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Bridgestone RB-1 vs Centurion Ironman Expert/Master

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Bridgestone RB-1 vs Centurion Ironman Expert/Master

Old 02-26-15, 01:38 AM
  #1  
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Bridgestone RB-1 vs Centurion Ironman Expert/Master

These two bike intrigue me as Japanese production bikes. They both seem to have somewhat of a cult following and I have heard raves about both. Perhaps I'm being naive to try and compare, but I'm wondering if people have ridden both (think late 80's/early 90's) and what their opinion of them is? I have one already (bought in the dead of winter and haven't had a chance to get it out on the road yet), but not the other. N+1 tells me I should have both... but do I really need both? FWIW, I'm not a racer - I tootle with my wife, cruise the valley on my own (speed depending on mood), hill climb whenever I can. We have a lot of rural gravel roads that I love to ride because of the low traffic. I love something that is comfortable for sprint, climb or a century.

MD
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Old 02-26-15, 05:13 AM
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I've only ridden an RB-1 once, and many Ironman models. I figure they're pretty similar.
Excellent tubing, geometry, and attention to detail. First-time riders are often surprised by the agile, precise handling.

One has an amateur spokesman, a larger supply, and therefore a larger cult following, with unabashed blue-collar enthusiasm.
It's owners would generally buy you a beer, hit on your sister, or your mom, and help you find another bike just like it.
They are protective of their bikes, but probably know where there is another one for sale. Fun, but courteous.

The other has a professional spokesman, a smaller supply, and therefore a smaller cult following, with more of a high-brow enthusiasm.
It's owners are a little more sophisticated, ask you if they can date your sister, but tell you that another bike like theirs is hard to find.
They are protective of their bikes, but likely have not seen any others for sale, because there just aren't that many around.
Courteous, but fun.
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Old 02-26-15, 06:27 AM
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You've got your good stuff this morning, Robbie!

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Old 02-26-15, 07:06 AM
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Once again, Rob nails it.

They really have the same basic DNA: Japanese variants of classic 531/SL tubing with parallel 73 (+/- 1) and a top tube about 1 to 3 cm shorter than the seat tube. Both have supple rides that won't punish but definitely reward finesse in bike handling. Thrashing standing sprints? Not so much. Picking that very perfect line with a very slight flex of the wrist is their forte.

Differences as I can recall as a former RB-2 (same geometry as RB-1 with a slightly downspec tubeset and cheaper components) and the Ironmen that have graced my fleet:
-Bridgestone has a slightly taller headtube. You can usually get another 10-15mm of handlebar rise out of one for the same size seat tube
-Bridgestone has slightly more clearance for fatter tires but no fender eyes
-Bridgestones were often underspec'd with perfectly fine but often cheaper "supporting act" parts like headsets, brakesets, and seatposts.
-Bridgestones had understated, often to the point of boring paint. It tended to chip easily in my experience.
-Bridgestones have this BOB cult about them and tend to attract folk that wax poetically about the virtues of civet poop coffee and self-actualization tiers of the Maslow hierarchy...before heading off to their jobs that Mike Rowe's never done a show on. Prepare to have uninvited conversations on esoteric topics with strangers who want to bond over your bicycle brand choices.


-Ironman usually has a *slightly* better spec in the B-team parts
-Ironman has tighter tire clearances. 25s are GTG but 28's are hit-or-miss
-Ironman has loud, loud paint that looks like it was done by the David Lee Roth circa 1984 designer. It's also suprisingly durable.
-They're often several hundred dollars cheaper than an equivalent spec Bridgestone in today's market. Since most folks go ahead and STI/Ergo modernize them if they're ridden, alot of those "exquisitely picked by Grant Peterson from the Japanese supplier catalog parts for maximum balance of function, aesthetics and value" end up in a box in the garage.

At the end of the day, I prefer the Ironman BECAUSE it's brash. Life's often too buttoned down and sometimes a bit of "hell yeah" followed by a Yuengling tallboy is needed.

B

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Old 02-26-15, 07:09 AM
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^ very well said ^
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Old 02-26-15, 07:18 AM
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Have owned multiple examples of both, and the rides are very similar. Top tube on the Ironman is generally longer than the RB1.

Nod for components on the late 80's models generally go to the Ironman (Shimano 105, 600 tricolor), although the '88 RB1 came with 1050 as well. Not so enthralled with the components found on other years of RB1 with the exception of 1993.

Worth noting that the Ironman (and Centurion as a brand name) were gone by the time the best RB1 came out, in 1993. The yellow tricolor/STI model with the dual plane Ritchey designed fork was the best of the breed, in my opinion.



My favorite Ironman? The '85 with friction Shimano 6207. Wish I had kept mine.

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Old 02-26-15, 08:33 AM
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You mean throw a Miyata into the mix. Miyata's own triple butted, splined tubing would be an interesting comparison to Ishiwata or Tange.

They're all gorgeous bikes, I've always had a thing for red and white Ironman's myself but I've never gotten to ride one.
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Old 02-26-15, 08:48 AM
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Don't forget the "Tenax" Schwinns of the same era. Many were subbed out to Panasonic. I've had Panasonic and Greenville built Tenax bikes.

As much as we'd love to look through our nostalgia glasses at the steel bikes of the Reagan-Bush era, they were all incredibly similar with primarily cosmetic differences, much like many of the robowelded aluminum and carbon fiber bikes of today. I'll bet National Panasonic would've cranked out a few thousand "Great Muppet Walrus 5000" if somebody'd fronted the cash and said "Make me a Shimano 600 tier bike out of Ishiwata 022E. Or Columbus. Or Reynolds. Whatever will set me apart. And when Kasuhisa and Yuichiro get done brazing up that existing batch of Bridgestone/Panasonic/Schwinn/Centurion, run mine through. Oh, and make them blue with silver decals." And said Great Muppet Walrus 5000 would've been blind-test indistinguishable from them if they'd all been painted flat black.
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Old 02-26-15, 10:29 AM
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+1 for miyata. The Team was cool. I have a 1400 which apparently was only around for one Model year. Came with ultegra (6400) and bio pace. 1989 remember

need to get a better picture but

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Old 02-26-15, 10:58 AM
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Mountaindave trying push over a hornet nest? This is almost like asking truck guys "Ford or Chevy?"

Loads of good info above.

For whatever it is worth: Bridgestone had longer top tubes 1990-94 than earlier frames.

Can't go wrong with either bike. Both are great.
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Old 02-26-15, 11:07 AM
  #11  
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I have had two RB-1's (93 & 94) and one Ironman (87). Just sold the 93 two weeks ago after owning it for three years. From my experience they are very different bikes. If I could only use two words to sum up each bike, the RB would be smooth and stable, Iman would be fun and fun. Don't get me wrong, I love the ride of the RB-1 but could never get fully comfortable on it due to the longer top tube.

My first RB was a 57.5 and had top tube length of my liking but the drop was to far to the bars. So I sold that and was lucky enough to find another in 59 shortly after. The RB-1 really shines in the areas of ride quality and descending. The ride is extremely forgiving and the tubing just soaks up all the bumps in the road. In descents it is stable as a rock will go as fast as you can push it. You never feel like you have to put a death grip on the bars. Man, I am really going to miss flying down big hills with that bike.

The 87 Ironman is everything that I want in one package. It feels fast, fits me like a glove, accelerates with joy, and climbs like a goat. The ride is slightly less plush, and it does not generate the same peace of mind in descents, but in exchange it gives so much more in all other areas. Maybe that comes down to the better fit, hard to say.

FWIW, I am not a fast rider and have never raced. Just a recreational rider that likes to put the hammer down on occasion. All the three bikes that I am using as comparison rode 8 speed 600 Tricolor. Down tube shifters and 1050 brakes on the Ironman. Bar end shifters and Suntour Superbe Pro brakes on the Bridgestone.
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Old 02-26-15, 11:17 AM
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I own an '87 Ironman and a '92 RB-1. If I could keep only one of them it would be the Ironman.
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Old 02-26-15, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by rjhammett View Post
I own an '87 Ironman and a '92 RB-1. If I could keep only one of them it would be the Ironman.

That's surprising.

What are the things that tip the scales towards the Ironman for you?
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Old 02-26-15, 12:05 PM
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While I have owned several Ironman's, I have never ridden them much...and my RB-1 is a bike I ride quite frequently!

What I find interesting in this thread is the diversity of information...and much of it "competing"...which tells me...in summation...that you cannot go wrong with either...get both, ride them, decide which one YOU like and then sell the other!!!

I have, IMHO, found that my RB-1 accelerates smoothly, rides smoothly and has allowed me to go many miles...the Ironman's that I have rode all tended to be more about speed...but...I personally believe it is all about your own riding...not mine...
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Old 02-26-15, 01:13 PM
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I think it is probably all perception and maybe not factual. My Ironman feels lighter and faster. The RB-1 has the stock stem which is very long so I am stretched out more. I have thought about installing a shorter stem but haven't done so. The RB-1 is 600/Ultegra with barcons while the Ironman is Sante with DT shifters. I am more used to DT shifters than barcons. Maybe that plays into it. I do like the Ironman's 'Miami Vice' paint job better than the red of the RB-1.

Originally Posted by The Golden Boy View Post
That's surprising.

What are the things that tip the scales towards the Ironman for you?
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Old 02-26-15, 01:23 PM
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I have had neither but would like to get an Ironman more. This is probably @RobbieTunes 's fault. Also the Bridgestones look boring.
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Old 02-26-15, 02:37 PM
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RB-1 is my token road bike, I only need 1... I just got the frame and Fork , back in the early 90's <new>. I'mVintage Now Too
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Old 02-26-15, 04:19 PM
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I don't have any experience with RB-1s. (Probably because every one that comes up in my area always has a $500.00 pricetag.) But in comparing an Ironman to the other Japanese breeds, I have an 87 MV Ironman as well as an 85 Miyata 912 and a 90/91 Team Miyata. I also have a line on a Miyata built Univega Gran Premio, but the weather has that stalled for now.
You have to throw out the Team for this comparison. The Team is built for a different purpose with different geometry. The Team is a full on race bike while the other two are all day racers/riders/tri bikes. The Team is a 52cm and my wife's ride. On the shakedown ride after the redo the first thought that came to mind was "man, this frame is stiff!" It could have been the old Avocet racing seat though.
The Ironman is a 56 and the Miyata a 57cm (ST measured CTT). So CTC you have a 55 and a 56. Neither is a square frame because the TT is a little longer on each. When you compare the 912 and Ironman frames, they are almost mirror images of each other. The weights are almost identical as well. I wrote about this and included pictures in a thread last year. If you want to know the geometry of the Ironman, look at the listed geometry of a 9 series in the 1985 Miyata catalog. As for the ride, well they ride about the same also. If you took away the distinguishing features and painted them to match, you might not be able to tell them apart.

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Old 02-26-15, 08:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Chuckk View Post
"Collect them all" - I did.

My take on the two that I have is that RB-1 feels like an Italian bike, quick handling and stiff; and that the Ironman would be my choice for a longer ride.
Bridgestone vs. Panasonic! Ishiwata vs. Tange! What fun.
Be even more fun to throw an Allez and a 1000 into the mix, though that would be two Panasonics. I know I keep trying.

1) Funny you should mention Allez and Miyata. I almost bought a Team Miyata from Bikedued this summer but it was a skosh too small. I have a Taiwanese '88 Sirrus which I understand is the same frame as an Allez but with 105 instead of 600 (similar to the Ironman Expert/Master differentiation). Wish I had a Japanese Allez that fit me. My wife has one and she loves it. She specifically noted that it is a better ride than her '12 Kona Jake. I spent a summer riding a '97 Klein Stage Comp and while it was a nice bike, it just didn't seem "alive" like my Sirrus. The Sirrus is no weight weenie, but it climbs all day long and is comfortable mile after mile. I'm good to go with 25's, but 28's are iffy, so it's not the best on rough gravel. I have ridden in three years in a row in the Cino, but I regularly flat despite high pressures.

2) This is exactly the pair of bikes I am looking at. I already have the RB-1, I'm looking at a Centurion frame from wrk101. I'm a child of the 80's and "loud graphics" is imprinted on me - I'm unconsciously drawn to them. I do love the Ironman's paintjob. I also seem to be drawn to red... they keep accumulating in my garage. Oh, and I love the red/white Look pedals - perfect!

Love the poetic comparisons of the two bikes - this is why I love BF C/V. Thanks for all the responses!

MD
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Old 02-26-15, 08:34 PM
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Originally Posted by The Golden Boy View Post
That's surprising.

What are the things that tip the scales towards the Ironman for you?
Um, chicks dig 'em.....
I mean, really? ....

"Hi, nice bike, you riding the metric or the full century? Oh, it's an RB-1. It's steel, yeah.
Uh, a Bridgestone? Yes, like the tires. No, it's Japanese. Famous? Sorta...ever heard of Grant Petersen?"
She walks away.

"Hi, full century, right? Yeah, it's an Ironman. I think it's got a crush on your bike; better watch out."
After that, it's up to you. The bike's work is done.
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Old 02-26-15, 08:45 PM
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Now, Robbie.

You know the truth, the real truth: chicks dig Cannondales.
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Old 02-26-15, 08:48 PM
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The team miyata is a nicer frame, IMHO, than the RB-1 and I own both. The team has splined tubing and investment cast lugs, fork crown, and BB. The frame geometry is a bit more relaxed on the RB-1 though and it can take a bit fatter tire which makes it a bit better long distance machine. The '92-'94 RB-1 are usually considered the best or the more collectible of the RB-1s (see post no. 6). You're not going to go wrong with any of these bikes but the team miyata is I think a bit nicer bike.
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Old 02-26-15, 10:18 PM
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I can fit 28's on the RB-1 with room to spare. Not sure if I can put 32's on, but 30's should be doable. I intend to use it extensively on gravel. Dang. Now I'm going to have to get an Ironman and a Miyata.

I watched a car show once where the two hosts drove different cars: one a Lamborghini, the other a Rat Rod. Every time they pulled over, guess which one drew the ladies?
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Old 02-26-15, 11:10 PM
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Originally Posted by mountaindave View Post
I can fit 28's on the RB-1 with room to spare. Not sure if I can put 32's on, but 30's should be doable. I intend to use it extensively on gravel. Dang. Now I'm going to have to get an Ironman and a Miyata.

I watched a car show once where the two hosts drove different cars: one a Lamborghini, the other a Rat Rod. Every time they pulled over, guess which one drew the ladies?
I really liked the Panaracer Gravel Kings in 28 on the RB-1. They stand up to gravel and handle very well on pavement. Very supple tire.
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Old 02-26-15, 11:19 PM
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Thanks for the tire recommendation. They don't make a tan sidewall version, do they?
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