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Klein Adroit Gator

Those of you who are around 40 or a little above and were already cycling in their youth might be able to relate to the nostalgic enthusiasm caused by a trip to the past of mountain bikes. However, those among you who are younger are also invited to delve into the following story and discover new things amidst the the trinkets of the past.

 It was a very colorful time. Only Shimano has always been simple. 

Opposites attract

It was in 1992/3, a very colorful time, as far as mountain biking is concerned. By the end of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s, the first really cool mountain bikes and parts made their way from the USA to Europe: Klein, Cannondale, Yeti, GT, Fat Chance, and more who provided frames and bikes, as well as Grafton, Ringlé and Ritchey, who produced awesome parts - often very colorfully anodized.
Those times were generally very colorful. Not only the parts, but also the frames and fashion looked as if they came straight out of the paint pot. Perhaps some of you remember the local bike wear label RiffRaff.
Only Shimano has always been simple. Back then, in 1992, the first XTR 900 groupset appeared on the market: 8 speed already, and perfectly functional.

Before these times, in the 80s, it was a lot harder for off-road pioneers to lay their hands on premium parts. Although there were already Shimano XT, DX and others, most had to settle for Kettler City Bikes or the like. After removing mud flaps, lights and cat eyes, these looked almost like proper mountain bikes. The fact that "real" mountain bikes were already for sale in the USA in the early 80s remained pretty much unknown here due to the lack of internet. At least that's what it was like for me, but perhaps I was too young then.

Around 1990, when I was still in Technical School, it happened: my green Kettler had to go. Of course I couldn't afford a Klein, and so I got a Framework, which was, after all, equipped with Shimano XT II.
Keep in mind that a Klein Adroit frame set was around 40.000 Schilling (over 3.100 USD) back then. If you wanted to upgrade the bike with high-class Grafton and Ringlé components, that would add another 20.000 - 30.000 Schilling to the total. Those prices were exorbitant and way out of reach for a student. (Don't worry - I'm not out of touch with reality yet and do realize that even today, this is a lot of money to spend on a bike!)



What fascinated me about Klein back then were the thick aluminum tubes. Today everyone is used to large profiles, but shortly before the millennium, the standard leaned more towards the thin tubes of steel frames. The comparison made Klein tubes appear even larger than they already were (the Adroit's down tube was 2").

Many years went by during which I kept riding my bicycles. The quality of my bikes - both mountain bikes and road bikes, which joined my stable at some point - became more and more important to me. I also believe I can rightfully claim to have assembled very nice and proper bicycles over the years, like my SUB5 Dale for daily use.

It must have been in 2012 that I stumbled across a Retro Attitude Project as I was browsing bicycle forums. Suddenly pictures and memories of old times went through my head and awakened a wish to build the 1990s bicycle of my dreams.
From one moment to the next I was determined: I would finally fulfill the dream of my youth with a Gator Adroit.

I spent several weeks becoming acquainted with the retro scene online. As sudden as the plan of getting an Adroit had come up, I canceled it again: frame sets in good condition with a rigid fork and original paint is too hard to find. They're beyond rare, basically non-existent, or at least they aren't often traded in public. And if they are, prices are exploding. A frame set in good condition is about 1.5 times the original price.

So instead I planned to assemble an Attitude with good, used parts, and have it re-painted. Nothing else seemed achievable to me.
I wanted the 1993 Attitude, since it already featured the thicker 1 7/8" down tube but was still perfectly retro thanks to its MC1 (Klein's handlebar/stem unit was called Mission Control) and the rigid fork. Also it should have the Gator Linear Fade, which is the most awesome paint job IMO. After all, it was a very, very colorful time.

Thus I began to collect parts from that time. Some NOS (New Old Stock), some mint (in mint condition), but all of them not really high end. "It doesn't need to get out of hand every time" was what I thought then.
There were Kooka cranks, Ringlé hubs, Shimano XTR 900 components, a Flite, a turquoise Fast Feather seatpost, Tune Sticky Craze brakes and many more.

This kind of hunter-gatherer method does take its time, but by the end of 2013 I had all parts except for the frame set. Even the paint job already seemed to be arranged. Around Christmas I won an Attitude frame set on Ebay - unfortunately not one from 1993, but it did have a rigid fork.
By this time I had become aware of how sought after such frame sets are and that you can't afford to be picky. I was convinced that within a few months, I would assemble the bike of my dreams as a youth. But no...

Tech Specs

MINT Klein Adroit 1993 18" fuselage in Gator Linear FadeNOS Klein Adroit Starta fork MC1 Gator Linear Fade
NOS Klein MC1 unit 135mm rise Gator Linear FadeNOS Titan Canti Studs
NOS Grafton Speedcontroller brakes turquoiseNOS Scott Mathauser brake pads
NOS Grafton Re Entry brake levers turquoiseNOS Grafton Shifter Perches turquoise
NOS Grafton Fat Finger turquoiseNOS Shimano XTR 900 Shifter
NOS Shimano XTR 900 rear mech, tuned with turquoise parts and pulleysNOS Shimano XTR 900 front mech, tuned with turquoise screws
NOS Shimano XTR 900 cassette 12/28 with NOS turquoise TNT lockringNOS Shimano CN-7401chain
NOS Klein Death Grip tires 2.10 gen. 1NOS Ringle Super Bubba and Super Duper turquoise on NOS Araya RM395 rims 32 holes
NOS Ringle Ti-Stix Skewers set of 3 turquoiseNOS Klein Adroit seatpost carbon reinforcement / MINT Ringle Moby Post turquoise gen. 1
NOS Flite Evolution 1 Carbon Titanium saddleNOS Grafton Joysitx black with NOS Shimano SG-X rings black
NOS Grafton Speed Trap pedals turquoise personally signed by John GraftonNOS Klein Instinct Grips
NOS Shimano SLR CablesNOS Machine tech cranks bolts turquoise
NOS Machine tech Chainring bolts turquoiseNOS cable ferrules turquoise
NOS DT Swiss nipples turquoiseWeight: 9 kg

After contacting a renowned Klein painter in Germany it turned out that the repaint wouldn't cost € 400-500 (as it had been offered at the beginning of 2013), but € 1.200 instead - including a three months wait.
At that moment I was really pissed. Not at the painter, because obviously it's the market that sets the price - more at the situation itself. I didn't know how to go on, because the price didn't seem justified.

At the same time I somehow started to feel the need for Grafton shifter perches. After all, I had to mount the XTR 900 switches on the bar somehow if I wanted to ride with cool shifters. So even if the question of the paint job remained unsolved at the moment, I suddenly felt the urge to add a real treat to my retro bike.
I set out on my quest and found Nick in England (it was a Coffee Tamper from an old Ringlé rear hub that brought us together). Nick introduced me to one of his friends, and this friend had a Klein Adroit Gator 1993 XS. And suddenly the chance was there - the chance to finally fulfill my actual dream of an Adroit!

 A good 100 emails later on the 10th and 11th of January 2014 the deal was sealed. 

Since the frame set was as good as new and it's none of my characteristic traits to make things as easy as possible for myself, I decided to assemble the Adroit with NOS parts (by that time I had no clue how difficult that was going to be). Also, all parts should be turquoise if possible (which made the search even harder and the prices even higher).
In case I haven't mentioned it before, times were very colorful back then… And even if my current bicycles have a rather simple look, I wanted this bike to look just as it would have, had I assembled it in 1993 - with lots and lots of turquoise.

Only a year later had I managed to gather all the parts. Unfortunately one package from Canada got lost, causing most of the delay.

The hardest parts were the Klein seatpost (even if the bike looks better with the MINT Ringlé Moby Post - the Klein post is NOS!), the quick release levers and the 2.1 Death Grip tires.
I'd say the assembly turned out to be uncompromising and "in time". All components are from 1993 or were, like the Ringlé hubs, available by the end of 1993. Only the stem dates to 1992, because I prefer the Klein lettering over the Mission Control lettering from 1993.

Unfortunately, the many little stories I could tell about almost every part of my Klein Adroit Gator 1993 would mean to go on forever. However, it's a pretty cool fact that I'm in a lively e-mail exchange with John Grafton, who got me turquoise cages for my Grafton Speed Traps pedals and signed them. He also crafted turquoise Speedcontroller brakes with silver L pieces for me, so that they would match the silver rims.
And because he appreciates that someone values the old parts and keeps history alive, he sent me a copy of the first technical drawing of the Speedcontroller brakes from October 26th 1988. It's thrilling somehow to hold these in my hands.

In truth, this is the really great thing about such a project. Every part that you lay your hands on after a tedious search, lengthy negotiations, and countless favors, takes you on a trip back through time to the 1990s, reveals early masterstrokes and everlasting craftsmanship. It also brings back all those images from the past... it's just great.
Starting such a project is something I can recommend to every tinkerer out there. It is truly enriching. Even if today's bicycles are oh so perfect and of course much better to ride: nothing can compare to the emotions that come with a retro bike!

Special thanks to ...

I want to say thanks to everyone who helped me collect all the parts. There's no way to realize such a project without investing a lot of patience, a lot of time, and having a strong network (unless you're a professional in the retro department).
More thanks go to NoSane: It's one thing to have the finished bicycle stand before you, but it's simply amazing to see such beautiful pictures of it!