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Retro MTB(12 posts)

Retro MTBlaffeaux
May 10, 2002 8:53 AM
Anyone ride retro mountain bikes? My "grocery getter" bike is a '85 Ritchey. It's fillet brazed, with all original parts - most of which are road parts (including Dura Ace hubs). It rides more like a cruiser than a mountain bike.
Neighbor's got a Ritchey like yours...retro
May 10, 2002 12:31 PM
One of my neighbors has a Ritchey from about that time--one of the really early mountain bikes. He's ridden it a ton and replaced a couple of things, but it's very close to original. I don't know the geometry, but that's about the time I got interested in mountain bikes, and I remember they were WAY laid back--68- or 69-degree headtube angles, I think. My first one, a Mongoose circa 1988, was 70 degrees parallel, and it was considered steep. His Ritchey's too small for me, but I've ridden it a little. Can't believe people used to go around corners on those things....
You would be surprised ...Humma Hah
May 10, 2002 2:09 PM
... I have a modern MTB and I find the thing so twichy that I don't understand how anybody rides 'em hard. If it hits a bump, it'll bounce off-line about a foot and a half. Its a constant job keeping it on the trail.

The cruiser, by contrast, hits a bump and goes straight over it. Its not that it won't turn, it just won't turn unless you ASK it to.

And its not hard to turn ... I can do a U-turn on a 7-foot-wide bike path. It has 20" bars -- I'm amazed at the huge broomsticks on some MTB's, wider than the ones I used to have on an enduro motorcycle that could twitch thru the trees at 24 mph like a squirrel.

Give me a bike that goes where I tell it to! You can keep the ones that have a mind of their own.
Neighbor's got a Ritchey like yours...laffeaux
May 13, 2002 11:58 AM
I've got to agree with you on the, "[I] Can't believe people used to go around corners on those things." The old 68/69 degree head tube angles are kind of fun for cruising around on, but I prefer the slightly more modern 71 degree angles for real off-road riding. The slack angles are don't take single track very well at all (although they are fine on fire roads).

It's hard to believe it's only been a bit over 15 years, and the rigid fork, filet brazing, bull moose bar, roller-cam under the chain stay rear brake, thumb-shifters, and steel frame have all disappeared. Bikes change quick these days.
Proto MTB ...Humma Hah
May 10, 2002 2:04 PM
... By the time Fisher and Breeze came out with purpose-built MTB's, I had independently "invented" my own, by ruggedizing my Schwinn cantilever cruiser. I'd even made some straight, polyester-resin-filled handlebars for it to overcome my tendency to break cruiser bars. Fisher and Breeze got started on even older Schwinn Excelsior cruiser frames, while the Crested Butte, CO MTBers did what I did and converted cantilever cruisers. The early MTBs were usually copies of Excelsior geometry, hence the cruiser-like handling.

Photos are available on my website,

The bike is still rugged, capable of hard trail riding, handles especially well in baby-head rocks. However, I've retired it to mostly road riding (it will be 31 this July, too precious to bash in the rocks). It makes a tolerably good, if somewhat slow, roadbike. Sweet handling, survives hitting potholes that would trash most roadbikes, and it definitely provides some exercise. Its one-day record distance is about 153 miles, done last Sept 8. It has done about 5 centuries plus rides of 130, 140, and the 153.
Proto MTB ...peter in NVA
May 13, 2002 9:52 AM
Never thought my fillet brazed Ritchey P22 bought in '90 would become retro! *Younger* riders ask me how I can ride it without shocks. I guess I've gone further retro now by
riding my Ritchey cross bike off road - just like my P22, but skinner tires.As Humma says, I like the fact that a bump doesn't knock it off course. I just have to use more body English to get it to turn.
NVA?Humma Hah
May 13, 2002 1:14 PM
Northern Virginia by any chance? I'm in Manassas.
NVA?peter in NVA
May 13, 2002 3:10 PM
Vienna! I mostly ride the Difficult Run Trail to Great Falls or Skyline Drive with slicks. My biking heart still lies in the San Gabriel mountains of LA near where I lived 20 years. Still do *real* mountain biking when I go out there (that's where my P22 still lives!)
NVA?Humma Hah
May 14, 2002 7:33 AM
I got back into cycling while staying in San Diego for a couple of years, but I'm maintaining the habit back here in my beloved Virginia. I have a cabin in W VA about 130 miles from here, on a 3200-ft mountain ... that's where my MTB resides.

Here, I commute most days on the ancient cruiser, which also dabbles in the dirt, and does the occasional century or epic ride. MB1 and I may try an epic on the C&O towpath this year, something in the 130-160-mile range on nice flat dirt path, cyclocross stuff. He also has shown me some excellent local pavement centuries.
NVA?peter in NVA
May 15, 2002 12:13 PM
Wish I had the time to do the C&O Towpath... I have never been on it! Do you need knobby tires or would a 700x28 slick (thinking of the Riv Roly-Poly) be ok? I'm sure my Mich Axial Pros wouldn't last a mile.
I'll probably run my Westwinds ...Humma Hah
May 15, 2002 3:26 PM
... reproduction street tires on the cruiser will work OK on most terrains, and they're practically slicks. Traction usually only gets to be an issue on really steep stuff with loose surfaces. The towpath is practically flat.

Road cycling started on dirt roads as bad or worse than the towpath, including centuries, and races such as the TDF continued to have unpaved sections until at least the 50's, I'm told. This would be a sort of back-to-roots ride for a roadie.

I'd worry more about pinch flats. A fatter tire is better, whatever your rims and frame clearance can handle. Cyclocross tires would probably be the best if they'll fit. I did read about a fellow who'd cycled across the US, solo, unsupported, on a roadbike, and finished on the C&O towpath. He'd run out of tubes and patches riding it in the rain, and was rescued by a fellow cyclist who gave him a patch kit.

I personally run slime in my thorn-resistant MTB tires to help prevent pinch flats (it lubes the inside of the tube and keeps them from tearing). I also have it in the new thorn resistant rear tube in the cruiser, but the front TR tube is something like 27 years old, no slime, and does fine so far. While heavy tubes might be bad on the road, if your tires and rims can use them, they might be nice for this kind of cyclocross ride.
I'll probably run my Westwinds ...peter in NVA
May 17, 2002 2:31 AM
Thanks. You've motivated me to try one short loop this summer - from Georgetown to Whites Ferry and return on the W&OD, about
75 miles. I have a true cyclocross bike on which I run 700x32 knobbies. They are not as bad as full mountain tires on pavement, but they still slow me down and cornering when
leaning is unstable as I transition from the file center tread to the outside knobs. I'll wait for a dry spell and do it with road tires...back to the roots!