It’s been a typical gloomy winter in Portland this year, with plenty of grey, stormy days. Normally I ride my winter bike – a 1987 Panasonic MC7500 which I converted to a commuter bike quite a while back. But this winter, the bike just didn’t speak to me as it has in the past, and I’ve decided to sell it and let someone else enjoy its funky delights. I had previously stripped the Bridgestone MB-3 bike down to the frame a while back as well, as the build I did at the time also didn’t really stick. I guess I am fickle!
So, for this iteration of the 1989 Bridgestone MB3, I decided to focus carefully on what would make the bike a keeper for me. As I’ve aged, I find that I want lower gearing, and I’ve also come to prefer index-style rear cassettes combined with friction shifting. For commuting and roaming weekend rides I love the silent and immediate shifting this set up offers.
Of course, that meant using some NOS Suntour shifters mounted on V-O’s thumbies, which allow you to mount any brand of shifters so you can be as creative as you like (unlike Paul’s thumbies which are brand specific). I also used a new V-O Tourist bar, which has a nice shape without a huge amount of rise. For this build I did not cut the bars down because I wanted a little more room in the grip area.
I also used some NOS Suntour brake levers that came complete with the original cables and special ferrules. These brakes have reach adjustment and are spring loaded, with a comfortable cover over the lever portion. Very nice.
Continuing on with my Suntour NOS theme I used the Suntour XC cantilevers which I had used on the original build. The set up for these is a bit of a learning curve, as the spring tension is adjustable on only one side. What I’ve learned is that positioning the brake arm on the adjustable side so that it matches where the other non adjustable side falls is the quickest way to get the tension on both sides to be equal. Once properly set up the brakes are not grabby and easy to modulate. For the rear hanger, I used a model that has an angle adjustment screw which really helps with setting up cantis and centerpulls. It is a very short hanger, which works very well with smaller frames, allowing more cable travel from the straddle cable. You generally need at least 20mm of travel, but I’ve got lots more than that by using this shorter hanger.
At this point, my love affair with Suntour had to end. I had originally thought about using some NOS BL Black derailleurs that I had in my collection, but they did not work well with my chosen 8 speed 12-34 cassette. So, I went with the excellent offerings from Shimano: a new long cage Deore rear derailleur mated to a NOS 105 derailleur up front. The crankset is a new V-O 46/30 double. This gives me a gear inch range of 22-95.
The wheelset is one that I built a while back – Shimano Ultegra hubs laced to Mavic X221 rims. I’m trying out these Schwalbe Kojak 35 mm tires, which are tread-less. They are designed as a road tire, but with extra flat protection for commuting. They are lightweight at 295 grams each. And they roll very well, a bit faster and quieter than the Pasela’s I usually use for commuting duty. So far, I really like them which is amazing as I usually have nothing good to say about Schwalbe tires.
This model Bridgestone was built with Ishiwata triple butted 4130 Cro-Mo tubes, with a Cro-Mo unicrown fork. The frame is lugged and has a couple of degrees of slope in the top tube, enough to allow a large enough head tube for lugs in this small framed bike. The understated (for the 80’s) black and grey paint is still in excellent condition and the bike’s logos are vibrant and intact. There are two bottle cage mounts, as well as fender eyelets and rack mounts on the seat stays.
I decided to finally use this wooden fender set that was given to me many years ago. I never had the right project for them so they sat unused in my fender drawer. The normally torturous process involved in setting up fenders and racks was no less so with this bike. The wooden fenders have an unusual stay attachment with a shouldered washer that was difficult to master. The fenders were originally designed for 700c wheels, so I’m letting them bend into place before I cut down the projectile-like stays to the right size. Likewise, the rear rack required a bit of problem solving as I wanted to use this classic Italian Vetta rack with its single brake bridge stay. Unfortunately the straddle cable for the cantilever brakes landed right in the path of the brake bridge stay, so I got creative and found a way to use the bike’s seat tube rack braze-ons with this vintage rack.
The relatively short chain stays on this bike (42.5 cm) meant that I needed to use a narrow pannier to avoid heel strikes when pedaling. These older and very inexpensive Avenir bags came to the rescue. Although small, they can hold more than it would seem at first glance, so I plan to use them throughout the winter, as they are also reasonably waterproof.
On the bike’s first test ride I had an unpleasant experience. While riding through Mt. Tabor park, an unleashed Pitbull escaped from the off-leash area, charged toward me with bared teeth and proceeded to latch on to my ankle as I was pedaling uphill. After kicking him off (along with various shouted expletives), the dog then went for my wrist and at this point I had to stop pedaling to avoid crashing. Fortunately, the dog’s apologetic owner arrived on the scene and finally got the dog leashed. Because it was a rainy day I was wearing rain booties over my shoes, plus rain tights, and thick wool socks and so thankfully I had no broken skin on my ankle or wrist, and no trip to the emergency room was required. The bike performed very well through this emergency and I did not crash.
Is this bike a keeper? So far I’m thrilled with the silent, stable ride, the smooth shifting, and the lower gearing for hill-climbing. The bike looks beautiful and has already garnered compliments. Hopefully I’ve landed on a winter bike that will keep me going for the years ahead. We’ll see!