The State Bicycle Co. Klunker is an Ego Check in a Tux

The State Klunker bike in action
Photo: Leah Barber

I’ve always wondered what it was like to ride the earliest mountain bikes off road. Sure, I’ve seen the grainy photos and heard the stories, and as a kid I rode some pretty basic bikes on makeshift trails and ramps in my backyard. Would riding the State Bicycle Co. (SBC) Klunker off road prove just how easy we modern bikers have it? I decided to find out.

SBC Klunker specs

State Klunker

The SBC Klunker is about as simple as it gets. One gear. Coaster brake. Steel frame. No suspension. But what a thing of beauty.

Looking more closely, it’s clear this bike is meant to party. The 27.5-inch wheels are decidedly modern, wrapped in real, 2.4-inch-wide CST Patrol mountain bike tires. The BMX-style handlebars are strong and durable, and at 760mm wide they’re not too far off from a modern trail bike feel.

There’s a 42t chainring at the crank with a 22t sprocket in the rear. A large, lower front triangle has plenty of room for two bottle cages, and State helpfully attaches a bottle opener to one of them right out of the box. For opening soda bottles from the five and dime, I suppose.

The frame features basic rear dropouts to tension the chain, and a straight, steel fork. A 5-year warranty on the frame and fork promises to keep the good times rolling.

You won’t find any quick-release levers on this bike (not period-accurate, anyway) and the saddle, while nice-looking, is pretty basic. The tires and wheels are not tubeless so dust off your Schraeder chuck and add a few extra psi if you’re riding hard.

Test pilot profile height: 190cm (6’3″) weight: 72.5kg (160lb) testing zone: Southeast, USA

Right off the bat I decided to swap the stock, black grips and pedals for something a bit more colorful. Don’t get me wrong, the all-black look is a classic but IMO it’s calling out for some pops of color and personality. For those looking for even more color, State also has Klunker models with paint jobs inspired by the Grateful Dead, the Wu-Tang Clan, and Corona (the beer, not the virus).

State says the bike should fit a wide range of riders from 5’5″ to 6’3″ tall. I’m at the upper end and found the bike fits just fine. With my grips and pedals the bike weighs 31.58lb.

Riding the SBC Klunker

While waiting for the SBC Klunker to arrive on my doorstep I daydreamed of cruising the trails, one foot out as I careened around every bend in the trail like the riders of yore. Unknowingly I had latched onto the second half of State’s Klunker description: “The perfect ‘DGAF’ bike, for neighborhood cruises, trips to the corner store, and walking the dog….OR… if you’re feeling audacious, mount up and rip a trail.” I’ve been a mountain biker for more than 25 years — of course I’m feeling audacious!

As it turns out, riding mountain bikes for the past 25 years has only made me soft.

SBC Klunker bike on the trail
Photo: Leah Barber

Clipless pedals, hydraulic disc brakes, and suspension let you get away with a lot. Like, if you want to bunny hop, just jump and your feet magically bring the bike up with them. Decided to brake too late into that corner? Just tap the lever with a single finger and all is well. And don’t worry if you forget to look ahead of your wheel to the next section of trail; if you’ve got too much speed for those roots that suddenly appear out of nowhere, the suspension will smooth everything out and keep you on line.

All of this went through my head as I found myself scanning for the softest trees I could crash land into while coming into a bend in the trail a little too fast. See my feet weren’t in the right position to backpedal the coaster brake, and to get them into the proper spot I would need to pedal forward a bit which would just send me off trail even more quickly. Instinctively my fingers twitched the find the brake levers that weren’t there. So, I steered the bike toward a cluster of young sapplings that effectively slowed me enough to get my feet down onto solid ground again. I ended up with minor scrapes, and a serious ego check.

Photo: Leah Barber

While the SBC Klunker looks and generally feels like a mountain bike, it’s really more of a party bike. Not necessarily a “party in the woods” type of bike; more like a townie bike that exudes that fun, mountain biker vibe. One evening I was heading to a local brewery to interview Kevin for a story about bikerafting, only to realize my gravel bike had a flat tire. I hopped onto the SBC Klunker instead and I was surprised how right it felt for the mission. This is the bike I should be riding around town, and especially when a trip to the brewery is involved. The upright position is super comfortable and the wide tires lend plenty of stability in case you’re feeling tipsy for whatever reason.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the photos from the Repack, Klunker-racing days show riders pushing their bikes up dusty fire road climbs, and given the limited gearing it makes sense. I had resigned myself to a bit of uphill pushing, especially on the trail, but I actually found the SBC Klunker’s stock gearing to work reasonably well. Sure, it requires getting out of the saddle and heaving up and down sometimes, and the steepest climbs do require hiking the bike. See what I mean about getting soft?

Bottom line: The State Bicycle Co. Klunker is designed for fun times, which is really what mountain biking is all about at its core. No, this isn’t going to be your go-to trail bike. It’s more like a tuxedo you keep around for those special occasions when it’s time to party.

Party laps

  • Looks great
  • Well built and comfortable for riding around town
  • Retro tech forces riders to relearn long-lost skills

Pros and cons of the State Bicycle Co. Klunker

Dirt naps

  • You might crash if you ride it on trails, but it will be fun anyway
  • The all black model is pretty dull-looking for a party bike