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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.