1986 American Comp Lite
The year is 1986. You’re in the market for one of those “All-Terrain Bikes” that everyone is talking about. You don’t want to buy anything imported, which is lucky since mountain bikes were invented in the U.S. only a few years previous and pretty much every option worth riding is produced domestically. Which make will it be? Something from one of the original Marin County California pioneers? An aluminum Klein made in Washington state? A bike from a real mountain state like a Moots out of Colorado? An east-coast Cannondale? It’s hard to decide.
My suggestion at the time would have been this: Shop north.
In 1986, the finest mountain bikes in the world were being produced far away from any actual mountains. In Minnesota.
American Bicycle Manufacturing (ABM) of St. Cloud had some awesome mountain bike options. There was the Joe Breeze signature “Breezer”, the adjustable head-angle “Montaneus”, and the race-ready “Comp Lite”.
All of American’s bikes featured aluminum tubing (in smaller diameters than what Klein or Cannondale used) with slightly thicker walls for durability. Durability was a big selling point, in fact. Ad copy would point out that scratches could be buffed out, and that paint could be repeatedly applied and stripped over the years, a fresh look for your bike whenever you felt like making the effort.
Speaking of fresh looks, our Comp Lite had only it’s top tube decal still intact when we got it. Instead of reproducing the original headtube badge we thought this would be a good place to honor another defunct bicycle company, hence the “American Flyer” badges on the head and seat tubes.
While I would have suggested a Comp Lite to anyone who asked my opinion back in 1986, I didn’t own one. The bridgeless back end (no seatstay bridge or chainstay bridge) was cool looking, and offered extra bump compliance. The Koski Duratrac fork handled great. The XT components were the gold standard for performance and reliability. Araya RM20 rims ruled. The bike was a solid choice. Why didn’t I follow my own bike shopping advice? The bike was an expensive option compared to others and I wasn’t patient enough to save my part-time bike shop salary to get one.