The Marin County, California inventor, racer, bicycling advocate and inaugural Mountain Bike Hall of Fame inductee, Joe Breeze, is known for many innovations to mountain biking. These include, but not limited to, producing the first successful production run of modern mountain bikes and developing the Unicrown fork. Arguably his most important, but least remembered contribution to MTB is the Hite Rite, a seat height adjuster that he co-invented with Josh Angell and produced in the early 1980's.
Joe Breeze in his machine shop, in Mill Valley, 1984. Copyright 1984 Alba Vasconcelos
The Hite Rite was a beautifully chrome-plated coil spring that attached to the seat post with a circular clamp and the seat post quick release at the opposite end of the spring. The rider set his seat height then attached the Hite Rite; he would open the quick release to lower the seat, and reopen it for full extension when a difficult section had been negotiated. This allowed the rider to adjust his seat height without stopping the bike first. An additional benefit of the Hite Rite was that it made stealing the seat and post more difficult since the quick release had to be removed first. The product weighed about 100 grams (four ounces), allowed the seat to be raised or lowered as much as four and one-half inches and cost about $15.
The Hite Rite achieved so much early success that Joe had to abandon his other projects for a couple of years in order to keep up with production. Many riders used the product, but it wasn't without challenges. The rider needed to remove one hand from the bars in order to actuate it, the seat didn't always return to its original height, the orientation of the seat could be skewed and dirt or mud interfered with successful actuation since the post would not slide up and down easily.
This seemingly ubiquitous product is viewed as an essential tool in many MTB disciplines.
Accordingly, the Hite Rite disappeared from the MTB scene within a few years. However, the concept was re-introduced about 30 years later with an adjustable-height seat post actuated by a handlebar-mounted thumb lever. Many riders that I've spoken to think this is the greatest invention in MTB history even though it adds about a half-pound (eight ounces) to the weight of the bike and costs $300 or so. This seemingly ubiquitous product is viewed as an essential tool in many MTB disciplines. It's doubtful the Hite Rite will rise from its ashes, but it was the progenitor of a line of products that has contributed to the development of the modern MTB.
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