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Classic steel suspensionless mountain bikes?

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Classic steel suspensionless mountain bikes?

Old 11-30-15, 06:56 AM
  #26  
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Not steel, I know, but the old Raleigh Technium mountain bikes were kind of spiffy for the time.
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Old 11-30-15, 08:00 AM
  #27  
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Originally Posted by tyrion View Post
What are some of the better quality old steel mountain bikes, late 80s early 90s before suspensions and aluminum became popular?
Your best bet, IMO, is to search for bikes produced between 1989 and 1992, preferably those built in the USA or Japan. Higher end steel offerings made in Taiwan should also be okay. Suspension took over in the early 1990s, but the bikes were still dialed in for suspension-free riding.

Also, you want to avoid chainstay-mounted brake systems and elevated stays like the plague. They were solutions in search of a problem, and they made for heavier bikes.

Good, mass-produced bikes (not a comprehensive list):

Bridgestone MB-1; MB-2; MB-3
Bridgestone MB-0 (Zip) => NOTE: these used Ritchey Logic Prestige tubing and were welded together in Taiwan. Assuming you can find one, you'll need to ensure that there are no cracks, dents, etc.
Specialized Stumpjumper (1989 and after)
Trek 950; 970
Bianchi Grizzly; Super Grizzly
Mongoose IBOC Team; John Tomac signature (steel; 1988)

I'd avoid Fisher mountain bikes, since those used the ridiculous and unnecessary 1 1/4" Evolution headsets.

And I'll repeat it again - avoid elevated chainstay bikes.

What components would indicate a higher quality mountain bike of that era (I understand the Deore hierarchy but no other MB groupsets)?
Shimano Deore II
Shimano Deore XT
Shimano XTR
Suntour XC-Pro; XC-Comp; XC9000
Mavic Paris-Dakar

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Old 11-30-15, 11:18 AM
  #28  
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Captain Kangaroo says, "Schwinn bikes are best."

Top-of-the-line Project KOM-10, 2000 units made in Greenville MS in 1988 and 1989. Tange Prestige tubing. The under-chainstay Shimano U-brake may not be to everyone's liking, but its works well, along with the SunTour RollerCam front on my bike. (The one on MOMBAT has a cantilever front, instead.) http://mombat.org/MOMBAT/Bikes/1988_Schwinn_KOM.html
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Old 11-30-15, 12:36 PM
  #29  
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Those old mountain and hybrid bikes can make great touring bikes as well. I took a Bridgestone CB-1 (the "City Bike" hybrid) and fixed it up for an internet friend to use on the Pacific Coast highway. It cost me about $200 overall to buy the bike and set it up.
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Old 11-30-15, 01:51 PM
  #30  
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Giant made some great bikes, believe they were building them for Schwinn too in the late 80's and early 90's.

I have a Giant Iguana which is towards the lower end of the "good" spectrum. However it is still a good solid bike. It came with Suntour XCM on it.
Just about all the major manufacturers made decent rigid frame steel MTB's at one point or another.

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Old 11-30-15, 02:15 PM
  #31  
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Originally Posted by kunsunoke View Post
...Also, you want to avoid chainstay-mounted brake systems and elevated stays like the plague. They were solutions in search of a problem, and they made for heavier bikes. ...

I was also against the chainstay-mounted brakes for their tendency to snag the chain when chainsuck occurs, but on the Dakar I have come to really like these brakes. The lever feel is superior, the cable run is simplified, and the transverse cable on the Shimano XT version that I have was easily shortened, giving the brake a most responsive feel with plenty of power at low effort. I could honestly compare these to good V-brakes, and they never squeal.

I must warn against tinkering with the pivot attachments, they are not intuitive to work on at all! I left them alone on this bike because the return spring setting was spot on.
I have had chainsuck incidents on this bike but with no involvement/contact with this particular U-brake. Perhaps the combination of shorter straddle wire with the possibly-reduced "height" (thickness) of the aftermarket pads is giving a lot more clearance for the chain under worst-case situations, but again this setup has simply been particularly good overall.

I do agree with the assessment of elevated chainstays, that the crooked load path from axle to bb makes for a very inefficient structure, flexy, heavy and/or both!
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Old 11-30-15, 02:27 PM
  #32  
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For the use you've described, I'd lean towards the 80's and very early 90's era bikes. "NORBA" geometry took over in the early 90's and it wasn't comfortable for anything but hammering XC racecourses.
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Old 11-30-15, 02:51 PM
  #33  
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Well now that you have been given a laundry list of potential bikes that will make your head spin, it would be good to do some research on MTBR reviews/threads and Retrobike (threads and mfg catalogs). You can also see what is on Bikepedia. If you care... you can also check out Weight Weenies. Even though it may not seem important, taking off a few pounds is a plus.

Almost 3 years ago I first started mountain biking at the ripe old age of 61 on a donated '92 GT but I was soon hooked and wanted to build a better bike. I did a ton of research and came up with a list of potential bikes (frames) to use as a foundation.

The best way to go is to find a complete bike that has not been used much because some 80's/90's parts do get a premium, especially 7 speed shifters, and having to find parts may not be that easy. You may have to pay a little more, but the cost of potential replacement parts may more than offset it. If you go too far back, you will have to deal with cantilever brakes over v-brakes. One of my mountain bikes has them and I have no problems with them, but some people hate how finicky they can be to set up. The key is to do the research.

John
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Old 11-30-15, 03:05 PM
  #34  
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Originally Posted by arex View Post
Not steel, I know, but the old Raleigh Technium mountain bikes were kind of spiffy for the time.
Yes, indeed! Probably the Raleigh Techniums are the only bikes listed in this thread that were U.S. made (in Kent, WA).

Aluminum main tubes bonded to steel lugs, with welded steel stays and fork.

Literally aerospace bonding technology, designed by ex-Boeing engineers poached by Raleigh USA.
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Old 11-30-15, 03:20 PM
  #35  
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Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
Yes, indeed! Probably the Raleigh Techniums are the only bikes listed in this thread that were U.S. made (in Kent, WA).
Probably not.

John
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Old 11-30-15, 03:34 PM
  #36  
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[QUOTE If you go too far back, you will have to deal with cantilever brakes over v-brakes. One of my mountain bikes has them and I have no problems with them, but some people hate how finicky they can be to set up. The key is to do the research.

John[/QUOTE]

I find that cantis are some of the easiest brakes to set up, and if the straddle cable is sized properly - can really provide excellent stopping power. That said, I have no complaints about V-brakes (other than the really cheap ones).
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Old 11-30-15, 03:47 PM
  #37  
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Originally Posted by Chrome Molly View Post
The Japanese made Konas are fantastic and the geometry was way ahead its time.
Agreed! Joe Murray, a MTB racer with an impressive number of wins in the 1980's, was a product designer at Kona, though I'm not sure what years. In 1993 the Kona Kilauea was Mountain Biking magazine's bike of the year. I bought my Kilauea in 1994 and I still own and ride it. It has lived many lives, in this chronological order:
- Stock rigid race bike
- Front suspension race bike
- Rigid, 1x8 daily commuter bike for about 8 years with slick tires
- Back to stock 3x8 knobby tired bike to use as a back up and loaner bike
- Now a nearly stock single speed that I ride fairly regularly. In fact I just did about 12 miles on the local trails with it two days ago.

I've owned maybe 8-10 mountain bikes in the past 20 years and this is the one I will never get rid of. It's a light weight, agile, classic steel frame and I think they tend to be very undervalued for what they are. I saw my same bike on ebay in almost mint original condition sell for something like $150. I almost bought it as a backup.

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Old 11-30-15, 07:46 PM
  #38  
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Originally Posted by dddd View Post
(SNIP)I do agree with the assessment of elevated chainstays, that the crooked load path from axle to bb makes for a very inefficient structure, flexy, heavy and/or both!
One particularly scary example was the Alpinestars. Whether in the AlMega or ChroMega form, those wide e-stays would whack your ankles on either side of the bike if you weren't careful. Rumor also has it that the rear drops flexed considerably under load. Not the best way to get good index shifting.

Haro e-stay bikes were sort-of aesthetically-pleasing, or would have been if they hadn't been so heavy. They out-weighed comparably-equipped Bridgestone offerings by at least five pounds.

Cannondale tried it as well, with aluminum. Yeah, just what we need - more angles, more potential stress risers, all in a heavier-than-standard package. They should have known better, but they didn't shove the design up people's behinds the way that Haro did.

Fisher also (unsurprisingly) tried it. Don't know if I'd trust those designs - no brace for the chainstays against anything. It's as if Gary Fisher was trying to bend the seat tube out.

About the only company that managed to pull it off (semi-successfully) was Nishiki - who got their design from Richard Cunningham (Mantis). Those bikes rode well, but had problems holding up over time. The main issues had to do with the rear (steel) triangle blowing up in different places.

Worth keeping in mind here - this "innovation" was designed to prevent chain-suck. Chain-suck was usually caused by the rider not shifting correctly or by the bike being out of adjustment.
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Old 11-30-15, 09:59 PM
  #39  
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
Probably not.

John
The early mountain goats were made in/near Chico, Nor. Cal.
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Old 12-01-15, 12:41 AM
  #40  
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I have a 1998 Kona Kilauea with Reynolds 631 tubing and I love it. I have it at my parent's house and use it when I visit in the summer. I didn't want to deal with front suspension, so I have it set up with Ritchey carbon fork. With a few pimp parts, it weighs under 21 pounds. You can find upper level steel Kona's relatively cheap on ebay and Craig's list.. The upper level models of Kona in the 90s were Hot, Explosif, Kilauea and Lava Dome. Each year they are slightly different with the tubing that was used. For my wife I found a Hot, but sadly she hasn't ridden it much.

I think their bikes were the best mass produced steel bikes of the 90s.. To do better you would need a custom builder and pay a lot more. On Retrobike.UK.com you can see many examples of people buying an old tired Kona frame and getting a new spray or powder coat and making a piece of art...

I really like this bike...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqOLn7Wdeoc
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Old 12-01-15, 12:43 AM
  #41  
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When talking about steel MTB's, i cant help but think about 2 in my current inventory -- '95 MArin Team Issue with Tange PRestige tubing and a 22.5 pound weight with the stock Shimano XT/White Industries build kit --- the welds on the frame are next level. I also have a Marin Eldridge Grade that is the same bike and same tubing with a 1" shorter top tube and more braze ons for more adventurous riding as opposed to a straight up NORBA racer like the Team was --- the fork is suspension corrected, but they let you make the choice on that, so mine stayed rigid

NExt up is my Yeti Pro FRO -- yes it has a suspension fork, but that fork has been breathed on by Arlo Englund who inserted one of his cartridge conversions in there - This machine weighs 23.5 as it sits -- with a steel frame and also an XT build kit

I bought the MArins off the showroom with my own money in '95 ----- the Yeti came along a couple years later

-- I've never had one , but i have always admired the Ritchey lineup, the P-23, 22 and 21 bikes are all special, -- so is any Fat Chance , pre Trek Bontrager, and even a Klein - which while aluminum, was a special piece of equipment --- and who can forget the MTB wars in 92 or 93 when a green Klein was hanging in Jerry Seinfelds apartment - then the next year a Cannondale Killer V-- then the year after that, the Klein was back with the handlebars turned around



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Old 12-01-15, 08:51 AM
  #42  
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Don't fear the chainstay mounted brakes. They are perfectly fine for the purpose the OP seeks. If you are going to be slogging through the mud, then avoid them. but if you are going to be doing that you should probably avoid a vintage MTB in general.

I am not a big fan of V-Brakes. It seems to me in order for them to stop well, the pad has to be very close to the rim and if the rim gets slightly out of true it rubs.
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Old 12-01-15, 12:14 PM
  #43  
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Originally Posted by 72Paramount View Post
The early mountain goats were made in/near Chico, Nor. Cal.
My point is that Raleigh didn't corner the market as the only Made in USA mountain bikes in the 80's/90's. Trek probably made the most USA made. Early pre-Trek Fishers. Some early GT's. And then there are the Yeti's, Paramounts, Fat Chance, Serotta (had to include that one for personal reasons), etc.

John
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Old 12-01-15, 03:48 PM
  #44  
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1989 or so Nishiki Cascade - Mountain LX components, Biospace cranks, Tange MTB tubing - Nice riding bikes


Nishiki MTBs seem to come up on Craigslist all the time, for not much money - The Cascade is in the middle somewhere.

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Old 12-01-15, 09:02 PM
  #45  
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All good comments. I suggest you peruse the long vintage MTB thread on this forum as well as the vintage forum on MTBR.com and retrobike.co.uk. A couple of hours on those sites will dramatically ramp up your working knowledge of vintage MTB's.

And, it's a lot of very fun and well wasted time.
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Old 12-04-15, 12:05 PM
  #46  
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This one just came up in SoCal. Fully rigid, Tange tubing, Deore DX components.....

https://orangecounty.craigslist.org/bik/5342523404.html
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Old 12-04-15, 12:27 PM
  #47  
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Originally Posted by rob_ralph View Post
This one just came up in SoCal. Fully rigid, Tange tubing, Deore DX components.....

https://orangecounty.craigslist.org/bik/5342523404.html
I'd buy that bike in a heartbeat if it was my size, and closer to me. A shop I used to work in sold GTs (Nishikis, too), and the Karakorum was probably my favorite of that brand's line up. I also disagree with the statement to avoid chainstay mounted brake systems like the plague. They work just fine if properly set up, I wouldnt not buy an otherwise perfect bike because it had a chainstay mounted U brake.

And hey - I'd rock a Nishiki Alien (elevated chainstays) very happily if I could find one in good shape in my size.
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Old 12-04-15, 03:02 PM
  #48  
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Originally Posted by exmechanic89 View Post
And hey - I'd rock a Nishiki Alien (elevated chainstays) very happily if I could find one in good shape in my size.
Absolutely!

One came up 30mi from me a few weeks ago.22” with a 33.5” standover and a seat reach that looked to be pretty good.
Someone bought it 2 hours after I asked to see it.
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Old 12-04-15, 04:16 PM
  #49  
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Back when I knew absolutely nothing I purchased a Nishiki Alien for a decent price... only to later find the aluminium cracked around the seat post from over tightening.

That's how I learned to meticulously check for frame damage when buying a used bike...

I have a Miyata Elevation 1000 frameset and all the parts from that Nishiki Alien ... but I'll probably just put it all up for sale here in a month or so because I have an Eroica to train for and I am very far from fit...
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Old 05-16-19, 01:49 AM
  #50  
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I know this is an old thread but just wanted to say it's been really useful for me. I'm looking for an old steel frame for a long distance bikepacking trip through some less-developed countries. I've been spending lots of time on Craigslist and visiting the local bike non-profits that take in donated bikes, fix them up, and sell them.

You guys have already created a great list in this thread, but also wanted to point out this list in case it's useful to anyone:
I just realized that I can't post a URL until I have 10 posts. If you go to a website called vintagesteelrider(dot)com and look for a page called "100 of the best vintage mountain bikes", you'll see the list I was trying to share.
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