1996   Trek  Y33 Mountain Bike

This was the bike that had stuck in my mind having read about it in Popular Mechanics, July 1996.  At the time, I hadn't ridden for about 10 years and never thought I'd ever get into mountain biking. But, the Y33 had such an elegant, simple, and futuristic design. I remembered it when the time came to buy my first dual suspension bike in 2001, but at the time I thought any bike over $400 was expensive and wondered how bikes could sell for thousands. Well, after riding for a few years I learnt a few things, one of which is performance and quality increase with cost. You really do get what you pay for. When I did eventually get my first Y bike I was hooked on them, as is evident  from the rest of this site.

Y33's on eBay
While the 1996 Y33 does turn up on eBay from time to time, I had never seen a large frame one with original parts, or hadn't had its frame got at with non original decals.
Frame size is an important issue having been stung by a disreputable bike shop in this regard, so I always insisted on large. However, curiousity got to me learning that the medium frame is not a huge difference away in size, and also from experience with Y frames indicating that I certainly wouldn't want anything bigger than large. Then, after the 2005 Wollongong ride I was able to sit on a medium Y22 and found that it seemed to fit.

The quote at the bottom of the sticker says "Please remove at time of sale". This explains why so few Y bikes still have them. Why Trek didn't want size stickers on their bikes is a mystery.

So, when I saw a medium 1996 Y33 turn up on eBay in June 2006 I took a close look at it. It had the original parts as far as I could tell; most importantly the Judy SL front shock and the Strata rear shock. These are the most commonly replaced items I see on the 96 model on eBay.
It was a bit of an impulse bid really. I thought I'd just put in $700 for the fun of it. There wasn't much bidding activity at all, and much to my suprise no one else was bidding against me. So, it was mine. The guy who owned it told me of its history which was interesting. I have to say my experiences buying bikes and bike parts on Ebay has generally been very good. Cyclists seem to be nice honest people.

The Y33 has arrived
Three months later, and it arrived in Sydney. Once it was home, I quickly put it together.
As I suspected from the pics, the seat post had been cut. What was unfortunate is that it was the original Bontrager Race Lite/Easton EA70. There were no pedals, but I already knew that. Just so happened I already bought another set of my favourite Shimano PDM-650's for it. The bar ends had also been removed. The seat was not the original Selle San Marco, but a WTB.
I had seen the correct seat on Ebay a few times so wasn't worried about that.
Having got the Y33 together, the thing which really stood out is what a classic piece of history this is. Being of the first generation of Y bikes, and fairly early in terms of dual suspension bikes, I was looking at pioneering technology here. You could tell the age by such things as the multitude of pieces making up the gear shifters, and the top pull front derailleur. The 1997 and later bikes have a different character about them. Perhaps it was that the technology seemed to have settled down somewhat.

The Trek Radar computer was a nice surprise. I particularly like the thermometer.

First Ride
With the seat post and seat borrowed from the 1998 Y33, I did the usual Terrace Falls test ride. This is the perfect track for testing as it has a bit of everything, but not too far away if something goes wrong. It didn't take long for the first fault to become evident. The headset was loose, so I didn't push the bike as much as I would, but still did the full track. The other thing needing work was the gears, but that was expected.
What was becoming clear is that the medium frame did fit and was very comfortable.
As with all my other Y bikes, they each have their unique qualities. This one's was the way it climbs. It just kept where I wanted it and never lost grip climbing.
The Strata variable lockout shock appeared to work exactly the same as the SID on the YSL200, complete with the oil/air gurgling sound amplified by the hollow frame.

The Strata air/oil shock. The cable is for the remote lockout.

The Judy SL front shocks seemed ordinary compared to others, but that was at whatever adjustment they were set at. As for braking, well that wasn't as good as it should be. The pads have an interesting design I haven't seen before.
The ride is also quite different to the other bikes, largely due to the difference in frame sizes. Whether or not the style of frame has anything to do with it, I can't be sure as this is my only first generation OCLV frame. However, recent information I've aquired on the new frames did say the centre of gravity was changed with the new design. I'd say this was evident as on the 96 frame I feel more forward compared to the 1998/1999 frame design.

The crowded handlebars with the Deore XT shifters, bell, Radar computer and remote lockout for the rear shock.

The Trek Pump
Among some of the Trek accessories I'd been collecting was, in readiness for the acquisition of the 96 Y33, the alloy water bottle cage and pump. I wanted my Y33 to be exactly like the one in Popular Mechanics. The pump is a strange design in that it has two air chambers, one working on the push stroke and the other on the pull stroke. This is unlike conventional pumps only working on the push stroke. It had me confused for a long time, thinking the valves were faulty. But all was well, just different. Maybe their idea is that the tyre gets pumped up twice as fast. Having sorted that out, I proceeded to mount the pump on the water bottle mounts under the frame, only to find it wouldn't fit. The pump is obstructed by the URT and pivot. How they did it for the Popular Mechanics picture, I haven't worked out. Perhaps there is a shorter pump that looks similar.

Next ride
By now I'd tightened the headset and adjusted the gears, which interestingly were one notch out on the rear derailleur. Also the rear brake cable needed some CRC down it as it was a bit sluggish. As well, I centred the brakes so both pads were applied at the same time.
Off to Murphy's Glen which is a 22km round trip. Performance was a lot better and there weren't any problems. However, it isn't the miracle bike like the YSL200 or even the 1998 Y33. This may well be due to the thick tyres with a very deep tread.
Giving the bike a good clean after this ride, I noticed one of the gear teeth was missing off the second chain ring. Not what was expected given the excellent overall condition, but interesting. The only time I could see it causing a problem is going from first chain ring up to second, and only if the change is done at a certain time.

Note the missing tooth on the 2nd chain ring. Its location doesn't affect shifting.

The 2006 Sydney Spring Cycle
This was the first long ride; 50km from North Sydney to Olypmic Park. Well, the actual distance is less than that, as the last 7km or so is simply padded out around the bike paths surrounding the finish. I'd received the Bontrager bar ends by now so fitted them in time. The Y33 performed well with no problems, although brake fade is evident when descending steep hills. It wasn't a fast bike, presumably to the very knobby tyres but for 50km wasn't too bad. I had borrowed the seat and seat post off the 1998 Y33 as I hadn't received the Easton EA70 I'd just bought off Ebay yet.
What was meant to be a ride I look forward to each year turned into a major disappointment at the end.
It was the fifth time I'd done this ride, and for the entry of $40 one would get a T shirt at the end of the ride. Alas, not this time. All we got was a cheap nasty bag with a Sunday rag in it (paid for by Fairfax, not Bicycle NSW), a map of the Olympic Park bike tracks (why?) and a copy of Australian Cyclist magazine (just as well I hadn't already bought one). So, I felt incredibly ripped off. The attitude was one of couldn't care less from the "we're only volunteers" at the BNSW tent. Subsequent emails went unanswered. This wasn't the only disappointment. I'd noticed that the Supersport Images photographers weren't anywhere to be seen. Maybe I'd just not seen them. The email to BNSW on this topic was unanswered, so I enquired to SSI, and I was right; they weren't there. Apparently BNSW declined SSI's wish to be present and take the photos that they'd been taking for years before. All we got was some link to a poxy slide show on the BNSW site. Not only was there no way the cheap BNSW photographer took everyone's photo, but even if yours was taken there was no means of identification. Spend all day going through the slide show only to find yours isn't there.
So I've been left with a very bad impression of Bicycle NSW and unless they get their act together and bring back the T shirt or reduce the entry fee I shall not do that ride again. So, no pics of that ride to post here.

The 2006 Sydney to Wollongong Ride
Unlike the Sydney ride; this one was very well organised and the entry goes to a good cause; the MS Society. You get morning tea, lunch, and T shirt. And you get your photo taken so you can find it.
I'd received the Easton EA70 seatpost by now, but it seemed to be 27mm and not 27.2mm so it fitted loosely with only just enough gap in the clamp to secure it. I will have to fit a shim to take up the .2mm gap.
I knew I'd be pushing my luck having six Wollongong rides with good weather in a row, and sure enough I got up to light rain that morning, which had stopped by the time I got to the start. The Y33 cruised down  to the Royal National Park quite nicely, though the high friction of the tyres was evident.

Shock Bone brake booster. Not sure what it's meant to do. If it's meant to hold the forks together when braking I'm not sure how it could as it's only made of plastic. Those tyres are certainly not good for long road rides.

And the brake fade descending into the park was something to remember! It was the remainder of the ride I really wished I'd put slicks on. With the incredible southerly winds against us, I've never ridden so far for so long in low gear. Then the last 6km was ridden in steadily increasing rain; and with a typical speed of 9km/h it seemed to take forever. The Y33 cruised along without any complaints. One other thing I think would improve the comfort is riser handlebars and a shorter stem. But the ride did answer one question...I fit a medium size Y bike just as well as the large size.
One final mention of the size issue from Trek's 1996 Retail Technical Manual:
"With the dropped top tube design of the Y the correct frame size offers way more standover than usual for most mountain bikes. With this sizing, most riders will find they can straddle all 3 sizes. Choose the bike with the rider's preference for reach and hadlebar height, and make sure that the rider's seat post adjustment leaves at least 1 inch of clearance over the shock."

Popular Mechanics, July 1996.
This is the article that got me interested in Trek Y bikes to start with.


Trek Y bikes