Collectors Edition: Mark’s Santa Cruz Bike Shed
A few weeks ago we shared with you a stunning collection of vintage road bikes, Campagnolo components, and Bruce Lee figurines, all carefully guarded by a James Bond style security pin and sliding door. Some of you appreciated the history, other’s wanted more diversity, and another group just hoped that the bikes where let out each day to experience the thrill of pavement.
While we can’t promise to make all of you happy, behind this non descript wooden gate is stored the incredible collection of a local racing legend….Including Salsa #1!
On closer inspection, the bike stand is almost as cool as the bicycle. The stand was made locally in San Jose about a century ago and for most of the year it lives indoors, but it’s suns out/stands out in this backyard.
Inside the shed is a collection of antique, vintage, and modern bikes that would make the heart of almost any cyclist go pitter patter. This non-descrpit bike in particular is one of the most special because it’s the first Salsa mountain bike ever made by Ross Shafer
In the late 70s and early 80s, Shafer started working for Santana Bicycles in Southern California building lugless tandem frames. During that time, the majority of custom frames where constructed from lugs, which due to the manufacturing process limited the geometry of the final product. Using the skillset he learned building tandems, Ross built his first lugless mountain with input on the geometry from Southern California builders like Richard Cunningham at Mantis bikes.
As the story goes, Ross came to visit Mark with the frame in Santa Cruz for a friend’s wedding and wanted to build the new bike up immediately. Even though the parts for the new build hasn’t arrived, Ross convinced Mark to build the bike with whatever parts he had laying around – which happened to be a Campi group.
Over the years the frame has gone through many different builds as Mark sought lighter parts, broke them, mountain bike specific components were invented, and he testers for sponsors, etc…The initial build weighed 31.5 lbs, and he eventually got it down to the mid 29s, but the build you see here which features mostly era specific parts weights 30 lbs.
As a top level racer and factory sponsored athlete, Mark provided valuable insight to companies at the beginning of the mountain bike era. One of his pet peeves at the time was the long moto style brake levers found on most early mountain bikes, so he sourced these shorter brakes levers from Diacomp that had originally been made for BMX bikes.
Over sized bicycle tubing didn’t exist in the early 80s, so all of the aluminum used was aircraft grade, and sometimes it broke. The only butted tubing available at the time was for road bikes, and the original down tube eventually had to be replaced. Even the original fork blades weren’t up to task and were eventually replaced with materials sourced for Tandem frames!
While the recent trend towards larger frames may have been motivated by a desire for increased stability, it was originally caught after because it bikes easier to shoulder during carrying sections at races.
Just the original logo of the Bicycle Trip.It’s a little older, as you can tell by the threaded headset, but what really sets this bike apart is the fork. It’s a prototype Bontrager unit with clamp style crowns and in this case it’s been shimmed with JB weld and headset spacers for a better stance. Mark went to this setup because he was looking for something a little burlier.
Mark often gave Keith Bontrager, another Santa Cruz resident, feedback and he had tons of these old prototype forks laying around. The benefit to this clamp style moto fork was that the blades could be easily swapped out, which enabled them to test out different geometries quickly. On the commercial side of things, the oversized aluminum uni-crown also allowed riders to replace fork blades if they were mangled in a a crash, or even tune the ride handling characteristics of a bike.
Perhaps the most unique feature of this bike is the dual brake boss mounts. This design lets the bike either be set up with road or 26″ wheels. In order to do so without having two set of brake bosses trying to stab you, Keith developed removable brake posts.
Mark’s regular townie is a an old austrian 3-speed townie with the paint chipping off from a brand named Steyr. They were popular among early mountain bikers because the forks wouldn’t bend when jumping water bars and other general klunkling tom foolery. The originally made bikes for Sears, before the big box switched to Huffy.
The frame pictured here was manufactured by an English firm named Rex. The hubs read 1973 but the bike sat brand new in a box till recently. It was a fairly entry level model at the time but features beautiful detailing and paint.
At the time, the English bicycle industry was protective about using only made in England products, so to enter that market many companies like Michelin setup factories in the UK.
Despite the fact that this model was made in the early 70s, the bike looks very similar to those manufactured just after World War II. Until the boom in bicycle popularity of the late 60s and early 70s, bicycle design stated mostly the same for many years.