If you think things like hydroformed alloy tubing, press-fit bottom brackets, integrated headsets, internal cable routing, and one-piece cockpits are modern constructs, think again. Gary Klein was doing all of this more than two decades ago, proving yet again that what once was old is new again.
The concept of optimizing structures and assemblies is hardly new; it’s a defining characteristic of engineers, and alloy frame innovator Gary Klein embodied that perfectly. Steel was the standard back in the day but Klein insisted that alloy was a better choice – and by increasing the diameter of the tubes, he could make up for the material’s inherent stiffness and strength disadvantages.
Tube dimensions like this are commonplace now but that was hardly the case when Klein was in its heyday
By the early 1990s, he had the process dialed in with this 1993 Attitude mountain bike model standing as a shining testament of what could be done. The reliability of the oversized tubes was very good, the smoothly welded joints were beautiful to behold, and as an early pioneer of hydroforming, the square-to-round chainstays also furthered bolstered the rear end while increasing tire and drivetrain clearance, too.
Simply changing the frame material wasn’t enough for Klein, however. He also saw deficiencies in how many of the then-standard ancillary components were built and attached, and many of his solutions were impressively forward thinking.
Press-fit bottom brackets are hardly new
Cartridge bearings were pressed and bonded directly into the smooth-bored bottom bracket shell, for example, which saved the weight of separate cups. Up front, the headset bearings were also housed inside the oversized head tube (which, in turn, surrounded a novel oversized steerer).
Klein wasn’t satisfied with typical cockpit arrangements at the time, either. Instead of a separate stem and bar that were clamped together, the groundbreaking Mission Control front end comprised an oversized aluminum stem that was welded directly to the bar, saving weight and improving steering precision over what was otherwise available.
The Mission Control cockpit was a beautiful piece of work on its own
All that extra surface area had to be painted, of course, and Klein famously matched the cockpit finishes to the framesets. This particular sample features Klein’s extremely rare ‘gossamer’ paint scheme, which was made by heating the still-wet paint with an acetylene torch.
Externally run cables would naturally detract from that ultra-clean aesthetic so Klein was an early adopter of internal routing, too. It was far from the maintenance nightmare that many modern interpretations are, however, with Teflon liners running the full length of each path. As long as the owner was careful not to remove those liners during a cable replacement, servicing the bike was as easy as could be.
Total travel on this massive alloy fork was somewhere on the order of... zero
The end result is undeniably stunning and wouldn’t look out of place even today. Although the ride was unyieldingly rigid, in stark contrast to today’s emphasis on ‘compliance’, Klein certainly achieved his goal of decreasing weight. Total weight for this gorgeous steed as shown here is just 10.57kg (23.30lb) – shockingly feathery for the time and an impressive figure even compared with modern machines.
Special thanks to Vintage MTB Workshop for loaning out such a priceless machine. Also, thanks to the folks at The Pro's Closet, who will soon open up a museum of noteworthy vintage bikes at their headquarters in Boulder, Colorado.
Complete bike specifications
- Frame: 1993 Klein Attitude with ‘gossamer’ paint
- Fork: Uni-Klein rigid
- Headset: Klein sealed bearing, integrated
- Stem: Klein Mission Control, 150mm
- Handlebar: Klein Mission Control, 580mm
- Grips: ODI Attack
- Front brake: Shimano Deore XT BR-M734
- Rear brake: Shimano Deore XT BR-M734
- Brake levers: Shimano Deore XT STI ST-MC95
- Front derailleur: Shimano Deore XT FD-M735
- Rear derailleur: Shimano Deore XT RD-M735-SGS
- Shift lever: Shimano Deore XT STI ST-MC95
- Cassette: Shimano Deore XT 7-speed, 12-28T
- Chain: Shimano HG
- Crankset: Shimano Deore XT FC-M730, 175mm, 26/36/46T
- Bottom bracket: Press-fit cartridge bearings
- Rims: Sun Chinook, 32H
- Front hub: Shimano Deore XT HB-M730
- Rear hub: Shimano Deore XT FH-M732
- Spokes: Wheelsmith 14g w/ brass nipples
- Front tire: Specialized Ground Control, 26x1.95in
- Rear tire: Specialized Ground Control, 26x1.95in
- Saddle: Vetta Gel Lite
- Seatpost: Syncros
- Pedals: Shimano Deore XT PD-M735
- Weight: 10.57kg (23.30lb, complete, as pictured)