Tuesday, January 22, 2013

1984 Miyata Ridge Runner

My long sought after and newly found 1984 Miyata Ridge Runner, size 23".
As promised, here are some pics of my most recent acquisition. The photos are of the bike in the condition it was when I got it. Actually, it's a little dirtier than when I got it because it's now been on several short rides in melting snow / goose poo dispersal areas. Note also that I swapped out the seat and pedals, because the original Miyata imprinted Selle Italia saddle and the Suntour XC II pedals had unfortunately been lost to the sands of time. I added my own Brooks B-17 and some vintage beartraps. I also took a little artistic license and installed a Breeze-Angell Hite Rite, the original seat dropper, because I had it in my stockpile and it is also a product introduced in 1984.

I bought the Ridge Runner from its original owner, who bought it new in Sonoma, California just as the mountain bike boom was starting to reach a wider audience. It spent many years in California, a couple in Maui, and several more in Colorado. The bike has been ridden, but sparingly. There's a thick layer of waxy grease on much of the drivetrain, but no component shows anything but minimal wear. The front tire is even the original Miyata branded stock model, with a tread and profile that gives the impression of a downsized motocross tire.

This bike represents the culmination of an on-again, off-again effort to reacquire a facsimile of my first mountain bike, a 1986 Miyata Trail Runner, which was a nice bike, but a couple of rungs down the ladder from the Ridge Runner. My '86 Miyata was the first good quality, non department store bike I ever had, as well as the first new bike I ever bought myself, but that's a story for another time. The seller's regret I've experienced since selling my '86 Miyata back in 1989 is probably no small contributor to my difficulty in letting any bike go, because once they're gone, they're gone. In any case, enjoy the following photo dump, all you old-timer mountain bike enthusiasts!

Nice, slack angles: 68 degree head tube, 70.3 degree seat tube. By the end of the '80s, steeper, less comfortable 71/73 angles were mostly commonplace.
Roomy for its era 60 cm (23.5") c-t-c top tube, with about 120 mm  in stem extension. Wide handlebar. This all equates to comfort and control.
Head tube says, "Since 1890." There's a slight kink in the rear brake housing. All will be replaced anyway.
Yep, made in Japan. Note the over the bottom bracket cable routing.
Nice little graphic flourish on the seat tube.
Rack mounts tucked neatly inside the seatstays for a clean look. Fender mount under the brake bridge and another at the chainstay bridge.
This bike has its stickers above the clear coat, as opposed to my '86 which had them under the clear coat. Maybe during the boom this was a quicker timeframe to market to beat the rapidly expanding competition?
The top of the line '84 Ridge Runner was TIG welded throughout, which is odd as Miyata was a company where every other model at the time was lugged. Even the two other '84 Miyata mountain bike models lower down the line had lugs, so I'm not quite sure why the Ridge Runner was welded.  Did the relatively unusual TIG joints look more mountain bike-y at the time?
Original SR seatpost with an era-appropriate Hite Rite. I'll have to dig up a Suntour quick release to replace the non-original Kalloy unit currently here.
TIG welded fastback-style seatstay junction mimics the fillet brazed treatments on custom frames of the time, primarily Ritchey.
Suntour Power Thumbshifters and Dia Compe brake levers. Hardly a wear mark to be found. The less than a year old Avid levers on my Pugsley look more worn. 
The cockpit is built around a Nitto B-902 bull moose bar. The grips are not original, though the originals were of a somewhat similar ergonomic design.
The angle of the Nitto bars felt familiar, and sure enough, they have almost the exact profile of a Salsa Moto Ace bar (the bar currently on my Pugsley), though the Nitto is wider at 720 mm vs. the 660 mm Salsa. It's a very nice bar. 
Brake and shift levers are nearly showroom fresh.
The little spots on the shifter aren't pitting or corrosion, just antiquated grease and dust. 
The Suntour Power Thumbshifter is one of the nicest, simplest shifters ever made, in my opinion.
Shiny Dia-Compe levers mated to Dia-Compe cantilevers. 
Tange Levin headset. Mirror-like surfaces on the faces of the lock nuts.
Perhaps one of the first headsets specifically designated for off road use. The forged fork crown has a very beefy feel.
The tubing sticker has suffered more over time than most of the rest of the bike.
Fun fact: Miyata was the only company of the era to draw its own custom tubing. Good stuff.
Miyata's own fork tubing, too.
Stem/bar assembly of the black chromed, chromoly Nitto B-902 bull moose bar.
Suntour rear hub. Surface grease and dust on the hubs will be attended to shortly.
The only corrosion I've found is on the surface of the nickel-plated spokes. This is not uncommon for a bike of this age. Note the threaded dropout adjusters.
Suntour front hub. Both front and rear hubs have nut-on axles; no quick release here. Top and bottom eyelets on the fork ends.
Sealed bearing Suntour. This is the pre GreaseGuard era, though.
It's even got a Suntour pie plate under the freewheel. Not even yellowed. How cool is that?
Original Suntour New Winner 14-32 6-speed freewheel. Single eyelets on the rear Suntour dropouts.
Suntour Mountech rear derailleur.
Suntour. Dia-Compe. Sugino. This bike has no Shimano parts at all. See original specs here.
Suntour Tech front derailleur. Dust caps on the cranks highlight that they are cotterless. 
Sugino AT cranks. Amazingly smooth finish and no apparent rubbing or wear. 50-40-28 Sugino rings.
A little hard to see in this photo, but that's a 180 mm crank stamped D-4, which I interpret as meaning April, 1984. Nice long cranks for a bike of this size. 
That's a Sugino sealed bottom bracket down there from well before the cartridge bb era.
I got rid of the plastic replacement pedals that were on the bike, in favor of some older beartraps I had. I like how black anodized parts fade to a bronze color over time. 
Can't forget the original Blackburn USA bottle cage. It's apparently been little used, with no scuffing or wear inside.
Plenty of clearance for even fatter tires. Dia-Compe cantilevers with original pads. No through-hole on the fork crown. Instead, there's a fender mount on the front. The front tire is original, and is good and meaty for its era.
The block knobbed Miyata tire is a lot like the Fisher Fattrax tires that I eventually installed on my '86 Miyata. The original Araya rims show barely any marking from brake use.
Some cracking, but the front tire is in remarkably good condition after 29 years. I think I'll continue to ride it until it disintegrates. It would be a shame to take it off to preserve it, thus cursing it to never being ridden again.
The rear tire is not original. I'd love to find something that performs in a similar manner to match the feel of the original front tire. Perhaps a Kenda K-Rad, or a Comp III. Any other suggestions?
I can confirm that the bike rides as good as it looks. Upcoming project: a strip-down for new cables and housing, repacked bearing assemblies and general sprucing up.

18 comments:

  1. Man, that one is in fantastic shape. I found a miyata terra runner complete bike for essentially free, but alas it appears to have been in a front end colision at some point in its life and the DT and tt are subtly but definitively buckled... Probably not worth fixing, but still nice example of good historic mountain bikage...

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    1. There is probably a logical threshold for repairing such a bike, but unless you have the skills and equipment to do it yourself, it's probably not worth it. If it's a big frame, drop Nick the Gypsy a line as he might have the wherewithal to fix it, and has already claimed the next ownership of my Miyata.

      Coincidentally, I found the mangled frame of a 1985 Terra Runner in a dumpster years ago. I admit I picked it up and kept it, more as a curiousity than anything. However, I harvested it for some parts and sawed off its cantilever mounts, which I then grafted on to my Titan 1/2 Trac rat ride.

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  2. Nice! Yeah, it's interesting how most of the MTBs of companies who produced lugged bikes were TIG welded. Maybe because mountain bikes were new, and they could test this new (and cheaper) process without the reaction they might get from the road bike crowd of the era?

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  3. That's a good hypothesis. The '84 Miyata catalog uses the term "heli-arc," which is an older synonym for TIG welding, to describe what was probably a mostly unfamiliar joining process for many experienced bicyclists of the time. I grew up during the mountain bike boom and remember thinking, toward the end of the '80s, that the lugs on my '86 Miyata seemed a little antiquated compared to the scalloped, industrial-looking weld beads on fancy, custom bikes. Currently, lugs on newly built bikes seem to have come full circle, being primarily the domain of a select few fancy, custom builders.

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  4. The TIG welding and fastback stays make it look like a Ritchey. That is a poor man's Ritchey for sure. I'm furious (very happy for you) that you've found such a nice bike in such nice condition.

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    1. The whole bike definitely has an early Ritchey vibe to it, which is probably no coincidence. I would imagine that many examples of the custom bikes of the era made their way into design facilities of bike companies on both sides of the Pacific. It seems as though any information or development exchange was mostly symbiotic, as combined efforts, intentionally partnered or otherwise, led to rapid improvement and expansion of product lines for both component and frame builders over a short period of time.

      I feel very fortunate to have found a bike like this, and if the time comes for it to move on, a fellow enthusiast like you who will appreciate it is where it will go.

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  5. Tarik, I could do something with your Miyata if it comes to that point.

    Andy, I meant to say that Ritcheys are all fillet brazed, and the welded joinery looks (-ed) much the same to most consumers. Actually, from what I can tell the welding is very good on the Ridge Runner. I've seen a few 1984 Schwinn High Sierras that look like shit. My 1985 has nice, normal looking welds that you can trust. I know the 85 was made by Giant. Not sure about the 84.

    Still want your Ridge Runner. Do you have a will?

    nicholas

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    1. I kind of read between the lines and understood what you meant about the Ritchey joining processes. There were actually several larger number of production Ritchey models that came out a year or two later that had the signature fillet brazed seat junction, but were otherwise TIG welded. I remember an '88 Ritchey Ascent Comp in fuschia and yellow that I schemed to get that fell into that category. However, saving for a $1200 bike while making $3.35/hour minimum wage and supporting myself through college was an equation that didn't add up.

      Actually, I am in the process of updating my will and will designate you as the recipient of the Ridge Runner. No joke. As much as my family knows I care about bikes, it would be just another random old bike to them anyway.

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  6. Andy,

    It seems I've become your biggest fan due to the recent acquisition, and I'll never run out of things to say. That fork is beautiful, and seems to use an internally sleeved blade like a Cinelli, or other road bikes of the time. Wow. Thus, the fork blades are likely brazed in place, filed and sanded, and painted to a smooth finish.

    And the construction says much of industrial manufacturing-- high quality, not quite refined, but very, very nice. I've described my VO Campeur as such, and mostly I'm referencing my 82/83 Miyata when I say that. Miyata made nice bikes for sure. Lael and I literally have a saying: "Staying up late looking at Ridge Runners" that describes my obsession with these bikes (c. 2007). Actually, I hear this every time a computer screen lights my face past bedtime. Again, up late looking at Ridge Runners. Out of curiosity, have you seen the old Diamond Back Ridge Runners (lugged)?

    up late looking at Ridge Runners,
    nicholas

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    1. Nicholas,

      No problem. If there's one thing I don't get tired of, it's talking about bikes. I think you are right about the fork construction. It's an understated masterpiece of form, function and assembly process. Overall, the frame welds are very nice, but definitely not artisanal. Some insight into the Miyata manufacturing thought processes is in their old catalogs. Miyata seems to have taken high quality in the production process very seriously. With complete control from raw materials to fabricating their own tubing and production tools, it's like nothing I've seen. I know of no other manufacturer that used print space to detail the exact metallurgy of their alloys, and the reasoning behind it. Parts of the '84 Miyata catalog come off feeling Vulcan-like in their structured logic; a yin to the yang of later Bridgestone catalogs.

      As much as I have always admired custom bikes, I've never owned one, and probably never will. I have more appreciation for well-done mass produced bikes, in part, because I have a chance of affording them, but as importantly, they are made to be used and enjoyed by the masses. I see this potential for broad diffusion as important in creating a movement. I think we are seeing this today with fatbikes primarily via Surly, and resurgent interest in quality utility bikes from the likes of VO.

      Anyway, I'm already too verbose in this comment, but wanted to add a bit about bike obsession. I like your Ridge Runner phrase, which is a kinder euphemism than "bike porn." I will date myself here, but early on in my mountain bike addiction, I could probably describe every model from every builder and every component in detail; this being in the dark ages long before the internet. As a fiscally-challenged kid, I read every bike magazine I could and frequented bike shops just to ogle. The computer has made bike obsession a lot easier, and the screen-lit face you describe is the very method in which I found this particular bike.

      Yes, I did know of the Diamond Back Ridge Runners, and always wondered how an arguably unusual term could have been picked up by two companies as a moniker for their top bikes. The lugged DB RRs were nice, but had mostly vanished by the time I was gaining mountain bike awareness. I saw one in about 2000 at a used bike shop for super cheap, but it had spent a lot of time outside, to its detriment.

      You are more than welcome to look at this Ridge Runner all you like, and if you find yourself in Denver again, you're welcome to ride it.

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    2. Ah, it appears that this Ridge Runner has gotten Nicholas/Gypsy off his Raleigh Seneca obsession! So much so that he hasn't even commented on my latest post about a Seneca. Good work, Andy D!
      ;-)

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    3. It would appear as though I've inadvertently mesmerized the Gypsy. He may also be grappling with the confusion associated with pursuit of a pink bike. Believe me, I've been there:

      http://bigdummydaddy.blogspot.com/2010/09/retina-vibrating-skinny-tired-time.html

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    4. I have a beautiful 84 ridge runner 19" for sale

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  7. Great post thanks for sharing. I have used many welding assembly services in Birmingham and I think that welding and metal assembly is an extremely important part in all of our lives.

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  8. I've got a Trail Runner that I bought new in 1986, and have no intention of parting with. Love the bike. Nothing but good memories, and future memories to be made. Heading out to the McKenzie River Trail with it and a buddy this weekend.

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    1. Good to hear there's a survivor out there. Happy trails!

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  9. Andy D,

    I found you post after searching Google for Miyata Ridge Runner, a bike I purchased new back in the early 80's. Yours is the same model I've had hanging in my garage for years, so '84 was probably about the time I purchased it in San Diego. Mine is completely original from tires to grips and has seen little use (no use the past 25 years). I will be cleaning it up and riding it again soon and want to Thank You for the informative post!

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  10. I too bought mine in san diego down the street from SDSU in the mid 80s. running great, but I need a rear cassette, as I am missing a tooth on my low gear. Any suggestions on how to find something compatible to replace it ?

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