Tag Archives: retro

Five of the Most Beautiful Vintage – Retro Mountain Bikes

While browsing the web and thinking of possible future vintage MTB projects, I inevitably get side-tracked by all the photos of splendiferously beautiful mountain bikes of yesteryear.

I usually just book mark the photos for future inspiration, but here I’m going to show five of my favourites, if not necessarily cost-effective, vintage mountain bikes.

This utterly stunning Dave Lloyd

A sublime bespoke build from one of the great frame builders of the British Isles. The colour-matched Girvin Flex Stem (and other parts) is a nice touch.

The Alpinestars Ti Mega

Super expensive, and with a frame prone to cracking near the bottom bracket. But wow!

Fat Chance Yo Eddy with aqua-fade

Known to ride like a dream (for a rigid steel bike), this bike’s look simply blows my mind.

Anodyzed GT Zaskars

What’s not to love about this bike? Loads of purple anodyzing, and Spinergy wheels. Really awesome.

The Mantis Flying V

The frame design in itself looks great, but the paintwork and the touch of tasteful purple anodyzed parts really are the cherry on top of the cake. This frame is currently up for sale, as it happens, on retrobike, for a couple of thousand Euros.

My choices are, of course, totally subjective.

 

My Muddy Fox Courier Comp

From my collection of vintage MTB frames, this is my Muddy Fox Courier Comp. It hails from the golden age of Muddy Fox mountain bikes, before the brand started using its name to peddle mountain bikes that were complete and utter rubbish.

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This was something of an impulse purchase, Fortunately, it cost peanuts. My interested was piqued by its Tange Infinity steel tubset, with a beautiful wishbone structure on the seat stays, and its bright green paintwork with matching steel stem.

The paw-print stamped into the seat tube sleeve is also a nice touch.

I have no plans to build it up, as yet. But if anybody has any ideas, please feel free to add a comment below.

Why I still prefer thumbshifters

Gear shifting technology has come a long way. The latest groupsets offer unrivalled shifting performance, with electronic shifting and autonomously calibrating derailleurs now available at the very top end of the Shimano spectrum.

But I still prefer thumbshifters, namely Shimano’s 7 speed Deore and Deore XT early 90s. In fact, I still use thumbshifters on most of my mountain bikes.

See, for example, my Haro Extreme, my Raleigh M Trax 300, or my Rourke. I’m also planning to use a set on my soon to be built Dynatech Voyager and Dynatech Mission.

Here’s why:

* low cost (typically 20-30 GBP per pair).

* reliable, virtually indestructible, they just work.

* allows the user to trim the front mech to avoid chain-rub on the mech’s plates.

* they have a hidden extra click, allowing use with an 8 speed cassette.

The Meaning of Deore

Deore has been among Shimano’s off-road groupsets practically from the very beginning of the first wave of mass-produced MTBs. Offering an excellent compromise in terms of price vs weight and performance, Deore has long been a favourite for riders who are unable or unwilling to splash out on the slightly superior XT (and XTR) groupsets.

There are a number of suggested origins for the name, including ‘of gold’ and ‘of ore’, but the original meaning is quite different. However, the deer head motif on some early XT derailleurs points us in the right direction.

To put it simply, ‘Deore’ means ‘deer’, and is a loanword absorbed into the Japanese language from English. In a way, I find it touching that the early engineers and their marketing should have imagined mountain bike riders as akin to deer, gracefully making their way through the wilderness.

A far cry from the hardcore freeriders and downhillers that characterize the modern MTB scene!

My Haro Extreme Comp: First Build

What first drew me to this frame was its unique design, with its elevated chain stays, curved top-tube, and the U-brake bosses on the rear. After having a detailed look at the original, complete bikes shown in the early 90s Haro catalogues, I had to have one, and I acquired my 21.5 inch, 1990 or 1991 Haro Extreme Comp frame as a Christmas present.

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Then, over a period of a year and a half, I slowly but surely acquired the parts that would be necessary to build the complete bike. Although not identical to the original bike as shown in the catalogue, the mix of parts, importantly, is period-correct and give a very similar look.

This is the result of my first build:

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In particular, the chrome-plated chrome-molybdenum Big Fork from Tange has a striking form, and contrasts with the black paintwork of the frame. The vintage Dan Falvey stem and Deore DX seat post help keep things real with steel, for added strength and some extra shock absorption.

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The Shimano Deore 7 speed thumbshifters give slick, accurate shifting, with the added bonus of allowing the front derailleur to be trimmed when necessary.

The bike rides really well, particularly when sprinting or riding uphill. Unlike my hardtail rides, even on the steepest climbs there’s no sign of the front wheel lifting or wandering.

Moreover, and this might be imagined, it feels as though I’m faster, or more powerful, on climbs. I might test this using Strava, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the shorter chain stays and head-down were to be delivering greater traction and/or greater power.

Unfortunately, in its current form I have a few problems with the bike.

Firstly, the short head tube means it’s not easy to set the bars at a comfortable height – even using a quill stem with a bit of rise such as the one currently fitted. And the narrow bars make the steering a little twitchy at times. Solutions I have in mind include fitting a wider bar, and looking for a quill stem with even greater rise. Fitting a suspension fork would also help to elevate the front end a little, although I’m growing rather fond of the chromed Tange Big Fork – at least in the looks department.

The brakes don’t quite have the stopping power I’d like. This is partly due to my poor set-up of the front cantilevers (which can be sorted with a bit of work), but the lack of set-up options for the rear U-brake means the only way to change the modulation is to experiment with different brake levers (incidentally, this is one of the reasons U-brakes fell out of favour in the 90s). A set of shimano servo wave levers (with shifter pods removed) would be my first choice here, but Magura hydraulic brakes could also be a useful alternative solution.

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Undoubtedly, there are many options to make my Haro Extreme Comp more enjoyable to ride. The real question is whether it makes sense to spend much time or money doing so.

10 of the Best Vintage Full Suspension Mountain Bike Frames

The nineteen-nineties saw an explosion of innovative new mountain bike technology, one of the most important being suspension systems, which allowed a mountain biker to ride faster, for longer, across the more rugged trails. While suspension has continued to evolve year upon year, the fundamental design of the most popular modern suspension systems come from the 90s.

And as such, there are a number of suspension forks and suspension frames that remain surprisingly capable by today’s standards. Although highly subjective, and by no means exhaustive, this is my list of what I consider to be the 10 best full suspension frames from the 1990s.

Marin Mount Vision / Rift Zone / East Peak / Alpine Trail Photo from this retrobike thread.

Santa Cruz Heckler Photo from here.

Raleigh Special Products Division 300 rsp300cat Specialized FSR

Photo from this webpage.

GT RTS furtado-rts1_velonews-superbikes1993 GT LTS Image from this MTBR thread.

Proflex

Photo from this site, but originally scanned from the “Pro Mountain Biker” book (Jeremy Evans and Brant Richards, 1995).

AMP Research AMPB4_MBA_slider Mountain Cycle San Andreas Photo from www.mombat.org

Answer Manitou FS

Photo from this mtbr thread.

Marin Mount Vision: top of my list of full suspension bikes

With quite a few rigid mountain bikes in the collection now, I’ve been thinking about broadening the collection to include a cross-country capable, but inexpensive, full suspension bike. Top of my list at the moment is the Marin Mount Vision, which I’ve included in my list of the 100 best vintage mountain bikes. And below is an example of one, from this blog. With it’s M-shaped frame, it looks awesome, and the overall design is as efficient as vintage full suspension gets.

Rourke 853 mountain bike build

And now for something special in the steel mountain bike department – my ‘new’ Reynolds 853 Rourke frame.

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The frame seems to have survived its journey over from the UK, and once unpacked it’s clear I’ve landed a truly stunning frame.

Hand-made from Reynolds 853 tubing sometime slightly after 1995, this is a real work of art.After the tubes were welded together, legendary framebuilder Jason Rourke (son of Brian Rouke of Brian Rourke Cycles) added finely crafted, decorative lugs, and other sublime details such as the wrap-around chain stays (see below for a close up from Brian Rourke Cycles’ webpage).

The red and black paint job is awesome enough, but the chrome-plating on part of the rear triangle is the icing on the cake. Cosmetics aside, I have high hopes for how this frame is going to feel.

My build philosophy for the Rourke takes what I hope to be the best aspects of 90s and modern mountain bike technology, with a mix of Deore DX, XT and XTR groupsets, and other parts (Hope, Salsa, Middleburn, Titec etc.) I had lying around the man-cave begging to be attached to this splendiferous frame.

Photos of the final build and first thoughts from testing riding to be added soon!

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.