|Headquarters||San Luis Obispo, California, USA|
|Archive||Alpinestars Archive Page on retrobike|
Alpinestars was originally started as MS Racing. Alpinestars produced a range of standard and elevated chainstay bikes. They stopped making bikes around 1996.
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 was 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.
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 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.
4 models produced under the MS Racing brand.
- 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 I composite bike and the all Aluminium CR II. The CR I being a Shimano Deore equipped bike and the CR II being kitted out with Shimano Deore XT. The CR II was the main bike used in racing, but the CR I was also occassionally raced.
The design of the MS Racing bikes was quite conventional with the exception of the rear end of the CR I 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.
5 models produced under the Alpinestars brand
- CRO-MEGA (LX + DX) + ALPINE XROSS (DX)
- No name outer butted steel tubing
- 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.
- Conventional frame design, similar in design to its MS Racing predecessor. 1 1/4” Evolution 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.
11 models produced. Introduction of EOS (Elevated Oversized System) concept.
- CRO-MEGA (LX + DX), ALPINE XROSS (DX + LX), T-24 (LX + DX) + ALPINE LX (300LX)
- No name butted steel, the experimentation with oversize tubing spread and the main tubes became oversize.
- AL-MEGA (DX + XT) + T-24 (DX + XT)
- Oversize 7005 aluminium tubing, the oversizing increased.
- 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.
- Elevated chainstay design with short chainstays and curved seat tube for Cro-Mega and Al-Mega, Xross 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”.
- 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.
|Modell||Size cm||Framematerial||Shifter/Gears||Brakes f/r||Rims/Tires||Weight||Warrenty||Price DM||Source|
|Alpine LX||38,45,48,52||CroMo Steel||Shimano Exage 300LX/ 21||Shimano 300LX Cantilever||Araya/ Ritchey 26x1.9||13.9||lifetime||1.095,-||bike 3/91 ger.|
|Alpine Cross LX 28"||46,48,51||CroMo Steel||Shimano Exage 400LX/ 21||Shimano 400LX Cantilever||Araya/ Ritchey 700x40||12.3||lifetime||1.399,-||bike 3/91 ger.|
|Cro-Mega LX||32,38,45,48,52||CroMo Steel||Shimano Exage 400LX/ 21||Shimano 400LX Cantilever||Araya/ Ritchey 26x1.9||12.4||lifetime||1.439,-||bike 3/91 ger.|
|Cro-Mega DX||32,38,45,48,52||CroMo Steel||Shimano Deore DX/ 21||Shimano Deore DX Cantilever||Ritchey/ Ritchey 26x1.9||12.3||lifetime||1.795,-||bike 3/91 ger.|
|Al-Mega DX||32,38,45,48,52||Aluminium||Shimano Deore DX/ 21||Shimano Deore DX Cantilever||Ritchey/ Ritchey 26x2.1||12.1||lifetime||2.290,-||bike 3/91 ger.|
|Al-Mega XT||32,38,45,48,52||Aluminium||Shimano Deore XT/ 21||Shimano Deore XT Cantilever||Ritchey/ Ritchey 26x2.1||11.9||lifetime||2.995,-||bike 3/91 ger.|
|Ti-Mega||38,45,48,52||Titanium||custom||custom||custom||custom||lifetime||7.990,-||bike 3/91 ger.|
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 XROSS (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 XROSS (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 benefiting 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-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.
- 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.
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 warranty for steel and titanium 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.
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.