Let’s take a step
back to 1983, in the early 80s Jim Merz , who was building frames in Portland,
started working with Mike Sinyard of Specialized.At a cyclo cross race in Portland, Merz had
what he called a “Mountain Bike”.It had
fat 26 inch tires and upright bars. He suggested I ride it up and down curbs. I
remember thinking it was pretty neat that you could ride up and down curbs. But,
I remember thinking that it was an odd bike that would never take off. I was
wrong. So, I built a Mountain Bike in July of 1983. It was the first paint job
by Corbin Dickinson, my new painter. I told him I wanted a green with black zebra
stripped. He masked it off and made it very Anatomically correct.
It was the way mountain bikes where
in the early 80s. Back then, head and seat angles were very slack and there was
no specific mountain bike tubing. So, I made a lugged frame with Columbus SP Tubing (it was the heaviest tubing available at the time). It had a 1 inch top tube,
1.125 inch down tube and seat tube. It was a 60 cm center to center, with a
level top tube. Head angle was 68º and seat angle was 70º, 62 cm center to
center top tube, 5.3 cm of rake, 46 cm chain stays and drop of 4cm. I don’t remember
what kind of lugs I used. I used a Mountain Goat Fork Crown that I brazed over
the mountain goat cast into the top of the crown.I got it from Jeff Lindsey of Mountain Goat
Cycles in Chico California.
I had all the parts anodized black.
It had Suntour derailleurs and thumb shifters, Specialized Triple Crank, hubs and headset, with a Regina Oro 5 speed free wheel (“that’s right, before the
freehub existed”), with Martano Italian made rims and Specialized Ground Control Tires.Shimano cantilever brakes with Magura brake
levers, Campagnolo Seatpost and Quick Release Seat Binder, Avocet Touring II
Saddle, Bear Trap pedals,and a Bull Moose
handle bar brazed by Tom Ritchey.
"Turns out I was wrong about Mountain Bikes, Things have changed, Mountain bikes are quite different then the first once."
For the fourth of the series, lets
jump five years forward to 1993; everyone was running 26-inch wheel Rock Shox.
The Mag 21 was the hot setup, so I called Rock Shox and asked if they’d make me
some longer legs for the Mag 21 so I could run my Rock ‘n Road 700 x 43mm
tires. (These were big 700c tires before 29ers.)I was told by someone at Rock Shox (It may
have been Paul Turner?), that they weren’t interested in 700c, because, all
mountain bikes were 26 inch. So because they wouldn’t make a longer Mag 21 leg, Jeff McWhinney and I made a sloping fork crown and brake arch to fit our 700 x
43 tires. Jeff McWhinney helped me program our small CNC milling machine to
make fork crowns and brake arches for Mag 21s.
(Our small Milltronics CNC milling machine, with a couple fork crowns on the bed)
Wes Williams, who at that time was
working for Ibis, and I made two titanium frames - one for each of us. He was
welding titanium for Ibis at that time, but these were the first 700c Rock Shox
bikes he built. After riding the Hell Out of that bike, He later went on to
become Willets bikes, and he was one of the first people to promote big tire
700c tires, that went on to become 29ers.
The bike was made out of 1.25 inch
top tube and seat tube and 1.5 inch down tube, 1 inch steerer and a fork crown
and brake arch we made out of 7075 aluminum and Mag21 Rock Shox legs.
It is 55cm center-to-center Seat Tube,
57.5 center-to-center Top Tube,
43.5 cm Chain Stays.
7cm Drop, 70.5º Head Angle and 73º Seat Angle, and 4.32 Rake.
It had early eight speed Shimano
XTR derailleurs, cassette, cantilever brakes, and cranks with very rare Paragon
titanium chain rings. The wheels had early White Industry hubs, Mavic M261 rims
with 1st generation Rock ‘n Road tires, steel chicken neck stem, Dean Titanium Seat Post
and SR anatomic Modolo Patent bend bars.
Before there were 29ers, Gravel Grinders, Monster Cross
bikes… we made what we called a road bike with fat 700c tires.It was made in August of 1988 and it had the first generation of 700c x 43mm Rock ‘n Road Tires that where made by Cheng Shin that
turned into Maxxis. Until the middle of last year it was the only Lugged Rock
‘n Road in existence. Then I made another Lugged Rock ‘n Road for myself for a Show in
North Carolina. That means that every 26 years I make myself a Lugged Rock ‘n Road.
So I am due for a new one when I’m 92.
I would not build anything different for modern gravel
grinder geometry wise, except for the parts, and a sloping tube. That bike has an early Deore XT
group with Bio Pace chain rings, with 6 speed cassette. It has Nitto bars, that I
slightly flared on the drops, (I will not do that again, not recommended). If I
put modern parts on it, it would ride just like the current Gravel Grinders,
although the bike is from 1988.
A Brief History of Rock 'n Road
Video by : Nick Haig-Arack
The paint job was the only four-color powder job I’ve ever
done at the shop. It was done by Sean Walling who now is Soul Craft Bicycles
It was made from a variety of tubing, it has a Columbus SP
Seat Tube and Down Tube. A Columbus SL Top Tube, 1cm Chain Stays and Tange Prestige
Fork Blades and Seat Stays. It is a 72º Head Angle, with a 73º Seat Angle, 58cm
Top Tube, 43 cm Chain Stay, 7cm of drop, and 5.0cm of Rake. The Lugs were
stamped steel lugs from Japan, for early Lugged Mountain Bikes, with a 1.125
inch Top Tube, and an 1.25 Down Tube. I copied the Salsa stem, and made the
stem to go with it. Probably, because I was sharing a shop with Salsa Cycles at