November 22, 2005

What's "BOB", anyways?

For those that lean along the same lines that I do, you might enjoy the "BOB"list. Available to join at , the BOB-list is a busy list, with several dozen emails coming across daily on everything from fixed-gears, to restorals, saddle-bag discussions, lugged steel conversations, old-school equipment, and the like -- all geared towards the original intent of the list: BOB stands for Bridgestone Owners Bunch, and was originally started by and for fans of Bridgestone's very fine late-70's, early 80's lightweight road bikes -- if you've ever seen one, you know what I mean. Everything steel, everything lugged, nicely appointed, strong, built to be the last bike you'd ever buy. Unfortunately, many of the bikes we see today are NOT, with a few exceptions like Rivendell, specifically, employees of which often post to this very list. Rivendell's founder, after all, use to work for Bridgestone. A recent post asked "What's a "BOB" bike to you?", since the list has really grown beyond only Bridgestone bikes -- it's a great resource, if you dance this way, even if you have stuff in your stable that is not really "BOB", there is always something to learn. This was my recent submission, and attempt to answer that very question:

What's "BOB-ish" to me?
I've always regarded this list as the "brain-trust" of the sensible cycling community, and I am a member mainly in spirit and desire. I went through the miss-guided phase of "lighter-is-better", carbon everything, minimalist seatbag, bars-too-low, racer-wanna-be, marketing-slave, etc., ad nauseum. After a time, and after realizing it was far cheaper to lose 50 lbs. than it was to try and afford the latest 100 gram "whatever", I had a slow awakening. None of the expensive lightweight stuff lasted very long, nor was it comfortable over the distances I was exploring (my first brevet series, years back) -- over time, the lightweight stuff made it to the swap meet, and in its collective place arrived things with substance (i.e. Nitto stems, bars, posts, 32-spoke "traditional" wheels, and steel framesets).
The closest thing I had to a 'real' BOB-worthy bike was my Trek 720, circa 1982 -- lugged 531, gorgeous fork, plenty of clearance, rack and fender mounts, Campag dropouts -- beautiful, but in the end, too small, so after a few thousand miles it had to eventually go to a shorter owner, in lieu of a frame that fit me. In it's place, the only thing I have currently that's BOB-ish is my Bianchi Reparto Corse, and only because it's lugged Columbus steel -- the clearances are really too tight for it to be useful for anything other than fast, short rides -- won't take fenders (and that's with 23c tires!), and if a spoke breaks, yikes. In spirit, it represents the old-world craftsmanship I always found attractive, and it's VERY strong, and rides like a dream. Sweet enough to feel good on a 400K last year, despite the racer geometry! I just wish it had more room for real tires and fenders, and it might well be the only bike I'd need. I also have an early Surly Steamroller, which is BOB-ish in spirit, but sadly not lugged - a terrific ride, lots of tire clearance and fender room - but oddly, no rack or fender mounts to take advantage of. Finally, my bad-weather beater which is an early Specialized TIGged cro-mo Mtn.Bike -- which really has nearly the same geometry as my old Trek did, not the sloping single-track wonders of today's standard. That beauty has full fenders, big tires, handlebar bag and rack - a joy to ride in the rain with it's beefy canti-brakes and Kool Stop pads.
Someday, careful financial planning will yield a Rivendell, Heron, Kogswell, Hetchins or Thorn, perhaps even a Richard Sachs, for more purposeful brevet riding, which is really where my passions lie -- long distance. That, and Phil BB and hubs, to boot. My ideal and most "BOB-ish" bike would essentially be a combination of everything I own right now: The light, strong lugged frame of the Bianchi, with the fender and rack-mounts from the Specialized, and the big tire clearance & horizontal fork-ends of the Surly for my favorite drivetrain set-up -- single-speed/fixed. Maybe some extra provisions like canti-bosses, low, fork-braze-ons so I can fashion the Lumotec to the fork without a clamp, things like that.
Since very few of us "younger" BOBs will be fortunate enough to acquire a Bridgestone RB-1 in pristine condition, with NOS Campag Super-Record, Leppers saddle, Nitto racks and full complement of Gilles Berthoud bags while we're busy raising kids, we'll have to wait, and continue on as BOBs in spirit. I know what I like, I know what's good and what's not
-- but I can't afford all I would like that would truly make me a BOB in the eyes of some. Here's hoping! What's a BOB-ish bike, then? To me, it's steel - ALWAYS, lugged if possible - clearance for REAL tires, 28c at LEAST - provisions for good racks, without resorting to weird clamps and zip-ties, 1" THREADED steerers --- there is nothing as pretty as the clean lines of a fine quill stem diving into a fine, polished headset.
Single-speed and fixed is my preference, but gears are welcome - so long as it's not ALL Shimano. Sugino, TA and Stronglight still make wonderful stuff that is strong, easy on the eyes, and timeless. If you've got something similar to that in the stable, you're on the right track. Even my beater bike has Sugino cranks. Dare I say it, BOB-ism is very close to Rivendell-ism.... Keeping the strong, good-value, well-built, useful vibe alive.
That's what makes a bike "BOBish" to me.

If you think this way, you might like the BOB-list... enjoy, and be ready for a LOT of emails!

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