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Friday, November 9, 2012

What The Hell is a BOB?


Originally, BOB was an acronym for "Bridgestone Owner's Bunch". It was started by Grant Petersen, American marketing Director for the Bridgestone bicycle company, based in Japan.

He wrote the advertisements for the company, and they were a bit unusual by including very little or any marketing hype. Instead, Grant took the effort to explain why the bicycles he helped design were good. He did this without puffery and without running down the competition. They were...thoughtful...advertisements. Thought-provoking. Cyclists who took the time to read and ponder them almost always found something of value. Sometimes, that led to purchasing a Bridgestone bicycle.

The Bridgestone bicycles Grant helped design were also unusual in bucking fashionable cycling trends. His felt bicycles should remain functional and high in value. Part of that value came from selecting parts and components that worked reliably, were repairable, and were proven. This philosophy was controversial, and Grant/Bridgestone were labeled anachronistic by some magazine editors and industry insiders. One magazine editor labeled Grant a "retro-grouch" -- someone who crabbily held onto old stuff instead of embracing the new.

In many ways, time vindicated Grant and Bridgestone. His mountain bikes led the field in many areas -- short chainstays, steeper angles, more lively handling, repairability. His road bikes -- The RB-1, RB-2 and RB-T -- were solid values that road well and were prized for their handling. Grant took the risky but courageous step of specing components outside the groups offered by a single manufacturer. As a result, Bridgestones often sported an eclectic parts mix. For example, the MB-0 (it slotted in above the MB-1) had a Mavic crank and hubs, Dia-Compe brakes and SunTour derailleurs. It may seem a bit ironic, but Bridgestone lead the industry in these key areas while holding fast to a philosophy that bucked cycling fashion for fashion's sake. For a small player in the American bicycle market, Bridgestone set some real standards -- practical standards -- for the competition that shaped the development of MTBs in particular.

Along the way, Grant introduced an early hybrid to the market. Actually, there were several models, and they were called the XO-1, XO-2, and XO-3. Instead of equipping a road bike with flat handlebars and knobby 700C tires, Grant's XOs (pronounced Eks-Ohs) used slick 26" tires and lightweight road bike frames. This was unusual in and of itself, but whatreally made the bicycles controversial was their handlebars. Grant designed them, inspired by the semi-drop handlebars used by Japanese schoolchildren (full drops were considered a temptation to speed contests and the flattened type was a compromise). Imagine a drop-type road handlebar that has been squashed almost perfectly flat. He called it the Moustache Handlebar...

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