In 1989, the mountain bike press weren’t lost for words when reviewing the new Kestrel MX-Z, but you could tell they were astounded by the sight of its monocoque frame. Today, it’s still an eye-catching bike and this example even more so, tidied up by Singapore’s Vanguard Designs.
Engineers had been toying with carbon fibre as a bicycle frame material during the 80s, but were still unsure of its integrity, content with wrapping aluminium tubes with it or joining the tubes with lugs. Kestrel broke new ground by introducing the MX-Z in 1989 — the first monocoque production frame.
Reviewers gushed over it, quite correctly touting it as “the future”, and enthusing about its “silent ride” and superior strength. The technique involved with assembling a monocoque frame unleashed a wave of design experimentation over the next decade, heralded by such wonders as the Lotus Sport MTB, Trek’s OCLV and those Trimble bikes. Even Colnago dipped its toes in the water with a C35 MTB.
Kestrel was formed in 1986 by former Trek employees, all staunch believers that carbon will indeed revolutionise the bike industry. That year, they released a very aerodynamic road bike, the Kestrel 4000, followed by the full-suspension Nitro — a collaboration with Keith Bontrager — in 1988.
The Nitro was shelved until suspension technology caught up and instead Kestrel focused on the rigid MX-Z. The strategy paid off, with the MX-Z causing a satisfying stir within the media. Meanwhile, out on the trail, riders were adjusting to the hollow sound of pebbles pinging off the carbon structure.
Singapore’s Vanguard Designs have a knack of finding very classic and vintage gems, the last being an AMP Research MTB. Acquired from a collector, the MX-Z was in excellent condition, with its famous Zolatone granite finish intact. Not surprisingly; Zolatone is an extremely hardy industrial paint.
The MX-Z was originally spec’d with a rigid Tange Prestige fork, but Vanguard installed a pair of Girvin forks, complete with Noleen shock, which would have been a standard upgrade for serious enthusiasts or competitors. Another familiar component is the Cane Creek Thudbuster seat post.
The Spin wheels and NOS Continental Caninus tyres are a perfect complement to a frame that still looks contemporary after twenty-six years. Quite a testament to the integrity of carbon fibre. If you like the look of it, it’s up for sale — contact Vanguard for more information.
Vanguard Designs Website