Three for Thursday: First Flight Bikes

Home to a tresure trove of mountain bike history

First Flight Bikes, located in downtown Statesville, North Carolina, is part bike shop, part bicycle museum. It is home to the Museum of Mountain Bike Art and Technology, commonly referred to as MOMBAT.

Owner Jeff Archer has been wrenching and collecting vintage bikes since the mid-1980s. If you’re ever searched the web for information on the first Specialized Stumpjumper, a RockShox RS-1 fork, that Bridgestone MB-1 you still regret selling, or any number of items dating back to the formative years of mountain biking, the odds are good that you stumbled across during your Internet wanderings.

For this week's Three for Thursday, we checked in with Archer in his shop.

What is the coolest thing in the shop? The history

“At First Flight we have several pretty cool projects going on (in addition to the construction of the beer porch!) First would be the collection of about 450 vintage bikes. The collection spans from 1869 through recent. About 275 of the bikes are vintage mountain bikes. It’s kinda hard for some folks to think of mountain bikes as ‘vintage,’ but the early bikes are over 30 years old now.” 

Some of Archer’s favorites include early bikes from makers such as Breezer, Ritchey, Ibis and Mountain Goat. Archer places an emphasis on collecting rare and unusual models.

One of approximately 60 series iii bikes made by joe breeze (note the hite-rite, the precursor to today's dropper posts):
Mountain bike pioneer Joe Breeze only made about 60 of these 1986 Series III frames

Archer found that a lot of his customers wanted to update their vintage mountain bikes with modern components.

“It is often difficult to update the older bikes and usually results in compromises. Hearing this story time and time again we decided to bring back Mountain Goat Cycles and blend vintage aesthetics with modern parts.”

Archer resurected mountain goat cycles to merge modern tech with vintage looks:
Archer resurrected Mountain Goat Cycles to blend modern tech with a vintage vibe

“We've done everything from 20in to 29in, steel, Ti, fillet-brazed, TIG, singlespeed, belt drive, full suspension and full rigid. Mountain Goat was always known for their custom paint and we use the original painter who has done smoke finishes, faux bamboo, flames and an American flag.”

Archer's collection is extensive and includes many vintage components in addition to complete bikes

What’s selling well? Throwback rubber

While bike frames may age gracefully, tires to not. Rubber dries out, cracks and disintegrates.

“It was a constant battle finding tires that looked period correct. Black-wall tires look completely wrong on the earlier bikes, so we approached tire manufacturers about reproducing some skin walled tires.”

Like panaracer's timbuk ii, ritchey's z-max was resurected for first flight bicycles' collection:

“Panaracer broke out the original Timbuk II mold from the late 1980s and Ritchey produced a Z-Max tire for us. We are the only seller of these tires, which makes them a good seller for us.”

What are you personally lusting after right now? XX1, Industry Nine Torch Wheels and fat bikes

While Archer’s collection may hark back to days gone by, his personal tastes are very modern.

“With our rolling terrain, we do a lot of 1x bikes. I was interested in the SRAM XX1 stuff. I just took delivery of an XX1 group and installed it on my Mountain Goat F-K-R.” 

Archer may collect vintage mountain bikes, but he also enjoys the latest technologies, as demonstrated by his sram xx1 drivetrain:
Archer's personal Mountain Goat outfitted with SRAM XX1

“Other than that, we really like our (almost) local wheel builder, Industy 9. We will be interested in checking out their new generation of wheels. Fat bikes have also been getting a lot of attention at the shop and I would love to get a Salsa Beargrease.”

Josh Patterson

Tech Editor, US
Josh has been riding and racing mountain bikes since 1998. Being stubborn, endurance racing was a natural fit. Josh bankrolled his two-wheeled addiction by wrenching at various bike shops across the US for 10 years and even tried his hand at frame building. These days Josh spends most of his time riding the trails around his home in Fort Collins, Colorado.
  • Discipline: Mountain, cyclocross, road
  • Preferred Terrain: Anywhere with rock- and root-infested technical singletrack. He also enjoys unnecessarily long gravel races.
  • Current Bikes: Trek Remedy 29 9.9, Yeti ASRc, Specialized CruX, Spot singlespeed, Trek District 9
  • Dream Bike: Evil The Following, a custom Moots 27.5+ for bikepacking adventures
  • Beer of Choice: PBR
  • Location: Fort Collins, CO, USA

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