Tuesday, September 5, 2017

1991 Salsa Ala Carte #SM786

The Bike:
The Salsa Ala Carte in the infamous Jelly Bean paint shares space on a list of top tier US made 'production' bikes.  It's not some mass produced overseas made Trek or Giant, but it's not a low production unobtanium bike either.  Like a Klein, Yeti, Ritchey, Bontrager, or Fat Chance...the Salsa falls into that sweet spot as a vintage mountain bike. Not so rare that they can't be found, but not so common that you'd see it on any college campus bike rack either.  Prominent enough that you probably remember reading about it in MBAction or seeing the ad with Ross Shafer along side Keith Bontrager.
I've owned and ridden quite a few vintage mountain bikes and out of all the iconic brands, I've found a terrific connection with my Salsa Ala Carte.  It's now one of the vintage mtb's I've owned the longest.  It's evolved over the years into what I feel is a very subtle and purposeful build. And I essentially got the bike for free.
Part of the process for me is buying, trying, and moving the non-performers along. This was the case with a Stumpjumper Epic that I'd sold on eBay. The buyer was local and came to my place to pick up the frame.  As we were discussing vintage mountain bikes, a particular bike in my collection caught his eye.  One that I'd gotten for free.  When I asked if he had anything in his own collection, he mentioned a Salsa with the 'Rasta' paint and drop bars.  It was all I could do to play it cool and casually agree to a potential straight across trade.
When we met up again, the Salsa was run down and needed a full rebuild, but the bones where there. My size, iconic paint, and seemingly built as a drop bar mtb from the start.  We traded bikes straight across and to this day, one of the best deals I've ever made.
Right away I made some minor changes and got the bike running. It was comfortable and a pretty good riding bike. The drop bar set up, which is very important to be just right, put me right where I needed to be.  It started seeing miles. Hard miles.  The bike had patina and I've never felt the need to baby it. It took everything with grace.  Less twitchy than my Ritchey, less flexy than my Bontrager, more responsive than my Yeti, and more forgiving than my Klein.  I can say with absolute certainty that the Salsa Ala Carte hits the sweet spot for a vintage mountain bike.  Not overly rare, not overly common, not overly expensive. It's memorable. It does everything well.
Because I'd spent so much time riding it, I was reluctant to pull the bike apart and rebuild it. One piece I never cared for was the Bontrager Composite fork. It chattered under hard braking. I've been told it's poor brake set up (totally possible), but every Bontrager Comp or Race fork I've ridden has given me unfavorable feed back.  At a bike swap, I took a gamble on a Titanium Merlgoose (Merlin made Mongoose) and the fork that came with it was a pretty rare straight blade Koski fork. I'd ridden the more common curved Koski DuraTrac fork (as commonly found on American Breezers and Bridgestones) and liked it a fair amount.
I decided it was time to give the Ala Carte the full rebuild it deserved.  Remove the disjointed build spec and try out the straight blade Koski.  This took a bike I really enjoyed and took it to another level. The build is a very predictable and reliable XT spec with little details to set it apart.  Radial laced front, radial laced non-drive rear. Black hub and brakes to match the black Hite-Rite and seatpost out back, silver brakes and hub to offset the black Koski fork up front. The Koski fork was a delightful surprise and possibly the best feeling fork I've ever ridden short of the Cunningham Type I. This Ala Carte is, for me, the best a vintage mtb can offer and I can't see it leaving my collection at any point.

The Build:

As found:

 An early iteration:

As raced at the 2014 Keyesville Classic:

Current Build:

 WTB Shifter Perches:


The Build:
Frame: Salsa
Fork: Koski Straight Blade
Rims: Mavic M231
Hubs: Shimano XT M730/M732
Quick Release: Salsa Rasta
Tires: OnZa Canis 2.25
Pedals: Shimano XT M737
Crank: Shimano XT M730
Chain: Sram
Rear Cogs: Shimano HG90
Bottom Bracket: Shimano
Front Derailleur: Shimano XT M735
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT M735
Shifters: Shimano XT M732
Handlebars: WTB/Specialized RM-2
Grips: Black cloth
Stem: Salsa P10
Headset: Shimano XT M732
Brake set: Shimano XT M732
Brake levers: Dia-Compe
Saddle: Selle Italia Turbo Super
Seat Post: American Classic w/ Hite-Rite
Paint: Team Jelly Bean
Size: 18.5"
Serial # SM786

The Ride:
I raved about the bike above, so it's no surprise that the ride of this 91 Salsa Ala Carte really speaks to me.  I've found the bike to be an exceptional rider. Aggressive enough to be a competent race bike, but comfortable enough for a casual classic cross country mountain bike ride.  The full XT drive train is functional and reliable (and on most of my bikes).  The Salsa P10 stem and WTB shifter perches with WTB/Specialized RM-2 off road drop bars make for a brilliant cock pit.  It's currently on very large OnZa Canis 2.25 tires add just a bit of extra cushion to an already very smooth riding bike.  The Koski fork is accurate but not overly harsh.  There isn't any local ride that I don't feel comfortable riding this bike in.  It's at a point where I don't feel there are any other changes that need to be made to the bike and I can look to it at any time to give me that great feeling that vintage mtb ownership and riding offers.

Friday, November 11, 2016

1991 Otis Guy #138 OG

The Bike: 
I'm a big fan of Otis Guy. He's one of mountain biking's early pioneers, humble and a wealth of knowledge. While other NorCal luminaries tend to get more of the spotlight, Otis built fine handmade mountain bikes and (unofficially) the fastest man down Repack.  The story goes that a dog jumped across the trail at the end of his downhill causing him to scrub speed on a run that would have eclipsed Gary Fisher's top time (conveniently CK wasn't there the day Gary got that top time...).  One thing he was not, was prolific as a builder.  He just didn't build many bikes. Sadly, a lot of his later work fell victim to the dreaded Beamer platform!  Needless to say, finding an early 90's double diamond Otis Guy frame with roller cam mounts is something very special to me.

The story on this frame is that it came out of a VeloSwap SF nearly a decade ago. Scored by a friend of mine who tragically pillaged it for parts, gave it the worst PC job ever, and sold it. Went to Australia for a number of years before going back on the auction block. I remember losing that auction. As it were, it went to another buddy who is local to me who also sat on it for a number of years. When he decided to punt on the project as well, I finally got my hands on this brutally neglected Otis Guy.

The frame was riddled with pin sized dimples and dings. There was a pin hole. The PC job was so shoddy, they didn't even bother to remove the plastic cable guide. Overall, this thing was questionable at best. Clearly it was worth spending the time and money to restore.
I took it to my trusted local frame builder Dale Saso for the once over. He extended the steerer on the extra FB'ed OG fork to match the original RC mount Koski. Dale did a slight realignment to the frame, filled some of the larger dings, filled the pin hole, chased all the threads (cable guide, rear der, bb). He checked for rust and any structural issues and it was given a clean bill of health, though a lot of the pin dimples remained.

When I'd pulled the cable guide off, the original color was underneath...which happened to be one of my favorite colors. Dark green!
My buddy Hollister and I took a trip up to Maas Bros to pick out paint for a number of projects. I probably spent close to 20 mins trying to match the original green. It was pretty hard to get it just right and in the end, the color was a deviation from an exact match, but still decently close. At first I wasn't totally thrilled with it, but it grew on me. I'd originally wanted black decals with the white outline, but Otis Guy offered to send me a complete set of decals with what he had left...which was gold. It was free and from Otis, we don't complain about these things. As it turns out, this complemented the frame and really brought out the green in a cool way. Those water transfer decals are a bitch though. So fragile.

Had most of the parts on hand. Paid the most I ever have for a clean black WTB Toggle Cam. Hollister built the wheelset. Got hung up on needing a brake booster, which gave me time to get dumb and buy a bunch of titanium bolts. Minor changes here and there. Slowly hanging parts, trimming housing, dialing in brakes/gears. The end result was so far above my expectations visually. It is a subtle, classic, early mountain bike through and through.

As picked up.

Back from a check up.

No need to remove that plastic cable guide before power coating.



Mock up begins.

Getting close.


Dimples remain from a former hard life.

The Build:
Frame: Otis Guy, fillet brazed
Fork: Otis Guy, fillet brazed
Rims: Mavic MA40 CD
Hubs: WTB Classic
Quick Release: Ringle Titanium
Tires: Panaracer GF Fattrax 2.2
Pedals: Shimano XT M737
Crank: Shimano M730 XT (Titanium Crank Bolts, Chainring Bolts)
Chain: Sram
Rear Cogs: Sachs Maillard 12-32
Bottom Bracket: Shimano UN71 XT
Front Derailleur: Shimano M735 XT (Titanium Pinch Bolts, Limit Screws)
Rear Derailleur: Shimano M735 XT (Titanium Pivot, Nut, Barrel, Jockey, Pinch, B-Limit, Limit Screws)
Shifters: Shimano M732 XT (Titanium Pinch, Pod Mount Bolts)
Handlebars: WTB Titanium, 9* Sweep
Grips: Grab On MT-2
Stem: American (Titanium Quill, Pinch Bolts)
Headset: WTB/Chris King
Brake set: Dia-Compe 986 F/WTB Toggle Cam Rear (Titanium Brake Boss Bolts)
Brake levers: Dia-Compe SS-5 (Titanium Pinch Bolts)
Saddle: Selle Italia Turbo Super
Seat Post: Suntour XC (WTB Pump inside)
Paint: Medium Green Metallic
Size: 18.5"
Serial #: 138 OG
Place of Origin: Fairfax, CA
Other: 25.06 lbs. Total basket case restoration.

The Ride:
I tried not to have high expectations for this bike, but I like my 85 Otis Guy so much, it was hard not to have elevated hopes. The formula was there. It was done right. All reliable, usable, tried and true parts. My first ride was pleasant with open fast single track and bombing fast fire road. No issues.  My second ride, however, resulted in disaster.  The old tires shifted under hard braking and ripped a valve stem.  The tube gave loose on a open straight away where I was at about 20mph. I was thrown to the ground shoulder first.  The result was a Grade 3/borderline Grade 4 AC joint separation, a long 2 mile walk back to the truck, a challenging load up and trip to the ER, followed by 5 months off the bike.
Fast forward to after my injury healed, I ventured out on the bike again with short, conservative rides.  One that ended up with triple flats and another of shame.  I swapped to brand new tires and ventured back to the place where I'd separated my shoulder to conquer to earn confidence in myself and the bike back.  It was on this ride that I realized what I thought was uncertainty and poor tire choice.  The front end pushes in corners. I rode again in Santa Cruz with single track abounds and suffered the same undesirable behavior. I think the issue is a stem that's too short combined with bars with a lot of sweep.  It's a very shallow cockpit for a vintage mtb. I need to source a longer stem appropriate for the bike and make one final effort to see is this bike can live up to the bar set by my 1985 Otis Guy.  For now it hangs.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

1987 WTB Team Trek

The Bike:
A Trek is not usually on the list of bikes I want to own. This one would be an exception.
The first time I saw this frame, was ten years ago on a lucky visit with Mark Slate.  It was a surplus Team frame along with a few others, languishing under a house...dirty, dusty, but otherwise NOS.
Fast forward a decade and I was fortunate to be connected with one of these frames through a mutual friend. In addition to the frame (this particular one painted by Steve Potts), was an ex-Team Trek Potts/Cunningham Type II fork (a fork that saw actual race duty back in the day).  Sourcing the exact parts for this kind of bike can be exceedingly difficult and/or cost prohibitive. I had to make some concessions on the build spec in order to make this a running, usable bike. Early 'Swiss Cheese' Roller Cams and a FASP are tall orders, so reasonable replacements were used.
I'm excited with the final product. A classic mountain bike whose purpose might go unnoticed without closer inspection. 

As initially unearthed ten years ago (2nd frame back).

As received (just needed a wipe down).

Steve Potts paint fade.

Type II detail.


The finished product.

Type II & WTB Speedmaster Roller Cams

The Build: 
Frame: Trek Aluminum
Fork: Potts/Cunningham Type II
Rims: Araya RM-20
Hubs: Shimano 7400 Dura Ace
Quick Release: Shimano Dura Ace
Tires: Specialized Ground Control
Pedals: Suntour XC Compe
Crank: Specialized Flag (the good ones)
Chain: Sedis
Rear Cogs: Shimano Dura Ace
Bottom Bracket: Press Fit
Front Derailleur: Shimano M730 XT
Rear Derailleur: Shimano 600
Shifters: Shimano M730 XT
Handlebars: Salsa Moto
Grips: WTB
Stem: Steve Potts fillet brazed
Headset: Specialized
Brake set: WTB Speedmaster Roller Cam
Brake levers: Shimano M730 XT 4-Finger
Saddle: Selle Italia Turbo
Seat Post: Suntour XC
Paint: White/Blue Fade (painted by Steve Potts)
Size: 19"
Serial #:
Place of Origin: Waterloo, WI
Other: 26.6 lbs, Surplus NOS WTB/Team Trek issue frame.