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.
1989 Bridgestone Frame Geometry Table
1989 Bridgestone Specs
Rivendell Appaloosa frame geometry
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.
SunTour Cyclone rear derailleur on the Appaloosa
Vintage SunTour Sprint Crankset – 48/39 – on the Appaloosa
Stronglight 99 with drilled 42/32 rings – on the Bridgestone Mb3 build
Original Shimano Deore 7 speed cassette and rear derailleur – Bridgestone MB3
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.