Another ride revived; Josh’s winter commuter

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I can count on Josh to revive an old bicycle as something useful and stylish, at the right price.  He is also the owner of this handsome 1983 Univega touring bike, revived for fast commuting and touring.  Upon volunteering to fix a bike for a neighbor recently, he received “an old mountain bike” in trade.  Wary of acquiring an old clunker, he offered to take a look.  The heavily chromed Shogun had gathered dust, but a mix of parts suggested that the bike had been customized and upgraded over the years, but probably not since the mid-80’s.  Perfect.  From our estimation it is a 1985 Shogun Prairie Breaker.  In a world of Stumpjumpers and Rockhoppers, the Prairie Breaker sounds a bit… mid-western.

Josh sold his car several years ago and is committed to transporting himself and his things by bike, including family members, guitars and 50 lb. bags of chicken feed.  He has gathered a functional set of tools and skills to maintain a fleet of bikes for the family, and is always able to envision a new life for an old bike.

Spending money where it counts, Josh has made this old Shogun his own.  He fit a Surly Open bar with Ergon grips, some 26 x 2.35″ Schwalbe Fat Frank tires, and a Carradice Camper saddlebag.  The Brooks B17, fenders, dynamo hub and lighting are all parts from the workshop.  The SR MTS-100 slingshot-style stem is a personal favorite of mine; although less refined than other y-shaped stems of the time it has a more commanding, industrial look.  The stem is appropriately stiff, yet the steel quill provides a comfortable ride.  I spent many thousand miles on this exact stem last year on my High Sierra.  To mate this stem to my Nitto Randonneur drop bars I filed the clamp diameter from 22.2mm to 25.4mm.

The front bag is actually an old trunk bag from the parts bin, mounted sideways, and the platform pedals feature VO double-toe straps which are now discontinued.  Intended as a winter commuter in rainy Tacoma, a large VO mudflap helps keep the feet dry.

Note the VO Rando front rack.  On mounting the rack to the fork, Josh says: “I drilled out the fork for the rack and used self-tapping machine screws. I have the other rack (the VO Pass Hunter) to fit on the cantilever brake posts but that rack is on my Univega and I didn’t want to take it off that bike. I have drilled several steel bikes as such, and have never had a problem so I figure it’s okay. If I do end up running into rust issues I’ll braze some threaded bosses in but til then it seems fine to me.”

“Also I love the Fat Franks and I’ll see how they do this winter. I have been riding them all summer and a bit last winter and they seem to be wearing okay. Depending on the weather this winter I might have to go with something with a bit more tooth but I’ll see what happens. The Franks are great for just about everything other then ice. They even work okay in snow as long as it’s not too packed.”

This is a real bike that goes real places.  Every morning Josh commutes by bike to his job as a musical instrument repairman.  Josh’s other bikes include a custom long-tail made from an old Trek 8000 frame and the rear triangle of a mixte GT mountain bike, while his daughter rides a classy Cannondale 700c to 26″ conversion.

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I have another post on the Velo Orange Blog, entitled Packing the Campeur, Part 2.  It includes a nearly complete packing list and some photos.  This is the only place where you will find a list of the things I carry on my bike.  Enjoy!

Edit: Josh mounted the VO Rando rack onto the fork by drilling holes and using self-tapping machine screws.  He did not tap the frame and use a standard M5 bolt.

14 thoughts on “Another ride revived; Josh’s winter commuter

  1. First of all, I’m loving this banner pic. Second, reading your posts makes me realize how in love I am with the Carradice Camper! The Shogun looks great… makes me want to go for a ride.

    • The Carradice Camper is much larger than it appears, and is capable of some “rabbit out of the hat” kind of tricks. I love the longflap feature of the Carradice bags for occasional overpacking, such as when a six-pack of beer is needed on a bike trip or for overzealous trips to grocery store.

      Yo Mary, did you receive a postcard? I seem to think you didn’t. Send along a mailing address to and wait by the mailbox.


  2. Daaaaaaamn, son! Obviously, this is one of the best bicycles I’ve ever seen. At first glance, I thought that was a Tall Cool stem. Tall Cool stem + old three speed bars is what we should all be riding. Sweet pics of a nice Breaker.

    Personally? I’m building up a ton of three speeds again. It all goes in cycles. Right now, it’s back to building wheels for just… a lot of three speeds.

    If those are horizontal drops, maybe it should be a three speed. Those are the goggles I’m seeing the world through these days. Think about it. Why not? No reason at all.

    Thank you for these pictures and information. This blog is really bringing up the business.

    • I’ve got fat tire goggles, and a three speed fatbike would get be a killer Florida ride. Anyone want to move to Key West for the winter?

      I bet Prairie Breaker is something real cool in Japanese. Have you seen any Streetstompers, the Specialized ATB marketed toward urban use? You might need a Streetstomper.

      I saw the coolest “townie” in Crested Butte the other day. It was a vintage Shelby balloon tire bike made in Ohio that had been modified to accept a White Brothers CX-1 fork (first 29″ suspension fork, made in CO), and rear brake bosses welded to the frame. As well, a two-speed mountain drive system was installed in the BB. And, the rear wheel was 26″ while the front was 29″. It is by definition quite exceptional. I’ll post some pictures of it.

      They will put ape-hangers on anything with two wheels in Crested Butte.

  3. I’ve always been a sucker for fully chromed frames. That Shogun is a gem, done up right. Josh should be proud. Back in the old days, I remember Ross, Diamond Back, Nishiki, Redline, Mongoose, and even Murray as having some beautifully chromed early mountain bikes. Not to mention the smoky-chromed Schwinn High Sierra that you’ve probably encountered, considering your affinity.

    There needs to be a comeback of those yoked stems, specifically for threadless forks. They look great and are super stable. You should see if your friends at VO could make it happen. After all, thumbshifters are beginning to pop up again 20 years after being declared obsolete.

    BTW, I saw a Streetstomper earlier today in downtown Denver, so it’s quite a coincidence seeing you mention the name here. Have you ever seen a Specialized Rock Combo? That seems like a bike that could be right up your alley.

    • The challenge with such stems would be the location and the diameter of the clamp. For mtb bars it would be 22.2, but even a slight misalignment due to the curvature of the handlebar could damage the aluminum I would think. The modern solution is 31.8mm bars and stems. Even larger sizes have been introduced recently.

      I have never seen Rock Combo in person. I like it, although i seems to simply be a Rockhopper with a drop bar. I am not sure if the frame is any different. A variant of the 1987 MB-1 was sold with drops, although only 300 or so were available.

      There was a nice chromed Ross customized with drop bars and bar-end shifters on display at the MTB Hall of Fame in Crested Butte. Unfortunately, there was no information to identify the rider.

  4. Nice one. I love how big, fat tires tend to make bikes look good. Like a haircut. And I love the longflappitude of some Carradice bags, though I only “rock” a Nelson. Also interesting that he’s got TWO different dyno lights, a Spanninga AND a B&M.

    • “Like a haircut” sweet… The two lights are an experiment. Don’t know if I will like the setups but so car it’s okay.

  5. Both are relatively inexpensive lights, so I suppose the combination provide more output in total. As well, I believe on has a stand light and the other does not, and uses a halogen bulb. The combination might be nice on dark grey commutes.

    The Longflap is decidedly where it’s at. It allows a 12 pack of beer, a bear resistant canister, and a lot of other junk. I used to rock a Nelson, but it was also a Longflap model.

    New Fat Franks spotted at Interbike have the brown tread with white sidewalls. I prefer the fully white models, but options are nice. If I put smooth tires on the Pugs again I would go with the white Franks.

  6. There should be some kind of medal you get when you take an old over the hill bicycle and make it into a thing of utilitarian grace and purpose. Bicycles are the new hot rods. Take something old, jazz it up with slick parts from the aftermarket guys then show it off to your friends.

    The fact that one is gaining a working tool and loyal companion in the bargain makes it doubly sweet. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of Josh’s efforts, Nicholas, but I would like to have seen the chickens. I wonder if they still have the street chickens in Key West? It’s been awhile…


    • Not to hijack the comment thread, but I think TJ hit multiple nails on the head with word choice. Fixing up bicycles that snobs think are hoopties is my favorite thing. This Shogun is a perfect example.

      I think about bicycles – and specifically every possible upgrade and related compatibility issue – almost to the exclusion of everything else. The big questions about life and the universe confuse me. Bicycles are one of the simple and tangible parts of life that assure me my feet are still on the ground. I often reflect on how much worse my life would be without bicycles (all other variables held constant, of course.) What else do I have to keep my brain from rattling dangerously inside my skull? Hippie drugs sure aren’t doing the trick…

      • Agreed. You two are on the same planet, and yes, there are still chickens in KW.

        The Prairie Breaker isn’t all that much of a hoopty considering that it was quite nice in it’s day, although many snobs would still turn their noses up.

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