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Vintage MTB for me

Old 09-04-15, 10:46 AM
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Zaphod Beeblebrox 
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Vintage MTB for me

TL;DR - Recommend a Mountain bike for me.


The part of Vermont I live in is really big on mountain biking. I've only got road bikes. The last time I mountain biked was in the early 90's and I used to do a lot of it then on a crappy Skykomish...so I used to be experienced. Now I've been to a few local shops and looked around and I realize I no longer am experienced.

Can someone recommend a good MTB (vintage, natch) that will get me out on the trail, hitting some sweet jumps and is cool enough to confer the desired street and internet cred I require?

I've been told I probably don't need rear suspension.. I'm not totally sure I even need front suspension, but really I have no idea. I know everyone I see out on the trail has disc brakes and full suspension but I'm not really one to follow trends just because everyone else has it. For reference I took my 83' Triumph Gran Course out in the woods a few weeks ago and found it to be fun but not really well suited to trail riding. A kid told me I was "Bad ass" for taking a road bike off on these trails. I'm OK with that.

In the 90's I remember really sweating the Cannondale MTB's and I thought they were the coolest....so part of me wants one but I'm really open to whatever. I presently have a Specialized Ground Control from the mid 90's that's too small for me and my wife will not be seen riding the trails with me on it, so it must go.
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Old 09-04-15, 10:56 AM
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I like vintage mtbs without suspension forks. You'll have to run a fat tire going off road. There are clear advantages to a suspension fork for offroad use but the really cool, IMHO, vintage mtbs don't have them and they are quite capable for offroad use. Plus they're great for mixed trail/pavement riding precisely because they lack a suspension fork and they're easy to fix up.

My vote goes for either a vintage specialized stumpjumper (I have two and really like them), a vintage Trek 900 series lugged mtb (I have a 950 and it's a great bike), and one of the lugged bridgestone mtbs. The lugged bridgestones tend to be expensive while old stump jumpers and Trek 900 series are not.

I just picked up a 1992 trek 950 for $125. The paint job was in excellent (almost pristine) shape and the parts were in pretty good shape.
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Old 09-04-15, 11:04 AM
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I am not much of a real MTB rider, but I've been quite happy with how my 90's Giant Iguana handles on road, trail and loose surfaces. I think they go for quite a bit less than the the Specialized and Trek models mentioned, and they have a rigid front fork that is as overbuilt as anything I've ever seen.
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Old 09-04-15, 11:04 AM
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You don't need front suspension but you'll be hard-pressed to keep up with folks who have it when the trails get rough. Ditto for rear suspension but I think rider skill can make up a lot here although full-suspension opens up new possibilities if you really want to start jumping around the rough stuff. Disc brakes are nice in the wet but nothing says vintage to me like rim brakes.

On the subject at hand...I have a garage full of GT Zaskar's that aren't getting used. Also have a Trek 950 if you want to really go old-school.
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Old 09-04-15, 11:35 AM
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You trying to sell any of those?

What's a GT Zaskar? Google says it looks cool. Suspension fork? Is it the cats pajamas?
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Old 09-04-15, 12:00 PM
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Hey, nice to see you.
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Old 09-04-15, 12:23 PM
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Find a mid 90's quality hard tail, suspension corrected with an 1 1/8" headset. Avoid 1"

My personal modern/vintage ride is a 1996 WTB Phoenix which is the cats meow. 1 1/8 will give you modern fork options you won't get with a 1" HS.

If you envision a long travel fork on your ride, avoid older mountain bikes all together.
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Old 09-04-15, 12:29 PM
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No idea what any of that means. My mtb knowledge stops at about 1992.

Saying to find a quality hard tail from the 90s needs some narrowing down for me. I rode a low end hard tail in the 90s. I knew there were nicer ones. I'm hoping for some make/model suggestions specifically.

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Old 09-04-15, 02:56 PM
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Early 90s Schwinn PDG Series 70 and 90 (90 being top of the line). Very good light and responsive frames. No suspension. I almost a year ago bought a Schwinn Homegrown in very good shape for, but didn't pull the trigger. Haven't ridden one of those, but I'm told they're great.
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Old 09-04-15, 03:02 PM
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Most of the mid-nineties bikes with a suspension fork will likely need a replacement of the fork. A semi-usable new one is about $150.
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Old 09-04-15, 03:11 PM
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Picked up this 20in 930 from 1993 a few days ago as a keeper but will do some mods first. I avoid most suspension bikes as many older forks leak or need rebuilding vs rigid. This one appeared to have originally been upgraded to xt vs standard lx and rides great. Paid way more for this one than any other vintage mtbs picked up this year but for personal riders I dont mind paying high end of retail (in this case $150). 93 was the last year of the lugged frames for 900 bikes and I do not see many around in good shape. Really would like a 22 but rarely see any that size around here.
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Old 09-04-15, 04:07 PM
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A little more than 2 years ago a neighbor gave me a 1992 GT with a MAG 21 fork. So at the age of 61 I took it out on some local trails and that was my first experience mountain biking and I loved it.

From there I decided to build my own steel mountain bike from the frame up. Here is the advice I can give you...

Research, research, research. Find a frame or bike from the mid-90's and Google it, go to MTBR and read reviews. Check Weight Weenies frame listings.

As has been mentioned find one with a 1-1/8" steering tube. As for forks, my weapon of choice are 90's to 2001 Marzocchi Bombers. 2001 Atom Race is pretty sweet for an old fork.

Late 90's/early2000's XT is pretty nice, but personally I'd stay away from XTR 950 series rear derailleurs.

What I ended up bulding was a 1995 Trek 970 (990) from the frame up. It has pretty good geometry for all-around mountain biking, not too expensive, seems to be strong enough. Since I did a frame up build I set it up like I wanted it with a mix of parts it weighs in at 27lbs. Not real light but not heavy.

About 6 months later I was able to pick up a 1992 Serotta T-Max frame. Built that up with a 1" steerer Marzocchi Z3. That one is basically like riding a crit mountain bike even with a 70mm fork. It is usually what I ride, except when I ride with my son because I have no idea what he will get me into, so I take the Trek.

I started by going onto ebay and searching frames and then when I found something interesting I would look up whatever I could find on it and developed a list of potential bikes. Specialized, Paramount, Fat Chance, Ritchey, etc. They are out there.

John
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Old 09-04-15, 04:48 PM
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I really don't recommend vintage MTBs for trail riding unless you are in an area with smooth non-technical trails. If you want to go rigid I suggest a modern + size bike like the surly krampus or even a fat bike with a 4" tire. You'll have a lot more fun on these machines. We have learned a lot about the sport in the last 25 years and steep angles and long stems don't really make sense. Slack angles, longer top tubes and short stems with wide bar make a lot of sense. I love vintage bikes. I am restoring a couple MTBs at this time and have stash of sweet early 1990s mtb parts including Mag21s (one of the best), but my choice for recreational fun is modern equipment, more comfortable, safer and a blast to ride.

If you must go vintage I would check out the pre-1997 forum on retrobike to get some ideas.
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Old 09-04-15, 05:01 PM
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Originally Posted by cyclotoine View Post
I really don't recommend vintage MTBs for trail riding unless you are in an area with smooth non-technical trails. If you want to go rigid I suggest a modern + size bike like the surly krampus or even a fat bike with a 4" tire. You'll have a lot more fun on these machines. We have learned a lot about the sport in the last 25 years and steep angles and long stems don't really make sense. Slack angles, longer top tubes and short stems with wide bar make a lot of sense. I love vintage bikes. I am restoring a couple MTBs at this time and have stash of sweet early 1990s mtb parts including Mag21s (one of the best), but my choice for recreational fun is modern equipment, more comfortable, safer and a blast to ride.

If you must go vintage I would check out the pre-1997 forum on retrobike to get some ideas.
I was curious. I have a surly 1 x 1 which is a modern mountain bike. In my size (18) inch it has a top tube of 570 mm (596 effective) and angles are 71/73.

I also have a 20 inch trek 950 I just picked up.That's my size as well. It has a top tube of 56.5 so it's shorter; the angles are also 71/73.

That's just one data point but it's not so clear to me that mtbs have gotten slacker.

If you really want slack angles, I wouldn't be surprised if those 1980 era mtbs have slacker angles than modern bikes.
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Old 09-04-15, 05:05 PM
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1992 Trek 950
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Old 09-04-15, 05:27 PM
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Whatever you do, pump all the money in tires. They make an amazing amount of difference on a MTB.
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Old 09-04-15, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
I was curious. I have a surly 1 x 1 which is a modern mountain bike. In my size (18) inch it has a top tube of 570 mm (596 effective) and angles are 71/73.

I also have a 20 inch trek 950 I just picked up.That's my size as well. It has a top tube of 56.5 so it's shorter; the angles are also 71/73.

That's just one data point but it's not so clear to me that mtbs have gotten slacker.

If you really want slack angles, I wouldn't be surprised if those 1980 era mtbs have slacker angles than modern bikes.
I would argue the 1x1 is a throwback, not a modern MTB.
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Old 09-04-15, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by cyclotoine View Post
I would argue the 1x1 is a throwback, not a modern MTB.
So we're just going to throw out all the data points that don't agree with your assertion that modern rigid mountain bikes have slacker angles than vintage ones? OK,
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Old 09-04-15, 05:58 PM
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Steel or aluminum. I have two Kleins - 1996 and 1997 and love the ride. They're stiff, light and quick and climb excellently. Both have suspension forks but haven't been used a lot so the fork is in good shape. From a steel perspective I only have experience with my Trek 950 and it's also a kick in the pants ride even with the rigid fork.
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Old 09-04-15, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
So we're just going to throw out all the data points that don't agree with your assertion that modern rigid mountain bikes have slacker angles than vintage ones? OK,
It is a throwback, 26" wheels, 100mm suspension correction, steep angles. It's just a copy of a 1990s mountain bike, there is nothing wrong with that. I'll give you that most modern xc bikes still have steep angles, but it's the same argument here that C&V'ers employee about modern road bikes. The average person is not racing so doesn't need a race bike. Even a XC rocket like a rocky mountain vertex as 70.25 as the head tube angle moving away from super steep. Unfortunately, almost all bikes pre 1997 were XC geometry, just look at the hilarious early 1990s "downhill" videos of people bailing on their little steep hardtails. It's why they make great drop bar conversion path bikes.

However, most people who just want to get out on the trail would be best on a trail bike not an XC bike.

examples of head tube angles on modern trail bikes:

surly krampus 69.5
surly instigator 67.5
Kona honzo 68
2015 fat chance yo eddy 68.5

71 is steep.
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Old 09-04-15, 08:51 PM
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I've been steadily updating/upgrading my 2002 Hardrock since I bought it new. It just got a much better (used) fork. In 2002, here's how it looked.
  • All the bikes were still 26ers.
  • Everything still had Shimano SIS or compatible derailleurs and shifters and was 3x8 or 3x9 speed.
  • Bike styles had divided into familiar categories still around today. In increasing order of suspension travel, there were cross country, trail-enduro, and downhill bikes. The first might not have rear suspension. The others did. The middle category would split in the next few years into bikes specifically for weekend warriors and bikes specifically for the enduro event.
  • The market segmentation was crazy, just like it still is. In just the cross country category: there were three levels each of front suspension Hardrock, Rockhopper, and Stumpjumper, and there was an S-Works version above those. There was also a full suspension Rockhopper and Stumpy and S-Works. And that doesn't count women's models.
  • Pretty much all bikes had threadless headsets.
  • Pretty much all bikes had suspension forks. At the low end these were pretty dreadful, they work by friction and their only adjustment is preload. At middle levels they become hydraulic rather than friction, and gain rebound damping adjustment. At high levels the steel is replaced with air springs, thus removing weight and adding spring rate adjustment, at highest levels they are further lightened and bewilderingly adjustable.
  • It's pretty much the same story with rear suspension.
  • Aluminum had trickled down to nearly the bottom of the lineup. You could still get a few steel models but not many and not high end.
  • V brakes had arrived in the mid 90's and were so great they proliferated fast. By 2002 my bike and all the other Specialized XC models all had V brakes. They had disk mounts on the rear. The fork may or may not have depending on level and model. But anyhow, they did not carry disks. The more expensive trail and enduro and downhill bikes were getting disks, the highest level had hydraulics.
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Old 09-04-15, 08:55 PM
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The nicest I've owned is this Rocky Mountain Equipe...really light, fun and with great parts. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them based on that, but I only use it for trails and winter...not single track.



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Old 09-04-15, 09:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Zaphod Beeblebrox View Post
Suspension fork? Is it the cats pajamas?
It is when you blast down a rutty, bumpy hill and it feels like you have a grip on a jackhammer. That shock will allow you to keep all of your fingers around the bar grips.
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Old 09-04-15, 09:19 PM
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I do think that mountain bikes are steadily getting better. You can pick at individual components but really the overall package is a much different and better machine than it was 20 years ago.

If you still want a Cannondale there are shops that specialize in Lefty and Head Shok maintenance.
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Old 09-04-15, 09:27 PM
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Whiteface is the beast of the east for downhill, but admittedly I dont't know what Smugglers and Stowe offer for mountain biking. Definite need for the suspension fork, as far as the rear, I think that is function of how much air time you anticipate facing and how important your kidneys are to you.

I think you're on the right track with a full suspension Cannondale.

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