Joe Murray is both a legendary ATB racer and a really nice guy. I have met him a few times, at races and shows, and he is one of those guys who stands out as someone I would like to get to know better. He is also highly accomplished as a bicycle and bicycle component designer. The best ATB tires I have ridden were designed by Murray, and the bikes he designed for Kona were always among my favorites at the bike shop where I worked in the 90s. Throughout the years, I knew that many people used the ATBs he designed as commuters, so I wanted to get his take on real-world bicycles and bicycling. He was kind enough to let me interview him. Enjoy.
|Joe Murray, Back in the day... Photo courtesy of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame and Museum
A: Still riding 3-5 days a week. Working for Shimano, mostly. Some VooDoo Cycles. A bit of frame design yet not that much these days, unfortunately. The VooDoo brand is doing very well in the UK though. I also work Tioga for design and testing consultant for tires.
When we get snow, and I hope soon, I ski XC skate and alpine DH. Working on our old house also takes plenty of my time. I renovated an old "barn" and now it's my dream shop and office. It came out really nice. Married no kids. We like to travel and bike touring we like the most. My wife Kim is totally into roller derby these days. Less riding yet it's a great workout, she is getting really fit. I worry about her getting injured yet that's just part of girls hitting themselves while skating as hard as they can.
|Joe Murray now. Photo courtesy of Colin Meagher
Q: How long have you been working for Shimano? I know that much of what you do for them is confidential, but can you tell us about any projects you have done with them in the past?
A: Officially since 1995. Also I've been testing parts for them since I worked for Gary Fisher in 1986 when some Shimano people left a freehub prototype with Gary to test, yet he didn't have time so he gave it to me to use.
Q: Currently, is your design focus more on commuter bikes or ATBs (or something else entirely)?
A: Mostly mountain bikes. VooDoo is less work than in the past so that means less new bikes, although I've been riding a 130MM rear travel 29er. Great bike for the technical riding in Sedona... which is the best places to ride on the planet or one of the best at least. I think that anyone who has ridden there could agree with such a statement.
Q: Please tell us about some cool commuter/utility bikes you have designed, whether or not they actually got manufactured.
A: One that stands out was a "monster cross" that fit fat 29er tires. It turned out to be a great commuter as well as a dirt road cruiser. It has a traditional horizontal top tube, dedicated rigid fork and "scorcher" bars kinda like what Wes Williams did with the original Ibis Scorcher. It's good for light touring. The big wheels are really fast... an all around bike.
|Voodoo Nakisi in commuter form. Photo courtesy of Flagstaff Bicycle Revolution
Also have designed many road and cross bikes in the past. VooDoo was the first to use Scandium on a cross bike and the year we introduced it Mark Gullickson in 1999 won the cyclocross worlds on it.
Recently introduced a larger tire geared, fixed etc. street frame with plain gage cro-mo tubes.
Q: What new components are getting you excited?
A: Most of the most exciting stuff I'm developing with Shimano is confidential, yet currently I'm liking a close ratio double chainring crank. I have a custom 38 X 30 on the front and works great with an 11-36 cassette.
Dropper posts, really don't like riding without one.
27.5 wheels with big tires.
|Voodoo Nakisi "Monster Cross" bike in cross form. Photo courtesy of Voodoo Bicycles
Q: Tell us a bit more about "dropper posts," please. Would it be fair to call them a modern incarnation of those old seat springs we all used to have back in 1987?
A: I agree that the Hite Rite and another made by IRC way back over 20 years ago were precursors to dropper posts. Now they are smoother and have better remote levers. Also much more travel. Same basic purpose yet there were fully rigid bikes when the first spring types came out. Now they are much more effective. One thing is that $200-$400 is keeping some from buying into it, I think.
Q: Just to make sure we are on the same page, 27.5 is the same tire size as 650B, right? Is there a reason people are going away from the "650B" designation?
A: It seems to be some use 27.5 and some 650B. 27.5 is related to the tire height like 26 and 29 yet 650B is related to the road tire height so makes no sense to me. With that same thinking we would be calling 29ers 700C. I think C and B refer to the width of the of tire... I think, yet even so it is meaningless.
It would be better to use the ETRTO which is the European Type and Rim Technical Organization. Fortunately all tires have this number on them which refers to the rim bead seat diameter and the tire width. For instance a 29 X 2.3 tire is 62-622. 622 being the bead seat diameter. So it would be better if we referred to 26, 27.5 and 29 instead as 559, 584 and 622. Also tire manufacturers can call any tire 2.2 tire, even if it is not close to that. So the ETRTO width number is more useful. Maybe more on this than you need, yet I just looked up some of this which is interesting.
|Voodoo Scorcher handlebars. Photo courtesy of Voodoo Bicycles
A: It's very small these days and still doing some of the same steel, aluminum and titanium hard tails, especially 29ers so probably will be going this way for the foreseeable future.
Q: Any interesting new products "in the works?"
A: 27.5" wide tire 150 X 150 travel full suspension is being worked on.
Q: Where are Voodoo bikes manufactured? Do you plan to keep manufacturing where it is?
A: Taiwan and China like most everyone else these days. I think that few consumers realize that most carbon frames are made in China.
Q: Are you still riding? If so, how much and what kind of riding are you doing?
|Bug Springs Trail, Photo courtesy of Jeff Howard
Q: I remember meeting you at a race, the "Rage in the Sage," 1988. You made a great pasta dish at a potluck. Do you still like to cook? If so, what do you like to cook?
A: I like grilling meat. (I was a vegetarian a long time ago when I raced full time.) We try to eat free range meat as much as possible. One of these days I'll deep-fry a turkey. Kale salad is my latest favorite dish.
Q: What else would you like to say?
A: Attitude is everything.
Q: What do you like for breakfast?
A: Prob my favorite is French toast made with whole grain bread and real maple syrup.