Chris' Vintage Gravel Project

We like all sorts of riding at the shop. Big trail rides, exploring on and off road, slow rides, fast rides, the list goes on. Part of all that is experimenting with different bikes, and seeing what makes those rides more fun! This is what was at the core of my latest project bike.

I have a soft spot for older (pre 2001) GTs. GT was a brand that was big from the 80s through the 90s, especially in mountain and bmx, although they started to make road bikes including a bangin’ rig for the U.S. Olympic team in 1996. With a distinctive “triple triangle” frame design they always stood out, and a fun corporate culture, they were great rigs. A series of sad events set off by the death of the founder set GT on a course for bankruptcy in 2001. They do exist today, bought by a holdings company, Dorel, but it is not the same company by a long shot.

But I digress. The point of this project was to breathe new life into an old mountain bike frame. The starting point of the project was a 1991 Team Avalanche frame, 23”. Along with the fillet brazed Cyclone (Psyclone), it was top of the steel mountain lineup, made in California. I wouldn’t have used the bike if I built it as an offroad rig, and I’ve become more cozy with drop bars in the past few years, so I decided to make a gravel/exploration bike. A bike that has no real limits on where it may go, but still zippy enough on the road to get there, and fun to ride.

So over the course of about a month, I carefully built it up exactly as I wanted it. No piece of the bike was overlooked. From the 9 speed drivetrain with a compact road crank, the ceramic brake tracks on the rims, to the Specialized adventure bars, it was exactly what I imagined. The scary part of any quirky build like this is if it will ride how you want it to. With a higher than usual (for road and gravel bike) bottom bracket I was concerned it would feel too high, and corner awkwardly, or turn out far heavier than expected.

From the first spin around my fears were alleviated. The bike rides great. The bottom bracket is a touch high for pacelines but then again, this bike really has no place in them. It weighs just under 23 pounds, and fits and feels great. Like driving an older sports car, it still manages to be fun while adding some character to the ride, as well as starting conversations with other riders.

It was my go to bike this winter, and I rode it a few weekends ago at the Harri-Roubaix, our local club’s gravel road ride. Not looking to participate in the race aspect of the Roubaix, I happily cruised a lap of the course with a few different folks and really enjoyed the ride. Having the bigger tires under me was awesome, especially on the freshly laid down gravel sections. The bike definitely added to the fun and I’m excited to see where else it will take me!

Bike Build Highlights

  • Frame: 1991 GT Team Avalanche
  • Fork: Tange Prestige 26”
  • Handlebar: Specialized adventure hoverbar, 44cm
  • Crank: Ultegra 6700 50/34
  • Front Derailleur: Shimano Cx
  • Rear Derailleur: Shimano XTR 952
  • Cassette: Sram 900, 11-32, 9 speed.
  • Shifter: Dura Ace 7700, 9 speed.
  • Brakes: Avid Single Digit Ultimate
  • Wheels: front-Mavic Crossmax, rear-Bontrager Team with DT hub, ceramic braketrack
  • Seatpost: Thomson Elite setback
  • Saddle: Specialized Romin evo 155