Yeti Cycles have always been driven by racing, adopting the mantra “Hand built, race bred” in the early 90s. However, the company’s early heritage has been overshadowed by their more recent domination of the Enduro World Series. We spoke to Chris Conroy, the president of Yeti Cycles, about his company, the revival of the legendary ARC hardtail, and bringing Yeti’s heritage back into the spotlight.
Everyone’s heard of Richie Rude and his world domination on the Yeti Factory Racing team, but ask a handful of riders on your local trails who Missy Giove and John Tomac are, and you will likely be met with blank faces – especially if they’re under 35 years old. It’s almost as if Yeti’s more recent successes on the world circuit have completely overshadowed the company’s legendary heritage. With the 35th anniversary of the company coming up this year, we spoke to Chris Conroy, the president of Yeti Cycles, to chat about the company’s history and the all-new 35th-anniversary edition of the legendary Yeti ARC.
The year is 1985. John Parker, an ex-sprint car racer working in the welding industry, became engulfed in the mountain biking craze which was being born in his home of California. Using his welding background (as well as his knowledge of Indian motorcycles), Parker started welding mountain bike frames with the goal of taking them racing, assembling local riders who raced his frames in events around Southern California. Parker’s passion turned into a profession when he joined forces with Chuck Teixeira and Easton Cycling. Together with Easton’s knowledge of aluminium tubing and Parker’s welding experience, the pair developed the first butted alloy frame on the market, and the first Yeti bike was born.
Yeti’s first two bikes, the Pro FRO and C26, proved hugely successful, winning the infamous Kamikaze Downhill (a daredevil race down fire roads with riders clocking 55-65 mph) and dominating the US race scene, piloted by such greats as Juli Furtado, Missy Giove and John Tomac, to name a few! In 1990, the first-ever UCI Mountain Bike World Championships were held in Durango, Colorado USA. From then on, mountain bike racing was elevated to a whole new level and the Yeti Factory Racing team followed the world circuit, leaving devastation in their wake.
In 1991, after some valuable years of R&D between the tape, the legendary Yeti ARC hardtail was born. Soon after, the ARC hardtail spouted two full suspension siblings, the ARC A.S (active suspension), and the ARC A.S LT (long travel).
It’s pretty simple: we go to the races. I think a lot of companies look at racing as a marketing strategy. We go racing because we know that it betters the breed. It makes our bikes faster, and because it’s core to our DNA. – Chris Conroy
In 2016, the last remaining Yeti ARC bikes were sold and the model was dropped from the lineup. In the eyes of the most loyal fans, this left a gaping hole in the brand’s portfolio. Not only had the only hardtail been dropped, but the heritage associated with the ARC was gone. However, while the fans were left disappointed and sad, Chris knew that it was for the best.
We had just started the development of the Switch Link, which became the Switch Infinity. At the time, racing was really driving the product development at Yeti. Jared Graves had placed third at the 2013 DH World Champs on an enduro frame, and Richie Rude had won juniors. Our resources were dedicated toward developing our full-suspension platform. We had limited resources, and we decided to halt production of the ARC hardtail. – Chris Conroy
Over the next few years, Yeti forums were alight with speculation: would the ARC return? Was it gone forever? Collectors were engaging in fierce eBay bidding wars and everyone was grieving the loss of the iconic hardtail.
A legend reborn: the Yeti ARC 35th Anniversary Edition
21st July 2020: the moment many have dreamed of! Yeti Cycles release the all-new ARC hardtail in a collectors’ edition guise, celebrating the company’s 35th anniversary. Limited to only 100 pieces, custom painted and completely colour-matched to the turquoise and yellow Yetis of old, the new limited-edition carbon ARC is truly a thing of dreams!
It’s a fact: the new anniversary edition ARC is absolutely stunning! With full colour-matched components from FOX, SRAM, Chris King and more, this bike is something to drool over. The all-new frame uses Yeti’s latest carbon technologies and is covered by their lifetime warranty. But why did Yeti pick the ARC for their anniversary-special? As a race-focused brand, some would have expected one of the current race bikes to be chosen…
“There was a lot of talk internally about what’s quintessentially Yeti,” Chris explains to us. “We could have taken some of our current models and made them look vintage, but instead, we decided to embark on the journey of developing what we would call a new-school hardtail.” He continues…
We saw the opportunity to take everything we had learned and make a bike that is current. The new ARC takes all the heritage of the past and merges it with a new-school ride. – Chris Conroy
The geometry and spec of the Yeti ARC 35th Anniversary Edition at a glance:
Fork FOX Factory 34 Custom130 mm
Brakes SRAM Level Ultimate Custom
Drivetrain SRAM Eagle AXS
Seatpost FOX Transfer Factory
Stem Race Face Turbine R50 mm
Bars Yeti Carbon Custom 760 mm
Wheels Yeti 35th Custom w/ custom Chris King hubs
Tires MAXXIS Minion DHF EXO 2.5”, MAXXIS Aggressor EXO 2.3”
Price € 10,190
|Seat tube||380 mm||410 mm||450 mm||495 mm|
|Top tube||577 mm||604 mm||626 mm||653 mm|
|Head tube||95 mm||103 mm||110 mm||120 mm|
|Chainstay||433 mm||433 mm||433 mm||433 mm|
|BB Height||310 mm||310 mm||310 mm||310 mm|
|Wheelbase||1144 mm||1172 mm||1194 mm||1223 mm|
|Reach||420 mm||445 mm||465 mm||490 mm|
|Stack||632 mm||639 mm||645 mm||654 mm|
The new ARC merges its retro colours with cutting edge components and design. Aside from the bike’s physical appearance, its intentions have also changed. Back in the day, the ARC was a racing weapon. Now, it returns with riding fun in mind: “The ARC is a ‘rip’ bike in our line because we knew that if designed a hardtail with the ‘race’ designation we’d just be chasing grams, and that isn’t the intent of this bike.” Chris tells us. He wants this bike to be all about the good times, bringing new-school riding fun to this legendary platform: “The bike has this really cool mix of old and new. It’s incredibly modern in the way that it functions, but it harkens back to the mid-90s days of turquoise and yellow.”
The story of Yeti Cycles is truly inspirational. Being in the right place at the right time with the right knowledge, contacts and initiative allowed John Parker to create a company that has been at the forefront of mountain bike racing since the very first days of the sport. And what better way to bring that heritage back into the spotlight than to revive one of the most infamous bikes the world has ever seen, albeit with a very hefty price tag?
If you want to learn more about the all-new ARC 35th Anniversary Edition check out yeticycles.com
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Words: Finlay Anderson Photos: Yeti Cycles