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  1. #1
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    The first titanium mountain bike?

    I heard a holy grail type story at my LBS a few weeks ago. The shop owner knows I'm into vintage mountain bikes, and he tells me there's a collector in the area (East Contra Costa County, Northern Ca.) who has the first ever titanium mountain bike. He said the guy turned down a 20K offer.

    I don't know what to think. Could it be legit? What bike/builder could it be?

  2. #2
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    How could they verify it was the absolute first ever? It would have to have some type of documentation correct? I would imagine it would have been in articles and what not...

  3. #3
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    Wikipedia says Merlin was a "pioneer" in titanium mtn bikes but it seems like they were the first production company. I don't think the first one originated on the east coast but I'm often wrong

    I wonder if it's something one of the Repack guys built?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Sapo Rojo View Post
    I wonder if it's something one of the Repack guys built?
    With the cost of ti, and the specialist welding techniques - I'd say not.

    Not suggesting that, given the right tools and materials, that those early builders weren't capable, just that they were doing so well building things in steel for a limited but growing market that there was no point in building from ti.

    Ti road bikes started off in the 70s. I'm interested to know who decided to take that to the MTB world and try a ti MTB frame, especially if it was a prototype or one-off custom build.

    I think that once XC racing took off, then ti frames had a place to be.

    I do like the early to mid 90s, when a heap of mainstream brands had a ti frame - GT, Kona, Mongoose, DiamondBack, as well as brands like Merlin, Moots, Dean, Litespeed.

    Steel is real, but ti is fly.

    Grumps

  5. #5
    Phobia of petting zoos.
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    Having said that...

    Cue CK to come along and tell us about the time he, Joe Breeze and a roadie for Grand Funk Railroad got a little loose and broke into an aerospace lab during the Cold War and "liberated" a heap of titanium tubing.

    They took the tubes to Ritchey who, during a night of burritos, tequila and argon gas, welded up the first ti MTB frame and used the leftovers to make ti bull moose bars and QR skewers.

    Because the truth is often stranger than fiction...

    Grumps

  6. #6
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    I wish...

    https://merlintitanium.com/fat_chance_titanium_000.html

    Looks like the above link might be close to the real deal
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails The first titanium mountain bike?-1st-ti-mtb-maybe.jpg  


  7. #7
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    If the offer was really for $20k he should have taken it.

    If I were guessing I'd say that Gary Helfrich was the builder of the first Ti mountain bike, either at Fat Chance or Merlin. He seemed to be the first guy really pushing titanium as a frame material. However, that's just a guess.

  8. #8
    velocipede technician
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    It’s “not a fat”

    He posts here sometimes
    looking for 20-21" P team

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by laffeaux View Post
    If the offer was really for $20k he should have taken it.

    If I were guessing I'd say that Gary Helfrich was the builder of the first Ti mountain bike, either at Fat Chance or Merlin. He seemed to be the first guy really pushing titanium as a frame material. However, that's just a guess.
    This. 20K would buy the first and second ti mtb. There would be some change left to buy a steel Fat Chance which would ride better.
    WTB: Bomber Z2 1 1/8 steerer, in good to excellent shape OR bomber rebuild kit.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Grumpy View Post
    Having said that...

    Cue CK to come along and tell us about the time he, Joe Breeze and a roadie for Grand Funk Railroad got a little loose and broke into an aerospace lab during the Cold War and "liberated" a heap of titanium tubing.

    They took the tubes to Ritchey who, during a night of burritos, tequila and argon gas, welded up the first ti MTB frame and used the leftovers to make ti bull moose bars and QR skewers.
    Grumps
    I have better stories than that one.

  11. #11
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    I bet there's a bonded titanium Teledyne or Alan cyclocross prototype out there somewhere... I remember bonded titanium Miyatas, too. A framebuilder once showed me an old US mil-spec ti alloy tube from his collection that he had to sign an NDA to get, so you have to think some navy welder might have grafted together a frame out of military offcuts at some point as well. Perhaps an early ti rough-stuff paratrooper bike?

    That said, Helfrich or Augsperger would be top of mind for me as well in terms of early ti MTBs.
    Last edited by mainlyfats; 03-08-2018 at 01:33 PM.

  12. #12
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    Good job!

    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Grumpy View Post
    Having said that...

    Cue CK to come along and tell us about the time he, Joe Breeze and a roadie for Grand Funk Railroad got a little loose and broke into an aerospace lab during the Cold War and "liberated" a heap of titanium tubing.

    They took the tubes to Ritchey who, during a night of burritos, tequila and argon gas, welded up the first ti MTB frame and used the leftovers to make ti bull moose bars and QR skewers.

    Because the truth is often stranger than fiction...

    Grumps
    I can hear the scratches in GFR record playing when Ritchey laid down those puddle welds

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Sapo Rojo View Post
    I can hear the scratches in GFR record playing when Ritchey laid down those puddle welds
    Officially, the first ti mtb was welded by Helfrich under Fat Chance. There are some words on line from Helfrich about this bike. It seems he tweaked geometry to work w/ titanium.
    WTB: Bomber Z2 1 1/8 steerer, in good to excellent shape OR bomber rebuild kit.

  14. #14
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    Yeah, pretty sure it was Helfrich in the Fat City Somerville-MA days. I have two Merlin Ti handle bars from that era - IIRC the first Ti bar to hit the market.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Repack Rider View Post
    I have better stories than that one.
    I do not doubt that for one minute. All your stories involve a legend of the cycling world, the music world, or a combination of both. Even your dull stories are awesome. If they installed a bike-rack at the front of the Rainbow Bar and Grill, you'd be the reason why.

    Your next book should be your memoir. As a music nut and a MTBer, it would be THE READ of the millennium.

    Grumps

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by one piece crank View Post
    Yeah, pretty sure it was Helfrich in the Fat City Somerville-MA days. I have two Merlin Ti handle bars from that era - IIRC the first Ti bar to hit the market.
    I see that he's been working for Sonoma County. That is pretty close to me. It actually could be him, and one of his first bikes. Now the 20K part?

  17. #17
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    Gary was at Fat City in Somerville helping Chris make Ti frames; Second Spin Cycles: 1986 Fat Chance Titanium

    Teledyne was the first US made Ti bicycle frame, road only. Most are cracked at the seat collar bolt, and one of the famous "death forks".
    Teledyne Titan main
    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee
    Better suited to non-aggressive 125# gals named Russell.
    I ride so slow, your Garmin will shut off.

  18. #18
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    Funny, was reading the first few going, gotta be Gary Helfrich.

    Yup.

    I have one of his Arctos frame building jigs, love the thing. Hell of a nice guy too...
    This is a Pugs not some carbon wannabee pretzel wagon!!

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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by banks View Post
    Gary was at Fat City in Somerville helping Chris make Ti frames; Second Spin Cycles: 1986 Fat Chance Titanium

    Teledyne was the first US made Ti bicycle frame, road only. Most are cracked at the seat collar bolt, and one of the famous "death forks".
    Teledyne Titan main
    banks ftw. way to proffer, mr. history.
    "May your trails be winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view." - Ed Abbey
    http://rockychrysler.com/

  20. #20
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    WTB: Bomber Z2 1 1/8 steerer, in good to excellent shape OR bomber rebuild kit.

  21. #21
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    Who built the '89 Marin proto ti bike I was looking at Richard Buckley riding uphill at the Lemurian? Same for Fisher's '88 prototype he was riding at the last Rumpstomper in Annadel.

    I know they aren't even close to the first but just curious since they aren't that common, and no one answered the question over on an earlier thread about the Marin.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by unicrown junkie View Post
    Who built the '89 Marin proto ti bike I was looking at Richard Buckley riding uphill at the Lemurian? Same for Fisher's '88 prototype he was riding at the last Rumpstomper in Annadel.

    I know they aren't even close to the first but just curious since they aren't that common, and no one answered the question over on an earlier thread about the Marin.
    Merlin for the Marin?
    WTB: Bomber Z2 1 1/8 steerer, in good to excellent shape OR bomber rebuild kit.

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