I've been looking for a mountain bike, hoping mainly to round out the stable of road bikes currently sitting out in the garage. A while back, I bought a Specialized Hardtail 29er, and hated it. I felt like I was pedaling a moving van. Next, I bought a GT something-or-other with 26" wheels, and the fit and feel was a bit better, but it still didn't scratch my itch, so I dumped it, too. I returned to my pursuit of CV road bikes to restore, and generally gave up the idea of a mountain bike.
Recently, however, my friend at the LBS invited me to see his 'private stash' of projects, and sitting in the middle of it, almost buried in the corner of his garage, was a Haro XCT Werks. It was a complete bike ---that is, it appeared to have all the big pieces you'd expect to find, so we haggled a little bit, and I bought it.
When I got it home, I pulled it apart, and had a few unpleasant surprises. Chief among them was the front fork. It appears that the steerer was cut too short, so an extra piece was jammed in the top with shims and screws, and it was ugly. The rear wheel had a bad bend in it, and an hour or two on the truing stand couldn't get rid of it. The saddle was shot, and the chain was toast. This really looked to be a bike that was put together from available mismatched parts just to get a roller that looked complete, and could be sold.
Still there was that pretty red aluminum frame, and I really appreciated the dip in the top tube because I'm so short-legged. Here was an opportunity to build a mountain bike that I could actually stand over with both feet on the ground, and no pain in the nether regions.
I put it back together with as many of the original parts as possible, but with some changes:
1. The rear wheel/hub is XTR, that I robbed from another bike.
2. I converted it to an 8-speed cassette
3. I replaced the 7-speed shifters with 8-speed. They're still grip shifters, but someday I'll replace them, too.
4. New chain
5. New Rockshox forks (cheapos), just to hold me over until I find a good quality replacement, and better understand this whole suspension business.
6. New tires and tubes.
7. All new cables, of course.
8. New Saddle.
I spent a lot more than I had intended (hoped) but compared to the quality bike I would get new for the same money, it was a bargain. I'm not a big off-roader, and the most I'll ever do on this bike will probably be the occasional smooth trail and golf course cart path. That's the reason for my choice in tires. Beyond that, it's just a sweet little bike that I'm looking forward to bumping around on when I get tired of the road bikes.