Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ride report - 1992 Cunningham Racer

I haven't done a ride report in some time now, so it only seems fitting to kick it back off with something special. 

I've already done the full writeup on this bike and so I'll try to stick to the trails so to speak. But, in the interest of a quick catchup, I acquired this 92 Cunningham #14D back in May of this year and finally got it rebuilt in July. Since that time I've managed to log over 150 trail miles and really feel at home on the bike. Although it really didn't take long to realize that this is a very special bike!

In keeping up with traditions I did the first ride on some vintage tires, in this case a pair of Specialized Ground Control Extreme 2.5s which were the biggest and most bad-ass tires on the market back in the day. That first ride was really just a shakedown and I took it pretty easy to save the tires, still the bike made a strong impression.

A couple more rides and a brand new pair of Onza Canis later that first impression has morphed into a lasting and deep appreciation. This bike is really amazing!!!

The Cunningham is equally at home in tight, rocky singletrack as it is on a fast sweeping fire road. It is extremely versatile and aside from the fear of me screwing up and wrecking a one of a kind bike it really inspires confidence. Every part selected by Charlie to build one of his bikes performs its job with a single minded commitment to performance. Nothing is left to chance.

One of the traits of this bike that took a couple rides to sort out, but now feels like I've always known it is the ease with which weight balance and body movement has a huge, positive impact on handling. I feel like the cornering threshold is much deeper and my degree of confidence in pushing it is also boosted. I'm able to really put some extra lean into it during high speed cornering and really nail the ideal line. I have to give some credit here to the Onza tires, but I have them on a few other bikes in the fleet and haven't felt the same degree of confidence on those bikes, maybe maybe the Merlin or Bradbury. This reminds me that I need to get my Adroit rebuilt as I feel that bike would give the Ham a run for its money and I miss riding it! Tight and twisty sections including switchbacks and rock gardens are maybe not the place where the Cunningham excels above all, but nothing about it makes it feel weak in those circumstances. I find it relatively easy to handle steep approaches to obstacles like tree clearings, climbing out of stream beds and generally speaking picking the bike up and onto ledges. Bottom bracket clearance is ample, I find I rarely scrape the ground with the pedals and consequently don't worry about putting the front tire into tight ruts or rock outcrops.

Having just read the description of the Racer geometry in the Cunningham InfoPac the design intent and description of the bike is fresh in my mind. The one specific element that registered and rings true is the bike's climbing prowess. There are a few punchy climbs on my local trail that often require pushing out of the saddle and here the Ham really shines. Rear tire traction out of the saddle is fantastic and I can comfortably maneuver the bike through the obstacles and power through. Same goes for tight switchback climbs over loose terrain, I find it much easier to negotiate the tight turns without losing momentum and traction.

Even the simple things like the seatpost quick release feel special and work better than any Ringle or Shimano lever you've ever had the pleasure to struggle with.

One of the more common complaints about chainstay mounted roller cam brakes is that they are a mud magnet. Now, I don't really have to deal with mud much, but there are a few stream crossings and sand and gravel are commonplace on the trails I frequent. So, there is definitely ample opportunity to get some dirt and grime into the mechanism, however Charlie's simple mud guard helps minimize the impact of all that contamination onto the cam and the brakes never feel crunchy (unlike my previous Ham).

All in all this has quickly become my go to bike. Thus far there hasn't been a trail that I've thrown at it that really challenged the bike. I really feel a strong sense of satisfaction while out riding and can comfortably settle into a grove where many of the tasks that go into negotiating sections come naturally and without any significant effort, handling becomes effortless and allows me to focus on what is coming up and what I need to be doing. Really the bike becomes and extension of the rider and empowers you to do the best you can armed with the knowledge that the bike won't do anything stupid to jeopardize the process. Now I just have to get confident that I won't do something stupid to screw up the bike, that fear is more poignant on this bike than nearly every other bike in my fleet, maybe excluding the Storm Adroit which I never really ride. So, if nothing else it keeps me in check and ensures that both bike and rider live on to ride another day.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

1990 Bradbury Manitou

The original Manitous made by Doug Bradbury are considered by many to be some of the rarest and most desirable bikes. Among those 300 or so unique bikes he built there are a few standouts, and this little blue bike is one of them. From a production standpoint this bike represents a nearly final evolution of the original generation of his hardtail frames, before moving to Easton and the final run of 1 1/4" frames. This particular frame was one of a batch of 6-10 bikes (most of them built for a Japanese importer) that Doug had painted in a light metallic blue color which makes for a very unique looking bike among the sea of bare Aluminum Manitous out there.

The build is virtually exactly as Doug specified in the 1990 catalog. It includes all of the custom made parts that made these bikes special as well as top of the line components from the boutique manufacturers of the day such as Grafton and Cook Bros Racing. The custom made parts include, a matching rigid fork, 115/145 front and rear hubs (the rear being a unique prototype cassette body equipped hub), custom 1" stem machined from Aluminum billet, a modified front derailleur clamp and a 145mm Cook Bros bottom bracket. Brakes are Grafton Speed Controllers, seatpost is courtesy of IRD, cranks are Cook Bros CBR and the drivetrain is 7-spd Shimano XT.

Doug's custom stem is one of the more unique stems made during the hay day of boutique mountain bike manufacturers.

Modified cable stops

The customary top tube and headtube gussets give these Manitous a beefy and industrial look and contribute to a stiff and planted feel on the trial.

Custom made rear hub featuring an adapted Shimano freehub body and internals grafted onto a classic Bradbury 145mm rear hub. This hub is one of maybe one or two made by Doug as he tried to adapt the new HG cassette from Shimano onto his bikes, this designed ultimately gave way to the modified M732 rear hub which Doug modified to extend from 135mm to 145mm by adding a spacer between the flanges.

This bike is a smaller twin of my 90 Manitou and it's been really fun having two of these blue DBMs in the shop at the same time. I wanted to shoot them both at the same time, but it just wasn't in the cards. In my opinion this bike represents what a Manitou should look like and just like my bigger twin will no doubt be an amazing bike on the trail.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Restoring Tinker's 1993 Storm Adroit - Part 2

Posting these photos now after the Pro's Closet released their professional photo shoot seems a bit redundant but perhaps I can offer a little bit of new commentary to go along with the pictures to earn your click.

All in all the bike ended up looking better than I expected, not how I imagined it, but not as bad as when it was found.

The front fork is odd, but it belongs on there. Still wish Tinker still had the matching storm MC1 and Mag-21 fork.

I dig the black/3DV combo on the brake levers... may need to do that on my Adroit.

That back end... what a shame

I always expected to see one of the prototype carbon MC1s on Tinker's bike. But I guess it may not have been up to the task of full blown World Cup racing.

Time has not been kind to these Speed Controllers...

Love the radial front wheel, and the half radial / half 3x on the rear.

Looks like these wheels have seen more than one World Cup... good thing as they were made only for racing!

Now why would he have run these when M900 rings were available?? Leftovers from the previous season when Klein was sponsored by Campy? Maybe he really liked them?

Tinker's choice! I heard he had boxes of these sitting around up until just a few years ago. That's dedication!

The bassworm... not sure it was really useful with the M900 rear derailleur, but it was strange looking and people bought them in droves. So, I guess it must have made you faster!

You can clearly see the hand cut lines on the EX decal. If there is one thing this bike is not lacking, it's extra stickers!

I'm not really a huge fan of how this head tube was finished. It's looks like hamburger meat or something like that.

That's a loud and bright front end, no denying that!

Well, that's another chapter closed. Another bike done and crossed off the list. I am satisfied to have worked on it and had the chance to put it back together. But I definitely feel a strong sense of disappointment with the condition and story of the bike. It was discarded and wasting away and it wasn't until someone expressed interest in it, that any value was attributed to it. But, I guess that's how it goes and you can't expect everyone to share your view of the world. On to the next project!