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Which Vintage MTB should I look for?

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Which Vintage MTB should I look for?

Old 09-05-20, 11:30 AM
  #1  
Brian44t
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Which Vintage MTB should I look for?

Hi, thanks in advance for your advice. I am looking to find a very inexpensive older mountain bike as a project. I am looking for one with no suspension, lightweight but strong. simple and uncomplicated. I would like to put street oriented all season style tires on it. Possibly this could become a one speed but the purpose will be street, sidewalk, paved trails and maybe a little dirt and gravel. Possibly what some people call a commuter bike.

The conditions I am riding in now are a bit rougher than I prefer for skinny tires so I am looking to set something up cheap as a fun project.

Looking for advice on brands and models to search. Also advice on tires.

Thanks,
Brian
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Old 09-05-20, 02:00 PM
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Look for models that have Deore (LX, DX, XT, etc...) components. Manufactures use these higher end components on their better frames.
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Old 09-05-20, 02:36 PM
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Prices for vintage MTBs have gone up as have bike prices in general but they make fine all around bikes. I would put this request in the C&V valuation forum. People will search CL and Facebook for ads and point out bikes that are a decent to good deal. You need to know what size frame you need but the posters can use your location in the Twin cities to help you track down some bikes.


This is my 1992 Trek 950 set up the way you describe as an all around bike. I swapped out the flat bars for a trekking bar. That's an easy swap and gives you more hand positions:


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Old 09-05-20, 04:41 PM
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+1 on what bikemig said; the C&V forum will help you find something. What size do you ride? I noticed a nice-looking Ross Mt. Hood in Minneapolis.

ETA: And a reasonably priced Huffy Overlander; I know, but back then they weren't that bad. And a nice HardRock in Chanhassen.

And again; man, I want to live where you live! A gorgeous GT Timberline in Ramsey, a tiny Trek 850 Antelope in Saint Paul, a Diamond Back Outback in Edina, a Ross Hitech, and all these bikes are just from today's listings.

Last time, I promise. A Nishiki Manitoba in Plymouth, a Shwinn Probe, and a Schwinn Mirada in Saint Paul.

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Old 09-06-20, 08:33 AM
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Thanks for the great input! Would be possible for a Moderator to move this thread to the C&V Forum to avoid duplication?

I am looking for a smaller frame bike, usually not the smallest but one step up. All bikes seem to vary in sizing but I am about 5'7".
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Old 09-06-20, 08:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Brian44t View Post
Thanks for the great input! Would be possible for a Moderator to move this thread to the C&V Forum to avoid duplication?

I am looking for a smaller frame bike, usually not the smallest but one step up. All bikes seem to vary in sizing but I am about 5'7".
The mods can but it's OK to start a new thread. There's an 17 inch late 80s stumpy on FB marketplace that looks terrific; it's also pricey at $450. It has a u brake under the chainstays which is not great for offroad riding but otherwise works well even if it can be a PITA to adjust.

https://www.facebook.com/marketplace...66890537174534

I'd offer $300 and see where it goes but I don't think its a $450 bike even during the pandemic.
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Old 09-06-20, 09:09 AM
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https://milwaukee.craigslist.org/bik...185723192.html

https://milwaukee.craigslist.org/bik...177137705.html

https://milwaukee.craigslist.org/bik...190167967.html

https://milwaukee.craigslist.org/bik...190247674.html

https://milwaukee.craigslist.org/bik...189055700.html
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Old 09-06-20, 09:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Brian44t View Post
Thanks for the great input! Would be possible for a Moderator to move this thread to the C&V Forum to avoid duplication?

I am looking for a smaller frame bike, usually not the smallest but one step up. All bikes seem to vary in sizing but I am about 5'7".


Vintage MTB's I would consider looking at, for such a project, would include (among others):
  • Bianchi Grizzly and Super Grizzly
  • Miyata Terra Runner and Ridge Runner
  • Peugeot Canyon Express and Cannon Ball Express
  • Schwinn High Sierra and Cimarron
  • Specialized RockHopper and StumpJumper
  • Trek 930, 950, 970
  • Univega Alpine series (ie, the Ultimo, the Uno)

As others have suggested, look for ones with fairly good-quality components. Such as the Shimano "Deer head" derailleurs of the mid-'80s, or the Shimano Deore (LX, DX) line of components.

I'd suggest looking for good-quality butted chromoly frames and forks, as it'll likely impact the overall weight and ride quality.

As for size of frame, it'll depend on your riding position and general flexibility/fitness.

Myself, I'm 5'9" or so, but with fairly shorter legs and a preferred upright riding position. Which makes even the smallest of typical '80s-'90s MTB frames far too long in the top tube to be comfortable. And so, I generally look for XS or even the 24"-wheeled (aka "kids' bike") variants in order to get the reach short enough for me.

At 5'7" and assuming a not hugely aggressive riding position, you'd be looking at the typical XS or S frame of the era, something with a top tube length somewhere around ~20-21" or so. With an appropriately-sized stem and bars, you ought to be able to get it configured the way you want it, size-wise. JMO.
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Old 09-06-20, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Clyde1820 View Post
Myself, I'm 5'9" or so, but with fairly shorter legs and a preferred upright riding position. Which makes even the smallest of typical '80s-'90s MTB frames far too long in the top tube to be comfortable. And so, I generally look for XS or even the 24"-wheeled (aka "kids' bike") variants in order to get the reach short enough for me.
I have the same issue with stupid long top tubes, but discovered that a short stem and swept bars pretty much fix it. Here's my everyday ride; when I picked her up from the pawn shop, I was pretty much bent double, but now have a great upright position; in fact, I've got it in my head that I might want to replace my Velo-Orange Porteur bar with their Tourist Left Bank bar for a little more rise.



Hey, what's in the big pink box?

Last edited by Korina; 09-10-20 at 08:05 PM.
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Old 09-06-20, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Brian44t View Post
Thanks for the great input! Would be possible for a Moderator to move this thread to the C&V Forum to avoid duplication?

I am looking for a smaller frame bike, usually not the smallest but one step up. All bikes seem to vary in sizing but I am about 5'7".
Bicycles don’t “vary in sizing”. There are sizes but they are meant for a specific rider size...or at least as a starting point. For your height, you need to be looking at a 15” mountain bike from 1984 to present. You are kind of at the soft point between a 15” and a 17” bike but you should probably err on the side of the smaller frame. A 17” mountain bike is designed for someone up to from about 5’8 to 5’10 and is proportioned accordingly.
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Old 09-06-20, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Korina View Post
I have the same issue with stupid long top tubes, but discovered that a short stem and swept bars pretty much fix it. Here's my everyday ride; when I picked her up from the pawn shop, I was pretty much bent double, but now have a great upright position ...
I'm doing much the same thing with a Trek 970, though I've opted for a bar with ~5" of rise and ~9" of pull-back. Haven't yet altered the System 2 stem that came with the bike, but a different stem could easily shorten it or change the rise. I'll see, once I get it all put together.


Originally Posted by Korina View Post
Hey, what's in the big pink box?
Goodies from Wildflower or Ramone's, I'm assuming.
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Old 09-06-20, 02:42 PM
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Cheap? Here is a good start...
https://minneapolis.craigslist.org/h...191416666.html

Rockhopper by Specialized - $50 (North Loop)

image 1 of 2

Nice set of tires like that would put you out over $50.

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Old 09-06-20, 03:22 PM
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I'm still riding my 1992 StumpJumper, original components (Deore DX). So, that's my rec, look for one of those. Or a Rockhopper. I had one of those before the Stump. Very durable bikes and components, great frame on the StumpJumper.
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Old 09-06-20, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Clyde1820 View Post
Goodies from Wildflower or Ramone's, I'm assuming.
The Donut Mill, actually.

'Hey, what's in the big pink box?' is a quote from Buckaroo Banzai. Because no matter where you go, there you are...
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Old 09-06-20, 06:31 PM
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You're in the Twin Cities..that in itself will make things much easier. That area(region) is like used-bike central..lots to choose from.

My first thought would be a Trek 950, or 970, or 990 with Schwalbe Big Ben (2.1 inch) tires. That combo makes for a sweet, fast rolling, cushy ride..I have a 970 with Big Ben's on it...my touring bike. Super-easy & inexpensive drop bar conversion if you want to go that route. The 1990-94ish frame had shorter top tubes than 95 and up.

That being said..this one might fit you and very much a steal if it's still available. I find it hard to believe the ad is still up after a few days.
Diamondback Apex for $150 in New Ulm. Don't be afraid to drive a bit for a nice ride..you only have to drive once and it's over..and you have the bike forever if you choose.
https://mankato.craigslist.org/bik/d...188896489.html
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Old 09-06-20, 09:31 PM
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The most important thing is to find a bike in very good condition with fewer miles if possible. You don’t want to have to make repairs to older 7 speed systems.

If you want to ride some trails, it would be better to get a bike with a cassette than a freewheel. Axles on freewheel hubs have less bearing support.

If the bike is an 80’s to early/mid 90’s it probably has a 1” stem. If the bike has a 1” stem, make sure it is a quill stem. It will be harder to find a shorter length 1” threadless mtb stem. There are 1” flip-flop road stems but the angle is limited.

John
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Old 09-07-20, 11:08 AM
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I sold one of my bikes this morning so there is room for a project bike. I planning to spend well less than 100 if possible.

I appreciate all the input so far!
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Old 09-07-20, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Brian44t View Post
I sold one of my bikes this morning so there is room for a project bike. I planning to spend well less than 100 if possible.

I appreciate all the input so far!
In the Minneapolis/St.Paul area ...

Here's a CraigsList ad for a Trek 830 Antelope for $60: click.

Here's what looks like a 1987 Peugeot Orient Express step-through 19", for $100: click. Modest components, per the Peugeot 1987 spec sheet.

And a Schwinn Mirada "medium"-framed bike that looks in pretty good shape, for $100: click. Relaxed geometry on this one.
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Old 09-08-20, 08:18 AM
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I was unable to get a response from most of the CL ads I responded to. I did pick up a very rough Trek 850 Antelope for $30. It should serve as the project I am looking for but I will still keep my eyes open for better bikes.

Are Schwalbe Big Ben tires the best choice?
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Old 09-08-20, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Brian44t View Post
Are Schwalbe Big Ben tires the best choice?
For the riding conditions you described earlier ...

I've got a set of the Big Ben tires on a Trek 970 used for commuting on mostly urban roadways, occasional MUPs, and rare hardpack dirt trails. They work great. Haven't been on gravel, with them, so I can't speak to that surface. Not the lightest tires around, by any stretch, but I find the grip fairly good and the cushy nature wonderful.

Check out these two, as possibilities:

Maxxis DTH 26x2.3"

and

ReneHerse Rat Trap Pass, 26x2.3" -- About as light as they get. Fairly fast, and fairly grippy on a variety of flatter and hardpack surfaces.

If looking for a fairly decent multi-surface tire, you might consider the Continental urban/touring-oriented tires --

Continental Ride Tour, in 26x1.75"

I've had a set of these, and they'll tolerate lightly muddy conditions on harder trails, very light gravel, and slick situations on roads and paths. Moderately fast, as well. Though, heavier.

Last edited by Clyde1820; 09-13-20 at 06:08 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old 09-09-20, 06:49 AM
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I had an old Marin and a Gary Fischer, back in the days they were made of steel in the USA. You can find these at yard sales, bazaars in retirement communities and the like. Avoid vintage aluminum bikes unless you can find one which has low miles and was kept in a dry environment, make sure you can wiggle out the seat post before buying one.
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Old 09-09-20, 07:21 AM
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Scwhinn had a couple nice mountain bikes over the years with good frames. The Homegrown and the Mesa GSX both had similar frames. They came with front suspension but you could easily replace the shock fork with a rigid fork since you mentioned a "project".
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Old 09-09-20, 08:23 AM
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Old 90s mountain bikes make for good project bikes. I picked up old Trek 930 for $120 from Craigslist the end of last summer so well before the pandemic. It sat in my garage over the winter and I got around to building it up in the Spring. The only thing original are the headset, bottom bracket, brake calipers and original color matching fork (the important bit of the build). This model came out around the time of the first suspension forks so many bikes of this vintage will have gen 1 forks which will make refreshing/upgrading difficult but aftermarket rigid forks are still available. I set mine up as a gravel grinder bike that I ride on the local MUT and occasional dirt/gravel trails. 1x9 with 11-42 cassette and 38t chainring has range for pretty much any ride in my local area.
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Old 09-12-20, 04:26 PM
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Update: I got a nice deal on some Schwalbe Land Cruiser Tires in 26 x 1.75 from my LBS.

I have cleaned up this old Trek. It looks like it was a college bike at one time and sat outside so I am dealing with some rust. I have pedals, chain and brake pads as well as the tires to install as well as some handlebars I have not yet ordered.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074YYNWDM...v_ov_lig_dp_it

Question: I do not think I have any use for the two smaller front chainrings. Is there any reason that I I shouldn't remove them as well as the front derailer and try to position the large chainring more inboard for better chain alignment? Or, is there a replacement single chainring with pedal arm and possibly a guard that I should locate instead? I see the 1X9 setup in the post above this and like it very much.
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Old 09-12-20, 08:05 PM
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Sweet! I'm also working on a Trek 850, from 84. I got it as just a frame though, so for now it's just a blank canvas of ideas.

Originally Posted by Brian44t View Post
I have cleaned up this old Trek. It looks like it was a college bike at one time and sat outside so I am dealing with some rust. I have pedals, chain and brake pads as well as the tires to install as well as some handlebars I have not yet ordered.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074YYNWDM...v_ov_lig_dp_it
I actually just got a set of these bars to replace the straight bars on the Miyata triple cross my mom rides. They're super comfy! The cables are just a wee bit short now though...


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