Retro Gravel Grinding & Drop Bars

1987 Bridgestone MB-1

Whilst browsing through a July 1987 copy of Bicycling Magazine in the reading room,  I stumbled across an article about a new bike for the time, the Bridgestone MB-1.

“Fat Tires Meet Drop Bars”

Correct me if I’m wrong, this bicycle appeared before John Tomac was spotted running drop bars during the 1990 NORBA MTB season.

Regardless, there are some little gems in this article.

many gonzo-come-lately manufacturers are profitably producing ATBs (MTBs) with fat tires and flat handlebars. These bikes are about as well-suited for the rigors of off-road cycling as a Schwinn Varsity would be for the Coors Classic“.

Bridgestone MB-1 Specs
Bridgestone MB-1 Specs

I’ve had drops on my ATB for a year, I think they’re superior to flat bars for all but technically demanding trials riding, where slow-speed control and frequent lifting of the front wheel is necessary“.

Unlike a road bike’s bars, which are set low for aerodynamics and often gripped about the hoods, off-road drops are high and close to the rider“.

Even without its drop handlebar,Bridgestone2 this Bridgestone demands attention. The steep, tight frame geometry makes it look more like a road bike than a typical ATB”.

Can you say, early beginnings of a gravel road bike?

By today’s standards, this wasn’t a light bike, tipping the scales at 27.4lbs complete.  At the time, this was cutting edge stuff.

Other interesting observations about the frame, where opinions may differ today:

the MB-1 flexes noticeably during hard pedaling, although this doesn’t seem to detract from its climbing performance“.  Today, every manufacturer seems to be obsessed with mega frame stiffness.

The springy frame also means you don’t have to reduce tire pressure to improve shock absorption, so snakebite flats and dinged rims are less likely“.  Remember, this is before suspension appeared on mountain bikes.  Also, no tubeless tyres.

It seems that JOM (JOM’s rig), Dr Pain (Dr Pain’s rig) and Jimbo (Jimbo’s rig) weren’t completely mental, when they built Monster Cross rigs that are part MTB, part CX and part Road.

The 1987 Bridgestone MB-1 – I want one.


  1. Isnt this a Grant Petersen design? Next novel bike from Bridgestone came the XO-1.

  2. Kerry Duggan Kerry Duggan

    In the 80’s we used to put 26″ knobbies with drop bars and long slotted brakes on Schwinn Varsities.
    We called them Earth Bikes.
    I can’t imagine how heavy they were. We didn’t want to know.
    We still had hours of fun!

    • JOM JOM

      I really wish we had photos of the Panzer.

    • JOM JOM

      WTB and another company whose name escapes me, were making drop bars specifically for MTB conversions around this time.

  3. Nice post, as a happy owner of a ’93 MB-1 that I converted to a touring rig I have an ’89 DB Ascent EX with some drops on it and after stuffing some SM8’s in the 2.35″ width it’s got that old school drop bar fatty vibe and I dig it. The Ritchey Logic frame of the ’93 MB 1 is stellar lugged stuff. I prefer to beat up on the DB for lots of loose gravel. Ya, even today’s steel frames and complete bikes offered by Surly and others aren’t built for weight watchers.

    • JOM JOM

      Nice… these older rigs have so much more character too.

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