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