The 1980s were a period of great innovation in the bicycle industry, one that nurtured not only the advent of a branch of cycling called mountain biking, but also the bastard child of BMX: Bicycle F1.
Had the seeds of mountain biking not been planted in such fertile ground, the Diamondback F1 might not be the strange and unfamiliar machine it is today.
No doubt, F1BMX was conceptualized by the fathers of the industry, as a variant of the already lucrative BMX market that could potentially be a new money-spinner. The track consisted of a few hay bales and traffic cones that marked out a series of straights and chicanes around a car park.
The only similarity an F1BMX shared with its forebears were the 20″ wheels. They usually had 5, 6 or 7 gears, Shimano’s Biopace drivetrain and stretched geometry to allow seated riding.
The Diamondback F1 seen here belongs to the collection of Sydney’s Oliver Gibson, who has modified and updated most of the parts from stock.
The Mavic decals have pride of place, and with good reason: almost the entire spec sheet is created by the French manufacturer. The Mavic XX rims are laced to 501 hubs (all radially barring the rear drive-side), Mavic pedals drive the 631 cranks, and even the seat post and headset are Mavic.
Oliver installed a Mavic ZAP system in the rear to take care of shifting duties, with a thumbie shifter and a Suntour Superbe Pro derailleur in the front. The brakes are the legendary Avid Arch Supreme calipers and Ultimate levers.
There’s a lot of titanium in there as well. The bottom bracket is ti, as is the Litespeed stem, and the rails of the Flite saddle. The forks, 20″ Ballistic 600A, are capable of a full inch of compression. The complete bike comes in at 10.8kg, which isn’t too bad, considering the amount of gadgetry.
Oliver’s Diamondback F1 isn’t gathering dust, it gets ridden regularly around the streets of Sydney. There’s a small amount of interest in F1BMX on the forums, with some enthusiasts and collectors enjoying some nostalgic Sunday racing.
Perhaps it’s time for a fresh look at these bikes as a streetwise and more robust alternative to the Bromptons and Bike Fridays of the world. Are there any custom builders out there ready to step up to the starting grid?
Huge thanks to Oliver Gibson for the opportunity to shoot his bikes, and to Adam and the boys from City Bike Depot for the tip.