Friday, February 17, 2017

1990 Yeti FRO - ex Joey Erwin race bike

I found out about this particular frame back in 2010 and have been trying to get it ever since. So it's very satisfying to finally see the complete bike take shape and be ready for display or maybe some light trail time. This particular Yeti is no regular FRO, it is the former team bike of Joey Erwin who, first and foremost was a well known Pro racer in the late 80s and early 90s. Aside from his prolific racing career, Joey is also known as Johnny T's training partner and friend. So, it's no surprise that he would not only get to race the famous C-26 but also have a custom whip like this FRO at his disposal.

When I first started this project all I had to go on for the build was a photo of Joey's C-26 which was fully decked out in Campagnolo Euclid. Since then I've found another photo of Joey racing on Rock Shox equipped FRO with Shimano XT. After talking I think that he probably had two FROs with the first one (more of an XC bike) running Campy and the other (more of a DH bike) running Shimano, and ultimately using the DH bike for most of his racing. This is hard to confirm since I have very few photos, but it seems to make sense.

I decided to go the Campy route with this bike, although I have accumulated many of the unique parts required to convert it to the RS-1 rocking bike you can see in the photo above and may redo the build someday. Check out the custom headtube badge ala Tomac!

While largely similar to the FROs you or I could buy at the time, there are a few differences that separate this frame from the others. Probably the most obvious is the custom geometry spec'd for Joey. In speaking with Parker it seems that Joey and his father were quite involved with the intricate detail of his bikes and so it's no surprise that his bike is fully customized to fit him. Other more subtle differences are the Team Cut rear dropouts which were an attempt at weight reduction but ultimately proved to be too expensive. Lastly and definitely not obviously are the huge holes in the headtube and bottom bracket shell where the other main triangle tubes join. They builders at Yeti did all that they could to trim weight and make as fast as possible.

The Yeti package is rounded out with a steel Yeti stem and the now famous Accutrax fork.

Although many people refer to these stems as FTW stems it's a bit of a misnomer. While it's likely that Frank did build some of them, they were basic Yeti stems that could have been made by anyone and weren't specific to Frank. The alloy stems found on some of team bikes (like the Woorley FRO and my C-26) are true FTW stems, fully designed and built by Frank himself. Nothing wrong with a Yeti stem though!

The alternating Black & White YETI Cycles decals were commonly applied to team bikes and the pattern is now a favorite among fans restoring their Yetis.

As I mentioned above I had a couple build options with this bike, but ultimately settled on the campy build similar to the way Juli Furtado ran her FRO as well as many other team members at the time. These components are known more for their flash than their performance but since this is more of a show bike it seemed fine. One of the upgrades that team mechanics did back then was to swap in rear derailleur pulleys out of Shimano XT derailleurs which allowed for some float and improved shifting. While I haven't done it on this bike yet, I may throw them in before shipping it out.

Aside from the clunky shifters the Euclid grouppo is really elegant and fairly easy to setup. The brakes are virtual carbon copies of the M730 cantis and as such work pretty well. The levers are my favorite part of the kit and really feel great!

The hubs are fully serviceable via a grease port in the center of the hub body and are some of the prettiest units in the business.

While it looks like Joey had Fisher Fattrax on his FRO in the pic above he did use Porcs on his C-26 and since Yeti and Porcs go together like Republicans and obstructionism.

These two finger brake levers were the hardest component to find for the build. Unlike their more complicated four finger units these just don't come up very often. I have to say I really like the feel of the arms and the high amount of tension in the return springs. If it weren't for the stupid barrel adjuster that are just seated in the levers and can be lost easily if the cable is removed I'd call these some of the best designed levers of the 1980s.

Yeti, steel and dayglo Yellow - what more can anyone want?

The only original and not restored component on this bike is the front derailleur pulley wheel...

I don't think any could say that the Campagnolo components aren't beautiful. Too bad that the early grouppos just didn't work well. Although I haven't ridden it, I've heard that the Record OR stuff is really good. Too bad that by then nobody cared...

Again, though you can't give them credit for the design the Euclid brakes work great and look even better. I do like the dual side spring tension adjustment, which wasn't available on the Shimano units. I guess you could say a proper design shouldn't need it, but it's nice to have it.  Looks like I need to adjust the NDS brake post... #photosneverlie

Close up of the 'light weigh' Team Cut dropouts. The Team Cut moniker was famously applied to the weight reduction modifications for the Answer Atac stem, but it was first used on these dropouts.

Birds eye view shows you really how much material was removed from the dropouts, it's almost scary, but I've never heard of one failing.

The pièce de résistance of any old steel Yeti team frame is the welded on serial number on the BB shell.

The 1990 FROs carried over many features from the earlier bikes while replacing 1" headtube with 1 1/4" and the Simplex dropouts for the plate style units. It wasn't until 1991 and later that the wishbone received a reinforcing gusset on the drive side, something that another company would do on team frames before production, but not Yeti. The instant they recognized a benefit all of their bikes got it, it was really a from the race track to the garage approach. 

Building a vintage Yeti is sweet... building a vintage Yeti with race provenance is even sweeter! This particular FRO has a been a great project and it's quite possible I may get to do it again in the future. It really has gotten me excited to redo the Juli Furtado ARC and hopefully another cool FRO someday in the future.

Monday, February 13, 2017

1987 Klein Pinnacle "Kleiningham" - Cunningham Approximation

Picture this, it's 1987 and maybe you've been on a waiting list for a Cunningham for some time, or more likely you don't have the money to have Charlie make you a frame. All your friends have the best of steel bikes, but you really want to show them up with this new trend of Aluminum bikes. So, what do you do? You improvise... you buy a brand new Klein Pinnacle, you get Steve Potts to make you one of his famous Type 2 forks and stem, fillet brazed no less and you bejewel the bike with the best that WTB has to offer. The result is what has been affectionately dubbed a Kleiningham. 

This particular bike is interesting from two perspectives, the first is the obvious one and the second is that it's one of the earliest Pinnacles on the books, #12. While there aren't too many unique features between this Pinnacle and another early one it's need to see that one of the first ones on the market would end up with this 'conversion'

While the Pinnacle hasn't earned an aggressive reputation in the history books of Mountain bikes, this one looks particularly rad. Rather than completely restore and polish the frame, repaint the fork and stem I decided to leave the bike's patina intact. In my opinion it really works and gives the bike the appearance of careful use and maintenance. Nothing on the bike was beyond saving and the only replacements made were to improve and complete the original package.

The original build on this bike is largely intact with the only changes coming in the form of a rear WTB Speedmaster roller cam brake and a pair of WTB Classic Grease Guard wheels (which I actually got from Gary Klein many years ago). The rest of the build is pretty much straight Shimano M730 with a 600ex short cage rear derailleur and a Deore front derailleur.

I toyed with  using a pair of Cunningham slo release levers on this bike, but ultimately decided that Shimano XT QRs would do, I suppose a nice pair of Specialized QRs might be a bit better.

The cockpit is pretty busy on this bike. A factor of both a cut down set of IRD Aluminum bars and the extra mounts for the Nightsun team light.

Specialized forged touring cranks received some minor modification to relieve the stress concentration around the transition from the arms to the spider much like most Cunningham or Potts bikes of the era.

The thing that caught my eye about this frame was the crazy large cable stop with the funny hole. That's a feature that was common on early Mountain Kleins, but was ultimately replaced by smaller and sleeker cable stops on later MKs and most Pinnacles. The dropouts appear to almost be handmade, and all the welds are just seem to be smoother than I'm used to, especially for a bare bike.

The Nightsun system is not original to the bike, but I think it looks really awesome and provides an extra bit of

Three downtube cables were common on early Kleins with a chainstay mounted u-brake, but were largely phased out by the late 80s.

Double downtube inlets and a beefy gusset between the downtube and headtube were unique to the early Pinnacles and Mountain Kleins. Personally I really like the execution of the double inlet, it makes the bike stand out from the later Kleins and is not a feature that I've seen on any other bike.

I've been turning out bikes at a rapid clip recently and while I make it a point to not build bikes that I wouldn't want to throw a leg over, lately that just hasn't been an option. In this particular case though I may have to make an exception. Although this Pinnacle is a bit too small for me, I think I can make it work for a short ride and intend to give it a whirl before sending it off to its new home!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

1988 Doug Bradbury Manitou

I've been steadily working my way through the lot of Bradbury Manitou frames and am very happy to get this one off into the hands of a good friend. Although these bikes are not as sophisticated as a Klein or as unique or elegant as a Cunningham, they really hold a special place in my lexicon of vintage mountain bikes. Doug danced to the beat of his own drum and his bikes represent that spirit in both appearance and performance. Unlike most other bikes that come through my shop I do virtually 100% of the restoration (unless repair is required) and so I feel a closer connection to each one that leaves my hands.

Here are a few pics of how I found the bike and the condition it was in. A lot of work went into restoring it and I think the result is particularly impressive.

Although not the worst of them, the frame had a fair amount of oxidization and superficial scratches and scuffs.

All in all I spent many hours working on the frame with sand paper, steel wool and scotch brite pads, followed by some deep polish. Having done a few of these I think I've finally settled on a good balance between too dull and too shiny. These bikes were always a couple notches brighter than a Cunningham but not as shiny as GT Zaskar or maybe a polished Mantis frame. The earlier frames were a bit shiner and received some actual polishing whereas the later ones were just left in their raw form. This bike being a 1988 I felt it should get a relatively high degree of polish.

Damn valve stem!!!

As Doug went along and built his frame the design constantly evolved and changed. Although I can't be 100% certain I strongly feel that this particular bike is from 1988. This is primarily because bike #45 built in 1988 (Link) is virtually identical to this one and Doug built several bikes at a time before making changes. Most of Doug's early bikes had horizontal/rear entry dropouts, box section rear triangle and a small seat tube. As he went along the seat tube diameter got larger, initially with short sections at the BB shell joined to a narrower section at the seat cluster (oversize seatposts weren't yet available). The downtube also featured external butting and this bike already has that feature. One of the distinguishing features of Doug's bikes were the oversize 145mm rear and 115mm front wheel widths. The very early bikes, maybe the first 15 or so were normal sized, but shortly after that (late 87 early 88) Doug started experimenting with the larger widths. The earliest confirmed bike on record to have the oversize setup was #26, which was the 2nd bike built in 1988. I'm nearly certain that it wasn't the first though. That bike (Photo shoot) is a bit earlier than this one as it still has the smaller down tube. Otherwise the bikes are very similar, both still using a 68mm bottom bracket shell, unlike the 90mm used on the later versions. This

I recently got a hold of a very early Bradbury stem which has a much shorter and steeper transition from the quill to the flat portion, the stem on this bike represents the final design for the 1" variety and is the one to have on any early Bradbury Manitou.

I can't say that Doug's welds were the best in the biz, but they got the job done. Afterall there were a lot of irregular junctions on his frames so I guess we can let things slide a bit.

The one odd thing about this bike is the subtle curve in the top tube. I asked Doug about it when I got the frame and he said with a humble shrug, "Yeah, I had some warpage on during heat treating on the early frames"

I have yet to see one of these frames with the 90mm bottom bracket and the box section chainstays. I wonder if there is a missing link frame like that out there somewhere.

Custom rear hub and asymmetrical rear end enable running a dishless rear wheel, a hallmark feature of Doug's design.

Custom made Manitou front hub with 115mm spacing mated to the iconic fork make for a very strong front end. While this bike has a 32 spoke front wheel later bikes used 28 spokes and still stayed true.

One of these days I'd like to do a 2x build on one of these bikes. The one issue I have the wide rear end is that it's very hard to get the chainline properly set such that the front derailleur can still reach the outer ring. I feel like ditching the granny and running a smaller outer and middle ring with a 32t FW would make for a pretty usable bike and mitigate that issue. The problem is lessened on the later bikes with larger seat tubes, but on the early bikes it's a little more pronounced.

I took a bit of poetic license with the Grafton brakes, but they really look great on these bikes!