Guest Article: The Prodigal RB-1

1993 Bridgestone RB-1
The RB-1

Pineapple Bob? @cyclops goes deep with this reference. Pineapple Bob was a mystical figure in American cycling. He was not known as a racer, more a California bike guru of unknown qualifications and ethnic origins. Bridgestone was a unique brand also of unknown ethnic origins, at least to me. It was not European, it didn’t sound Japanese or Taiwanese. It seemed Californian: a melting pot of components and design ideas. We can always depend on @cyclops to both enlighten and mystify us. His opening salvo of a guest article raised more questions than it answered; specifically, the coupling of Playboy swag and teddy bears in his photo. I’m still troubled by it.

VLVV, Gianni

A couple of weeks ago (the day after my birthday) the Prodigal RB-1 returned home after 15+ years of seeking his own way. While the original Prodigal Son found himself wishing that he was eating as well as the (unclean) swine he was caring for, my Prodigal seems none the worse for wear. Along the way he has acquired a crappy tape job (though the Lizard Skin tape is new and salvageable), a set of Shimano 105 pedals and a Bontrager saddle, but  still retains the American Classic seat pin that I remember installing. The STI shifters are an enigma however. I distinctly remember upgrading from the Shimano 600 downtube shifters to 600 STI shifters but they seem to have morphed into 105s. There is a chance that my memory has been corrupted by some unclean living back in the 90s.

What’s the big deal about a run-of-the-mill Bridgestone? When considered with the other “top-of-the-line” bikes in its day, at first glance, it doesn’t really seem that “top-of-the-line”. Nice Japanese Ishiwata tubes with a mishmash of parts like Shimano 600 shifters and derailleurs, Dia-Compe brakes, a Sugino gearset and Wolber rims laced up to nondescript hubs. No Dura Ace in sight and definitely not on par with, say, a Colnago handcrafted by Ernesto himself and hung with various Campagnolo Record accoutrements and Mavic hoops. But Bridgestone, and especially the RB-1, enjoy a sort of cult status among the retro-grouches that prefer throwing the leg over steel. There is a lot of history behind the acquisition of this particular steed.

The American face of Bridgestone was pretty much Grant Petersen* (*note references to “Pineapple Bob” in the linked article). If you are familiar with Grant Peterson, you know that he marches to the beat of a different drummer. While most top-of-the-line bikes were spec’d with either Dura Ace or Record, Grant was all about value. He was known for “weird” spec in that if a particular component had  special merit other than it being best-in-class, he might just go for it. Especially when value was thrown into the equation. Eccentricity also seemed to play a part in the bikes that came across the ocean from Japan – moustache handlebars anyone? If I remember correctly my RB-1 was a 1992. It was spec’d with Shimano 600 downtube shifters but this was right at the dawn of “brifters”. While Shimano STI shifters revolutionized the world of cog selection, there was the issue of the added weight. Does anybody remember seeing bikes in the pro peloton with a right brifter and a left D/T shifter? Rumor has it that my RB-1 was very nearly spec’d that way but evidently that was just a little too much for the Bridgestone brass to swallow, so they put the kibosh(i) on that notion. Besides, Grant was/is kind of a D/T shifters only kind of guy so the bike above ended up being a well -thought out conglomeration of quality parts selected for value and performance, durability, with nice lightweight tubes, as well as some influence and input from Richard Sachs!

I actually met Grant Petersen which brings us to the acquisition of the RB-1 in question. After getting a job at a bike shop and being taken under the wings of two of the most anal retentive bike mechanics in Portland, (they both owned their own Campagnolo tool sets, the ones in their own velvet lined wooden cases) and being introduced to such names as Eddy Merckx, Colnago, De Rosa, Fignon, etc, the Prodigal RB-1 was destined to lose his way. I had lost mine and found myself standing next to I-5 in Salem, Oregon with my thumb out and literally not a dime to my name. A couple of days later I ended up in San Leandro, California, home of Bridgestone USA. I walked into the front office and asked for a job. The receptionist gave me an application and a card with a familiar name on it. The name was that of the Bridgestone rep that used to service Oregon and Washington. He was really surprised and happy to see me but he said that they had no openings at the time. However, they did need somebody to put together all the bikes that they were taking to the upcoming InterBike show. I jumped at the opportunity and I was introduced to Pineapple Bob and we got busy. It only took two days for me and “Robert” to complete assembling the bikes so it was a short gig but the fruit of my labor was that I was allowed to buy an RB-1 for $314 +tax! Three hundred and fourteen freaking dollars for Bridgestone’s top of the line bike! I loved that bike and I rode it all over the western United States. I don’t know why I ever sold it but it has returned to its rightful place in the N+1 panoply at Cyclops Central.

Now the question is: what should I do with it? Should I just leave it as is (except maybe replacing the  saddle with something white, flat, and awesome and spinning some Look pedals onto the cranks)? Or do I restore it to original state and deep-six those 105 brifters? Or do I do what I fancy and add a modern take to the classic Euro-inspired angles and throw my Zipp 303 tubs and some Campag Super Record 11-speed bits on it? I could rebadge it as an RB-0 (zipp).

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64 Replies to “Guest Article: The Prodigal RB-1”

  1. @Cyclops You’re already in major danger of overmatching your shit with the same-color stem/seatpin crap you’re doing; stay away from an ugly painted groupset!

  2. An article and discussion that really has it all!

    Not only have I learned some more about Bridgestone’s, though I’m happy to say that with some personal reading education, I did know a fair amount of this about the RB-1s (though not nearly as much as you guys who owned them when they were new), we are also talking about fucking bonkers Lynch movies.

    No matter how many times I see Blue Velvet, nor how much older I am than when I first saw it, I’m still shocked.

  3. @scaler911

    the PDX Super Cogal fell apart (so be it, shit happens), but this article has me thinking; what about a Cogal where you have to show up on steel? No more than 9spd. Hmm.

    Yes. Sweet yes. Not that my current budgetatus status of n+1=1 for road bikes would allow it but maybe I can retro-fit my Rocky Mountain Blizzard for the occassion – cantis et al.

  4. If you REALLY want to do the right thing with your RB-1 give Grant a call at Rivendell Bicycle Works, tell him what you’ve got, and buy whatever he wants to sell you.  Just like in the ’90s, he still won’t steer your wrong.

  5. I very briefly met Grant when he chased me down on Skyline in the Berkeley hills after a protracted battle in the early 80’s, whereupon he credited me with being ‘very stimulating’. hahahahahahah. I’d been riding all those fine roads advertised in the ‘Roads to Ride’ topo books he put out with John Kluge, and later, when I realized who he was, rued my subsequent attempts to drop him again.

  6. @starclimber

    I very briefly met Grant when he chased me down on Skyline in the Berkeley hills after a protracted battle in the early 80″²s, whereupon he credited me with being ‘very stimulating’. hahahahahahah. I’d been riding all those fine roads advertised in the ‘Roads to Ride’ topo books he put out with John Kluge, and later, when I realized who he was, rued my subsequent attempts to drop him again.

    Obviously, I was in that area too.  There is some awesome bike shop in Berkeley that that I rode to from San Leandro and then I rode around the foothills a lot, out to Sunol, etc. but I wasn’t from the area and didn’t know many people so I rode around solo a lot.  I was only down there for about two months before I went back to Oregon.

  7. …what to put on it? depends…casual rider? period appropriate components; hard core tight paceline “A” group? Nothing would send the message that the frame and fork are still high performance and relevant than by putting cutting edge components on it! My favorite Road bike is my black 90 RB-1; and I have a just-delivered 6800 groupset for it. The gleaming grey also pays homage to the original Suntour GPX, as well (though silver needed for a red or yellow RB-1-hope you are listening Shimano). I am keeping it classy with real cork tape (shellac), Nitto/Dura Ace hidden bolt stem, oh, brandname escapes me-those stainless WB cages with copper buttons, and Guilles B Aspin Natural saddle, DA 6410 post. Yeah, show your vintage frame and fork are still able to perform with the slave labor made carbon bikes.

  8. @Cyclops

    So this is what I’m actually thinking of doing to the RB-1: I like the thought of more gears and modern wheels (think carbon clinchers) so I was thinking NOS Dura-Ace derailleurs with D/T shifters but I want to throw everybody a curve and go with some Simple Retrofriction shifters…

    …10sp in friction mode? Yeah, I’m that nuts. Also, these days I really dig the seat pin (and stem) being the same color as the frame. I just got a new set of decals from VeloCal and I think a repaint (in the original color) is in order. I also had some issues bitd with speed wobbles on this bike (but that was when I liked going 95+ kph downhill so it might not be an issue anymore) so I got a Ritchey Carbon Comp fork with a 1″³ steerer that will get painted to match.

    Yes yes yes.  Two of my six bikes now have friction shifters, including the rig I commute on, because they work and they are easy to adjust!  Plus, my ultra-slick Rivendell Roadeo has 10-spd DA index downtube shifters (bought new in 2012 – they still make them) paired with 2005-vintage DA derailleurs (when they were still shiny aluminum, none of that ano crap).  This latter is an amazing setup – light, precise, just a great drivetrain to ride.  I’d recommend it for your RB-1.  Wish I still had the MB-3 I owned when I was in college…

  9. I’ve got an RB-2 of 1990 vintage hanging in the garage. It doesn’t get the exercise it used to, but let’s just say Bridgestone was right. The frame makes tbe ride. These were versatile frames, and strong as all hell. I threw a set of Hutchinson cross tires on it (30s fit nicely!) and it goes like stink on a gravel trail. I’ve even used it to pull my kids’ trailer. Keep it original and just ride the hell out of it. Some of us will get it when we see the huge smile on your face.

  10. @Dan O I did the same thing as you BITD. I have a ’91 MB-0, a ’93 XO-1, and a ’93 RB-1/7. They all still get ridden, the XO daily and the RB weekly. The Zip is semi-retired but gets out once a year or so.

    I’m pretty retro-grouchy, so keep it basically period-correct and ride the bejeesus out of it, I say. No deep rims or that sort of nonsense. You will have a hard time finding a better-riding frame at any price, just enjoy it for what it is and was.

    My RB-1 is pictured here: http://stevetilford.com/2012/06/19/out-in-california/img_2474/. I also rode it on the SPY BWR this year; it rocked in the dirt but not so much on Double Peak.

    (Besides the snot on the top tube, you may notice the lack of paint on the rear dropouts. That’s because I broke one and had to braze in a new pair. Still haven’t painted them yet.)

  11. I am wondering what model of Bridgestone bike this is, does anyone on here recognize it?

    image 1

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