Sunday, August 18, 2019

1992 Grove Innovations Assault

Grove Innovations are mostly known for their shall we say more unconventional bike designs. In my experience most people tend to bring up notions of heavy, overbuilt or quirky bikes like the Hard Core or X-frame when discussing the brand. If you've read any of my previous posts you may have caught that the Hard Core is one of my favorite bikes, though I can't deny that it does take some getting used to and it's not the lightest bike by any stretch. Unlike a lot of vintage bike collectors, I'm not a big subscriber to the "Steel is Real" motto and tend to prefer Aluminum and Titanium bikes for my style of riding. That being said I've been trying some more of the ferrous made bikes recently, with mixed results. Building on my affinity for Grove and my desire to try a more conventional design I set my sights on finding an Assault. Although I could wax poetic (and have) about the craftsmanship, innovative design or the hometown angle as the main reasons why I love Groves, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the paint jobs. Groves had among the wildest and most outrageous paint jobs of the late 80s and early 90s. While I've had many Groves pass through my hands, for some reason the ones that were in my size were more subtle. So, as I set out to find an Assault I really wanted one of those wild ones. Unfortunately I couldn't seem to find one in my size and in a cool color, so I nabbed the first one in my size and decided to make it my own.

I found this Assault frame in Florida back in 2015 or so when a fellow mountain bike collector  picked it up in trade and didn't really know what it was. He reached out to see if I could help identify it and we got to talking. The original color was long gone and although the fuselage was complete, it was painted rattle can green and devoid of any decals. We figured out it was an Assault but as it was too big for him and after some horsetrading I picked it up for a fair price. As usual personal projects end up taking a back burner and it wasn't until around 2018 that I finally decided to get this bike repainted and built up. I originally wanted a Neon Solar System Grove and so started working with Ollie from Dark Matter Finishing on recreating that paint job. Turns out the crackle effects have chained over the years making the task of faithfully duplicating the original nearly impossible. So, Ollie and I decided to change course and went for broke with neon fades and splatter. The result is nothing short of amazing and I think one of the coolest bikes I've ever had!

I saw this paint job on an early Hard Core and really fell in love with it. There is so much going on, but it all works, well at least in my opinion. This Assault features the full complement of Grove Innovation parts including an Assault unicrown fork, Hammerhead bar/stem combo and Hot Rod cranks featuring an externally greasable reactor core bottom bracket. As was the custom in those days this frame includes a pair of painted to match Specialized water bottle cages. 

The split top tube cable routing is a unique feature on the Assault model and reminiscent of the very early Yetis.

If you've been following my builds for a while you've probably noticed that I am fairly formulaic and tend to swim a fairly narrow lane in terms of component selection. For the most part I'm partial to Shimano and then tend prefer the M730/735 7-spd XT or the M900 XTR groups. That being said, I've wanted to do a Suntour build for some time (last time I used suntour was on the 1991 Potts CCR) and was planning on doing so with my 1994 Phoenix, but complications with compatibility made that impractical. I've been sitting on this near NOS XC-Pro MicroDrive grouppo for a little while now and decided to use it on this bike. Aside from a short term setback in the form of non MD compatible Hot Rod cranks (new spider in production at the time of the first post) it all came together nicely and should make for a fun bike. I really like Suntour and the XC-Pro group is really amazing. I particularly like the ergonomics and the feel of the shifters. The brakes are nothing to write home about, but get the job done adequately well. This particular set is an early version and does not feature Self Energizing rear brakes. This group was Suntour's first to feature the Grease Guard system which Suntour licensed from WTB and really makes overhauls very simple. Given I'm using Grove cranks I wasn't able to use the Suntour BB and in the end decided to forego Suntour's headset in lieu of a stylish Chris King 2Nut. So, that leaves hubs and pedals as the only GG enabled components carried on. In keeping up with how most Grove's that left The Bicycle Shop in State College the rims, tires and toe clips are Specialized and grips are Oury. IRD seatpost and Selle Italia Turbo saddle round out the build.

Small touches like forward facing seat binder, sculpted seat tube nicely complement the svelte brake bridge and brake stop and make for a tidy seat cluster. As with nearly every Grove made the welds are just gorgeous and practically invisible.

As I built this bike I realized that there were several versions of Hot Rods and this appears to be one of the later styles with a grease port integrated into the axle on the drive size. Earlier version had a hollowed out axle with an insert that served as grease port, while the first generation simply had a hollow axle. The Reactor Core bottom bracket features double bearings on each side and unique triangular interface between the spindle and non drive side crank arm. These really are some of the coolest two piece cranks ever made and in my opinion far superior to the much more popular Bullseye cranks.

Matching water bottle cages FTW!! Now I just need some Grove branded water bottles.

I have a bit of tuning to do and am still waiting on a MD compatible spider for the Hot Rods before getting this thing dirty. A quick ride around the neighborhood confirms the bike is a good fit and seems to be pretty comfortable. A ride review will be coming shortly!

1 comment:

  1. I remember when these came out. I always liked their design. I love Suntour's stuff from back in the day... Except for the brakes. Those self energizing/ Penderson brakes never did get along too well with the muddy Louisiana trails. The cranks are bad ass. A lot like the Tioga design in many ways. Bearing seals back then weren't great which meant disassembling Shimano and repacking more often that I liked. The WTB grease guard design was a blessing until reliable cartridge bearing became available. This was always a dream build for me... Enjoy!