Monday, October 24, 2016

1991 Doug Bradbury Manitou - April 1991 Mountain Bike Action test bike

If you were anything like me and didn't live in either California or Colorado you probably didn't have much of an opportunity to see a Bradbury Manitou in anything other than the pages of Mountain Bike Action. I still remember reading this exact magazine and dreaming about owning a Manitou. It took nearly 25 years until I got my first Manitou, which has been a cherished bike ever since it landed in my garage. Now an interesting twist of fate has landed the very bike from that 1991 MBA article in my garage. Time to play the lottery!

Original scan of the April 1991 issue of Mountain Bike Action. They nailed it at the end, patience was the key!!!

The same bike was displayed at the 1991 Interbike show

This is what a proper, high end race bike looked like back in the early 90s. "Slack" front ent, 1.5" of plush elastomer driven suspension travel, Grafton brakes, Cook Bros cranks and Shimano XT drivetrain. This really is about as good as it got!!

According to the magazine writeup this was one of the first Manitous made with Easton 7005 series Variolite tubing. I'm not actually convinced that this bike is made entirely from 7005 and actually believe it's mostly 6061 perhaps with 7005 series top and seat tubes. I spoke to Doug about it and while he did recall that there was a transition period when Easton didn't have all the tubing profiles Doug used in his design and so hybrid bikes were made and this could be one of them.

This bike is really unique in that it's one of the only Manitous with a brushed and clear coated finish, one I quite like and may do on one of my personal bikes.

Bike Beat in Orange County was one of the premier bike shops in the country and certainly the Los Angeles. There was a close relationship between MBA and Bike beat and according to Doug many bikes that were sent to MBA for test reviews came back adorned with Bike Beat decals.

This gusset is the only indication that perhaps the top tube and maybe downtube are made of Easton tubing. The traditional 6061 gussets were much larger whereas this one is not as built up and looks like the gussets on the later Easton made bikes.

World Championship stripes were earned by Juli Furtado in 1990 riding her Yeti C-26 with an earlier prototype of this fork!

The fork on this bike is what I refer to as a first generation Bradbury Manitou fork. The most unique aspect of its design rests in the implementation of the offset dropouts, which are of course 115mm wide!!

The features on this bike like the large diameter seat tube with a reducer to 26.8, moving away from a sleeved down tube and the solid plate chainstay to bottom bracket joint are characteristic of a late 1990 and early 1991 frame. I am not 100% sure which number this bike is, but Doug built a bike for Bill at bike Bike Beat in early 1991 which was number 176 and there is note in the build log that indicates that Easton tubing was used after that bike. So, although Doug believes this bike was built only for the test and specifically made to fit Zap from MBA it may have been sent to Bike Beat for assembly and thus recorded that way in the ledger, but there is no way to confirm that. Bike #175 was also annotated with an (EASTON) comment and was logged under Cambria bike (another major bike shop in California.

The bike originally came with a custom anodized Hyperlite bar which was really badly faded so I substituted in a plain silver one.

Another cool touch is the split anodized IRD post. It's not a major thing, and I'm sure you could get it, but it's rather uncommon to see a black post with a silver head or vice versa, it makes the bike stand out just a little bit more.

All the exposed Aluminum on this particular fork were polished to give the bike a little bit of extra appeal.

Grafton brakes, Ringle QRs were common on the early Manitous as Doug, John Grafton and Geoff Ringle had a close working partnership and cross promoted the brands.

Custom modified Shimano XT rear hub to allow Doug to run a dishless, 145mm rear wheel for extra strength. This design became the standard on all Manitous until the end.

Seeing this bike in the flesh is really something else. For me the Manitous have always been a personal journey. I fondly remember reading all the reviews, ordering catalogs and building them in my head, hoping to just see one someday. Well, it took a while but with a little patience and some hard earned cash one eventually became mine!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ride report - 1992 Cunningham Racer

I haven't done a ride report in some time now, so it only seems fitting to kick it back off with something special. 

I've already done the full writeup on this bike and so I'll try to stick to the trails so to speak. But, in the interest of a quick catchup, I acquired this 92 Cunningham #14D back in May of this year and finally got it rebuilt in July. Since that time I've managed to log over 150 trail miles and really feel at home on the bike. Although it really didn't take long to realize that this is a very special bike!

In keeping up with traditions I did the first ride on some vintage tires, in this case a pair of Specialized Ground Control Extreme 2.5s which were the biggest and most bad-ass tires on the market back in the day. That first ride was really just a shakedown and I took it pretty easy to save the tires, still the bike made a strong impression.

A couple more rides and a brand new pair of Onza Canis later that first impression has morphed into a lasting and deep appreciation. This bike is really amazing!!!

The Cunningham is equally at home in tight, rocky singletrack as it is on a fast sweeping fire road. It is extremely versatile and aside from the fear of me screwing up and wrecking a one of a kind bike it really inspires confidence. Every part selected by Charlie to build one of his bikes performs its job with a single minded commitment to performance. Nothing is left to chance.

One of the traits of this bike that took a couple rides to sort out, but now feels like I've always known it is the ease with which weight balance and body movement has a huge, positive impact on handling. I feel like the cornering threshold is much deeper and my degree of confidence in pushing it is also boosted. I'm able to really put some extra lean into it during high speed cornering and really nail the ideal line. I have to give some credit here to the Onza tires, but I have them on a few other bikes in the fleet and haven't felt the same degree of confidence on those bikes, maybe maybe the Merlin or Bradbury. This reminds me that I need to get my Adroit rebuilt as I feel that bike would give the Ham a run for its money and I miss riding it! Tight and twisty sections including switchbacks and rock gardens are maybe not the place where the Cunningham excels above all, but nothing about it makes it feel weak in those circumstances. I find it relatively easy to handle steep approaches to obstacles like tree clearings, climbing out of stream beds and generally speaking picking the bike up and onto ledges. Bottom bracket clearance is ample, I find I rarely scrape the ground with the pedals and consequently don't worry about putting the front tire into tight ruts or rock outcrops.

Having just read the description of the Racer geometry in the Cunningham InfoPac the design intent and description of the bike is fresh in my mind. The one specific element that registered and rings true is the bike's climbing prowess. There are a few punchy climbs on my local trail that often require pushing out of the saddle and here the Ham really shines. Rear tire traction out of the saddle is fantastic and I can comfortably maneuver the bike through the obstacles and power through. Same goes for tight switchback climbs over loose terrain, I find it much easier to negotiate the tight turns without losing momentum and traction.

Even the simple things like the seatpost quick release feel special and work better than any Ringle or Shimano lever you've ever had the pleasure to struggle with.

One of the more common complaints about chainstay mounted roller cam brakes is that they are a mud magnet. Now, I don't really have to deal with mud much, but there are a few stream crossings and sand and gravel are commonplace on the trails I frequent. So, there is definitely ample opportunity to get some dirt and grime into the mechanism, however Charlie's simple mud guard helps minimize the impact of all that contamination onto the cam and the brakes never feel crunchy (unlike my previous Ham).

All in all this has quickly become my go to bike. Thus far there hasn't been a trail that I've thrown at it that really challenged the bike. I really feel a strong sense of satisfaction while out riding and can comfortably settle into a grove where many of the tasks that go into negotiating sections come naturally and without any significant effort, handling becomes effortless and allows me to focus on what is coming up and what I need to be doing. Really the bike becomes and extension of the rider and empowers you to do the best you can armed with the knowledge that the bike won't do anything stupid to jeopardize the process. Now I just have to get confident that I won't do something stupid to screw up the bike, that fear is more poignant on this bike than nearly every other bike in my fleet, maybe excluding the Storm Adroit which I never really ride. So, if nothing else it keeps me in check and ensures that both bike and rider live on to ride another day.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

1990 Bradbury Manitou

The original Manitous made by Doug Bradbury are considered by many to be some of the rarest and most desirable bikes. Among those 300 or so unique bikes he built there are a few standouts, and this little blue bike is one of them. From a production standpoint this bike represents a nearly final evolution of the original generation of his hardtail frames, before moving to Easton and the final run of 1 1/4" frames. This particular frame was one of a batch of 6-10 bikes (most of them built for a Japanese importer) that Doug had painted in a light metallic blue color which makes for a very unique looking bike among the sea of bare Aluminum Manitous out there.

The build is virtually exactly as Doug specified in the 1990 catalog. It includes all of the custom made parts that made these bikes special as well as top of the line components from the boutique manufacturers of the day such as Grafton and Cook Bros Racing. The custom made parts include, a matching rigid fork, 115/145 front and rear hubs (the rear being a unique prototype cassette body equipped hub), custom 1" stem machined from Aluminum billet, a modified front derailleur clamp and a 145mm Cook Bros bottom bracket. Brakes are Grafton Speed Controllers, seatpost is courtesy of IRD, cranks are Cook Bros CBR and the drivetrain is 7-spd Shimano XT.

Doug's custom stem is one of the more unique stems made during the hay day of boutique mountain bike manufacturers.

Modified cable stops

The customary top tube and headtube gussets give these Manitous a beefy and industrial look and contribute to a stiff and planted feel on the trial.

Custom made rear hub featuring an adapted Shimano freehub body and internals grafted onto a classic Bradbury 145mm rear hub. This hub is one of maybe one or two made by Doug as he tried to adapt the new HG cassette from Shimano onto his bikes, this designed ultimately gave way to the modified M732 rear hub which Doug modified to extend from 135mm to 145mm by adding a spacer between the flanges.

This bike is a smaller twin of my 90 Manitou and it's been really fun having two of these blue DBMs in the shop at the same time. I wanted to shoot them both at the same time, but it just wasn't in the cards. In my opinion this bike represents what a Manitou should look like and just like my bigger twin will no doubt be an amazing bike on the trail.