Monday, July 30, 2018

1988 Bradbury Manitou

One of the bigger draws in restoring vintage mountain bikes is getting to know a builder through his or her work. It is why I like to focus my work on smaller, custom builders where each and every bike represents a specific design unique in some element(s) and which when placed along a time line marks an evolutionary step in their thought process. Among such builders Doug Bradbury is one of my favorites and his bikes are major focus of my restorations.

This particular bike was built around 1988, probably the later part of the year. Doug started making bikes for customers in 1987 and only made 24 bikes that year and another 27 in 1988. During that time he experimented with different tubing, gusset design and methods of joining the rear and front triangles. The earliest bikes had a chaninstay designed that strongly resembled the Mountain Klein and which looked like a combination of two flat U shaped sections welded into a single piece which joined the bottom bracket shell and then mates to the chainstays. This bike is the next iteration of that concept which uses box sections to form the chainstays and then welds directly onto the bottom bracket shell.

The gussets on this frame still follow the early design of tall on the top enabling a taller head tube and a flatter one on the bottom at the down tube to head tube interface.

Of the obvious evolving elements that can be seen on the early Manitous is the transition to a larger seat tube. The earliest bikes had a constant diameter 1 1/4" seat tube which over time transitioned to 1 1/2". If you put a select few 1988/89 Manitous in line you could see that 1 1/5" tube almost growing up from the bottom bracket until it spanned the entire seat tube with a necked down portion above the top tube to accommodate the 26.8mm post as the larger 31.6mm posts used in later bikes were not yet available. These seat tube transitions were at first accomplished by splicing the two different diameter tubes together with a welded junction. As I've mentioned before in another writeup these junctions were a stress riser in the frames and a common failure point. This frame had a minor crack at this junction which was expertly repaired by FTW.

Keeping things stiff at the bottom bracket junction was obviously a major concern as evidenced by the almost 2" diameter externally butted down tube and square stays. These bikes had very little lateral flex in the BB under load.

Keeping things sorted at the front was Doug's segmented fork with a 115mm front hub resulting in very precise steering yet still relatively compliant and comfortable on longer rides. I've done a few 20+ mile rides on my old 90 DBM and never felt like I was getting tired of the rigid fork.

Although the hubs appear to be widened Bullsyes they were actually hand made by Doug and his crew especially for his bikes. The common setup on these bikes was 28h in the front and 32h in the rear. The wide hubs made for stronger wheels and enabled even heavier riders to comfortably use lower spoke counts without sacrificing strength and durability.

Though Doug wasn't known for experimenting with drivetrain I did find a few photos among old archives that showed a couple bikes running a wide rear ratio with a 2x front. So for this bike I decided to try that with a 13-32 rear freewheel and a 32/40 front on a Shimano 6206 crankset. I haven't had a chance to try this in the dirt, but in theory and with some tweaking this could be a fun setup.

Though crude at first glance this design is nothing but efficient and appropriate for the task it was meant to perform. There are no flourishes and not much in the way of elegance, the welds are on the rough side. All of that however doesn't do anything to diminish the way these bikes look and more importantly they way they ride. By the time this and the later bikes were made they were much more than trials bike and turned into very capable mountain bikes. Their roots were still in technical riding, but Doug's experience over the years resulted in a well rounded design that could tackle most terrain with light footed surety.

These bikes are really pretty amazing pieces of mountain bike history. They represent a spirit of freedom and adventure, and are built with a degree of performance that enabled the lucky few who had a chance to buy one access to the outdoors and to ability to partake in that adventure. Personally the Bradbury Manitou is one of my favorite bikes and I consider myself infinitely lucky to have found one in my size and appreciate each and every outing I have on it.

Monday, July 2, 2018

1992 Yeti ARC "Noah's ARC"

Just when I thought I was getting tired of Yeti ARCs this really early bike fell in my lap. I found it via Auburn Bike Co where the previous owner brought it in to try and get it up and running, but found the frame cracked in multiple places and so it nearly and nearly threw it away. I managed to virtually rescue the bike from the scrap heap and set out to come up with a suitable build.

Both the head tube and seat tube suffered from critical failures rendering the bike essentially useless. I wasn't sure it was worth saving until I noticed that the serial number was A127 which designates this as the 27th Yeti ARC ever made and one of the earliest I've ever seen. So off to FTW and a few months later a fresh and clean frame arrived back at my shop.

I hadn't done many gray and turquoise ARCs in the past years and most of the ones I did were in good enough shape that they didn't need restoration. Unlike the yellow and turquoise bikes which are completely powder coated the gray on this bike is actually the bare Aluminum after a very light bead blast with a coat of clear powder. It took a little while to perfect but the folks at the original Spectrum Powder Works nailed it and the frame returned to good as new condition.

I wanted to do something slightly different for this bike and also keep it kind of subtle. So when the right opportunity to put a cool build together came up I came up with what I think is a pretty awesome build. I could have done a lot more 3DV and made the bike all racy, but I really like the subtle flash of color here and think it all really goes together quite well. I've never done a fully rigid ARC as most of them came spec'd with a Manitou fork so this was also something different. I have to say I like the Accutrax on there, something I wasn't initially really sure of. I've seen one or two race pics of Yeti riders using a dayglo yellow Accutrax so I figured it was legit.

A matching team cut A-TAC stem and Hyperlite bar are more or less the only reasonable option for a self respecting ARC. If anyone tells you otherwise you have my permission to strip them of their vintage MTB credentials.

For the splash of performance and color I went with Grafton speed controller brakes and early Ringle Bubba hubs with matching quick releases. I have a love hate relationship with Grafton brakes. I find that they work well in certain combinations of brake spacing and hub width. Specifically they work best in whatever combination results in the smallest difference between those two, i.e. on wide rims. Such is the case on this bike which is running Mavic 261 Ceramic rims which end up creating a sweet spot in terms of tuning these brake for optimal performance. By this I simply mean I can seat the pads half way in the eye bolts and still keep the arms shy of being vertical when at full lock. Often times if the rim is too narrow the pads have to be just barely in the eye bolts in order to get them to the rims at full lock, or you end up having to get the arms almost past vertical at which point they lose all leverage and modulation.

The Ringle Bubba hubs were some of the first components driving the anodized craze and were some of the hottest hubs on the market in those early days of CNCd components. They are quite stylish and light, but are prone to cracking, especially as they age.

Like I said previously, I had never built a rigid ARC and had some reservations at first, but I came away thinking it looked pretty damn good and would consider it as an option on my personal bike if/when I rebuild it again.

Really proud of this stem... can't you tell?

It may be a bit cliche, but it literally is true so there!

Once again straying form the norm and taking a cue from the 92 Yeti catalog I went with some Cook Bros RSR cranks. Cook cranks along with Bullseye were a staple of the Yeti team in the 80s, but by the early 90s Yeti had more or less run whatever cranks Shimano (or Campy for a brief stint) gave them, then by 93-94 they were running Graftons almost exclusively.

There aren't too many differences between this bike and later first generation ARCs, that is ones that have straight stays. I refer to ARCs with curved stays as 2nd generation. This bike has slightly beefier welds, cable stops are a little bit different as is the brake bridge, all just a bit less finished. I feel like the head tube extends a bit more above and below the welds to the top and down tubes and the seat tube is a bit shorter above the top tube. All very subtle details. Unlike the Johnny O'Mara ARC this bike has the regular production cable stops and a full on dart paintjob making me wonder if it maybe went in for a repaint at some point in time and received the upgraded cable stops at the same time, no way to know.

Onza Porcs and Panaracer Smokes were the winning combination and seen on many Pro's bikes in the early 90s.

I love the loop stays, it's such a unique feature that represented an entire brand and in my opinion nowhere was it cooler than on an ARC.

Aside from the Furtado ARC and my personal bike this will likely be the last ARC I build for some time. I have to admit that I'm a bit torn about that, I've enjoyed building these bikes and they are my favorite Yetis (the ARC is only Yeti I've kept) but I was getting a bit tired of the formulaic builds. Which is why this bike was a breath of fresh air and a nice way to go out.