Many different forms of cycling contributed to the development of the mountain bike, including balloon tire bikes, touring bikes, and BMX bikes. Separate from that was the influence of motorcycles, and more specifically off-road motocross bikes. The early suspension fork pioneers — Paul Turner (Rock Shox), Mert Lawwill (Lawwill), Horst Leitner (AMP), and Doug Bradbury (Manitou) — all came from motorcycle backgrounds and knew the benefits of suspension. But before that innovation came about, Doug Bradbury began by building fully rigid mountain bikes. In this edition of our Vintage Bicycles series, we look at Doug’s personal 1987 Manitou…
From Moto to MTB
Doug and his motorcycle trials riding partners from Colorado Springs wondered what it would be like to go down the same technical trails on lightweight bicycles. Thus, the first dozen or so Manitou Mountain Bikes (1985-1986) were essentially made for trials riding. They had short wheelbases, tall front ends, and powerful brakes. A couple of years later, the bikes Doug was making were much more cross-country oriented, but the tall front ends and emphasis on powerful brakes remained.
This was Doug’s personal bike, which he built in 1987, and sent off to Mountain Bike Action to be reviewed. Appearing in the January 1988 issue, the magazine said, “This is the thing that legends are made of!” Being about equal to Doug’s tall stature, AMA Supercross Champion Mike Bell test-rode the bike and appeared on the front cover.
Innovational at the Time
The bike features many innovations, including ultra-short 16.5″ (419mm) chain stays and a long 24″ (610mm) top tube. Coupled with a 100mm Tioga T-bone stem, the bike might qualify by today’s standards as an enduro bike, ignoring the fact that the headtube angle is a steep 71 degrees. Other innovations include something Doug termed “Wide Glide,” which was a wider hub format of 115mm up front and 145mm in the rear.
The rear of the frame is offset to the drive side, with the extra 10mm allowing space for the freewheel and equal left and right spoke angles. Symmetric wheels with no dish are substantially stronger because the spoke tension is equal. The chain stay yoke is fashioned as a welded box section which enables a tight rear end but limits the largest chainring to no bigger than 36 teeth. With the top of the handlebars at 41” off the ground, the front end of the bike is tall and an indication of Doug’s interest in technical riding. The brake levers are also set up moto style, with the rear on the left side.
After the magazine returned it, the bike went through a few minor changes, including the addition of a second water bottle mount and brake boosters front and rear. The frame also received a wrap-around gusset on the bottom of the headtube. Mountain Bike Action concluded the article by saying it was “almost a watershed design” and that they would definitely buy one, and if they were over six feet tall, they would buy stock in the company. Many of Doug’s innovations would go on to influence aluminum frame construction for years to come.
Stem: Tioga T-Bone
Headset: Shimano Dura Ace 7400
Bottom Bracket: Suntour Cartridge Bearing
Shifters: Shimano Deore XT M730
Front Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT M730
Rear Derailleur: Shimano 600 Short Cage
Brake Levers: Magura Motorcycle Shorty
Front Brake: IRD Progressive
Rear Brake: IRD Progressive
Crankset: Shimano Deore XT M730
Chainrings: Specialized Onza 24-34-46
Pedals: Suntour XC Compe
Hubs: Manitou Modified Bullseye
Rims: Araya RM-20
Tires: Specialized GC Extreme 26 x 1.95
Saddle: San Marco Concor
Seatpost QR: Specialized
Grips: Grab-On MTN-2
Chain: Shimano HG
Cogs: Suntour Winner Pro Freewheel