1994 Bridgestone MB-1: A Dank Daily Rider

1994 Bridgestone MB-1 drive side view

1994 Bridgestone MB-1 drive side view

More pictures and parts list at the end of the article!

It has been said that “steel is real.” Indeed, one can walk up to a steel bike, touch it, and feel the real steel. Many companies in the 1980s and 1990s made some pretty impressive steel frames. Those that were made in the US or Japan at that time are considered the best by some and works of art by others. There may even be one located in a garage or barn nearby just waiting to be resurrected and ridden.

For a daily rider, a bike should have a comfortable geometry and be made from a metal that is responsive, with just the right amount of stiffness. For me, nothing is better than a well-crafted, lugtastic steel bicycle frame with excellent design provenance and amazing tubing. The 1994 Bridgestone MB-1 certainly fits the bill.

Not all of the Bridgestone models from this time period were made like the MB-1 (or MB-2s and some of the 3s, for that matter). That doesn’t mean that they aren’t good bikes. Many of the lower-end models of the MB-, RB-, and XO- lines are still awesome bikes. Any frame-up build of one of those would result in a great daily rider. However the MB-1 (and for some reason, the MB-Zip) holds a special place in the hearts of riders and collectors.

1994 Bridgestone MB-1 Brooks head badge detail

1994 Bridgestone MB-1 Brooks head badge detail with lugtastic lugs!

The US division of Bridgestone Bicycle Company was run by Grant Petersen. As Sheldon Brown (rest in peace) recounts:

Bridgestone is an enormous multinational company, one of the largest tire companies in the world…and a fairly small bicycle company, with its own factory in Japan. In the late 1980s and early ’90s, its U.S. bicycle division was run by Grant Petersen, a brilliant, talented and idiosyncratic designer.

Petersen, a hard-core cyclist, marched to a “different drummer” than most of the industry. He introduced many innovations to the market, and also strongly resisted other trends and innovations that he didn’t approve of.

As a result, the Japanese-made frames of this time were beautifully constructed (lower-end models were made in Taiwan and did not use lugs and were TIG welded). Made from the highest end of Tange Prestige tubing, these frames are not only desirable, but ride extremely well. Many of the features on the -1s and -2s are evident in the construction of Petersen’s current venture, Rivendell Cycle Works. His Bridgestone legacy also continues in other bikes as well: Handsome Cycles uses the same lugged construction and geometry of the Bridgestone RB-T in their Devil model.

How one acquires such a frame through trade or favor is another story (especially the favor part). This particular build uses some of my favorite components from various bikes that I have ridden and build up a really nice-but-not-too-nice bike for my daily rider-slash-errand-slash-bar bike.

The wheels are my own creation, using an old but smooth Shimano Parallax 100 (LX) hub for the front and a Shimano XT 9-speed hub in the rear. I laced them using DT-Swiss Champion 2.0 spokes on 26-inch Sun Ringle Rhyno Lite rims. Though not entirely period correct, they look great and are super stiff. Wrapping them with classic-look Kenda K-Rad gumwalls, (yes – they exist!) completes the road contact with style.

1994 Bridgestone MB-1 shifter detail

1994 Bridgestone MB-1 shifter detail

The drivetrain is a Shimano XT 3×9 with a Deore triple that came stock on my 2017 Kona Sutra. I realize that a lot of folks are leaving triple chain rings to history these days, but I am using Shimano Dura Ace bar-end shifters mounted on Paul Components Thumbies to give me that slightly-updated classic feel to my shifting. It works great and a friction-front shifter is not only nostalgic for me, it allows for more accurate trim adjustment.

For the connection points, I chose SimWorks Fun 3 bar with Paul Components Canti Levers (connected to their Neo-Retro cantilever brakes), held by the SimWorks Gettin’ Hungry quill stem. I managed to salvage an older Shimano XT headset to use as well. The saddle is a Brooks B-17 that is older than the frame itself, connected to a classic Race Face XY seat post. Pedals are the awesome VP-001 in a fitting, and no longer available Rivendell gray.

Now that I am done patting myself on the back for building one of the dankest rides ever, I just want to say that I am humbled by the history of these older bike frames. It has been a while since we have seen a company put a lot of money and materials into such care and precision on a mass-market scale. Remember though, there are many frame builders out there who are running amazing businesses and creating phenomenal bikes. They have learned from these old frames and their designers and are building on their legacy. I would love it if I could ride them all. Alas, with my curious lack of thousands of dollars for a new frame, riding a classic will do just fine.

Parts List (prices are at the time of this writing):

Shimano XT-M772 rear derailleur – $64.99 (from various dealers)
Shimano XT-M781 front derailluer – approx. $25.00 (if in stock anywhere)
Shimano SL-BS77 9-speed bar-end shifters – $90.00 (from various dealers)
Paul Components Thumbies – $95.00
Paul Components Canti Levers – $146.00
Paul Components Neo-retro cantilever brakes (x2) – $121.00
SimWorks Fun 3 bar – $55.00
SimWorks Gettin’ Hungry Stem – $88.00
Brooks B-17 Standard Saddle – $145.00
Raceface XY seat post – between $12.00-$77.00 (!) on eBay
VP Pedals 001 – $65.00 (from various dealers)
Shimano Parallax 100 front hub – approx. $30.00 on eBay
Shimano XT FH-RM70 rear hub – Approx $20.00 on eBay
Rhyno Lite 32-hole, 26-inch rims (x2) – $45.00 f(rom various dealers)
Kenda K-Rad tires – $34.99 (from various dealers)

Light Action: A Lesson in Patience

Shimano Light Action Bar End Shifter

Shimano Light Action Bar End Shifter on Paul Components Thumbie

If you’ve read any of my posts you would probably infer that I hold bicycles pretty high in the hierarchy of super important things that humans have invented. Indeed, the bicycle as we know it evolved from a long history of rich people’s toys and false starts. I find it rather unfortunate that the modern bicycle finally began to be taken seriously about the same time cars and airplanes were invented. Indeed, if horses didn’t poop so much and weren’t so damn skittish, maybe we wouldn’t have bothered with the automobile. Imagine a world where people went places by bicycles and horses. Nope. Too easy. Humans would rather go to great expense to suck oil out of the ground to make a vehicle so energy inefficient that the only plus side is that it makes it easier for teenagers to make out in private.

So what does this have to do with the picture above? It’s to illustrate my point at how awesome bikes are. There’s beauty in simplicity and patience. How such dysfunctional race of beings that infest a planet they don’t care about can make such a simple machine that, despite its drawbacks (it’s not as fast as a car) can get us where we need to go just blows my mind. Seriously: we can ride a bike anywhere given enough time. Not only that, bicycles have a low cost of entry (pretty much anyone can afford one), they are cheaper to fuel (burritos give the best milage per unit), and they can be stunning examples of simplistic beauty. No matter what kind of bike you ride, they are all beautiful not only because some can be aesthetically so. But even the cheapest POS from REI still does the same thing as a Rivendell or S-Works Tarmac Disc…it has two wheels and moves you forward. You need at least one leg and a lot of patience to operate one.

         Patience, Dear Reader, is something that cars have destroyed — a hundred years ago. They have literally sucked it out of the earth as if they drank our milkshake.

I’m not saying that we should all hate the automobile. I just think that, deep down inside, they are ugly and dirty.

End of line.

2014 Annual Fiesta Cruiser Run

2014 Santa Barbara Fiesta Cruiser Run

Bicycles are family here in SB. A common thread.

The first Sunday of August is usually sort of a relief to locals. It marks the last day of Old Spanish Days Fiesta. A 90-year-old celebration of Spanish and Mexican tradition and culture here in Santa Barbara. It’s a great draw for tourists to spend their money and college kids to get drunk. Most of the locals tend to steer clear, only taking advantage of the food stalls and the barbecue opportunities. May of us Santa Barbarians like to call it Old Spanish Days Fiasco. Despite pretty notable things like featuring the largest equestrian parade in the United States, most locals are left wondering what the hell it is all for. Sure, we get to learn who Saint Barbara actually was and watch white people dress up like Mexicans for a day. It’s a big five-day city-wide party. But we are still left with millions of pieces of confetti lining the gutters and the subtle effluvia of horse shit.

It’s no wonder that many of the locals have created their own event to look forward to. The annual Fiesta Cruiser Run, now in its 32nd year, is an unsanctioned (illegal) ride that started out with a few cruiser/klunker riders riding north from Santa Barbara to Goleta on the beach. It soon evolved into a massive cluster of thousdands of riders taking over the streets, hitting liquor stores and beach parks along the way. Indeed, it has become so popular, that the police have shut down many of the rest-stop festivities. But that doesn’t stop the majority of Santa Barbara true bloods planning all year long and building bikes especially for the ride. The preferred conveyance is the straight-bar cruiser decked out in BMX/klunker livery. Chris King headsets and SE Racing Landing Gear forks are ever present. But the best ones are the restored original Mongooses, Gary Littlejohns and Cook Brothers bikes. It is a veritable history lesson in single-speed legacies.

Colnago the Phoenix

I somehow seem to have missed taking a full wide shot of this bike. It is a Colnago, yes. Vintage? Unknown. However, I can tell you that it is indeed a rescue. It was, I am told, left outside in a yard for years. The sun bleached the side of the frame facing up. Despite all the neglect, the frame remained straight. It was rescued and alive again by a fellow named Sean who works at one of the other bike shops in town. I have to say that it turned out quite nice. It has a well-established patina and I am sure it rides nicely. It is quite remarkable how a once grand bike can be set out to pasture (literally) and the waste away to a hunk of steel, only to be resurrected years later. That’s why bikes hold my interest more than cars. They can be made well again and get somebody rolling for cheap. They are beautiful and virtually indestructible.

Adam and His Specialized Specialized

Adam and his modified 90s Specialized Rockhopper

Rides a modified 90s Specialized Rockhopper.

So I ride an older mountain bike around from the 80s. I really like its long wheelbase and straight and low top tube. However, I always thought it needed a little something extra. Enter Adam’s 90s Specialized Rockhopper. On my morning commute, I always spy this grand machine outside the French Press. I often wonder, what would a set of drop bars ands bar-end shifters look like on my old Gecko?

Chance had it that Adam stopped by the bike shop to air up his tires one day. So I pounced. Turns out that his bars and stem are neat-o Nitto and his seat is the Brooks Cambium C17. I asked him how he liked the saddle and he said it was the perfect high-quality saddle to suit his vegan lifestyle. No leather in that thing. Makes sense, right? Well, I probably wont go the saddle route, but I can see modifying the Gecko up some. I have plenty of ideas now. Check out the closeup!

90s Specialized Rockhopper with drops

Dare I say Tomac inspired?

Christina (and Georgena Terry)

Rides a 1990s Georgena Terry bicycle. Shot on State Street in Downtown Santa Barbara, CA

Rides a 1990s Georgena Terry bicycle.
Shot on State Street in Downtown Santa Barbara, CA

There are bicycles in this world that we have forgotten. There were the first tandems, the penny-farthings, the recumbents, mountain bikes, triathlon bikes…the list goes on. But what about the women’s-specific bikes? For a long time, mass-produced bicycles were made only one way. If a woman wanted to ride a bicycle that fit her body, she had to get something custom designed especially for her. It seems that the industry lacked any sort of basic anatomical knowledge: women’s bodies, where it comes to leg and torso length, are pretty much opposite that of a man’s body. So if both a man and a woman could stand over, say, the top tube of a 56cm bicycle, the woman would have a harder time reaching the handlebars than the man would. Men have longer torsos than women do. So not only does this make for an uncomfortable fit, the force that a woman could apply to the pedals would be of a different efficiency than that of the man.

Enter the women’s-specific frame. Generally, they have a much shorter top tube length for the same seat tube height of a man’s bike. Georgena Terry has been building women’s-specific bikes since 1985. They bill themselves as the “Original Women’s Bicycling Company.” I’ve got to say, I like bikes that are a bit unusual…especially for my body. With a 650c front wheel and a 700c rear wheel, these bikes just look cool. Even a well-ridden one like Christina’s deserves to be remembered…it is representative of a company, and indeed a woman, who filled a niche market (a big niche, mind you) and kept going until the others followed suit. Well done. You can still buy a custom bicycle from Terry with SRAM Red(!) and all sorts of other goodies if you have the money. Well worth it to buy a legacy. See gallery below for more images!

CycleMAYnia 2014

CycleMAYnia 2014. Giant dude with reverse pennyfarthing.

CycleMAYnia 2014. Giant dude with reverse pennyfarthing.

So nobody told me Durago was going to show up to the Velo Vogue fashion show on the first of may. Even though I first caught sight of the bike, the big dude holding it was even more fascinating. I am wondering what a tweed ride would be like with this guy. He would probably upstage everybody. In any case, it was a fun fashion show and a lot of people were there to showcase their bicycle-style clothing and some really awesome bikes. Even though I think fashion shows are silly to begin with, I still cannot say anything bad about this. Anything that promotes the use of bicycles or makes bikes seem cool is alright by me. See below for more pictures.


De Rosa (Wednesday Bike Pron No. 10)

1987 De Rosa Eddy Merckx

1983 De Rosa Eddy Merckx

Every day I am put in a position of whether or not to shell out a bunch of cash for a beautiful bicycle. In this case, a guy came into the shop with a 1983 De Rosa Eddy Merckx decked out with the original Campagnolo C-Record components. The only thing odd about the gruppo being that it didn’t have the delta brakes. He just dropped by to see if we could tell him what it was worth. He wanted to sell it so he could buy a new bike with more modern geometry. As he was completely unaware of what he had, I was tempted to ask him to part with it for a couple of hundred. But then, in a sudden flash of morality, I decided to check on eBay to see if a similar bike was for sale. Turns out, there are quite a few of these. I figured the bike he has, based on its condition, was worth around $1,000.00 US. I told him if he sold that bike privately, he could get a new road bike for sure. However, the new bike he would be getting would be pretty basic. I was thinking like a Specialized Allez Elite with a Tiagra 10-speed group or maybe a Raleigh Revenio 3.0 with 105. Those are great bikes. Certainly they are well built and the componentry is pretty comparable to 30-year old Campy as far as reliability is concerned.

Ugo De Rosa was the frame supplier for the Molteni team starting in 1968. It was through this relationship, that he built several frames for Eddy Merckx. This bike was probably built in Milan by a guy who had a history of associating with winning European cycling teams.

The bottom line is this: If I had this bike, I would keep it. Sure it is pretty old, but the quality of its parts are so appealing: it has the Campy C-Record to be sure (I’m really a Shimano guy), but it also made from Columbus SLX tubing, is made in Italy (not Asia) and it has Eddy Merckx’s name on the side. I could see this bike as my daily rider. About the only thing I would change would be the tubular rims and the saddle it currently has. I’m sure this guy, who doesn’t know a lot about bikes (he knows enough, though) would rather have a less high maintenance ride. To each his own. This thing is a true beauty. But in the end, I opted not to buy the bike for myself. Check out the gallery below.

Luis and the Mexican Connection

Luis and his Mexican Benotto.

Rides a Mexican Benotto.
Shot on Ortega Street in Santa Barbara, CA.

I have been highlighting Luis on here a lot lately because I just can’t help it. He always comes up with the coolest bikes. You can see his other posts here, here and another of his bikes here. Today he stopped by with an amazingly well-preserved Benotto double-top tube bicycle. I had never seen one of these in person before and I was so stoked I had the opportunity to take some pictures of this. Benotto bicycles started in Turin, Italy in the 1930s. In the 1950s, they expanded into Mexico, producing most of their bikes there. They kept the same old European styling well into the 1970s. Luis’s bike is a classic example of a late-model Benotto probably produced in the late 1960s or early 1970s. It has all the hallmarks of a pre-war european bicycle complete with triple-sprung leather saddle and rod-actuated brakes.

This particular bicycle has been in Luis’s family for a while now and he recently moved it here from Mexico. It is remarkably well preserved and has only a few scratches and a light patina of rust on the chrome parts. But looking at a bike like this, you’d expect some character to show its age and to me, that makes it all the more desirable. Amazingly, the rims have not a spot of rust on them and the spokes themselves are even clean. What strikes me is the unique lug setup on the frame. It’s almost as if it were built using steel sleeves attached to the horizontal tubes, slipped over the steer tube and down tube and welded into place. Though not traditional fillet-brazing, it gives the bike a unique look that a lot of the nicer European bikes just cannot meet.

For me, and definitely for my friend Luis here, this bike is perfect for getting around town and getting rad. Bring on the next tweed ride and we’re in business. Thanks, bro.

Brooks Saddle

Brooks B17 Saddle

Brooks B17 Saddle

The perfect saddle is indeed hard to find. Most people will think that if their saddle is uncomfortable, they should get a wider one. Or one with springs. Or one with gel. Or one with an animal print cover. What it really boils down to is a misinterpretation of how bicycle-saddle comfort actually works. It’s not the width of your ass that determines comfort. It’s the width of certain bones at the bottom of your pelvis. Your ass bones. More specifically, the ischium. Those are the ring-like bones that receive the pressure when you are seated. It’s the spacing of these bones and how that width correlates to the saddle that determines comfort. You may have seen those types of saddles that have a hole, groove or split down the middle? Those are designed to focus more pressure on the ischium and less pressure on your taint.

So when people ask me why I choose to ride on a narrow leather saddle instead of a cushy, gel-filled, synthetic-material one. I say, because it eventually forms itself into the shape of my ass-bones. A leather saddle, like the Brooks B17 pictured above, will form itself to you, giving you the most support where it is needed and relaxing the pressure where it not needed. It is not just a hipster accessory. Brooks has been around for a long time and their stuff is great. Getting a wider saddle often creates more problems, some of them circulatory. The word thrombosis comes to mind. The wider the saddle, the more likely the back of your thighs will receive regular pressure. There are arteries and all sorts of things in that part of your leg that really could do without that kind of pressure. Imagine sitting on the edge of a chair for an hour, letting it dig into the backs of your legs. That’s what a saddle that is too wide can do to you.

So dear reader, it doesn’t matter how wide your giant ass is. It’s where your ischium is likely to receive the most support that will make you comfortable. Invest the money in a good quality saddle that fits you best. Don’t skimp.