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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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.