Giant Iguana – Old Frame gets a New Life


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(click images to enlarge)

This early 90’s, mass produced, Giant Iguana mountain bike frame got a modern upgrade to become a fun to ride urban commuter. Adding some racks and changing the tires to something thinner will allow me to use it for overnight camping trips when I need to carry some extra gear. This was my first mountain bike. I purchased it at Towners in Rochester, NY. It was mainly used off road including some trail riding in the Adirondacks. I was drawn by too things, it’s paint job and what at that time was the relatively unique rapid fire, 8 speed shifters from Sun Tour. It had center pull brakes, flat bars and a relatively uncomfortable stock Giant saddle.  So how did it end up being a frame sitting in my basement for almost a decade? We’ll to make a long story short, the Sun Tour shifting system just wasn’t up to the task and when front suspension bikes started becoming more common it got replaced by a GT Karakoram. I couldn’t bear to give up the frame so I stripped it down, boxed up the components and set it on the shelf. The GT’s frame got damaged in a crash on Porcupine Rim in Moab and it’s front fork is now a lamp in my office. I started riding a full suspension, disc brake Schwinn 4 Banger and that’s a story all its own.

The steel frame didn’t make sense as a mountain bike anymore but I realized that it could be a solid base for a commuter/touring bike as it has something that none of my other bikes have, mount points for racks! I wanted to do the conversion as cheaply as possible using mainly parts that I already owned since a whole new drive train and brakes could run around $700 or more. When my son was younger I bought him a Fuji mountain bike with decent components. Not great stuff but well beyond what you’d get at Target or Walmart. DSC_0505Now that he’s 6 foot tall and in college the bike just wasn’t of any use. Instead of selling it I decided that I’d strip it for parts to rebuild the Iguana. It provided the wheels, v-brakes, Shimano Deore rear derailleur, cogs, chain and seat clamp. DSC_0543 DSC_0544To keep costs low I rebuilt the original bottom bracket and after some measurements decided to paint and use the Sun Tour cranks. DSC_0509 DSC_0513


I built it up using the Deore brake shifter pods but in the end swapped them out for some older XT units I had replaced on one of my other bikes. The shifting was sluggish and not as response as I like and the XT’s made a dramatic difference. Shimano XT ComponentsDSC_0539The front derailleur is a new Shimano XT unit as the one off of the Fuji was for a bigger tube and the retrofit just wasn’t going to be pretty.

So what did I have to buy:

Shimano XT front deraileur (new): $45 on saleDSC_0590

Trekking / Butterfly Handlebars (new): $21DSC_0540 DSC_0514

The trekking / butterfly bars were added for extra hand positions. See video: Avoiding Numb Hands – Trekking Bars (Buttefly Bars) Use and Setup

New brake and Shifter cables: $16

New saddle: Avenir 100 Series – $18 (I had other saddles but wanted to give this one a try)DSC_0541

My favorite long distance saddle is the Specialized Body Geometry Comp. This one has about 10,000 miles on it and I’ll move it to different bikes as needed:DSC_0521 but since you can’t get these any more I decided to give the Avenir 100 Series a try based on a recommendation on Kent Peterson’s blog: The Avenir 100 Series Saddle: Inexpensive, Rugged and Comfortable. Kent has a lot of saddle time, I trust his opinion, and at this low price I figured why not give it a try. I don’t have enough miles on it yet to make a definitive statement but so far it feels pretty good!

Crank brothers Candy 1 pedals: $50  I switched to Crank Brothers about 8 years ago and while pedals are personal preference the tension on these is nearly perfect for me. I have Look on the road bike but if I’m doing a ride like an MS 150 where I might be walking around a bit I’ll put the Crank Brother’s on and use my mountain shoes. Crank Brothers Pedals

2 Tires: $26 for both on sale – didn’t really need these  but the deal was awesome.

I already had the bar tape as I couldn’t decide if I wanted to go with black or yellow for the road bike and yellow won out. Fizik Bar TapeDSC_0461

My total cost was $176. If you drop the new tire and saddle my total cost would have been $132. Not bad for how it turned out.

My biggest concern was mixing Sun Tour and Shimano as well as XT and Deore but I was pleasantly surprised by how nicely it shifts. Upgrading the rear derailleur to XT in the future would be easy  while the cranks and bottom bracket would be a lot more expensive.

The bike rides nicely with the steel frame and big tires. The big tires make it a little more work to pedal (rotating mass) but I like them for workouts. My road bike is far more efficient but I’ll ride this bike to get a better workout and use the road bike when I care more about speed.


I’ll add updates in the future on how the bike works out with more miles on it and when I add the racks or swap out the tires.


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