Since I'm the "moderator" of this list, I should introduce myself.
In February 1990, I bought the first bicycle of my adult life. I was an intern at Bellcore in Red Bank, New Jersey, and I was living in a house in Highlands, just 10 miles away from work (each way). My roommate and I had just driven across the country from Berkeley, California on a car bought for $200, and on the way he wrecked it by slamming it three times against a guard-rail somewhere in Pennsylvania. But that's another story.
Given that situation, we both decided to acquire bicycles to get to work. Dave was already a pretty serious cyclist, but I knew nothing except how to balance on a bicycle. The local shop was having a blow-out, since this was in winter, and they sold me a 62cm Shogun for $200. It had friction shifting, 10 speeds, no fenders, 27" wheels and compared to my RB-1 would be a real dog even if it wasn't the wrong size for me, but when I got on it, my first remark was: "It's like flying!" I hadn't ridden a bicycle since my childhood days.
I'd like to say that I went ahead and bought a patch kit, a pump, a helmet, and shorts, and started riding in the midst of an East Coast winter with great joy. I'd like to say that my first commute was fun and exciting and got me off to a great start. Well, it's embarrassing now, after so many thousand miles on the road, to say that my first commute home nearly got me killed. I did not want to stop for traffic lights because I was too tired. I could barely see because those dinky cat-eye headlamps weren't any good and kept slipping on the handlebars to point at the wheels instead of on the road. My butt hurt, my arms hurt, my back hurt, and I was cold. It's embarrassing to admit it, but it took me several thousand miles --- long after my internship was over --- before I realized that cycling shorts should not be worn with underwear under them --- that the chamois was more than just padding, but also insulation against chafing.
But since I didn't have much of a choice, I kept riding that bike. I got stronger. I used that bike everywhere. To go to the library (8 miles), to go to the beach (1 mile), to go grocery shopping (10 miles), to go to the mall (13 miles). These figures are all estimates by the way, since I didn't have a bike computer. I didn't get any smarter about traffic, by the way, and never made a left turn when I could ride wrong-way. There was no one to teach me, and the few cycling books I read did not offer anything by way of instruction.
And the first time I had a flat, it took me an hour to get it fixed...
I had not yet learnt the secrets of carrying a spare tube.
I kept riding, then spring came and everything was beautiful. The riding got better. I got strong enough to ride about 40 miles a day and still enjoy the increasingly lovely weather and the beautiful Jersey countryside. I developed cyclists' dots on the back of my hands, and an obvious cycling shorts tan-line. Dave, by the way, developed tendinitis after a couple of months of pushing himself too hard (something I've never been accused of doing, by the way), and had to stay off his bike that year, car-pooling to work.
I'd like to say that after my intern, I kept riding when I returned to school at Berkeley. That I maintained my fitness, and got better and stronger. But a busy class schedule and the presence of pretty women with cars put my bicycle away for good in spite of Berkeley's perpetually good weather and beautiful views. I hated hills (or thought I hated hills), and never thought about what I was missing.
In 1992, I finally graduated and went to work. After seeing how one of my colleagues cycled to work, I decided that I could keep fit and save gas money all at one shot. (Since I was preparing for graduate school, gas money was significant to me) I dug out the trusty old Shogun and rode it to work and back thrice a week, but on longer rides I would hurt. Bad.
Finally, one of my housemates asked me to help her shop for a bike. So I did, and in the process found out that I should have been riding a 56cm bicycle.
Now, 3 bikes (a RB-1, a MB-3, and a Bianchi) and several thousand miles later , I'm a much better rider, I like climbing mountains, I understand "Effective Cycling" principles, and I've tried to make up for those years I spent in Berkeley not cycling. That Shogun, incidentally, has been passed on to someone who's got enough height to use it. I've also tried to give bicycle riding lessons to everyone who's asked for one, and tried to cultivate a healthy attitude towards cycling and cyclists among new cyclists and non-cyclists alike, in memory of my earlier, clumsy attempts to ride without any form of instruction.
And now, even though I currently put in more miles doing recreational riding than commuting (I live only a mile away from school), I still remember how I started out on the bicycle --- for me, a bicycle was and always will be a wonderful way of getting from point A to point B. I have not owned a car since 1990, and will strive to do without owning one as long as I can, or at least until the next pretty woman with a car gets in the way.
The news that Bridgestone is going away is shocking, if not surprising. Bridgestone's bikes might not have been my first or even my second, but their catalogs have taught me a lot about bicycle history, parts, and their manufacturing --- facts that I would not have found out about elsewhere. In a world where models change nearly every year and fads come and go, it's been refreshing to find a company whose designs are well thought out and give good value, rather than appealing solely to the biggest market. I shall miss them dearly. But it is heartening to hear that they are going to try to keep BOB around for as long as they can.
I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm going to be hanging onto my Bridgestone catalogs. If somewhere down the line I want (or need) another bike, I'll always have a reference geometry to build a bike that would ride like a Bridgestone. And those articles! They'll always be fun to read.
You too? Glad to meet you, BOB!
"Note: Some very inexpensive pedals are not serviceable... Other pedals are theoretically possible to service, but seem designed to discourage it. When these need work, we suggest you work them into a garbage can, and get a new pair of pedals."
--- Bridgestone Owner's Manual, Bridgestone Cycle USA.