The part of industrial giant Bridgestone that makes bikes, started doing so in 1949. Some were called Kabuki, some called Anchor (pretty crappy name for a bike I figure), and today they still make track bikes for Japanese Keirin (track) racing. However, it’s the mountain bikes from the mid 80’s on that I really care about.
I read on a forum not too long ago that even when new, Bridgestones were old-fashioned. Once my jimmies were sufficiently un-rustled, I realized that this was pretty accurate. They never made a mountain bike from aluminum and they were really late to the suspension party. In 1994, I’d guess they realized they were making bikes that just weren’t going to be popular, and decided to pull the plug on North American operations, rather than get modern.
What was unique about them, was product manager Grant Petersen. At this time, what a lot of companies did, was simply buy a bunch of Shimano DX component groups, and a bunch of XT groups, put them on two frames, and there was two price points done. The reason for this was the discount Shimano offered for buying the entire group. And we’re not just talking brakes, and front derailleurs, but even the little plastic guide for the derailleur cable that goes under the bottom bracket.
Petersen didn’t like this. he wanted to pick and choose from all the parts on the market. He liked the Shimano DX derailleur, but would rather have Dia-Compe brakes and Sansin hubs. So there goes his discount. This made the bikes much harder to spec, and very possible more expensive. Of course Petersen would argue they were much simpler, more elegant, and just plain better than a cookie-cutter from another company.
Remember that in ’92 and ’93 what was sexy was a GT Zaskar or a Yeti A.R.C. Also Rock Shox and 8 speed RapidFire drivetrains. Bridgestone went the other way. In 1992, their catalogs dropped colour photos even – instead featuring drawings of their bikes and parts, and looking like a catalog from 1932. It even had descriptions and drawing on how sand-casting of parts was done.
It must have seemed like alchemy to the average bike buyer – though the average bike buyer probably didn’t get that far in the catalog. Which is too bad, because their catalogs were far more than glossy advertisments for their bikes. Other than learning about sand casting, you could find out how to properly tighten a wheel quick release, how to get a bike that fits properly, learn trail etiquette, join IMBA, and read reviews of bike magazines.
I love this. No bike company would dare do this now.
In 1994, they finally put a suspension fork on the MB-2. The top of the line MB-1 though, got a Softride stem (paired with a gorgeous box-crown fork though) instead. Sadly, you can almost sense the defeat in the text. They knew they were beaten, but they still tried to make sound like Shimano’s STX was something they wanted to put on a bike.
The beautiful Enamel Blue over Oyster Gray MB-5 pictured above was the first real mountain bike I ever owned. I rode it into the ground and loved every minute. I’ve seen maybe two for sale since then, so instead to fulfill my youth recapturing requirments, I scored the MB-0. The “Zip” as it was known, was the ultimate expression of Petersen’s parts pickiness. It featured no Shimano parts at all, and was made in limited quantities.
Bridgestone just may be the quintessential retro-cult bike, but the cult isn’t all that big, so if you’re interested, they’re not too hard to find. Although, there are currently none for sale in Alberta on Kijiji. And there aren’t that many on eBay either…
So as I was saying, they’re crazy rare, so go ahead and make me an offer on the Zip.
Now you know just a little bit more about vintage mountain bikes.
By the way, if you want to learn anything about cycling, you want to go to Sheldon Brown’s website. His site is what my site aspires to be. A simply brilliant bicycle guy that is sadly no longer with us.