Designed to be a racing mountain bike, the Al-Mega DX was born in 1990 and had an innovative aluminium frame including a curved seat tube with Ritchey race-proven tyres and rims. This was one of their Elevated Oversize System bikes in a range that included the Ti-Mega (titanium frame) and Cro-Mega (steel alloy with chromium frame). It was fitted with 21 speed Shimano Deore DX shifters/gears and Shimano Deore DX brakes, and weighed only 12.1 kg.
The funky paint work was another stand out feature of the Al Mega. This was the early 1990s and anything neon seemed to be acceptable. If it was okay to wear a Global Hypercolor t-shirt then it was okay for your bike to look like it had a fight with 17 cans of paint.
Its not often that you see one of these mountain bikes around these days. Firstly, Alpinestars stopped making their bike range in 1996, and secondly, the aluminium frames were prone to cracking or snapping, especially around the head tube. Retrobike do a great potted history of their bike manufacturing achievements in the 90s. The only cycling related stuff that Alpinestars do now is a bit of clothing – their main focus is motorsports.
I purchased my Alpinestars in 1993. My sister tipped me off that Simon, a friend of hers who lived a few doors away, was selling a mountain bike. By now I’d started my BA Sport & Leisure degree at the University of Warwick and was in the market for a new bike to scoot around on. The moment I saw it, I fell in love with it (the paint job didn’t put me off). I took it for a spin and the speed blew me away. While my poor Apollo Aquila was still gathering dust in the shed, I’d fallen for a newer, lighter, faster, brighter bike. I think the Aquila might still be in the shed to this day…
The Alpinestars cost me £300 second hand which was a fair wedge of my student loan at the time. I remember a bit of post-purchase guilt for spending so much money, but this was soon offset with speeding around campus feeling great and living on a diet of Tesco value food for the rest of the academic year.
Poor nutrition washed down with a copious amount of £1 pints at the Students Union didn’t seem to affect my studies…
22 years after I bought the bike, I’m still riding around on it today – mainly up and down the National Cycle Network of South Wales where I currently live. I sometimes wonder how it never got nicked. Maybe the paint job is a brilliant theft repellent. Maybe would-be thieves decided that they wouldn’t be seen dead riding a bike that looks like this.
The head tube hasn’t cracked (yet) but to be fair it’s not like I’ve ridden it on my local downhill tracks at Bike Park Wales. I think that would result in instant death – not just of the bike. The original derailleur gave up the ghost quite a few years back and I’m now on number 3. It still has the original rims and the paintwork is pretty beaten up, but that’s a result of it being well used on a frequent basis. It now has a bell which definitely wasn’t on the original spec as a racing bike, but totally necessary if you don’t want to feel the wrath of pedestrians. This bike has a few tales to tell and its come through a few crashes relatively unscathed.
In recent years I have to admit I’ve been pretty tempted with getting a new bike. However, I can’t bring myself to sell it, and I can’t bring myself to own a second bike and for the Alpinestars to potentially gather dust. Ironically it’s still worth what I paid for it back in 1993. But, if it ever got nicked, I’d probably cry. I’d be sticking posters up on lamp-posts like they do for lost dogs and cats. I’d be giving out leaflets in the town centre asking people “Have you seen this bike? Here’s the freephone number to call if you do”. If it ever broke beyond repair, I’d probably grieve. I don’t think it’s normal to feel this way about an inanimate object like a bike, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe (hopefully) I’m not the only one!
This bike has been with me for over 50% of my long-legged-life and will be for a long time more I’m sure.