Bridgestone XO-3: Current Status

Hello there, friends. It’s been awhile since I’ve talked at length about any of my bikes. And why not talk about my 1992 Bridgestone XO-3? I’ll have had it for a year in April, and since then I’ve changed a lot of bits a number of times. Right now it’s morphed into a daily driver/”road”ish bike/touring rig. It’s assuming the spot of primary touring bike since I sold the Long Haul Trucker in December. While the XO-3 is not as optimized for fully loaded touring as the LHT (which is the modern fully-loaded touring bike standard bearer these days), I don’t intend to do the “four panniers plus” setup that I last did on the Cross-Continent Tour. And the Crested Butte could handle loads, so I always have that as a backup bike.

Here’s a short list of some of the changes:

Cockpit: When I bought the bike, it actually had generic road bars, even though the XO-3 came originally with “arc” bars. Even though it wasn’t accurate, I decided to get mustache bars with road brake levers (which were already on the bike) along with bar-end shifters. Mr. Big Dummy Daddy gifted me some fine Nitto mustache bars and the Dirt Drop stem to go with it, and I got the old Shimano bar-cons from A Better Cycle. I like how it’s set up right now, especially how it looks. I don’t know if I’m 100% sold on mustache bars, though, as my hands have been getting a bit numb or sore. I plan on re-wrapping the bars with “cork” tape vs cotton, and playing around with the height. One reason that I haven’t done that yet is because of the drama with my saddles (see below) so I’m waiting until I get a new saddle to “dial it in”, so to speak.

Tires/Fenders: The bike came with generic 700x28C slicks, so the first thing when I got it home was put on some Panaracer Pasela Tourgard 700x35C tires that I had laying around. The Paselas then got switched to the LHT as the Marathons were dying, so I got a pair of Resist Nomad 700x45C tires. These were definitely some fat and cushy tires, and I thought they were okay, but I did feel like they made handling a little weird. And they were too fat for fenders, which I was fine with when it was a “summer” bike. But the sale of the LHT necessitated fenderization, so I got some narrower tires, the Continental Speed Ride 700x42c (wire-bead.) I wanted to try a tire that had a little bit of tread for less-than-optimal conditions (read: dirt). And the Speed Ride’s “file” tread means no penalty on pavement. And they are pretty inexpensive to boot but lack the gumwall of the past two tires. (I do get a reflective sidewall strip, so that’s good.) So far so good, though I haven’t tested it that much in off-road conditions. (Such is the nature of winter riding.) For fenders I got some black SKS Chromoplastic deals, which, while not my first choice, work beautifully and look pretty good too. Attached to the rear fender is a PDW Fenderbot.

Racks and Luggage: When I got the bike fenderized, I got a Blackburn MTF-1 front rack installed. It’s a good rack for lighter loads and holds a small Wald basket well, but if I was going to do some heavy-duty touring, I’d want something a little more heavy-duty there. I removed the rear Blackburn rack and installed an old British saddlebag support to the seatstays. As for that “old British saddlebag”, well, I’ve gone through a few on this bike! I was using the Carradice Lowsaddle Longflap that I purchased off of Nick until December when I put the Nelson Longflap on that came off of the LHT. Then I bought the Camper Longflap in the beginning of February, so this went on the XO-3. (The Nelson LF is currently on the Raleigh Wayfarer, the Lowsaddle LF is waiting to go on the Rudge Sports.)* The Camper is the end-all, be-all of Carradice bags, with its 24 litres of capacity. And man, can it carry! I hope that between what I can fit in the Camper, plus my Jandd framebag, Velo Orange Baguette handlebar bag, and what I can fit in the basket/strapped to front rack will be adequate for the touring I want to do this year.

Saddle: Yep, have switched out a few. Initially I was using the Avocet Touring II leather saddle (originally from the Crested Butte) but then threw on my Brooks Champion Flyer for one hot minute. Then I got the Wrights W3ST which I used from December until I destroyed it last week. Now the Champion Flyer is back for the time being, but that guy is on its way out as well. (Don’t let anyone tell you that Brooks saddles last “forever”, not if you are about 200 pounds and tour on it.) So I’ll be making a purchase of a brand-new Brooks B17 soon, my first new Brooks purchase since 2008.**

Brakes: The stock cantilever brakes (Shimano 300, I believe) weren’t great. They looked cheap (lotsa plastic) and were cheap. (There were compromises on some of the components on the XO-3, for sure.) Early in the winter the front brake started to do a “death squeal” when braking, and the prognosis was the spring was janked. So I had some Shimano Deore linear pull (read: V) brakes and long-pull “road” levers installed. I got over my fear of V-brakes when I had them installed on the LHT. They work good and don’t look that horrible. And on the XO-3, I’m looking for function over fanciness.

Now the bike is at a state of pretty-durn-good and I don’t think I’m going to futz with it that much more. There are two things that will need to be changed in the near future, though:

  • Front wheel: The front rim is pretty much shot, so I need a new front wheel soon. I’ve been on the fence of getting a dynamo wheel, either pre-built or custom, as I love having dynamo lighting and still have my good B+M headlamp. But my battery front light (the Cygolite Metro) is still a fine and adequate light, so I could just get a generic front wheel instead.
  • Drivetrain: This is something I never liked about this bike. The “road” triple (50-40-30) coupled with seven rear cogs (13-28) doesn’t give it really low gears, which I find odd for a bike that’s supposed to be something of a hybrid. I don’t know why Grant and Co. didn’t just use the same triple they would have used on their lower-priced mountain bikes of that era. Then again, the XO-3 was the “compromise” bike of the XO series, with its 700C wheels, so maybe Grant just got out of the way on that one.*** So I would like to install either a better “mountain” triple, or convert the current crankset into a wide-range double, maybe something like 42-26. And the rear cassette would be upgraded to something like a 13-32 or 13-34. The derailleurs, while basic, still work well, so I wouldn’t touch them.

I’ve been enjoying riding the XO-3. It’s no fancy bike, for sure, but it’s still cool. And I’m actually happy that it ain’t fancy, because it prevents me from spending too much on components. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to put crap on the bike (see: Nitto Mustache bars with Nitto Dirt Drop) but I’m also not going to put high-end or fancy components on either. (See: V-brakes.)  Nor am I going to make it all twee and precious (well, any more twee and precious than it already is.) This lack of pretension means I don’t have to worry about this bike as much. Now I just need to test it on a tour…

*Yes, there is another Nelson LF on the Raleigh Crested Butte, so that means I have four Carradice bags total, down from five since I sold the Pendle. Yeah, Nick, I have a problem.

**Ironically, the “new” Brooks was the B-67 that got stolen off of the Cycle Truck in 2012, and I never liked thatsaddle much either.

***I could have asked him about that in person last month, but the sideways glance and nervous chuckele when I mentioned that I owned an XO-3 and asked jokingly if he remembered the Xo-3 said enough.

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8 thoughts on “Bridgestone XO-3: Current Status

  1. Looks like the bike is treating you well and vice versa. It’s good to have bikes that are nice, but not too nice. I’ve found that I don’t actually want to own a bike that is too rare, expensive or exquisite, because my internal regulator is uncomfortable on such a thing.

    • I wouldn’t mind owning a bike that is more rare/expensive, etc, but it’s not something I’m necessarily aiming for. Nor do I want to be one of those people who need a fleet of those bikes.

  2. I acquired an XO-3 about 6 years ago ($40) that was pretty original and used it as a “train-commuter” bike. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the value of keeping it original then and switched out the handlebars, shifters and saddle. It was also a 58 cm, too small for me really. I use it for a longer commute now, it’s solid and the components have worked great for me. I’m currently looking for a 60 cm XO-3 frame to build a better fitting bike. Interesting blog.

    • Which year XO-3 are you talking about? The 1992 one like mine was a 700C bike and went up to 57 cm, the size I have. The ’93 and ’94 were the 26″ versions and went to 59 cm.

      • I’m still using the original 700 Araya wheels or front anyway. I saw a 59 cm XO frame for 26″. Presumably mine is the earlier model. The frame measures 21″ from center of BB top center of top tube along the seat tube. Is this the largest frame they made in the earlier version?

        • If it’s a 700C XO-3, it would be a 1992, the same year as mine. The ’93 and ’94 XO-3s were 26″. The largest that it came in the 700C (1992) version was 57 cm, the larges in the 26″ (1993-4) would be 59 cm. I’m guessing the slightly larger frame size is because of the smaller wheels.

  3. I have a red ’92 XO-3 with original components. The handlebars and stem were rusty so last weekend I pulled them off and sanded them down. I’m in the process of reprinting them now.

    The XO-3 is perfect for riding around the neighborhood with my eight year old.

  4. I picked up on a basket case Xo-3 in 1997 then had it languish in my garage for 15 years. It was missing tires, shifters, cables, cantilever brakes and no pedals. The price was 5 bucks at a flea market. I eventually cleaned everything up but did not paint it (lots of scratches and scrapes). I wanted this to stay as original as possible. It does have the original “moustache” handlebars and is purple. I think it is a 1993 model…could be a 94. I love it since it is far more nimble than its weight would attest to. It just feels good. I was my first Bridgestone. I did acquire a Mb-3 from Craigslist for 40 bucks which needed a lot of cleaning, but it was all there. One of my older brothers is currently using it and loving it…he is 67 years old. Actually, he has used it for the last 2 years. Good riding to all!

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