Klein evolution

    Klein 1990 - 1997 by Jeff Duncan


   

Once I got the 1990 Attitude, I thought it might be an interesting exercise to compare each of my bikes to each other in detail to see what distinguishes them from one another. Some of their differences are pretty obvious but there are other differences that I didn't really know about until I did this comparison. So here, in no particular area, are some of the things that I've found to be important and/or interesting in the evolution of Klein's frames from 1990 to 1997.
    This might be considered heresy by some, but by doing this comparison, I've developed an opinion that even before the Trek buyout, Klein began a process of improving their technology, while removing little details here and there at the same time. As someone in marketing, I'm mystified why Klein, and then Trek, changed or eliminated some of these key features that Klein had become famous for. We all know how the story ends (damn you Trek!! :D).


    Drop outs
    The MC1 frames are distinguished by their massive rear drop outs. Look at them…huge! Each rear drop out is 8mm thick and joined to the chain stays and seat stays so seamlessly, I dare you to find the actual weld joint beneath the paint - all I can say is smoooooth. The rear drop outs are horizontal and rear facing which also makes them a favorite with the single speed crowd. Some folks like to criticize Klein's rear drop out design because they aren't replaceable but that hasn't been a problem for me.

    In my opinion, the rear drop outs on the MC2 frames are less attractive and were, presumably, less expensive for Klein to manufacture and assemble. At first glance, you can see that there's a LOT less metal in the rear drop out area vs. the MC1 frames. The drop out itself is 6mm thick and you'll also notice that the welding at the drop out isn't as seamless as the MC1 frames. With the MC2 frames, Klein wanted to lighten them up and surely they saved more than a few grams here, and a few dollars in manufacturing costs too. This change shows, in my opinion, even BEFORE Trek took over, Klein was already on a path of modifying their frames with a strong nod towards cost cutting.

    I should note that Klein also switched to gradient aluminum tubing beginning with the MC2 frames. Gradient tubing uses tubes with walls of varying thicknesses. Perhaps the gradient tubing required changes to the drop outs and the welding techniques mentioned elsewhere in this thread. So it's a tradeoff - you get a lighter frame with the MC2 at the expense of smoother welds and more distinct dropouts that you get with the MC1 frames.

    1990
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    1993
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    1996
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    Welds
    It seems to me that as Klein enjoyed a surge in sales during the early 90's, they were unable to devote as much handwork to the welds to achieve the same visual quality and smoothness that is represented by the 1990 Attitude. Looking at the area where the top tube and down tube join the head tube, and comparing the pictures of each bike, you'll see a downward progression in the visual quality of Klein's famous TIG welds from the 1990 model to the 1993 and then to the later years. To be fair though, some paint colors hide welding flaws better than others.

    The head tube welds of the 1990 Attitude, and the welds on the rest of the bike for that matter, are all as smooth as glass. Seriously, they are. You can see in the pics that it's just smooth everywhere on the 1990. The welds of the 1993 Attitudes are similarly smooth but the linear fade paint jobs make the welds appear spotty in some of the pictures. The 1993 Moonrise, in particular, appears a bit splotchy at the head tube junction where the purple oversprays the pink and orange in places. The visual quality of the welds on the rest of the bikes though, is still pretty stunning, especially when compared to other manufacturer's bikes. As mentioned in the drop out section, you can't see the seam where the rear drop out joins the seat and chain stays and the fork drop outs are also seamless. Very

    The visual quality of the welds on the MC2 models are not as smooth in the transition from one tube to another as shown in the pics of the 1996 and 1997 Adroits. By this time, Trek was Klein's "parent" (as of late 1995) but I don't think Trek was solely responsible for demanding that Gary and his team adjust their welding techniques to reduce costs. I believe that Gary and his welders had already begun to sacrifice some of their artwork so they could get a lighter frame and so that it took less time to build one and therefore, they could produce and sell more bikes. Compare the pictures: 1990 to 1993 to 1996 and then 1997 and you can see the difference in the weld joint and the blending of it into each tube. I don't have any 1994 or 1995 Attitudes/Adroits to take pictures of, (yet ), but I've seen some pics of '94/'95 MC2 models with welds that had slightly better visual quality than the '96 & '97 models shown here.

    If it seems as though I'm complaining, I am, a LITTLE bit. I'm also talking about differences that are, to my eye subtle. I'll also reiterate at this point, that the quality (visual and structural) of ALL of the welds shown in these pics stand up for comparison to any other mountain bike manufacturer of the same period. I also realize that 1 example a bike from a 1 model year doesn't mean that absolutely every one of the bikes made during that hear had the same quality of welding - there are bound to be slight differences in day to day production, from welder to welder, etc. so my comments are directed to what I see in the frames that I own.

    1990
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    1993
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    1996
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    1997
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    Internal cable routing
    This is one of the other features that first attracted me to Klein's bikes. When you have such a crazy nice paint job on a frame as Klein was known for, it seems a bit sacrilegious to then to obstruct the view of that paint job by cluttering it up with cables. Internally routing cables through the frame is a feature that Gary Klein supposedly patented, but I've seen other manufacturers with internally routed cables too from the same era and today. Perhaps they paid Klein, and later Trek, a royalty to do that (Trek now owns the patent). It's also interesting to me that Trek doesn't take advantage of its own patent - I don't think any of their MTB's have internally routed cables.

    The derailleur cables are both routed through reinforced holes in the down tube on all MC1 and MC2 frames. I don't know why, but the derailleur cables exit asymmetrically at the middle of the down tube on the MC1 frames. On the MC2 frames, the derailleur cables exit symmetrically closer to the bottom bracket. I prefer the way it's done on the MC2 frames because it keeps more of the cable inside the frame away from view and potential problems. Also, as you compare the pics of the MC1 frames to the MC2 frames, you'll see that the reinforced holes changed quite a bit between the 2 frame generations - on the 1990/1993 frames, they stick out more than on the 1996/1997's.

    The rear brake cable is routed through the top tube and exits just before the seat tube. This rear brake cable exit changed as well, as brake technology changed with the transition from cantilevers to V's and then to disks. On MC1 frames, this hole for the brake cable doesn't provide a means by itself to allow a rear V brake cable. The first MC2 frames have a similar rear brake exit area but you can see on the 1996 that it's raised slightly. You could run a V brake if you use Klein's V brake adapter. No V adapter is necessary for the 1997 since the frame was changed by Klein to accommodate V brakes exclusively, as that was the braking technology being used on all high end frames.

    1990

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    1993
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    1996

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    1997
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    Chain Control Device
    The CCD was supposed to sweep dirt & mud away from the chainrings which would prevent a chainsuck situation from occurring…in theory. However, you regularly see early Klein frames with chainstays that are scratched due to chainsuck and yet they have the CCD installed. I think that the device can only HELP prevent chainsuck - it can't cure it completely, especially if the CCD is not adjusted correctly.

    The earliest CCD model required 3 bolts and was mounted on the drivetrain chainstay. The 3 CCD bolts are painted to match the frame on the 1990 Attitude; all the other bikes have unpainted bolts. The 2nd generation CCD was made smaller and changed to require 2 bolts that mount at the base of each chainstay near the bottom bracket. There might be a 3rd variant of the CCD but I can't remember where I saw pictures of it. Anyone else have a Klein CCD that is different from these 2?

    1990
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    1993

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    1996
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    1997

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    Headset Seals
    The headset seal on the Attitude shown in the 1990 catalog looks like it's made of white nylon, but the production headset seal on the 1990 Attitude was made of black rubber and has "Klein" embossed several times around the perimeter of the seal. This embossing had to be expensive when you consider the tool that had to be made to produce this custom seal and how few frames Klein was producing at the time. In 1991, Klein switched to a plain seal - without any logo - which isn't quite as special as the original.

    The MC2 system doesn't use any rubber to seal the headset bearings. Instead, it relies on a plastic spacer that does double duty as a seal. You'll see 3 of these spacers on the 1996 and 1997 Adroits mounted between the top of the head tube and the bottom of the stem. These spacers were used to set the stem height and they visually cover up the empty space that exists between the stem and the head tube. There are 3 of these "spacer/seals" but you could use more or less depending on how high you set the stem height. The spacers are mounted underneath the stem, so they might provide slightly better sealing action from water and dirt vs. the MC1 headset seal which only has 1 seal mounted around the stem.

    1990

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    1993

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    1996

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    Chain Stays
    Klein had a couple different chainstay designs intended to provide very high stiffness. The MC1 frames I have, all have chainstays that start out square near the bottom bracket, and change shape to become 1" around at approximately the midpoint on back to the rear dropout. In the pics, you'll also see that on the MC1 frames, there was a bridge welded between the chainstays at the bottom bracket which must have been there to help improve frame stiffness. Because of the bridge and chainstay design, the MC1 frames didn't provide a lot of extra room for tire & mud clearance but I'm running 2.35" tires on each 1993 bike without any problems. On the MC2 frames, the chainstays also start out square at the dropout but they change to a D shape after a few inches and then become round. At their widest, they are 1 1/4" and then remain round but taper on back to the dropout. The MC2 frames do not have the extra metal bridge reinforcement.

    1990

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    1993

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    1996

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    1997

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    Forks
    Each of my bikes has a different fork.
    The 1990 Attitude has the original oversized fork with box joints. The 1993 moonrise Attitude has the Uni-Klein rigid fork with rounded "shoulders". The 1993 Gator Attitude has a Rock Shox Mag 21 suspension fork painted to match the frame. The 1996 Adroit has the Strata fork which is a Uni-Klein fork modified with boron & carbon fiber that is bonded to the fork to help reduce high frequency vibration and improve rider comfort. Lastly the 1997 Adroit has a Rock Shox Judy SL suspension fork that wasn't painted to match the frame. When I bought the 1997, I asked the bike store if I could have Klein paint it in Koi to match and they told me "Klein doesn't do that anymore." :-(

    1990

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    1993

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    1996

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    1997

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    Seat tube and quick release
    The diameter and portion of the seat tube that sticks up past the top tube changed several times over the years.

    The 1990 Attitude has a seat tube that accepts a 27.2mm seatpost and has a 2 1/4" section of seat tube showing above the top tube. The 1993 Gator Attitude I have has the same size seat tube as the 1990 Attitude, but it only has 1 1/2" of seat tube above the top tube. The 1993 Attitude and the 1996 both have seat tubes that accept a 31.6mm seat tube and have 1 1/2" of seat tube showing. The difference in seat tube diameter vs. the Moonrise caught me by surprise when I received the Gator Attitude since I thought all 1993 models made the switch to 31.6mm, and they DID, but Klein sometimes had a habit of making these changes over the course of the model year vs. right at the beginning. The 1997 Adroit has only 1" of seat tube above the top tube. The longer section on the 1990 Attitude makes it more vulnerable to cracks forming if the seatpost diameter is too small or if set too high. The reduction of length to 1 1/2" helps reduce the force and leverage exerted when the seatpost flexes under a rider's weight. This variation in seat tube length also provides a source of confusion when trying compare dimensions of Klein frames to other manufacturer's frames. Even comparing 1 Klein to another can be confusing.

    For example, the 1990 Attitude is a "Medium" according to Klein and it has a 19" seat tube (center of BB to top of seat tube), but Klein called this a 20" in their catalog. The 1996 Adroit is also a "Medium" according to Klein but it has an 18" seat tube measuring the same way and Klein STILL called it a 20". If someone were to choose a Klein size based on what they measure with their ruler, they would be choosing a bike that would be too small i.e. a Klein 18" is more like a 17" from another brands.

    The seat tubes on four of my bikes, from 1990 to 1996, require a quick release, or fixing bolt, to secure the seat post. The 1997 Klein frames were changed to require a seat post collar. The collar design seems to me, to be better at preventing cracks in this area of the seat tube, because it's applying force all around the tube instead of applying force at just one point like the quick release does on the other bikes. I prefer the look however, of the quick release design.

    1990

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    1993

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    1996

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    1997

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    MC1 vs. MC2
    Klein used a handlebar/stem combination called Mission Control (MC for short). MC had 3 different designs (MC3 however was really just a stem, not a handlebar/stem combo). You can see the MC1 is a quill design that uses a wedge and a bolt to secure the handlebar/stem in the head tube.

    The MC2 was also a handlebar/stem combo but it changed the mounting method to use a giant locknut that applies to a cylindrical "collet" that fits over the fork steerer inside the head tube. To set the stem height of the MC2, the bike shop would cut the fork steerer to the appropriate length and then tighten the locknut that secures the MC2. The locknut requires a special Klein wrench that has 8 grip points that fit precisely when adjusting the locknut. A plastic cap with the K logo on it snaps onto the locknut to prevent dirt and moisture from getting into the head tube. Plastic spacers are used as a headset seal and to conceal the air space around the steerer between the MC2 and the stop of the head tube. In 1996, Klein stopped painting the MC2 to match the frame and instead just sold them all painted black :( although there are a few very early 1996 models that did have factory painted MC2s.

    1990

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    1993

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    1996

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    1997

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    Bottom bracket
    The 1990 to 1996 bikes I have all have an oversized bottom bracket shell and integrated sealed bearings that are supposed to be maintenance free (I've never had to do anything to them but if I rode in more extreme conditions, perhaps the bearings would need replacing at some point.) When Shimano switched from square taper to their Octalink design, Klein modified their 1997 model frames accordingly. The bearings of this BB do require periodic maintenance but my 1997 Adroit hasn't required any servicing yet.

    You can also see that Klein used a lot more metal in the welding at the bottom bracket area on the MC1 frames vs. the MC2.

    1990

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    1993

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    1996

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    1997

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    Water bottle cage bolts
    The 1990 Attitude has water bottle cage bolts painted to match the frame. The bolts on the 1990's CCD are also painted to match the frame. This cost Klein money and/or time. The 1993 Attitudes still had water bottle cage bolts in matching paint but their CCD bolts are raw aluminum. In 1995, Klein stopped painting water bottle cage bolts. The bolts on the 1996 are an aftermarket titanium upgrade. By 1997, even though the frame accommodated 3 water bottles Klein only provided 2 sets of cage bolts. Again, another little detail that was eventually sacrificed for the accountants. I put the second set on the underside of the downtube.

    1990

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    1993

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    1996

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    1997

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    Paint and lettering
    I thought I'd end this comparison with what is probably the one thing that springs to most people's minds when they think "Klein" (yes, I know some people also think "poser", "over priced", etc. ). Paint with bright colors and stunning fades is something for which Klein is renowned. Klein used a Durethane enamel non-metallic paint which is no longer made because it wasn't that great for the environment. Paints that used a neon paint color are prone to fading if exposed to the sun's UV rays. Fading happens so slowly that the owner probably doesn't realize it's happening until they compare to their bike to another one that hasn't faded. NOTE: this type of fading is not a positive thing and is totally unrelated to a "linear fade" described below. The 1996 and 1997 Adroits have metallic paints that really aren't susceptible to fading since the paint used is the same type and quality of the paint used on cars.

    Klein had a standard color pallet of solid colors and fade options so that a customer could personalize their bike when ordering it. The paint options the customer selected would typically delay their order by up to a month, sometimes more, but when you were spending that much money on a bike, a little extra time to wait wasn't THAT big a deal. Although I don't own anything painted in Storm, you've probably seen pictures of that, which must have been their most intricate of paint designs. From memory, I think Klein charged an extra $500 or so for Storm.

    I personally favor the Tri-color linear fades (moonrise, gator, sunburst). Linear fades use 2 or 3 paint colors sprayed in a way that the bike will look like 1 color from the front, another color from the rear, and another color from the side. But before the linear fade was available, Klein's fade option looked like the one you see on the 1990 Attitude, or on the Backfire painted bikes you've seen elsewhere.

    On the 1990 Attitude and the early MC1 frames, "Klein" and "Attitude" are decals underneath clear lacquer frames but if you run your fingers over them, you can't tell where the decal stops and ends. The lacquer is thick enough to blend into the edges of the decal. See the "®" at the upper right of the "N" in "Klein"? It would be difficult if not impossible, to mask & paint that symbol in such a small size. Klein got a bit more fancy beginning with the later MC1 frames by using a method of "debossing" the paint. In essence, they paint the bike in 1 color and then mask the frame with lettering that spelled out "Klein" and "Attitude" (or "Adroit", etc.). Then they paint the whole bike in moonrise or gator, etc., and when the mask is removed, the initial color that was sprayed is preserved. When you run your fingers over the frame, you'll feel a "depression" in the paint which why they called it debossing. (Embossing creates a raised impression on a surface; debossing is the opposite).

    1990

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    1993

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    1996

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    1997

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