Monday, November 5, 2012

Josh Estey's Bridgestone MB-3

Although we mostly worked with road, track, and commuter bikes in our shop (and sometimes, cyclocross bikes), I'm actually deeply rooted in mountain biking. My first "proper set of wheels" is a 1994 Federal Mt. Everest, which evolved from a 21-speed Altus equipped rigid into a 24-speed Deore XT hardtail throughout the years. When Josh Estey asked us to refurbish his old Bridgestone MB-3, we're very excited.

Bridgestone was one of the first companies to jump on the mountain bike bandwagon in the 1980s, but from a "road" perspective. The predominant style of mountain bikes in the early-mid '80s was  inspired by the Schwinn Excelsior, with 44 inch wheel bases, 18 inch or longer chain stays, and frame angles in the high 60 degree range. These bikes were very stable for downhill use on Repack hill, but were not very good climbers. Bridgestones had much steeper frame angles and much shorter chain stays, which made them considerably more maneuverable and nimble than the older designs, and considerably better climbers. In the '80s this design was considered "radical" but it proved itself on the trail, and was copied by everybody a few years later. This Bridgestone design still is the standard for rigid frame MTBs.
At first Josh built the MB-3 as an Xtracycle cargo bike, with suspension fork and disc brakes. Upon his return to Jakarta he decided to put the Xtracycle on his Surly Long Haul Trucker and he got the MB-3 laying unused. We proposed to resurrect the MB-3 to its former glory, and Josh agreed.

First was to remove the suspension fork. They do add some level of comfort but this frame was not designed for them. The longer axle-to-crown height caused the original bike geometry to alter drastically, affecting the handling. Although we can't find any Tange rigid fork we do get our hands on a black rigid chromoly fork that mimics the MB-3's original purple-black colour scheme.

Since the bike was originally equipped with cantilever brakes, we have to swap the disc-specific mountain bike wheels with something that would work with rim brakes. We built a pair of polished Jalco high profile rims to Shimano C201 hubset, with 36 spokes each as a nod to earlier mountain bike wheels. Tektro V-brakes and Avid FR-5 brake levers provides stopping power.

Initially Josh built this bike with Shimano Alivio 3 x 8-speed drivetrain, so we left it as it is. We do swapped the crankset with Shimano Alivio, complete with BB-ES25 Octalink bottom bracket. Flatbars are commonly found on mountain bikes from early '90s era, while the upright stem provides saddle-to-bar height that still generally found on modern mountain bikes.

Whenever we got the chance we'd like to take our recently finished project to interesting locations for photo session. And sometimes, to play around with said project a little bit. All I can say about this project, it's old-school mountain biking... with a vengeance. I've spent too many time with modern, dual suspension mountain bikes, and it's amazing to notice how mountain bike technology evolved the past decades. The last time I take a rigid mountain bike to our local woods was with this 29er. Rigid bikes are less comfortable, but you instantly feel the feedback from the terrain you've been riding on. You become one with the nature. It also ignites some childhood flashbacks, the first times I take my rigid bike off the road.

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