Tag Archives: 1992

Building my Haro Extreme 1991

A couple of years ago I decided I needed a second mountain bike, you know, to have in the shed just in case my main bike is put out of action. I wanted to avoid a repeat of my first summer in Portugal, when a trashed wheel and a slow bike mechanic made me miss nearly a month of the best MTB riding weather.

I wanted something in steel, something from the early nineties, and something a bit different. Luckily for me, Haro Extreme Comp frame came up for sale, in great condition and at a fair price, and I couldn’t resist buying what was, at that time, my 4th MTB frame.

This frame has elevated chain stays, a fad from the early nineties which eliminated chain-slap, and also allowed for a shorter wheelbase. This last point, the shorter wheelbase, made for a more responsive ride, and aided rear wheel traction when climbing by placing the rider’s mass more in line with the tire’s contact patch.

However, the fact that this kind of design fell out of fashion by the second half of the nineties speaks volumes about its cost to benefit ratio. Perhaps more importantly, I think elevated chain stays look really awesome!

Other curios features of this frame are curved top tube (similar to Raleigh’s Dynacurve), brake bosses for a u-brake on the chain stays, an extraordinarily short head tube for a frame this large, and funky bottle cage bosses.

Until my build is complete, I’ll have to resort to showing pages from the Haro MTB catalogue of the same year. I have the black frame, on the right hand side of this page:

haro2

But sadly, I don’t have the cool looking Tange fork. The page below explains the reasoning behind the unusual frame geometry.

haro5

Below we get to see the Haro Extreme Comp from a different angle, and side by side with a classic diamond frame from elsewhere in Haro’s 1991 line up.

haro4

haro3

Ten of the best vintage – retro steel mountain bikes

Steel is arguably the best material for building mountain bike frames. Despite being somewhat unfashionable these days, what with carbon becoming nearly as strong and new aluminium alloys becoming more robust, steel is still the choice of frame material for cyclists who desire a bike with a ‘soul’.

My bias in favour of retro steel bikes should be obvious by now, but I hope most would still agree that the past few decades have seen a great many truly awesome steel mountain bikes over the last few decades, some of which are still in production in some form, while others are defunct but live on in our memories, or better yet, live on in the collections of retro-bikers.

This is my top 10 vintage steel mountain bikes, in no special order. It’s entirely subjective, based on little more than my personal tastes and my memories of reviews or gossip from back in the day.

1. Team Marin

During the nineties, Marin’s range of MTBs was spectacularly beautiful. The zolatone paintwork with neon fork and stem went together perfectly, and I think look great even today.

Below is a page from an early 90s Marin catalogue, showing the Team Marin with its superb cro-mo frame, kitted out with Deore XT.

team_marin

Looks aside, these bikes rode really nicely – of course.

2. Trek Single Track

Trek’s Single Track ranges of the nineties were a true benchmark in mass-produced steel MTBs, with great handling and judiciously chosen specs.

Next to the frills of the Cannondales, Konas and GTs of the same era, Treks were often considered a bit staid and boring. Yet the Trek 970 shown below (from the 1994 Trek catalogue) still looks incredible, even today.

singletrack

3. Kona Explosif

One of the benchmarks of mass-produced, but mid to high-end steel mountain bikes. And about as cool and edgy as one could get without putting up the cash for a hand-made boutique frame.

1995 Explosif size 19 catalogue

From the 1995 Kona catalogue (see this thread).

 

 

4. Diamond Back Axis

Although never particularly stunning at first sight, the Diamond Back Axis (and the Apex, a lower-spec bike using an identical frame) was a no-nonsense all-rounder, and arguably the best that could be bought at that price point.

Photo from the 1994 Diamond Back Catalogue (in Spanish!). The little brother of this model was the Diamond Back Apex, which I and my best friend both used to own, and which had a very similar or identical frame, but slightly less expensive components (STX and LX instead of Deore XT).

5. Raleigh Special Products 853

Considered by many to be hugely uncool back in the day, at least when compared to mainstream US brands like GT or Marin, Raleigh UK’s high end mountain bike frames were somewhat underrated back in the day. Although better known for their innovative titanium offerings (see, for example, my M Trax 300, the M Trax 400 or my Dynatech Diablo STX), Raleigh’s Special Products Division also turned out some particularly fine hand-built Reynolds steel mountain bike frames in the 1990s (see the Dynatech Encounter), up until the end of that decade until the company got bought out and ruined by a group of money-grabbing executives.

Shown below is an exquisite example of a late 1990s Raleigh Special Products Division, hand-welded Reynolds 853 steel frame (photo credit: retrobike.co.uk).

Also worth looking at are the 853 full suspension frames from the same era:

rsp300cat

… not to be confused with the truly awful Raleigh Activator range of MTBs!

6. Rocky Mountain Blizzard

One of the legends of the North American mountain bike scene, Rocky Mountain have more than 30 years experiences designing and building awesome bikes, tested and refined in the wilds of British Columbia. The Rocky Mountain Blizzard really stands out from the crowd as a retro classic, with its unmistakable styling and superb handling.

Photo taken from here.

7. GT Psyclone

Fillet-brazed steel goodness, this is arguably the finest GT frame of all time.

Photo borrowed from this blog.

8. Orange Clockwork

Classy British designed, Taiwan-built, cromoly steel bikes. Light, responsive, and with racy styling, Oranges were popular with image-conscious MTBers who wanted to buy British, and who had a little extra money to spend.

orange1

9. Specialized Stumpjumper

 stumpjumper

10. Nishiki Alien

After Richard Cunningham invented the first elevated chainstay frame in the late 80s, a number of other brands also jumped on the band-wagon, including Yeti, Haro, Saracen, and Nishiki, with the Nishiki Alien being one of the most iconic. E-stay frames typically benefited from having shorter chain stays, leading to noticeably superior climbing ability, faster handling, and elimination of chain-slap. Their appearance is also radically cool.

nish_alien

Check out the Haro Extreme range from the early 90s as well.

Expect e-stay designs to be explored all over again, but this time for 29er designers looking for shorter chainstays.