Friday, May 18, 2007

Bikes You're Sure to Like

Cycling as a lifestyle. That's how Bridgestone presented their bikes to the U.S. market. I heard it loud and clear. Pineapple Bob (pictured below) was the first cyclist in print to whom I could relate. He was just a guy, who rode his bike and happened to be featured in ads for a cool bike company. No endorsements, no multi-year, multi-million dollar racing sponsorship. Bridgestone was good like that because they featured real cyclists. Some I even knew: I recall one Bridgestone catalogue featured none other than our regional Bridgestone sales rep.

To this day, Pineapple Bob still represents the simple things in life: Shorts at work, wool jerseys, a functional bicycle, and a low maintenance haircut. Simple. I've never met Bob and I don't know if any of these attributes are even accurate as they relate to Bob (except maybe the haircut), but the image of Bob represents how I've always wanted to live my life. A lifestyle compass, if you will.

The bicycle industry at a retail level is filled with people who have put their passions and love before wealth. Let's face it: if your goal is to make serious cake, the bike industry in any form is not the place to be. There is an old saying among the heads of state: If you want to make a million dollars in the bicycle industry, start with two. Since I started writing this blog, I have tried to capture the look-and-feel of the bicycle shop as I see it through my experience and years of service. My perspective may be different than some because I literally grew up in a bicycle shop where my earliest kid memories involve bicycles and the feel and smell of it all. I can recall decades of bike shop employees, mechanics, part-time sales people, gophers as we used to affectionately refer to them, customers, both good and bad, and bicycle-related products (also, both good and bad).

Look at this cover from the 1994 Bridgestone catalog, specifically at Pineapple Bob, the wooden bench, and the specialty tools hanging in the background. This image captures the very essence of the bike shop and the people who make the retail world go 'round. When I see this image I can't help but think about the old days and pure enjoyment I would receive from simply arriving to face a day in the shop. Pineapple Bob has always been a reminder of my life direction and mantra. When I see Bob's image in any capacity I am reminded to keep it simple, keep it real, and keep it focused on my passion for cycling.

Below is an old piece called "Moustaches and Pineapples: Bridgestone's Grant Petersen Speaks Out" by Chris Kostman, which originally appeared in California Bicyclist in August 1992. This interview provides insight into Pineapple Bob's life and how his image became an icon for Bridgestone, and for me.

CK- Tell us about Pineapple Bob.

GP- In 1985 we had an advertising agency doing our ads and I didn't think they were doing a very good job of selling the bikes, so I and a few other people expressed our dissatisfaction with the ads. So the president at the time said "Do you think you could do any better?" I said "yeah" and he said "O.K., you be our advertising agency. So we needed a model and everyone looks fatter in pictures, so you need someone with just phenomenal legs for them to even look normal. Well, Robert has the best legs around and he looks like a six-day rider in Europe or something. His legs are just amazing and you start with something good like that and you've got the leg thing covered, anyway. He's also a good rider, he's easy to work with and he's a friendly guy that I get along with personally, too. He's a good friend, so we just use him for our ads.

CK- How did you know him and how did he get his name?

GP- I didn't know him then. We hung around the same bike shop, Hiroshi's Jitensha Studio in Berkeley, and I sort of made the connection there. Hiroshi's daughter, Natsumi, named him Pineapple Bob because there were two or three other Bobs that hung around the bike shop. Robert grew up in Hawaii and his hair shoots our like a pineapple so she called him Pineapple Bob just to differentiate him from the other Bobs. By the way, I don't call him Pineapple Bob. Mostly his friends call him Robert. I'd only call him Pineapple Bob if I were joking around. By the way, don't go a whole lot into this in your article, because we like to keep him a mystery and anonymous. He's going to be in a video that we're doing, but he's not going to have a speaking role.


JBP said...

Yep, GP and the B-stone crew knew how to keep it real - almost to a fault.

I vividly remember working at a shop and agonizing over whether I should invest in a '93 XO-1 (construction pumpkion), or a Bianchi "Reparto Corse" (celeste) road rig in all it's chromed and lugged glory.

My boss made the decision easy for me: we don't carry Bridgestone! You buy the Bianchi!

I often wonder how my life would've been different if I went the XO-1 route. Would I be wearing hemp and joining a drum circle if the Bridgestone happened? Would I have even botherd with my brief, but illustrious, racing career?

Subsequently, I always think of the schmaltz-fest "It's A Wonderful Life" whenever someone brings up Bridgestone. It's silly.

Radio Freddy said...

Where has sexy gone?

zank said...

Freddy, it's still around. You just have to turn over more stones.

josh said...

freddy -

JT is bringing sexy back (along with his d*ck in a box), didn't ya hear? :)

Thanks for the read, as always, the blog informs me about the "glory years" I was too young to live...

Anonymous said...

Man, it's kind of depressing when the last bike company that specc'd bikes according to what they felt worked best went out of business. If I'm not mistaken, Bridgestone continued to spec bar end shifters on the RB1 after sti was introduced because they knew it was lighter. Can you imagine if BMC or someone sold bikes with bar-cons! oi vey! Rock on Freddy

Tim Jackson said...

Dude, you nailed it on the head; Bridgestone was the shit! I loved their bikes. I loved the company. I miss'em here in the states. They still do some pretty cool bikes overseas, but it ain't the same feel... of course.

My rep in Texas was one of the B-Stone crew and he's one of the coolest people on the planet. It just kind of figures, doesn't it?

I got my first shop job when I was 12, living in a tiny town in Alabama. I've been in and out of the business ever since- 25 years. I wouldn't have it any other way either. Yep, I'm broke as all hell... but I get up each day knowing that I love the work I do, the brand I get to lead, and know that my next ride is as close as lunch. (And I have a stable full of cool bikes.) I can't tell you how cool it is to see a new bike sample show up; all that time designing a new bike and then it shows up. You take it out and look at it. You build it up. You ride it. Hopefully you smile from ear to ear for the whole ride (which I usually do). Sometimes you wanna cry, when you realize you screwed up the chainline or got the chainstay width wrong and now the crank arm smacks the stays when you sprint on a big gear. Or maybe you realize that you just need to change the fork rake to make the bike handle the way it should. Regardless, it's one of the best parts of the gig.

The guys and gals at Bridgestone knew that too. They loved the bikes. They loved to ride. They did stuff that made sense. Sadly, the market changed and embraced fads and unnecessary changes. I miss the days of spec'ing stuff that made sense and worked for the purpose it was designed for. Now, if you wanna sell bikes and keep a company afloat, you have to cater more to whim than purpose. That isn't to say that new bikes suck or anything. They don't. But it is a different world and it isn't necessarily a better one. I love steel and will always have steel bikes in my line, but I am selling to a shrinking segment of the market. More people are coming around to steel every single day, but even more people are embracing carbon (or even aluminum or ti). Me? The best frame I've ever had is the Dedacciai steel and carbon frame we made a few years ago. Hands down, in 25 years of riding and/ or racing, the best ride I've ever had. The steel was insanely smooth riding and the carbon was the right mix- giving the frame a little more stiffness than the steel, but a touch of buttery smooth compliance. My point is that the frame makes sense and without being overly exotic. Just exotic enough.

Oh yeah, and that picture of PB and the work bench. Love it! Those Campy tools, like the thread cutter, were among my favorites. But, my favorite part of the picture is the girl stitching up the back of a sew-up tire! I can remember doing that once... but only once. What a nightmare that was. (I popped two tubes in the process, so i had to re-do the tire.)

Keep on keeping it real!

Anonymous said...

Radio Freddy you are without question as PRO as they come! Keep up the great work on the best cycling blog there is! Any disputes will be met with a wood shampoo, aka a Newton turbin. Just make sure you keep that ole feeder hat away from the combine (inside joke).

Radio Freddy said...

Tim Thanks for sharing your thoughts. There is something about B-stone that goes beyond the product, beyond the allure. Simply put, I was young, impressionable and hungry for everything cycling. B-stone came along and spoke at the exact time I was ready to listen. I guess I can be thankful that Bridgestone, Ritchey and Bontrager were the voices I heard and not the voice from electric bike fad. I do love the new stuff, evidenced by my Colnago but I also like the old and not so old. When asked how to stay in love w/cycling Grant Peterson said "own more than one bike" and he was right on the money.

Radio Freddy said...

Ed - Keep it real and I am pleased to see you are checking in. Now go ahead and gimme on of them yellow ones!

Ari said...

Grant Petersen once called my house to ask if I wanted to renew my subscription. I was going to college and was going through a nasty, bad divorce. I was flat broke, had no car and was in the dumps. The 20 dollar renewal fee at the time seemed like 20,000 dollars for me. I explained that I would take a pass because I was going through hardship. A week later I received a box with wool gloves, two bottles , a green thick wool sweater and a renewa to the Reader. Grant told me to keep riding to school and work and to never let anything keep you in a rut. I have never forgotten his kindness. I rode 40 miles roundtrip to University everyday and with his kinkness I got my life back in order. Freddy, thanks for bringing this topic up.
Support your local bike shop.

Anonymous said...

Yup, still have my red '92 Bridgestone RB-1 that was my first real "adult" bike. I almost bought a high-tech (at the time) aluminum bike, but the shop manager, bless his heart, told me, "This is the bike you want. It's steel." I really didn't grow to appreciate that until much later. That other bike now would be horribly obsolete and outdated, while the BS is classic (and classy). I still feel like a late 80's-early 90's Euro-pro riding a Northern European Classic when I take it out for a ride.

BTW, the bar-cons were a nice idea, but the shifting was never that great in practice...

Anonymous said...

I was a punk kid in 8th grade and saw the PB cut. From that point on, my life changed forever.

Anonymous said...

Just discovered your blog - awesome.

I was a Bridgestone fan also. Still have a '91 RB-1 and '91 MB-Zip hanging in the garage.

The MB-Zip was retired quite a few years ago - yet I can't seem to part with it.

The RB-1 has been ridden since '91 - up until last year, when I went a little modern with a new Ibis Silk Carbon.

The RB-1 rides way nicer then a mid-priced bike from the '90s should. I have no plans to part with it. It still will get used for various rides.

Even though their not really my style - still get a kick out of Grant's current line of bikes at Rivendell. The Rivendell Reader is also well worth reading.

Check out their site at

Dan O

Radio Freddy said...

Dan O - An RB1 and an MBZip. Oh man, you were on it at the right time. Thanks for taking the time to read and to leave a comment. -RF

Anonymous said...

RF - no problem, checked out other stories on this site. Excellent.

Discovered you site off the Masi Guy site link - another great site.

Yup - the Bridgestone stuff was cool. Like some others, I also have the old catalogs and other items stashed away at home.

A few weeks ago, pulled a "NOS" Bridgestone jersey out of the closet for use. For whatever reason, never used it. It's now in the rotation.

For psycho reasons, get a kick out of wearing it while riding my new carbon Ibis. Just doesn't seem right - yet it is.

I've always been attracted to quirky, cool companies that believe in what their doing - then seem to go belly up and become cult items.

Besides the Bridgestones, have a few old Fat Chance and Ibis bikes as well. All bought during "their era" and all very used.

Cool thing about bikes - they always remain useful and ridable works of art - especially appreciated in this disposable electronic age.

Dan O

Anonymous said...

...last post here was june & now it's october so maybe no one will see this but, grant peterson & bridgestone were, to the best of my recollection, the first in the industry, to use re-cycled paper products for their brochures...maybe '90 or '91...
...always the vanguard...

Unknown said...

Stumbled upon this site via Velonews, WOW! There are other people in this world that like the same things I like. Bridgestone, where do I begin? When I was a child (9-10 yrs old) I would venture ~4 miles, by foot, to the local bike shop. There and then is when I fell in love with cycling. I would just stare at the posters/banners on the wall, the RB's lined up in the rack, the XO's in their mustache bar glory, knowing full well that my lower middle class parents would never be able to afford such a bike. So it was team sports for me, soccer, basketball and my sport of choice lacrosse. During my teen years playing these team sports I still longed for an RB. I'd read any coverage I could of the European bike races, revel in the Lemond victories on foriegn soil and wish to myself for one of those beautiful Bridgestone's. Well those many years of team sports did a number on my knees and when the doctor told me to start riding an exercise bike to strengthen the muscles around my knee I saw an oportunity. I finally had a valid excuse to spend some hard earned money on a bicyle. I could only afford an MB-6 but it was a Bridgestone and it was MINE! I never participated in a team sport again. Still a fan of them but cycling was deep down what I always wanted. I have long sinced sold that MB-6 to help pay for a "lighter" / "better" bike but I regreted it the moment I had the cash in my hand. I still romanticise about it sort of like a long lost girlfriend who you really liked but for whatever reason the releationship did not last as long as it should have. Anyway, I love the blog and I know I'm a little late to the party but better late than never.

Anonymous said...

I met Bob back in 1989 when I first started racing and rode for a Dam Bike Club which was loosely associated with Hiroshi and Jitensha Studio -- and over the past 18 years -- on and off the bike -- in and out of the country -- I have run in to Bob and he is always the same. He is the real deal -- and so is Hiroshi and Jitensha Studio -- stop by if you ever happen to find yourself in Berkeley, CA. Natsumi is even still in the picture -- she covers for Hiroshi when he returns to Japan.

Finally, I just saw Bob 2 weeks ago manning the pits at the Golden Gate Park Cyclocross Race in San Francisco -- and even though it had been a few years since we last bumped into each other -- it seemed like just yesterday.

Radio Freddy said...

mtdare - Thank you for taking the time to drop by BKW. I look forward to the opportunity to one day meet Bob. I remain a fan of what Grant and his team did back then and the image of Bob continues to giude me in my cycling journey. If you have time to read check out the post on Jitensha

Anonymous said...

My first road bike was a Bridgestone with stem mounted shift levers. I got it for a birthday present in '78 or '79. (Long before Grant got involved with the company.) It was probably their most basic model but it transformed me. I went out solo on countless epic rides that were probably all under 20 miles. It's funny now to think of how magical those rides were back then. A little kid riding 15 miles an hour in cutoff shorts and crappy running shoes. I'd get lost on back roads that were only 5 miles away from my house in the next town over. I didn't have a bottle cage so I'd stop at little stores and buy Cokes every half hour or so. Those rides were incredible. They would have been just as incredible on any other road bike because back then I wouldn't have known the difference between a Huffy and a Masi, but whenever I hear anyone mention Bridgestone bikes it takes me back to those first epic rides of mine.

Ken said...

I've been searching for a cheap but good old road bike for a few years, so when I saw a red-framed bike my size at my local dump today, I saved it from the metals dumpster and threw it in my car (Prius). It said Bridgestone on it, but I took it anyway. Well, it seems to be an old RB-1, maybe a 1989 model or so. The "RB1" is small and in script on the seat tube, but I have not seen anything similar in RB-1 photos yet.

It has downtube shifters, Wolber rims, Suntour derailers and some Avocet and/or Shimano parts, and Look clip pedals. It's slightly big for me (5'11"), so it might be a 59cm or 62cm frame I guess.

It looks like a good frame, but it might need some parts. I wonder if the bike is worth an overhaul. First I need new tubes and I'll give it a quick test ride.

Anonymous said...

Black shoes, white socks and black shorts - regulation (UCI and FICP in fact) attire for a more sartorialy enlighted era.

C said...

Grant P. is one of the nicest guys in the business. I remember visiting Rivendell when it was still operating out of his living room.

That said, anyone who thinks a Bridgestone frame represents quality frame building doesn't know what they're talking about. My XO-1 and RB-1 frames both cracked and I know of several others which suffered a similar fate. Also the pretty flat crown fork on the XO-1 was recalled. They may have been well designed but they were hardly well built! Of course the same could be said for Colnago frames from that era.

Ken said...

Update on my 1989 red RB-1 find: It cleaned up nicely, with just some rust in a few spots. All the Suntour GPX components are in good shape according to the Cobblestone (Ashland, VA) mechanic. He has a few Bridgestones, and he said this was a good find.

I added new bar tape, tubes, and some temporary non-clipless pedals, and the bike rides fine so far. The '89 frames were measured center-to-top-of-stem, and mine is likely a 59cm, or close to a 57cm center-to-center.

My new bike looks a lot like this 1989 RB-1.

Anonymous said...

I was lucky enough to be sponsored by Bridgestone and I still have an RB1, XO1--white, XO1--orange. Grant Peterson got a lot of grief in the media for being a retrogrouch but i think history has proven him to be ahead of his time in so many ways.
He was certainly a great influence on me, not necessarily on what I did but on why.

Mike Scammon said...

I used to work at that very bench. it was at Wheelsmith in Palo Alto. (RIP)
Nothing like it around here anymore. :(
I also still have a couple copies of that very catalogue.

Radio Freddy said...

mr_ko: Thank you for leaving a comment, Wheelsmith has always held a special place in my heart, for the time, Wheelsmith was everything most bike shops wanted to be: big enough to turn serious cash, small enough to share the love. And the merchandising was second to none. I recall a Yakima car rack display, displayed on an actual vehicle in the shop!! I cannot recall the car it was mounted to, but I thought this was the most clever approach to one of bicycle retails biggest consumers of floor space. Oh, with excess inventory stuffed inside - BRILLIANT!

I have searched for images of the Wheelsmith interior and I have never seen them. The lost images remain my only hold up to featuring them in the "great shops" section of BKW. They were surly worthy. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and putting a shop name to the image. All these years, I never knew where the shot was taken. - RF

Anonymous said...

I used to work at the Bike Gallery in Portland and we sold a lot of Bridgestones. I ended up in San Leandro, CA in '91 and walked into Bridgestone's U.S. headquarters looking for a job. They didn't hire me to work for the company but they needed all their new bikes put together for the upcoming Interbike show. There was one other guy helping me build/pack the bikes. The infamous Pineapple Bob! The other cool thing was that I got a brand new RB-1 for $314.

Anonymous said...

Another little Bridgestone side story - I was a total stoner bitd. In the late '80's I grew some killer Hindu Kush under a halide in my basement so I was flush with cash and needed a bike fo transportation. My room mate was like "Dude, you should get a Bridgestone. They rule!" So I walk into the Bike Gallery with long hair and jean vest with all the death metal logos on it and say I want a Bridgestone. They hooked me up with a Bridgestone 600. Then it came time to accessorize and I had them but on those awesome Grab-On foam grips and asked them why the 600 didn't have those killer extra brake handles (that you can use from the top of the bars).

I had it about a month before I bounced of the back of a VW Bug while I was playing Ricky Road Racer around a blind corner.

Years later I got a job at the Bike Gallery and got taken under the wing of a totally anal retentive mechanic and learned about real cycling. I bought a Super Record Guerciotti (an aluminum Alan frame stickered up as a Guerciotti). I had it about a month when a(nother) VW Bug did a left hand turn in front of me. Glued together aluminum bikes don't like that kind of action. Then I ended up back on a Bridgestone (see above comment).

After I became (I wont say that I am "PRO") a real cyclist I think about the stoner kid buying the Bridgestone with the Grab-Ons and just have to chuckle to myself. I bet those shop guys got a good laugh after I left too.