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  1. #1
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    Bike ID and Biopace crank

    Bought this bike in 1989 in Burlington, Vt. As I recall the guy said it was imported from the west coast. It is a MS Comp XT crosstrainer with a Biopace crank, Shimano Exage Mtn Brake levers, shifters, and derailleurs. It has Tange tubing. The Kenda tires (not original) are 26 x 1.95 and I think that is the width of the orginals. I have never been able to find any reference to a bike company called MS. The closest I can find is a Malvern Star but in any pics it is spelled out fully, not initialized. For some reason I had it in my head it was a Maxwell Smith, but the paperwork says nothing but MS. Any ideas about what this creature may be before I dump some money into it?
    I have an inoperable knee injury. I have been doing well on my Giant FCR4 road bike and would like to expand to some packed dirt riding on fire roads etc., no stump jumping for me! My LBS says an elliptical crank is bad for me, but most of what I read on the web says the Shimano Biopace, because the crank is alligned opposite from most ellipticals, did not cause knee injuries. It is just that it may not have been all that it was cracked up to be in the performance dept. As I said, high performance is not an issue, given my injury. I just want to keep active and avoid further injury. It seems like if the bike was going to injure me it would have in 19 years. I want to change the left shifter, which is not original, and does not perform well, but they are telling me they need to replace the whole drive chain. Any ideas from you pros?
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  2. #2
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    Another MS pic

    I'm not sure "reply" is what I wanted to do to my own post but wanted to put up more than one pic and it would not let me. This is my first time at a forum so there's a learning curve. I have several < 100mb pics but the total may have to be 100 mb. Here's a full shot of the MS Comp XT bike. Oh wait, maybe it is going to let me do multiples this time.
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  3. #3
    Freewheel Medic pastorbobnlnh's Avatar
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    Hi and welcome to C&V. Glad you came along.

    I have no idea who made your bike but it looks to be a solid late '80s MTB. Don't worry about the BioPace. I've ridden them a little and I can't imagine they would cause further injury to your knee. Your LBS is just trying to sell you a new crankset or bike. If you don't like the "feel" of the BioPace, you can always buy new chainrings. I had a similar crankset and I believe it took 110 bcd sized rings and a 74 bcd granny. But you can check yours.

    My only suggestion is pure opinion. I don't find the straight or nearly straight MTB bars comfortable. I recently built up a Marin Muirwoods of about the same vintage with fully swept back bars. This might be too much for you. Last summer I took a less radical approach with my '03 C-Dale. In both cases I found the new bars significantly more comfortable. Best of luck.

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  4. #4
    Senior Member TromboneAl's Avatar
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    I rode a bike with biopace chainrings recently, and didn't notice any difference at all. I usually notice things like that, so the difference must be pretty subtle.

    Note that if you decide to go to round chainrings, it's a simple matter to unscrew the five bolts that hold the chainrings on and replace them.
    My Book: Drive, Ride, Repeat: The Mostly-True Account of a Cross-Country Car and Bicycle Adventure

  5. #5
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    Hey Binky,

    First of all, I don't know anything about your MS bike.

    As to the cranks... Biopace rings have been out of fashion for many years now, and though there is a bit of a resurgence of poplurity now, they are still widely loathed. I, personally, like them; but that is neither nere nor there. At any rate the difference is very subtle indeed. My guess is they are more likely to be good for your knees than bad; but what do I know. When researching them your first order of business has to be to separate the logic behind them from Shimano's marketing; always try to determine the writer's prejudice.

    I would also advise you to do some reading on crank arm length; some people recommend shorter crank arms for those with knee injuries. Again, determine the writer's prejudice before you make any conclusions: I, for example, am a big proponent of short crank arms for every rider, so you'll find many posts in which I advocate them, but I don't know the specifics of your case and I'm not a doctor anyway. That said, your old MTB probably has 175 mm crank arms, which are appropriate for serious off-road riding but are not necessary for riding on smooth flat surfaces. If you're going someplace where you're likely to get bogged down in sand or mud, you may want them; but on fire roads etc. you would be better off with shorter crank arms.

    At any rate, I suggest you take the question of crank arm length seriously. With shorter crank arms your knee joint doesn't open or close quite as far, so if the problem in your knee is at one of the extremes, then shorter arms might help a lot -- but consult your doctor. Oh, and... by shorter crank arms I mean much shorter crank arms. 5 mm makes very little difference. You may be able to get something as much as 35 mm shorter than what you have now, which would make a noticable difference.

  6. #6
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    I, too, cannot positively identify the bike. But it does look similar to ones offered by Nashbar back around 1985-6. And some did, in fact, come outfitted with the Shimano Biopace chainrings. I had one I bought in 1984 that was so outfitted. I doubt they would put more strain on your knees that a "normal" chainring. Might even be less. I'd suggest simply trying them yourself, though.

    I, for one, was quite surprised when the Biopace cranksets were withdrawn from the market. I liked them - they helped make you go a bit further & faster, for the same amount of energy expended, than you would otherwise. My bike was my local beater, and I loaned it out to many friends who needed a bike - like for losing their license due to a fascist police department that ruled our town back then. They all very much liked them, too.
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

  7. #7
    Senior Member TromboneAl's Avatar
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    My bike was my local beater, and I loaned it out to many friends who needed a bike - like for losing their license due to a fascist police department that ruled our town back then. They all very much liked them, too.
    Biopace -- preferred by anti-fascists everywhere!
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  8. #8
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
    Biopace -- preferred by anti-fascists everywhere!


    Actually the cops were riding Cannondale Mtn. bikes back then on the newly developed bike-path in the town. We all took delight in running those fat slobs off the path. As well as letting them try to catch up with us (never could).
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

  9. #9
    Senior Member Bill Kapaun's Avatar
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    I've got a bad knee and like the Bio Pace.
    My problem is that it doesn't bend as far as it should. You may have a different problem, such as it doesn't extend fully.

    Supposedly, the BP slows the leg movement down at the 6 & 1`2 o' clock positions.
    My cranks were also too long, so my knee would run out of its range of motion and I'd start bending at the hip to get that last little bit "over the top". That was "stealing" power from the other leg.
    With the inertia of the entire leg going up, it wanted to continue going up and my foot would come off the pedal at about 68 RPM!

    As mentioned, crank arm length is also a major factor. Probably more than BP or not-
    5mm difference was like a FOOT to me!
    I've since discovered that you can also go too short. (160's were too short)

    I started a thread about this that should be of interest. I think you can gain some insight from my personal experience. You'll have to wade through a bunch of "Duh, I couldn't tell the difference so it doesn't matter" type replies.

    Are Your Cranks Too Long?
    Last edited by Bill Kapaun; 01-24-09 at 06:31 PM.

  10. #10
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    I still have a set - 26, 36, 48T - in good shape on an old Nashbar. I think I'll pull it and clean it up. See what it does now. Hasn't been ridden in 17 years. I wonder if there is a market for these things - if I don't keep 'em myself.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member Bikedued's Avatar
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    I like Biopace, and do notice the difference right off when I ride a bike with round rings. Just as the crank reaches the power stroke where you would feel the most effort, it just releases, and feels almost like the backside of the pedal stroke. IE: Much less perceived pedaling effort in my experience. I have them on a couple of my nicest bikes as standard equipment. Namely my 88 Cannondale MTB with Deore XT, and the Trek 520 I recently acquired. I actually like it, but I'm not sure I understand why many people hate them so much?,,,,BD

    And yeah, looks like a good solid bike that just needs an overhaul, and maybe a shifter?

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    Senior Member Bikedued's Avatar
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    pastorbob, how did you manage to get that bike out in the snow without getting any on the tires? I know it's a lightweight, but c'mon?,,,,BD
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  13. #13
    Freewheel Medic pastorbobnlnh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bikedued View Post
    pastorbob, how did you manage to get that bike out in the snow without getting any on the tires? I know it's a lightweight, but c'mon?,,,,BD
    I pick it up in the garage and carry it to its photo opportunity location! No need to expose any of my bikes to any unneeded moisture.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member Grim's Avatar
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    I just recently got a bike (89 SR600 C-Dale) with Biopace cranks and I can tell a difference in the way it peddles over my other bikes. I don't hate it at all. Still trying to get the bike dialed in but like BikeDued said it does seem to make the motion more fluid as the moment arm changes to match what you leg is capable of producing at a given angle.
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  15. #15
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    Yes - there is no "dead-zone" in the pedaling revolution. It's all direct energy transfer. You go a little further and a little faster for the same effort. I liked them back yonder.
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

  16. #16
    Death fork? Naaaah!! top506's Avatar
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    Long time Biopace fan here. I's a big help getting shot knees over NE hills.
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  17. #17
    Freewheel Medic pastorbobnlnh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by top506
    I's a big help getting... over NE hills.
    Anything which helps my ole muscles lift me over these New England hills is a big plus! Can you ride behind me and push?
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  18. #18
    Senior Member Gotte's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pastorbobnlnh View Post
    Hi and welcome to C&V. Glad you came along.

    I have no idea who made your bike but it looks to be a solid late '80s MTB. Don't worry about the BioPace. I've ridden them a little and I can't imagine they would cause further injury to your knee. Your LBS is just trying to sell you a new crankset or bike. If you don't like the "feel" of the BioPace, you can always buy new chainrings. I had a similar crankset and I believe it took 110 bcd sized rings and a 74 bcd granny. But you can check yours.

    My only suggestion is pure opinion. I don't find the straight or nearly straight MTB bars comfortable. I recently built up a Marin Muirwoods of about the same vintage with fully swept back bars. This might be too much for you. Last summer I took a less radical approach with my '03 C-Dale. In both cases I found the new bars significantly more comfortable. Best of luck.

    May I say that those two bikes of yours look mighty fine with the addition of those sweapt back bars and Brooks saddles. I have two vintage tourers with similar bars and saddlery, and find them the most gentlemanly way to connect to my bike.

    Well done that man.

    That bell is also quite snazzy.

    Well done that man again.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by BinkyTurtle View Post
    My LBS says an elliptical crank is bad for me, but most of what I read on the web says the Shimano Biopace, because the crank is alligned opposite from most ellipticals, did not cause knee injuries. It is just that it may not have been all that it was cracked up to be in the performance dept. As I said, high performance is not an issue, given my injury. I just want to keep active and avoid further injury. It seems like if the bike was going to injure me it would have in 19 years. I want to change the left shifter, which is not original, and does not perform well, but they are telling me they need to replace the whole drive chain. Any ideas from you pros?
    (Emphasis mine)

    You need a new LBS. Especially if you actually meant "drive train" and not just the chain as I suspect you did. Either way they are interested in selling you parts and accessories not helping you with the bike. Sorry I can't help you with the ID, it does however strike me as strange that a bike with XT in the name would be equipped with Exage components.
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  20. #20
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    Swept back handlebars

    Thanks for the idea on the handlebars. I had what I call Pee Wee Herman bars on it for years, thinking it was more comfortable than the flat bars. However, since my knee injury I have found it more comfy (at the expense of tingling hands though) to go back to the flat bars and get more weight over the handlebars. I think it is because the knee is so weak and I need to get that weight in front of me. I also find it more stable to pull on the uphill with the flat bar. Now that I am over a year from the injury though I am having regular conquests of new hills (even on my road bike) and again starting to think I should lost some of the tingly feeling. I never considered swept back bars, so that gives me something to think about. They do not have as much rise as my Pee Wee Hermans either so that might be a nice compromise as I continue to get stronger. I decided to keep the Biopace.

  21. #21
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    Drive train

    Yes. I did mean drive train. About the derallier; was Exage low end?

  22. #22
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    Notice Biopace

    Having only ever ridden a biopace for all these years (on mountain bike, I mean) I had nothing to compare to but thought it seemed OK. I know it had nothing to do with my injury. In recent months I have ridden every brand of mountain bike I can get my hands on, from cheap to way beyond my budget, and cannot find one I like better than this old bike. You guys clinched it for me because, like you, I don't see much difference except maybe my cadance is slower. Guess I am in a higher gear. I decided to keep the bike for now. The bike shop said they could put twist shifters on for me, and though I hate them, I decided they might be quicker shifting than the old mismatched levers that I have. I will try that and see if I can stand it. I'm dreaming of a new Motobecane and, though it is not the same as the old company, and though I know the pitfalls of buying online sight unseen, I sure do have my eye on the 700 HT. I miss my old Motobecanes (2 road models) and many riders of this new bike do give it thumbs up. She sure is perdy.

  23. #23
    Senior Member RobbieTunes's Avatar
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    I can't really tell the difference between BioPace and others.
    Really, I can't. Maybe about 3 hours in on a long ride, but generally, not.
    Robbie ♪♫♪...☻
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  24. #24
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    Look at the old Deore thumb shifters they index and do friction nicely. Suntour is also a good option for shifters. I think the old Deore or LX thumb shifters are really well made.

    You can pick them up on ebay for a few bucks. Do the installation yourself. Installing cables in thumb shifters is easy. The twist shifters aren't so bad but the internals are kind of cheap.

    It would be nice if they still made quality indexed thumb shifters...

  25. #25
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    You guys (and gals???) have all been great! I am still trying to get my mind around the crank info but I have appreciated all of your replies. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I can't wait to get my bike back from the shop and see what I think of those new shifters. That will tell me if I want to invest more in new bars and/or crank arms. I wondered about checking online for old indexed shifters but they assured me they could not get them at the bike shop. Guess I should have looked.

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