Shogun Prairie Breaker 2

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The Craigslist ad reads, “Draire Breaken 2: $100″.  Even through twisted English and a low-res cell phone photo, I know what I’m looking at.  Just to clarify, I inquire: “I am very interested in your mountain bike.  Do you know what the model name is?”  


Hi Nicholas,

The Model Name is Draire Breaken 2. It has Shamano Deore XT Derailer, Shifters & Tarney XT Crank. Cr-mo Steel Tange M+B Forks. I have had many people interested so, first come first served. I’m sorry.  Thanks.

 

Armed with $100, we arrange to meet at the seller’s house near the Tacoma Mall.  When I arrive, he is attempting to remove a square taper crank from a Trek hybrid bicycle with a blowtorch and a hammer.  I inform him that a simple $10 tool will easily remove the crankarm.  Bang.  Bang.  Bang.  “This damned thing is on her good”, he explains.  I nod in agreement, and refuse whichever service he has just offered to the bicycle I am hoping to buy.  “No, that’s ok.  I’ll manage”.  

The bike is, in fact,  a Shogun Prairie Breaker, c. 1984-86.  It is equipped with Shimano derailleurs and shifters, Takagi Tourney XT crank, and Tange MTB tubing.  He drives a hard sale, and takes my entire stack of twenties.  No deals today.  As he says, many others have been interested in this vintage Draire Breaken 2.  They must all be aware of the essential improvements over the original Draire Breaken.  Still, $100 is a good price for a bike that rides.   

I am giddy to have found such a neat old bicycle, and such a large frame, with mostly original components.  I am building a bike for Lael’s brother, who is well above 6 feet tall, so an inexpensive frame that fits his stature and a large tire is mandatory.  I also love old mountain bikes, and at the time, I hunted these things on regional Craigslist forums like a bloodhound.  These days, I have refocused my energy.  

I roll the bike over to 2nd Cycle, Tacoma’s local bike co-op.  After a few hours of Tri-Flow and tinkering, the bikes rides superbly, with only a few modifications.  A newer Deore LX rear derailleur replaces an old steel Suntour model, which was not original to the bike.  Sweeping Wald handlebars fit the ‘slingshot’ style stem, and make a comfortable vantage for city riding.  I find a suitable saddle out of the parts bin at the co-op.  Finally, a modern chain improves shifting and the overall efficiency of the drivetrain.  The bike retains all of the bearings, cables, and brake pads with which I received it.  Bikes like this are best given attention only when needed.  Preempting necessary maintenance usually results in more work than expected, with the possibility of only incremental improvements.  A complete overhaul or restoration would be another story; in this case, Tri-Flow and elbow grease are the best medicine.

The next day, I join a couple friends on the first leg of their bike tour, which allows me to transport the bike to Lael’s brother in Portland.  Over the next two days, I verify what a wonderful bicycle I have made, and as my legs warm, I discover that the bike presents a strong pedaling platform for me.  Stretching my legs, I push the pace for 10, 15, 20 miles.  Coming into town on Hwy 30, I catch a racing team, out for a weekend ride.  I leapfrog the team car several times, emblazoned with the SRAM logo.  This bike, by the age-old measure of quality, is fast!

Arriving in Portland, I deposit the bike with its new owner and board the train back to Tacoma.  Four years later, the bike is now in Alaska, and is wearing the only studded tires in the house.  As the city turns to ice, I put my other bikes aside to revisit this old friend.

Below: These old Deore XT cantilevers are some of my favorite.  I poached a pair off an ’84 Schwinn High Sierra to replace the Dia-Compe brakes on my ’85 High Sierra.  When set-up properly, with quality brake pads, braking power and modulation is exceptional.  Kenda Klondike studded tires are far from the best, but they are far better than tires without studs right now.

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Six in the back, three in the front.  The tall steel teeth on older freewheels last forever.

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The Takagi Tourney XT crank is more beautiful than most similar cranks of the era from Sugino and Shimano.  180mm crank arms are suitable for a 6’4″ rider.

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For mild freezing weather, these vintage pogies work well. Made of basic nylon (in the USA), they exhibit how simply one could make something similar.  I found these at the Bikeworks co-op in Silver City, NM while riding the Divide a few years ago.

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22 thoughts on “Shogun Prairie Breaker 2

  1. Best bicycle ever. For a list of reasons; personal and mechanical. It’s a more humble Rivendell Atlantis, and makes the Long Haul Trucker look as onerous as a sousaphone.

  2. I hope I’m not considered an abomination to good steel but my first bike polo whip was a Schwinn “Mesa Runner” and my current is a Shogun “Prairie Breaker”.

    Schwinn Mesa Runner Polo Bike

    2011 Hardcourt Bike Polo Steed

    • Oh no, the Mesa Runner is a fine bike. I bet your Mesa Runner is straight gauge Cro-Mo in the main tubes, which is enough to print a decal with a big 4130 logo on it.

      That Prairie Breaker looks like it could be the same year and the same size as the one I am riding.

      Now that I’ve built a proper front wheel for the ECR, I plan to mount a set of studded tires on that bike to be a dedicated ice commuter. The Shogun goes back to Lael’s brother, where it belongs.

  3. Congrats on getting ye olde Draire Breaken 2 back! I can attest to the greatness of old MTBs from this era, and also the greatness of that Tourney crankset and XT brakes. While some of the newer bikes are more versatile (like all the fatter/fat bikes that you talk of), they still ain’t as classy as bikes from this era.

    And in the seller’s defense, I can see how someone with a limited grasp of English (and proper use of tools) would be thrown by the script-esque font of the logo.

    • I can see how someone could mistake the script on the top tube, especially since “Prairie Breaker” is such an uncommon phrase. However, it isn’t as if the seller had just moved from another country. I promise he was born here.

      The Tourney really is a fine looking crank, and as much as I love these old ATB’s, I’ve come to realize that they really are best on the road (some dirt roads included).

  4. Cool bike! It’s nice to see on old mtb getting some love on your site! Although we seem to be living at a moment when there are lots of smart new mtbs on the market, it’s a good reminder that you can have a lot of fun with one of these old beaters and not break the bank doing it.

    • Mark, I really do love old ATB’s, both in spirit and in use. However, I won’t be planning any more than a casual dirt road tour on one of these bikes anytime soon. For most touring, commuting, and casual riding, an old bike like this is best. I’ve built more than a few bikes like this for friends, including a handful of Schwinn High Sierras, a Univega Alpina, Specialized Stumpjumper, and a Bridgestone MB-3. These are much more versatile bikes than the classic 700c tourers that sell for twice as much.

  5. I was beginning to believe I had a one-off factory proto-reject (for unknown reasons) or something, as I’ve never ever seen another Tourney crank such as the one I still have on my Ross Mt. Rainier (’84). Old Red will be thrilled to know someone else also thinks it’s crank is pretty.

  6. Nice find, love the bi-pane fork which seems to be making a comeback these days. The VO road bike sports one and I saw a few at a handmade Bike Show in Portland this fall. Wise words about giving the bike “attention only when needed” I have had gone just a bit too far more times than I can count and now I just start with tearing things down to the frame, no blow torches involved (shiver), and building back up with new consumables.

    I kind of like the ring of “Draire Breaken” kind of sounds like an Eastern European hit-man to me, maybe we can get Tim Joe to write a short story about him…?

    Safe Travels

  7. Hey Nick!

    So you guys have been riding the muks for a couple weeks nice. After spending so much time with bar end shifters and thumbies I am curious to hear your input on trigger shifters. (Sorry this has nothing to do with the prairie breaker)

    Thanks for all the help!

    -Landon
    Boston, MA

    • Landon, We’re both fond of modern shifters. The SRAM system on our Mukluks (X5 shifters/X7derailleurs) feels very crisp and precise. Having used some top-tier equipment, I can say that it gets even better– the XX1 stuff shifts like a dream. If I was buying new, I might choose a mix of X7 and X9 from SRAM, although there are some nice options from Shimano as well.

      Since I always use thumb shifters in friction mode, comparing the two systems isn’t fair. I know others that use Shimano thumbies in 9sp index mode and love them. The SRAM 10sp shifters look nice as well. Not sure about the Microshift shifters on stock Surly bikes; I have used them, and they work fine, but nothing impressive.

      I don’t love the ergonomics of the SRAM shifters though. Some people love the “push push” thumb operation of both the upshift and downshift on SRAM shifters. I like the mechanism, but the positioning feels a little awkward, and strains my thumb. However, thumbshifters can be a bit of a strain as well. Shimano trigger shifters are nice because one shift is with the thumb and the other is with the forefinger, which is much more relaxed to operate (they have now added a dual action lever so that it can be used like the SRAM shifters, or as I’ve described). I suppose the concern is, when some fingers are shifting, which fingers will do the braking. The SRAM system leaves the first finger free for braking, hence the name of their “Single Digit” levers.

      I might prefer Shimano shifters. Lael loved the trigger shifters on her Surly Pugsley and her Cannondale Hooligan.

  8. A few years ago I hosted a touring bike mechanic from Philly (Chris) who pulled up on his Diamondback Outlook. I saw it and immediately thought YES! I had been thinking through converting an old mtb into a tourer and it was great confirmation that it could be done. Chris spoke a friend who he had just visited in Annapolis who cruised a Schwinn High Sierra of the same genre (I now know this to be you). A few years later I stumbled upon an ’84 High Sierra that I scored for $60. After some work she has turned into my “does almost everything” rig.

    I say this to say, thanks for posting your stuff. I stumbled upon this blog a few years ago and it’s been inspiring to see how little it really takes to get out there and do stuff. Your thoughts on minimalism really strike a chord with me. Keep doing what you do.

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