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Thread: Empire

  1. #1
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    Empire

    My wife has a bike she got from a shop in Colorado that the owner built for her and gave her before he passed away. I was hoping y'all could give me more insight about some of the components used, and maybe y'all know of others like it still being used.

    The shop owners name is Charlie Weasil and his shop was in Longmont, CO. The bike has "Empire" logos all over it, but it doesn't seem to have a model. She says he made the frame out of titanium tubing from scratch, which probably explains the lack of the model badging.

    Can y'all tell me a little more about its components? Heavy/medium duty? Are they common?

    -Shimano XT shifters
    -2001 Marzoo Bombers
    -Mavick Rims
    -Avid "Single Digit 7" Brakes
    -Ritchey WCS seatpost, stem, handle bar
    -Serfas Vermin Kevlar casing tires

    Her bike has some serious miles on it. It seems like a pretty badass setup, but I've always been one who likes to understand just exactly what I'm looking at.

    Also, I would like to retire her bike and get her either on another one of Charlies bikes that's got less use, or a similar grade bike.

    Tell me what y'all know!


  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shotgun Jeremy View Post
    My wife has a bike she got from a shop in Colorado that the owner built for her and gave her before he passed away. I was hoping y'all could give me more insight about some of the components used, and maybe y'all know of others like it still being used.

    The shop owners name is Charlie Weasil and his shop was in Longmont, CO. The bike has "Empire" logos all over it, but it doesn't seem to have a model. She says he made the frame out of titanium tubing from scratch, which probably explains the lack of the model badging.

    Can y'all tell me a little more about its components? Heavy/medium duty? Are they common?

    -Shimano XT shifters
    -2001 Marzoo Bombers
    -Mavick Rims
    -Avid "Single Digit 7" Brakes
    -Ritchey WCS seatpost, stem, handle bar
    -Serfas Vermin Kevlar casing tires

    Her bike has some serious miles on it. It seems like a pretty badass setup, but I've always been one who likes to understand just exactly what I'm looking at.

    Also, I would like to retire her bike and get her either on another one of Charlies bikes that's got less use, or a similar grade bike.

    Tell me what y'all know!

    The drivetrain looks like XT 750, which was circa 2000+ and was the first 9-speed drivetrain with the XT designation. The XT group is generally considered to be the workhorse of the Shimano family. You can train and race on it, it's more durable than XTR but has fewer features and lower precision components (for better or worse, depending who you ask). The "Mega 9" stuff was loved by some for its range and how well it worked when adjusted well. Some complained that it was pickier about adjustment and mud than 8-speed stuff, but you know what happened in the long run (more gears are better, according to the big makers). This is about the oldest Shimano gear that you can easily still find new replacement parts for, but not for long. If you want to make it more durable, you can replace the aluminum XT chain rings with steel Deore rings without any real downsides except a few dozen grams.

    The Marzocchi Bomber coil forks in 2001 were amazing (just like the legendary '98-00 Bombers but on a weight reduction diet). They withstand nearly any (ab)use, are dead simple to service, and plush as a lazy-boy. I'm pretty sure yours is 80mm with adjustable rebound and fixed compression damping (I probably have replacement parts and various rates of springs, PM me if you need any).

    Those Mavic rims were probably a fair bit newer than the other components. Those were early tubeless that used special screw-in nipple holders on the rim to avoid holes. Since the only hole in the rim is for the valve, those seal great tubeless without any rim tape at all. I wish Mavic still made them, they were fantastic. I can't tell what width the rims are from the photos, but they are probably 17-19mm inside, maybe 21, but narrow by today's standards. You might want to pick up a couple of nipple holders while you can (and the special wrench needed for installation), they often fail when a spoke breaks.

    Avid SD7 are pretty much the gold standard for great V-Brakes with no frills. 98% of the performance of XTR or Avid Ultimates at 20% the price. They won't let you down, just check the pad adjustment as the pads wear (unlike the parallel-push Shimano design, which doesn't need adjustment but does have issues with squealing).

    Ritchey WCS components were in between the Comp and Superlogic lines. Most of those parts are very high quality, but less eye-wateringly expensive and less likely to be made of carbon than the Superlogic parts.

    I don't know the Serfas Vermin tires, but I have been very impressed with the durability of other Serfas Kevlar tires. They have great puncture resistance, and I have a set that has survived several winters partially stored outdoors and still work great. They cost a little extra because Kevlar.

    It's probably not worth much today, but it was and is a very nice bike. I bet it would have been competitive for aggressive XC racing when new (for about 2 years, before full suspension and disc brakes started dominating). Now it's almost archaic, even though at first glance it might look similar to a brand new hardtail. The bottom bracket technology is outdated, rim brakes are deservedly out of fashion on mountain bikes, and geometry has evolved a lot.

    The good news is that this is an excellent collector's item. It's an example of the custom bike culture which is all but dead. It had very good components for the time (not top of the line, but well selected for price/performance), and it's got style. Are you sure it's titanium and not steel? It's rare to see nice paint jobs on titanium frames. Plus, it looks like it's probably a blast to ride.

    Enjoy!

  3. #3
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    That is EXACTLY the type post I was looking for! Thank you so much for walking me through that.

    I'm fairly certain its not steel (at least not steel I'm used to anyways) due to the weight alone. This bike is liiiiggghht. It does have a sticker at the base that states "Columbus" "Thermacrom alloy" "Foco" "Triple Butted Tubes H.T.C. - High Temperature Conditioned"

    The tires are 26 x 1.95

    Is the "empire" name or "Charles Weisel" one you're familiar with at all?

  4. #4
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    I meant to add, the front chain rings ARE showing excessive wear as you mentioned, and the fork isn't holding compression. The guys at "The Peddler" in Georgetown told me I can get an adapter to air it up (they don't have the adapter, but have the pump), but I probably wouldn't be able to get it rebuilt due to parts. We have a wedding early next month, so after that I would like to reach out to you and buy whatever you're willing to get rid of, simply to have on hand. Ill have you help me locate the rim parts too if you don't mind. My goal is to keep this as an occasional rider for her, but get her a nice, newer tech xc bike. Or, if I can find one of Charlies other similar frames, and build it up with more current parts - so it'd be like an old school and new school set. That'd be sweeeet!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shotgun Jeremy View Post
    That is EXACTLY the type post I was looking for! Thank you so much for walking me through that.

    I'm fairly certain its not steel (at least not steel I'm used to anyways) due to the weight alone. This bike is liiiiggghht. It does have a sticker at the base that states "Columbus" "Thermacrom alloy" "Foco" "Triple Butted Tubes H.T.C. - High Temperature Conditioned"

    The tires are 26 x 1.95

    Is the "empire" name or "Charles Weisel" one you're familiar with at all?
    I'm not at all familiar with Empire or Mr Weisel, but I do know that Thermacrom isn't titanium, it's arguably better. "Thermacrom is a steel microalloyed with manganese, chrome, molybdenum and vanadium."

    http://www.framebuilding.com/Tubing%20Materials.htm

    Which if you look at the table they have there, produces some of the best performing steel alloy used in tubing. The inherent strength, lightness, elongation, and triple butting should lead to a very light bike indeed. I have thin-walled steel and titanium bikes of similar vintage and components that weigh around 25 and 24 pounds, respectively, without pedals.

    I know titanium is sexy, but so is rare-metal steel alloy. And you'll have fewer concerns about the use of anti-seize.

  6. #6
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    That's good to know

  7. #7
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    That bike may have some serious miles, but it looks gooood! No idea on Empire, googling brings up a bike shop and a British mtb company ('04 is the inaugural year according to the about page). A bit of an unknown, and I agree with banjor. It's a well thought out build and a nice frame. Thanks for sharing!
    I don't know why,... it's just MUSS easier to pedal than the other ones.

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    I'm very attached to this bike. Charlie Weasil was a good friend who owned the bike shop in Longmont, CO. We had met through an ex husband. His wife and I were close friends. Charlie was like a brother to me. We were pretty close and he taught me everything I know now about biking CO mountains. We downhill mountain biked a few times together.
    This bike was his first lightweight frame. This bike was the cover of a CO bike magazine when Charlie decided to take it out in public. For my birthday one year back in '05, this was his gift to me. I have been everywhere with it. Alaska, Canada, Colorado, South Dakota, Arizona and now Texas. It's been on Devils Peak, Longs Peak, Poudre Valley, etc. I did a lot of downhill mountain biking with it, biked Boulder, CO, Eagle Eye Mountain in Arizona, etc. My husband wants me to retire it, but I just love this bike. Not only for how dependable it's been, but for the memories of my great friend Charlie. He passed away in a nasty car accident back in '07.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dArmi_Beretta View Post
    I'm very attached to this bike. Charlie Weasil was a good friend who owned the bike shop in Longmont, CO. We had met through an ex husband. His wife and I were close friends. Charlie was like a brother to me. We were pretty close and he taught me everything I know now about biking CO mountains. We downhill mountain biked a few times together.
    This bike was his first lightweight frame. He said it is titanium. This bike was the cover of a CO bike magazine when Charlie decided to take it out in public. For my birthday one year back in '05, this was his gift to me. I have been everywhere with it. Alaska, Canada, Colorado, South Dakota, Arizona and now Texas. It's been on Devils Peak, Longs Peak, Poudre Valley, etc. I did a lot of downhill mountain biking with it, biked Boulder, CO, Eagle Eye Mountain in Arizona, etc. My husband wants me to retire it, but I just love this bike. Not only for how dependable it's been, but for the memories of my great friend Charlie. He passed away in a nasty car accident back in '07.
    I also have an old bike that I have had for ages and have an emotional attachment to. It was a hand-me-down of a hand-me-down 1997 Bontrager Race Lite, from an ex who taught me how to ride mountains properly. Not only did it get me back into mountain biking after a long absence, but I fell in love with the way old mountain bikes handle. Bikes have gotten heavier and more forgiving, which means you may learn less from your mistakes and rely more on the suspension rather than choosing the right line. Not to mention the fact that older mountain bikes often climb better and/or easier than new ones (but are much slower on rough downhill portions).

    I love that old bike so much, I started a collection of similar frames built up with various components, and finally just acquired a titanium version.

    I've got a modern bike which is faster, smoother, probably safer, but it's not as much fun as my old bikes! There is more liveliness to the ride, and both good quality triple butted steel or titanium gives a ride that is just more pleasant on the small rough stuff. Also, my original bike was used by two different riders for both training and racing the first five years, then thousands more miles of being ridden hard for the next 15, wearing out four drivetrains over the years. How many carbon fiber frames can be expected to withstand that kind of abuse? How many modern bikes can be repaired by a competent welder?

    I say ride it and love it as long as you can. A bike isn't "better" if it doesn't make you happier to ride. If it is titanium, make sure you use anti-seize on parts like the bottom bracket, headset, frame bolts, and seatpost. Nothing turns an old titanium frame to scrap faster than a corrosively-seized aluminum part. If it's steel alloy, a can of Weigel's Frame Saver will go a long way toward inhibiting interior rust.

  10. #10
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    Great looking bike! Those components are all great quality for their time and will still serve you well on the trails. You can definitely do some upgrades and still keep the over all feel for the bike. I have 3 bikes from the same time period and I've picked up a few things from the newer bikes that may improve your ride quality..

    1st) Swap out the 9x3 drive-train for a 10x1. You can keep your current rear wheel hub since a 9 speed and 10 speed cassette are the same size. Upgrade the rear derailleur and shifter to newer components that are less likely to fail while riding, then you can save some weight getting rid of the front derailleur and shifter.

    2nd) You can do 2 things with your cranks, if your chain rings are removable you can lose the inner and outer rings and just use your middle ring. You're best bet however would be to pick up a newer crank-set w/ bottom bracket that's made for a 1x setup. The weight difference between your old crank-set and the new one would be pretty noticeable.

    I've done this with all 3 of my bikes that had been 9x3 setups and it's an awesome upgrade. I have all the gears I need with the flick of one wrist instead of two which made riding much more enjoyable, and the weight I've knocked off the bike was a nice bonus. If you are going to be riding more you can look to upgrade other components, but the drive-train upgrade will definitely be the most noticeable.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by cnordt24 View Post
    Great looking bike! Those components are all great quality for their time and will still serve you well on the trails. You can definitely do some upgrades and still keep the over all feel for the bike. I have 3 bikes from the same time period and I've picked up a few things from the newer bikes that may improve your ride quality..

    1st) Swap out the 9x3 drive-train for a 10x1. You can keep your current rear wheel hub since a 9 speed and 10 speed cassette are the same size. Upgrade the rear derailleur and shifter to newer components that are less likely to fail while riding, then you can save some weight getting rid of the front derailleur and shifter.

    2nd) You can do 2 things with your cranks, if your chain rings are removable you can lose the inner and outer rings and just use your middle ring. You're best bet however would be to pick up a newer crank-set w/ bottom bracket that's made for a 1x setup. The weight difference between your old crank-set and the new one would be pretty noticeable.

    I've done this with all 3 of my bikes that had been 9x3 setups and it's an awesome upgrade. I have all the gears I need with the flick of one wrist instead of two which made riding much more enjoyable, and the weight I've knocked off the bike was a nice bonus. If you are going to be riding more you can look to upgrade other components, but the drive-train upgrade will definitely be the most noticeable.
    Thats all fine and dandy but me personally,, it is a old bike,I wouldn't throw any real cash at it,new chain rings,new RD,new shifter,new cables is going to cost probably more that you could sell the bike for(unless you went bottom barrel but then whats the point),just ride it till the wheels fall of then get something a little more current,unless your into the whole retro thing get your wife a nice ride,she'll feel all cool and what not,,mine did

    That bike is clean for It's age

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