Sunday, February 3, 2008

It's fun to have a stable of bikes!

It's true, I enjoy owning a stable of bikes. Or maybe it's a squadron.. or a fleet? How many
does it take before it's a fleet? Well, a squadron of aircraft is generally between a dozen and sixteen, so I guess I have a squadron.

Anyway, one reason it's so fun to own a bunch of bikes is that you can take turns riding them. How do I decide which bike to ride on a given day? Well, part of the decision is which ones are in good riding shape at the moment, of course. Beyond that, if it might rain, I pick one with fenders (more on fenders in the future), if I'm pretty darned sure it will stay dry, I pick one without. If it's snow and ice, it comes down to the Miyata with studded tires. If I know I'll be riding in the dark for a significant time, I might pick one with the dynamo hub front wheel. And then it boils down to mood... which one do I FEEL like riding?

Sometimes I'll go quite awhile without riding one particular bike, for some combination of the above reasons. Which then leads to a period of "rediscovery" with that bike when I do ride it again. That happened just recently with my 1993 Bridgestone XO-2, shown above. I hadn't ridden it in a few months, and just the other day pulled it out to ride to work. I was reminded of how it differs from my other bikes, and what I like about those differences. The single most striking difference is that while the frame is based on road bike geometry and tubing, it has 26" "mountain bike" size tires, rather than the more typical 700C size of road bike tires. This results in a really interesting ride. A smaller diameter wheel will accelerate and decelerate more quickly than a larger diameter wheel, all else being equal. Now, most mountain bikes use pretty big, chunky tires. My XO, on the other hand, has lighter, narrower tires (currently 1.75" Paselas, but I've often ridden it with 1.4" Tom Slicks) than a mountain bike, so they accelerate pretty quickly. Basically, I find that compared to my Miyata 1000, which has 700x37 touring tires (about as wide as the XO tires), the XO-2 accelerates more quickly, yet is just as comfortable on rough surfaces. Compared to my Trek 414, with 700x32 slicks, I'd say acceleration is nearly the same, but the XO absorbs bumps better.

All of that aside, it just feels different from any other bike I own, and I like it. I wouldn't go so far as to agree with the Bridgestone ads of its era, claiming the XO design could take the place of all your bikes, but it's a pretty great bike.

Now, for those of you that don't know, Bridgestone was and is a very big Japanese bike company. They left the US market after the 1994 model year, due to currency issues, according to Grant Peterson, who was their product manager and is now the head of Rivendell Bicycle Works ( worth a visit). They tended to "go their own way" on design in the late 80s/early 90s, and the XO series is the prime example. More or less the Bridgestone interpretation of a "hybrid" bike, they were markedly different from most other company's hybrids. For example, while most hybrids were designed around "mountain" geometry with "road" sized wheels, the XOs were mostly road geometry on mountain wheels... and used a variety of handlebar designs that were variously loved and loathed by those who tried them. Me, I'm a fan of the basic design as well as the bars.

If you want to know more about the XO-2 in general, check out:

And while you're there, look at the rest of that part of Sheldon Brown's website... you'll find scans of a bunch of Bridgestone catalogs and ads and such. Fun stuff. And Sheldon's whole site is absolutely amazing.


LVSunrise said...

Thanks for the Sheldon Brown info! I have to say, I'm a big fan of my Bridgestone T500. I'm sure there are better, newer bikes out there but this one has been through a lot with me and riding it just makes me happy.

The Driver said...


Anonymous said...

Nice article! I love my '93 XO-2 as well - fantastic touring/daily commute bike.