Friday, January 27, 2017

1988 Yeti FRO - Russell Worley race bike

It's been a little while since my last post, so why not get back into things with this awesome Yeti. The bike is question is a 1988 Yeti FRO, formerly raced by Pro Russell "The Muscle" Worley. This was Russ's 2nd or maybe even third bike, hard to know for sure. One thing that is for sure is that he raced it hard, as evidenced by the high degree of patina, cracked fork (his second on this bike) and general wear and tear on the parts.

First, let's start off with some pic of Russell racing the bike back in the 80s

Early in the season, lining up next to none other than his future team mate John Tomac. Notice the matching blue fork!

Another shot from early on in the season of Russ doing speed training in CA.

Action shot from another race, still running the blue fork

Out riding with Tinker on his Yeti build General. Either a training ride or maybe shooting an ad for Etto Helmets...

The add I mentioned earlier, I guess since here Russ is wearing a black helmet and the fork also looks black, the photo from above was used in the ad.

The story of the bike after it left Russ and Yeti isn't clear, but somehow it wound up on eBay in 2013/2014. Due to the condition of the bike, it sat for several sales cycles before finally getting snagged up by a collector how felt the bike deserved to be brought back to life. It sat in a box for a few more years before finding its way to my shop for an overhaul.

Here is a quick pic from the eBay auction

Plus a couple more after I first pulled it out of mothball to start the restoration

The goal of the restoration was to preserve the original condition and race patina, while getting the bike operational again and replacing some worn and probably incorrect parts that were probably swapped later on by the new owner or whoever. In doing so I didn't do anything other than clean,, repack bearings, refurbish broken parts like grips and cables/housing. As much of the original bike was saved as possible.

All in all the bike cleaned up rather nicely. From 10-15 feet away it actually looks pretty good. Up close you can see that the stress of racing and 20 years of storage haven't been very kind to it, but that's how it is. All that aside it still looks like a sick racing machine and has lots of stories to tell!

These old FROs really look great from any angle, in my opinion they really epitomize the NORBA racing scene in the late 80s!

The "Team Shrew" decal is a rare bird. Having one on your bike meant that John Parker thought of you not only as a friend but rather family. Very few people/bikes got them back in the day, and even fewer have them today.

The Achille's heel of this any many other bikes from the era, Bullseye cranks. They look so good, and had so much potential but it took another 15 years and the might of Shimano and other modern day companies to fully realize. What they offered in stiffness and I guess relative weight reductions they suffered two fold in bearing quality and durability. These here are no exception.

Running your cables on the top tube meant innovative solutions to running a bottom pull front derailleur. Before they came up with the pulley many companies added a cable stop to the arm of the front derailleur and used the housing to push it down while anchoring the cable to the frame as seen below. It wasn't elegant and to keep the housing moving you had to give it some ample length, which often interfered with the rear tire.

Hallmark of all of the early FROs were the Simplex dropouts, later replaced by custom made plate style dropouts.

I have to admit that I almost bought this bike for the stem alone, but in the end I couldn't really bring myself to split the bike and so it went to another collector. These Aluminum FTW stems are really special. Frank made relatively few of them and very few racers got them, even fewer made it out into the public. It is really something to behold and in my opinion one of the coolest vintage stems around. Frank is still around and will make you one if you ask him nicely!!

One thing I haven't been able to figure out is who made these blue bars. There are no labels on them and I've been tying to track one down for my C-26 replica, anybody know?

The cockpit is simple and purposeful, only thing that sets it apart is the crazy snorkel guiding the front brake cable into the stem.

The FTW stem and Bullseye cranks weren't the only trick components on this bike. Check out the early carbon fiber seat post. Yeah, I said carbon fiber, in 1988!!! Really, it's a thin Aluminum post with a carbon wrap, but it laid the ground work for companies like Enve and others today.

The head is bonded into the aluminum shaft, I'm sure they did lots of cycle testing on that! :)

Lots of wear on the carbon due to frequent removal and re-insertion, or maybe it just kept slipping down...

The headset on this bike cracks me up!!! As built originally these Yetis used BMX sized headsets and fork steerer tubes (as evidenced by the lower cup). At some point Russ broke the original fork and Yeti must have replaced it with a new one. However at that point in time they moved to standard MTB 1" setups and had to adapt the fork to work with the BMX headset (you can see the silver steel adapter pressed onto the fork) to work with the smaller size lower race.

The top was switched over to a modern Specialized headset which had the lock nut machined to remove the lip because the steerer was too tall and I guess they didn't have any spacer. See photo below of how it was originally assembled.

In the end I only made a small fix by adding a spacer and leaving the rest in tact, just with grease on the bearings this time...

One of the main changes made to the bike was the addition of Bullseye wheels. As found it had some Deore wheels which I do not believe Russ would have run BITD. I had a nice pair of Bullseye hubs with some decent patina and matched them up with Mavic M6 Oxygen rims. Hard to know what Russ would have run back then, but he did seems to have black rims so this feels like a good combination.

Patina, patina everywhere you look it's more patina. It gives the bike a certain amount of charm I think.

All in all this was a great project, while the bike doesn't work all that well. I did what I could for the Bullseye bearings but left to their own devices they barely complete one full revolution if you spin them without load. Otherwise everything else functions and I may throw a leg over it before sending it on. I know the owner of the bike wants to see this bike in the MBHoF, and will work hard to make it happen. What do you think?