Jonsan's Bridgestone XO-1 Build

Here's a special treat, another beautiful bike build from my younger, smarter brother, Jonsan. In an earlier guest blogpost from him, about his then- latest project, a Gazelle "Crossframe" cyclocross bicycle, I wrote this:

"My brother Jonsan has always had some cool and interesting bicycles, including the very first fixed gear bike I'd ever seen, a mid-80s Schwinn Madison (which now lives in my garage, and sometimes roams the streets of Eugene). He'll find a rare and/or beautiful frame and then build it up with top quality components, and every once in a while he sends me photos of his incredible creations." And now, without further ado, here, in his own words, is Jonsan:

For approximately a decade I have been wanting to find a 1993 Bridgestone XO-1. Among its unique features was a frame built with standard road tubing but sized for 26” wheels and the very unique moustache handlebar. While it originally came with 1.25” (32mm) tires which were considered wide-ish for the day it had clearance for much wider tires, a precursor to how the now popular “gravel” bikes are equipped. According the the 1993 Bridgestone catalog, only 1000 were made and my understanding is that they weren’t too popular and lots were leftover when they were discontinued the following year. I had a 1992 model which had similar specs but different colors for the frame and sidepull brakes but the 1993 which had an orange ("Construction Pumpkin” in the catalog) frame and cantilever brakes is the most desirable one to own.

I found this in the local craigslist as a frameset only. It was in very nice shape for a frame that is close to 30 years old, so it appears to have not been ridden much. The gentleman who sold it is a big Bridgestone XO and Rivendell fan. He bought it knowing he was too tall for it hoping to trade it for a larger frame which didn’t materialize so he decided to sell. It wasn’t cheap (don’t ask) but it was priced several hundred dollars less than complete bikes go for, which is $$ saved for me as I had a specific build I wanted to do that didn’t include any of the original parts anyway.

All of the parts were already on hand to assemble the bike so no trips to the local bike shop or online purchases were necessary. The bottom bracket wasn’t the right length for the crankset I used and when I removed it the whole works were covered in metal shavings. I could still see paint on the outside edges of the bottom bracket shell so presumably the frame was prepped at the factory and then painted without cleaning up the mess beforehand! The headset felt a bit gritty to me so I disassembled it to regrease and adjust, and it was similarly full of shavings. Except for the headset cups (I did replace the bearings and their captive holders as I was too lazy to soak and clean the shaving encrusted moving bits) no other component is original to the bike.

The bars and stem are set up for an in-between riding position, not leaning too forward or too upright, which I think suits the bike well. It climbs and accelerates good but not great, partly due to how my body is positioned and the rather pedestrian tires it is currently shod with. It does have a great ride quality and I love the way it looks, so I'm sure it'll be one of the last bikes I would ever part with.

Here's a build component list for those interested. I may make some changes along the way but I am in no rush to do so. Ignore the long-ish cable ends hanging out - I usually go for several rides to make sure everything is adjusted properly before I trim and attach the end cap thingies:

• Panaracer Pasela 26x1.75 (42mm) tires

• NOS Suntour XC Pro hubs laced with Sapim butted spokes to Mavic 317 rims by Ryan Mason of Mason Cyclewerks who sadly (for me) moved from Long Beach to northern Cal so I gotta find another wheel builder.

• Nitto "Young" (I think) stem

• Ahearne/MAP handlebars, made and sold by Joseph Ahearne and Mitch Pryor, a couple of custom frame builders. Pretty much a copy of the Cinelli "Priest" bars but with a 25.4 clamp diameter and a 22.2mm grip diameter and quite a bit heavier too. Also similar to the Nitto 2522 “Jitensha” handlebar except for a 1” rise instead of being flat.

• Velo Orange cork/rubber grips

• Real Design brake levers

• Suntour LD-2800 thumb shifters

• American Classic 27.0mm seatpost

• Brooks B17 saddle

• Campagnolo cantilever brakes - OK, these are actually made by Tektro presumably in Taiwan but I like ‘em and they are way easier to adjust than the older post style cantis 

• TA Cyclotouriste crankset, 42/32 chainrings

• MKS touring lite pedals with MKS alloy toe clips

• Sachs 13-26 7 speed freewheel

• Suntour ARX front derailleur

• Suntour Sprint 9000 rear derailleur with Bullseye pulleys

• Nitto touring bottle cage

• Silca framefit pump

Acorn M/L saddlebag - Acorn bags are made here locally in Gardena by a husband and wife team who makes a batch of bags each month and posts them for sale on their website and sell out in a few minutes. My saddlebag fetish is due to influence from my older brother; all of my bikes have a bag, each with a Tarik Saleh Bike Club button attached. There are 2 club rules: "Ride bikes" and "Try not to be an ass":

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Editor's note: Another classic bicycle from the 1990s that had a similar design ethic and geometry as the Bridgestone X0-1 was the economy level B-Stone CB-0.
The first and last photos above of Jonsan's XO-1 show it parked at the edge of the known world - at the sudden, cut-off southern end of Pacific Ave in San Pedro, where the rest of the street had fallen down the cliff towards the Pacific Ocean in the semi-major earthquake of 1933.
Beyond the fence is an area that's always been known since the quake by San Pedrans, unofficially, as the "Sunken City". As late as the 1970s there were still recognizable remnants of the houses and shops that once lined that scenic seaside drive, but those ruins, now almost a century old, have become less visible as the years pass by and the soft sandstone cliff continues to crumble slowly into the sea.

Foo Pup

We've been trying to figure out what this. It's cast ceramic, and the glaze appears to be in the deliberately imperfect Japanese style known as Wabi Sabi. And it certainly is cute ("Kawaii"), so that also suggests that it was made in Japan, whatever it is.

I'm going to make a wild and completely non-academic guess, based on no evidence at all: this piece of ceramic art is a young, immature version of what is commonly called a Foo (or Fu) Dog, also known as a Guardian Lion in China.

Here's a large and apparently grown up Foo Dog / Lion guarding the main entrance to a fairly big house or possibly a temple:

A much smaller white Foo stands guard atop our piano:

No doubt that when they get older, Foos become fiercer and even scary looking, and that's probably a large part of their appeal as spiritual guardians of the material world. But I'd be just as happy if our little Foo Pup never grows up, and stays as cute as he or she is today.

Here are a couple more photos of the Foo Pup:


Saab-u, Snow Car of the North

It snowed here on Christmas day, almost a foot falling over 24 hours. This was an increasingly rare event for the southern end of the Willamette valley in Oregon; the last time we had any real snow was three winters ago. Last year, there wasn't even a hint of snow, and the year before that there were a few flurries but nothing stuck. With very little real wintery weather here, we've never felt a need to have an all wheel drive car. For the few days when the roads are rough going, it's a good excuse to just stay home and enjoy the hot cocoa, rather than be out on the streets rubbing elbows and smashing fenders with the teeming masses.

To the right in the picture above, you can see the beginning of digging our car out for a grocery run on the morning of the 27th. By the second day after the holiday, our food stock was down to stockings full of chocolate, crusty ends of snack sausage and questionable cheese, horrid glazed popcorn finger food, and worst of all, no beer.

Back when we lived in Montana, Minnesota, and Illinois, digging cars out from under a pile of snow was a real chore. In Colorado and northern New Mexico it was a job not needed very often, and here in western Oregon, it's actually fun.

Here's the car, a 1996 Saab 900SE, after we got back from a short but complete shopping trip (Trader Joe's, The Kiva, and the neighborhood Safeway). By that time the beautiful sunshine had gone, replaced by the usual dreary cloudy ick, and threatening to rain.

In fact that's what it did, and after a day of that, almost all of the clean fluffy white snow was melted, leaving only a few dirty piles here and there, left over from plowing and shoveling.

Now, let's talk about why we renamed this car "Saab-u, Snow Car of the North":

We never thought our '96 Saab was going to be very driveable in winter weather. Although it's true that it was designed and built in Sverige (Sweden), by actual Swedes who should know a thing or two about long and snowy winters, this particular Saab was the "sporty" model for that year. Stanced lower than the regular 900 line, with very little ground clearance, and shod with wide low profile tires on rims too wide to fit any reasonably narrow tires for good traction, it was made for flinging around curves at speed, not for any sure-footedness on snow and ice.

Our usual get-around grocery, kid and canoe hauler, a made in Nihon (Japan) Isuzu Oasis - a re-badged 1st Gen Honda Odyssey - was stuck in the steep driveway with tired 3 year old tires (shown here alongside the lovely McKenzie River, when the rubber was new):

The Saab's skins are nearly new, so we decided to dig the 900SE out and see how it did in snow, although we didn't expect much from it. Surprisingly, in spite of being the "wrong" car for the job, it did amazingly well - it smoothly got out onto the slippery street and down the hill to town with a minimum of wiggle and drift, and just generally behaved itself. Coming back, the Saab marched up the snow packed and ice-glazed hilly streets of our part of town, with no problems or odd handling at all, then backed into its parking spot and sat there (I think) with a satisfied grin on its cute face.

This should not have been the surprise that it was. After all, this model of Saab was one of the last "real" made in wintry Sweden Saabs to be designed and built prior to General Motors getting its filthy hands on the company and eventually driving it into bankruptcy - not before foisting some really horrible cars on an unsuspecting public, such as rebranded Saturns. The Saab "9-2" model, basically a re-badged Subaru WRX, wasn't bad at all, but by then it was too late, and yet another limited production maker of interesting, innovative, and practical cars ceased production.

Here's a "real" Saab:

A 1984 Saab 900 Turbo, it's the only car I've really regretted selling. Almost perfectly engineered in every way, fast and stable, easy and fun to drive, with sensible 15" wheels that easily fit narrow 185/65x15 tires for great traction in snow rain or sunshine, and able to haul an incredible payload under its well designed rear 3rd door. And no, that's not a "hatchback"; those that know classic Saabs call it a 3rd or 5th door, since it goes all the way down to the top of the rear bumper, creating an easy to get into and out, flat load floor.

At the time we had one too many cars, and we let this Saab go. The guy I sold it to promised to love it forever, but within a couple years he, like GM, drove the Saab 900T literally into the ground. It's now sitting in the weeds, defaulted, at a Saab mechanic's lot in Jefferson Oregon, with peeling paint, ruined interior, and unknown mechanical problems and uncertain title status. Very sad to see an old friend fallen upon hard times.

We kept this made in Bayern (Bavaria) 1975 BMW 325:

A real tiny terror, with a fairly large straight six somehow shoe-horned into the smallish engine compartment, it was also very fun to drive, and almost trouble free for the time we had it. But it was not a snow car; whenever we took it out in winter weather it would, like a cat, stop every now and then and shake its paws and whine. Not very confidence inspiring. When the 325 got to a certain age and mileage we replaced it with the '96 Saab 900SE.

Now that we know what a competent snow car Saab-u is, we'll be looking around for a set of narrower 15" rims, and replace the "performance" wide profile 16" tires with some sensible shoes. And look forward to the next time it snows here, maybe in 2 or 3 years.

Here's a couple more shots of Saab-u: