Monday, April 2, 2012

Drop bar mountain bike redux: A vintage find, the Specialized Rock Combo, circa 1989

A couple of weeks ago, to my excitement I found a Specialized Rock Combo in my size, with mostly original parts. For normal people, whose lives revolve around more significant factors than "how do 1 degree differences in head tube angles and 1 inch differences in bottom bracket drop affect how bicycles handle offroad," this is a non-event of the first order. But for me, it's a cause for great excitement.

The Rock Combo was Specialized's answer to Grant Petersen's Bridgestone MB-1 of 1987, in its steep angled, drop bar glory. Specialized had Ibis, Scot Nicol's quirky boutique brand from far Norcal build one prototype which various Specialized staffers rode and approved. The specs were then sent to whatever Taiwanese frame shop was then churning out tig welded Rockhoppers, with a production run of 500. Supposedly, the Taiwanese factory failed to follow the specs, made the bottom bracket drop too great, and used too heavy tubing on the bike as well.

By now, you're thinking "Wow, so he gets excited by a badly executed tigged clone of the 1987 Bstone MB-1." Yeah, I do; my interests really are that pitiful, and I suffer from some kind of strange obsessive compulsive disorder about bicycles in general and allrounder types in particular.  The Rock Combo was cool because it was an attempt to make an allrounder bike that with just a tire change could go from fast road rides to fire roads and single track. It reminds me of my first gen Merlin MTB that sported drop bars and three wheelsets with different tires and cassettes: 26x1 with 12x21; 26x1.25, with 12x23; and 26x2.0 with 12x28, plus 50-38-24 rings. I still own that Merlin; it still sports drop bars, though it's moved back and forth over the years maybe about 5 or 6 times; in fact it had a Allsop Softride stem, my only use of suspension, for a year or so.

Speialized Rock Combo with non stock tires, paint, and saddle.

Of course I had to find this after spending significant time and money on the Diamond Back Apex Allrounder in December and January; but that's the way scrounging and urban hunter gathering goes: feast or famine. I'll post ride impressions, road and offroad, at some later date when I've gotten up to 3 figures in mileage on this new and unneeded addition to my bike stable.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, it was never a clone of Grant's bikes and in fact Grant started making flared drop bars after I produced an aftermarket set for Cunningham at Specialized. This bike was modeled after various drop bar mountain bikes I had been making in the shop I ran prior to coming to Specialized. At the time we were the only shop to sell Cunninghams and sold his flared Cinelli bars and LD stems by Potts and later Ibis. I had busted my back in the 83 Rockhopper (a race before it was a bike for Specialized) and had spent the years after trying to find a way to still ride on smooth dirt roads without pain. Lots of experimentation with modifying various offroad frames & cross bikes led to a final design which I had Ibis build as a prototype. Wish I still had it because it was quite nice. You are correct about the factory substituting heavier tubing and the wrong BB height, but what really killed this bike was the idustry's move to 700c as the format of choice for the emerging hybrid market. Grant Peterson and I had agreed that we would both use 26" as the wheel of choice, a decision that did not work out for either of us. In the end, no one wanted hybrids aimed at the performance end of the market and we folded this one up after one year.

-BB (my name on the bars there)