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!

1 comment:

  1. I think they're just as cool as a Cunningham. If 'Manitou' hadn't turned into an OEM suspension manufacturer, I think they'd be more revered.