Ned Overend’s 1992 Specialized M2

Now THAT Was a Bike: Ned Overend’s 1992 Specialized M2

Words by Mike Kazimer , Pinkbike // Photos by The Pro’s Closet

1992 Specialized M2 Ned Overend-29

Cross-country racing was approaching its heyday in 1992, and the top racers from that era have become legends of the sport. Ned Overend, John Tomac, Thomas Frischknecht, Juli Furtado, Ruthie Matthes – those names are forever etched in the history books as part of the first wave of mountain bike racers to make their marks on the national and world stage.

Bike technology was rapidly advancing, but looking at the top bikes of the day makes it glaringly obvious just how far we’ve come over the last two decades. The advent of V-brakes was still a few years off, and disc brakes were even further down the road. For this edition of ‘Now THAT Was a Bike’ we’re diving into the details of Ned Overend’s 1992 Specialized Stumpjumper M2, the bike he rode to the lead in the NORBA National point series, along with two World Cup victories.

1992 Specialized M2 Ned Overend-20      1992 Specialized M2 Ned Overend-22

The Specialized Future Shock had 50mm of air sprung travel and weighed in at 1406 grams.

1992 Stumpjumper M2 Details

The team edition Stumpjumper was constructed from Specialized’s M2 alloy, a mix of aluminum and aluminum oxide that the company developed in conjunction with the Duralcan Corporation. According to Ned Overend, “The bike was pretty light for the time and durable – I never broke one. There were some issues with getting paint to stick on the frame as you can see on the downtube.” The weight of the bike as shown is 26 pounds, 14 ounces, which wouldn’t have been anything to scoff at in the early ’90s, but is quite heavy when compared to a modern World Cup XC race bike.

This was the era of disc wheels, and bystanders could hear the top racers before they could see them thanks to the drum-like pounding of the rear wheel when it went over an obstacle. Designed by Tadashi Yoshiro, the wheels rely on Kevlar strands running between the hub and rim to provide tension, although they were nowhere near as stiff as a traditional spoked wheel, and in Ned’s words, “The wheel was a little too flexible. I had to be careful how I adjusted the cantilever brakes, if the pads were too low on the rim the wheel would flex and the brake pad would fold under the rim.” On the topic of brakes, a set of Suntour XC brakes are mounted up front and rear, but the stopping power they provided was limited, and it took a few fingers on the brake levers and strong forearms to keep speeds in check.

A Specialized Future Shock (which was manufactured by RockShox) provided a miniscule 50mm of air sprung travel up front, although the 1992 version of the fork was recalled a couple of years later due to the tendency for the crown bolts to loosen, which led to a number of instances where the crown separated from the stanchions. The fork uses a threaded steerer, and a Zoom quill stem holds the zero rise handlebar in place. Bar ends were still prevelant at this time, and Ned ran a set made by Profile for most of the season. Over the next decade, bar ends grew smaller and smaller, and are now something of a rarity on the XC race circuit.

Tioga mountain bike disc wheek      1992 Specialized M2 Ned Overend-28

A case of fashion over function, disc wheels enjoyed a brief spell of popularity in the early ’90s.

Drivetrain

The 1992 Stumpjumper Team was outfitted with Suntour’s XC Pro MD drivetrain, with three rings in front and a seven speed, 12-28 cassette in the rear. The original chainring configuration was 42 / 34 / 20, but on this bike the big ring appears to have been switched for one with 44 teeth, likely to increase the top end speed. By 1992 trigger shifters had been on the market for a few seasons, but Ned’s bike is still equipped with top mounted thumb shifters.

1992 Specialized M2 Ned Overend-19      1992 Specialized M2 Ned Overend-24

1 1/8″ threadless headsets were just around the corner, but in ’92, quill stems and threaded headsets were the standard.

History

There’s often a story behind how a historic race bike makes its way into the hands of someone other than the original rider, and this Stumpjumper is no exception. According to The Pro’s Closet, the bike’s current owners, “We got the bike from Zap Espinoza, here’s what he had to say about it:

bigquotes Ned gave me the bike as a thank you gesture for getting him the Zoom components gig. It was his race bike that year, it came from him dirty and with the number plate that I later had him sign at Interbike. I can’t say for sure about the parts…as you know about Ned has always been a purveyor of different parts and experiments. I could ask him, but I know he’d forgotten that he even gave it to me when I asked his permission to sell it. It was definitely one of I think 2-3 bikes he had that year.

For those unfamiliar with the name Zapata Espinoza, he was the editor of Mountain Bike Action until 1993 before moving on to Rodale’s Mountain Bikemagazine, where he gained notoriety for his outspoken demeanor and larger-than-life personality. Shortly after purchasing the Stumpjumper from Zap, The Pro’s Closet caught up with Ned Overend to ask him about it. His response? “I don’t remember getting rid of this one, but there are a lot of things I don’t remember.”

NED  Ned Overend’s 1992 Race Highlights:1st Norba National One Day Championship, 1st UCI World Cup Fnals Vail, 1st UCI Mammoth World Cup, 1st NORBA National Point Series overall, 1st Iron Horse Road Race, 2nd Winter Park XC NORBA Series, 3rd UCI World Cup Point Series Overall, 3rd Houffalize World Cup.

The 1990 Mantis Valkyrie

Now THAT Was A Bike – Mantis Valkyrie

Words by Richard Cunningham, Pinkbike // Photos by The Pro’s Closet

1990 Mantis Valkyrie-1

Some readers may know that I made mountain bikes back when the sport was in its infancy and the vintage bike featured here, a 1990 Mantis Valkyrie, was one of them. The bike was beautifully restored by the Vintage MTB Workshop in the factory racing color that customers affectionately dubbed, “Tree Frog Butt Green,” and is presently on loan to The Pro’s Closet’s museum. I rode one that was the same color and size for a number of years and it remains one of my favorites to this day. It was one of those rare designs where the good and bad traits blend together to produce a magical ride. I find it a bit awkward to be featuring a bike which I created on Pinkbike, but I chose to because the unusual configuration of the Valkyrie frame and its boutique component spec recall a much broader story – about a brief and rampant period of innovation when rivals often cooperated and a garage machinist or a man with a welding torch could compete on a level playing field with the industry’s largest players.

An Unlikely Source of Inspiration

The X frame was conceived after Gary Fisher took offence to statements I had made about the failure mode of his Procaliber racing frames in an article that I had guest-written for Mountain Bike Action Magazine. To prove me wrong (which he did), Gary flew me up to his headquarters near San Anselmo, California, where he demonstrated the failure modes of his frames, and some other examples he had laying around. Using a load cell and a fork fixture that he had borrowed from Charlie Cunningham over at Wilderness Trail Bikes, Fisher duplicated the forces of a head on collision by cranking down on a huge turnbuckle that pulled a solid steel “fork” towards the frame’s bottom bracket until the front triangle failed.

True to Fisher’s word, the Tange Prestige Procaliber frames outperformed his chromoly models by double. As expected, the chromoly front triangles simply rippled and folded at about 350 pounds of tension when they failed. The heat-treated Prestige frames, however, would withstand over 700 pounds of tension and they didn’t dimple when they failed. Instead, the tubes would nearly explode as they cracked apart somewhere near their midsections, where their butted walls were paper thin. Fisher had a welded, oversized-aluminum front triangle on hand that blew the steel frames into the weeds by sustaining over 1200 pounds tension without failure. But, the a-ha moment for me happened when Fisher, out of pure curiosity, grabbed a rusted, 1940’s era Schwinn Excelsior frame off the floor and hooked up the apparatus to it. It was a cantilever type frame – the kind that has an extra pipe that runs between the seat tube to the down tube near the frame’s steering head. The Schwinn, with its one-inch-diameter mild-steel pipes nearly reached a thousand pounds on the load cell, and when it failed, it could still support 300 pounds of tension.

The head tube junction of a classic diamond frame is its weakest point. I didn’t need Gary’s demonstration to understand that. The strength of the Schwinn, however surprised us both. I realized that by simply triangulating the head tube area of a steel frame that I could use smaller, lighter-weight tubes and end up with a frame that was immensely stronger than its predecessors. I started working on the design on the flight home.

1990 Mantis Valkyrie-16

Originally, the Valkyrie was designed with conventional chainstays, and the handful that we built have become very popular among collectors. We switched to elevated chainstays around 1989 as a work-around to escape the confinements imposed by narrow rear hub and bottom bracket standards of that period. Large-diameter chainrings and an inboard chain-line restricted the space available around the rear tire and the sprockets to a few millimeters for designers who wanted chainstays shorter than 17.5 inches. Redirecting the chainstays over the bottom bracket area eliminated those issues altogether and allowed us to use short stays and “big” tires without clearance problems – and to avoid frame damage due to chain fouling, which was then a common occurrence.

The twin tubes that triangulate the frame serve as reinforcements to the head tube area, and also function to provide stand-over clearance. Back then, the longest commercially produced seat posts were 280-millimeters and while longer ones could be had from a boutique parts maker like IRD, oversized seatpost diameters had not yet gained acceptance and frames with long, slender seatposts were as flexible as tent poles. Twin struts allowed me to dramatically slope the top tube to get the stand-over clearance I wanted, while allowing for seatposts of reasonable lengths. The same concept is mirrored by today’s frame designs, although the braces are smaller and simpler shapes.

The union of the bridge that connected the seat stays to the seat tube proved to be a weak point, I calculated the stress there believing that jumps and G-outs would create the highest loads, but it turned out that chain tension was much higher - up to 1100 pounds. I had to repair a number of cracked frames. This one was fixed by another builder.

The union of the bridge that connected the seat stays to the seat tube proved to be a weak point, I calculated the stress there believing that jumps and G-outs would create the highest loads, but it turned out that chain tension was much higher – up to 1100 pounds. I had to repair a number of cracked frames. This one was fixed by another builder.

Valkyries were a bit of a retro design for me, I had already moved most frame construction at Mantis from steel to oversized aluminum, and most welding was done with a modern TIG welder. Valkyries were a step back to steel construction, and their triangulated look reminded me of the British-made custom motorcycles that I lusted after in the ’70’s. The tubes I used were very thin, so with the exception of the bottom bracket junctions, X-frames were brazed together using an acetylene torch. I did all the welding on those frames, often while speaking on the telephone with customers. Most frame builders who use the fillet (fill-it) brazing method finish-sand the joints smooth. Having had a torch in my hand since I was in high school, however, I was pretty good at the technique, so to show off to fellow builders, I left the welds untouched. (I am pretty sure that nobody ever noticed).

Cottage Industry Component Makers

Bucking the norm is guaranteed to create problems and the Valkyrie had its own list of issues, the worst of which was that the X-frame’s compact rear triangle was too short to route the saddle wires of conventional cantilever brakes behind the seat tube, so the wires had to be guided around the tube and the saddle connected on the front side. Even when set up perfectly, cantilever brake performance was less than inspiring. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only designer who ran into that problem and help came in the form of the purple parts makers – ex aerospace machinists, like IRD’s Rod Moses, who recognized that bike designs and riders’ skillsets were progressing as quickly as big name component makers were falling behind. They were riders themselves, so they got it – and together they re-invented virtually every component on the bike to fill the growing performance void. A number of side-pull type brakes appeared, like the IRD Widget and Rotary designs on our featured bike, which handily solved the problem.

      

Most of the components that Vintage MTB Workshop used to complete the restoration are aftermarket items which came from that brief cottage industry bloom, which gave birth to almost every important innovation that created the modern mountain bike: Wide hubs and bottom brackets with sealed cartridge bearings, two-finger levers, offset crankarms, oversized and threadless headsets, dropper seatposts, through-axle hubs, tubular bottom bracket axles, open-face stems, disc brakes, suspension – and the list goes on. Sure there were a lot of crap products, but it is indisputable that the mountain bike industry is still harvesting the benefits of seeds sewn by the rule-breakers of the late ’80s and early 90s.

The Bullseye crankset is a welded chromoly assembly that could have been the prototype for the present Shimano XT and XTR, with its integrated tubular axle and drive-side crank arm, pass-through sealed bearing bottom bracket and splined left-side interface. One of the bike’s rarest features is the IRD remote seatpost quick release, paired with a Breeze-Angel Hite-Rite dropper spring. Correctly assembled, the Hite-Rite would keep the saddle lined up while its owner manually operated the quick-release clamp. IRD’s cable-remote arrangement, powered by an early Suntour thumb-shift lever, will silence any doubts that the dropper post preceded the freeride movement.

1990 Mantis Valkyrie-18      1990 Mantis Valkyrie-19

The Build:

Year: 1990
• Serial number: VK1912
• Frame: Mantis Valkyrie
• Fork: Mantis Straight Blade
• Stem: Salsa Moto
• Headset: Shimano Deore XT
• Bottom Bracket: Bullseye Sealed Bearing
• Handlebar: Salsa Merlin Titanium
• Shifters: Shimano Deore XT Thumb shifters
• Front Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT
• Rear Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT
• Brake Levers: Shimano Deore XT
• Front Brake: IRD Widget
• Rear Brake: IRD Rotary
• Crankset: Bullseye
• Chainrings: Sugino 26-38-48
• Pedals: Shimano Deore XT M731
• Hubs: Bullseye Cartridge Bearing
• Rims: Matrix Mountain Titan
• Tires: Onza Porcupine
• Wheel QR: Ringle Cam Twist
• Seatpost: IRD
• Saddle: Selle Italia Turbo
• Seatpost QR: IRD Remote
• Grips: ODI Tomac Attack
• Cogs: Sachs Freewheel
• Chain: Shimano HG
• Remote seat clamp shifter: Suntour

1990 Mantis Valkyrie-2

 

1987 Steve Potts Signature

‘The Potts that was never ridden’

Words by James Huang, Bike Radar // (Most) Photos by The Pro’s Closet

Steve Potts Signature

Steve Potts built this frame in 1989 but it was never fully finished. Thanks to some painstaking restoration work, it’s finally the complete bike it always should have been

Steve Potts is a living legend in the mountain biking world. Growing up at the base of Mt. Tamalpais, he was among the original band of misfits who decided that riding bikes off-road was a good idea in the first place. Potts was then one of the first frame builders to focus on off-road bikes in the early 1980s, and as one of co-founders of Wilderness Trail Bikes – better known today as WTB – he was instrumental in driving many of the component designs that permeated the scene at the time.

Today, Potts is best known as a premier builder of titanium mountain bikes. Three decades ago, however, Potts worked only in steel and this 1987 Signature frame showcases some of his best work, with gorgeous fillet brazing work and his trademark rigid fork design, which features sleeved unicrown construction and gracefully scalloped dropouts.

1987 Steve Potts Signature-6      1987 Steve Potts Signature-7

These WTB Speedmaster Rollercam brakes may be decades old but their basic design is being used on several modern aero road bikes

“A friend of mine bought several of these frames from Steve about 10 years ago,” said the owner of Vintage MTB Workshop (who preferred to remain unnamed). “They were originally made in 1987 but not fully finished. Steve agreed to finish them up and we even convinced him to make new LD stems for two of the frames.  These two frames were then taken to Rick at D&D Cycles because Rick did some of Steve’s paintwork back in the day and he still had Imron. I looked at an original Imron color chart at Mark Nobilette’s shop in Longmont [Colorado] and Rick replicated one of Steve’s original paint schemes based on the colors I selected.”

“Because of all this, I refer to the bike as the New-Old-Stock Steve Potts Signature. This is the one and only paint job it has ever had.”

1987 Steve Potts Signature-5      1987 Steve Potts Signature-10

WTB Multimount shifter mounts made the flared dirt drops much easier to control

Perhaps even more impressive than the bike’s gleaming new finish is the full suite of period-correct componentry – all of which is new old stock and unridden. Highlighting the build are WTB Speedmaster Rollercam brakes (with the rear mounted beneath the chainstays), WTB’s brilliant Grease Guard hubs and headset, and a Shimano Deore XT drivetrain with thumb shifters perched on Potts-designed Multimounts.

The WTB dirt drop handlebar is wrapped with Velox cotton tape. Out back, a suede Cinelli Unicanitor saddle is clamped to a custom fixed-angle seatpost that was machined to mimic an old WTB model – the only modern bit of gear used here. Rolling stock consists of polished Araya RM-20 aluminum rims laced with DT Swiss spokes, and WTB-designed Specialized Ground Control tires.

1987 Steve Potts Signature-9      1987 Steve Potts Signature-15

“At the time, you could source NOS parts pretty easily on eBay and not pay too much. The rollercams were a little over $100 a piece; they routinely go for $750 now in used condition. Other parts were acquired from buying other bikes that were in mint condition to get what I needed. I also traded for stuff that I needed that people today would probably hang on to.”

All told, Vintage MTB Workshop says the project took about a year – a substantial undertaking, but one that was still easier than a full-on restoration. Regardless, it’s a stunning testament to the sport’s rich history and one of its pivotal figures, and one that isn’t likely to change hands again any time soon.

1987 Steve Potts Signature-18

We’d love to see WTB resurrect its Grease Guard range of components – just inject fresh grease from time to time and you were good to go

“I’ve gone back and forth between thinking I should ride it as it was intended and leaving as a display piece. At this point, because I have so many other bikes, including several others made by Steve, I don’t think it will get ridden. People now know it as the Potts that was never ridden. Also, it’s a pretty big and heavy bike. There’s lots of brass in those graceful fillets, so there are better bikes for riding purposes, even vintage riding purposes. Steve is a good friend, so I hang on to it for that reason as well.”

1987 Steve Potts Signature-1

Complete bike specifications     

  •        Frame: 1987 Steve Potts Signature
  •        Fork: 1987 Steve Potts Signature
  •        Headset: WTB/Chris King Grease Guard
  •        Stem: Steve Potts LD custom
  •        Handlebars: WTB / Specialized RM-2
  •        Handlebar tape: Velox cotton
  •        Front brake: WTB Speedmaster Rollercam
  •        Rear brake: WTB Speedmaster Rollercam
  •        Brake levers: Dia-Compe Gran Compe
  •        Front derailleur: Shimano Deore XT FD-M730
  •        Rear derailleur: Shimano Deore XT RD-M730-SGS
  •        Shift lever: Shimano Deore XT SL-M730 with WTB Multimounts
  •        Freewheel: Suntour 7-speed, 13-28T
  •        Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace CN-7400
  •        Crankset: Shimano Deore XT FC-M730, 175mm, 26/36/46T
  •        Bottom bracket: Press-fit cartridge bearings with Grease Guard
  •        Rims: Araya RM-20, 36H
  •        Hubs: WTB Grease Guard
  •        Front tire: Specialized Ground Control, 26×1.95in
  •        Rear tire: Specialized Ground Control, 26×1.95in
  •        Saddle: Cinelli Unicanitor
  •        Seatpost: TD Fixed Angle
  •        Pedals: Suntour XC Compe w/ WTB Toe Flips
  •        Weight: 13.11kg (28.90lb, complete, as pictured)