Monday, October 10, 2011

Working on the Chain, Gang.

I don't just ride bikes, I actually collect them as well. I'll never admit it to my wife, but I am collecting; that means I have certain acquisition goals in mind, and that certain bikes are "keepers" more than others, and that upgrading is always on the table. I'm actually very close to completing my collection, at least what I consider the core part - someday I'll do another tour of  the entire collection, including the whats and the whys, but not today. From this point on, collection wise, I will be searching for a couple of 19th century bikes, though probably not very seriously for a couple of years. Even though I have a large collection I haven't put too much of my "own" money in as it has been funded mostly by reselling other bikes. I'm a pretty handy mechanic and I enjoy working on bikes nearly as much as I like riding them, so it's easy for me to turn a $50 bike into $150-$200, and that helps me pay for the parts and to score more $50 bikes - keeping the good ones in the process. In "curating" my collection, I have learned much about what makes a good bike worth keeping more than another, what components are worthwhile, and how to put them all together and make them work together for a profit (mine). I would guess that because of this I have maybe $200 of my own money invested in all ten of my current bikes. I recently aquired another possible keeper and plan to do a little refurb on it, so I thought I'd share a little info about it today, and bring you along on the refurb process as it happens over the next week or so.

The new guy

The bike I recently aquired and am considering adding to my permanent collection (shhh) is an eighties Ross Mt. Whitney. Ross made some really nice mountain bikes before they went under, and this is one of them. If you are not familiar with Ross, I'll give you a little background so you don't just shrug and stare at me with polite disinterest. Ross was the "other" big American bike company, founded in the 1940's, and had it's greatest successes from the 1960's into the bike boom of the seventies. Based in Pennsylvania, the company made a more pedestrian bike than Schwinn; they didn't have their own dealerships, as Schwinn did, and in fact sold most of their bikes through department stores. Ross produced more than a million bikes a year in the seventies, but by 1989 the company had gone out of business - Ross made mostly lower end bikes and it was cheaper to import than to buy American, and it took the owner too long to figure it out  A little more gossipy word on the streets is that the owner's luxurious lifestyle rendered him unable to tighten the company's belt  and drove them into bankruptcy.  Before they went out of business, however, Ross produced some great early mountain bike models ahead of the growing trend, but too late to save the company.

This is not the first Ross bicycle I've owned, but I like this one much better than the other, which I sold not too long after completing it.

Downtube Decal

I believe this bike is a 1984 Ross Mt Whitney model, which would be the top end model in that year - it could be a year earlier or later, because the information available on the internet about Ross bicycles is anecdotal and very spotty, at best. I assume it's mostly original, as the tires are rare Ross "snakeskin" models with knobby tread on the outside and a smooth line in the middle for pavement riding. Like the SUV's we see on the road, most mountain bikes are destined to the same fate, so Ross gave their buyers dual purpose tires. The frame has forged dropouts with adjusters and a built in derailleur hanger. These details are what lead me to believe it is the top of the line mountain bike for Ross - which is the interesting part of the company's history. In 1984 Trek had one model mountain bike, the Stumpjumper was just three years old, and Ross was already offering several different models at different pricepoints and even sponsoring one of the early MTB teams. Despite embracing the emerging mountain bike trend, it was too little too late for Ross, and they closed their doors just five years after this bike was built.
Bullmose bars in the cockpit. Cut short, of course.

I have wanted a chrome framed bike for quite some time, as I have said here before. I had hoped it would be a road bike like a Paramount, but I think that this Ross is significant enough that it will fill that hole in my permanent collection, so you will certainly see more of this bike soon.

Sexy cranks

In addition to sharing the refurb of this bike with you, I will be sharing how I raise the money to do so. Some of you may recognize this frame from long ago articles on a little blog called "Seen On The Train".

Suteki carcass

While that blog is long gone, the frame still remains. I last used this bike as my fixed gear, but when I switched that stuff over to my Falcon frame, I found myself without a use for the Suteki. I will admit there was some sentimental attachment to my first adult road bike frame, and I've hung onto it for a while, but I have much finer bikes in my collection now, and feel that I have to send this one on down the road. I'll be building it up into a 6 speed flat bar bike to sell on CL, and I'll document that process here.

The best thing about this bike

In addition, I have been contacted about putting together one of the Missoni for Target bicycles. My other blog wants to review the bike, so in order  to secure him the time to do so, I volunteered some of mine to put it together. I'll document the build here as an EXCLUSIVE for my readers and share some of my insights about the bicycle with you. Finally, I have been contacted by Robert from Bicycle Novelties who I met at the NAHBS in Austin (you know - the one I never wrote about?). He lives not too far from me in Plano, and he has invited me over to see how he makes his very sweet looking cycle paperweights. I'm way into garage machine hobbyists (and he has offered up some free stuff for me to come over) so I'm going to do so during Cyclesomatic Dallas so he can get some free publicity for his things. And I get free stuff.


  1. I want that Ross, badly. In fact I told myself the next chrome mountain bike i see on CL I'm going to own. I guess I should start watching CL ads again

  2. You would puke if you knew what I paid for this.

  3. Dont tell me. Better yet sell it to me

  4. I might end up selling you my black chrome Schwinn MTB - maybe.

  5. Hello Justin; i was researching Ross Mt. Whitney bikes and found your blog. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on value and best way to offer my Ross bikes for sale.
    Many thanks,

  6. Put it on ebay. No reserve. You will find out the value.

  7. Hello Justin, I am also researching some older MTBs. I am trying to date them with serial numbers. Do you know the serial number of the Ross Mt Whitney? The information will be greatly appreciated.