asked what name the bikes would carry, they explained the bikes currently had no name. Lucia suggested maybe they call their bikes alpinestars and so the brand ‘alpinestars USA’ was created, the rest as they say is history.
1989 MS RACING (4 models produced)
- 2 steel framed models were produced, the Comp XT and the Pro Comp XT. Both equipped with Shimano Deore XT as their names suggest, the only differences between the two was the standard of the finishing kit. The Pro Comp XT enjoyed some use as a team bike on occasions.
- 2 aluminium models were produced, the Aluminium CR 1 composite bike and the all Aluminium CR 2. The CR 1 being a Shimano Deore equipped bike and the CR 2 being kitted out with Shimano Deore XT. The CR 2 was the main bike used in racing, but the CR-1 was also occassionally raced.
The design of the MS Racing bikes was quite conventional with the exception of the rear end of the CR 1 bikes, these frames used aluminium tubes bonded to steel lugs and stays. An idea Fisher had been working on for some years with their CR-7. The bikes also featured some clever features like the interesting stem pivoting front brake.
- Mike Kloser, who came across from Fisher with Roger Malinowski and Bill Stevenson.
1990 ALPINESTARS (5 models produced)
- CRO-MEGA (LX + DX) + ALPINE XCROSS (DX)
- No name outer butted steel tubing
The 1990 steel range of alpinestars bikes.
- AL-MEGA (DX + XT)
- Oversize 7005 aluminium tubing
- The top of the range AL-MEGA XT was the bike of choice for the team riders.
The 1990 aluminium range.
- Conventional frame design, similar in design to its MSR predecessor. 1 1/4” headset was introduced.
- Most steel frames are still going strong today, aluminium ones aren’t quite as successful with the aluminium prone to cracking and even snapping around the head tube. Alpinestars did however offer a lifetime warranty to the original owner on both steel and aluminium frames.
Tim Davies and Mike Kloser pose for a 1990 MBUK photoshoot aboard their 1990 al-mega XT's.
- Mike Kloser continued with the team riding full factory supported alpinestars bikes.
Mike Kloser was pivotal to alpinestars 1990 marketing.
- Tim Davies fresh from winning the 1989 British XC championships joined from Orange, his ride was to be an alpinestars UK backed one, supported by UK importer Lifecycle.
1991 ALPINESTARS (11 models produced)
- CRO-MEGA (LX + DX), ALPINE XCROSS (LX), T-24 (cro-mo)(LX+DX) + ALPINE LX (300LX)
- No name butted steel, the experimentation with oversize tubing spread and the main tubes became oversize.
The 1991 cro-mega DX
- AL-MEGA (DX +XT) + T-24 (alu) (DX+XT)
- Oversize 7005 aluminium tubing, the oversizing increased.
The 1991 al-mega DX.
- TI-MEGA (Frame or Frame + Fork package)
- Makes first appearance in 1991 catalogue. Built in the USA by Litespeed after Sandvik claimed it was impossible to produce the curved seat tube from titanium.
- The TI-MEGA becomes the alpinestars range topper and although shown kitted out with Campagnolo equipment in the 1991 catalogue its spec evolves through the year with the introduction of Shimano’s new XTR groupset.
The ti-mega as first shown in the 1991 catalogue.
- Elevated chainstay design with short chainstays and curved seat tube for cro-mega and al-mega, X-Cross was given a shorter wheelbase by utilizing the curved seat tube. 1 1/4” headset. The ti-mega frame design was to evolve during 1991 from the one featured in the brochure to a shape more familiar with 1992 bikes..
- The T-24 is introduced, a bike designed for the smaller rider. Proved very popular as it was one of very few bikes around that featured proper mtb equipment on a small frame. Named T-24 due to the frame being T shaped and the wheels being 24”.
The T-24 range as shown in the 1991 catalogue.
- Most steel frames are still going strong today, aluminium ones not so good with aluminium prone to cracking and even snapping around the head tube and below the stays around the seat tube. The TI-MEGA appears to coping ok although cracked 1991 examples have been seen. Despite the failing of the earlier 1990 bikes alpinestars continued to offer a lifetime warranty to the original owner on all steel, aluminium and titanium frames.
- 1991 also saw alpinestars introduce their ‘MEGA-LITE’ brand of aluminium stems, seatposts and bars to the range. Sadly the stems proved too fragile and a recall was issued.
- Mike Kloser completes his final year with the factory alpinestars team aboard is ti-mega XTR. At the end of the year he moves on for a factory ride with Schwinn.
Mike Kloser using the ti-mega in Durango.
- Tim Davies still on an alpinestars UK contract develops his ti-mega with Accu-Trax forks and a very early front disc brake. At the end of 1991 alpinestars assume Tim will step up take the place of Mike Kloser on a factory backed alpinestars ti-mega. However a break down in this communication leads to Tim being within hours of signing for Kona.
Riding for Great Britain in the Mountain Bike World Championships in Italy, note Tim's early front disc arrangement on the 1991 ti-mega.
Tim Davies chases down Team Raleigh rider Paul Hinton in 1991.
1992 ALPINESTARS (15 models produced, increase partly due to the new Shimano XTR groupset, but also due to experimentation in suspension technology)
- CRO-MEGA (LX + DX), ALPINE XCROSS (LX), T-26 (cro-mo)(LX + DX)
- Tubing upgraded to Tange or True temper. The tubing became even more oversize, adding strength and following the trend of the time.
- AL-MEGA (DX, XT + XTR), T-26 (AL)(DX, XT + XTR) , T-44 (Complete bike with Suntour XC Pro + a Frame and Fork package) + ALPINE XCROSS (DX)
- The aluminium frames were made from Oversize Easton Vari-Lite tubing and the al-mega frames benefitted from a Gusset at the head tube, this was to cure the headtube failure issue previously encountered.
- TI-MEGA (Frame only or Frame and Fork)
- The alpinestars flag ship bicycle continued to be made by Litespeed in the USA, but the design had evolved during 1991, the 1992 model was identical to the revised 1991 model.
- Elevated chainstay design continued with both the cro-mega and al-mega benefitting from the same frame evolution the ti-mega enjoyed during 1991. Chainstays reduced to just 403mm to aid climbing traction, rear tyre clearance increased (contradiction when you consider the front mech position!).
- The T-24 idea was developed upon and bigger 26” wheeled design gave a better choice of wheels to the rider. Thus the T-24 was rebranded the T-26. This again proved popular with smaller riders.
The T-26 range from the 1992 catalogue.
- The T-44 was introduced to the 1992 catalogue, an aluminium framed full suspension bike. It was unique design to its time featuring 4 inches of front and rear suspension travel. The holygrail for an Alpinestars collector, as very few were produced. The prototype bike is pictured below, it was steel framed.
Tom Rogers via email "It was a 5" travel bike and was a big pile of junk we found out during this photo shot. It was all steel and weighed a ton"
The T-44 in the 1992 catalogue, ridden by 1979 World Trails Champion Bernie Schreiber.
- Most steel frames are still going strong today, aluminium ones not so good with aluminium prone to cracking and even snapping below the stays around the seat tube bottom bracket area. The head tube gusset does however appear to have worked. As before the TI-MEGA appears to coping ok although cracked 1992 examples have been seen. In 1992 alpinestars amended its warranty due to the number of returns it was receiving from its al-mega range. Thus, all aluminium frames were given just a 5 year warranty. The steel and titanium frames continued with lifetime warranties for their original owners a with receipt of purchase.
- Tim Davies now on the full factory alpinestars ti-mega races and promotes the brand worldwide.
The ever stylish Tim Davies aboard the alpinestars ti-mega in 1992.
- Tom Rogers joins the factory team for one year only.
Tom Rogers aboard the alpinestars ti-mega at the Catcus Cup Race in 1992. Tom won this opening time trail event, beating John Tomac into second place by a single second. Tom eventually finished 2nd overall in the event to Tomac
Tom Rogers racing in the World Cup in Vermont.
1993 ALPINESTARS (11 models produced)
- Alpinestars give their bikes new names. The cro-mega, al-mega and ti-mega remained but instead of using groupset names like DX, XT etc, the frames were given an identification letter (E for elevated chainstays, S for full suspension, D for double diamond design and T for the small T-26 style frames) followed by their Shimano groupset M number, thus in the new elevated chainstay al-mega XTR was named the AL-MEGA E900.
- CRO-MEGA S900, D735, D560, D320, D220 – T560, T220
- Steel frames made with True Temper or no name cro-moly tubing.
- AL-MEGA E900, E735, E560
- Easton Program Vari-Lite tubing was utilised.
- TI-MEGA FRAME
- Still the range topper and built by Litespeed..
- Although the elevated chainstay design continued, it was radically redesigned. The seat tube was straightened and the wheelbase lengthened. Only the TI and Aluminium bikes came with the option of the elevated chainstay too, the steel bikes reverted to the more traditional Double Diamond frame design with one exception, the cro-mega S900. An M900 XTR equipped full suspension bike built in partnership with Fox, who supplied the integrated air/oil rear FoxShox.
The fillet brazed cro-mega S900 became alpinestars new flagship full suspension bike.
-The warranty for steel and ti frames is lifetime whilst aluminium is 5 years from purchase date. For the original owner with receipt naturally.
- The team bikes started the year kitted out with Shimano’s XTR groupset, but during the season alpinestars switched them to Suntour after a dispute with Shimano. The argument involved alpinestars being unhappy that its team riders were not being given free parts, despite the riders advertising Shimano’s products at the highest level of the sport. Thus, they moved to Suntour. Interestingly the team riders used the al-mega bikes in 1993 instead of the ti-mega.
1993 al-mega E-900
- Tim Davies (alpinestars direct), Tim retires at the end of 1993 after his alpinestars contract expires. Tim was alpinestars main hope in 1993 and was featured on the front cover of the '93 brochure in this classic image taken in the hills above Malibu.
From a management point of view things are changing. Bernie Schreiber decides to leave and alpinestars Italy starts paying the riders wages.
1994 onwards ALPINESTARS
Sadly the bright light that was alpinestars USA dimmed in the mtb marketplace and by 1996 their bikes had disappeared from sale in the United Kingdom. It’s rumoured the number of warranty claims and product recalls against the aluminium bikes and components had caused a rethink of alpinestars global mtb strategy. However it is worth pointing out that alpinestars never failed to honour to warranty, despite the numerous returns they encountered. I'd be interested to find a post '93 brochure to see if the warranties changed.
So where are they now?
MS Racing continues to produce motorcycle apparel for both road and off road riding. It now trades under the branding of MSR
and is still popular especially across the atlantic. Joel Smith
(Malcolm Smith’s son) would go on to become marketing manager at Answer-Manitou as Doug Bradbury’s right hand man from the 1990’s to early this century. John Tomac, Doug Bradbury and Joel Smith also built the Tomac Bicycle brand during the late 1990’s before selling it to American Bicycle Group. In 2006 Joel bought the brand back, currently he owns and runs Tomac Bicycles. I contacted Joel and he knew little about the MS Racing bikes, other that his Dad had one stashed away. I explained the history of MS Racing being around for just one year and winning the world championship within that time and suggested maybe it was time MS Racing defended their title, watch this space.
Alpinestars have gone on to bigger and better things. The company is today headed by Sante Mazzarolo’s son Gabriele Mazzarolo
. They are now the brand leader in both road and off road motorcycle clothing, protection and footwear. They have also become big players in the auto sport world, making high quality nomex fire retardant suits, gloves and boots for the likes of Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Michael Schmacher. In recent years alpinestars have ventured back into mountain biking, firstly partnering Honda and Greg Minaar in their downhill racing project. In the last few years alpinestars have been more proactively pursuing the mtb downhill clothing market with a range of clothing and protective equipment.Today they have offices in Los Angeles and Tokyo whilst the original headquarters and main research & development labs remain in Northern Italy. Mainstream fashion appears to be a market they are now keen to conquer with their Californian fashion house going strong.
Lucia the daughter of alpinestars founder Sante Mazzarolo is now Lucia Basso
after marrying into the Basso Cycles family. She is also a prominent employee within the Basso Company.
was inducted into the AMA hall of fame in 2000. He now runs his own sports sponsorship consultancy firm from Bern Switzerland. His clients include many top sports men and women including footballer Michael Owen and Moto GP star Nicky Hayden to name two.
is known as somewhat of a journeyman in the cycle industry, having worked for Ross Bicycles, Fisher, MS Racing, alpinestars and Ballistic. He now designs and builds custom road frames, utilizing steel tubing and fillet brazing. An American frame building magazine recently described him as ‘the greatest unknown frame builder’.
went into business selling child strollers (reinforced pushchairs and tag-a-longs). His company Beast Of Burden or BOB is now a market leader in the United States.
For Mike Kloser
Mountain Biking was but the start, he’s gone to be a 5 time Adventure Racing World Champion, a duathalon champion, a triathlon champion and a quadathlon champion, amongst many others! He is now the adventure racing team captain of Team Nike.
, went on to represent Wales in the commonwealth games. Perhaps his greatest achievement to date though was his shopper challenge success at the Old World MTB Championships this summer.
is now a technical advisor at Marzocchi suspension in the USA. He still travels the with worls mtb circus advising todays leading riders on set up.
The e-stay alpinestars
does however live on, in the bizarre form a Manchester indie rock band called ‘the alpinestars’ which was named after a band members strange shaped mountain bike that he owned when the band formed in 1995.
Many thanks to Tim Davies, Mike Kloser and Tom Rogers for their help and memories. Non of the above would have been possible without their help.
I have many new pictures to share with you too, I'll upload those just as soon as I can.