While we love our share of vintage mountain bike builds, dressed with period-correct components, and embrace the patina that has been rubbed in over the decades, there’s something to the resto-mod style of vintage builds. Baskets, racks, modern bars, and the like all add to a bike’s longevity and encourage its use. Plus, a vintage mountain bike just oozes cool and generally is cheaper to build up from a parts bin than buying something brand new. On my last trip to Los Angeles, I was hanging out at The Cub House, avoiding the rain, when Simon, their mechanic, showed me a customer’s bike that rolled in for some TLC, and I had to document it…
Salsa Ala Carte: Spicy Production!
In 1984, Ross Shafer, the founder of Salsa put out his first production mountain bike frame, the Ala Carte. This switch came after Ross built lugged road frames for various builders, including Santana. Yet, he felt like something big was potentially on the horizon with these new and trendy fat tire bikes. The demand for a new form of cycling shifted him to build tig-welded balloon tire, off-road bikes. His waitlist imploded upon shifting from road to mountain frames and quickly grew to 80 orders. Ross was also building forks and stems to accompany his Salsa frames. Eventually, the Salsa stems would be in higher demand than his frames, but by 1991, he was upping his framebuilding enterprise thanks to the Ala Carte, which was by far his most popular frame ordered.
Read up on this bike in our archives: From The Pro’s Closet: Ross Shafer’s 1984 Salsa Cycles Custom
Ross’ preferred method of riding the Ala Carte was with a P-10 tig welded, positive rise stem, and dirt drop handlebars. The Ala Carte was a perfect candidate for such a design as it had a taller head tube than most bikes of the era and a shorter top tube. A higher head tube made it easier to put the drops where you wanted them, and a shorter top tube gave you a better riding position for singletrack and rough doubletrack.
Eventually, Ross sold the brand Salsa to QBP, and the brand evolved to produce carbon bikes, like the Cutthroat, which embodied the same ideologies as Ross’ dirt drop machines.
CJ Nelson’s Build
Avid surfers will recognize that name as CJ has quite the following regarding his surfboards. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet CJ in person when I shot his bike, but we have chatted online before during the fixed gear craze years. Fast forward ten some odd years and CJ is still riding bikes when he’s not shaping boards.
He picked the bike up from his friend Matt who worked for Salsa when the company was based in Petaluma. This frame happens to be one of the last frames that were built in the original shop. Knowing it was a special bike, CJ wanted to turn it from a mountain bike to his daily driver commuter. The bike was completely original when he bought it which didn’t make it for an ideal commuter as the Ala Carte’s were a more race-ready bike with a aggressive riding position.
Knowing he wanted it to be more of a cruiser and less of a race bike, it went under a parts overhaul. CJ chose vintage White Industries cranks (with RaceFace rings) and hubs, Shimano XTR 8-speed derailleur and Microshift cassette, XTR brakes, Shimano DXR levers, a King Rasta headset, Sim Works Super Yummy tires, a Tange fork, a MASH rack with an Inside Line Equipment rack bag, Salsa stem, Nitto bars, Thomson post, and a Brooks saddle top it off.
With the slightly tilted back Brooks, CJ takes full advantage of the riding position the Nitto Bosco bar offers, perfect for commuting.
Now, Ross’ bike (above, linked) is pretty freaking cool, but I feel like the readership at The Radavist likes to whet their appetite with something a little spicier like CJ’s build here. Who wants drop bars on a MTB anyway? ;-)
Year: c. 1992?
Frame: Salsa Ala Carte
Bar: Nitto Bosco
Headset: Chris King Rasta
Front Derailleur: Shimano XTR
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XTR
Brake Levers: Shimano DXR
Front Brake: Shimano XTR
Rear Brake: Shimano XTR
Cranks: White Industries (RaceFace rings)
Pedals: MKS XC III
Hubs: White Industries
Rims: Mavic SUP
Tires: Simworks Super Yummy