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Bridgestone Touring Project: The Start

January 11, 2012

Did you ever get an idea lodged deep in your head? Despite knowing it’s not the best idea (borderline stupid), you just can’t shake it. You’re pulled in by the fantasy of what could be and it begins to consume you.

This happened to me when a friend suggested conquering the Blue Ridge Parkway this Spring. The BRP is comprised of 469 miles of “picturesque vistas through Virginia and North Carolina. Ranging in elevation from 600 to 6,000 feet, the road encompasses a variety of ever-changing weather conditions.” The first problem is that I don’t do hills. I hate them. I’m in no way conditioned to tackle 10 percent grades for 10 days.

Did I mention I get vertigo? (photo by

Second, I do not have a dedicated touring bike. I have a mountain bike configured for commuting, a single-speed flashy bike, and a folding Dahon Curve. I also have an older 12-speed Bridgestone 400 that doesn’t get much use. When introduced in 1984, the Bridgestone 400 was advertised as a “Sports Tourer.” From what I gathered, this type of bicycle is a road racing bike fitted with heavier tires and slightly more relaxed frame geometry (kind of a jack-of-all trades bike like commuters or hybrids are today). It’s designed as a fast-handling, quick “credit-card” touring bike. However, it does have a solid 4130 chromoly steel lugged frame giving it decent lightness and flexibility (ideal for touring – the Surly LHT uses 4130 chromo also). Now, along with the BRP trip, a second idea was beginning to fermant. Could I convert this bike to a decent touring machine?

The Bridgestone making friends with black mold

Naturally, the first thing I did was check the interent. If a conversion of the 400 model could be done, surely someone has already accomplished it. Initially, the only thing I found was vague advice on modifying 1980s-era 12-speeds. It was a start. I would have to modify the gearing and install a third crank wheel (mandatory for the BRP), add a more upright handlebar stem, wheels (maybe), fenders, and of course racks. This was doable, I began thinking to myself. Then I saw this:

A 400 outfitted for touring - it can be done! (photo by Badger_biker at

I promptly emailed the bike’s owner, Badger_biker, hoping he could give me everything I needed to know. He was nice enough to reply back with tons of info. Unfortunately, most of the modifications he made were back when the bike was new (in 1984), so specific parts are now “vintage” and may not be available anymore. Yet, I was now full of hope that this could be accomplished. My next step was to contact the local bike shop to get some expert input. I planned to go down today. Getting the bike ready and inflating tires I found this:

Torn tire: curvy with a bulge

That should teach me for buying tires at a bicycle shop that was clearly a front for other things (it wasn’t in DC). I deflated and removed the tube but the bulge kept returning. Despite my better judgement, I risked a blow-out and rode to the bike shop (BTW, riding in the rain is no fun without fenders). It was in fact a torn tire and luckily not something worst liked a warped rim (would it do that?). In addition to getting a new Schwalbe Marathon replacement, the wheel badly needed truing. Depending on whether or not we change the wheels in the conversion, this purchase may have been a mistake. Unfortunately, the expert I was seeking wasn’t in-house today, next time I’ll call ahead. Green-lighting this conversion will have to wait.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. portajohn permalink
    January 11, 2012 6:07 pm

    Looks like a really fun project. I would recommend looking at Velo Orange ( for new, but vintage compatible parts.

    I imagine racks will be easy to get. Then add:

    – Triple cranks (

    – wider range cassette will add a huge range of gears (your existing shifters should likely still work.

    – taller stem (

    – tune up parts (chain, cables, brake pads, tires, tubes)

    – and maybe some more ergonomic handlebars

    • January 11, 2012 6:22 pm

      Thanks so much for the comment John. I was aware that VO made beautiful racks and bags but had no idea about all the components! Will definitely check it out when I’m ready to buy.


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