When Ross was boss

Heavy metal: The Ross Mt. Rainier.

BRAIN honcho Steve Frothingham takes us on a spin down Memory Lane with a look at Ross Bicycles, then and now.

I saw my first Ross mountain bike in the mid-1980s. My man Hal Walter had one, a blue Mt. Rainier acquired from Great Divide in Pueblo, and what a beast it was. A steel burro that never needed hay.

“That was a great bike,” Hal said today via Messages. “It was almost heavy enough to get a workout.”

Oh, indeed. Ishiwata 4130 chromoly tubes, 48/39/28 Sakai crank, Suntour derailleurs, 14-34 freewheel, Dia-Compe cantis, and chromoly Bull Nose bar and stem, a heavy-metal package that tipped the scale at 31 pounds.

It encouraged me to get my own mountain bike, a 1986 Trek Antelope 830, a comparative featherweight at just 28.9 pounds. Light enough for me to throw it into an arroyo on some BLM land outside Española when it failed to climb a loose, steep pitch after several tries. Only as the bike was leaving my fingers did I recall that I would need it to get home.

Of course, this was when men were men, and so were the women, and we all rode rigid steel, with thumbshifters, rim brakes and 26-inch wheels. I will concede, however, that today’s machinery is a whole lot easier to throw when it lets you down. Which it will.

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12 Responses to “When Ross was boss”

  1. SteveP Says:

    So the rear fender is just for show?

  2. canamsteve Says:

    So the rear fender is just for show?

  3. Patrick O'Grady Says:

    Aye … just for showin’ how ye can get mud up yeer bum.

  4. larryatcycleitalia Says:

    Wow, that’s a mess! A jar of scorpions with dull stingers fighting it out over a name only old-farts (like us) even remember. And of course Kim Il Sinyard’s product gets mentioned in the piece as well. When did the bike biz become so full of a-holes? More likely I guess it’s just the a-holes who make the news?

    • Hurben Says:

      I am reminded of this wonderful quote regarding the South African government.

      “Our flag should permanently fly upside down — the international sign of distress.
      We are a country in deep distress — politically moribund, morally bankrupt, spiritually spent, economically antiquated and dissolute, creatively quixotic
      and culturally as cohesive as a pit full of ADD mongooses and cobras on steroids”

      • larryatcycleitalia Says:

        One could say that about the US of A as well…and a few other countries I could think of…the UK perhaps?

  5. Pat O’Brien Says:

    A bike brand named WAR that donates part of the profits to wounded veterans and run by a guy who served timed for running a Ponzi scheme. No thanks.

  6. Herb from Michigan Says:

    I was a Ross dealer back in the 80’s and there is no doubt they could today have been the top brand. Specialized can crow all they want but while they were diddling with the Stumpjumper, Ross was selling the hell out of Bear Valleys etc. Had #1 son not come on board to run Ross into the ground, you’d be drooling over their latest bikes today. They had the A-team of reps and some of the largest bike shops.
    I ponied up for a Signature series touring bike supposedly built by Tom Kellogg. She was a beauty with DD crank/pedals no less. But the frame was so whippy the chain could not fail to rub the front derailleur no matter what we tried. Load any weight on the rear rack and you’d start doing a rhumba dance down the road.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      It’s a hell of a story, for sure. I’m not sure why anyone who was safely out of La Velo Nostra would want to get pulled back in. A jar of scorpions with dull stingers, as Lorenzo notes above.

      That said, Hal’s Mr. Rainier set me upon the path less taken. It was too big for him. and weighed as much as my 1983 Toyota long-bed, and I eventually went with a Trek instead of a Ross, in large part because I had a Trek road bike and liked my shop at the time, the Denver Spoke.

      But it was a Ross that pointed the way.

      Now, if they could just come up with a cargo/gravel e-bike, why, they’d have a little sumpin’-sumpin’ goin’ on, amirite?

  7. khal spencer Says:

    My Univ. of Rochester classmate and fellow nutcase/motorcyclist Tom Kellogg, who went on to a distinguished career as a bicycle designer, was connected to Ross for a while. Boy, that was a long time ago. https://www.spectrum-cycles.com/history.php

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