Sunday, May 5, 2013

1984 Trek 830 All Terrain Bicycle

This is the story of a Trek 830 All Terrain Bike (ATB) that I bought in 1984 while in graduate school, in Tallahassee, Florida.  Fueled by great consumer interest of fat tire bicycles, a trend that was started in the late 70's in Marin County, California, this was one of Trek's first models in this genre.  The trend captured me, too.  I had never heard of Trek before walking into Rainbow Cycles on W. Tennessee Street in Tallahassee (the store is long gone) to take a look at these strange new bikes.  A few test rides later, I plunked down $350 (a lot of bucks back then) for a 15-speed (3 x 5) Trek 830, painted in berry red. 

ATBs from back then are not today's Mountain Bikes. They were too heavy to do any serious climbing but they were built like a tank and seemed to be indestructable.  

Here's what it looked like from the original brochure, thanks to the great Vintage Trek site:

Instantly I had new freedom on where I could ride and was not limited to the roads anymore.  A friend (who also had an ATB) and I rode thousands of miles that year on dirt roads in the national forests south of town all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, crossing through water, jumping logs, and flying over paths covered with oyster shells.  Country road dwellers were astonished to see strange college kids pedaling down their dusty dirt roads on bikes.

Four years later, I was done with school and started a series of moves along the east coast.  With the exception of some occasional neighborhood rides with my kids, the 830 was relegated to collect dust in various garages and basements. Though I acquired other bikes, I hung on to it through the years, and it made it to Longmont with me in the 90's.  Even then, however, I was riding the roads again on lighter bikes, and the dust continued to pile on the 830.  I would occasionally use it as a beater, an informal name given to a bike that you use around town and don't mind if it gets nicked or stolen, but that was it. 

The 830 in 2003, still going.  No quick release wheels, you'll notice:

As recently as 2005, my 830 was mostly intact, all original parts, except for the tires.  Age caught up with it, however, and things started to break.  The Sun Tour front dérailleur cracked one day going up Coffman to the post office.  The heavy, rock sturdy aluminum wheels lost some spokes and their trueness.  The rear dérailleur was also worn out, as were the rear sprockets making every gear shift attempt a noisy adventure.  The bottom bracket was grinding like some pebbles thrown in a blender at low speed.  I opened it up and found a lot of the ball bearings had been ground up to powder.  

The original SunTour front derailleur, cracked:

In the early 80s', SunTour was bigger than Shimano.  They were anonymously absorbed in the mid-90's.  Original rear derailleur (SunTour Mountech) and Atom (French) five-speed freewheel cluster:

I let it sit for a few more years, sparing it from becoming a nice steel contribution to the Eco-Cycle dumpster on Martin Street, probably for sentimental reasons.  I was past trying to preserve it as an original but was still open to getting it back on the road.  A set of lighter mismatched 26" MTB wheels found at a bike gear swapfest was the trigger that got me started.  I suddenly had quick-release wheels, if I could get them to fit.   The rear hub on the new wheel, however, was too wide to fit in the frame so I had to slightly spread the frame.  This trick can only be done on a steel bike!  A trip to Boulder Community Cycles got me a used front dérailleur in good shape.  I found some new parts on sale at Amazon over the period of a year, likely cheap because they were for older style bikes.  The finishing touch was a splurge on some new Schwalbe Big Apple balloon tires.   Inflated to only 25 psi, they provide a heavenly cushioned ride over any in-town road conditions that Longmont can throw at me.  

The sturdy berry-red 830 today, back on the road again.   I put a rack on the back to haul groceries, and magazines/books to the Library:

Made in the USA, in Waterloo Wisconsin. Trek would later move production of all but their very high-end bikes to Taiwan:

Reynolds 501 steel tubing frame.  Original Rainbow Cycles sticker (Tallahassee, FL).

New 24-speed drivetrain (3 x 8), with SRAM X-5 rear derailleur:

Shimano Alivio triple crank.  Behind the crank is a Shimano cartridge-style BB-UN26 bottom bracket, which fit perfectly. 

 Shimano Deore XT front derailleur:

Still the original saddle:

Pedals are original, too:

Schwalbe Big Apple balloon tires:

Nicked up at 29 years old but weren't we all?

Friction shifters are still original but the rear one will not shift to the full range of the rear derailleur, so this will eventually be replaced.  The frayed grip will also be gone soon:

A friend pointed out that I could have gone to Walmart and grabbed a new bike for the 125 bucks that I sunk into the 830.  He was technically right, of course but there is satisfaction in keeping an older bike on the road that you can't put a dollar figure upon.

And from being mostly unknown back in 1984, Trek went on to become a very famous bicycle brand worldwide, with a lot of their success and fame coming from supplying Lance Armstrong with his bikes on his seven Tour De France victories.   The Trek 830 was slightly renamed to "830 Antelope" in the late 80's and 1990's, and seems to have disappeared from the Trek catalog today.  Trek does offer a model 820, which is their entry-level mountain bike. 

If you're a vintage Trek 830 owner yourself and stumble upon this,  I hope some of it is helpful.




Sam said...

Pete, this is really cool. It makes me long for some of the older bikes I let go over the years. I'm glad you were able to resurrect it for a different purpose!

Patrick said...

Love it! I'm rebuilding one right now as a city bike. Can't decide on handlebars though... The original ones were pretty banged up, so I'm trying to find an alternate option.

Peter said...

@Patrick, it would be great to see pictures of your 830 when it is done. Very interested in what you come up with, for handlebars.

philip myers said...

I just bought a 92or93 20" 830 antelope all original going through it know for a off road touring bike, I could have bought a cycle cross, but Iam sentimental I guess for the bikes I grew up with.If I like the way this one turns out I will probably resurrect more 830's. thanks for the story & info very helpful