In April 2023 in found an old Diamondback Ascent EX mountain bike from 1994 on Facebook Marketplace for a good price that looked in decent condition for it’s age and I had to jump at it. I didn’t know much about the bike itself but it was listed as having a chromoly frame and fork and that’s something I wanted.
Over the last few years I’ve tinkered with bikes and have found a love and passion for older steel bicycles with simple components that just work. I’m finding myself less and less bothered about the innovation in bicycles these days as most of the advances feel superficial and in some cases complicate matters for me, a tinkerer. I bought this Diamondback with the intention of simply cleaning it up and using it as a commuter but after a few rides I wanted to properly refurbish it and use it for the long term. It’s a beautiful bike to ride.
My main problem was cost. I have a 9 month old and my wife has been on maternity leave since, so money is a bit tight. I needed to do this with minimal costs. I opted to use parts I had in the garage and use what I could from the original.
Diamondback Ascent EX
The 1994 Diamondback Ascent EX is a fully rigid bike with a steel True Temper AVR frame. This one was purchased new from Dooley’s Cycles in Paisley, Scotland back in 1994. Some of the components on this had been upgraded over the years, notably the cantilever brakes and original levers had been upgraded to V-brakes with Avid Single Digit 5 levers. The wheel set, headset, seat post, stem, handlebars, shifters, crank, derailleurs and cassette were all original as far as I can tell.
Planning and Preparation
I started by taking most of the components off and giving them a good deep clean. The wheels were cleaned up using Brillo pads and my Dremel for polishing, along with the seat post. It took time but the results were worth it.
The frame needed a bit of TLC. There was some rust spots throughout and a larger rust area near the bottom bracket. At this point I needed to make a call on whether to just run it as is or strip some of the area to take a better look - the latter would involve some kind of paint job afterwards.
My curiosity got the better of me and I went with the latter and took a wire brush to the areas to see how bad the rust was. To my delight, it was all surface rust that came off no problem. Now I knew I had a frame that was in good shape but had a bike with exposed steel.
I had used Spray.Bike in the past for painting a bike frame and was fairly happy with the results. I was initially going to go this direction again before I got a quote from a local powder coating company. P&J Powder Coatings based in Thornliebank, Glasgow, as was really pleased with their quote. P&J blasted the frame & fork and powder coated it for £66 and the results were great. I had to neaten up the brake bosses but this was easy enough with a Stanley knife. After this experience I probably won’t bother with Spray.bike in the future.
I didn’t intend on stripping the paint and I liked the idea of the bike to be indetinifable as an old Diamondback so I bought some decals off eBay from Hungary and they are top quality - maybe even sharper than the originals. I couldn’t find the Ascent EX decals but I managed to find a some for a different, but similar model. That’s why the model name is missing from my final build. I quite like the clean look though.
The Finished Build
In conclusion, the refurbishment and rebuild of the Diamondback Ascent EX has been a fulfilling and cost-conscious project. What began as a simple intention to clean up and use the bike for commuting turned into a fully blown restoration, driven by a deep passion for old steel bicycles and a desire to create a practical long-term ride. Despite my financial constraints, the project was a success. By reusing components from previous builds and incorporating new parts where necessary, the project achieved the desired balance of functionality and affordability.
This build has only emphasised the joy of tinkering with bicycles and reviving forgotten rides. It showcases the beauty and durability of vintage steel frames while embracing the practicality of a utility bike. The end result is a fully restored and personalised bicycle that embodies the spirit of craftsmanship and resourcefulness.
I hope that my rebuild encourages people that bike restoration and the satisfaction of breathing new life into an old gem provides you with a feeling that that money can’t buy off the shelf. All you need is a bit of passion, creativity, and careful planning, and even a limited budget can rebuild and refurbish anything.