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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Other People's Bikes: The Fraternal Twins edition

Hello, and welcome back to your favorite Sunday afternoon show on NPR, "Other People's Bikes".* I'm your host, Ira Glass.

Today's specimen comes from yesterday's visit to ye olde coffee shop. As I was locking up my beloved Raleigh Crested Butte, a woman was also locking up her bike on the next rack. And what was that bike? An 1980's Schwinn High Sierra.
Page from the 1985 Schwinn catalog. Don't know if the bike I spotted is from this year, though.

The High Sierra was a good basic mountain bike made in Asia for Schwinn, pretty similar to the bikes that Raleigh USA was putting out. I believe the High Sierra was lower down on the lineup, and had Suntour/DiaCompe componentry. Not as covetable as their top-o-the-line Cimmaron, but nothing wrong with them either, nope. They're fine bikes with an old school geometry that works well for touring purposes. Heck, it's got braze-ons on the fork! And of course Nick from Gypsy By Trade used one, so you know they're good.**
Nick's rig.

What really stood out about this bike was the way it was dressed up. Like my bike, it has a Wald 139 front basket. The big differences are: the High Sierra has a fancy wood-floor basket, and it's mounted with the traditional struts and handlebar clamps vs. my rack mounted deal. The High Sierra also has a rear rack with collapsable Wald grocery pannier baskets.

All in all a great bike. Another 80's mountain bike converted for town use. The only thing I would change to it (if this was my bike) would switch the knobbies to slicks. (Though admittedly these tires look original and in good condition.) I could have said something to the owner, but what was she going to think about some random weird guy giving advice about her bike, unsolicited advice? Heck, if she looked up from what she was doing in the coffee shop, she would definitely think I'm weird, snapping photos of her bike.

*Don't you wish?
**This is known as Nicholas bait.


  1. Shh, please don't spread how nice the 80s mountain bikes are (wink). Relaxed geometry equals comfort, but let's keep that between the two of us, huh? However, keep on waxing about low end components. The more people think they are worthless bikes the more left for you and me to find and make our own.

    Pedal on, Shawn

  2. Simply sublime, Shawn. I knew about the High Sierra through the Gypsy...but it was only recently that I discovered the existence of the King Sting. I wanted one and was stunned, upon doing a little research, to see the stellar prices and the rarity of those old bicycles.

    Like Annie says, maybe we should just shut up about old bikes...but that ain't gonna happen.

    So now my new Grail (it changes) is a frame of that type and setup with some monster 29'r wheels. If such a beast exists, I am unaware of it. But if you were to put a jar of peanut butter in plain view somewhere I suspect that soon enough it will serve as good bait for one who knows far more than I do about all things Velo.


  3. Annie-I wouldn't say the Suntour/Diacompe are crappy components, they are quite the opposite. Yet somehow the "high end" mtbs by the major makers of that era used full Shimano. Maybe the Deore XT stuff was more expensive overall? I can't answer that.

    tj-Good luck on the grail, as the mtbs of that era were 98% 26" wheels. There are definitely worthy 29-ers of the modern era (Surly Ogre, for example), but they have more of the modern mountain-bikey look, fer shure.

  4. Hook, line and sinker...

    The High Sierra was second from top-of-the-line. The Cimarron was tops, and the Sierra was a step down. All would be fine bikes for practical use, although the HS strikes a balance between lightweight and stout construction. Actually, I consider that it is a very nice riding bike.

    Shawn, remember that salmon colored Raleigh Seneca on CL that I pined for when I first moved to ABQ? I have been seeing downtown, locked to a pole during the daytime. Then, the rider brought it into Two Wheel Drive today proclaiming that it was too lift onto the bus. It's a bit heavy to ride as well, but mostly she doesn't like lifting it onto the bus rack. So, she needs a much lighter bike, that will still accept a rack, and costs less than a $1000 dollars. (Oh, her U-lock is huge; must weigh 2-3 lbs).
    Anyway, we'll get her on something lighter, even though the whole thing is a bit ridiculous. And, she is over 6 ft tall. It doesn't seem a 35 lb. bike should be heavy to her.

    Anyway, I may get another stab at the Seneca, even though I still don't need it. It has a spoke holder on the drive-side chain stay, and it it pink.

    1. Nick, if I hear ya talk about that bike one more time without buying it, I'm taking the next train to Albuquerque and shaking some sense into you! Especially calling it "Pink" when we know the correct color nomenclature for that model is "Salmon".

      Anyways, did you see the Elkhorn for sale in Portland?

      And yep, the salmon Seneca:

    2. I'm going to definitely borrow your idea for an "other people's bikes" category. I constantly snap shots of cool bikes that I happen upon. Just today, I took a few pics of a grizzled Raleigh Elkhorn survivor at my local library.

      Oh, and Nick, that Seneca is working hard to find its way to you. Don't let it be disappointed.

    3. BTW, there's a Crested Butte much like yours, here near Denver:

      And a nice chrome Ross Mt. Hood:

    4. Yeah, similar CB, though a bit more worn. It's definitely newer than 84 or 85, because both of those years had the traditional "sloped" fork crown, whereas the one on CL has a more modern unicrown fork.


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