1994 Cannondale M300 18" restoration - heavily upgraded with period parts


Old School Hero
This one is very special to me, it’s my dad's first, and until pretty recently, only mountain bike. Back when I was a wee nipper he bought me my first mountain bike, a 20" wheeled 1993 Specialized Hardrock Mega from Edi Bikes on the advice of a guy he was working with at the time. That one person single handedly altered my life in so many positive ways by doing this. He was pretty into it and raced XC (as well as commuting in all weathers on some pretty sketchy roads) and made the suggestion to visit there rather than the local Halfords. This shiny new bright red bike made my mum jealous so my dad had to buy her a new bike, a 1994 Specialized Hardrock Ultra. When he rode that around he then got jealous and bought himself this, a 1994 Cannondale M300. And today the only original parts which remain attached to it are the rear reflector and the CODA seat clamp. Once the three of us had bikes we started to combine our love of the hills and being outside with the bikes. A lot of this started out with old railway line routes in the Trossachs, central belt canal towpaths and such but then we expanded to estate tracks and hill paths as an extension to our hillwalking. Despite only having 20" wheels and small gear range I did a huge amount of riding on it. As time progressed, I got bigger and stronger, and we started to explore further and further afield with longer rides. At ten I was doing 50-60 mile off road circuits quite happily, albeit I was usually ruined at school the following day!



Back then componentry was pretty poor, especially anything labelled 'XC', and at the lower end it was even worse. At the time I think there was only one bike lower in Cannondale's range than this one here, although given the M300 itself came with the already bargain basement Acera-X drivetrain, early Gripshift 7spd shifters and steel bar/stem etc it’s hard to see how they could have cut further budget! It didn't take long for most of this stuff to end up worn out, broken or otherwise in need of replacement, and so the addictive and expensive discovery of mountain biking got its claws in to us. The biggest problem we had were wheels. My dad wasn't heavy but add on panniers with kit and the back tyre and rim took a pounding. Some people go light and hope that nothing bad happens, but in the hills in winter there's real risk in bad weather (and we went out in bad weather a lot), plus of course with a kid that then adds extra responsibility to be prepared. A proper set of tools, a spare lightweight tyre, multiple tubes, kevlar replacement spoke (sadly nicked years ago), a chain, brake pads etc etc, plus of course the defacto bothy bag and emergency layers. I'm sure we took more back then than the average bike packer would take these days! Then again bike components back then were crap, especially the cheap ones, and the spares we took were generally as a result of having already broken stuff and had to deal with the consequences miles from anywhere. I'm sure some would say that it was all unnecessary but having taken my mate's kid out quite a bit to go mountaineering I can understand the approach of trying to cover most bases - quite a contrast when I go for solo hill days and travel as light as possible so I can go further. Cone spanners, headset spanners etc, they all added weight.


This bike was parked for a number of years and then when he retired brought it back out to ride for a bit. However, as it has now been replaced with a very nice 2021 Trek Fuel EX 8 it was parked up again. As the sea air and unsealed shed were beginning to take their toll I decided to give it a clean up, remove the old grease and oil, and make sure it's all ready to be put into storage in my dad's other workshop along with all my other old bikes and car parts.


Frame and fork:

The frame started out life as the classic CAAD M series frame which my dad bought from Edinburgh Bike Co-op back when it was still the tiny wee shop and no expansion had taken place, when it felt like the guys working there were all genuinely really into the sport. Personally I think this is one of the most elegant MTB frames made, but there's probably a fair bit of nostalgia in there, and as a result I never liked the earlier M series frames with the horizontally extended dropouts. Given most of our riding was in the hills the earthy colours that Cannondale sometimes used, and some of the Specialized colours too (like the moss green Stumpjumper), just seemed appropriate, way more than anything lurid would have. Originally it had a steel rigid fork but as we progressed to doing more my dad decided to spend some money on a suspension fork. At the time he was working in Dalgety Bay and Sandy Wallace Cycles was nearby who just so happened to be a Pace dealer, so it seemed logical to go for Pace forks from him.




This was going to be the RC35 MXCD but by the time he got around to it the first generation RC36 was available which has stood the test of time well, and from a comfort point of view is still one of the best forks produced. Let's be honest, anything under 80-100mm is going to be a lot more for comfort than control anyway. The original brake mounts for these brakes ended up on the Pace forks I've got fitted to my Trek 950 now while he ended up fitting some Magura specific mounts from Pace. I don't know if these are massively rare, but I've certainly never seen another set anywhere, much like I've never seen a set of the 20mm axle lowers they allegedly did for them. Unfortunately my dad's liking for riding through a salty/brackish stream every ride he did in recent years has created some oxidation under the paint where it's scratched over the years, but I've managed to arrest it as best I can. I elected to touch up the areas which needed the corrosion removed, but the missing paint from it sitting on the roof rack, or on the work stand etc have been left as part of its history. Battle scars all tell a story, like the mark on the top tube from the brake lever hitting it when he fell off the single track at the top of Glen Tilt, a spot one of my closest friends then chose to fall off on too about 25 years later. I didn't laugh, much.




One of the advantages of frequent work trips to Colorado was that my dad could pick up stuff that wasn't easily available over here. Some early parts to be upgraded were the seatpost to an Answer Rocker, the stem to a Profile BOA, and then latterly (from Sandy) a set of Pace Sub130 bars, made by Renthal, and which are a faintly ridiculous 500mm wide (narrow?). Ironically it was these bars which put Renthal off the MTB industy for many, many years, and why even when they did return they came back way overbuilt - a prototype set of DH bars I had were only 710mm wide and weighed a massive 400+ grams! These Sub130's had un-anodised end caps which were looking tired so I've polished them up. The X-Lite Alto bar ends were just cleaned and put back on while I replaced the Ergon grips with the ODI Yeti Hardcores I bought him for his birthday or Christmas probably 25 years ago. I don't like using lock ons these days but they were definitely better than the ODI Attack's he'd previously had. As to the headset, even expensive stuff could break back in 1996. Before our summer holiday that year the headset had been changed out from the original to a Shimano XT M737 in 1". All good you'd think. Except on the rough track near the Youth Hostel in Glen Affric the upper race exploded due to being machined too thinly. Far from ideal! Luckily we managed to hold it together with zip ties and cannonball back into Inverness just before the shop shut. Luckily they managed to fit it in and replace it with an LX that ended up on my mum's Specialized, while as we were staying in nearby Tomich we simply did a hill day the following day and collected the bike afterwards with no time lost. I simply stripped all these parts down, cleaned them, and re-assembled with fresh grease. My dad had given it all a good grease when he started using it again so it was just a job of cleaning up the dirty black stuff rather than any unseizing etc.



Wheels & tyres:

As mentioned these took a pounding, especially on tracks like the one down to Sandwood Baylike the pic below. Tyre wise we seemed to stick predominantly to what we could pick up from Edi Bikes. Originally the bike came with IRC PiranhaPros and if I could track a set down for reasonable money I'd get a pair. As it was we originally had all the bikes on the classic Specialized Ground Control in 1.95" followed by Panaracer Dart/Smoke in 2.1", but they always seemed to be quite puncture prone. And so we settled on Specialized Team Control and Masters, more often than not in 'Team' spec which allegedly had additional kevlar belting in the carcass over the 'Comp' version. The tyres here are just the spares he had kicking about, but I'll try to track something more 'well used by us' instead in time. I do have some others but they're currently on other bikes. Once I've worked out which tyres work best on which bikes I may have something I can transfer to this.


The wheels quickly died and so were swapped out to an original Hope Ti Glide out back and Fatso up front, both in 36h, and originally with Mavic 217 rims which lasted about five minutes. Sandy recommended a Velocity Aeroheat rear rim which was also crap, and so we arrived at the Mavic 121 CD Ceramics. The front rim on this is a D521 equivalent as the front hub which was originally on there cracked on the flanges, so the 121 was built into a Bigun that Sandy had floating around (and which is now on the front of my Marin). Once the hub came back it was then built into the new D521. Musical wheels! Back then we found that straight guaged DT spokes to be the longest lasting and to build the most reliable wheels so we used them pretty much exclusively. X-Lite Ti skewers hold the wheels in place.







Drivetrain & brakes:

As I mentioned this was all originally Acera-X, crap even back then, and worse were the Gripshift shifters. So it didn't take long for that all to be swapped out to Shimano XT M737 STI 8spd shifters, and full XT derailleurs, plus XT cassette. Then V-Brakes arrived and the M737 stuff was upgraded to the M739 with M950 XTR V's while the M737 stuff ended up on my Trek 850. In time the XT derailleur wore out and was replaced with an M950 XTR GS but this was quite stiff shifting so was replaced with an M952 SGS. The V's were a definitely improvement over the LX M565 cantis but they were still rubbish and wore out regularly, some lasting as little as six months. And then we discovered Maguras and what a delight they were! That's the setup you see here; Magura HS33 Silverlines, M950 XTR shifters, M950 XT 11-28 cassette, and an M737 XT BP/TS front mech. The cranks are 5 arm XT M739s which use a traditional spider, albeit the arms are the same as the 4 arm versions fitted to most of my old bikes. A UN73 BB completes the picture alongside some Middleburn titanium self extracting crank bolts. The Maguras have red front pads and green rears, and are such a delight in simplicity, performance and reliability compared to the V brakes. Quite why it took so long to discover them is anyone's guess!









A crud bung has been on there for years, the pedals are the brilliant Shimano PDM 747 (serviced easily for the first time in 10k miles), and XTR cables, plus the genuine Magura cable adaptors.



So there you have it, an old bike that has been ridden extensively through Scotland's hill tracks thanks to the books by Peter Koch Osborne, Frances Fleming and Ralph Storer which gave us so many amazing adventures and started a lifelong love and obsession for the hills for me, and continued it for my dad. Bikes are wonderful creations that give freedom, and access to nature and adventure. A bike which carries so many amazing memories for me of the simpler times when you're a kid and life is easy, while your parents are always there to save your ass. Of course you can't go back in time but I sure do wish I'd managed to do more with my dad in the hills while he had youth on his side and the fitness to use it! One of these days I'll get my own workshop built so I can have all my stuff hanging up rather than buried in the back of my dad's one!


A few more pics of it in its natural habitat:

Somewhere in Glen Affric, mid to late nineties.

Loch Einich, early noughties with upgraded Ortleib panniers that I've still got. Great for stuffing climbing and camping kit into on the Trek.

West Highland Way, 1999 - first ride on my Marin

'Classic' Scottish summer weather in Lochinver - the bike outlasted numerous company car changes! This one was early in the bike's life with original wheels and forks.

Parked up at Loch Merkland on the A838 in Sutherland, ready for a ride through to Alltnacaillich, a ride which took you through the Duke of Westminster's Gobernuisgach Lodge. We met the old Duke a few times when we did this ride over the years and he was always a welcoming fellow who had a true love of the area.
I thought I'd put these pics separate of the RC36 strip down. These are monumentally basic compared to modern forks, and have a lot of plastic in them. Damping is simply a plastic piston, and adjustment is a plastic cover that closes a bleed port. Nothing fancy, but then they have been faultlessly reliable for a huge amount of riding and are one of the most buttery, comfortable forks around, or at least they were in their day! I think they may have had only one seal change, and certainly part of this is likely down to the fact my dad was rather overzealous with the grease gun over the years. I cleaned them out thoroughly with WD40 and a bottle brush, followed by some slow evaporating thinners to get rid of all residue. I then repacked with original Pace RC7 grease and rebuilt. I did order some seals off eBay which seemed cheap, and it turned out they were cheap for a reason as they are only simple single lip seals rather than the double lip as the genuine ones are. My tip would be that they are just not worth the £12 and you're better off spending the extra tenner for genuine items from Pace themselves, or 'Thatretrothing' on eBay.

The top out bumpers have sadly disintegrated on these and were just a pooled pile of goo at the bottom of the stanchions, so that needed picked out. I didn't bother replacing them seeing as this bike will likely never be ridden again, but given the pair of RC36's I've got on the Trek 950 have gone the same way over the space of a couple of rides with the tell-tale topout clunk, and the RC36 Evo Pro Class I've got to replace them too, I'll make some up and probably just fit the whole lot at the same time.

The bolts were easily removed, luckily, and the surface rust cleaned up by sticking them in a drill and spinning against a red scotch pad.

All the aluminium parts were scrubbed with a grey scotch pad to get rid of the surface corrosion followed by a microfibre cloth and autosol, with a further buff using Meguiars metal polish which is a much finer grit.

All stripped and cleaned

An original tub of grease and matching American made Dualco grease gun. This tub of grease was £7 25 years ago and absolutely huge. The closest stuff to this these days is Judy/SRAM butter and is £15 for less than 10% of the volume. Mental.

I did consider sticking the steerer in a bucket of citric acid solution but decided not to in the end as I didn't want to cause any weakening given the rather critical nature of the part! The inside of it was soaked in Waxoyl years ago and combined with the crud bung was still in fine condition. Waxoyl is crap compared to modern stuff but still does the job, generally. The braces needed a bit of cleaning up but I focused only on removing the corrosion rather than the dings and scrapes in the back of the front one as they were battle scars from use and told a story.

Only minor marking on the steel stanchions, how many Judy's or SX's from that era would cope with an estimated 8000 miles and numerous years sitting in a damp shed like this?! Springs are standard 'mediums', and you can see the weedy M5 dummy spring rod in the non-damper side. All the aluminium cleaned up well and even the decals were in good condition, aside from the 'RC36' ones that had been clamped under the Magura mounts which sit in a different position to the normal V-brake ones.
Cheers @Cristian-T, I'm glad you liked it. I've not got as many pics as I'd have liked given how many times we were out, although given my dad's photography there are plenty of landscapes from the days! Your trip sounds like a good one aside from the rain! It makes me think of some of John D Burns' stories of hillwalking in the Lakes in the seventies. Rain. Lots of rain. I guess that's why there are so many lakes and the grass is always so green! What was your vague circuit?