Here’s another candidate for the mythical Mount Rushmore of Vintage MTBs that I mentioned in the Yeti post.  Klein wasn’t there right at the beginning like Ritchey or Charlie Kelly, but his bikes today are held in very high regard.

Gary Klein’s bike building career actually began at MIT in the mid 70’s, but Klein the company didn’t start selling bikes until 1985. Very few other builders were using the large diameter aluminum tubes that he was.  And what further made his bikes stand out from the rest of the pack was his paint.

Mountain Klein

Mountain Klein

Klein’s had bright fades early on like everybody back then did. The Top Gun in red, white, and blue was particularly nice. And later, his paint jobs got crazy. Backfire, Painted Desert, Rainforest, Team Storm, Gator, and Dolomite. I haven’t been able to find a good gallery of all of them, but this website has most of them.

Klein Adroit (rainforest)

Klein Adroit (rainforest)

They were loud as hell, and some “important” bloggers didn’t like them.  But I don’t really like some “important” bloggers, so whatever.

When it comes to racing, Klein has the prerequisites there too. Specifically, the legendary Tinker Juarez. Tinker raced for Klein from ’90 to ’93, on a Dolomite Attitude, and then he probably made the Team Storm paint famous all on his own.

Klein Adroit (team storm)

Klein Adroit (team storm)

And there were the frame details; square tubes on the chainstays, rear facing dropouts, the huge Strata fork with a tapered head tube, permanently installed headsets needing no adjustment, and the one piece Mission Control bar/stem combo.

This is a polarizing bike though – there’s a vocal group that really dislikes them. Not entirely sure why, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually dislike for the owners, and those that worship them.

It could also be jealousy over the kind of money these bikes sell for. Or the amount the people ask for them as we’ll get into later.

Klein Attitude (dolomite)

Klein Attitude (dolomite)

Sadly, Klein was purchased by Trek in 1995, who shut down the Chehalis, WA frame facility in 2002, and eventually shut down operations for good in 2007. Klein didn’t get a “Built by Klein” line a la Gary Fisher, or even have any of his bike names appropriated by Trek – production just ended.

Mark my words; someday, Trek will have it’s day of reckoning. They will answer for their crimes against small bike builders.

Anyway, if you want to join the club, there are lots of very well preserved bikes on eBay. But you better come correct, because you’re not getting a bargain. There’s a Rascal in Backfire for $1100, a Pinnacle Elite in Backfire for $2300, and an Attitude in Gator for….$4700. Yes, $4700.

Klein Top Gun

Klein Top Gun

Are these bikes worth this much? Probably not. $4700 is a pretty insane amount to pay for any bike honestly. Though if you’re willing to take a lesser paint job, there are a couple of vintage Kleins on Craigslist in the US for $500 or so. And prices drop for any of the post-Trek buyout bikes.

I really like Klein, and I always have. Though I prefer the older bikes, like the Top Gun or the Rascal. Whichever your preference, you can’t deny their importance to the vintage scene.

6 thoughts on “Klein”

  1. That rainforest adroit was the inspiration for one of the most important TeamCow bikes, the Green Machine. Klein was my first “dream” bike, a comparatively plain orange Pulse.

  2. Yes!

    Any chance you have a picture of that bike? And do you remember having the Kona Z-Link fork on it?

    I think I do somewhere, but it will take a lot of digging to find.

  3. I have a really nice 1993 rascal in rainforest green with a matching green front shock from the factory…have never seen another

  4. I met Gary Klein in 1985 on my way to san francisco coming from anchorage on a mountainbike made by ferraroli in switzerland, one of the very first mountainbike builders I know. he made off-road bikes for the “quer-sport” basically mountainbikes or off-road bikes with 700C wheels, a sport which was very popular in switzerland. speaking of it, the first mountain-bikers ever, were the single speed mountain-bike riders ever were the berg-velo riders in the swiss army. these off-road pedal bikes were used in the swiss army to control the boarders in swiss alps.
    anyway, besides the history . . .
    I am looking for the original artwork for the decals on the mountain-klein to reprint the frame decals or a genuine decal.
    thank you. I still own a 1st production year mountain klein but have no decals for it. at that time I imported the klein frames in unpainted raw and custom painted or powder coated the framesets to the customers choice. anything was possible. from handpainted artwork to powdercoated fades.
    I sold about 100-150 mountain kleins/year in the late 80’s.

    1. I love those older Kleins. The later ones with the crazy forks and one piece bar/stems were great, but I’d rather have a Top Gun or the old Mountain Kleins.

      For decals, the definitive source is a guy in the UK named Gil. You can find him on the Retrobike forums, or his site is The Cycle Shed. I’m certain he’ll have decals available for Kleins given their popularity.

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