I’ve been riding my accidentally acquired 1989 Bridgestone MB3, and my newly built up 2018 Rivendell Appaloosa for about the same amount of time, over the same terrain, having put several hundred miles on each bike. That’s enough saddle time to work out kinks as well as develop riding preferences. I put together both bikes earlier this year, using vintage components, with an emphasis on SunTour. The MB3 was a complete bike as purchased, so I re-used the components that I liked such as the Ritchey/Shimano wheelset and the Deore derailleurs, but replaced the cantilever brakes, levers and bar-mount shifters with SunTour components. I also set aside the Deore bio-pace triple crankset and replaced it with a drilled Stronglight 99 double. The Appaloosa was purchased as a frame, along with a new 650b wheelset. The rest of the Appaloosa build consists entirely of vintage SunTour components, with the exception of the porteur bars and brake levers – both supplied by Velo Orange.
Since both bikes shared the lavender anodized Nitto stem (now on the Appaloosa), as well as the creative influence of Grant Peterson, it seems fair to make a comparison between these two machines, separated by three decades. I built up both bikes to serve as daily Pdx commuters on my hilly route, and to be errand bikes and grocery getters. I have also used both bikes for weekend jaunts over mixed terrain.
It’s nice to have these frame specs for comparison purposes. Rivendell specs do not mention wheelbase length, whereas the Bridgestone specs refer you to a separate table. Wheelbase length is one of the most significant differences between the two bikes – 104 cm vs 112 cm. If you need to haul your bike inside a building or home, the 112 cm wheelbase on the Rivendell makes for a difficult task involving bashing the bike against stair landings and hallways. But, if you live in a Downton Abby mansion with wide staircase landings and huge entryways – the Rivendell is for you!
Brake bridge and stay clearance are not reported. Standover height, the most misused and misunderstood spec of all time is provided by Bridgestone as well as Rivendell, failing to mention that top tube length is the correct way to determine the best bike for your human body. I have also noticed that while early Rivendell frames sported Peterson’s much touted and desirable low BB heights, modern Rivendells have the most negligible BB drop – 66 mm for my 51 cm Appaloosa frame. That is the kind of drop that would qualify a vintage bike for a 650b conversion, except that the Appy is already designed for 650b!
Both bikes use the vintage Suntour cantilevers that I installed. The Appy has the champagne colored version, while the Bridgestone has the XC Pro black model. Both brakes worked well once the intital set-up torture was complete.
I set up the gearing on the Bridgestone to be a little lower than the Rivendell, as I thought I would use it for more serious hauls of goods and groceries. The gear inch range for each is as follows: Bridgestone: 28 – 87 gear inches; Appaloosa: 31 – 104 gear inches. I haven’t used the big gear on the Appy, and that means that it might be better to alter the gearing down a bit. Both gear inch ranges are adequate for the riding I enjoy. So in that way both bikes are comparable.
The ergonomics of both bikes are very similar, with an upright position and easily accessible shifting – SunTour barends on the Rivendell and SunTour bar mount shifters on the Bridgestone.
Both bikes are also similar in weight – with the Rivendell at 29 lbs and the Bridgestone at 28 lbs. While I love riding light weight machines, I know that for commuter bikes it is difficult to achieve weight savings. A bike that is set up to haul stuff can easily weigh 28 – 30 lbs. For me, 29 lbs is the cut off point for enjoyment. So, both bikes are also comparable in the weight categaory.
I love riding both bikes, but the Bridgesonte MB3 edges out the Rivendell. It is a very nice handling machine – more responsive than the Appy, and the shorter wheelbase makes it easier to accomplish the tasks that I require: moving the bike onto Max trains, hauling it up stairwells, and riding it over a variety of terrains. The MB3 is actually slower than the Appy, so that is my caveat: different criteria determine different results. The Rivendell Appaloosa is a strong, relaxed monster of a bike, but it is also a very comfortable and competent machine. The Bridgestone MB3 is a wonderful example of the quality and riding characteristics that were unique to the 1980’s but may still apply to today. Vintage Mountain Bikes make for very nice modern day commuters, and the Bridgestone MB3 is no exception.
Nice review, I have an old 1992 Trek 950 set very similar to your Bridgestone. I also have a Velo Orange Campeur. Both bikes use 26″ wheels and I love riding both but I feel my old Trek 950 is a bit better because I can put on wider tires and I also have zero toe overlap….My Campeur’s toe overlap only bothers me very slightly so it’s really no big deal but I do hit my front fenders once in a while if I do not pay attention. Both bikes are great for commuting, touring and riding on dirt/gravel roads and trails. But again my Trek 950 can easily be set up with tires over 2 inches wide! The Campeur can not…still can’t go wrong with either bikes….
Agreed, Bob. One thing I wanted to also mention is the locked in value of older steel framed bicycles – whether from 25 years ago or more. These quality frames, such as your Trek, will last many generations and provide equal and sometimes better ride quality than modern steel frames, even those set up to be all rounders such as the Campeur, which surprising has toe overlap! For a fraction of the cost of a new frame and components, one can enjoy a vintage bike for a lifetime of use.
To be honest my Campeur’s toe overlap does exist but I can live with it and not worry about it too much. But my 2011 52cm Handsome the Devil, 1989 Trek 420 and 1000….they are redicules on the overlaps. They are downright dangerous! My old bikes that I rode back in the 60’s and 70’s had zero overlap…also my old 1989 Peuoet and 1973 Raliegh Sport 3 speed has none too, even with fenders on! Small frames bikes usually will have this issues…too bad……
Nola, I really enjoyed this review . I agree that the comparison is very fair and , from a vintage enthusiest point of view , the synopsis somewhat expected. I am curious, how did the Cyclone derailluer compare to the Shimano ? I have used the Cyclone on my racers and really liked them.
This application with a broader range of gearing is different than mine and just wondering how an older derailluer can measure up to something a bit more modern. Also , I love the drillium on the Stronglight crankset , nice touch! Ride on , Joe
Hi Joe, the Cyclone is working perfectly with my 8 speed cassette on the Appaloosa, with its adjuster screws dialed all the way out. It works as well as any modern component, most certainly, and is a nice looking piece of equipment, as are many of the higher end SunTour components. The surprise on the Bridgestone was how well the bar mount SunTour shifters work – they have a very subtle feel compared with their Deore counterparts – and are easy to micro adjust. The drilled Stronglight crankset on the Bridgestone has drawn some fun comments and smiles!
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Thanks for doing this lovely comparrison! This post was very interesting as I own an 89 mb-2 that now has a hunqapillar fork. I appreciate your time taken to flesh out all the differences and similarities between the two! This is also my first comment on any of your posts but I thought you might like to know that I have been following and reading your work for some time now! Cheers 🙂
All my bicycles allow fenders or not, racks or not, wider tires or not. Just depends what dream I’m chasing at the moment. Got rid of my true mtb bike several years ago in favor of road bikes set up for dirt road riding. I use 35mm to 40mm tires. I don’t miss my mtb bike as long as I can run 40mm tires. Can’t go gonzo with my present dirt/gravel bikes but I don’t mtb the extremely rough terrain anymore. I use nothing but older steel frames and forks. The value can’t be beat by costlier bikes. Since I love 1010 mild steel frames as much as chrome moly frames and forks I ride both types. 1010 steel frames and forks are heavier but I’m in it for the exercise anyway. I loved your comparison of two bicycles I like.
Thanks. Ride on!
“For a fraction of the cost of a new frame and components, one can enjoy a vintage bike for a lifetime of use.” This is what I keep telling myself with every new vintage bike I acquire lol. I am still in search of an 80s MTB with all the good bits, that fits and needs some TLC and can therefore be had for a decent price . I rode a early 90s Bianchi Ibex for a while but could never get the fit dialed in just right.
Hope you find your dream vintage MTB!