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 mombat.org 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.
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”