Pete McC's Doug Bradbury Manitou Full Suspension
In the now standard start to a Retrobike.co.uk story I want you to wind the clock back 17 years - it's 1992, Carter USM are riding high in the charts and playing on my 'auto-reverse' walkman, my Calvin Kleins are visible for all to see above the waistband of my baggy jeans and the MBUK Summer Special has just landed in WHSmiths.
This years Summer Special really lived up to it's name as nestled amongst the pages of vital holiday reading was an article so special that it would get read with an amazed open mouth more often than a lottery winner rereads his winning ticket - the Superbike Test! Four bikes - all works of art, all utterly desirable and all far too expensive for a 17 year old on his way to University.
The Superbike test featured some of the years rarest and most individual bikes to hit our shores; bikes like the he Mountain Goat, the Alpinestar Almega, the Funk E-stay. But for me, one bike stood out in the review as the ultimate Superbike -the Manitou FS. With it's eye watering £2,950 price tag for a frame-kit (in the days when £1500 would buy you a fully built Pace RC100), it was out of the reach of all but the most hardcore or most over-paid cyclist out there. It was the true embodiment of the term Superbike, it shone with new and exciting technology and was laden with unique and bespoke parts. It featured a 145mm rear axle that allowed a dish-less rear wheel and the 90mm width BB shell for the optimum chainline, it had amazing, cutting edge suspension forks with a full inch of elastomer travel and the additional set of forks where the seatstays should be, offering another bump-soaking inch of travel at the back. Unsurprisingly this bike scored a full 5 stars across the board and won the praise of all who rode it, all this praise was testament to the fact that it was designed by mountain bike design pioneer and Hall of Fame member, Doug Bradbury. This was the bike I told myself I would buy when I made my fortune.
Now, with the scene set, let's fast forward to this time last year - I no longer had that magazine, my dog ear-ed and ragged copy was lost in one of the many moves since Uni, but I still lusted after each and everyone of the bikes in that Superbike review, I was still promising myself that I will own a Bradbury Manitou when I am rich and famous. But little did I know that Karma has a special surprise in store for me, one that it had been storing up for me for those 16 years since I first opened that magazine.
Everyone who is a regular here will know that one key element on this site is the 'Ebay and Marketplace watch'. This is a section of the site where people can post links to bike that they have seen on ebay that they think may interest other people, a practice often referred to as 'outing'. Much has been said for and against outing, such as it brings items to the attention of a wider audience, but at the same time will raise the price of an item as more people bid, but that the more people that 'click through' from the Retrobike posting the more money is raised towards the upkeep of this site. I, for one, have nothing but praise for it as this is the route Karma chose to treat me to my surprise....
Kase1983 posted up a link in 'Ebay and Marketplace Watch' to an auction for a 'very-rare-doug-bradbury-mountain-bike-race-frame'. It was a poorly listed auction with little in the way of text and even less in the way of photos, just a couple of badly lit cellphone photos of a dirty frame looking very sorry for it's self.
The original cellphone picture
A few of us had a little bit of discussion as to what it was - 'a Marin, maybe'? But having worked in a bike shop that sold Marin I knew it wasn't (this one had gussets on the top and down tube), nor was it a Balance or even an Answer Manitou (rear forks were too old). So out of interest I shot a couple of questions off to the seller and got some promising answers, but then do you believe everything you get told by ebay sellers? He sent me some additional photos but, again, I really couldn't see much from them. Even at this point the thought that this could be a Bradbury Manitou hadn't crossed my mind, no body would be selling such a bike in such a poor way, surely? I just assumed that it was another no name frame being sold by someone keyword spamming. None the less I was intrigued but I convinced myself not to get my hopes up as with the word 'Bradbury' in the listing and its place in 'Ebay and Marketplace Watch' was surely enough to ensure the price would go through my ceiling bid. And when my lowly bid of £150 did actually secure I was then further convinced that I had just bought a cheap copy - surely no one would have let a genuine Bradbury Manitou go that cheap. But hey, I thought, for £150 what's the worst that could happen?
When it arrived and it was filthy, greasy and dirty, but for me, this was where the real fun started. As soon as I had it in my hands I noticed some really interesting features - first was the seatpost, a genuine Ringle head on an oversized shaft. Next was the 1 1/4" headtube and 1 1/2" seat tube, third was the finish of the rear forks (exactly the same as a set of early Manitou forks I had owned many years previously and foolishly sold on).
So I just had to know who made it! Best thing was to post up a thread on here and get the combined wisdom of Retrobike. 'What size is the BB shell' came the first question from Andrewl, our Australian expert - 90mm, 'and the rear drop out?' he retorted - 145mm. Those two unique numbers meant only one thing, this was a Bradbury Manitou FS, this was a Superbike, this was an absolute bargain and it was mine!
All of a sudden I was 17 again, and using the Magazine Scan Section on this site out came the 1992 MBUK Summer Special again - there it was in black and white, every quirk and feature of my frame was replicated in the one in the Summer Special. And there was my mission, to replicate the Summer Special bike as best I could and to fulfill that promise I made to myself.
But this was going to be far tougher than the usual build, this wasn't a build that 'just' needed a full XT groupset, instead I was going to have to find all the bizarre, bespoke parts that Doug Bradbury had originally specced for this frame and without just one of these the bike would not work.
First the rear hub. I looked into many options such as Phil Wood or Shimano tandem hubs to fill the 145mm rear dropouts, but these were either incredibly expensive or just 'not quite right'. Fortunately Karma was still smiling on me, as into my inbox popped an email from the original seller who had found the original rear wheel in his shed and he gladly passed it on to me for a few pennies.
As with everything on this bike this hub was quite special. The hub had started out life as a Shimano M900 before Mr Bradbury cut it in half and added in an extra CNC'ed section. This was an incredible stroke of luck as these hubs are as rare as the frames, Bradbury didn't make these as an aftermarket product, they were solely sold with the frame as they were a part of his holistic view of bike building. The 145mm hub allowed Doug Bradbury to design the bike with an asymmetric rear end and a zero dished wheel - this creates a stronger, more evenly tensioned rear wheel with a single length of spoke on both sides. It also complimented the Bottom Bracket in creating better gear alignment.
Manitou rear detail
Next up I had to find that BB long enough to cope with a 90mm BB shell and a set of Cooks Cranks - one with at least a 140mm axle! Elite504 came to my rescue here with an axle designed to be used with super old Campag cranks on sealed bearing Bikes. So add this axle to a NOS cooks BB bearing and cupset that I just happened to have lying around and that was problem 2 sorted. The 90mm shell was a radical choice back in the 90s but is now a concept that has been adopted by more and more DH bikes as it offers more room for the rear suspension linkage as well as a stronger platform for your cranks but as with many great ideas Shimano and the like just wait until patents expire before they use technology rather than pay someone else royalties so that riders can benefit (Outboard bearings, hollow axles, 2 piece crank sets? Just think Magic Motorcycles, Sweetwings or Bullseye. Shadow rear mech - EGS thought of that first!)
Manitou BB detail
A set of over-long skewers was also provided by Elite504 in the form of a beautiful set of Ringle Cam Twists with custom cut rods. He also sorted me with a 100mm front Ringle hub to compliment the Trail stem, the H20 Cage and the Mojo brake hanger.
Next up was another real toughie. A set of original Bradbury Manitou forks had to be found. These forks were all made by Doug in his workshop by hand long before the Answer buy-out and again, they were rare. Madcowkev stepped up and kindly offered me his set from his Yeti knowing that my need was the greater. With a set of Gil_M's decals, Slim's elastomers and Jonnyretro's seals the forks at both ends were like new and bouncing their full one inch. Later these 'ordinary' 100mm spaced forks were replaced with a set of even rarer 115mm spaced forks from Scant paired with a 115mm ringle hub. These were the originally specced forks only found on his own bikes rather than the 100mm aftermarket version. These allowed a stronger front wheel to be built to match the rear for little weight gain.
Manitou 115mm fork
I was now in the home strait and the build was really coming together piece by piece. Add in a set of FRO brakes and a Kingsberry headset from Mountainbike-kult.de and some Scott-Mathauser pads from Sidekick and finish off with a full decal kit from Gil_M and this bike was turning into a true Retrobike effort from start to finish!
Manitou Fork detail
One last hurdle - I had to insert the headset! A tough job at the best of times but now add in the knowledge that Manitous are renowned for splitting quicker than a premiership footballer leaves his pregnant girlfriend. Would Karma leave me so near the end of this build and deny me the chance to fulfill this dream? Fortunately not - look Ma, no cracks:
Look Ma, No Cracks!
Finally after one last polish and the addition of a couple of RB stickers and a 1st generation Crud Guard to cover a couple of the battle scars I was done. I was finally the proud owner of my Superbike - a Bradbury Manitou Full Suspension. Promised fulfilled, both the 17 and the 34 year old me smiled!
Frame: Doug Bradbury Manitou FS
Fork: Bradbury Manitou 115mm axle suspension
Headset: Kingsberry 1 1/4"
Stem: Ringle Trail stem
Brake Pads: Scott Mathauser Superpads
Brake Cables: Tioga
Cantilever cable hangers: Ringle Mojo
Brake Levers: Dia-compe Advantage 282
Shifters: XT Thumbshifters
Front Derailleur: XT with Bradbury 1 1/2" mount
Rear Derailleur: XT with SRP breakaway bolt
Derailleur Cables: Shimano
Cranks: Cooks RSR
Crank Bolts: SRP
Chainring bolts: SRP
Bottom Bracket: Cooks
Pedals: Speedplay Magnums (Frogs in photos)
Hub Skewers: Ringle
Rims: Campag Mirrox
Hubs: Ringle 115mm front, Bradbury/M900 145mm rear
Tyres: Onza Racing Porcs
Tubes: Chin Shen
Saddle: Selle Turbo SLR
Seatpost Binder: Ringle