Rick Hunter Camouflage Dirt Tourer, AKA the Super Scrambler

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Standing at a distance of about six feet, I placidly gaze at the features of this bike, as in a museum.  Steve Potts approaches, now two of us standing shoulder to shoulder in appreciation.  Nothing to say in particular, although I stumble through a few words about the paint and drop bars and how this is probably my favorite bike at the show– “if I could take one bike home with me, this would be it”.  He kindly nods.  Pausing for a final moment to look, he walks away.  The bike receives the Steve Potts seal of approval, and that’s saying a lot.

Rick Hunter has been building bikes in Santa Cruz, CA for 20 years.  His featured dirt tourer at last year’s show was highly praised, complete with custom canvas framebags from Randi Jo Fabrications.  This year, he brought a showstopping custom longtail fatbike, built for Scott Felter of Porcelain Rocket.  But this drop bar 29er is the bike that stole my heart.  

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Vintage WTB Dirt Drop bars, Dura-Ace levers and Shimano XT shifters.  The bars are finished with a layer of Grab-On foam in the drops, wrapped in cotton tape.  This is still a really good way to mount shifters.  

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Custom Cunningham in-line barrel adjusters.

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Destined for Monkey Wrench Cycles in Lincoln, NE.

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Custom 6-speed cassette on a Chris King singlespeed hub, yielding a dishless rear wheel and a wide range of gears.

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Rick crafts beautiful and functional fork crowns and chainstay yokes.

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The build is completed with a NOS Avocet Touring saddle and Deore XT seatpost.

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Scott Felter says “Rick Hunter is a genius”.  I couldn’t agree more.  His bikes are highly functional, featuring a utilitarian aesthetic that is in itself, artistic.  He finds creative solutions to the specific needs of his customers, manufacturing custom racks, fork crowns and chainstay joinery.  While this bike is styled like an old Cunningham drop-bar mountain bike, painted like a Ritchey, it is designed and specced like a bike that is actually meant to ride.   

More images of the Super Scrambler and other bikes from Hunter Cycles on Rick’s photostream.

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Out the door: 1987 Raleigh Seneca Mountain Tour

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Another great bike out the door at Two Wheel Drive.

I am mesmerized with the chameleonic nature of vintage ATBs.  Able to swallow chunky rubber for off-pavement exploration, while still appearing balanced with a lean preparation for riding in-town or cross-country on a variety of surfaces, these bikes do it all.  Unlike the vintage road bikes and touring bikes of the era, most of these old klunkers have been under-appreciated in the used marketplace, keeping prices reasonable.  This 1987 “Northwest Salmon” colored Raleigh Seneca is a fine example of the kinds of bikes consumers were hungry to ride back in the day, even if they never found themselves “mountain touring”, or even mountain biking.  With copious mounting points for racks and fenders, as well as an integrated spare spoke holder and chainstay guard, this bike is a great platform for a modern commuting or touring bike, or even a casual cruiser.  Gearing is 6-speed Suntour XC Sport with thumb shifters, offering both a friction and index setting.  Brakes and levers are Shimano, and wheels are Shimano hubs to Araya rims.  This thing was a sweet ride back then, and is still a sweetie today.  At half the price of basic commuting bikes, this thing is steal, especially in this condition.

This bike has a unique story.  It was available on Craigslist when I first arrived in Albuquerque this fall, and I liked it– I wanted it– but I knew I didn’t need it.  Then, in January a customer entered Two Wheel Drive with the bike, claiming that she had been commuting on it but felt it was too heavy.  Too heavy?  Yes, too heavy to lift onto the bus racks.  We bought the bike from here and sold her an aluminum commuter frame with a lightweight wheelset.  The combination satisfied her.  Ironically, she was carrying an extremely hefty U-lock on her rear rack; the combination of rack and lock must have weighed over 4 lbs by itself.  Anyway, I have been staring at this bike for weeks.  Still, I don’t need it.

As the weather turns towards spring, friends have begun asking about “getting a bike”, which almost always means they want a good bike for cheap.  This is not always an easy task.  In this case, it was easy.  Jettie is tall and stylish, with a sense of utility and irony.  This bike is tall and stylish, with a sense of utility and a dose of irony.  She’s moving to Oakland soon with this bike, and I’m sure she’ll be the envy of bike-nerds wherever she goes.  It’s not mine, but this arrangement is even better.

She requested a basic cargo system, and we decided the Wald basket was most appropriate as it allows casual use of a handbag or backpack, and is also very inexpensive at just over $20.  As you know, Wald products are still made in the USA, in Kentucky.  The basket struts were left uncut to allow future adjustments to handlebar height.  I think Wald basket look “right” when mounted at an angle.  They’ve been attached to American bikes that way for almost a hundred years.

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More from the “Out the door” series at Two Wheel Drive here in Albuquerque, NM.

Commuteur

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The Campeur is more a commuter than a touring bike or a camping bike these days.  I added a VO Pass Hunter rack up front and my Ostrich handlebar bag, held in place by a decaleur.  The bike now has two Pass Hunter racks, front and rear.

The Carradice Camper saddlebag provide a capacious trunk for trips to the grocery or out of town.  The Oveja Negra top tube bag is the center console, for easy access to lights, locks and things.  The Ostrich bar bag is a huge glove compartment, for much more than gloves.  Finally, I’ve wrapped the bars in durable cotton tape and installed my favorite feature on any drop bar bike, modified Ergon grips.

I am really enjoying this bike for riding around town.  The bike glides through corners, which has me thinking about mechanical trail and bike design.  Distances in Albuquerque can be great– riding to a Christmas party last night, Lael and I pedaled over 8 miles each way in the dark.  Commuting is touring in the city.

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The leather badge on the front of the Ostrich handlebar bag reads “Excellent equipment of pack and carrying gear for all cyclists at heart.  Ostrich.  The Big Bicycling.”  The bag is Japanese.

How not to install a headset

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A silky Velo Orange Grand Cru sealed cartridge bearing headset replaces a gritty old Ritchey with worn races.  I know how to install a headset with a Park HHP-2, but I also know how to install the cups when staring at a pile of parts on a back porch, wondering how a bike will ever come of it all.  After removing the old cups with a big flathead screwdriver and a hammer, I applied a light steel wool to the inside of the headtube to smooth imperfections and ease the installation.  Some grease aids the process, but I stacked 2 x 4s until the headtube was evenly supported and applied a blunt force from above, transmitted through a block of wood with medium hardness.  Be sure to apply an even blow to reduce the risk of damaging the cup.  Hit it again if it needs some more help.  Maybe one more solid blow will assure the cup sits entirely in the frame.  Wham.  If the cup doesn’t seat by hand or doesn’t give into the frame with the first blow, consider the aid of the proper tools and expertise.

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Three blows to each side was enough to fully seat the cups and copious amounts of grease are applied before the cartridge bearings are installed to limit the intrusion of water and grit.  Happily, the crown race is a split ring design that allows tool free installation, and avoids the hammer.  Below, the Raleigh XXIX now has a Rock Shox Reba fork and a gold On-One Mary handlebar.  To come: a derailleur hanger and used XT derailleur, a lightly used 32 tooth Surly steel chainring, a NOS Suntour XC Expert shifter; new cables, housing and 9-speed chain, as well as Ergon grips from the Hooligan.  Lael’s gold VP platform pedals have ridden to the Knik Glacier on the Pugsley and across Corsica on the Hooligan, but will find their greatest adventure yet in Colorado.  Her grandfather was a gold jeweler and while I can’t afford real gold, she’s easily pleased by gold anodized aluminum.  The bike is shaping up.

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The bike was sourced from Craigslist. the stem and Surly chainring are from Boulder Community Cycles, and the Suntour shifter(s) are from Big Dummy Daddy, who has a PhD in sharing bikes.  Or is it bike-sharing?  He can tell you more about bike sharing programs and Denver’s pioneering project than almost anyone.  His dissertation entitled “Public bicycle sharing as a population-scale health intervention for active transportation in Denver, Colorado“, is exhaustive.  Read some of it.