1989 Vintage MTB to Super-clean Gravel Bike
Taking inspiration from the Spindatt Rockhopper, the 2019 Scott Foil and a Limited-Edition Poseidon X, my original plan was to take this 1989 Diamondback Ascent frame, that I snagged on Facebook marketplace for £35 ($50) and convert it into a super-clean gravel bike. For the most part I stuck to this, but this build morphed into so much more than I could’ve ever imagined! FYI, the ideas for the 1984 HiteRite Dropper and 1930s Bell to Sram Shifter Hack came to me much later.
It was this deep metallic paint and these straight leg forks, which got the creative juices flowing. The colour scheme is based on the stunning 2019 Scott Foil, because the “Dark Bronze” looks very similar to my frame’s paint. I saw this Scott in 2019 and thought “One day I’ll build a bike with the tan-wall tyres and saddle look!”, so this competition was my chance! I found the Syncros Tofino saddle and Billy Bonkers tyres on Facebook Marketplace, so that sorted the colour palette! I’d never contemplated a gold chain before but thought this gold accent colour would really pop against the frame! This led to gold valve caps, pedal axle caps and bottle cage bolts to create a DIY Detailing Kit for under £15.
I had never touched a bike with cantilever brakes or a quill stem before, but I challenged myself to fit “cantis” for the first time and a quill stem adaptor. I hated the adaptor’s cheap plastic bung, so I created a custom top bung using a hacksaw, M6 nuts and a gold Cinelli cap.
Somethings went badly, and when I got a Shimano bottom bracket with a Sram adaptor stuck in the frame, I thought my comp was over. I often made do without the proper tools, which saw me spending over an hour smashing on the crown race with a plastic pipe and using fine-tooth carbon sawblades for everything. But I kept going, taking my time to find the tidiest solution to each problem.
Having learned from the Spindatt Rockhopper that 10-speed shifters work with an 11-speed clutched derailleur, I paired second-hand Sram Rival 10-speed shifters with an 11-speed Apex 1 derailleur to create a wide-range 1x10 speed drivetrain!
As the left shifter lever is redundant on a 1x system, I was looking for a way to make use of it. The frame taking a 26.0mm seat post made using the shifter for a dropper post difficult, but extensive Googling revealed the original 1984 HiteRite quick-drop system! Could there be a better fit for my 1989 Diamondback than this piece of mountain bike history? I had to file inside the seat tube, but now it’s super smooth!
With the frame and HiteRite from the 80s, I wanted to keep combining old and new parts and eventually found this tyre-driven 1930’s bell with terrible Amazon reviews, but thought I’d try my luck at getting it working with the Sram shifter. Boy, I’m glad I did because it works flawlessly and may even be a world’s first! I didn’t want the bell attachments scratching the forks, and wanted to use the mid-fork mounts, so I got this front rack from Santafixie. I took a hacksaw to the side support arms to make it fit, which was scary, but it worked out nicely, phew! I mounted the bell to the rack using a straight bracket and brake calliper knurled nuts to stop it slipping and routed the cable along the rack using cable ties.
This stem from a BMC Gravel bike holds the flared PRO Discover Gravel Handlebars which I wrapped in baller Cinelli Mike Giant Bar tape to finish off the build!
My wife and I are making a custom rando bag, and we plan to get sewing this weekend. I’ve been inspired by Woodys on Etsy to try making a rear mudguard from wood, which I’ll varnish to match the tan. Lastly, these Specialized wheels with smooth Schwalbe tyres were £20, which I’ll combine with my Exustar road pedals to try this bike in road/commuter mode.
This competition has given me the confidence to record my progress for others to see on YouTube. It has genuinely been a catalyst for positive change, and I’m loving every minute of it. I think this bike is truly epic, and I really really hope you like it enough to vote me into the final 5.