The Goat From Chico
“I rode Repack once, but I avoided what was going on in Marin. Well, it wasn’t that I avoided them, I was just devoid of the place because the riding in Chico was so great!” - Jeff Lindsay
For as much as the history books record Marin County as the epicenter of all things relevant to pioneer mountain biking, it’s important to remember that no different than the seismic waves that emanate from an earthquake’s epicenter, there was a variety of decades-ago frame builders who themselves were also beginning their own age of fat-tire discovery.
One of them was Jeff Lindsay who, while no stranger to racing and building road frames in the 70s, founded the Mountain Goat brand of steel-framed mountain bikes that remain a highly sought-after jewel from the pioneering club of NorCal builders.
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The Roots of the Goat
Jeff Lindsay has kept hand-written records of every bike he's built.
“Like many famous mountain bike frame builders up here, I really got my start racing road bikes as a kid. In fact, I still remember racing Gary Fisher when we were both about 12 years old. It was in 1974 when I was studying Industrial Arts at Chico State that I first learned about the art of frame building. I kept riding and racing but once I got a car, I put the bikes aside for a while and moved to Chico. But the riding up here in the foothills was so amazing that it got me back on the bike. I was in college at Chico State and actually made a track bike as my graduate project. I was self-taught but also inspired by guys like Lars Zabroski and Albert Eisentraut and started making road frames. After some friends saw my bike, they asked if I would make them one, and then after that, a friend of a friend asked for one and the next thing you know I was in the frame business.
“In 1980 I saw the first mention of a ‘mountain bike’ and from that I modified my Roll-Fast frame by adding some gears and welding on some cantilever brake bosses. Once I started riding off-road, I was hooked and forgot all about cars!
“I started ‘Mountain Goat’ in 1981 and took some frames down to Long Beach for the annual bike show and they were a total novelty at the time. I remember there were only three mountain bike brands in attendance that year; it was Tom Ritchey and Gary Fisher, Victor Vincente of America, and me. Some guy asked me how the show had gone, and I replied that I was sold out, but that only included two frames!
“Around 1982 Mike Sinyard started importing the Specialized Stumpjumper and that just changed everything. I couldn’t make enough bikes at the time, which was fine, but the real problem was that I didn’t know anything about running a business! At the time Ritchey had a leg up on me because could build bikes faster, but when all the bikes imported from Japan and Taiwan started showing up my market started falling apart.
“In 1995 my wife told me that we needed to have a Plan B and that was when I started working with a trading company in Japan and had the Escape Goat built, which I sold a container of. Then I made a deal with a Taiwan-based frame builder called A-Pro and they were looking for an American-based frame build shop to add to their Taiwan and Chinese production. Mountain Goat would become their boutique brand and we’d also get subassemblies shipped over for brands like Voodoo, Pro-Flex, and even Gary Fisher and then finish the build in our Chico shop. We did that for about three years and then bailed on the bike industry completely.
“In 1999 I started making special tools for the glass-blowing industry. Thankfully, all my years in the bike industry taught me some good lessons in marketing, and that really paid off with this new venture.”
What About the Deluxe?
“I guess if there was a signature look to my early bikes it was the ovalized top tube that I’d sourced from Phil Wood who was originally rolling the tubes to be used for tandem frames. I loved the shape of them and ran them into and past the headtube to create a better surface for the fillet brazing. The top tube was really an aesthetic thing and didn’t really impact how the bike rode. I made most of these bikes from 1982-1983 and always used 70-degree head tubes because anything more relaxed just made for sloppy handling. Actually, for the WhiskeyTown, which was my most successful frame, I steepened the head angle to 71-degrees with a 73-degree seat angle.
“The seat tube junction on this bike was pretty special as the seat tube pierced the top tube. One of my earliest road bikes was a Legnano that had a cool seat binder design that was in front of the seat tube which I copied but ran on the backside of the seat tube. I can tell that this is an early bike, and the frame was made with straight gauge steel tubing with an off-the-shelf unicrown fork. I didn’t make many unicrown forks, but I did make a few forks with a plated crown that I sourced from Henry James.
“I made the stem, and it was pretty basic. The one thing I liked to do was run all the cables on the underside of the downtube so that you couldn’t see them when you were looking down on the frame when you were riding.”
Today, the 74-year-old Lindsay stays busy making his glass-blowing tools and watching UCI cross-country mountain bike and motorcycle racing on the telly.
“You know, looking back, I’m glad I did what I did with Mountain Goat, but I’m glad I’m not doing it anymore. With glass-blowing tools, there’s never the threat of a recall or lawsuit because of a broken bolt! I remember when I finally ran my first full-page color ad in Mountain Biking Magazine and the Mammoth Mountain NORBA National Gary Fisher saw that and laughed saying, ‘First full-page, first lawsuit!’ And he was right because not soon after some guy who folded a downtube on one of my bikes sued me! So no, I don’t miss being in the bike industry!”
Just as it is with so many other small mountain bike brands that contributed their efforts to the sport, Mountain Goat too played a historical role that still excites riders and enthusiasts today. In the end, the metric for success wasn’t the number of bikes sold or races won, but the design and ingenuity put into the bikes that continue to inspire us today.
Frame: Mountain Goat Deluxe
Fork: Mountain Goat Deluxe
Stem: Mountain Goat Deluxe
Headset: Chris King
Bottom Bracket: Bullseye
Handlebar: Cook Bros
Handlebar Shim: MG
Shifters: Deore XT
Front Derailleur: Deore XT
Rear Derailleur: Deore XT
Brake Levers: Deore XT
Front Brake: Deore XT
Rear Brake: Deore XT
Pedals: Deore XT
Hubs: Deore XT
Tires: Panaracer Timbuk II
Wheel QR: Deore XT
Cogs: Deore XT
Chain: Deore XT
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