Friday, March 1, 2013

The Bikes In My Head, Part 1: Nuovo-Retro MTB

One of the ways I drag my way through the long, cold drudgery of a Midwestern winter is to come up with bikes that I would build and own if I didn't have a full garage and empty wallet. Normally, I leave these things in my head (they keep the voices company), but with this winter packing extra drudgitude, I thought I'd spit out a few for your (questionable) entertainment. If you're looking for someone to blame, that would be Pal Scott of fivetoedsloth fame, whose recent Reality Bites revamp of the One Bike concept got me thinking about stuff that would be fun to build.

The first project for my garage-without-limits would be a classic fully rigid mountain bike (like the ones we rode "back in the day"), only built entirely from stuff available off the shelf here in ought-thirteen. Why? Well, because. It's a thought exercise -- logic need not apply.

The core of the beast would be a 26"-wheeled Surly Long Haul Trucker frame/fork. Sure, Surly makes actual MTB frames for 26" wheels, but they're modern MTBs with suspension-adjusted geometry, super-low top tubes, and (shudder) disc tabs. To get the true old-school feel, you need a low bottom bracket, long chainstays, and cantilevers. The Trucker has all that. My first concession to ought-thirteen will be the threadless steerer, only because one of the things I hated back in the day was a threaded headset rattling itself loose, and having to finger-tighten that locknut in the field every five minutes because I wasn't packing a headset wrench.

So let's hang some parts on this bad boy:
  • Bottom Bracket: Shimano square taper. Looks like the XT-level UN72 no longer exists, so I'll settle for UN54.
  • Cranks: Sugino XD. Pretty classic-looking 110/74 triple. 24-36-46 rings.
  • Derailleurs: This is tough, since 2013 derailleurs are so dang ugly. If silver Deore is still around, I'll take those -- nice workhorse parts. Otherwise, it looks like there's an LX "trekking" group in silver that could do the trick. Tie 'em together with a SRAM chain since it's the direct descendant of Sachs.
  • Wheels: Sun CR-18 rims, silver, 36 spokes, laced to some flavor of silver Shimano cassette hubs. This is my second concession to modernity, since I was a serious axle-bender back in the day. Put a 9-speed 11-34 Shimano cassette on there, for reasons to be explained later.
  • Rubber: Ohmygawd, Panaracer still makes the Smoke and Dart in 26 inch. That was easy. (Runner-up would be the Specialized Ground Control, though they seem to have modernized that one. Alas, Onza Porcupines are vaporware.)
  • Pedals: Flat, obviously. Generic brand Dimension has a "Pro" model that looks like a faithful copy of the old SR Lowfat. Two-prong Zefal nylon toeclips (and toestraps, obviously) are still available, too.
  • Brakes: Tektro wide-profile cantilevers, silver. Because real men had calf scars from rear brakes that stuck out, dangit.
  • Seating: Silver post of some sort, matters not. The WTB SST isn't quite as classic as the rest of my build, but my tushie likes it. And it is a relatively old design. If you really need to avoid anachronism, Selle San Marco still makes the Rolls and Regal, and it looks like Selle Italia has a reissued Turbo.
  • Controls: IRD thumbshifters, 9-speed indexed (which explains the 9-speed cassette). Not totally old-school, but my '87 MTB had click-shifters, so I'm allowing it. Shimano still makes a silver brake lever for cantis, so that's in. Flat bar, natch. Grips? ODI still makes the MTB version of their Mushrooms, or there's the tried-and-true Grab-on foam. I'm disqualifying Ourys because the fixie kids have taken them over.
So there you go: One late-80s mountain bike, built entirely of 2013 parts. What would I do with such a thing? I'd like to say that I'd school the full-suspension kids on the local trails, showing them how we did it in preshistoric times. It's more likely, however, that I'd endo almost immediately, blow out a shoulder, and my much-wiser, loving spouse would sell the bike while I was still addled by painkillers to prevent me from doing any more damage.


Scott Loveless said...

The bottom bracket on the LHT is way too low for stump jumping and rock hopping. (See what I did there?) Perhaps the XOXO might be a better place to start.

Pondero said...

Judging by how much I like where you've gone with this (plus Scott's suggestion), there's no question of my retrogrouchiness. I don't feel grouchy. Maybe I'm just old.

Jason T. Nunemaker said...

Scott, I'm decidedly "meh" on high BBs for any sort of riding, dirt or otherwise. I'll risk the occasional pedal and/or chainring strike (which builds technique and/or character and/or scar tissue) to avoid having a bike that rides like a pogo stick.

The XOXO is kinda neat, but something about the idea doesn't smell right to me. The guy who designed the original XOs is still alive and making bikes -- so where does Handsome get the right to make a new one? Sure, it's not a copyrighted/original design, but it still feels like they're trying to make money on someone else's work.

Maybe they got Grant P's blessing, though, in which case, I'm just blowing smoke as usual.

Scott Loveless said...

I have no idea if they got Grant's blessing, but they did get Gene Oberpriller to ride one in a race last year. So there. Ha. Or something. Anyway, the last of GP's XO-1-like bikes were probably the Riv All-rounders. If he were still making them, I might agree with you.

Ben said...

We (Handsome Cycles) have a history with Bridgestone, Grant and Gene. Handsome was created at The Alt Bike and Board in Mpls. The Alt was one of Bridgestone's best dealers in the early 90's. The Alt was started by Handsome co-founder Jesse's dad in the 70's. Gene ran the shop in the early 90's. And when we had the idea of doing a XO-1 tribute bike our first call was to Grant to see what he thought of the idea. He knew we were from The Alt and thought it was a killer idea. That's the of the XO. Not a ploy to trade on GP's work but a tribute the man who made us want to make bikes in the first place. Feel free to email us with any questions.

Jason T. Nunemaker said...

Ben, thanks so much for your comment -- I (happily) stand corrected regarding the XOXO. Glad to hear that your homage has the Grant P. seal of approval.

As an ex-catalog copywriter, I'm not sure I'd call it a "piece of history" -- that seems to imply an actual historical artifact (like the original XO-1s still floating around) rather than an homage. But that's just one word nerd getting up on his high horse.

At the end of the day, you've given more people the chance to see what all the fuss was about regarding the XO-1 without having to battle collectors on Ebay, and that's a good thing in my book.

Plus, I'm a sucker for orange bikes.    :-)