Tag Archives: Raleigh

Raleigh Peak in purple

Several months ago I acquired a bike listed as a ‘retro Raleigh’ from ebay, with the aim of using it as a parts-donor for another MTB build currently in progress.

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The bike turned out to be in mint condition, having been bought, ridden once or twice, and then stored away for 22 years, and the parts have been really useful for my Dyna-tech MT4 build.

The top tube decal was removed by the owner, who can’t remember which model he bought, so I was unable to identify the bike. What I can say with certainty is that this is a 1993 model (based on the groupset) from near the top of Raleigh’s cromo range of mountain bikes.

However, I’ve been unable to find a bike with the same colour and specifications in the 1993 Raleigh catalogue. The components match well those listed for the Peak:

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The Summit would have come with a suspension fork, otherwise being identical to the Peak:

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Lower down the range were the Apex, which would have had an Exage groupset (not Deore LX) and a Girvin suspension stem:

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And below the Apex were the Strata and Ravine, again with cheaper groupsets:

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None of these bikes match the colour of my purple Raleigh. So what is it?

 

The only other unusual feature of my bike is the presence of a sticker from German bike retailer ZEG, making it probable that the bike was originally produced for the German market. The sticker says (in German) ‘exclusive model’, suggesting this may be a Peak produced by Raleigh for ZEG in a different colour.

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However, the original owner told me that he owned the bike from new, having bought it by mail-order from a bike shop in the United Kingdom, which makes the ZEG sticker all the more puzzling.

On the other hand, Raleigh were known to sell some of their bikes in alternative paint schemes – perhaps the pink paint job of the Peak didn’t go down well with some (male) consumers, and a purple and green variant was produced as an alternative. But this is pure speculation…

My Raleigh M Trax 500 titanium (1993)

With 2015 drawing to a close, there’s been a new addition to the collection of vintage Raleigh moutain bikes — A nearly mint condition M Trax 500 from 1993.

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As you might guess from my other blog posts, I do have a soft spot for this particular early nineties mountain bike range, having ridden a 400 as my first serious bike, back in the day.

The M Trax 500’s metallic paint job is quite splendiferous, and the titanium bull-horn handlebar gives the bike an aggressive look.

Sadly, the Exage trigger shifters are not very durable, and broke down almost immediately after taking possession of the bike.

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This is in contrast, ironically, to the bullet proof Deore DX thumbshifters that were included on the 420, 400 and 300 models of the same year. I guess I’ll end up fitting thumbshifters to my 500 as well …

The Raleigh Activator 2: truly an abomination

In the mid nineties (1994?), Raleigh UK launched their first full-suspension mountain bike: the Activator 2. This was the successor to their popular, but very low-end, Activator.

Here’s how the Activators looked in the Raleigh catalogue:

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Incredibly, the catalogue blurb makes the rather bold claim of ‘improved acceleration’. On this note, I recall a school friend of mine had an Activator 2, and he thought it was far superior to my M Trax 400 – until we swapped bikes and raced each other up a slight hill, which showed him just how much energy was getting drained away by his gas-pipe steel and pogo-stick bike.

All in all, the Activator range was not for serious mountain bikers, and opting for suspension at this price point is almost always a false economy.

100 of the best vintage mountain bikes

This is something I thought would be interesting to share. It’s adapted from a list I’ve written myself in recent years, as I’ve  searched for interesting vintage mountain bikes for my own collection.

As one might guess, there is an obvious bias towards the following:

  • bikes from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s, principally 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995
  • MTBs with steel frames
  • mass-produced MTBs
  • MTBs that won’t cost an arm and a leg
  • MTB brands that were available in the USA, Canada, and the British Isles

It’s not exhaustive, and it’s not especially objective either. It’s simply a list of what I consider to be the best 100 vintage mountain bikes. These are all bikes I’d like to own, and would consider buying for myself, in the right size and condition.

I plan to add links to photos or catalogue scans for each of the listed bikes, in the near future.

The list

Alpinestars Cro Mega (e-stay or normal)

Alpinestars Alu Mega (e-stay, without cracks)

Alpinestars Ti Mega (e-stay, without cracks)

Bontrager Race / Race Lite

492Bonty1

Breezer Storm

91breezerstorm

Bridgestone MB-1

mb1

Brodie Sovereign

93-brodie-sovereign

Cannondale Killer V series

Cannondale M series

Diamond Back Axis

Diamond Back Axis TT

Diamond Back WCF / Vertex

Giant ATX

Gary Fisher Montare, or any pre-Trek steel Fisher

GT Psyclone

GT Zaskar and Xixang

GT RTS

GT STS

Haro Extreme

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Ibis Mojo

KHS Montana Comp

Klein Attitude (pre Trek)

Koga Miyata Ridgerunner

Kona Hei Hei (Titanium)

Litespeed Titanium (without cracks – lifetime warranties no longer valid after buyout)

Mantis Valkyrie

Marin Rift Zone

Marin Eldridge Grade

Marin with late 80s to early 90s splatter paint

Merlin Titanium (without cracks – lifetime warranties no longer valid after buyout)

Mountain Cycle Moho

Mountain Cycle San Andreas

Muddy Fox Courier Comp

Nishiki Alien

Orange Clockwork

Orange P7

Orange Vitamin T (or T2)

Overburys Pioneer

Pace RC200 (and other RC frames)

Panasonic MC Pro (rare but awesome)

Pro Flex 855 (and similar)

Raleigh Dynatech Torus

Raleigh Dynatech Diablo LX, DX, or STX

Raleigh M Trax Ti 3000 or 4000 (1995 model with UGLI fork)

Raleigh Special Products Division 853 (hard-tail or full suspension)

Raleigh lugged and brazed 531 frames from the late 1980s (Moonshine, Thunder Road, White Lightning, and others)

Raleigh USA Technium Chill

Ridgeback 704 XT (and similar)

Rock Lobster / Amazon

Rocky Mountain Fusion

Rocky Mountain Blizzard

Santa Cruz Heckler

Saracen Kili

Schwinn Paramount

Scott Team or Pro

Slingshot

Specialized Stumpjumper (steel)

Specialized Stumpjumper (M2)

Specialized FSR

Trek Singletrack series (steel)

Trek 8000 Series, bonded carbon composite

Trek Y33

Univega Alpina 500 (and similar)

Yeti Ultimate (steel)

Zinn (anything)

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How to buy a vintage mountain bike

OK, so you have some idea about what model of vintage mountain bike you’d like to have. How do you go about buying it?

By far the best place to buy a vintage mountain bike (or any kind of vintage bike) is retrobike.co.uk. Prices are generally fair, and the sellers are almost all honest. Ebay is a bit of a mixed bag: prices tend to be higher that at retrobike.co.uk, and borderline fraud is not uncommon, unfortunately. Gumtree can also serve up some gems, if you’re able to collect from the seller.

Retrobike doesn’t just have a for sale forum, there is a also a forum for posting ‘wanted’ adverts, of you’re looking for something specific. More often than not, somebody who has the item (or bike) you’re searching for, and will reply to your advert. There is also a handy forum where the retrobike.co.uk community can be asked for honest valuations on any bike or component.

Things I look out for

A rule of thumb is that buying a complete (or nearly complete) bike is more cost effective than buying all the parts separately. Of course, if money’s no object, or you have a specific set of components in mind, then by all means do the latter!

Similarly, sometimes it pays to buy a ‘donor’ bike to get a full set of components to turn your bare frame into a complete bike. Some even buy complete bikes for a single part, and then break down the remains to sell separately, to cover the cost of that single part.

I’ve found that the level of wear on moving parts usually makes little difference to the price of a vintage bike. A bike with a nearly worn out drive train could sell for the same or a similar price as an identical bike with very low mileage. The key to detect a low mileage bike is to look at the parts that wear out fastest: tires, chainrings and cassette. It helps to know beforehand what the original specs of the bike were.

What I try to avoid

I try to avoid bikes with evidence for having had a hard life, or which haven’t been looked after. For example, a little bit of rust is not necessarily deal breaker, but it would be pot luck as to whether the rust is just skin-deep, or has gone all the way through the tubing. In the event of there being more than a little bit of rust, I would not touch the bike with a barge-pole, unless the frame is something really special and/or cheap.

It sometimes happens that a seller tries to sell a decent frame, but built up using low grade parts, to an unsuspecting buyer. I’ve seen frames go cheaply on ebay, only to get relisted a week or so later at an inflated price, having been built up with inferior parts. Imagine a Zaskar built up with a Shimano SIS pressed steel and plastic drive train!

A seized seat post is another ‘gotcha’ that occasionally crops up. Although not fatal, it does take a fair bit of work to remove (or dissolve) a seized-in post. Similarly, beware frames that have been stripped down, with the exception of the bottom bracket, which could be hinting at a seized in bottom bracket.

Suspension can be a thorny issue, as it can be hard to tell whether they still work. For suspension forks that use elastomers, it’s common to find the elastomers have disintegrated. Oil forks may require new seals. If you really want suspension, it may be best to buy separately a set of forks that you know are in good working order.

Finally, beware adverts or listings with no photo of the item, or only limited photos. A good seller will show the bike from all angles, and will show and describe honestly the condition, and any damage to the item.

Which bikes to choose?

Tastes and budgets differ, so there is no clean answer to this question.As a general rule, it’s hard to go wrong with a double-butted cromoly steel frame with a Shimano LX or DX groupset, which should cost somewhere in the region of 75 to 150 pounds (100-200 Euro; 120-230 USD) in good working condition.

But also check out my highly subjective list of some of the best vintage steel or aluminium mountain bikes. If you’re up for a less conventional bike, then perhaps an elevated chain-stay (e-stay) mountain bike might hit the spot. I also highly recommend Raleigh Special Product Division’s titanium and steel composite frames, which are usually very good value for money. For more refined tastes, hand-built Reynolds 853 frames occasionally come up for sale.

My rides: Raleigh Dynatech Mission (Dynacurve)

One of my projects is a 1990 Raleigh Dynatech Mission. I’ve heard great things about this frame, and I’m rather looking forward to getting it built up, when time permits.

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The frame is of an unconventional construction, having butted Reynolds 653 mang-moly steel main tubes (531 material, after heat-treatment), a Reynolds 531 Mang-Moly fork and rear triangle, and an aluminium head tube.

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Look closely, and you’ll see the frame is lugged. But unlike most lugged frames, this one isn’t lugged and brazed. In fact, the main tubes are joined by bonding (using high-tech aerospace glue) into lugs. This actually makes for a stronger join than could normally be achieved through welding or brazing – the heat from which can reduce the tensile strength of heat-treated steel – and allows different metals to be joined (aluminium and steel in this case, but Raleigh also bonded titanium and metal matrix to steel and aluminium).

Raleigh often didn’t publicly acknowledge which tubing was used in their Dynatech ranges, preferring instead to invent their own tubeset designation. In the case of the Mission, Raleigh’s mix of Reynolds 653 and 531 was designated ‘2070 performance enhanced tube set’.

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For comparison, my Dynatech Voyager‘s 2060 tube set has Reynolds 531 main tubes instead of 653, and a chrome-moly fork.

Check out the unusual design of the lugged head tube  in the photo below

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But what really sets my Dynatech Mission apart from other frames is its ‘Dynacurve’ top tube. Dynatech Missions are not exactly common, and frames with the Dynacurve top tube are even more of a rarity – so I feel pretty lucky to own one.

As the name suggests, the top tube has a noticeable curve, so as to “ensure maximum support for the seat tube while keeping the head tube at the optimum length” on larger models of the frame.

dyna-curve

However, it’s not obvious why the Dynacurve is really needed at all. Other manufacturers managed to build large frames without the need for curved top tubes, but perhaps the issue is related to the bonded construction of the Dynatech. Regardless, I think it looks really cool!

See the photos below, linked from retrobike.co.uk, for a few more examples of Dynacurve frames.

Dynatech Voyager with Dynacurve:

Compare the above to the non-Dynacurve (smaller) bike below:

Dynatech Voyager without Dynacurve

And another example of a Mission, again from retrobike.co.uk:

Photos of my own build will follow at some point in the future … watch this space!

Vintage steel Raleigh Dynatechs

Often overlooked in favour of the lighter titanium models, Raleigh made some really nice bonded steel Dynatech frames during the late eighties and early nineties.

dynatech awaiting trial
Cover of a Dynatech catalogue

The innovation made by Raleigh for this range of bikes was the bonding together of the main tubes, often from different materials, to build a frame that is light yet strong. The Raleigh brochures of the day boasted that bonding gives stronger tube joins, compared to welding or brazing.

dynatech_steel

I really love the very visible engineering on these frames in the form of lugs, and the absence of messy welds (although the rear triangle is still welded). Let’s have a look at a couple of the bikes.

Dynatech Voyager

dynatech_voyager

Dynatech Encounter

Check out the Girvin Flexstem ‘suspension’ stem!

dynatech_endeavour

Dynatech: awaiting trial

Unlike for some brands, surprisingly little information exists on the internet about the Raleigh Dynatech brand – despite being one of the coolest serious mountain bike ranges from a British manufacturer during the early nineties. To remedy this deficiency, over the next few months I plan to catalogue and showcase as much of the Dynatech range as possible.

To get things started I give you the 1991 Raleigh Dynatech mountain bike catalogue’s front page, whichhas to be one of my favourite catalogue front covers of all time:

dynatech awaiting trial

Depicting a Dynatech Encounter handcuffed on a dank backdrop, the imagery evokes danger and subversion, and the bike screams ‘ride me, as though you stole me’.

Check out this thread at retrobike to see a surviving Encounter close up.

I too have a similar Dynatech Mission frame and forks at home, awaiting trial, which can only happen once I’ve decided exactly how I’ll build them up… And I have every confidence it will be as fun to ride as my Dynatech Diablo STX or my M Trax 300 or 400.

My Rides: Raleigh M Trax 400

The 1993 Raleigh M Trax 400 was my first serious mountain bike.

Its ‘Duo Tech’ frame featured an aluminium head tube, Reynolds 501 cromoly rear triangle, with titanium top and down tubed bonded into lugs. This unconventional design made for a frameset that is lighter than it looks, with some of the benefits of titanium, and a rear triangle with a great balance between compliance and stiffness.

The specimen above is owned by another retrobiker (see this thread, and amazingly, it looks almost all original). Photos rarely do justice to its paintwork, which was black with coloured metallic flakes.

Below is a page from the 1993 M Trax catalogue, hosted by retrobike.co.uk.

m trax 400 catalogue

My only regret about its appearance is that Raleigh didn’t badge their M Trax range as the much cooler Dynatech instead. It’s been said that Raleigh thought ‘M Trax’ would sound more 90s and appealing to the youth of the day than ‘Dynatech’. However, as a teenager at that time, I just thought it sounded naff – perhaps among the worst named bike brands ever.

For all intents and purposes, this was a Dynatech frame with Dynatech components, with a (mostly) lower groupset than the contemporaneous Dynatechs.

I liked this bike so much, I bought two more like it, both of which I still ride regularly – my M Trax 300 and Dynatech Diablo STX.

M Trax 400 Spec List

Raleigh Special Products Division Duo Tech titanium – cromoly frame. Top tube and down tube are commercially pure titanium, while the rear triangle was Reynolds 501 cromoly steel. 19.5″ centre to top. Black with glitter.

Cromoly fork, 1-1/8″ threaded steerer. Suspension corrected for ~40-50 mm travel forks.

Dynatech steel seat post (Kalloy). 27.0 mm diameter.

Steel quill stem and steel handlebar (ripe for upgrade to aluminum!)

Shimano Altus A10 derailleurs, chainset, and 7 speed cassette.

Shimano Deore 7 speed thumbshifters.

Dia Compe SS5 brake levers.

Diacompe 986 brake cantilevers.

Wheels: Rigida Laser aluminium rims on Shimano Exage hubs.

Saddle and tires – no idea.

Upgrades made over the years

Green Control Tech bolt-up titanium skewers.

Panaracer Smoke and Dart tires, kevlar bead.

Sram Gripshift X-ray shifters.

Hope screw-on rear hub, with Sachs 8 speed cassette, built with Mavic ceramic rim.

Rockshox Quadra 21R, in judy yellow.

My rides: Raleigh Marauder

This is where mountain biking all started for me – the humble Raleigh Marauder. I bought it from a friend at scouts, with money saved from my paper round, in 1991 or 1992. Although heavy and not particularly reliable due to the generally cheap components, my Marauder opened up new frontiers for a young cyclist, keen to explore the forests and moors around the family home in suburban Plympton.

Many Sundays in spring or summer were spent riding around Plymbridge Woods, or the tamer areas of Dartmoor, with a group of friends from the 3rd Plympton Scouts. Trail skills were developed, fitness was gained, bicycle maintenance was learnt, and fun was had. A packed-lunch at Yelverton or Meavy, supplemented with cake from the village shop, before pushing on around Burrator Reservoir, then home via Wotter and Bottle Hill. Looking back, it’s surprising how many miles we’d rack up on quite basic bikes.

I can remember bike snobbery creeping into the equation, even then. Indexed or rapid fire shifters, 501 tubing, and true off-road tires were what everybody wanted. One lad managed to get his parents to buy him a new bike each year: Raleigh Montage, Raleigh Mirage, Raleigh Yukon. One of our scout leaders who’d often lead our rides had a Raleigh Peak, with a Girvin Flexstem for suspension. The coolest (or wealthiest) lad had a Marin Muirwoods, which I believe most of us coveted, and for good reason – it was an excellent and stunning mountain bike.

Sadly, I have no photos of my own Raleigh Marauder – the photos below are taken from a gumtree advert of the same model as mine, which appears to be essentially all original.

marauder1

Virtually all components are steel, including the wheels. Together with the gas-pipe steel tubing of the frame made for a heavy, solid-feeling bike.

marauder2

The gears didn’t have indexing, and the brakes weren’t great, but it was all easy to get set up. The high profile cantilevers somehow compensated for the awful brake levers.

marauder3

This bike was surprisingly durable, and served me well, but by the end of 1993 I’d began lusting after sweeter meats. On my visits to Battery Cycle Works’ Raleigh showroom, I’d fallen in love with the Dynatech range of titanium-cromoly bikes, and had resolved to sell the Marauder and save up for something lightweight and cool.

Vintage road bikes: my shopping list

With my mountain bike collection growing nicely, I’ve been pondering adding a vintage road bike to the collection, for those days when I feel like a bit of road training .

Now, I have to admit I don’t know much about road bikes, but here is my own ‘shopping list’ of road bikes I’m considering buying. Aside from my Raleigh / Dynatech brand loyalty, there’s no rhyme of reason to this list/ Except that the frame must be steel – obviously!

1. A Raleigh Dynatech, preferably a bonded titanium / steel frame:

Image from here.

Image from retrobike, here. Lovely.

2. Bianchi Columbus TSX

bianchi_tsx

Seen on this forum. There’s something about that colour of paint.

3. A hand-built steel frame from Roberts.

Delightful. Photo reblogged from here.

4. Or perhaps Rourke?

Drool. Image credit.

Google is also telling me there are quite a few excellent frame builders or manufacturers who I’d barely heard of in the mountain biking world. For example:

5. Colnago

Image from here.

6. Merckx

Image also from this page.

Now I just need to find one in my size…

Retro Raleighs: a trip down memory lane

A rather nice, vintage Raleigh mountain bike came up for sale recently on retrobike, which set me tripping on nostalgia via google image search.

Raleigh did some excellent mountain bikes back in the day – see my titanium Dynatech Diablo and my titanium M Trax 300, for example. But by the early 90s, Raleigh’s steel framed bikes had come to be seen as a bit naff, unfairly some might say in hindsight.

Their Dynatechs were still a bit cool, but other UK brands or imported American mountain bikes were the new must-haves for the coolest mountain bikers. At least this is how I remember things as a teenaged mountain biker…

However, twenty years on a bit of digging on google and retrobike yields some great examples of surviving 90s Raleighs. And while they don’t have the overt XC racy looks of rival brands like Marin, Cannondale, or Orange, I still find them visually appealing in a way that’s hard to explain.

Perhaps this is partly down to details like the lugged frame design and the Raleigh head badge, which hint at the heritage of bicycle manufacture at Raleigh and give a vintage feel to an already retro bicycle.

Reblogged below are a just few of the fabulous Raleighs I’ve come across:

Raleigh Thunder Road.

Pure awesomeness in the form of a Reynolds 531 mang-moly steel frame. Photo from a retrobike thread dedicated to Raleigh MTBs. I’m now currently building one of these myself.

Raleigh Yukon

… from the same retrobike thread as the Thunder Road. Another 501 frame.

Raleigh Moonshine

… again, from the a retrobike thread. Reynolds 531.

If you like what you’ve seen, then please do go and check out the ‘get ya raleighs out for the lads’ thread on retrobike.

5 Ways Mountain Bikes Were Better In The 90s

Modern mountain bike technology is incredible. The arrival of decent suspension, hydraulic disc brakes, tubeless tires, and many other innovations all help today’s hard-core mountain bikers go faster than ever before, for longer, over more challenging terrain.

The contrast with the technology we used in the 90s couldn’t be any stronger. It’s actually quite hard to believe we rode off-road with rigid forks, cantilever brakes, and so few gears, and lived to tell the tale.

Few would seriously argue that modern mountain bikes are not better overall than their 90s ‘retro’ ancestor, but here are some ways that 90s mountain bikes were better…

1. Low maintenance, low cost

One of the great things about mountain bikes during the 90s was their simplicity. No shocks to tune up, no hydraulics to bleed. Keeping your bike in good working order was pretty easy, and rather cheap by today’s standards.

Thinking about going out for a ride? Just grab the bike, check the tire pressure, squeeze the brakes, double check the most crucial bolts are tight enough, and off you go.

2. Just one wheel size

When everybody used 26 inch wheels, borrowing a suitably sized replacement inner tube from a riding buddy was a heck of a lot easier than today, what with 26 inch, 650b and 29 inch. A single size of wheel also made thing simpler when upgrading to the latest frame – just fit your existing wheels to the new frame, without worrying about whether to make the jump to a trendier wheel size.

3. Steel bikes, built to last

As a material for frames and cycling components, steel is hugely under-rated. Steel is cheap, strong, fatigue resistant, and easy to repair. Rear mech hangers can be bent back into alignment numerous times before they are ruined; damaged or rusted tubes can be removed and replaced; disc tabs can be added easily to usher a retro steel frame into the 21st century.

It’s true that steel frames and components are not the lightest, yet they aren’t overly heavy and some would argue the strength of steel is worth the slight weight penalty compared to aluminium or carbon. In any case, weight doesn’t matter much these days, judging by the 28-30 lb weights of most mid-range modern mountain bikes.

There is also an argument to be made that steel bikes are the ethical choice. A good, hand-made steel frame will last a lifetime if cared for properly. Choosing this over far-eastern aluminium or carbon will significantly reduce the ‘carbon footprint’ of your bike, and as such will help the environment – you know, the wilderness and countryside we ride in.

4. Shifters that allow you to trim your front derailleur

I’ve never understood the need for having indexed front gears. Not only are shifts between chain-rings much less frequent than shifts on the rear cassette. But indexing also forces you to use a single front derailleur position, which can take a lot of tuning to get just right. When not perfectly tuned, the chain can grind noisily on your front derailleur’s chain-guide when using gears at the extreme ends of your cassette.

This is (or was in the 90’s) easily solved if your gear levers are thumb-shifters or grip-shift, because both allow micro-adjustment of your front derailleur. Goodbye grinding chain, hello perfect front derailleur alignment!

5.  Bikes were lighter despite all that steel

Back in the 90’s, a mid-range mountain bike would have weighed in at somewhere around 24-25 pounds – significantly lower than the 28-30 pound weight of a typical mid-range mountain bike today.

However, concerns about bike weight seems to be more about vanity than performance. Dwarfed by a rider’s body weight, the weight of your mountain bike is barely worth worrying about. Unless you find yourself regularly carrying the bike over obstacles, or your bike is super-heavy, just lose some body weight instead.

My 1993 M Trax Duo Tech 300

Way back during the early 1990s, Raleigh’s Special Products Division (or RSP for short) came up with the novel idea of bonding titanium or cro-moly steel tubes into steel or aluminium lugs, to build mountain bike frames that had a fairly low weight, a rigid rear triangle, and some of the damping and flex of titanium.

In its day, this was something of a genius idea, insofar as it allowed ownership of a hand-built titanium bike, with prominent ‘Titanium’ decals, for a fraction of the price of a welded, full titanium framed bike. While there’s little doubt that some clever marketing, along with a generous sprinkling of ‘titanium aura’ tinged hype, played a role in the relative success of RSP’s ‘Duo Tech’ framed mountain bikes, their performance and ‘ride quality’ was also usually quite highly regarded by those who rode them.

Originally branded as part of the Raleigh Dynatech range until 1994, and part of the Raleigh M Trax range from 1993 to 1995, the demise of the Duo Tech frameset came when the cost of materials and fabrication rose to such a level that the frameset stopped being profitable — at which point Raleigh switched to more conventional designs and materials.

My 1993 Raleigh M Trax 300 Duo Tech

As the bottom of the range model of the newly introduced M Trax brand, the M Trax 300 was the cheapest titanium framed mountain bike you could buy, retailing at about £350 back in 1993. Bought for the princely sum of £50 from retrobike.co.uk, this is my best value for money bike purchase to date. It’s getting common to rebuild retro bikes to their more or less original specifications using parts collected from ebay, but my M Trax is a true survivor: all original parts (down to the tires, grips, and brake pads), very little use at all, and carefully stored for 20+ years, albeit with some conspicuous rust on the bottle cage bolts and brake bolts.

Raleigh M Trax 300
Raleigh M Trax 300: unpacked and ready to ride

After removing the reflectors and adding modern SPD pedals, at 27.5 lb it is not unduly heavy by modern standards, but is close to the upper weight limit that a self-respecting 90s mountain biker would be able to tolerate. The bike has potential for some easy weigh savings, such as replacing the steel stem, bar and seat post with lighter aluminium versions, and fitting lighter tires.

The good

  • The bike feels lively and springy (less so than a good all-steel framed bike, however), with noticeably more trail-buzz being soaked up by the steel controls and titanium tubing than I would usually expect with the 90s standard set-up of aluminium controls and an all-steel frame.
  • Steel controls and seat post give added confidence (at least for a taller/heavier rider like me).
  • The Shimano Deore II thumbshifters and hyperglide cassette shifted between gears remarkably smoothly, which some may find surprising for a bike of this age. The ability to shift across the entire block or chainset in a single movement was appreciated.
  • Reasonably light in weight.
  • Metallic turquoise paint job looks the business.
  • Titanium at the price of far-east steel.
  • Ostentatious decals on the top-tube emphasize that this frame has TITANIUM.
M Trax 300: destination Nun's Cross
M Trax 300: test ride, destination Nun’s Cross

The not so good

  • The gear ratios are a little on the high side for the steepest off-road riding, with its lowest ratio being 1:1.
  • A design fault in the Altus chainset’s non-replaceable inner ring makes chain-suck episodes all too frequent.
  • The plastic four-finger Dia Compe brake levers look ugly and lack power.
  • The bar is just slightly too narrow to steer the bike properly over technical terrain.
  • RSP’s Duo Tech frames were known to de-bond, and there are anecdotal tales of having a tube pop out of its lug mid-ride, in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully, this seems not to be an especially common problem.