What’s a BOB?

Grant Petersen was Marketing Director and Bike Designer for Bridgestone Bicycles during the 1980’s and early ’90s. His philosophy of bike design was unique for that era (and ours); he believed in building bikes and speccing components that were practical, versatile, durable, repairable, and timeless, regardless of current popular trends. He marketed their bikes with smartly designed, thought provoking catalogs, refreshingly devoid of hype and puffery. Bridgestone eventually pulled out of the U.S. market, but Grant’s vision lives on in his current company, Rivendell Bicycle Works.

During his tenure at Bridgestone, Grant fostered a community of like-minded cyclists through the creation of the “Bridgestone Owners Bunch” (BOB). Members received the BOB Gazette newsletter and were provided the opportunity to purchase unique BOB accessories such as Brooks saddles imprinted with the BOB logo, T-shirts, etc. The BOB was very popular and was quite a work of marketing genius.

When Bridgestone shut down operations in the U.S., naturally the Bridgestone Owners Bunch went dormant. Eventually though, the newsletter was resurrected as an e-mail listserv which came to be known as the iBOB list. The list continues today in both listserv and web-based formats and is inhabited by cycling enthusiasts of various persuasions, each sharing the common desire to keep the BOB approach alive.

BOBish Resources

iBOB List
The Velvet Foghorn BOBish Resources Page
Sheldon Brown’s Bridgestone Page
Rivendell Bicycle Works

Note: This article was originally published on the Recumbent Blog in October 2006. From time-to-time I may reprint articles from RB here on EcoVelo.

Dutch Quest for Practical Bicycles

I enjoyed this video from Reuters about practical bicycles in the Netherlands. Henry Cutler of Henry Workcycles (interviewed toward the end of the video) was particularly eloquent in describing the need for the larger bicycle industry to create a “model for the modern world” that is a “step further ahead” of car culture.

[via Beezodog’s Place]

I Have a Secret

I seem to get an inordinate number of questions about bike commuting from my coworkers and people that I meet on the train and bus. I suspect the fact that I ride a folder contributes to this, though it may just be that I attract questions because I’m enthusiastic and eager to chat with people about one of my favorite subjects (bikes) and it shows on my face.

People are typically curious about how far I ride, how long I’ve been bike commuting, what I do in the winter, how much my bike cost (that always shocks them a little, but I remind them how cheap it is in comparison to a car), how much money I’m saving, etc. And they’re often congratulatory, saying what a great sacrifice I’m making for the environment, what a big commitment it must be, how nice it must be to ride past the gas station, and how they “could never do that” (though they most certainly could, and I tell them so).

But here’s the big secret: bike commuting is no sacrifice at all. As a matter of fact, I often feel a pang of guilt for doing it.

But here’s the big secret: bike commuting is no sacrifice at all. As a matter of fact, I often feel a pang of guilt for doing it. It’s so much fun, and I derive so many benefits from it (health, wealth, serenity) that my subconscious mind assumes I must be cheating, that I must be doing something bordering on the unethical or illegal, because nothing in this world is free (right?). But bike commuting, so it seems, defies this capitalistic logic of getting what you pay for, and actually gives you what you deserve; not in the negative sense of retribution, but in the most positive sense of reaping the rewards of trying to do the right thing.

So I’ve started telling people about this. When they ask why I bike commute, instead of launching into the ecological and economic benefits, I first talk to them about how much fun it is, how good it makes me feel, and how little effort it takes. I tell them about the things I see along the road (birds, kids, dogs, turkeys, hawks, squirrels), the way it clears out the cobwebs in the morning and flushes out the stress in the evening, what a relief it is to be free of driving related stress and anxiety, and that you couldn’t pay me to go back to driving a car everyday.

I hope that by sharing my big secret—the fact that bike commuting is not a sacrifice at all, but instead is a richly rewarding endeavor—people will be more likely to consider it for themselves.

Mulch Run

This cool video is from Daniel Kopald over at Cargo-Bike.

Moving to a car-lite (or car-free) lifestyle can require a variety of bikes to meet all of the needs that were previously met by an automobile (not a bad thing!). Fortunately, eliminating a car can save up to $8,000-10,000 per year; the extra expense of one or two bikes pales in comparison. In our case, we’re doing fairly well with two roadsters and a folder (plus a few ‘bents for good measure), but there are times where a little more carrying capacity would be great. Right now we can easily haul up to 50-60 pounds, but we’re limited in our ability to carry large, bulky items. Our plan is to have a Surly Big Dummy built up over the summer. If it performs as as well as anticipated, it should nicely round out our fleet.

The Whale

Classic roadsters have lugged-steel frames; swept-back “North Road” handlebars; one-speed hubs or 3-speed internal-gear hubs; steel cranks with single chainrings; fully-enclosed chaincases and steel fenders; 28″ (700B) wheels with steel rims; and sometimes, dynamo hubs with integrated lights. Traditionally, roadsters came equipped with rod brakes, but modern roadsters more commonly use cable-actuated drum or caliper brakes. Roadsters are built to withstand the rigors of daily use on rough roads, and as such are quite heavy. They are anything but performance bikes, but they make wonderful daily workhorses for running errands and hauling loads from the grocery store, library, or hardware store.

Very few true roadsters are still being manufactured today. More common in this country are what are called “Dutch” bikes (so-called Dutch bikes are closely related to roadsters but differ slightly in their ergonomics and frame geometry). In other parts of the world, roadsters are still widely used as utility bikes. The Chinese Flying Pigeon brand roadster is closely associated with the communist era during which it became the single most popular mechanized vehicle in the world. It is estimated there are still 500 million on the road today, with many handed down from one generation to the next. All modern-day roadsters are based upon the English roadsters of the 1930s, with the archetype being the Raleigh 3-speed.

Pashley calls their roadster a “whale amongst minnows”; I feel the above photo accurately captures the personality of this imposing bicycle.

Take Your Pick

AB2971 – Fair Share for Safety Bill

From the California Bicycle Coalition:

Assembly Bill 2971, CBC’s Fair Share for Safety bill, is headed to the Senate following a largely party-line vote on May 28 by the full Assembly.

Bicyclists and pedestrians account for 20 percent of fatalities in vehicle collisions in California, yet far less than 20 percent of state transportation safety funds go toward preventing these deaths. Authored by Assembly Transportation Committee Chair Mark DeSaulnier, the bill would require Caltrans to allocate federal safety funding in proportion to the state’s vehicle collision fatality statistics.

In response to concerns raised in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, the language that would have required proportional spending was removed. However, “Caltrans sees the importance of this issue,” says CBC Legislative Committee Chair Stephan Vance. “This bill has given CBC an opportunity to have serious and productive discussions with Caltrans about how they allocate transportation safety funds. I think this legislation could to lead to real changes.”

I’m glad to see this bill make it through the Assembly. The elephant in the room is the shocking 20% statistic; obviously we need to address cyclist and pedestrian safety in a big way in California.

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