The Specialty Files: 1985 American Montaneus


Editor’s note: This story first appeared in Dirt Rag issue #145, published in October 2009. Words and photos by Jeff Archer.

Back in the early days of mountain biking, many aspects of bike design were hotly debated. One of the most contentious issues was the head angle. This dimension was one of the most important for the handling of the bike. Bikes with shallower head angles had their roots in the Schwinn-based balloon-tired klunkers and were often favored by the West Coast builders. The terrain was generally more wide open, and bikes were often ridden on the fire roads that were indigenous to the region. The East Coast builders were faced with a more technically challenging terrain that favored steeper head angles.

American Bicycle Mfg. was right in the middle of the country in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and seemed confused. Should they go West Coast shallow or East Coast steep? Their solution was to offer up the Montaneus frame, with an adjustable head tube angle. The head tube used a pair of pinch bolts to secure the eccentric headset bearing cups. By moving the eccentric cups relative to one another, you could achieve a head angle anywhere from 66.4° to 71.6°. Adjusting the head angle would also change the wheelbase. You could go from the California cruising wheel base of 43.85 inches to the Pennsylvania technical wheel base of 42.15 inches.


Other than the adjustable head angle, American was also well known for its “show” or “beauty” welds. Many companies would grind down or hide the welds, while American proudly displayed its “stack of dimes” welds. American also offered hard-anodized finishes, which were more durable than paint. This frame is finished in Champagne Gold hard coat with a brass-plated fork to match. Frames were also available in a navy or maroon hard coat as well as the more common polished finish.

This bike can be seen at the Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology in historic downtown Statesville, North Carolina. If you can’t visit in person, check out the collection at


Frame: Aluminum 6061-T6
Fork: Chromoly, brass plated
Rims: Saturae HX32
Hubs: Suntour XC, bolt-on
Pedals: Shimano PD-MX15
Crank: Shimano FC-6206, Biopace rings
Rear cogs: Shimano 600, 5-speed freewheel
Bottom bracket: Press-fit sealed cartridge
Front derailleur: Suntour Le Tech
Rear derailleur: Suntour XC
Shifters: Suntour XC
Handlebars: Alloy Bull Moose
Headset: ABM adjustable
Front brake: Shimano XT cantilever
Rear brake: Suntour XC roller cam (on chainstays)
Brake levers: Suntour XC
Saddle: Avocet Touring I
Seatpost: Suntour XC
Color: Champagne Gold hard coat
Serial number: 1912


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