Cycling as a lifestyle. That’s how Bridgestone presented their bikes to the U.S. market. I heard it loud and clear. Pineapple Bob (pictured below) was the first cyclist in print to whom I could relate. He was just a guy, who rode his bike and happened to be featured in ads for a cool bike company. No endorsements, no multi-year, multi-million dollar racing sponsorship. Bridgestone was good like that because they featured real cyclists. Some I even knew: I recall one Bridgestone catalogue featured none other than our regional Bridgestone sales rep.
To this day, Pineapple Bob still represents the simple things in life: Shorts at work, wool jerseys, a functional bicycle, and a low maintenance haircut. Simple. I’ve never met Bob and I don’t know if any of these attributes are even accurate as they relate to Bob (except maybe the haircut), but the image of Bob represents how I’ve always wanted to live my life. A lifestyle compass, if you will.
The bicycle industry at a retail level is filled with people who have put their passions and love before wealth. Let’s face it: if your goal is to make serious cake, the bike industry in any form is not the place to be. There is an old saying among the heads of state: If you want to make a million dollars in the bicycle industry, start with two. Since I started writing this blog, I have tried to capture the look-and-feel of the bicycle shop as I see it through my experience and years of service. My perspective may be different than some because I literally grew up in a bicycle shop where my earliest kid memories involve bicycles and the feel and smell of it all. I can recall decades of bike shop employees, mechanics, part-time sales people, gophers as we used to affectionately refer to them, customers, both good and bad, and bicycle-related products (also, both good and bad).
Look at this cover from the 1994 Bridgestone catalog, specifically at Pineapple Bob, the wooden bench, and the specialty tools hanging in the background. This image captures the very essence of the bike shop and the people who make the retail world go ’round. When I see this image I can’t help but think about the old days and pure enjoyment I would receive from simply arriving to face a day in the shop. Pineapple Bob has always been a reminder of my life direction and mantra. When I see Bob’s image in any capacity I am reminded to keep it simple, keep it real, and keep it focused on my passion for cycling.
Below is an old piece called “Moustaches and Pineapples: Bridgestone’s Grant Petersen Speaks Out” by Chris Kostman, which originally appeared in California Bicyclist in August 1992. This interview provides insight into Pineapple Bob’s life and how his image became an icon for Bridgestone, and for me.
CK- Tell us about Pineapple Bob.
GP- In 1985 we had an advertising agency doing our ads and I didn’t think they were doing a very good job of selling the bikes, so I and a few other people expressed our dissatisfaction with the ads. So the president at the time said “Do you think you could do any better?” I said “yeah” and he said “O.K., you be our advertising agency. So we needed a model and everyone looks fatter in pictures, so you need someone with just phenomenal legs for them to even look normal. Well, Robert has the best legs around and he looks like a six-day rider in Europe or something. His legs are just amazing and you start with something good like that and you’ve got the leg thing covered, anyway. He’s also a good rider, he’s easy to work with and he’s a friendly guy that I get along with personally, too. He’s a good friend, so we just use him for our ads.
CK- How did you know him and how did he get his name?
GP- I didn’t know him then. We hung around the same bike shop, Hiroshi’s Jitensha Studio in Berkeley, and I sort of made the connection there. Hiroshi’s daughter, Natsumi, named him Pineapple Bob because there were two or three other Bobs that hung around the bike shop. Robert grew up in Hawaii and his hair shoots our like a pineapple so she called him Pineapple Bob just to differentiate him from the other Bobs. By the way, I don’t call him Pineapple Bob. Mostly his friends call him Robert. I’d only call him Pineapple Bob if I were joking around. By the way, don’t go a whole lot into this in your article, because we like to keep him a mystery and anonymous. He’s going to be in a video that we’re doing, but he’s not going to have a speaking role.