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  1. #1
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Which old steel MTB frames should I be looking for?

    I always figured that if God wanted me to ride a mountain bike he wouldn't have invented asphalt. Consequently, I stick to the road, and know nothing about mountain bikes.

    However -- having sold a bike on Saturday, and with a huge void in my garage just waiting to be filled -- I now think that I want to get an old school steel mountain bike frame to convert into a bike for touring, rough weather and light gravel. A number of threads on the touring forum, and over at CrazyGuyonaBike.com, talking about people buying "old school" 80's steel mountain bikes (no suspension) which apparently have frame geometry suitable for touring, plus braze-ons for mountain racks and panniers.

    These threads always seem to say, "Get something like a Specialized Stumpjumper."

    Ok, but what else? There are tons of old MTBs on the local Craigslist but I don't want to spend forever talking to folks who might not even know what their frame is made of.

    I've seen a Nishiki Colorado in the bike rack at work that would be fine. I think there is a Trek model (the Antelope) that might do.

    Are there other models I should be looking for?

  2. #2
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    You're really shopping for the tubes in your size. So you'll want to learn about what tubesets were used on the upscale frames of the day. I've currently got a frame from the early to mid 90's that uses Tange Prestige and it's truly an amazing bike. A Norco Rampage if it matters.

    For a few years I rode a Trek 970 with the True Temper triple butted steel and loved it. But the lure of disc brakes led me to foolishing part with it. I got my disc brakes with the M4 Stumpjumper but the bike doesn't climb hills quite like that Trek did. And I mounted a rack to the 970 somehow but I can't remember if it had brazeons or if I buckshied something up.

    I put together a rigid forked old Nishiki or something like that for a friend. It only had single butted CrMo but it still had the magic feel. Just a bit more heavy. So don't think you need to go top drawer on your choice. Even middle drawer brings a lovely abiltiy to return all the energy that goes into it like a fine spring and at the same time soak up a lot of the vibration and shock that aluminium just can't seem to deal with.

    Good luck with the search. You won't be dissapointed.
    Model airplanes are cool too!.....

  3. #3
    Senior Member big john's Avatar
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    Tange Prestige is great stuff to make a frame from, especially if you're not a Clyde.
    A Bridgestone MB1 would be a great find.
    I had a steel Nishiki Colorado and it was great until I broke it.
    As an alternative, Nashbar has that Reynolds 853 mtb frame for as low as $230 at times.

  4. #4
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by big john View Post
    As an alternative, Nashbar has that Reynolds 853 mtb frame for as low as $230 at times.
    Right now it is $290, but they have a 20% discount for orders over $200, which would make it $232.

    And it is a nice frame. It even makes Tom B think about it.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

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  5. #5
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    I love my '92 Trek 970 frame.

    You'll have to do some research to make a good choice. Google is your friend.

    Be sure to look for a full chromoly frame. Many lower models used hi-tensile stays and forks. Full butted chromoly frames are lighter and ride smoother.

    Here is a good site with lots of vintage MTB info.

    You'll find a lot of good info and bike porn at the MTBR forum.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  6. #6
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info.

    I found the original thread at CGOAB that got me thinking about this -- a nice story in one of the journals of rebuilding a Stumpjumper to make it a touring bike (w/photos):

    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?page_id=64200

  7. #7
    some new kind of kick Suttree's Avatar
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    some of the early Bridgestone MB-1 "biplane" forks can
    crack because of stress concentration by the pointed lugs.

    If I had an MB-1 I'd take the cool fork and put in on the
    wall and put a unicrown on the bike

  8. #8
    some new kind of kick Suttree's Avatar
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    biplane looks cool, not good in practice
    http://www.oldmountainbikes.com/cata...cheycrown1.jpg

  9. #9
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    Any of the Trek Single Track series from the 80s or early 90s, especially the 970 or 990 Here's a link to a chart showing the various configurations: http://www.firstflightbikes.com/trek_specs.htm

    These bikes are bomb proof, fun to ride and the 8 speed tripple combination is just about perfect.
    Oh I used to be disgusted and now I try to be amused. But since their wings have got rusted, you know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes. But when they told me 'bout their side of the bargain, that's when I knew that I could not refuse. And I won't get any older, now the angels wanna wear my red shoes.

  10. #10
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
    I always figured that if God wanted me to ride a mountain bike he wouldn't have invented asphalt. Consequently, I stick to the road, and know nothing about mountain bikes.... Are there other models I should be looking for?

    You can't go far wrong with an old Specialized Hard Rock. That's what I use for my utility bike/commuter bike. It's rock solid and I get tons of compliments on it's cruiser-like good looks.

    "He who serves all, best serves himself" Jack London

    Quote Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
    I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.

  11. #11
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Artkansas View Post
    You can't go far wrong with an old Specialized Hard Rock.
    This is where my ignorance hurts...what was the difference between the Hard Rock's and the Stumpjumpers?

    The modern versions of those bikes are so different from the old ones I can't figure out whether to chase either or both when I see one listed in CL....

  12. #12
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BSLeVan View Post
    Any of the Trek Single Track series from the 80s or early 90s, especially the 970 or 990 Here's a link to a chart showing the various configurations: http://www.firstflightbikes.com/trek_specs.htm

    These bikes are bomb proof, fun to ride and the 8 speed tripple combination is just about perfect.
    Awesome link on the Trek's, thanks -- there are millions of Treks around and I never knew which ones were steel vs. aluminum.

  13. #13
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
    This is where my ignorance hurts...what was the difference between the Hard Rock's and the Stumpjumpers?

    The modern versions of those bikes are so different from the old ones I can't figure out whether to chase either or both when I see one listed in CL....
    Stumpjumper has always been the higher level bike. Next in line would be Rockhoppers. Hard Rock is the entry level bike. Any of them would make a decent conversion, but the tubing and components will be better on the higher level bikes. The Stumpjumper is the one to look for.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  14. #14
    Senior Member big john's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
    Awesome link on the Trek's, thanks -- there are millions of Treks around and I never knew which ones were steel vs. aluminum.
    As with the road bikes, the 3 digit models are steel and the 4 digit models are aluminum, I think.

  15. #15
    Senior Moment grinningfool's Avatar
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    I converted an early 90's Diamond Back Outlook to an urban cruiser/commuter. In the photo it still has knobby tires, but since, have changed to street tires.


  16. #16
    Squirrel solveg's Avatar
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    You did such a beautiful job with your other projects, that I might be persuaded to part with my Cinelli MTB frame. It would be well worth the effort to restore it...I have most of the original drivetrain, too. What size do you ride?

    Photos of Cinelli Mountain Bike MTB ATB

    Last edited by solveg; 09-04-08 at 08:30 PM.

  17. #17
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by solveg View Post
    What size do you ride?
    Oh, yeah, now I remember that thread. That is a pretty wild-looking frame; would be a fantastic bike.

    I am a little over 6'2"...my other bikes are 60 to 61 cm, I could ride up to 62 in some road bikes.

    I don't know what that translates to in MTB's; but from looking at various online fit calculators I guess around 20" or 21", depending on slope of top tube, of course.

    Let me know if you'd be interested in selling the Cinelli...I am in no big hurry -- this is just the beginning of a thought process. (My other thought on a next project is another classic Italian frame but built up with all-modern components).

  18. #18
    Senior Member CACycling's Avatar
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    Picked up this '93 Diamondback Sorrento last year off Craig's List for $50. Got it for my youngest and, after I did a little work on it and test rode it, was tempted to keep it myself. It is double butted CroMo and is rediculously light compared to our other DB MTBs. It is 200GS equipped with BioPace chainrings and it even shifts nicely. Been looking for another deal like this for myself and will jump on it if I get a chance.

    As for size, I'm just over 6' and ride 60cm - 62cm road bikes and 20 - 22" MTBs (if I planned to do anything heavy offroad I'd ride 20" max).

  19. #19
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Got my Kona Explosif in 93. The year before the tubing went to Scandium. This is triple butted chromoly Tange tubing and it came with a lifetime warranty on the frame. Have to admit that it is still a fantastic ride.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member badmother's Avatar
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    Had a great Scott MTB, early 90`s? Frame is still in the basement, but re painted, so I do not remember exact name. Black front, "Crazy green" mid and white rear. If you find one, go for it!

    Got it free after a neighbourhood cleanup. Rebuilt it more than once, learned alot from that one. Just can`t get rid of it

    Edit: Montana, SCOTT Montana is the name. Remembered when riding today.
    Last edited by badmother; 09-06-08 at 01:20 PM.

  21. #21
    Climbing Above It All BikeWNC's Avatar
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    I have both a 1991 Bridgestone MB-4 and a 2002 Indy Fab Deluxe mtb. Both ride well though the IF rides much smoother. I'll be using the MB-4 on tomorrow's ride with my daughter on the tag-along. I spread the read stays and replaced the 7sp with XT 8sp a few years ago and it works great. I usually keep slicks on the Bridgestone with the rigid front fork.

  22. #22
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
    I am a little over 6'2"...my other bikes are 60 to 61 cm, I could ride up to 62 in some road bikes.

    I don't know what that translates to in MTB's; but from looking at various online fit calculators I guess around 20" or 21", depending on slope of top tube, of course.
    I suggest you get to your LBS and find out what size MTB fits you before you start thinking about buying bikes from Craigslist or ebay.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  23. #23
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BluesDawg View Post
    I suggest you get to your LBS and find out what size MTB fits you before you start thinking about buying bikes from Craigslist or ebay.
    Good advice...though I'll have to figure out if there are any modern bikes that have geometry similar to the older ones I'm interested in.

  24. #24
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
    Good advice...though I'll have to figure out if there are any modern bikes that have geometry similar to the older ones I'm interested in.
    I don't think that will matter much. My size was 19" for the old style frame and that is still my size for my Stumpjumper FSR. Most manufacturers still state the sizes in terms of a theoretical seat tube the length it would have been for a horizontal top tube, not the actual seat tube length.

    My guess is that your size would be 21" or 22", or XL, possibly XXL.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  25. #25
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    Mountain bikes are a lot more tolerant of size variation. I like 19's for off roading but it's on the ragged edge of being too small for me and I need to show a lot of seat post. But the agility that comes with the smaller frame is well worth it. However it means that when I used my old Trek 970 with the 21 inch frame there was no problems with it since I used it with fenders and a rack for commuting and it never saw dirt while wearing knobbies at all. I'm 6' 1" to fit this size range so we are pretty much on par for sizing.

    Riding the 19's in the street makes for a more upright and casual positioning unless you want to force it to a more aggresive posture with the right stem. With a 21 inch it's much more like one of the new style sloped top tube road bike frames but set up for 26 inch wheels. If you want to roadify it then 650's are an option.
    Model airplanes are cool too!.....

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