1999 Trek 8500LT Review

I bought this bike new from the states in 1999 while living in Bolivia. I was living there and working for Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking, a cycle-touring company that took tourists down the most dangerous road in the world at the time, statistically speaking, on Trek and Giant mountain bikes.

Beaten but not broken

I’ve had the bike for 13 years so I feel like I know it pretty well. I can still remember the first night I took ownership and attempted to ride it on the cobbled streets of La Paz – the cobbles were very lumpy, the streets were wet and with the beer and the knobbly tires I was was better off walking – so I did just that. I ended up walking home and had to walk through an area that I used to pass on the bus each morning. There were always stray dogs in this part of town in large packs – I ended up walking down the steep street with the sound of sometimes growling dogs around me, in the dark, without street lights – scary. When I got the bicycle home I don’t think it ended up in my bed – but it would have been within arms reach – It was love at first sight.

The first day I actually rode the bike with the adventure touring company, I broke my nose. An inauspicious start with a bike that I would eventually judge to be the best I have ever ridden. In the coming years It carried me across the highest salt flats in the world, on many amazing roads with Gravity Assisted Tours, across the mountains in New Zealand and variously through Australia – It has been totally awesome as a down hill and cross country mountain bike, touring bike pulling trailers and panniers, and daily commuter. There’s something very sweet about the geometry of the bike and as I am now thinking of getting my second new bicycle, the Trek has set the bar high with it’s versatility and performance.

Frame & Fork
Frame Construction TIG-welded
Frame Tubing Material Alpha SL aluminum
Fork Brand & Model Rock Shox Judy 100, 4.0″ travel
Fork Material Aluminum/magnesium, triple-clamp crown
Component Group Mountain Mix
Brakeset Hayes Cable-Actuated Disc front/Avid 1D-10 rear brakes, Avid SD-1.0 L levers
Shift Levers Shimano Deore LX RapidFire SL
Front Derailleur Shimano Deore LX, top-pull/clamp-on 35.0mm
Rear Derailleur Shimano Deore XT
Crankset ICON Flywheel, 22/32/44 teeth
Pedals Bontrager Re-Entry
Bottom Bracket Shimano BB-UN52, 113mm spindle
BB Shell Width 73mm English
Rear Cogs 9-speed, 11 – 32 teeth
Chain Shimano CN-HG72, 1/2 x 3/32″
Seatpost RockShox suspension, 27.2mm diameter
Saddle Bontrager FS+10 Race
Handlebar ICON
Handlebar Extensions Not included
Handlebar Stem ICON
Headset 1 1/8″ threadless Aheadset SA
Hubs Formula disc
Rims Bontrager Maverick, 32-hole
Tires Front: 26 x 2.10″ Bontrager Jones, Rear: 26 x 1.90″ Bontrager Jones
Spoke Brand DT stainless steel, 1.8mm straight gauge
Spoke Nipples Brass nipples

[Thankyou BikePedia for the Specification]

The specs for the bike even now I think are pretty impressive.  Soon after I bought the bike I upgraded to hydraulic disc brakes, a shorter azonic stem and azonic riser bars. I haven’t replaced any of the original running gear, with the exception of the chain numerous times from wear. The chain rings and sprockets should have been replaced long ago – but essentially it is original and with the exception of the big chain ring being knackered – It is still reliable. The seat after carrying my butt over all sorts of terrain and withstanding 13 years without so much as being cleaned has also succumbed to old age in recent days. Many may view all this seeming lack of care, and the pictures of the bike showing a battered remnant of it’s original self, as deranged bicycle abuse. To me it’s more like the patina of being used thoroughly and without reservation. I’ve nursed the functional components though 13 years of all sorts of riding so, when it desperately needed it, it has had some TLC.

Then there’s the rock shox. They’ve been woeful from the word go. They’ve always leaked and while I haven’t replaced them and they still offer some shock absorbtion – as has already been said so often about these forks – they could have been so much better.

So, if you found one of these bikes cheaply and in good condition would I recommend it? Absolutely! I think it’s best purpose, and it’s original one, is as a cross country mountain bike. buy some good new forks, install v-brakes front and rear and you’ve got a cross country bike that is light, fast and reliable. I’d also recommend the shorter stem and riser as they make the riding position a little more upright. Do these things and you’d have a cross country monster that would take you anywhere. Throw on Town and Country Continental tyres, connect a bob trailer and pack light – hasta luego, signor!

1 comment
  1. I got my leg over one of these one day, and fell in love first time. Like you say, it’s the geometry. I’m a long legged 6’2 and struggle to find a bike that fits. My general test is how easily I can hold the bike at a stand still. Some bikes are just naturally easier for me, like this one, and the smaller GT Avalanche.

    But the geometry is not just the frame. When this bike came out, azonic wide bars on a short stem was a pretty radical idea, and the folks on these give the bike that more upright feel. Put a pare of stiffy forks on this and feel it change dimensions beyond recognition. Can you get stiff forks that would maintain the height and angles of this bike? Probably 29er folks.. maybe.

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