Bikes: Bontrager Privateer

This is the Bonty.  Precisely, it is a 1998 Bontrager Privateer with the “Rasta” paint scheme.  It’s a steel frame, XT component group, RockShok Judy fork, and has been outfitted with 1″ slicks because the previous owner used it for commuting.  Supposedly this was the first year that Trek owned the Bontrager rights to build bikes with his name, and he was still active in managing the products.  The current set-up is very much what you see, other than it has been outfitted with a Brooks Conquest sprung saddle.  (Gee, does that make this a full-suspension bike?)


I bought this bike off of eBay when I realized that I really wanted to get some regular exercise, and I was starting to experiencesome free time.  I went with the configuration of a “street-a-fied” mountain bike because I was not happy with how my overbuilt Cannondale was handling the rougher roads, I wanted the lower gearing, and I figured I had the option of getting into mountain biking if I wanted to.   Truth be told, I really didn’t do enough research on what I needed and wanted, but figured this would work well as a do-everything bike.

For a time, I had moustache bars and barcon shifters mounted on it, until the Marin came along.  As a street bike, it was too small for me.  I could get the seat up to where it needed to be, but the short top tube had me feeling hunched over.  I also learned that the 26″ wheels just didn’t let me feel like I was rolling as smoothly as things should.  I also think part of what I was feeling was the “aggressive” geometry that Bontys are touted for.

What I did/do like about the bike is how light and nimble it is on rougher surfaces.  Even with the slicks, I have played around with it on some trails and had a blast.  It truly is fun to ride.

After buying the Marin my intent was to sell it.  I had learned that there is a market for these steel framed little rockets, especially when they are in good condition as this one is; and I figured I could actually make some money on the transaction.  But when I mentioned this to Red, she piped up that she wanted to start riding and that she might like this bike over the Taiwan aluminum double suspension critter that she did have available.  She hasn’t ridden it all that much, but it is the one she picks when we do the family outings.  Recently I coaxed my oldest son to climb on it, and he suddenly realized how much he likes it, so he has been the one using it the most, although not frequently.  That’s probably good, because I am a little paranoid about it either getting trashed; or someone who knows something about bikes more than they know about honesty stealing it.  If he does decide to start riding it regularly next summer, I’ll spring for some narrow mudders that will work better on the trails.

So for the time being the Bonty stays in the stable.


5 responses to “Bikes: Bontrager Privateer

  1. …and if you get bored with your Bontrager, let me know and I’ll gladly take it off your hands.

    Your Privateer is actually from one of the last years that Trek made the Privateer, not the first, which was more like ’96, officially. This may actually be of great benefit to you, since the later manufacture Privateers featured a 1 1/8″ steerer tube on the fork instead of the previously featured and now non-standard and hard to find 1″. In layman’s terms, if you ride the snot out of that fork, you’ll be able to choose just about any replacement fork instead of scouring ebay for rare 1″ versions.

    I own a few Bontragers; they’re my favorite. Just check out that elegant tubeset and the classy wishbone seat stay. You really lucked- out.

  2. I have a late ’90s Bonty – serial # 004991 – selling ’cause I can’t ride anymore – Don’t know how to figure price – suggestions?

  3. Dianne, I’d recommend monitoring Ebay for similar bikes to see what they are going for; and also contacting your local Trek dealer. They may have inquiries from people looking for Bontys.
    Good luck with your sale.

  4. Thanks! I’ll give both a try – I’m an “OF”, too, just not with the “infrastructure” that will let me ride. The pleasure is vicarious through blogs like yours…

  5. my daily rider is is 96 (?) bonty privateer. in zee german paint style (black red and white). i’ve had a lot of nice bikes, but i don’t think i’ve ever been as attached to one as i am to this.
    my commute is a combination of paved trails, roads, unpaved trails, and off road vehicle roads. most of my commuter bikes have totally rocked on one of these four environs and sucked on the others. the bontranger, however totally rocks the single track but also does well in all other circumstances.
    it’s nimble but not unstable. light but not flimsy, and comfortable on a longish ride. mounting a rear rack on the sucker is a lesson in ingenuity but it can be done.
    there is another advantage. most bike theives don’t know that bontrager made frames (it’s just us geeks and we don’t steal bikes) so it’s five finger discount is low.
    needless to say, mine doesn’t look nearly as good as yours does. so hold on to it. it’s a gem.

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