Sunday, October 14, 2018

1989 Grove Innovations Team Assault

Grove Innovations was never a huge brand, it never attained the popularity of Fat Chance, Potts or Ritchey to name a few. For the most part it remained a regional favorite much like Brave, Ted Wojcik or Off Road Toad. Lucky for me I happened to grow up in that region and have always had an affinity for Groves. Because of that fact I may have looked past what some people consider as quirky designs and have spent considerable time working on and riding Groves. What began as an adolescent interest has matured into an adult appreciation for not only the unique ride and the wild paint jobs but also the craftsmanship and the history behind the people who made these amazing bikes.

This is the first time I've had a Grove Assault and as far as Assaults go this is a pretty cool one. Not only is at a very early frame (#7) but it's an ex-team bike with a custom paintjob only available to factory sponsored racers. The bike as show is for the most part how it was raced back in the 80s and 90s. I've made a couple small changes including installing a pair of Grove Hotrod cranks and swapping black XT components in for the old silver ones.

Unlike the Hard Core which was designed to be a free ride (before that was a think) bike and  the X-Fame while meant to be a traditional riding bike looked anything but, the Assault was the traditional or classic looking and riding bike in the lineup. Employing what was at the time considered race geometry (70 HT, 72.5 ST, 16.75" CS) the Assault was built as an all our race bike.

I've been working on restoring an Assault for myself for some time and the paint job I was trying to achieve just isn't working, so when this bike came across my desk I was very excited. Sadly, though it's just too small and I don't think I can make it work in the long run. That being said I'll focus this post more on the quality of the bike and attempt a ride report when my Assault is complete.

I think that because most people overlook Groves due to the somewhat quirky nature of some of their designs or because those that have them focus so much on the paint few people really take a close look at the quality of the bikes.The construction of each and every Grove was done by a small group of passionate enthusiast and each bike was made by hand. One of the things I learned about Grove at a get together of former Grove employees is that a contributing factor to Grove's ultimate demise was their inability to ramp up production to meet demand. Now I recognize that there are multiple reasons that could have caused that, however after speaking with Bill and Randy they indicated that they just couldn't find enough people who could do the job in a manner they were happy with. Effectively their attention to detail, the degree to which they meticulously combined TIG welding and brazing on each frame was not suitable to a mass production process. One might argue that others were able to do that and prosper (Ritchey comes to mind), however if you pay attention Tom outsourced a lot of his work to Taiwan and only hand built a small portion of his frames. Those foreign built bikes are no slouches but they lack that personal touch that some people really want and apparently the team at Grove was not willing to relinquish. So, in the end Grove faded but luckily not before they made some amazing bikes!

Grove wasn't the first to do top tube cable routing, but I really like the way they split the cables across the two sides, it's not as cluttered and gives it a bit more balanced look, not to mention the impact on weight distribution <G>

I'm also partial to the forward facing seat post binder, keeping the binder within the boundaries of the main triangle looks more attractive to me and I don't know whether it's a placebo but I feel like I don't rub against the QR lever as much in this orientation.

Rear triangle includes an elegant brake bridge and stiffener bar. Cable routing is fairly clean (assuming I've done it properly) and overall things are pretty tidy and clean.

The Grove Hot Rod cranks are one of my favorite vintage mountain bike components. Unlike the Bullseye cranks, which while cool looking these are actually functional. Apparently Bill actually designed the two piece cranks before Roger Durham of Bullseye, but his design was superior. Not only did the Grove cranks employ a functional sealed cartridge bearing set (2 pers size) but rather than use a spline on the mating side for the loose crank arm he employed a machined triangular interface which enabled easy alignment of the arm and a kept it from shifting under load. I'm planning a dedicated post on these sometime in the future.

Love love the uniqueness of the crackle effect on these Hammerheads. These paint compounds are no longer available and for the most part achieving these types of finishes is a lost art.

Though it's just an add on decal, the Team moniker makes the bike standout. As far as I can tell the decal and the paintjob are the only differentiating factors of this Assault from one you or I could have bought back then.

The Assault is exactly what I think a vintage mountain bike should look like. So, while Grove Innovations never attained the mainstream population that brands like Fat Chance or Merlin enjoyed their bike should not be thought of as lesser in any way. In my opinion, ounce for ounce they posses all the quality and capability of virtually any competitive bike on the market at the time. While I haven't really given this bike a proper off road trial, at first blush it appears to be a fun and responsive bike and I'm looking forward to more saddle time to really get to know the bike.


  1. Great information here :) I would love one of those bikes... Only if I could get one over here, also prices seems to be on a high end. Anyways, I'm going to spend a few afternoons reading your blog.

    Thank you!