Arizona Mountain Biking

1995 Candy Blue GT Karakoram

From The Early Years

The Story of My Bike – December 27, 2000

I ate rice for dinner every day for three months to save up to buy my first bike. Well, my first real bike. A bike worthy of the mountains, a bike built to take the abuse I was planning on giving it…a 1995 Candy Blue GT Karakoram. It was my prized possession. Mountain Bike Magazine gave it Mountain Bike of the Year in 1995. I’ll never forget the day I bought her. I used 300 dollars from my tax return, and put the rest on my new credit card. (Sure I ate rice for three months saving, but I only saved about a hundred dollars that way. I figured I could always pay the card off later, at least I could ride NOW. I didn’t pay off that card till 1998!)

I headed straight for the trail closest to my apartment, I had to ride up one mile of the steepest road to get to it, but it was so easy climbing, I wanted more. I hit the dirt and rode till I had stretched the cables so much I couldn’t shift, so then I headed back to the shop for my first tune up. The next day it was raining, but I went out anyway to see how she handled in the mud. I could barely recognize her after that ride. The candy blue I had dreamed about for months was now chocolate. I gave her her first bath, and she was pristine once again.

I started riding as much as I could. Twice a week, three times a week, then after four times in one week, I knew I had to ride a straight seven days. So I did. It still didn’t seem like enough.

Then came my first trip to Moab, (actually it was my second. The first time was with all my biking friends but I didn’t have a bike so I just hiked in Arches while they rode Slickrock. After that trip I decided that I had to have a bike.)

Back to that first real trip to MOAB…We rode Gemini Bridges, then Poison Spider, and then I did the practice loop at Slickrock, but still wanted more. Nearing the end of the day we decided to ride Porcupine Rim. We rode from Slickrock up the jeep trail five miles to the trailhead (this was before the improved road to the TH). Needles to say, two and a half miles up Porcupine, I bonked. My friend Mike bonked at the same time and fell over right into a bush. (Good thing we turned around then, we never would have lasted the ten-mile decent of awesome porcupine singletrack that lay ahead of us. We came back to Porcupine a few months later and tore it up!)

After Moab came the Mecca to Durango. I have hundreds of pictures of the same three guys different locations. The years passed on, all my friends started to upgrade, they went from chromoly LX to aluminum XT, and finally to hand crafted XTR full-bounce Betties as we called them back then. I, in the meantime watched them. I upgraded to new tires, new grips and bar ends, clipless pedals finally… a few new wheels and drivechains, but all the while the candy blue Karakoram persevered.

I watched my friends pass me on the trail. They cleaned wicked descents that bucked me right off my bike. They learned to ride bigger trails. I had gone as far as I could go with my hardtail, I needed to upgrade. But I just couldn’t. There was no money. So I kept sinking nickels and dimes and an occasional quarter in to the Karakoram.

For the last four years and eight months I rode her like she was magic. She lasted through the 5th water Epic with Mark and Tige, the Mad Cow that chased Dave and I for a quarter of a mile, the mountain lion that stared Eric and me down 50 yards away, all the solo rides I went on because none of my friends could go. Six girlfriends! The endo that threw me into a poison ivy patch, the airport loop “trail” in Sedona that bucked me into a full roll over cactus, and the hundreds of near crashes (you know what I mean). She has ridden down the Poison Spider Portal four maybe five times (my head is still ringing from that huge rock that got in the way of a near perfect injury free endo, so I can’t remember).

She was with me or at least near me when I endoed on a steep singletrack up Windy Pass in the Wasatch and was hurled through the sky over a ledge only to be spared by the tender branches of a beautiful pine tree (no one still believes me that the tree saved me from death or at least from rolling down the side of a mountain, but it is true. That’s the only problem with solo riding, there’s no one to back up your miraculous crash stories) Ahh the Karakoram…

So I was cleaning her again yesterday morning, using my toothbrush to get inside the chainrings to clean the chain because I don’t believe in buying one of those chain cleaning thingers, when while gently wiping away the mud from my candy blue glittered with paint chips from various crashes Karakoram I noticed an unfamiliar paint chip array on the top tube weld joint with the head set. She was cracked! How could this happen? Maybe she wasn’t cracked, she just looked cracked…Careful examination revealed it was true, she had had it. I rode her so hard over the last four and a half years, she deserved a break. I had always thought she would last forever, and I would keep her even when I got a new bike, she was part of my soul, she made me the rider I am today. All these thoughts rode through my head…The thought of just sending her off to the junk pile was unbearable. Then I remembered, she had a lifetime warranty…

So I called a few bike shops, they said the red tape could take months…Then I called GT, they told me I needed to take her in to a dealer to assess the damage. Was it normal wear, manufacture defect, or neglect? Neglect? It couldn’t be, I cared for her every day. Sure I pushed her but it was only within her potential. One dealer told me to leave the bike with him while I went home to find the paperwork on my four and a half-year-old bike. Like it was neatly stored away in a filing cabinet labeled “Bike Paperwork”. Get real. Was it was mixed up somewhere in a box of old bike parts that I couldn’t throw away. Or was it with the Mag 21 rebuild kit I bought but never used cuz that Mag 21 keeps on rebounding fine. Most likely it was with all the unaccounted for tire tread rubber that this month issue of Bike Magazine so thoughtfully brings to light.

The dealer said he had to mail the frame to GT, and they had the final say on the condition. No way was I doing that, I needed to find a dealer I could trust and that could trust me, one that cared about me and my passion for riding. And that was the Mom and Pop Bike/Lawnmower shop down the street. To my surprise they were also a GT dealer! The very kind and skilled dealer that looked at her concluded that it was not normal, nor was it neglect. A few phone calls later, GT is sending me a new frame. And not only a new frame, but the Karakoram’s rich cousin the Avalanche. So in my own slow paced way I’m finally joining my friends in tier two with an Aluminum upgrade. Who knows five years from now I just might join the Full bounce Bettie Team.

8 thoughts on “1995 Candy Blue GT Karakoram

  • Heath

    Alas, my relationship with my 1995 Karakoram ended when the bike was washed away in the Hurricane Ian flooding on Sanibel Island, FL, a few months ago. I had taken the bike down there the year before to use as my island cruiser when staying at my condo. I loved riding my vintage restored Karakoram around the island, but it only lasted for a short time. Looks like I’ll need to replace the bike once the island reconstruction is completed.

  • I have the exact same bike. Got mine new back in the mid-90s for around $750 (no suspension fork). I’ve had the bike ever since and love it. A couple of years ago I stripped the bike down to the bare frame, had the frame powder coated flat black (the candy blue had spider cracked and was chipping off), found new decals on eBay and replaced all parts except the deraileurs with new aftermarket (wheels, tires, brakes, stem, bars, headset, chain ring, pedals, cranks, cables, etc.). I even found original Shimano NOS shifter/brake lever assemblies and had them shipped to me from Holland. It was a fun project, and the result came out great. It’s not anywhere near light by modern standards, but it’s a solid bike and I always liked the frame. I figure if weight is critical, I should shed some pounds off my own overweight frame!

  • don shilliday

    I still have my gray GT Karaokam (same year – 1995 – no front suspension, though). I finally upgraded about 2 years ago. I’ll never get rid of it. Great frame. I’ve swapped out 1/2 the components. One of the first times I took it out on trail 100, I endoed and threw the bike down the hill (unintentionally :). It is the only dent in that frame to this day.

  • Duane

    I have the same bike! I’m looking for the re-bulid kit for the forks. Do you still have it? My fork has been blowen out for years , but I still ride the bike on smooth roads. Can you help me out?

  • Great Story, I also have a couple of GT stories, but maybe for another time, my first love was the GT Tequesta, then the Karakoram, Then the Avalanche, then the LTS-3000, then the LTS-2000, frame upgrade due to welding defect on the LTS-3000 frame, then back to the Avalance in 2001, which I still have, but turned it into a SS.


  • michael

    I enjoyed your story immensely, and even though your friends and others may not believe your near death kisses with death don’t worry…no one believes mine either. However, we do share something in common…my GT-LTS-DH.

    I use to be an avid street rider but years ago I good friend introduced me to mountain biking. Like you I ask macaroni and cheese from a box for months saving up for my GT. Over the years my friends continued to upgrade their mountain bikes but my little GT and I would still take on the same trails regardless of geographic or weather. Moving from Iowa to Phoenix opened up trails for me, some by the way still have my DNA; but I couldn’t part with my GT. Granted I would go into bike shops, kick the tires and some of the mechanics just remember me as, “Old School.” (I think that a term of respect)

    Awhile back Phoenix was hit by one of the worse storms, rain, high wind, and hail to a Biblical proportion and yes, my friend and I where on the back side of South Mountain riding in the middle of the storm. After that ride, beaten and wet, my friend commented that was the best ride he ever had. Many miles later finding myself outside of Fountain Hills at the McDowell Mountain Regional Park and because of a competition I decided to go deeper into the park and ride just for endurance. Finishing my ride and making big loops around the parking lot my wife waved me down because she had moved the car. Gear off, GT buckled back in on the trunk rack I put the car in reverse just as she said, “watch out for the tree…”

    I had pinched my GT between my car and this God awful big tree! Pulling forward, it wasn’t the dent in my car I was worried about it was my GT. The back wheel looked like a potato chip and my heart just sunk. Mad at myself for not paying attention, my wife in tears, my history with my GT flooded back to the present. Fast forwarding to yesterday, the rear swing arm had been cracked which by my insurance definition is a totaled bike. With a new mountain bike on order the long process of rebuilding my GT is in front of me, I’m privilege to work in aerospace as well as most of my friends who keep telling me that we will fix her.

    Many of my friends and family just can’t connect with the excitement of a ridge trail or a decent that makes your heart pound like a bass drum in a tunnel. They don’t connect with a relaxing 10 ride in the desert while the quail scurry about or even that lizard that appears to be racing you. But I think my friend said it best about mountain bikers, “I not a noun. I am a verb. I am not stationary.”


  • Not sure how old this is. I googled GT karakoram. Enjoyed the story immensely.
    I have had the candy blue about 15 years, not sure maybe 12-13. Got it as leftover for $800, w/judy shocks. FIrst good mtb w/front suspension. Have loved it. Didnt mtn bike much lately, got excited again and bought full suspension on craigslist last yr for $800. Everyone is FS nowadays ya know. Recently went with my slow riding wife to great trails and took the ole GT with street foot pedals and street, not slick, tires. You know I got up hills and manuevered turns better than the fancy FS I bought. Now its for sale on craigslist.

  • Hello, I enjoy your story reminds me of me when i got my first road bike.Now I have sold my roadie and bought a 29er. I like the bike,but I have always wanted a gt. I came across your website a couple of weeks ago looking for info on converting to single speed.I saw the gt avalanche and that encourage me to find a similar frame.I like to know if it was worth converting the gt to single speed.Again enjoyed your story, keep the wheels rolling.

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