Now THAT Was a Bike: Sweetheart Cycles Moto Cruiser

Oct 9, 2014
by Richard Cunningham  

1982 Sweetheart Cycles Moto Cruiser

Sweetheart Cycles' 1982 Moto Cruiser is quite rare and it is also historically important for a number of reasons. The beautifully executed frame is representative of a time when pioneer mountain bike makers were combining aspects of road, BMX and motorcycle design to imagine how a mountain bike might look like. The frame tubes are straight-gauge, chrome-moly steel and TIG-welded - a joining technique that was rejected by established frame makers as too brittle and unreliable for lightweight bicycle construction. Its level top tube was necessary because the longest seat posts made were only 200 millimeters - the Strong post shown here is probably at its max height. Bicycle Bob made his own BMX-style handlebar and modeled its straight-blade fork from those used in BMX cruiser-class racing. The stem was a heavier-than-sin Pro Neck BMX model that was drilled to form a cable stop for the front brake. Road-style rear dropouts were the only ones made that had derailleur bosses.

1982 Sweetheart Moto Cruiser


The Moto Cruiser also shows us the limited palette of components that was available in the early 1980's. French-made Mafac tandem cantilever brakes were the only options that would actually stop a bike and, unlike many early mountain bikes that used Magura motorcycle levers, this one features Italian-made Tomaselli moto levers. The drivetrain is the classic mix of European touring gear and budding Japanese mountain bike offerings. Its Campagnolo Rally rear mech, was probably not capable of taking up enough chain to manage all 18 gears. The Campagnolo Nuvo Record front changer was fussy to adjust, but arguably, it was the sturdiest one could buy at the time. The Cook Brothers crankset is reported to be original, but while single-ring BMX cranks date to the late 1970's, spiders made to convert Japanese Sugino and Dia-Compe chainrings to fit Cook Brother's cranks did not appear until later. The bike's Simplex thumb-shifters are rare. Most bikes used early Suntour levers that were more primitively made and only right-handed - so builders had to modify them to create left-handed ones for the front changer. The portage strap was also a common accessory as tall gearing and the rarity of bike friendly trails often forced pioneer riders off their bikes on the climbs.

The Moto Cruiser's Snake Belly tires and Araya 7X rims were classics back then - and while the narrow, skin-wall knobbies were winners on hard-packed BMX tracks, they suffered on loose and steep terrain. The rims, however, were prophetic - almost exactly the width that the industry has evolved to today after its religious adherence to the stupidly narrow and persistent-Bontrager XC standard. Keith Bontrager deserves heroic recognition for re-rolling 40-hole Mavic MA-2 tandem road rims into the first lightweight 26-inch mountain bike items, but the industry deserves a dunce hat for missing the point: Keith wanted stiff, lightweight rims, and was willing to suffer with skinny. The bike industry only copied the skinny part.

1982 Sweetheart Moto Cruiser

History

Our Sweetheart Cycles Moto Cruiser was brought to us by the folks at the Pro's Closet, where it is on loan from the Vintage MTB Workshop collection. Reportedly, the bike spent 20 years in active duty in Tucson, Arizona, before being restored it to its near-original condition, as we see it here. The legendary tale about Sweetheart Cycles, as reported third-hand, is that "Bicycle" Bob Wilson started Sweetheart Cycles north of Los Angeles and, after allegedly being imprisoned on drug charges, sold the business to Yeti founder John Parker. (In defence of Bicycle Bob, California drug enforcement was draconinan in the early 80s - a time when life sentences could be dealt to offenders caught with an empty hash pipe and $300 in their wallets.) A close look at the Moto Cruiser reveals design aspects that transferred to future Yetis, most conspicuously, the one-piece seatstay/chainstay configuration. Many thanks to The Pro's Closet for furnishing the images, and especially to Vintage MTB Workshop for allowing us the opportunity to share this historical treasure.





61 Comments

  • + 52
 Rampage bike 2015
  • + 19
 This is the rigid birth control model. I really miss index shifting, square taper cranks, and one inch threaded headset. Those were the bad ole days.
  • + 13
 you meant friction shifting right? We ALL have index shifting today.
  • + 3
 Those friction shifters had their good points. When they were new they hardly ever shifter for you
  • + 3
 I had that handlebar stem in BMX bikes
  • - 1
 Rides just as if it were equipped with FOX SHOCKS.
  • + 44
 I'd like to see a stop-motion animation of mtb bike history to see geometry and design change over the last 30 years.
  • + 3
 That is a sweet idea!
  • + 2
 Maybe just use a generic bike model and show the geometry shifting.
  • + 1
 the history of a downhill bike... from the "downhill" bikes of the 80s throughout to the downhill bikes of 2015.
  • + 8
 It would sort of look like the frame was being rotated counter-clockwise.
  • + 24
 Gold rated article. I love these retro insights. Keep them rolling RC.
  • + 12
 @R.C--great history lesson for the kidz and us 'olds', maybe an old Mantis elevated chainstay for the next "Now THAT was a bike"?
Also on the Yeti-tip--young groms should know that FTW didn't always mean "for the win" but Frank The Welder!
  • + 2
 Oh man! I used to drool over the FTWs stem and fork!
  • + 9
 imagine the date of year 2040 people will look back to 10k carbon bikes and say. what a crap bike they was riding back in 2014
  • + 5
 Yeah, because they'll be 'riding' around on unobtanium hover-bikes with reverse thrust braking or something of the sort....unless the cyborgs have completely taken over.
  • + 2
 LOL im dead on the ground
  • + 5
 crash you are reading to muck Waki stuff
  • + 2
 yes, possibly
  • + 1
 Maybe the frames won't get much better but I imagine that 10 years from now we'll look at 2014-2015 suspension and brakes and think they're complete shit...
  • + 8
 Nice History lesson. Keep these articles coming...
  • + 1
 We need more articles like this. Maybe do look backs on old articles from the start of Pinkbike as well.
  • + 8
 what is a front derailluer?
  • - 5
flag TroySladeck (Oct 9, 2014 at 22:26) (Below Threshold)
 XO single ring
  • + 3
 @RC... those shifters are period correct... shimano had SIS shifting for mountain bikes introduced in 1984, and Suntour had left-right microfrction clicking thumbshifters like those in 1981. I've owned two bikes of that era (a 1981 Nishiki Canada Caribou with a 15 speed Suntour XC group, which pre-dates actually the Specialized Stumpjumper in being the first mass production mountain bike to really bring the prices down - of course not being sold stateside this was largely missed by the cycling press of the time) as well as a 1982 Mikado Kamikaze again having a 15 speed group. I don't have photos of the Nishiki but I do of the Mikado.

yoda.densan.ca/kmr/bikes/mikado1.jpg (the pictures continue up to 13 - change the last digits of the url before the .jpg)
  • + 1
 So canada was selling mountain bikes before the us? cool!
  • + 2
 The thumb shifters look exactly like later model Suntours, but in fact, I was told by the restorer, that they are from the French company, Simplex. Pretty rare stuff.
  • + 1
 The stem in pic 3 :/
  • + 3
 This bike looks smoking hot! Smile

It could use a steel 3" riser bar to finish off the looks, something like a raw Moly Hatchet.
But the real retro fanatics won't like that.

I like to mix retro looks with new school quality parts tho.
  • + 3
 yeah i love that too. like putting a viper V10 in an old charger.
  • + 2
 Wish i could go back and ride my old 1983 Stumpjumper. Rode the piss out of it, til I broke it. Can't remember how it rode, but I remember that it changed cycling for me forever. I went from being a teenage roadie to a MTB convert. Rode every trial I could find in rural Alaska. Took it up several glaciers in the eastern Alaska range. Still shredding today, just slower.....
  • + 1
 I hear that! I had a 15 sp Schwinn Mirada. I think I got it in 1986, maybe '87. Rode the ever-living crap out of it. Never really changed a thing on it, not even brake pads. Rode it for 3-4 years before getting a Trek 830.
  • + 2
 Ah the good ol days back when we had to retighten our cranks after every ride because no matter how much torque you put on them things they would always come loose and the threaded steerer which if not installed just right would tighten on you and eat your bearings to bits ah I miss those days Not!!! Lol
  • + 7
 that is sweet
  • + 2
 Should do one on the Canadian Tire Supercycle Mountain Cruiser, which was a bmx on 24's. .. and which nobody rode coz bmx's like mongoose, haro, cw, and kuwahara were for the cool kids
  • + 5
 I miss portage straps...sigh.
  • + 3
 Hah, I have a NOS combination portage strap and storage bag still, it'll end up on ebay eventually.
  • + 2
 Would it be hipster of me to want to make the equivalent of a cafe race out of this for commuting to work? I'm thinking modernize it and use it to screw around on the way to the office.
  • + 1
 Isn't it funny that when you put your super nice bike up for trade on a place like CRAIGSLIST, it seems all the offers you get are for the bikes that look like super clapped out, rusted versions of these.
  • + 1
 The only explanation I developed for the black plastic device there between the top and seat tubes is ergonomics, to enable a comfortable carrying the bike on a shoulder. I'd appreciate any veryfication.
  • + 2
 That's exactly what it's for, but it isn't plastic. It is a very strong material so that when you put it over your shoulder if conforms to it. Like Cordura and a bit padded inside. I've also seen some that you could store spare tube etc. in them.
  • + 2
 Unique bike from a classic era where nothing came easy when it came to improving the bike. Nice find and a good analysis, RC.
  • + 1
 stunner. had a few of those parts on my early 80's cannondale(tomasellis, shifters,araya rims) couple yrs newer with full suntour xc pro. still on the lookout for something of that vintage
  • + 4
 retrobike and ebay is where and kijiji/craigslist... toronto, ottawa, montreal, vancouver are full of classics. I got this puppy from an ad about five years ago, it was almost all original... 1984 Rocky Mountain Fat City Flyer. This is where mountain bikes had gone to in only 2 years.

yoda.densan.ca/kmr/bikes/fcf1.jpg
  • + 4
 Beautiful. Watch and learn you bearded hipsters
  • + 1
 have a set of those exact pedals i've been considering selling , "old school/ vintage" KKT lightnings in gold. maybe now would be a good time to list them while we retro enthusiasts are drooling.
  • + 4
 Looks like a session
  • + 2
 Did most first generation "mountain bikes" borrow their geometry from road biking?
  • + 3
 No. They would slacken the head tube all the way to 72 degrees. Road bikes where 74 degrees or so. That made them more more stable in the woods. Riding my old 1993 M2 2 years ago, just for memories sake, I can't believe that was relaxed geometry. Had a rigid and put a 65mm fork on it. 71 degrees. Soooo twitchy above 17mph or so. Glad things have changed.
  • + 2
 I got to buy myself a classic and restore her. Then hang her on a wall cause its better then art.
  • + 1
 I remember my first full rigid. I also remember the first mountain bike I had without suspension Wink
  • + 1
 Looks just like CW Racing cruiser bars? Snakebelly, Cook Bros, Pro Neck, KKT Lightning, Araya 7X- 80's BMX was the best!
  • + 1
 I'm usually the one saying "I remember those!" on these articles, but this one is before even my time. Awesome.
  • + 1
 Check out the pros closets pinkbike page...some of the bikes they have were made before I was born but damn they look good
  • + 1
 Can we still buy red tyres today for MTB ?????
  • + 1
 Man, I was -5 years old when this came out. Smile

Looks like fun!
  • + 1
 Love it but i'm one of those idiots that rides 80`s ATB`s still.
  • + 1
 Looks like a Lawwill Pro Cruiser.
  • + 1
 I have a santacruz nomad and im jealous and wish my nike was that cool!!!
  • + 1
 I want!

Post a Comment



Copyright © 2000 - 2019. Pinkbike.com. All rights reserved.
dv56 0.054049
Mobile Version of Website