The Grand Unification Vintage post

I’ve had it in mind for some time now that I could write up a post that would sum up all of  vintage cycling.  Something that would cover all the bases from restoration styles to what old bikes are worth to why we even care about them.

This, of course, is a foolish idea.  You’d need an entire website to explain it all.  And there are already two or three very good ones that do that.

But that’s no reason for me not to do it.

There’s no way I can do it all in one post though, so today, let’s talk about what makes an old mountain bike valuable.  It’s really rather complicated.  And I’m going to start with a story about me being a jerk.

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The worst suspension bike ever made

Recently, some guy writing for some bicycle website picked the 15 worst products ever.  It was a fairly pointless list, since a lot of the parts were just evolutionary steps to something that was good.  Much of the early days of mountain bikes involved adapting parts from motocross (which were typically too heavy) or road bikes (which weren’t tough enough), so no surprise that they’d be crap compared to today’s parts.

But there was one suspension design listed there that reminded me that I never finished my series from last year on the worst suspension bikes ever made.  So, I’ve gotten all my thoughts together finally, and here it is.

Trek 9000/9200

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This looks familiar I know – it’s mine.  You can read a detailed summary of why I think it’s one of the worst here.  For the purposes of this post, I’ll just say that any forum thread I’ve ever found about the worst bikes, this one is always brought up.

Fisher RS-1

I have to say, the RS-1 looked great. It was designed by Mert Lawwill, member of the American Motorcycle Association hall of fame, and the Mountain bike hall of fame. His signature linkage design was later featured on the Schwinn Four Banger and Straight Six, and Yeti DH bikes.

The problem is that in 1992, cantilever brakes were the industry standard, and there was just no way to make them work on this suspension design. So, they had to create a disc brake for it too.

It didn’t work all that well.

And like the Trek 9000, it had elastomer strings, but these were tiny.

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These look like they might be good for a softtail-type arrangement, but certainly not for a genuine full suspension bike.

So, the Fisher was ahead of it’s time for sure – but once shocks and disc brakes became useful, then it proved to be a solid deisgn. But the RS-1 was not good.

Mountain Goat Whiskeytown Racer FS

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Mountain Goat was one of the better small frame builders from the early days of mountain biking.  Today they are among the most sought after of brands, and their bikes were known for being great for racing, and for their eye-searing custom paint.  The Whiskeytown was named after a popular point to point race from BITD – which is something that is only lately making a comeback to the racing scene.

Sadly, Mountain Goat’s attempt at full suspension bike was really quite awful.  For starters, it just looks like it would flex like mad.  Maybe that trellis-like rear section isn’t really that bad, but it really looks sketchy.

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Even worse though is the elastomer spring.  It appears that there is a threaded rod attached to the swingarm which compresses the elastomer elements from the bottom up when it hits a bump.  There is a nut visible on the end of that rod that’s for setting the preload on the spring.  Somehow, that’s attached to the frame.  Not sure how though.

This has been a countdown actually – even though I didn’t identify it as such – and, we have arrived at #1.  But before we get to that, my honourable mention.

URT suspension designs

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The Unified Rear Triangle design caught on fast back in the day, mostly for it’s simplicity.  All it is, is a bike frame cut in half and put back together with a pivot and a shock.  It became the most popular design for department store bikes because of that simplicity.

It worked fine though, as long as you weren’t pedalling too hard, or braking hard, or standing on the pedals.  All of those activities would fight the suspension, in effect, locking it out.

If you’ve spent any time riding trails, you know those three things happen about 85% of the time.  A lot of good bike companies used this format, but I’ll bet that only one or two still made them after 2002.

So, worst suspension bike ever?

IRD Suspension bike

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In the swingarm, somewhere, is a shock.  A cable runs from the shock, loops under the bottom bracket, and then back up to the shock.  I would hope there is something for the swingarm to rest up against when it’s not compressed at all, otherwise, when you picked up the bike, the rear wheel would stay on the ground, the cable would go slack, and you’d just have a mess.

So it’s got that going for it, and on top of that, it should flex like crazy with the one pivot being the only place the swingarm connects to the frame.  Going around a corner must be a terrifying adventure.  This particular example of the bike also has a bunch of holes drilled in the crank.  Because you know, it’s just not quite dangerous enough as it is.

I don’t know much about this bike, and for the longest time, I thought this might be the only one, but I recently found pictures of two others.  It’s unlikely many more than those three were made.

Vintage Mammoth

So, I have these old bikes.  One is a 1989 Fisher CR-7 with a full XT group (minus the thumbshifters) and a 1992 Trek 9200 with a DX/XT mix.  Neither of which I have any designs on keeping.  The Fisher was abandoned by it’s owner (considering it’s condition, I’m not too surprised), which ended up being a score for me for the parts, because it’s a 15″ frame.  And the Trek is a joke – it’s a terrible bike.

But, together, they represent two bikes worth of pretty decent vintage parts.  Which means, I can get a bike to put those parts on…

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This is a Mammoth RC-201, made somewhere between 1989 and 1992.  I’m going to get all CSI up in here, so hang on; there is nothing stamped on the frame, but the ’89 catalog shows the RC-201 having U-brakes.  This frame is made for cantilevers though, so it must be newer than ’89.  The rear brake cable runs down the down tube, under the bottom bracket, and then up to a roller, and finally to the brakes.  I’ve seen Mammoths without this admittedly ridiculous setup,  and I’d have to assume those are the newest iterations of this frame.

And finally, Mammoth was done by ’92 or ’93, so, I’m saying this is a 1990 or maybe a 1991.

Mammoth was not a really big or popular bike maker, so there isn’t a ton of info out there, and as such, I’ll probably never know for sure what year it was made.  But that’s ok, because it achieves the one thing I really want in a bicycle, which is; I’m the only kid on the block that has one.

Now, what I do know about Mammoth is that it was started by guys that ran Tracker, which made skateboard components.  It’s an elevated chainstay bike, which was popular for a bit in the early 90’s, and us VRC guys love e-stay bikes.  It’s made from 2024 aluminium (those numbers represent what metal is alloyed with the aluminium, in this case, copper) – which did not require heat treating after welding.  And in fact, it’s not really welded at all.

So, I’ve got myself this crazy rare bike, and now I have to figure out how to put it together.  It uses a pressed in bottom bracket – which oddly enough, is now becoming an industry standard.  But of course in 1990, they used different size bearings.

It needs a 1″ fork.  This size was completely dead in mountain bikes by 1992.  Well, in good mountain bikes anyway.  If I want a good fork for this bike, I could be spending $150 or more.

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And then there’s the paint issue.  Do I repaint, or polish?  Mammoth liked a red/white/black fade, but I’d be using spray cans.  I’ve sprayed quite a few bikes in my day, but don’t know that I could pull that off.

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Aluminium looks great polished, but I’ve done that before, and it’s a lot of work.  Also, I want to be a bit different.  Most of the parts I have a silver, so I figure a darker colour is best.  I saw Krylon in Key Lime green though, and it looked good…

OK, I think I’ve geeked out enough on this bike for one day.  I just discovered that my pictures are coming up on the first page of a Mammoth RC201 image search, so I’m happy.  Also, I bought a cool Atak/Sun/Ringle wheelset for it today.  This is going to be a great bike when it’s done.