Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hite-Rite! Outta Sight!

How could I forget that I still have scans sitting around from my critically-unknown Blast From the Past series featuring the 1984 premier issue of Cyclist magazine? Cast your mind back to those halcyon days of Oregon Trail on the Apple IIe and check out this bit of equally primordial mountain bike technology:

As the blurb says, the whole schtick of the Hite-Rite was that it allowed you to set your normal saddle height for flats and uphills, flip open your seatpost quick-release on the fly, let the saddle sink down, close the quick-release, and voila, your saddle stays well away from your delicate naughty bits on the downhill. Hit the bottom of the hill, open the quick-release again, and BOING! Saddle pops right back up to normal height. Hope you got those naughty bits out of the way first, or you just got a rude surprise and ended your career as a tenor.

Apparently, if the magazine clip is to be believed, the ability to adjust saddle height in a hurry was a huge concern for off-road racers back in times of yore. I don't remember too many reports of races lost as riders struggled with their saddles by the side of the trail, but who knows? Maybe Joe Breeze was like the 80s remake of Tullio Campagnolo and his recalcitrant wheel nuts.

It's easy to find this steampunk-looking thing funny in a "people really put that on their bikes?" way, but the basic concept hasn't ridden off into the sunset, even 27 years later. You can buy any number of wacky seatposts today with hydraulics and springs and remote controls and altitude-sensing GPS and iPod docks (okay, I made some of that up) to accomplish the same basic task as the humble Hite-Rite.

So, Hite-Rite, I salute you on behalf of the many delicate dangly bits (and grateful old-school mountain bikers) you helped protect back in the day. The staying power of your concept proves that although you can keep a good idea down, it will eventually spring right back up again.


HOBS said...

I'm not sure what's so amusing about these. It was a small, lightweight, nearly foolproof item that did what it was supposed to do, if set up properly. I had one on my mtb back in the day, and would use one now if I were doing rough descents (and could find one). Of course back then, we all rode hard framed bikes. I suppose supension may reduce the need for such, but I don't ride the rough stuff these days.

Jason T. Nunemaker said...

Hey, there, HOBS... I should clarify: I poke fun with more than a little affection. Being an MTB geezer, I have a soft spot for the days when we solved problems with very basic technology, fat tires, and riding skill.

Sadly, these days, the basic technology is harder to find, and my skills have atrophied, but I still pine for those days of thumbshifters, rigid forks, and toeclips.

Anonymous said...

More importantly, though, it means that nobody can just flip a lever and walk off with your seatpost and saddle. That's not a minor advantage if you use your bike for commuting and shopping in the city.