Thursday, May 2, 2013

Other people's bikes: Unexpected Bridgestone edition

A 1993 Bridgestone MB-1. Crappy phone-cam pics to follow, this one with the saddle artfully cut off. 
Fair warning: the following may only be appreciated and/or comprehended by extreme bike nerds. Proceed at your own risk.

Few bike brands stoke devotion to such a rarefied degree that a loyal following remains dogmatic nearly two decades after going defunct. Indeed, it may only be Bridgestone that fits this description. I admit that I have long been within the spectrum of Bridgestone devotees, though certainly not as close to ideological purity as I once may have been. Yet, I still have an ingrained ability to spot and identify a Bridgestone bike with even a fleeting glimpse.

At the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building today, a 1993 Bridgestone MB-1 drew my focus from a block away. In its day, this was the top of the line off road machine Bridgestone offered, during its penultimate year. As I approached, it was clear that this particular bike had few, if any, parts original to the frame. In fact, the bike exhibited many of the characteristics of a cast-off frame turned ignominious workhorse; a semi-abused daily commuting mongrel, cast to a lot in life more typically assigned to much "lesser" models and/or brands. Such bikes often have the outward appearance of having been flogged to within an inch of life, but are generally in fairly honed operational condition. In an urban setting, such a bike is not appealing enough to steal, but well suited for transportation.

Please note that the following comments are not meant to be disparaging, but are merely a processing of the incongruity of the sighting with which I am apparently still struggling.
Its solitary shifter predates the bike by about a decade: a Shimano Deer Head (XT) unit, circa 1984. The circa '88 Ritchey stem looks to have been painted with bronze-colored nail polish.
A rider too tall: the modern cheap-ish saddle is jacked up high on what I'm estimating to be a 49cm frame. The bike is locked with a cheap cable lock, almost as an afterthought.
Inexpensive chromed replacement fork with ill-fitting fender, sans brakes. Originally, the bike would've had a revived Ritchey biplane fork; bewildering to all but the devoted during the suspension boom of '93, but now highly sought.
Off-kilter rear rack and fender with a custom mounted rear light, courtesy of about half a roll of tape.
Neglected drivetrain features an era-inconsistent XT derailleur, a 7-speed freewheel, and a yellowed pie plate.
While the case is strong that Bridgestone made good bikes, in a time of explosive technological bike development, the company seemingly became too esoteric for its own good. Exhibit A in this argument are the company's entertaining, yet increasingly ethereal catalogs. That's not to say that many of the concepts embodied by Bridgestone weren't correct, as many of its best ideas have found renewed, strong affirmation since the company's demise. However, as a too-small-to-be-large-but-too-large-to-be-small, and perhaps too fundamentally serious bike company, it couldn't control the growing industrial beast that its innovation initially helped to create. In the end, Bridgestone's undoing was its dependence on the stolid rationality of its artisanal analog instruments, in the midst of an increasingly disposable digital world. Though the model didn't work at the desired scale, its proponents, most obviously Grant Peterson, have established residence in more viable climes.

It is within this context that I was oddly struck with the application put to this particular MB-1. I'm not exactly sure why I perceived the encounter as being so strange, as within my own general philosophy, a bike serving a useful transportation purpose is the best kind of bike. The cumulative nonchalance of the construction of this brute indicates a utilitarian survivor in the most positive sense; the polar opposite of a garage queen. Yet, my gut reaction reveals something about my psyche. To see a revered upper-echelon Bridgestone frame so mundanely and apathetically outfitted is unsettling, regardless of its usefulness. Something to ponder.

Congrats if you've made it this far, bike nerd. Continuing gratitude to Shawn (who also happens to be a newly minted Bridgestone owner) for putting the term "other people's bikes" out there, aptly describing the bike gawking activity in which I have been participating for decades.

For the record, only trace amounts of snow from yesterday's storm remained in the basket of this Denver B-cycle during my evening commute.


  1. The oyster white pearlescent paint was amazing on those. I worked at Spokes Etc. in the DC Metro area in the early 90's during the MTB boom and we were a bridgestone dealer. I lusted after an MB-0, sadly even with an employee discount I couldn't afford one....

    1. I remember that pearlescent paint well. The first purchase over $1,000 I ever made was for a new 1990 Bridgestone MB-1. At the time, it was equal to about a quarter of what I earned in a year. The extra $400 or so for the Zip was out of the question.

      I still have the bike, though I repainted it years ago after having top tube cable stops brazed on. In retrospect, I should probably not have done that, but back then as now, it's just a bike. In the old days, about half of my riding pals rode a Bridgestone mountain bike of some sort.

  2. I suppose I'm an "extreme bike nerd" then*,cause I loved reading/seeing it :D


    *I already knew this,and revel in the fact that I am,LOL :p