Thursday, June 16, 2016

Keeping "on the up and up" with restorations

No matter what the activity, everything has a consequence., every action has a re-action. So, it should come as no surprise that while restoring a bike to as new condition can be seen as a good thing in the short run by the people involved, it can have negative consequences on others in the long run. 

Over the past five or six years I've had part in restoring dozens of vintage bikes and refinishing countless parts. A large majority of those bikes and parts were stripped to bare metal and either repainted or re-anodized. While the people I was working with knew very well what they were getting I've not seen those same bikes, frames and parts resold to new owners and on a few occasions the new owners were not notified of the restoration history. While this isn't completely surprising it is rather unsettling.

For a period of time I had all of the frames I restored marked with a Second Spin label underneath the clear on the bottom bracket shell. But it seems even things seemingly obvious like that can be omitted from a description only to be discovered too late. In other cases I've scribed the inside of the head tube or bottom bracket shell, but again those markings may not be discovered easily. More overt marking may be necessary moving forward.

In addition to refinished or restored parts/bike there is a whole new cadre of people completely remanufacturing old parts. Copies of Grafton perches, Ringle cable hangers, IRD seatposts. As far as I can see nobody is marking the parts as replicas and to the untrained eye they are nearly identical to the originals. 

Now, more and more I see repainted frames or complete bikes, refinished or replicated parts getting posted up for sale with minimal descriptions and often even passed off as brand new originals to unsuspecting buyers who end paying top dollar for things that end up falling short of the mark.

I would strongly urge anyone who is considering a repair or a refinish first take a second though and reconsider and leave it original, but if that's not an option to take steps to brand or mark the bike or part so that it can't be passed off an original down the road. I wish painters would do this as rule of thumb, but I see the conflict of interest in the desire to get business and keeping customers satisfied. Afterall, it's not the painter's job to keep people honest. I for one plan to do this on 100% of the items that pass through my shop. There will always be people who try to game or profit others and that can't be helped, but those of us who are truly passionate about this hobby need to maintain a degree of integrity that ensures that it continues in a positive light.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

1987 Bradbury Manitou Elevated Chainstay

This Manitou is one of those 'so strange it's cool' sort of bikes. While Doug was not known for making elegant and sophisticated bikes, this one really takes the proverbial cake. However what it lacks in style and finish it makes up for in character and uniqueness (this is the only elevated chainstay bike that Doug ever built).

When I originally acquired this bike I assumed it was an 89/90 build, possibly 88. This was mainly because Doug said that he built the bike for a guy who wanted really short chainstays and so he copied Richard Cunningham's elevated chainstay Mantis Valkyrie. When I got the bike the build was largely a mix of Shimano XT, Dura Ace wheels and a few miscellaneous parts. Basically a late 80s mountain bike. So when I set out to rebuild it I naturally tried to stay within that era but push the wow factor a bit. While I'm satisfied with the build I have since figured out that the bike was built in 1987, was one of first 10 bikes Doug built (listed 3rd on the build log), and was designed to be a trials bike (hence the short wheelbase). So, I think I went a bit overboard with the build... We'll see how it rides and decide if it stays like this or gets a bit dumbed down.

Here is how I got the bike a couple year ago:

A Rock Shox?? Really???

Here is how it was originally built

Here it is today :

The more I look at the bike the more I like it and appreciate it's, ummm... aesthetic.

I was never quite sure what fork to put on this bike. On the one hand it's a rare and special bike and deserves a solid build with all the Doug made bits and pieces. On the other hand it was a rush job with some critical details missing, and so maybe anything is good enough. In the end I decided to use a roller cam equipped Bradbury fork with 115mm front hub spacing. Since I built this bike I acquired a similar fork but with 100mm spacing and given that this frame does not have the wide 145mm rear spacing (like later Manitous) I may swap forks and re-lace the wheel with a regular Bullseye hub.

Tall headtube gusset is very characteristic of the early DBMs, they got shorter and flatter as Doug evolved the design.

The lack of a cable guide for the rear derailleur was a bit of an omission by Doug, and one that still had him scratching his today. I improvised by adding rack mount I had leftover from my Cunningham and repurposing it as a cable guide. The Suntour XC9000 derailleur is about the only original part on this bike. Unlike other derailleurs from that era it has a very short pivot arm allowing it to fit under the rear stay and still operate freely.

Closeup view of the custom cable guide and front derailleur.

Doug used his traditional rear entry, horizontal dropouts but rotated them 90 degrees and modified the derailleur hanger. I've not seen this used on any other bike. I did find one more set of unused dropouts in one of the boxes of loose parts I got from Doug earlier this year. Wonder what he was saving them for?

Cook Bros cranks and Manitou, go together like a horse and carriage.

IRD progressive u-brakes with replica stiffener plates. I may replace these for original DBM plates I recently dug up.

IRD macaroni stem with a Cook Bros Titanium handlebar and Shimano XT controls round out the cockpit. Again, these parts just barely make the 1987 cutoff and infact the bars are probably cheating a bit,

Front derailleur housing runs nearly the entire length of the frame. In addition to that there was no cable guide underneath the BB and the cable simply ran over the BB shell. I added a plastic cable guide wanting to prevent any further damage to the frame.

Matching IRD brake in the rear. This is my first so equipped bike and I'm looking forward to seeing how these brakes work in real life.

I really like this junction, so much going on here.

If I could only find an IRD bar...

The only thing left to do is to take this thing out on the trails and see how it rides. I have to admit I am very curious but have some reservations. I hope to have a ride report soon.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

1986 Yeti FRO XR309

By the time I really started mountain biking in the early 90s the FRO was no longer the 'it' bike from Yeti, that status was bestowed to the brand new Aluminum ARC. Consequently the ARC was the bike I wanted. Fast forward a couple dozen years and the ARC is still one of my favorite bikes and until recently my only trail ready Yeti. Enter the 86 FRO!

This however is not your average FRO. This particular bike is one of the earliest FROs, and therefore by definition one of the earliest Yetis on the books. The serial number is XR309, indicating that this is the 9th FRO ever built. For a detailed overview of the unique features and differences between this and other early FROs and the later more common versions please see my writeup on the Early Yeti History.

The exact history of this bike is a bit of a mystery. Prior to me acquiring it from another collector, it was sold on eBay by the same seller who sold the $12k ex-Tomac C-26. Given the early S/N and the decals on the bike there is a good chance it started out life a team bike. Based on the size I think it initially belonged to either Rob Nielsen or Greg Dress. Another interesting thing about it is the 100% sticker on the top of the downtube which is a Motorcross brand often associated with Johnny O'Mara who was racer/tester for Yeti during the early days. This is interesting as this bike was later used a test rig during the development of the C-26 (there is a strain gauge bonded to the down tube) and is very similar to a bike O'Show is seen racing in this photo:

So, it's also possible that (read: conjecture) that O'Show raced and tested this bike in the late 80s during the development of the C-26. While it's fun to speculate about this, I don't think I there is any definitive way to be sure about the history of this bike. Regardless, it's freaking cool!

An original first gen Yeti headbadge is a rare sight among Yetis these days.

I must admit that the previous owner did a great job putting the kit together for this bike. All I can take credit for are the Cook Bros wheels, GT alloy headset (had a plastic one before) and proper Cook Bros bottom bracket. The rest of the build was done pretty much spot on before I got the bike.

Everyone always asks why there are Easton decals on a steel Yeti. Well, Easton was a big sponsor and development partner with Yeti during those days, and so many race bikes were adorned with Easton decals even before an actual bike using Easton tubing was made.

One of the differences between the very early Yetis and the rest is the wide and low rear brake cable stop. Later Yetis had a narrower cross bar moving the brake cable stop up higher on the seat stays.

Cook Bros hubset rounds out the team inspired build on this particular FRO.

Early Cook Bros dogbone cranks were a common sight among the top end race bikes in the mid 80's.

Although this bike was likely made in 1986 I opted to go with M730 XT instead of the Deerhead group. For one it works better and I hope to ride this bike, and second I imagine that racing teams would have likely upgraded their bikes over the course of the season as new components became available.

Before there was a pulley this is how the Yeti bike 'designers' accomplished top tube cable routing with a bottom pull front derailleur.

The shark decals indicates that this bike was painted by Landshark.

Custom Yeti stem made to work with the BMX sized fork steerer on the early Yeti forks. Contrary to common belief this was not a Cook Bros stem.

All in all there isn't much to not love about this bike. It looks like a race bike and the more I ride it the more it feels like a race bike. It likes to go fast and if you're willing to let go of the brakes and hang onto the bars it's a really solid feeling machine. Though it took me a little while to start feeling comfortable on it, I'm really getting comfortable on it and look forward to putting more miles one the books.