1989 Bridgestone MB3 vs. 2018 Rivendell Appaloosa

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.

A Portland Sunday on a Bridgestone MB3

My winter/errand bike has been a well used 1987 Panasonic MC 7500. I bought that bike as a frame and fork many years ago, and then built it into a Portland workhorse. Rigid lugged steel vintage “mountain bikes” serve as excellent platforms for conversion to a sturdy errand/winter/commuter bike.

The Bridgestone MB3 frame sat in my shop for a few months, as I had purchased it only for its lavender Nitto stem to use on my newly built up Rivendell Appaloosa.  Well, sort of but not really.  The Bridgestone frame was in great shape, and it kept staring at me every time I loaded another bike into the work stand.  Finally, I gave in, transferring many of the Panasonic components, which I disassembled, over to the MB3.  The build was pretty straightforward, and would have been completed much sooner had I not decided to use Suntour cantilevers, whose set up required more time.  Finally, the bike was ready for a few assignments.

Denison Farms Organic Veggies at the Montavilla Farmers Market

A happy classical guitarist at the Montavilla Farmers Market

Veggies loaded into my Jandd grocery pannier.

First, I headed over to the Montavilla Farmers Market.  This weekly Sunday event features an extravaganza of luscious fruits and veggies, homemade honey, jams and jellies, along with flower bouquets, wines, breads and baked goods, and some mellow classical guitar to accompany your shopping experience.

“Fancy Cycling”

Up and over Mt. Tabor

After dropping the veggies off at my house to stay cool on this hot day, I pedaled over Mt. Tabor and headed down to my local Powell’s bookstore on Hawthorne.  While there, I discovered this 2013 reprint of a 1901 cycling manual by Isabel Marks.  Major score!  The book contains instructions and photos on how to do some “fancy cycling” by performing tricks on your bike.  It looks like I have lots of work to do, as my track stands are not done while seated backwards in the saddle, one of the many tricks illustrated in the book, with period photos as illustrations of each maneuver (more on this book in a subsequent post).

The Bridgestone frame is a bit different from the Panasonic MC 7500 in a few ways:  the Bridgestone has slacker angles, shorter chainstays, a shorter wheelbase, and a longer top tube.  The Panasonic is a classic diamond frame, whereas the Bridgestone has a slightly sloping top tube.  While the Bridgestone is made from triple butted Ishiwata tubing, the Panasonic’s Tange Prestige double butted tubing feels a bit more lively.  Even so, both bikes are comparable and nice to ride, never feeling bogged down while climbing.  Below are photos of the components I selected:

Vintage Suntour bar mount ratcheting friction shifters

Suntour XC low profile cantilevers.

I re-used the original Shimano Deore derailleurs and the 12-28 Shimano 7 speed cassette.

I discarded the Biopace crankset, and replaced it with this modified Stronglight 99 with drilled rings. The crankset was originally a triple 52/42/32, but I removed the big ring and converted it to a double 42/32. I used the original Deore bottom bracket and front derailleur, and it somehow all worked out well.

Original Ritchey Vantage wheels on Shimano Deore hubs.  The wheels needed re-tensioning and truing, and the hubs were rebuilt and now spin smoothly.

Northroad bars with Suntour levers and shifters. The Suntour levers offer easily adjustable brake reach – a nice feature for riders with smaller hands.  A Cardiff leather saddle is shown in the background.

The 1989 Bridgestone MB3 as converted to a Portland commuter

While I’m not sure yet whether I will replace my Panasonic MC 7500 with this bike, I have enjoyed my experience so far.  The bike received some nice comments today from passersby.  It’s a good looking bike, and as configured performs just as I would expect from a quality steel frame and excellent vintage components.

Buying a Bike for its Parts

Late 1980’s Deore thumb shifter with optional friction mode.

Vintage bicycle parts are often hard to come by.  While I have decided not to participate in the current trend of dismantling and re-selling vintage bikes and parts on eBay, sometimes buying a bike for parts is the only way you can acquire what you are looking for.

1989 Bridgestone MB3 – with non-garish 80’s color scheme

So, almost by accident, I purchased a 1989 Bridgestone MB3 in order to harvest the parts I wanted: Deore friction/SIS thumb shifters, Deore derailleurs, and a very unusual lavender anodized Nitto dirt drop style stem and Nitto bar (see below).  I also noted that the bike’s wheelset looked pretty good – Deore hubs, laced with Wheelsmith spokes to a Ritchey Vantage rim.

When the bike arrived, I was a little taken aback by the quality of this frameset:  triple butted Ishiwata oversize tubes, and forged drop outs with eyelets.  These features, combined with the two bottle cage mounts and rear seat stay rack mounts, make for a versatile frame.  The secret is out that lugged steel mountain bike frames make great Portland winter commuters.  I think my 1987 Panasonic MC-7500 is feeling a little threatened right now.  I had planned on selling or donating the MB3 frame, but now I am not so sure.

The Shimano Deore groupset dates to 1989, except for the shifters which have a 1987 date code.  The Nitto bar is not original to the bike, and is in as new condition.  The Ritchey wheelset turned out to be a real bonus.  With a simple hub overhaul and minor truing, this wheelset is as nice as any 26″ example out there.

Nitto lavender anodized stem

Appaloosa color scheme

The parts I wanted have exceeded my expectations, with the lavender anodized Nitto stem being the absolute gem in the group.  It is shown pictured above as an idea for the stem on my new Rivendell Appaloosa.  The stem color picks up the brown/purple accent colors in the paint scheme, which is just what I hoped for.