I want to ride my bicycle

January 29, 2003 — 10 Comments

This is my bike. It’s a strange bike and it’s a rare bike. It’s a 1993 55cm Bridgestone XO-1. It’s a collector’s item. And for the last two years, it has been criminally underused.

Bridgestone is a bicycle company which no longer exists in the country (they still make bikes in Japan). It was run in the U.S. by a man named Grant Peterson, a man who embodies pretty much everything I value in bicycles, chiefly the concept of functionality.  The bicycle racing world and the mountain biking world have succumbed in many ways to the same hypermarketing which makes the S.U.V. so popular. Titanium bikes, bikes with dual shocks, bikes with hydraulic disc brakes, bikes with a gazillion gears…none of these things are necessary (or even practical), but it’s becoming harder and harder to walk into a bicycle store and find anything but these features on all the bikes. Bridgestone lovers are often wrongly accused of being luddites or “retro”freaks. I think we’re open to all bicycle technology, but we’re skeptical about the need for much of it, especially since the newer stuff sucks you into a neverending upgrade cycle.

My bike is made of steel, and the steel tubes are joined by lugs. There’s an artistry to building a bike with lugs, but it’s a functional art. It’s a strange bike because it has roadbike geometry but rides on 26” wheels, which are most commonly found on mountain bikes because they are stronger than 700c wheels you find on roadbikes.  1993 was the only year in which Bridgestone spec’ed cantilever brakes on this bike (cantilever brakes are desirable for cyclotouring), it was the only year in which this bike was painted pumpkin orange, and it was Bridgestone’s last year of existence in this country.  Only 1,000 of these bikes were made, and there are probably only about 300-400 of those left, if that.  Finding one in even mediocre condition in the proper size is about as likely as being struck by lightning. I looked for three months and found one…my size, in mint condition, for not a lot of money…for less than any other bike I’ve ever bought. To say I was lucky is an understatement.

I built the bike up from scratch.  It took me five months. I built the wheels from a handful of spokes, a couple of rims, and some really nice hubs.  I scoured every corner of the web for parts that no longer exist, parts that are nostalgically remembered for their elegant and simple but still utilitarian design. The first time I rode this bike was in Santa Cruz.  I finished putting it together, put it in a box, and took it with me the first time I flew out here to look for housing.

During my first year in Santa Cruz, I put roughly 5,250 miles on my bike. It sounds like a lot, but it isn’t.  Think about how many miles a year that you put on your car just running errands around town. Then just think of riding a bike instead of driving a car. Still, it’s probably 5,200 miles more than most people put on their bikes. The year before, I put about 7,800 miles on one of my other bikes meandering around Maine and biking across Illinois.

I rode to school almost everyday that first year. It’s a short ride to school, about 2.5 miles (4km) between my house and most of the places on campus I need to go, but about 2.49 miles of that ride is uphill.  Up a big hill.  A mountain, even.  After getting to school, riding between classes, and riding back, I’d put about 7-10 miles on my bike.  I used to be able to ride to the top of campus in 14 minutes. For me the triumph in that is not that it approaches Lance Armstrong speed (it doesn’t), but that it often beat the amount of time it took to ride a bus the same distance.

We have a pretty good bus system here; every bus in the county is equipped with bike racks.  I don’t seem to recall the resolve I must have had that first year when I biked up the mountain instead of loading my bike onto the bus and biking down the mountain like most people do.

So, my first year, 5,250 miles.  How many miles have I put on my bike in the last two years? Just 1,049.  This decrease in mileage is evinced not only on my odometer, but on my body and my constitution as well.

Why have I told you all of this? I tell you these things because I’m going to make a point of biking again this year. So far: 14 miles. 

I tell you these things because I re-realized while biking to school the other day that god damn, that’s a big mountain.

10 responses to I want to ride my bicycle

  1. Good for you Res

    I was contemplating confiscating your XO if you didn’t pay her more attention!

    I have been going through a similar biking renaissance after a period of unhealthy abstenence. Living in London for 5 years made me reject the bike as a viable form of transport. Crap weather, Medaeval streets, modern traffic and 1950s diesel bus engines don’t make for cycling joy (as well as the fact that my bike got stolen within a month of being there, I think by my landlord…).

    Moving to Northampton, MA has changed all that. Forced non-employment and proximity to all kinds of dream cycling landscape have seen me take up the wrench and allen keys anew.

    Those hills ARE big, but unlike cars, the more you ride up them, the easier they get.


  2. I don’t bike, but I love walking, and two years ago got a training running distance of six miles before a bone bruise on the ball of my foot gave me an excuse to stop.  Why I envy your biking about Santa Cruz is not about biking per se, it is about yesterday being the first day in two weeks where the temperature got above +8 F.  0 F and below were not uncommon temperatures, then there is this wind chill stuff.  I envy those in Hawaii more, but I envy you.

  3. It’s always good to read from another guy riding on the side of the road. I have been bike commuting for about ten years here in the Sacramento Valley and volunteer for an bike advocacy group here in town, and I too put in about 5,000 miles a year. I have ridden all sorts of bikes, from the abominable to the sublime; I am fortunate enough that my wife let me buy a good solid Cannondale mountain bike for my current commute, which is a pretty brutal urban jaunt (10 miles each way).

    If you get a chance, check out my bike blabber some time: http://www.blab-o-rama.com/stories/aug02/082702_A.htm

    Nice site, by the way.

  4. i have a bridgestone mb-5 i just bought at a garage sale. I am starting to look for a few parts i need tire,s chain , could you tell me what they cost when they were new.

  5. I’m selling my Bridgestone XO-1, 1993 model….what should I ask for it? It is in excellent condition, all original parts.

  6. Chris:  What size is your XO-1??  I’m interested!


  7. I’ll pay double what hel’ll pay- what shape is it in?  Orange?  I’d offer you around $1000 if it’s in good shape.

  8. Hi, Ia m actually looking to sell my green Bstone xo 2. It is old and I love her, but I need a more girly bike, cos my back kinda hurts on this one. I want her to go to someone who will appreciate her. Contact me if you can suggesst what I should do to find a worthy buyer. Thanks

    agnieszka.kaj at gmail.com

  9. tiffany Longin May 12, 2008 at 11:58 am

    I own a cream 1992 XO-1. I believe its a 55 frame size, but not sure. I am only 5’ 5” with a 30 inch inseam.  I don’t really know how much it is worth. I had been told by my bike shop that there was a sort of cult following for this bike. Now with some rezearch I see that it is true. I needed a bike for my first sprint distance tri-athalon because a friend traded it to him for payment and we couldn’t afford any other bike. My husband changed the handle bars, so the brakes and handle bars are kinda weird. I don’t even know where to start for selling this bike. So I decided to post this on a couple wesites and see what happens. I now know that some go for as much as $1,000 in mint condition. There are a few scratches and nicks in the paint but overall it’s in pretty good shape. Al the other parts are original except for the brakes and handlebars. I belive it is a 55, the smallest frame they made.

    Contact me if you are interested tiffany_jade4@hotmail.com

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