1937 SCHWINN EXCELSIOR X - NICKEL PLATED - GARY FISHER CLONE

34henry3w

Retro Guru
Edited May 20th 2014

I first saw a picture of this bike in 1995, in the 1995 Gary Fisher brochure, where I learned that it:

1-Was the first mountain bike ever made, invented by Gary Fisher.
2-Had motorcycle shifters.
3-Had 15 speeds.
4-Was circa 1974.

It was love at first sight. The first mountain bike EVER. So bad-ass and purposeful looking. The Holly Grail.

16 years pass.. I was walking to work and came across a rather sad looking 1996 Fisher Klunker. Suddenly my forgotten fondness of Gary's original bike re-awoke. I decided then and there that I was going to build an exact replica...and I mean OCD level exact clone of Garys klunker. I would have the first mountain bike ever made.

The Googling began. It didn't take me long to find out a few things...

1-This bike was in no way the first mountain bike ever made. It was built with old parts from Gary's original 1940 DX. And that DX wasn't the first mountain bike either. The first bikes where built by the Morrow dirt club...or some guy in the 50s...or..whatever..
2-What on earth are motorcycle shifters?..
3-The bike has 18 speeds..
4-The bike, as pictured in the 1995 catologue was built in the early 80s. Even Gary's DX didn't have the Cook Bros fork shown until the late 70s.

So, my dream was shattered. The bike I had always held on a pedestal was just a marketing gimic. I decided not to build the bike.

But a few weeks passed and I couldn't get the bike out of my mind. It occurred to me that my fondness for the bike wasn't based on all the hype and claims about its provenance, it was simply the bike itself. Also, It may not be the first mountain bike, but it represents all the bikes from the very early beginnings..a turning point when people started putting parts back on their stripped down ballooners. This bike has become the spiritual father of every mountain bike ever built. I changed my mind and decided to go for it, and build the bike.

I like challenges and I knew this would be a big one. I committed very early that this replica would absolutely be a nut and bolt OCD level clone of the bike, as it sits in the Trek museum. That being said, the first order of business was to get an exact build sheet..this proved very difficult..

-Google provided me with multiple images of the bike from almost every angle
-The SFO museum in San Francisco helped me out by sending a copy of their exhibit brochure for "From Repack to Rwanda" which included the bike.
-Alan Bonds himself answered all my emails to the best of his ability, and gave me some good info and leads.
-Trek bikes..not much help.. I called and emailed at least 5 different people at Trek and none of them would help me. They said they no longer had the bike..I guess it is possible this is true as they where ripping apart their lobby to get rid of all the lance tour de france bikes! Whatever, that wasn't going to stop me. I figured (almost) the entire bike out without their help. Here is the build sheet:

Frame: 1936 - 1938 Schwinn Model C 18'' (Three sizes where available...16,18,20)
Finish: Soda blasted, nickel plated
Headbadge: Schwinn Excelsior X, nickel plate removed with bare brass exposed
Fork: Cook Brothers first gen, undrilled with rosette weld
Headset: Schwinn 1970s (Scrambler, etc)
Headset Spacer: 1950s Cinelli Milano
Stem: Ashtabula BMX
Grips: Hunte Wild Clear / Malcolm Smith Light Blue Gold Medal
Brake Levers: Honda CB. (Left handle earlier model, but both perches the same)
Shifters: Suntour Mighty - rare high profile
Front Derailleur: Suntour Spirit fd 1000 - 25.4
Rear Derailleur: Shimano RD-6101 600 GS long cage
Rear Derailleur Hanger:Suntour v gt long cage randonneur with slotted adjustment screw 4532
Freewheel: Suntour 6 speed 14-26
Cranks: TA Cyclotouriste 26, 36, 46, 180mm dark anodized arms
Pedals: MKS -BM-1 9/16
Front Hub: Union Drum, from 1955 Schwinn Town and Country Tandem
Rear Hub: Exceltoo Drum
Tires: Uniroyal Nobby 26x2.125
Saddle: Brooks B72 Honey with Chrome Rails
Seatpost: Schwinn Script
Seatpost Binder: Campagnolo Pre CPSC, Block Text
Chain: Regina Extra Record - Gold and Black
Nipples: Union
Spokes: Union .80 Rustless
Handlebar: UNKNOWN
Rims: UNKNOWN
Bottom Bracket: UNKNOWN

And the hunt was on...
 

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34henry3w

Retro Guru
Re: 1937 SCHWINN EXCELSIOR X - GARY FISHER CLONE

So, the first order of business was to get the correct frame... an 18'' 1936 to 1938 Schwinn "C" model. As I new I would be nickel plating I needed a frame with no rust. I found the perfect candidate all the way in Kansas and had it shipped to me. The frame would be all I would use. I got the bike and it was perfect...all original paint, pin straight, tonnes of scratches, but not a spec of rust anywhere..Here it is in my office. My colleagues thought I had gone off the deep end..
 

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34henry3w

Retro Guru
Re: 1937 SCHWINN EXCELSIOR X - GARY FISHER CLONE

The first couple parts..
 

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34henry3w

Retro Guru
Re: 1937 SCHWINN EXCELSIOR X - GARY FISHER CLONE

and more..
 

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34henry3w

Retro Guru
Re: 1937 SCHWINN EXCELSIOR X - GARY FISHER CLONE

and more..
 

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34henry3w

Retro Guru
Re: 1937 SCHWINN EXCELSIOR X - GARY FISHER CLONE

A few more parts..

-Correct Headbadge. I actually found one with the same level of patina as Garys. All the nickel had worn away exposingn the bare brass below!
-Correct Honey Brooks B-72 Saddle (note non typical unique embossing) and Campagnolo Pre CPSC QR. These where both extremely hard to find..and both NOS!
 

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Exeter Man

Retro Guru
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Re: 1937 SCHWINN EXCELSIOR X - GARY FISHER CLONE

Excellent commitment to find the specification and match it - keep it up :D.

Regards
 

shinobi

Senior Retro Guru
Re: 1937 SCHWINN EXCELSIOR X - GARY FISHER CLONE

What an awesome project :D great job , i was watching the film "Klunkers " the other day funnily enough :LOL:
Cheers Paul
 
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