Photos by John Watson | The Radavist
In the early days of The Pro’s Closet, our business model was essentially the “American Pickers” of the bike industry, providing us unique access to some of the garages of the most influential people in our sport. Given this proximity, I have been lucky enough to get up close and personal with many of the world’s most historic bikes over the years.
The deeper I nerd out on the history of our sport, there are consistently two types of vintage steeds that make me stop dead in my tracks: An original race bike, full of patina and custom tinkering (like Juli Furtado’s C-26 featured in our last episode of From The Vault) or an early Breezer (Series I, II or III, they are all the perfect blend of form and function).
My obsession led TPC to host the world’s largest collection of historic mountain bikes. With over 200 unique bikes lining our office walls, it’s tough to not marvel at the evolution of our sport.
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Maybe it’s the Reynolds tubing with brass fillet-brazing, finished with nickel plating that makes it stand out from the rest. Or it could be the surprising details, like the clamp-on stem that is attached to a brazed-on stub in the steerer tube and topped with a brazed-on Swiss coin. Maybe it’s the angle of the slack 70° head tube that is reminiscent of the original fat-tire balloon bikes, famous in the Marin County hills during the 1970s. Either way, the rarity of the Breezer Series III, overlaid with the master craftsmanship of mountain bike pioneer, Joe Breeze, makes these bikes, in my opinion, the most sought-after mountain bikes of their time.
The Breezer Series I bikes are generally acknowledged as the first purpose-built mountain bikes. There were 10 Series I bikes produced and most of these bikes are still with their original owners today. Next up were 25 Breezer Series II bikes which were a refinement of the Series I bikes.
Then, in 1982, Joe Breeze began his production of the Series III frame. Most of the series III frames were built from 1982 to 1983, as Joe’s most notable invention, the Hite-Rite, began taking off in 1984. This left Joe with very limited time to build frames. One hundred Breezer Series III frames were anticipated but only 24 were produced for a total production run of 59 hand-built Breezer mountain bikes. These Series III frames featured a steeper geometry for more aggressive handling paired with a Type I fork, which had an arched crown using tubing from Charlie Cunningham and Reynolds tandem blades. Today, a little more than half of the Series III bikes are accounted for and can be viewed over at the Vintage Mountain Bike Workshops archives.
This particular Series III was almost lost forever, thrown away by someone who didn’t recognize its value. Fortunately, a nice twist of fate led to a last-minute phone call that saved this bike from destruction.
It was late on a Friday in 2014 when I got an out-of-the-blue call from a metal scrap yard in Canada. The gentleman on the other end of the line knew they had stumbled upon something unique as his yard's traditional sorting methods couldn’t identify the nickel plating that overlaid the Breezer frame. Upon additional inspection, he noticed the coin brazed into the top of the fork and felt even more uncertain about scrapping this old bike.
The frame was set aside for later identification, a true diamond in the rough. After his shift sorting through the day’s material, the gentleman sat down, pulled up Google, and typed in the letters he saw written across the down tube of the frame: Breezer. He came across an article TPC had written about the bike a month earlier and on a whim dropped us a line.
As we began to talk about the frame, he mentioned that it had a “West Point Cycles” sticker on it, a long-time bicycle shop in Vancouver that is still around today. This was most likely where the bike was originally purchased. He also noted the coin brazed into the top of the stem and the unique metal the frame was coated in. Immediately I knew what he was holding. This was a holy grail find that could have easily slipped through the cracks to be crushed and scrapped, never to be ridden again.
My heart began to race. “Sir, what you are holding is a Series III Breezer, one of the rarest and most collectible bikes in the world. I’m not sure what it is worth in scrap metal, but I can tell you that in today’s market the frame is worth somewhere in the realm of $6k (that was back in 2014). There was a long silence on the other end. “Sir, are you still there?” Floored with the realization that his intuition was spot on, we made the deal and I promised to restore it to its original glory and follow up with him when the restoration was complete.
Both of us went into the weekend grinning from ear to ear, and today you can view this historic find in the front lobby of TPC’s museum, alongside other notable pieces of cycling history.
This particular Series III bike is stamped with serial number 43 (the 18th frame built in the Series III lineup). The rescued frame was rebuilt with period-correct and New-Old-Stock parts including Araya 26 x 1.75 Gold Rims laced into Phil Wood hubs, Shimano M700 brakes, Dura-Ace Uniglide Chain (32 years old and still in the box), Suntour BMX pedals, and Campagnolo Nuevo headset with the correct steel top cup. Notice the Breezer Seatpost Sandwich allowing the proper Brooks B-72 saddle to fit seamlessly with the Dura-Ace seatpost.
This bike is a perfect blend of form and function and for me, the Breezers will always sit at the top of my “dream quiver” list.
S/N: J.B. B.83.43
Frame: Breezer Series III
Fork: Breezer Type I
Headset: Campagnolo Nuovo Record
Bottom Bracket: Phil Wood
Handlebar: Specialized Heat Treated Aluminum
Front Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT M700
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT M700
Brake Levers: Magura
Front Brake: Shimano Deore XT M700
Rear Brake: Shimano Deore XT M700
Crankset: Sugino AT
Chainrings: Sugino 26-38-50
Pedals: Suntour BMX MP-1000
Hubs: Phil Wood Cartridge Bearing
Rims: Araya 26 x 1.75 Gold
Tires: Specialized Stumpjumper
Wheel QR: Campagnolo Super Record
Seatpost: Shimano Dura-Ace
Seatpost QR: Specialized
Saddle: Brooks B-72
Grips: Magura Pow-R-Grip
Cogs: Suntour New Winner 6 Speed
Chain: Dura-Ace Uniglide