Sunday, March 1, 2009

Personal Rides: Bridgestone RB-1





The year was 1991 and I was itchy for a new road bike. My early ‘80s Raleigh Competition was riding just fine, but hey – when duty calls you answer. It was my duty to upgrade to a spiffy new road machine. The search began to replace the Raleigh with something new.

This was back in the day of dual incomes and no kids, so I was ready to pluck down some serious dough. Being bike magazine fanatic and bike shop wanderer – I had a few bikes on the list. Maybe a Bianchi, Davidson or even a Fat City Cycles Slim Chance. I visited a few shops and test rode some bikes. The chances of finding a Slim Chance to test ride was, uh – slim. I remember the sales guy at Elliott Bay Cycles not letting me test ride a Davidson on the floor – strange and a potential lost sale.

I did ride a Bianchi or two, plus some others – including a Bridgestone RB-1. The RB-1 felt great, but I thought it was too cheap – since some of the frames alone I was looking cost more. Over a few weeks, I test rode the RB-1 a few times – once back to back with a nice Bianchi. No contest, the Bridgestone rode better and felt fantastic. I plopped down the $750 (or so) for the RB-1, thinking I’d upgrade some parts later. I was working in Everett (that be Washington) at the time and scored the Bridgestone from Bicycle Center in Everett.

Bridgestone USA in that era, as many bike geeks know, was run by Grant Petersen - and they put out bikes that avoided current fads and just plain worked. They weren’t afraid to break up component groups, so they cherry picked parts from various manufactures and made some cool bikes. The RB-1 was a perfect example with a Sugino crank, Shimano derailleurs and hubs, Avocet 28c tires, Ritchey stem – and of course, a lugged steel frame.

I swapped the Avocet saddle out instantly for a Selle Italia Turbo model – but otherwise rode the bike stock. There was no need to upgrade anything on it. A few years later, I did install some wider Scott handlebars and Shimano bar end shifters, just to experiment a bit – and eventually swapped out the pedals out for clipless. Otherwise, it remained as spec’d by Bridgestone.

Since I sold the Raleigh after picking up the Bridgestone, the RB-1 was my only road bike from 1991 through 1997 and it was used quite a bit. I did some commuting on it, but it was mostly the weekend road bike. During that era, I did way more mountain biking, but did some road riding as well. The two STP (Seattle to Portland) rides in ‘91 and ‘93 stand out in my mind. The STP is a Northwest classic recreational ride that everyone should do at least once. 200 miles, completed in one day or two, your choice. My choice was two days and I felt incredibly good on the '93 ride and cranked both days. The '91 and '93 rides were done with some fun coworkers and created some lasting memories.


In 1997 I bought a Ibis Hakkalugi and semi-retired the RB-1. The Ibis took over as the bike of choice for road riding and the RB-1 lived mostly on the trainer in the garage. In 2004 I dusted off the RB-1, installed some new Ritchey 28c tires I had stored and the Bridgestone saw daylight once again. It was kind of a revelation after not using it for real rides for a few years - it felt great. I rotated it back into the commuting schedule and put some miles on it. The RB-1 frame and fork have a nice feel, then combined with the 28c tires - a sweet ride. It's a very cool bike and now a cult item - as is most items from Bridgestone, now that Bridgestone USA is no more.

In 2006 the upgrade bug hit again and I started test riding some modern road bikes. To show how well the Bridgestone rides - that old bike holds it own against modern stuff. Probably not a fair comparison, but I took a quick ride on a $4000+ Serotta titanium bike and it didn't feel that much nicer then the RB-1. For awhile I considered upgrading the RB-1 with STI and newer wheels. I didn't want to deal with spreading the RB-1 frame to 130 mm spacing to accept a newer rear hub - plus the bike is cooler in its retro state. I did wind up buying an Ibis Silk Carbon, the lure of carbon was too strong (sorry Grant). I didn't want to like carbon, but they ride damn nice - no denying it.

I still ride the RB-1 occasionally and enjoy it. If I were to get a custom steel frame built, would bring the RB-1 to the builder and say "copy this", just with 130 mm spacing for modern equipment. For an 18+ year old, mid priced, production bike - a pretty strong compliment.

1991 turned out to be the "Year of Bridgestone" for the Dan O estate. Besides the RB-1, I bought a MB-Zip and a MB-3 for my wife that year. I was a Bridgestone fan for sure and even though Grant Petersen's current bikes from Rivendell are not totally my "cup of tea", so to speak - I have a huge amount of respect for what he's contributed to the bike world.

Pictures posted are of my RB-1 in 1991 or so. It looks the same today, minus the goofy bar tape (now black) and sports clipless pedals and the bar end shifters previously mentioned. I also included the RB-1 page from the 1991 Bridgestone catalog and a magazine ad from that time. Bridgestone had some great no nonsense advertising as well as great bikes.

Thanks for reading and keep riding - old or new bikes.

2 comments:

  1. Gorgeous Bike Dan,..really nice!

    Bas

    www.old-metal.blogspot.com

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  2. A lot of great experience there. Sometimes a product just wears like an old shoe—the kind of thing you just never want to give up. Sounds like Bridgestone has been just that for you.

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