'The only thing that never changes, is change.'

Cliche yes, but I don't know if you could describe mountain bike tires better in one sentence.

You could probably make a coffee table book of all the different tread patterns that have existed since mountain bikes really took off in the late 80's.  Scratch that - you could make a coffee table book of all the tread patterns that no longer exist since mountain biking got popular.  We saw all manner of "innovations" like tires designed to roll in a certain direction, tires meant to work on the front or on the rear, different rubber compounds, different sizes, and different colors.

Now I doubt anyone - other than me - would buy such a thing, but the point being that the general design of MTB tires is changing every year.

Why is this?

Did the hardpacked trails somehow get more slippery over the winter?  Did the gravel out there get upgraded?  Did the roots get, I don't know...  rootier??

I know that conditions on any given trail can change after years of use, but in general, we're still riding the same types of trails here in 2011 that we rode in 1990.  It's still dirt, rocks, roots, sand, and grass.

So why then does the Panaracer Smoke - generally accepted as the best tire of it's time - no longer work?  It must no longer work, because it's not fitted to new bikes anymore, right?

And the Onza Porcupine; did it have an expiration date that we didn't know about?  Did it's designers somehow know that by 1995, it just wouldn't grip the ground anymore?

The Panaracer Timbuk II, Fisher Fattrax, Ritchey Megabite, Specialized Ground Control, Klein Death Grip - all of these tires at some point just stopped working

Take a look at this page of Motocross tires - notice anything odd?

(hint - they're all the same!)

Now check this pic of a Yamaha from 1974;

Nearly 40 years later, and the tires are virtually identical.

How is it that Motocross tires haven't changed - at least in their tread pattern - for 40 years?

And why don't they have the dizzying array of different tread patterns like mountain bikes do?

I'll admit, I'm not immune to this.  A new set of tires and grips can go a long way to making your old bike feel new.  But, I just don't get why those old designs don't work anymore.

I think my Blizzard would really like a set of skinwall Ritchey Megabites.


Time for some fun!

i just had to share this;

for starters, notice the completely bizarre pics.

rather than put the bike on the floor, the seller has elected to hang it off the edge of a metal shelf that appears to be blocking a window.

there must be a good reason for this, but, i can't think of one.  and i mean BOTH hanging the bike upside down off this shelf, and blocking a window with said shelf.

and then there's the listing itself - all in caps of course;


as opposed to your work bike?

as it turns out, neither of those two things actually involve writing about it!


but wait - of the two things he did, there are three things.

unfortunately, his youtube account has been closed, so no video.  but he has thoughtfully included a picture of a moving truck.

which you may need to pick up the bike as it weighs 32 POUNDS.

(if you're unsure, a good road bike weighs 20 lbs or less, and most good mountain bikes will come in under 30)

i love ebay.


Gary Fisher

yes, him again....

he's the character that i love to be pretty much ambivalent about.

if you're interested though, here's an interview he gave at the Handmade show in Austin recently;


i didn't even watch it.  the comments made it sound like some kind of freakshow, so i passed.  besides, i can't be bothered to watch an interview, because really, that's a waste of one of your senses.  make it a podcast so i can look at something else while i listen.  or make it text so i can listen to Deftones while i read.

yes i know i can just start it and then go to another website, but that's besides the point really.

the point is; who cares what Gary Fisher thinks about the health of the handmade bicycle industry?  does he handmake bicycles anymore?  is he even looking over the shoulder of the technical school trained kid at Trek, advising him where to click in his CAD/CAM program to place his signature decal?  what the hell does he do anyway?

now that Trek dropped the other shoe, and has swallowed up Fisher mountain bikes, he's seemingly just a figurehead for his not-really-existing-anymore bike company, and slowing morphing into the Don Cherry of cycling.

i guess he does provide some personality for what could be the most boring bicycle company ever. 

i just don't think i like that personality.



i've never been one to be conventional when it comes to bikes.  i strive to do things that haven't been done before.  although - let's be honest here - everything's been done before.  i know that Mavic doesn't make a plate to move rim brakes on an MTB frame up to match a 700c wheel just for me.

i guess that means there's some French guy building these same bikes that i build.

i knew i was on the right track when a mechanic (and artist) that i worked with at Redbike - someone i greatly respected - told me he'd never met a mechanic that could make more out of seemingly nothing then i could.  i credit my experience as a triage mechanic on the battlefields of Dow Chemical where i repaired Norco cruisers, and awful Workman tricycles.

unfortunately, i've not done a good enough job or documenting some of these projects, and i have no photographic evidence, just anecdotes.  like...

- the Fisher i built up as a single speed from parts that customers no longer wanted at Redbike. 
-the carbon miyata road bike that was too small for me. 
-the Kona Humuhumu-Nukunuku-Apu’A i built with 700c wheels (someone stole this out of my backyard while it was in mid-upgrade, it had no seatpost and no front brakes.  people will steal anything.)
-the single speed Moulden MTB with 700c wheels (this for a customer at Redbike after i proved the concept was sound - see the DIY hybrid below.) 
- the Miyata Ridge Runner DIY Pugsly that was lost in the great purge.

thankfully, i do have some pics.

like the too big single speed Norco with moustache bars;

(yes, i do have Curt Harnett's legs.)

(no i don't...)

the DIY hybrid Kawasaki (no pics of this sadly), which became the DIY hybrid Vertex;

(this could be the most bad-ass bike i ever put together)

which later became the DIY hybrid GT;

and is now the DIY hybrid Klein.  again, no pics amazingly.  it's a stealth bike.

there must be more, but my mind draws a blank at the moment.

the 'just make it work' aspect of bike repair at Dow was a big factor in my ability to see these projects in my mind before picking up the wrench.  but, a subconscious influence perhaps, was a factory Frankenbike from back in the day.

the Specialized RockCombo;

when i was still learning what a 'chainstay' was, the guy across the street from me had one of these.  i remember thinking it was really cool.  but today, i'm wondering what the hell i was thinking.  the drop bars hinder it's use as a proper MTB, and it's puny 26" wheels make it fairly hopeless as a 'cross bike.  so, why exactly?

of course, there was one guy who made it work;

well, sort of.  the magazines at the time reported that Johnny T's 7-11 coach allowed him to race mountain bikes as long as he ran a drop bar to maintain his riding position.  it made sense at the time, but honestly - is that not a completely ludicrous idea?  

MTB and road racing have virtually nothing in common as far as the bicycle/rider relationship is concerned, so how does making Tomac less competitive on a drop bar - and really, we know it wasn't making him better, because nobody else did it - help him to be a better road racer?

i bet you that secretly, the 7-11 coach knew that drop bar would hinder Tomac, and hoped that it would do so so much that he'd quit MTB racing.  or, he'd do what actually happened; quit road racing in 1991.  

so anyway, this all leads me to pondering a drop bar on my single speed Blizzard.  until i ran the idea past my brother.  his reply?

"don't see the benefit of looking that ridiculous."

that takes care of that.

besides, i'm sure it breaks one of the rules.


new bikes

i've found a couple of new bikes i really like for 2011.  

first, the Norco Club;

it's a basic, steel road bike with double chain rings up front, and a very basic, serviceable part mix from all the names you'd expect on a $900 bike; Shimano Sora and Tiagra, Tektro, Formula, FSA, and Norco branded hard parts (bar, stem, seatpost).

it looks great; the graphics look like it was made in 1975 - well, if Norco was cool in 1975, and they were not - but i'm not sure who this will appeal to.  a similarly priced aluminum bike would probably weigh 2 pounds less.  so maybe it's for other retro leaning cyclists, like myself, that can't be bothered to find old frames and period correct parts on eBay.

i'd much rather have this Club, then the average cookie-cutter road bike.

it's a lot like a complete Surly Pacer, but with cheaper parts on it.  which makes it a pretty cool bike.

Devinci Dixon XP;

this has all the features the kids want on their trail bikes this year; tapered headtube, 6 inches of travel, and cool split pivot suspension - the rear suspension pivot and the rear axle are one in the same.  it looks like a lot of fun, and probably climbs well for it's weight.

i have to confess though, i like it most for it's looks.  mountain bikes - all bikes - always look good in white.

(and now the good stuff)

Rocky Mountain Vertex t.o. 30th Anniversary Edition;

fantastic red to yellow maple leaf fade, fork painted to match - just simply beautiful.  almost too nice to ride.

Rocky Mountain Blizzard 30th Anniversary Edition;

it's the negative of my 25th Anniversary Edition Blizzard (see below), and like the Vertex has the never improved upon (in my opinion) graphics style used from 1990 to 1998.  clearly Rocky agrees with me, because they wouldn't have used that style for these bikes would they?

not a new bike, but good for comparison purposes;

coming soon; the Rocky's I've Owned post.


more old bikes

two great old bikes found on ebay recently;

1995 Brodie Expresso.  i'm not a fan of the paint job, but it's a high quality job by Toxik Harold, and both the Syncros stem and super rare Brodie Gatorblade fork are painted to match.

along with late 80's/early 90's Fishers, an old Brodie is probably one of the rarest bikes to find for sale in my experience.  you could argue that 1995 is out of the handbuilt era for Brodie, but there was a limited run of the old bikes made and this is one of them.  the seller states that Brodie had to dig up an old Gatorblade for this frame when he ordered it, so considering that, the threaded headset, and the Syncros stem, you've got yourself a terrific replica of a 1991 Brodie right here.

which is a great segue to this beauty;

this amazing 1991 Kona Explosif has lead a sheltered life in a Zurich shop and has seen limited use.  

i can still see in my mind's eye, the Explosif that River Valley had on display at it's Whyte ave location the first time i was in there.  maybe the only bike that made more of an impression on me in my formative cycling years was the '91 Blizzard.  these are slightly more common than the Brodies, but not by much.

one thing i have to mention; the seller is selling a Project Track Two fork and Impact headset - both items that need to be on this frame - in a separate auction.  it drives me CRAZY when people do this.  from a restoration stand point, those parts are a perfect match, but the seller wants to try and squeeze a few more dollars out of his sale.  douche move my friend...

TeamCow strongly frowns upon this practise.



old bikes

i love looking for old bikes on ebay, if you've read any of this blog you've already figured that out i'm sure.  i love it when i find something that was extra special in it's day.  usually i was never in a position to buy those bikes back then, but today, it's at least possible.
< sometimes though, when i find something really cool, i have to wonder just how good it really is.

this is a Mantis Pro-Floater - one the best suspension bikes of the early era of suspension. handmade by Richard Cunningham in the early 90's.  it was lighter than most bikes at the time, and rode better as well.  by all accounts, it may have been the best suspension bike there was.

in the early 90's.

it was cool to find this as they are pretty rare - in the history of the BikeGuide i only ever found one for sale - but when i saw this, i couldn't help but wonder how it rides.  look at those tiny tubes, pivot points, and that noleen shock.  it all looks so fragile.

it'll have great value to collectors (well maybe not this one so much, read the auction and you'll find that it's broken!) looking to get what they couldn't get back in the day, but i doubt anyone is buying this because they intend to built the best trail bike they can.  or at least i hope they aren't doing that.  i'd think that even an entry-level bike from Rocky or Devinci would be so much better that the Mantis would be laughable by comparison.

or would it?

would nearly 20 years of advancement in frame tube shaping and stiffness, suspension damping, and pivot bearings trump Cunnigham's innate ability to build a great bike?  

i'd love to find out, so please send me an old Mantis, and a new Rocky, and i'll devise some scientific testing to come up with an answer for you.





the other day when i was looking for the pics of the Schwinn Paramount MTB from 1993, i found a scan of the 1972 Schwinn catalog.

in this catalog are several gems like;

and this - the greatest salesman ever!

and this!

super groovy pants!

the Paramount track bike by the way was  $224.95 with Campagnolo hubs and tubulars!!

and i had thought Willy Rey was the only reason i wish i could go back in time to 1972.

this comes from another catalog - not sure what year though;

if an old Paramount and high-waisted pants makes me interesting to bikini clad Catherine Bell look-a-likes, then i'm on eBay right now looking for a Paramount.  and i'm hiking up my belt big time.



Marinoni dream

ok, what about this - Marinoni Fango;

but instead of silver, i go with a metallic green called 'sabra'  (that's green right?)

and instead of white, i choose the metallic 'pine'

and then do the red accent in yellow.  in fact, i think the 'Marinoni' badges would be all yellow, instead of a yellow M and then white everything else.

maybe this is a little too feminine?  back in the day, i recall a magazine did a feature on the 1993 Schwinn Paramount R80.  i didn't actually like it that much then because of the odd colours, but now i see that it was elegant, pretty, and highly unique.

so that would be the feel i'm going for. i think it would look good with mostly black parts.


Irrational Dislikes

for whatever reason, good or bad, there are certain bike brands that i just don't like.  i'm sure the bikes are fine, but there's just something about them that i can't stand. design elements, graphics, component choices, or the kind of people that ride them - any of these things can set me off.

i don't know if i'm alone in this - i don't think i am.  i'm sure there are people that just hate certain bands, or clothing lines, or whatever - but can't really say why.  or at least can't give a particularly logical reason anyway.

if you've gone through the archives here at all, you probably have a pretty good idea of which bikes i don't like already.  but here's the weird thing; things change!  i never liked GTs much at all - i thought the 'triple-triangle' was gimmicky, and the paint jobs were garish.  but now, if you can find one a clean one from the 90's - i'm tempted to buy one myself.

like this 1991 Avalanche;

save the tires (and maybe that fork), this bike is completely original.  it's amazing!

i wish i could say why i've softened my stance on GT, but i really don't know why.  maybe it's actually those old Shimano XT parts i like?  maybe it's that Rock Shox Mag21 that was so revolutionary that i like?

or maybe it's this;

this is zzzomm's 1990 GT Tequesta.  in the fall of 1990 he and i bought bikes.  i got a Bridgestone MB-5 and he got this GT.  just last summer he reacquired it from a friend, and I got to redo it.  i scored a full XT Raleigh, and moved every part i could onto this GT.  i was really happy with the way it turned out and i really like this bike now.

i still don't like Trek though.


eBay finds

every time i think i've found the worst good bike ever, i find something even more jarring then the last worst one.  this bike further prooves my 'certain bikes attract terrible taste' theory - check it out;

it's just wrong in so many ways; the dreaded flame job (never liked it on a bike save for the RMB special edition Hot Rod Slayer), Spinergys with the extra stickers on the spokes, a Girvin fork, and, the cherry on top of this terrible sundae; custom hand painted Maxxis Hookworms.

Hookworms are seriously cool, but taking a tiny paint brush to fill in the grooves - this is madness.

or genius?

it's madness.  he did the same to the plastic spider saddle, got red jockey wheels in the rear derailleur, and has red flame grips.  in fact, i bet the grips were the inspiration for the entire project.  it's so over the top, i just can't imagine who would like this.

also, there's something mechanically wrong with this bike.  i think the seller has swapped out the shock for an aftermarket one that has a longer eye-to-eye length.  think of this bike as a big hinge, and putting that shock that's too long on it has caused it to suck in the front wheel, and steepen the head angle.  

i would think riding this bike would be terrifying


next up - old timey Manitous;

in 1997, Manitou released the Shaun Palmer edition fork.  this was an FS Ti in neon green.  with a Shaun Palmer logo on it.  otherwise, not that special.  but it was green.

anyway, i bought one of these online and enjoyed it on my sky blue M2 Stumpjumper for a few years.

it wasn't bad, but was it better than the Marzocchi Z.2 i had before?  probably not.  but it was green.  and i never saw another rider with one, so it did it's job.

i don't remember what i paid for it sadly.  i think it was less that $300, but i don't know.  

i'm not sure why you'd buy this to be honest.  i know there's a big retro movement out there, but is 1997 really retro?


and finally, i will figure out photography some day;