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.

Published by Johnny P

Johnny P has been a bicycle lover since he was a child. He's a self propelled individual with a zest for living. His mother tells a story about finding young Johnny on his tricycle on the couch ready to do his best Evil Kenivel jump. He loves to build bikes as much as ride them. He lives in Denver, CO with his wife where he operates a sales and marketing company that he founded.

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