26 February 2015

Missy's Must-Have Accessory, Circa 1993

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Melissa--but we all called her Missy--and we wanted all of her accessories.

OK, this isn't about fashion, or a fairy tale, though I suppose it could be.  It's a story about cycling and, in particular, a part of it in which I was active for a few years. 

Some of you may have figured out that I'm talking about mountain biking and the girl in question is a girl in the "You go, grrrl!" sense:  none other than Missy "The Missile" Giove.

 She dominated her sport to a degree--perhaps to an even greater degree--than Eddy Mercx did two decades earlier.  If anything, I'd say her domination was more like that of Martina Navratilova in tennis a decade earlier.I actually saw her ride twice and I don't think I've ever seen a fiercer competitor anywhere. I take that back:  She wasn't a competitor because she couldn't be:  No one else could have competed against her.  

Perhaps it's more accurate to say that she was simply the fiercest athlete, and one of the fiercest people, I've ever seen.  I say that with great admiration:  Her firepower came from her intensity and an innate need to better herself rather than from hyped-up rivalries and petty jealousies.  She reminded me, in an odd way, of the first two lines in one of Emily Dickinson's most famous poems:  "Because I could not stop for Death/He very kindly stopped and waited for me."  Missy did not stop for anything because, really, I don't think she could:  The only way to catch up to, or with her, it seemed, was to wait.

To say that she was the first superstar of downhill mountain bike racing, a sport then in its juvescence,  would be to trivialize her dominance.  For a time, she held the world's downhill speed record.  Not just the record for women, mind you:  The Record.

Now tell me:  If you saw someone like her, wouldn't you want her accessories, too?

Perhaps the most iconic--and, at the time, best-selling--of them were her Onza handlebar ends.  For those of us who spent a lot of time riding dropped-bar road bikes before trying mountain biking, one of our biggest complaints was the lack of hand positions on the flat handlebars.  Most of us change hand positions, sometimes frequently, on rides of more than a few minutes.  The Onza bar ends offered at least a forward, somewhat aerodynamic position and a forward-facing flat section that somewhat resembled the "ramps" of road handlebars.  

I still see Onza bar ends fairly often.  Most often, they're on a Specialized or Trek or other mountain bike from the early- or mid-'90's that someone re-purposed as a delivery bike or "beater" and simply didn't bother to take them off.  I'm guessing that the ones that were actually ridden off-road are in landfills simply because most other mountain bike accessories and components that were ridden hard are there, too.  No matter how good such items are, they, like anything else, can only take so much abuse.

Other companies imitated the Onza bar end and some offered them in a rainbow of colors.  (If I recall correctly, the Onzas were available only in black because they were heat-treated--or, at least, that was the rationale the company gave.)  But most riders found that they didn't use the forward bend much, if at all.  Plus, trail and woods riders found that the shape made them easy to entangle in branches, brambles and other obstacles.  Furthermore, mountain bikers (some of them, anyway) were becoming weight-conscious--about their bikes, that is.  Onzas and similarly-configured bar ends weighed more than some of the handlebars to which they were clamped.

So, after a few years, those J-shaped extensions were replaced by more minimalist pieces that kept the "flat" but eliminated the forward bend:

Even so, Onza bar ends and their carbon-copies were a "must have" for about half a decade.  Very few other accessories last for more than a season, even if they're used by a smokin' hot chick named Missy:


  1. Amazing. Makes my knees hurt, just watching, though.

  2. I have read your post. thank's for review. Informative and interesting which we share with you so i think so it is very useful and knowledgeable. I would like to thank you for the efforts. I am tiring the same best work from me in the future as well.Thank you so much for this article! I am new to the biking community, and this post has given me much more consolidated insight than any other resource I've found.

  3. Rebecca--While I admired and respected Eddy Mercx, Martina Navritilova, Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky--the most dominant athletes I've ever seen in their respective sports--I don't think even they made my jaw drop the way Missy did.

    Julia--THank you for stopping by.