Not many of the groms out there associate “Bridgestone” with anything but car tires; however, Bridgestone bikes had been one of the premiere brands brought to the US out of Japan. They even produced one of, if not the lightest production mountain bike of its day with the steel 24.3 lb MB-∅ (also known as the MB Zip). Two and a half decades later and that bike and many of the other early Bridgestone bikes are sought after collectibles.
Now in Taipei we got a look at a new range that is looking to bring Bridgestone back. For a start check out the carbon goodies they brought to the show, and a pretty cool steel specimen that purists will love…
Walking into the Bridgestone booth, I immediately turned back into my 18 year-old self and had the urge to ask for some free schwag stickers (none were to be had, but I did get a cool catalog). Quick history: Back in the day preparing to buy my first real bike, I read magazine after magazine researching bikes and components, and though I found a couple of cool bikes, when I walked into a shop and saw the Bridgestone MB-3, time stopped. Ritchey Logic tubing, fork, cockpit & wheels, and Deore DX drivetrain… that was THE bike! Nostalgia aside, Bridgestone has a very long history with bicycles dating back to 1949 and has been continuously manufacturing frames based out of Japan ever since.
Up top is their carbon X9B Elite XC mountain bike with 27.5 wheels. It looks to cross off all of the marks with internal routing, rear thru-axle, etc. It only comes in small and medium sizes for now according to their catalog and is the only carbon model in the line-up. They do list an aluminum X6B with SLX that does come in S, M & L.
On the asphalt side, Bridgestone is hitting the pavement pretty hard with their road line-up. Leading the pack… and not new (at least in Japan), they offer a full custom RXR Frame (above) which can be custom measured by the millimeter and be set up with one of seven levels of ride quality depending on what its intended purpose is.
Topping the off-the-shelf line of road bikes are the Dura Ace equipped R9R & Ultegra’ed R9R Elite road bikes. They share a high modulus carbon frame sporting a tapered headtube, and a sort of down/seattube yoke (bottom right) of sorts I assume to increase drivetrain stiffness under load. Racing has always been a part of Bridgestone’s heritage, and they currently sponsor the Bridgestone-Anchor UCI continental cycling team who pilot the R9R.
They also offer carbon a couple of models down, including the R8R (cream white, title pic) and the R8L above which gets as small as the petite 39cm frame with a 49cm TT that is said to fit someone down to about 4′-8″ (142cm)!
Speeding things up is the R9T time trial bike. Bridgestone made the fork, downtube, and asymmetric chainstays as stiff as possible to increase the bike’s stability at high speeds. The R9T’s frame is designed for Shimano Di2 ONLY (though I guess now SRAM’s eTap would fit right in), and even has a Di2 specific battery compartment in the lower seat tube area that is accessible from the BB. Bridgestone designed a unique aero-stem that follows the R9T’s lines and is integrated with the frame so that there is minimal air disturbance behind it.
NASCAR velodrome fans, (c’mon, you chuckled), the high modulus carbon T9r “Short Track” frame is designed for the shorter sprint races, and they also have a T8R frame designed for longer track events, both of which have been ridden under some of Japan’s national team.
Nothing at all new, but I couldn’t be happier than to see Bridgestone still making their “Neo-Cot” steel frames. They first debuted the this frame technology at 1991’s Interbike. The tubing is custom drawn and in a sense “hydro-formed” to bulge the tubing without heating, then shaped to create a “lugless” connection to the headtube, (since the formed ends of the tubes themselves ARE the lugs). Here is a cool video in Japanese that gives you a good idea how this process is done.
Ironically this is a first in recent
years decades, (as far as I know) for Bridgestone bike tires. Only road for now, (though there was a Bridgestone mountain bike tire on their X9B, they said it was only for display), they have an entry-level training tire that comes in 25c, their “race tires” are all 23c, as is a light-weight hill-climb tire.
Bridgestone’s “Sports Bicycle Business Department” is being run by former Bridgestone sponsored Olympic athlete Mitsuhiro Suzuki who placed 25th in the 1988 Seoul Olympic’s road race for Japan. At the show a former long-time employee (who was around in the earlier days and still helps out now and then) mentioned that the limited sizing run (for now) is due to Bridgestone primarily aiming to supply Japan and other parts of Asia, as well as some European countries whose riders aren’t as sizable (as us corn-fed ‘Mericans). So they’ve rarely had much demand for larger sized bikes. That said, they are completely open to US distribution with the right partner and will cross that line when they get to it. *fingers crossed*