Some retro bikes are bought great, some achieve greatness through experience and hard work and some have averageness kicked into them with vigorous ineptitude.
Welcome to my virgin build thread, he’s some waffle…
This all started over a decade ago when I had ideas above my station and ambition beyond my pocket money.
I spent £105 on a non-descript, to my eye, frame and fork from ebay.
The forks were Manitou 4’s and the frame was a mottled silver GT, I tinkered for all of a weekend then put it I the shed. 5 years later an old friend offered, for cash, to give my creaky Clockwork commuter a bit of a refurb so I tacked on the GT just asking for a basic build to get it back on the road.
The Clockwork was done rather quickly, all quite standard, but the GT was taking longer. I had some weird idea around pink BMX brake levers, Oli worked out that the rear bosses were for something called ‘u-brakes’ and that’s about as far as we got.
Eventually it landed back in my shed, or my mums shed I should say. I’d moved to London.
The years rolled again and after a spell thinking I was cool riding round the capital on a singlespeed we moved out to the country (Worcestershire) where my new neighbours rather posh Yeti caught my eye.
Eventually, with a little cajoling (although not much) ebay was broken out and a P7 was procured and I was back on a mountain bike and frankly loving it.
We got to talking about bikes of years gone past and it turns out Jon used to race GTs and actually yes I have one, well a frame, and no it’s not a Xisang but it could be either a Zaskar or a Pantera…
On my next trip home I picked up the frame and then after we’d poured over it and posted it on various forums (including here) it was confirmed ‘it’s not a Xisang but it could be either a Zaskar or a Pantera’. The lack of ANY frame markings bar the GT flatcap making it tricky.
Clicking around retrobike was a bit of an eye opener! All these fantastic ano dressed machines, bikes I’d never heard of worth thousands, new and indecipherable acronyms.
I was hooked.
So I thought, lets finally do that old GT some justice. It’ll be fun and how much can used bike parts really cost? I’ll have this done in a month…
A basic shopping list was scribbled down, ebay fired up and that’s when the problems started. Since buying the P7 a couple of months earlier I’d been given a false sense of security as buying current day parts for a standard bike is pretty straight forward. The choices are relatively simply, I wanted the best non DH kit I could afford.
With a retro build I had to make many more decisions, was I going period, NOS period, high-end, super high-end, hotrod, custom, clean, ano everything…??
I landed somewhere between period, high-end and custom. Picking up NOS bits and pieces where possible.
So I started buying. And buying and buying and buying. It’s only when you do this that it really becomes apparent quite how many components make up a mountain bike. And that for each one of these components there is slightly better, newer, rarer, lighter and usually more expensive option for just few pounds more. Except when you compare the price of the first STX crankset you looked at against the Crank Bros beauties you now have to have they are not just a few pounds more. Not even close.
The straw that broke the GTs back was the wheels. A month earlier I’d picked up a set of red Hope XCs for £75 for my P7, good wheels at a good price. Now for the GT I’d found some NOS XT hubs in box (£45) and bought a HG free hub (£14) from the same seller, so far so good. He also had some NOS ceramic rims at £60 each. Well, I thought, this is sounding great until I factored in ano nipples, black spokes and wheel building. I was looking at a bill of around £300 for my retro wheels.
This made me sit down and work out what the whole build was going to cost. It landed in £1000 plus category, nearly twice the cost of my XT’d up P7. Then I made the mistake of looking what that buys you in the used market and I couldn’t believe how far that would go in terms of XC FS bikes. I couldn’t square riding a relatively average hardtail as my main bike and pumping that much cash into an less capable retro toy. Especially as I kept seeing full XT Zaskars going through ebay for as little as £250. Ok they’d need a very full service but for around £400 you’d have a more than serviceable retro steed. The buying stopped.
I reassessed what I wanted out of bikes and realised my first priority was to get my daily ride right. I sold the XT hubs and a few other bits, found a late Maverick ML7 frame and had the P7 swapped out then rode a lot.
But the retro itch never went away. I then thought of a sneaky short cut, buy a complete period bike and transfer the components to the GT and sell the other frame. Job done. So my search started again and quite quickly I negotiated £150 for a 92 Scott Superlite that even included a Hope Ti wheelset and Magura Hydralic brakes. Ready to roll retro for no money but the problem was I couldn’t bear to split it. I just loved the pink and purple frame against the fluro brake boosters so into the shed it went, another retro mouth to be fed. And fed it was. Faded miss-matched STX RC shifters swapped out for XT M095, XT rear mech and so on and so on…
At this point I almost feel the need to stand on my chair and loudly say the words ‘My name in Will and I’m a bike-a-holic’ because by now my local collection (not including those stashed in my mums sheds) had swelled to 7 bikes so, I should have asked myself, did I really need to re-start project Zaskar. Really?
Like so many addicts I came up with justification for the decision and mine was thus: The GT would plug the gap left by my P7. It would be built as a performance hardtail.
One of the drawbacks of a committed retro build is that you will spend lots of time and lots of money sourcing hard to fine expensive parts. All the bits you eventually put together will take on a personal value that makes them harder to use in anger. You’ll be less keen to take risks with something that at the back of your mind might be impossible to replace. At least that’s true for me anyway. So I re-focussed project Zaskar on a new goal.
It would be re-built with good quality modern(ish) components (think Hope Tech) and, where possible, interesting parts I’ve always fancied (blue SIDs). This way I knew I was getting something where it looked cool, nothing was irreplaceable and that would stand up to a good thrash:
Frame – 92 Zaskar
Decals – Repro - Teal
Fork – Rockshox SID
BB – Hope - Gunsmoke
Crank – RaceFace Evolve XC (in MOWA bolts and blue blackspire middle ring)
Peddles – Eclat Alloy - Teal
Rear W – STX RC Mavic 521 blue nipples
Front W – Hope Pro II
Disc – Dirty Dog Tadpole
Cassette - SRAM
Chain - SRAM
Tyres – Wildgrippers – Charge Splashbacks
Tubes - Presta
Rear Mech – XT 9 speed
Front Mech - XT
Cables - Clarks
Outers – Odyssey Linear – Teal
Rear Brake lever – NOS XT
Rear Brake – XT U-brake
Pads – Onza Blue
Front Brake – Hope Mini mono
Seat Post - Kore
Clamp – Hope - Gunsmoke
Saddle – Charge bucket - Brown
Headset – Hope - Gunsmoke
Stem – Hope - Silver
Bars – RaceFace Deus - Blue
Grips – Lock on - Teal
Shifters – LX 9 speed
Skewers – Hope - Gunsmoke
Now finally here are some pics:
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