Our Reader’s Rig of the week comes from Will Jones in Bristol, UK, who repainted and restored his 1988 Specialized Rockhopper into a perfect all-rounder, complete with a front rack and dual Carradice bags. Check it out here…

Words and photos by Will Jones (@ldswill)

I’m Will Jones and I’ve always loved riding bikes. It doesn’t matter what kind of bike—if it has two wheels and a set of pedals it makes me smile. They were escapism as a teenager growing up in Cornwall, UK. Off to the woods on a basic Mongoose on weekends, doing laps before tea. Later came a jump bike, to my Mother’s dismay, and evenings after school at the local skate park, where I failed to do anything remotely resembling a jump. At university in Leeds I traded the jump bike in for a road bike (Mum never said I told you so, to her credit) and slowly I became further engrossed in what I thought the life of a serious road cyclist should be, with a side interest in cyclocross racing.

1988 Specialized Rockhopper, Will Jones

Without going in too deep, riding bikes slowly transformed from escapism into an unhealthy coping mechanism for dealing with some things I had going on. Longer rides, more data, tighter clothes, and lower body weight. Serendipitously, with hindsight, I herniated a disk in my back that kept me from riding properly for the best part of two years and gave me time to take stock of the bits of riding that I enjoyed, and the bits that weren’t so healthy. Nowadays I am fortunate enough to have a very supportive partner who is fine with me having an increasingly eclectic collection of bikes (including a few more restoration projects), and I try to ride how I want and when I want, rather than when I feel I should.

For my fellow bike lovers out there, the current list is a Bowman Palace, that serves all tarmac duties, a Cube Cross Race for mixed terrain rides (cross racing is no longer possible with my back), a tracklocross/gravel fixie converted from a Falcon Explorer town bike for when I want to scare myself, and now this Rockhopper, which I’d love to head out on from Bristol to do the Brecons Bash and Trans Cambrian routes. I’ve not used it to its fullest yet due to lockdown, but it makes me smile like my old Mongoose did during those endless summers of my teenage years.

  • 1988 Specialized Rockhopper, Will Jones
  • 1988 Specialized Rockhopper, Will Jones
1988 Specialized Rockhopper, Will Jones

I tried to justify buying a 30-year-old old mountain bike in a number of ways, ranging from “I’ll do the shopping on it” through to “I’ll race the Tour Divide.” None were particularly convincing. In truth, lockdown was looming, and I needed a project to keep me occupied, and there was something about it that appealed to me. I think it was the horizontal top tube more than anything.

Once it was fully disassembled, and with some extra bosses added to the forks thanks to Pi Manson at Clandestine, it was time for paint. It’s only the second bike I’ve painted and I’m really happy with how it turned out (Spray.Bike Chalk Farm & Battersea for reference). I wanted to keep the build as original as possible, oval biopace chainrings and all. A new saddle and some beautiful Nitto bars were the only major changes, along with some more up to date rubber.

  • 1988 Specialized Rockhopper, Will Jones
  • 1988 Specialized Rockhopper, Will Jones

Six speeds and friction shifting are perfect for now. Low maintenance, easy to repair, and like having a kindly butler on board with your best interests at heart. “Are you sure, Sir?” it asks as you try to change gear. The gaps between them are large enough to reconsider, before you finally nudge the thumbies a notch further. “Might Sir prefer the 28?” it suggests, as you dump the chain onto the 30 at the back and the chain rubs the front derailleur. It’s older than I am, and has some flaws, but it’s taught me a lot and given me the confidence to take on some more challenging restoration jobs.

  • Frame/Fork 1988 Specialized Rockhopper
  • Rims Rigida (front) / Araya (rear)
  • Hubs Pelissier (front) / Shimano Exage (rear)
  • Tires Schwalbe Table Top 2.25”
  • Handlebars Nitto Bullmoose B901R
  • Headset Tange Seiki
  • Crankset Shimano Exage 175mm triple, oval Biopace (28-38-48)
  • Pedals HT PA03A nylon
  • Cassette 6sp Uniglide, 14-30
  • Derailleur Shimano Exage
  • Brakes Shimano Exage, Canti front and U-brake rear, Canuscc levers
  • Shifter(s) Shimano SIS 6 speed thumbies
  • Saddle Brooks B17
  • Seatpost Strong
  • Front bags Carradice camper longflap
  • Rear bags Carradice Audax Lightweight
  • Other accessories Various patches and badges, eBay rack, cotton tape
  • 1988 Specialized Rockhopper, Will Jones
  • 1988 Specialized Rockhopper, Will Jones

There are a few nods to Yorkshire on the Carradice camper longflap. My partner and I met in Leeds and we both lived there for a good few years, so it holds some special memories. There’s a patch from when we completed the Yorkshire three peaks hike, and a couple of badges I picked up from a market; the owl is on the Leeds crest, and it’s a nice reminder of one of my favourite places.

Find more beautiful bikes from Will on Instagram @ldswill.

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