In the early 1990s, cycling industry iconoclast Grant Petersen, then the Product Manager at Bridgestone Cycles USA, created a club of sorts called the Bridgestone Owners Bunch, or BOB.
BOBs were supposed to be the sort of people who rode just to ride, rather than the stereotypical stuck-up skinny racer guys, or stoner mountain bike bro-dudes. BOBs were supposed to be people you could count on to stop and help; or at least to ask the question whether you were okay.
A few times per year BOB members would receive a printed newsletter in ‘zine format called the BOB Gazette, in which I had a couple of pieces published before its demise when Bridgestone Cycles pulled out of the North American market. This article, in its original form, appeared in the final edition of the Gazette, in late 1994.
Late summer, 1994. Since my weekly mileage had been rather low, I felt the need to push myself, and went on an 80-miler. I left my Nob Hill apartment in San Francisco about noon, made my usual stops at Il Fornaio on Union Street for paninis and at City Cycle (across the street) for Gu while on my way to and through the Presidio to the Golden Gate Bridge. From the north end of the Bridge, I dropped into Sausalito and rode through Mill Valley, then climbed Camino Alto to drop into Corte Madera.
By then, the weather had warmed due to the Bay Area’s lovely microclimates, so I took off my arm and leg warmers and stuffed them into a jersey pocket.
I worked my way through Fairfax, around Nicasio Reservoir, through Samuel P. Taylor State Park, and several small towns you haven’t heard of unless you live in the Bay Area, and eventually working my way back into Corte Madera, until I reached what is locally called the Paradise Loop, around the peninsula that forms Tiburon.
That day, Paradise proved to be anything but. It was almost 6 o’clock, and the fog was starting to roll back in, so I reached back and discovered that my my arm and leg warmers had disappeared out of my jersey pockets.
“Not a problem,” I thought. “It’s a short loop. I’ll finish before it gets really cold.”
Climbing the first short hill on Paradise Drive, I began to hear a “tick-tick-tick” noise coming from my rear wheel. After stopping and looking vainly for the source, I hopped back on my bike and continued on. A few moments later, I was riding a flat.
“Still not a problem,” I thought. I whipped out my spare tube, wrestled off the tire and replaced the tube, and off I rode, discarding my old tube. A mile or so later, I had another flat.
I know, I know … it’s never a good idea to discard a punctured tube, especially not mid-ride. And no, I didn’t just toss it on the side of the road; I threw it away in one of the garbage cans at the end of a driveway.
“This could be a problem,” I thought. I remove the wheel, wrestled with the tire again, and removed the tube. I had forgotten one of the cardinal rules of flat repair and didn’t check my tire for sharp objects when I stopped to fix the original flat. This time, I found a wire embedded so deep that I had penetrated the tube twice. The “tick-tick-tick” noise was the wire hitting the brake calipers as the wheel turned.
I patched both holes, replaced the tube, and off I rode.
“This is definitely a problem,” I thought. Again I removed the wheel, wrestled with the tire, and removed the tube. This time I was looking at a valve stem partially torn away from the tube. I was 20 miles from home, with no spare tube and a useless patch kit, and I was at least 5 miles from payphone. [Editor’s note: remember, this was 1994, before cell phones became ubiquitous.]
I took off my shoes and socks and started walking.
Mmmmm … barefoot walking on chip sealed asphalt, when temperatures are in the 60s and dropping by the minute. This was not my idea of fun.
Around 7 o’clock, it got really foggy and windy. Fifteen or twenty minutes later, after several people passed without a second glance—even a few riding (gasp!) Bridgestones—a guy on a titanium wonderbike rolled by and asked if I needed help. [Editor’s note: titanium bikes were still a relative rarity back then.]
“Yeah! Gotta spare tube?” I shouted back.
“No patch kit?” he asked. So I told him what happened.
“Hmmm,” he replied. “I only have spare sew-ups. In a pinch you can stretch one on a clincher rim, as long as you’re careful cornering. Want to try it?”
At that point, I would have tried a mountain bike tire and a Band-Aid if there was a chance it would get me home. He gave me a brand-new Vittoria Corsa CX, which we stretched over the rim. Sure enough, it worked, and off I rode.
While heading up the other side of the Tiburon Peninsula on my way back towards Mill Valley, my savior passed me going the other direction, turned around, and joined me.
“How’s it holding up?” he asked.
“Pretty well, so far,” I replied, so we continued to ride and chat for a while. I promised to send the tire back to him, and eventually we went our separate ways.
At this point, I had been out for about eight hours, had three flats, and had lost a layer of clothing. The Bay’s famous fog and winds were out in full force, and I couldn’t face the climb back up to (and then the ride across) the Bridge; luckily, I still had time to catch the last ferry from Sausalito back into the City, and made it home without further incident.
I’ve always felt that the underlying essence of BOB, or BOBness, is certain kind of attitude. It’s not limited to cyclists, and is definitely not acquired just by joining the Bridgestone Owner’s Bunch. To me, a BOB is a person who understands there are more important things about cycling than just the latest equipment (or the rejection of same) and training times.
Cycling is not about racing; it’s not about how quickly you can climb your local mountain; it’s not about how far you can ride; it’s not about fenders and 32mm wide tires and matching Carradice bags; and it’s definitely not about what kind of bike you own, be it lugged steel, aluminium, titanium, or carbon fiber. All of them have their role, but none of them should define cycling. None of them capture the essence of BOB.
For BOBs, the most important thing about riding a bike is simply that … riding a bike.
BOB is part of the psyche; part of the soul.
Among other things, it’s a willingness to stop and help a stranger without expecting any more than a thank you in return.