Peeking Through the Knothole Archive 2007-2011

August 16, 2007
PEEKING THROUGH THE KNOTHOLE - it just means a sneak look at what we’re thinking about or working on. I don’t want to pretend you’ll be interested in any old musings, so after this introduction-to-this-section, I will try to keep the tone plain and not too wordy. Sort of Sheldon Brownlike, come to think of it.
It is amazing to me, and I’m so thankful for it, that we’ve been able to get by this past year or two with a mediocre website. Our new site may not seem super to you, or maybe it does, but to me it is that times ten, not just because of its design, but also and mainly because for the first time, we have instant control over everything in it. In the past it has taken up to a week to fix an apostrophe, and that is now fixed.
A few times a day we get asked about when the next Reader will be out. I think in about 2 months. I’ve got kind of a bad rsi thing from too much mousing (from working on this site), and it’s hard to type without it flaring up. It hurts from armpit to elbow, and I’m taking ETODOLAC for it. It’s like ibuprofen but stronger, I’m told. And I got a new kind of mouse, and a mouse pen, and I try this and that, throwing money here and there to make it good again. When you kind of write for a living and ride for fun and you can’t do either without sharp pain following it, money means nothing. I don’t suppose any of you have any insights into this, but if you do, sure, let me know. If you have chops behind your  insights, so much the better, but plain old experience is good, too. I won’t dwell on this, but it IS the main thing keeping me from working on the RR now, so it bears mentioning.
It also makes it hard for me to answer email, and to give thorough answers. So, I’m afraid my short answers might be taken the wrong way. Things’ll be fine in a month, but now, not great, so I’m afraid I need some slack.
August 27, 2007
This is only a follow-up about my rsi problem. It is from armpit to wrist, with electric-feeling numbness in my fingertips, and I’ve rc’d many good suggestions - thank you all. I try every one, and right now, as I write this, my secret weapon is a low keyboard, and typing with pencil erasers (on the pencils, not the replacement angular varieties, although as long as they were on pencils, they’d work, too). I’d been getting decent at left-handed typing, but I keep hitting the caps lock next to the A, and that was no good.
I have a decent outline for RR40, and will hire friends and maybe others to help me gather it all up. Pencil-typing might be the way, but it’s still slow, and the outside help will make the difference. i would like some Reader article suggestions—for the next and future editions. We’ve had almost no repeats in 39 issues, and I’m thinking it may be fine to reprint or rewrite some early ones. I know they’re available on CD, but real paper is still easier and more pleasant. So: New topics, reruns, or some combo; please weigh in on this. Between help from friends and my new, unpatentable-but-n-less-effective-for-it pencil-o-matic typing, we may just see another RR before Halloween.
September 16, 2007
We’re buying lots of Testors paints to see which are near matches for current and past bikes. Testors has an OEM program and can mix to match ours, but the mins are higher and I think close enough is close enough. By December or so we’ll have our semi-official guide, and may even stock them and include them with a frame/bike purchase.
Bombadil the mountain bike prototype no.2 should be here mid October.  It is exciting to me, and I’m happy with how it is in my head, but I know what the critics will say, if they say anything: “Too heavy, shouldn’t be 650B if it’s a true ‘expedition-style’  bike, shoulda been threadless and oversized, and shoulda been set up for disc brake, and it’s an ugly color and overpriced.”
Well…I BET most of the critics would benefit more by losing a pound or two than the Bombadil will, and it’s not a race bike. The down tube (the most critical, I think) will be about 20 to 30 percent thicker-in-the-wall than an Atlantis down tube, but the same dimensions as the downtube on an original Stumpjumper, an early Richey mountain bike, and a 1984 MB-1. So it’s not like we’re going nuts with it. I like the idea of a moderate diameter downtube with a thicker wall. The thick wall gives it toughness and dent-resistance. A bigger diameter would provide more torsional stiffness, but this bike will have plenty of that anyway, and frame stiffness (of any kind, torsional or otherwise) is not important on a bike designed to be ridden with big softies.
Superlight non-racing modern mountain bike frames have a lot more to answer to, I’d say. In the weight department. They’re more pop-can like than they should be.
The 650B wheel size is an odd choice, but a good case can be made that it is the best choice for most sizes of mtn bikes. Yes, wheel and tire selection isn’t great now, but we’re not part of the problem, and if that gives anybody pause, there are 99 million other mountainbikes to pick from. There will be a better selection of fat 650Bs in the next year or two, and it will continue to grow. Right this minute you can buy four fat Schwalbes for $100 total, and they’ll be good for 90 percent of the trail riding you’ll do, and will last probably six years. It’s not like you need a tire cellar next to your wine cellar. A wider selection will be good, but  I know I could do  all of the riding I’ve ever done or ever will do in all seasons and terrain and conditions on just five tires, so I think (in general), that having tons of tire choices is slightly overrated.
We may make it disc-brake compaitble in the rear. I’m not sure about that. Disc brakes on the front require super stout forks, even stouter than the Atlantis fork—which is UP THERE in stoutness.  I know all of the bragged-about advantages of disc brakes, but I don’t like the scare-tactics used to sell them. “What if” this? and “what if” that?
A rim IS a disc, and a strong rim ably serves as a tire holder and a disc, and well-built wheels with big puffy tires stay true under super hard use, and even discs get warped. The strongest pro-disc argument is  No Hot Rims, and that counts for something, but by itself may not tip the scales.
 The Bombadil may look plain and may be a bland color, but it won’t be ugly. It will cost about the same as our other Japanese-made bikes, which cost more to make than 95% of the world’s bikes, so there’s no way around that. On the other hand, when you compare the price and quality to any customs and all carbon frames of the world, they are a steal.
I like the idea of Bullmoose bars on it, bit I also like Albatross and Moustache H’bars. We’ll offer options, but at some point the design will favor one or two but probably not three of those, and I don’t know which way it’ll go.
 My arm ailment stll keeps me typing lefty or with pencils, but I’m getting used to it, & faster. A new catalogue will be out in a month—by MID OCTOBER—and RR40, hard to say. I just can’t work on it the way I need to, so it may have some stories rerun from other issues. Since the benefits of membership are the rebate and not the Reader anymore, I suppose there can’t be much squawking about that. In any case, I am more concerned with getting fixed.

September 22, 2007

We got two round 2 Bombadil  (650B MTN BIKE) prototypes last Thursday, and I built the 52 today, quickly (4.2 hours). We also got in a 60cm, for 700c wheels, but haven’t built it yet. Next week.

Both were clear powder coated locally, in a day ($125 each).

Small details will change—we’ll put on a kickstand plate, for one, and maybe we’ll monkey around with the rack boss position. Anyway, the bike rides really good, just how I’d hoped and expected. I put Moustache Handlebars on it, with an 8cm DirtDrop stem. The tires are the 45mm-wide Schwalbes. Because of the thicker walls in the tubes, it takes a 26.8mm seat post, and I had to buy that at REI last night—a leftover, for $9.25. I was surprised to find that this old familiar and super common size is rare these days, but it makes sense, with all the overultra-sized tubes out there.

The 52cm frame will fit PBHs of 83 to 87, about. It has a 6-degree upslope on the top tube. I wanted to see how it set up and seemed to fit with Moustache Handlebars, and with that stem, seems fine.

Probably we will offer Bullmoose bars as an option for those who want them. They’re not adjustable, but we might have them in two versions. I think, though, that the more upright you are, the less a few centimeters of reach matters.

If your body is 90-degrees straight up dead vertical (for instance), let’s say that’s comfortable. Now, if you lean forward so your nose is now in a pocket of air that used to be 6-inches in front of it, you’ll be no less comfortable, but your reach has grown a whopping halfa foot. It works a similar way with your arms, too. If your arms are coiled up and as unstretched out as a snake charmer’s cobra, you can unfurl them a lot without feeling stretched.

On a modern set-up with hi-seat/lo-bars/stretched out & straight-armed nearly maximally, a difference of half an inch in reach is huge, because you’re already on the rack.

Anyway, the point is….when you’re laid out flat that a cm here or there becomes a make-or-break deal. Bullmoose bars actually have more than one grip option. The normal one, and stretched out more on the connecdtor piece. When I rode them years ago, I was all over the bars and didn’t think about it. I didn’t ride them for years, but Bstone used them on a couple of models, and I’ve ridden them on old Ritcheys, too.

 One thing that all Bullmoose fans like is the 16-degree sweepback of the grip. This was lost when the straight bar (6-degree sweep, typically) took over in about 1986. 

No doubt Moustache H’bars have as many or more advantages, as do drop bars that are high enough, but a Bullmoose is still pretty good, and the case for it on a bike like the Bombadil is more than just style.

I shouldn’t even say it like that. STYLE affects your mood and attitude when you ride, and to me (at least), slinging a leg over a Bullmoosed bar bike will make me feel different about the ride, and to some extent that’s one of the points of having more than one bike. Still, I love the Moustache H’bar, and Albatross bars, and I’d like to try high drops on a short stem. We will offer bar options, as we do for all bikes.Bullmoose bars will be super expensive because they’ll be hand-made and fillet-brazed by Nitto. They’ll be heavy, too, but the bike IS going to be the Bombadil, not the Will-o-the-Wisp.

 The Bombadil sample frame is made with all the correcdt tubingm, and doesn’t weigh as much as I’d hoped and expected. Just 5lb 3oz before paint. I forgot to weigh it after painting, but paint is usually 2 to 2.5  ounces.

I will ride it more tomorrow. Here are some pics:

 Had I known the grease would be so obvious in the head tube shot, I’d have wiped it off clean. It’s the best-color I’ve ever seen. It happens to be Sta-Lube blue—the same boat trailer wheel bearing grease that Gary Fisher used to favor for the early ’80s mountain bikes. Using it to coat the contact area between an aluminum headset and a steel frame is sort of like using a steel cable to hold up your pants, but it’s as cheap as any other grease, and there’s no harm in it. (I usually use lanolin for this purpose, but this was right there). 

We also got in some early trial sample second versions of the IRD freewheels. I never had a problem with the first ones, but some did, and the reason was detected and fixed, seemingly. So we got half a dozen to try out, and I put one on my A.Homer Hilsen and tomorrow will ride it up the second steepest hill in Lafayette (Martino Drive). I don’t expect it’ll break, but I am supposed to try it, and so I will.

October 14, 2007

We haven’t sent out a Rivendell Reader since about January, and many of you know why. Some don’t  (I get four to five emails a day asking about it), so the short answer is: Got a mousing injury that makes it hard for me to type. Am trying to fix it with assorted measures, and it’s coming along slowly, but not fast enough to put out RR40 in the next month or even two.

I have notes and outlines and pages of hand-written articles, and will try to enlist some friends to help with typing and information-collecting, with the goal being a mailing before the end of the year. That’s a dream, not a promise.

One thing that might help is reformatting the Reader, so it’s more the physical size of VeloNews. That size lends itself to pages-of-boxes with bitesized and mouthfuls of somewhat useful and occasionally interesting info or tips that by themselves wouldn’t warrant a full page, or even half a page, in the current pages size. And not only that—although it sounds bad to say this—it also lends itself to more frequent mailings of less significant information.

I know that sounds like we’re taking it downhill, but I’d be careful not to do that. Sometimes we discover or find out about neat ways to do things on your bike, and right now they’re just languishing here when they ought to be out there. Our interviews have been long up to know, and I like the long interview, but wouldn’t it be OK to include a shorter interview or profile of some other worthy figure or company? I think it would be good.

There really are some neat things, some good things happening out there, and if I wait until we have a giant Faberge egg to cram them all into, it’ll be old news by the time it comes out.

Shimano has some neat new things for 2008. But it still is ignoring normal bikes in favor of extremers.

The 650B thing isn’t just a weird tiny underground thing anymore. Kirk Pacenti has run with the ball and is jazzing up mountain bike makers to build frames and bikes and tires for this new size, and it’s working. In the mountain bike world there are 26-inch wheels and 29-ers, and you can’t just throw in “650B” in there and have it stick, because it’s a different language. It’s like mixing Hebrew and Latin, click-talk and French, Welsh and Kiswahili. So in the mountain bike world, “650B” will likely be called “27.5” — to the dismay and maybe shock of ascot-sporting preservationists — but for the good of the breed overall. Who cares what it’s called, so long as they make the rims and tires? Not moi (French).

The real naming solution is numbers, of course. Call it a 584, after its nominal bead seat diameter. But then you’d have to call 26ers 559s, and 700c-ers 622s, and you’ve got the esperanto challenge all over again. It doesn’t matter what should happen.

But it will take some habit-breaking for me to start typing “27.5”. 

There are rumors of new tires from Panaracer (currently the leader in that size), and three from Kenda, and WTB is interested, and Schwalbe will likely add a third to its lineup of two. Once that all happens, other tire makers (late adopters) will jump in, and I bet by 2009, you’ll be able to get them in that lengendary bike shop in Timbuktu, even.

Our new CATALOGUE will be mailed by the end of this month, and it will be in all mailboxes by November 20. It’s not much different from the last one, but  it has a new picture on the cover. I remember back in the early ’70s, the Dan Bailey (fly fishing) catalogue had a close up of a Royal Wulff floating in an aquarium. It was a stunning photo, but every year I expected the new catalogue to have a new photo, and it never did, and I really wanted it to change. The thing about the photo that really bugged me was that the fly was tied on with a figure-8 knot. That works in gut, but not nylon, and it just hammered home the stagedness of it all. The knot was loose, too, to help the fly sit less-influenced by the knot and tippet, for the photo. If a fish took that fly, you wouldn’t even be able to set the hook without losing fish & fly. Our pictures aren’t technicallty as good as that one, but they’re real-er in their own way.

October 21, 2007

I am working on RR40, but it’s just inching along. For YEARS I’ve thought the RR should have some kind of a technical or even not technical Q&A column, or an Ask Le Mechanic column, or a Touring or Camping Q&A. WE GET ASKED  a lot of questions, and usually answer them on the spot, and the next thing you know we’re on to something else, and there goes a chance to fill up a sixteenth of a page of a 48-page READER

Emailed questions with your name and city/state…that would help. I could make up some good ones myself, but it’s not that critical.

Here’s an unrelated thought that I was just thinking today. On one of the clear-coated Bombadils you can see the tubing maker’s brand-mark., and it got me thinking that we could take a Sharpie to the bare frame and write Your Name or Hi Mom or Kilroy Was Here or A Cop Owns This & It Has a Tracking Device On It, or anything else on any part of the frame, discrete or quite obvious, and then preserve it under Belgium’s finest clear coat for virtually ever.

The next time we clear-coat an unspoken for frame, I think we’ll try that. 


February 25, 2008

Last week was not fantastic. The always-determiner of fantasticism around here is delivery. It seems as though selling stuff should be the challenge. Or finding customers, or making payroll, or fixing computer bugs or something like that. With us, it’s getting stuff. Frames, mostly. Then Japanese stuff. Then clothing. Basically, the basics. I will stop this bloggish whine now. Things will look up. If that’s our big gripe, and it is, we’re doing fine.

February 27, 2008

THE READER will be mailed in maybe 3 weeks. Three weeks ago it was 68 pages, and we were going with that until the printing and mailing prices nixed it, so we’re down to 44 pages, and the pages are bigger than normal. It may be the new normal, not sure.

It also may be the last of the b/w Readers and the last of the totally Free Paper Ones. I’m considering (and it’s not up for vote, it’s just a matter of what we can and can’t afford to do)—I’m considering making it free online as a PDF, and then, if you want a paper copy, you pay $3 for it. That would help tremendously, and it may be the way to go.

Anyway, lots of folks are asking When? and three weeks from now is March 19. In your mailbox around the end of the month. 

February 27, 2008

We’re getting LEGOLAS cyclo-cross frames in late June. Just like the Legolas from last year and the year before, it is specifically for racing cyclo-cross. So, it is not your typical “multi-cross-‘muter” bike that’s good for everything and happens to be a road bike with cantilevers and clearance.

The only hint that it has purpose outside of racing is the fender eyelets, front and rear, and the only reason it has those is that I/Grant refuse to design any bike that doesn’t.

As a race bike, the Legolas is a successful—at least, as much as a bike can be “successful,”  it is. Mark here has won many races on his. A fellow named John Elgart won a national championship (masters category) on his, and Keven here races his in the toughest category, and testifies that his lugged steel Legolas has not kept him off the podium yet.

On the other hand, most of our 60-or-so Legolas owners don’t race cross, but ride their Legolas bikes as winter bikes (fender clearance), trail bikes (knobby clearance, up to about 35mm), and lightweight road bikes (the tubing is lighter than we use for our non-race bikes).

The cost is $1800. Color is your choice of red or light, really light pale green, both with our standard cream head tube and lug accents. We’re making 25 of them total, in these sizes: 51, 53, 55, 57, 59, 62.

To reserve one: Put down $200 non-refundable. You can do that by phone: 800 345-3918. We’ll want to know your PBH, to make sure of the size. Best to talk to Mark or Keven, since they’ve been riding theirs for a few years already, and Keven is on top of the ordering, and so on. 

You can read more about them under the Legolas frame section. Some of that will sound familiar if you’ve read this far. 

YouTube How-To’s

May 31, 2008

We got a Flip video camera because it seemed time to make some short poor movies that nonetheless show you how to do some things we do all the time; things useful to know and more easily learned by watching somebody do it than by reading descriptions of How.
The videos are the opposite of lavish & polished. Not by design, not because of not caring, just because they’re filmed quickly during stolen moments when two or three of us can spare ten minutes or so do do them, and because we’re just learning.

If you know how to shellac already, no need to watch that one. If you don’t know how to close a quick-release, please watch that one. In all cases, the purpose is to inform quickly, if not entertainingly.
We have a list of videos we think would be helpful, but would like some ideas, too. The videos are not going to become a big deal with us, but if we can easily show you something, that’s what we want to do.
The best way to send video topics is by email. In the subject field, type:

VID: (Topic)

If it needs more room than’ll fit in the topic field, flesh it out briefly in the text area. We will try to do one or two a week.


Check out the new Velo Orange saddles

July 18, 2008

Velo-Orange, as many of you know, is a great little (even littler than we are) company. Chris and his crew of 3.5 do a remarkable job, and are making significant, important, terrific contributions to cycling, though some really creative, innovative products that wouldn’t exist if they didn’t cause them to exist. Chis and I have stumbled over one another’s feet from time to time, but I remain a fan, and sometimes an envious one.

He has a great site, and his latest contribution to the world are these saddles. I haven’t seen one, haven’t tried one, but knowing what I know of Chris, I’d be shocked if they didn’t live up to his billing. I’ll buy a few from him, and maybe we’ll stock them.

If you didn’t know by now, you ought to. A report later, when I find out more.


More saddle news (brief), and seat post update

July 23, 2008

We’ll keep you posted on saddles in general, and we’ll be trying out whatever ones we get. We’ve now heard of yet another new leather saddle, Cardiff ( brand ) but made far, far from Cardiff. We received a sample of it today, will get others soon.
The first one we got, I just put on my bike. It’s modeled after a Brooks Swallow. It doesn’t have the width I usually like, but the shape is excellent, and I’ll just see how it goes.
With any saddle “testing,” the comfort-related results don’t mean too much. I can’t ride a Brooks Pro, but many riders love them, and so on.

We are expecting the lugged seat posts in about a month.



Loose lips sink ships, etc

July 27, 2008

We just received some Hilsen frames in these sizes:

54 (for 650B)
55 (for 700c)
56 (for 650B)
57-59-61-63-65-67 (for 700c)

We have four of some, up to thirteen of others, and several of them are spoken for already, so the four could be two and the thirteen could be six. They’re the same darkish blue as before, and have Ultegra headsets.

Shimano has discontinued the Ultegra headset. It’s a miracle it lasted this long, in this threadless world-we-live-in. There are others out there, and we won’t miss a beat.

Now that we have the frames in, lead time for a complete bike is about 3 weeks. You just call up, put $1600 down for the frame, and we’ll work out the build-spec with you, making sure you get the perfect bike for your size, taste, and riding style. You don’t need to know the particulars of the parts, you just need to answer our questions honestly, and sometimes “I don’t know” is good enough, because we know how to put together bikes that make people happy.

Complete bikes typically cost $3,100 to $3,400, depending on how much Phil Wood you ask for.
We are expecting the first Bombadil frames in late-September. They’ll be powdercoated your choice of clear, black, dark green, red, or orange—a medium darkish orange, but not caramel-like.  We have about 25 on backorder already.
It’s possible that some time mid next year we’ll have some still-lugged-steel but less expensive frames, not to replace but to supplement. IF they happen, they will likely happen in this order, and this-a-way:

A mixte, 52, 58cm only, for 650B wheels, creamy blueish greyish indescribable greenish too, about $700. Model name: Betty Foy (google William Wordsworth’s 1800 poem The Idiot Boy to read all about Betty Foy and understand how we couldn’t not name a bike after her.) It will cost about $700 for the frame-fork-headset. That’s the goal, but we’re not exactly cutting corners on it, so that might be optimistic. It will be made in Taiwan by a frame company called Maxway, who also built the Bleriot, and who builds several other frames you’re aware of, but it’s not our place to name them.

A Bleriot-Hilsen-Saluki kind of frame called the Sam Hillborne, but mostly just Hillborne—an all-around road and light trail frame, touring compatible but not super beefed up for ultra-loads; and for sidepull or centerpull brakes and tires up to about 41mm wide. Four sizes, with 6-degree upsloping top tubes, to fit riders from about 5ft 2in to 6ft 5in. Sound impossible or unlikely with just four sizes? Well, that’s understandable, but you’re good at what you do, and I try to be good at what I do, and this is what I do and I’m sure of that range; not just hoping & not making anything up. There are ways. The 48 and 52 will fit 650B wheels, the 56 and 60 will fit 700c wheels.

48cm: For saddle heights between 67cm and 72cm
52cm: Saddle heights 71cm to 76cm
55cm: SH 75cm to 82cm
60cm: SH 79cm to 86cm

SH is Saddle Height, and is usually 10 to 11cm less than your Pubic Bone Height (PBH). We tell you how to measure it somewhere else in the Read section, and if I can figure out how to make a link, I’ll put it right here.

Two others, not yet even half-baked, so no word on them beyond: Maybe a singlespeed that might be called the Simpleton, and maybe an Atlantis-type bike that might be called the Buffalo.

questions should go to

If you call up and ask somebody else something about this—well, they’re doing other stuff most of the time, and might not know. They might know, but might not, and if you call and ask and they don’t, they feel bad and I get in trouble; so for now, just ask me; thanks.

Dara Torres needs a bike

August 17, 2008

She probably has one, she’s probably rich, she probably has other things to do besides ride a bike, but she’s great. So modest, so good, such a good sport. Did you see her before the sprint, telling the officials to hold up while the Swedish swimmer replaced a torn suit? And not bummed about the silver, and all that.

Bummer about the opening ceremonies officials letting another little girl lip sync the 7-year old’s voice…because, of course, the real singer’s teeth weren’t good enough to show the world. Holy cow.

Well….it’s been fun. Weird in its way—-the stories about the young home-country gymnasts being forced to go to gymnastics camp when they were 3, screaming the whole way, but it’s good for the family, good for the country, something like that. Average weight: 77 pounds. Ages questionable. Gymnastics is too intense for me.

Anyway…..time to go to bed.

Quick news

August 29, 2008

Atlantis frames should be here early November.
RR41 is 75 percent finished, will be mailed late Oct, maybe mid.  It’ll be as a pdf on the site, that’s the plan. For the past 18 months or so  and continuing into the forseeable future, “membership” meant a 5 percent credit rebate and free shipping on most orders over $150—no longer is it also a subscription. We’ve been out there with this for more than a year now, but it’s a good time to remind.
If you want a paper copy, we’ll offer them for sale for $3-4, not sure which, as online items, probably in the Books section. We’ll make it known how to get a paper Reader.
It’s not a move away from paper, a foreshadowing of bad things. The RR has been a huge money pit from the start, and this will fix that some. I’ll do my best to make each issue worth whatever we end up charging, but keep in mind this thing that my dad used to tell me, about books: If you get just one useful or interesting thing from a book, it was worth whatever it cost. (I don’t take kindly to people arguing with my dead dad, so….).

It was 105-degrees in the workspace today, and our expensive roof-mounted double-barrelled swamp coolers are worthless.

The cost of doing business, and so on

October 31, 2008

We’ve been lucky —well, I don’t think it’s luck, actually, but that’s a modest way to put it—that we’ve never had a liability claim. May happen someday, hasn’t happened yet, and we guard against it, stack the deck in our favor in any number of ways, centering on safe materials and manufacturing methods.

Last year our product liability insurance costed $5,000. Costed is a real word.
But still, this year, our insurance was not renewed. That’s better than cancelled, but it still left us needing insurance. It wasn’t renewed because, according to Travelers, there have been too many claims in our neck of the bicycle business—manufacturers who  put their name on the bike and do assembly (turn frames into bicycles).

If we sold just other people’s frames and didn’t assemble them, we’d be fine, but that’s not what we do.

So we got new quotes from our agent, and went with the lowest one: $20,000. Four times as much. The high quote was $65,000. Not per decade, not per “life of the company,” not “until we colonize Mars,” but per the length of time it takes the earth to go around the sun.

The majority of claims have been against carbon fiber makers, which isn’t us, but we’re lumped with them. Steel? Carbon fiber? It’s all bicycles. That’s the way it works. In LIFE insurance, they dig for the details. If you smoke and your dad died of a heart attack early and you’ve already had a stroke and you eat bacon and have high cholesterol and are way overweight and are old, you pay more than the young, good hereditied, clean living, good-eating, active, watery blooded whippersnapper. If they did that with bikes, we’d pay much less.

Anyway, I will keep this post up for a few days, then replace it with another. It shouldn’t be any sort of focus of attention, but I’m still in sticker shock right now, and this is cathartic.


Hey from Japan

November 8, 2008

I don’t want to get into the habit of commenting on non-bike issues, because I’m a one-trick pony and I won’t pretend to be anything else…BUT this will be short and I’ll tie it in to stuff we do. This is about things made in America, US jobs, the economy. I’m sure it’ll be full of holes and beans, but…

I’m faraway now and watching CNN, as the only English television going, and after a day of Japanese, I need a little dose of it. Everybody’s economy is going down the crapper, with Iceland leading the swirl, followed by us, and Japan’s not far behind. Here, the biggest culprit seems to be (this is CNN’s experts talking now,  not me) manufacturing jobs.

Here at the Tokyo Bicycle Show—not it’s official name, but that’s what it is—it’s pretty obvious what’s going on in bikes. Twenty years ago this show was full of Japanese makers. Three quarters of them are gone, and ninety percent of the rest have the name they’ve always had, but they don’t actually make things in Japan anymore. Same with Italy, America, and it’s even happening to Taiwan—and it’s all going to China and Vietnam. Vietnam makes great luggage, and not just bike luggage. Complicated bags with zippered pockets inside of zippered pockets, with hidden sleeves inside the inner ones, and pleats and bellows, and corded seams and other things that, details that are first to go when price matters at all, but it doesn’t when the cost of labor is so low.

There are some neat Japanese tools here, made by Kyoto tool. There are metric wrenches that have an open one end and a pivoting rachet box on the other, and the finish is super nice, and all excess metal has been zapped away with a hollow scoop or a strategically place hole, so that even in steel, they feel like they’re titanium. There’s a crescent wrench with calibrations and not a tenth of a millimeter of wobble in it. I’m sure Snap-On’s equivalent is 80 percent as good. Is Snap-On still made in the states? I’m not sure. Probably.

OGK has some neat helmets, and that’s a hard sequence of words for me to write, believe me. Japan’s leading/largest/only helmet maker, but they’re in China now.

Bridgestone is here, of course. Still Japan’s biggest maker. Here at the show—it’s a consumer show—they don’t display the bread-n-butter bikes, but highlight the racy bikes, which say ANCHOR on the downtube. That name was born the last year Bstone USA existed, and we thought the same you’re thinking. It is an odd name for a race bike, but A. Homer Hilsen and Sam Hillborne and Betty Foy beat it in the odd-name category, and in Japan, you know, it just doesn’t matter. It’s a noise, a sound, and a graphic; it’s not the thing that keeps the ship in place.

Gilles Berthoud is making some nice saddles, but you can’t afford them. The rivets are brass buttons with stainless inserts with allen heads, probably for—-removal and reattachment? Not sure, but Gilles is a smart man, and I won’t question that.

Anyway, back to the Not Made In China topic. We sell ONE thing made there: The $3 measuring tape. I didn’t know it at the time, and bought 400 of them from a company called USA Tapes, or something really close to that. I should’ve asked, anyway.

I think the US carmakers should resurrect the body styles of the ’30s and ’40s, with the wheel wells and running boards and suicide doors and everthing EXACTLY that way, but make them smaller and electric. Use the old grey-greens and grey-blues, too—don’t let the newby graphicallicists try to improve on anything visible.

The MUSA shorts cost us $28. The pants are about $34. The seersuckers, $43. It’s hard to support made in USA when Bean and everybody else sell shorts with more features and equal or better quality for 2/3 of OUR COST, and about 1/3 of our retail.
Good luck, Barack. But let me point out: Our seersucker has two pockets with buttons, and a pencil pocket. The pants and shorts really are the best bottoms for riding, ever, and you can wear them as your dailies, too. I wear MUSA bottoms at least 350 days a year and have for the last 4 years. Not too adventurous in the bottoms department.

This is not a good post. I just need the English words right now, mainly.

I went to the best store I’ve ever been in today. You have to like dogs, and probably you have to be there, but here’s the site:

Also, the guy there plays music by Blind Boy Fuller. I hadn’t heard of him before now, but he had the album in one of those Now Playing stances, plus I asked to confirm.
I just bought a cd.  THis is the kind of posting I hate…the rambling kind that assumes interest. No mas, just now.


November 29, 2008

In two weeks (edit: big box now in stock!) we’ll have a new Nigel Smythe bag, the Big Box Bag. It is a big boxy squarish bag with the familiar features of other Nigel Smythe saddlebags——the quick-release buckles, the Scottish dry-hand duck fabric that’s also used for Range Rover covers, the neat-as-a-button stitching, and the perfectly matching leather, from thick strap to thin trim (which you may take for granted, but is actually nearly seemingly impossible outside of the United Kingdom). It requires (practically) some kind of support beneath it, and the Top Rack or any other rack is ideal. You can strap it to those racks, and it’s sans-a-wiggle.
 Price undetermined, but it won’t be cheap. Cheap is easy. I get emails every other week or so from Chinese makers who have learned that we sell cottony and leathery bags, and they can make them for us really good and cheap.

And in five weeks we’ll introduce the Sackville line of bags, made in ‘merica by a team of seven headed by two guys. One worked at Coach before Coach went “overseas” and the other worked at Dooney & Bourke before it went there, too. The first two bags will be a Monster saddlebag and a Mini-monster saddlebag. They will be severe in dry-waxed black cotton duck and with burgundy leather trim, silver stitched-on stripes of reflective fabric, and nameplates that look like they belong on the inside of your car’s glove compartment; because the nameplate maker makes those name plates. Like the new Nigel, these won’t be cheap, either.
The biggie, so far unnamed, is ideal for huge loads——-big laptops, big galoshes, pumpkin pies, and hats. You can almost throw Frisbees in it at night in the wind, even if you’re lousy with a Frisbee. Some of you have seen the early prototypes on my bike here at the plant, but the real one will be fully featured and ultrafine.

The next Reader, No. 41, continues to grow in thickness and slow in arrival, as new things get added, and facts and gaps in existing articles remain lost or are just being collected, and now have to be sorted and flowed into the sentences. That’s how it works, and it’s a part-time job here. As many of you know, Reader 41 will be readable free online as a PDF, and if you want a paper copy, we’ll have an item number for it and you can order it as if it were a regular old bike part.

The only way we have been able to survive is with your continued support. Your out-and-out purchases. For that we are all, all of us, deeply thankful. We know it is hard  our there, because it’s hard here, too, and we’re all out there.

We have the kind of business that doesn’t fit the modern model. It isn’t chaotic and foolish, but there are things we do that don’t make sense even though the reasons we do them are good. There are things we try to do better every year, and progress happens at a rate sufficient to prevent our extinction. Our direction is fixed, I don’t expect any surprises—-think about that one—-and mainly, we’re content with the rut we’re in.

The new Sam and Betty bikes will be really good, I can’t wait. We have proto-Bettys in now, and Proto-Sams are due in mid-December. The Sackvilles will be delicious! The new Nigel Smythe, another good one. I’ve used prototpes of all these bags, and the development (of the details) has been slow and good, and now it’s time to walk the dog. That is not a metaphor—- I do have a dog, a white little Westie, and she’s pawing at the leash drawer!


Yen Watch II

December 19, 2008

A dollar now buys only 90 Yen. It’s quite horrible for us, but we’re sticking with the finely made Japanese products, and are hoping for a turnaround. The only thing that’s saving us is buying direct and selling direct. We don’t want to be the low-ballers, we don’t care to be the “price leaders,” we just want to sell things at a fair price and offer good values and service—and all the good stuff. But woe be to distributors trying to wholesale Japanese goods to dealers. Whether bike parts or Toyotas, good luck. If we’re suffering, they’re suffering more.

The last “Yen Whine” was a  month or so ago when it went to 105. We like it around 115. We love it at 120.

We appreciate your patronage in any case, and will keep prices as low as we can, so long as orders come in now and then.

Sam news

January 5, 2009

No huge news, but we got in 7 more sample frames—3/7 of them green, 4/7 of them blue. But there won’t BE a blue, just green. It’s a really good green.

We need to decal them and assemble, and then we can get the photos up. But decals may be a week in coming, and so we might put pics up sooner.

No, we found some decals packed separately. We’ll show them. They’ll be up on the site tomorrow, but some minor decal changes, maybe.

These are samples/prototypes, and they’re not QUITE there, but there enough to show and be proud of. There are some suspicious-looking hourglass rack mounts on the backathe fork blades that the finals won’t have, but I think everything else is right.

Eventually we’ll sell these as Protovelos, but not till we have the reals in.

Sam News JAN 6

January 7, 2009

Mark and Jay built up three Sam Hillbornes yesterday and today—a 48, 52, and 60cm, so we got the pix on the site here. They came undecaled, but with decals separate, and they’re the waterbased, slippery kind that we’re not that good at, so we wrecked two for every one we successfully mounted. There’s one close-up of the decal, and it looks bubbly and lousy, but when the factory decal mounters mount them, they will look good.

We have one more green one to build—a 56—and then the other prototypes are a blue we aren’t going with, and these will get Protovelo decals and eventually be sold.

The Sams are good, and I’m really eager for people to get out on them. Latest word: Mid to Late March. We’ll have a backlog of orders, and they’ll be assembled in the order ordered…..

Somaly Mam 1 day left

January 24, 2009

Go to the News section and read a post ago, about Somaly Mam Foundation (SMF). So far you’ve contributed $3,000 dollars (now almost $7K) to help prevent child sexual slavery, and we’ve match you buck-4-buck with a credit here.

It is totally a no-lose deal. IF you’re going to spend ANYTHING here in the future, you might as well donate up to $100 to SMF, because you’ll get a tax write-off for it, you’ll do a lot of good, and you’ll get, lemme repeat, a dollar-for-dollar credit here. Not fifty cents for every buck you donate. A whole dollar.

Read that post to see how it works, to see how to do it. It’s sooooooo easy. No salesman will call, you don’t get cookied, there’s no waiting period….just no drawbacks. It is better financially for us if you don’t—-which I say not so we appear saintly, or stupid, or to discourage you from doing it. But just to emphasize that there are no backdoor shenanigans here. There’s nothing—-it’s just us trying to make it a no-brainer.

Read the Somaly Mam post in the NEWs section. We’re hoping to create another $3,000 in credits….which will mean SMF got another $3,000. (As of now, you created another $4K on top of the $3K, and you still have Saturday, the 31st, if you want to help out.)

It takes less than three minutes.

Thank-you, Somaly Mam Donors.

February 1, 2009

Thank you to everyone who donated money to Somaly Mam during January. It looks like more than $7,000 from over 70 Rivendell customers. Great! In a world full of good causes, it’s hard to imagine one more important than the work done by a group like Somaly Mam.

Economical notes

February 4, 2009

The local UPS center is laying off 19 drivers. The hemp twine people are closing. They’ve pointed us to another source, but it is truly a drag when this happens. Frame and bike orders have been canceled. The phones are quiet. It’s not doomsday, but there’s a lousy feeling in the air and this small mention is a little helpful, just to get it out.
We’re cutting way, way back on inventory buying. We have several new-small things in the works and we’ll flag them as NEW on the home page when we get them (or, in the case of the SaddleSack bags, before we get them). But overall, we’re feeling a part of the news now, not apart from it, as we felt a few months ago.

On a more positive note except for the printing cost: Reader 41 will be mailed within a month. It will cost $4 for a real live paper one (that includes shipping). Otherwise, it will be free online.

A month ago it was up to about 60 pages—-a biggie, by Reader standards. But the printing costs and the extra time it was taking to tie up all the loose ends with it was stretching it out too much, but the pages dropped from 41 will give a good start to 42.

On the good side: Obama!

The paper Reader will be available two ways: as part of a regular order, or by mailing us $4 cash, along with an address label of your own making, to Rivendell Reader, PO Box 5289, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.

The address label can be any piece of blank paper, 2.5” by 4” or so, with your name/address/city/state/zip. Something we can glue or tape onto a large white envelope.

Not intentionally “retro,” but the only way we can do it. You can send that anytime, and we will mail it as soon as it’s done.


Just for the record…who we are

February 14, 2009

The last post, about the dreadful state-o’-the economy, ended with a probama remark, that a few have found offensive. If you haven’t read it, it said Go Obama!, and that has cost us some business. It is good to vote with your dollars, and if I go out on a limb and root for the president to help us out of this, and by doing that offend somebody and lose a sale (he bought another bag, not ours), then that is just a consequence.

It’s a consequence I was too dumb or naive to predict, but in retrospect it seems obvious and wish I hadn’t done that, but I think any patriot would root for whoever’s in charge. Whomever won. I’d be rooting for Joe the Plumber if he’d won, no pun intended. (That is one fine pun, if such a thing exists.)

There are about a dozen of us here, and we often remark at what a diverse gang we are. Our ages run from 20 to 62. Our religious and political affiliations are a microcosm of the country’s. We eat different foods, and yet it works.

When you call or correspond, you will talk with somebody who is living on the same spec of dust (in the cosmos) as you; who wants peace and prosperity and security for all, just like you; who loves both food and bikes, just like you; and who has the same fears and insecurities as you do. (On that last one, it’s only a probably—-but the others, you can be sure of.)

I just wanted to clear the air. Blogs are dangerous, and I will be more careful.



February 15, 2009

We’ll still have the paper one. It will cost $4 and will be available (read John’s post in the News section). Can’t emphasize this enough—‘twill still be available in paper.

In “the old days,” we’d get 20,000 or 25,000 of them  printed, and it would cost $15,000. Then we’d mail them out, about 7,800 of them at $1 each—-so each printing and mailing would cost $22K or more, with no paid advertising to help out. Try to do that 2 to 4 times a year, why don’tcha?  It hurt us a lot, and we can’t do that any more. If you pine for paper, you’ll pay for paper—just like you’d pay at a newsstand. On the other hand, you can read it free online in color. Don’t write and pine for the good old days. Read the early part of the paragraph to see how “good” they were.

The new way makes more sense. Free color on the web, and wiith PDFs you can zoom in and get close without it going fuzzy….it’s quite nice.

Still I’m a paper guy myself, and I as much as any-o’-you like holding a self-contained publication in my hand and paging through it. It’s not a totally brown  proposition, either, since it’s printed on recycled paper. The printing industry is greener than it used to be, inkwise. And printers are hurting a lot these days, and they need work, too.

So we sort of go both ways. If you want the paper, you pay for  it $4. That will come close to covering our cost. Since we’ll print fewer, the price per Reader will be higher (about $2 to us). They’ll head your way in an envelope—another $0.35 or so, and with about $1.39 postage—- not sure yet what that’ll be, but I’ll change this sentence when I find out Monday). The time spent producing it….we don’t count it. So $4 is a good price for now.

Main point: Paper lives still.  I’m still editing it, and we won’t catch all the typos, and there will be sentences that’ll make me cringe when I see them, but it’ll at least be out, and then we’ll start working on 42.

Thank you all for being patient, and thanks especially for wanting it and liking it. It puts pressure on, but I want to like it, too, and we try to put in things we want to read about…and I think we all have about the same taste.

The fish story I wrote many years ago. My oldest daughter illustrated it two years ago…it’s not relevant to bikes, but you hear a lot about fly-fishing, and there are so many books and how-to’s about it, and there’s all this artsy mystery and latin bug names and a pecking order, and  it’s just gotten so weird in the past 20 years. Before I was a bike guy, I was a fly-fisherman, and I was really good at it—-good at catching really hard-to-catch fish. I did a ton of it from age 11 to 24 or so, and now I ride bikes and work here and have a family and an inconvenient fear of driving that keeps me off the water…but when I do fish, I still love it. So—that’s why the fish story.



March 9, 2009

BLUE JEANS: We don’t sell them. We don’t even wear a lot of them, but you can’t show up at the ranch or the hoe-down wearing MUSA pants, and so…rotten economy, small companies hurt as much as big ones…’s a tip if you’re looking for super-duper Made in Georgia (not the Russian one) blue jeans—-because no matter how much or little you wear them, blue jeans are a staple, and you need a pair, right:

THey have a seamless crotch, so there’s the bicycle-connection. Other than that, they’re just really stout blue jeans. Various styles and fits. If you buy a pair, send us proof in paper—the label or something. Some kind of proof. And we’ll give you a $5 credit here. This is one small way we-and-you can help the economy. If you need blue jeans. If you’re going to get them anyway….

Send the proofa purchase to

Rivendell Bicycle Works
Box 5289
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
attn: Grant/Blue Jean Deal

Do it by the end of the month. We won’t send notice that your account has been credited, but it will be, and any future order you place will have it on there automatically. Jeans run about $39 to $50. Stoutly made for the tough cowboys and ranch hands in Georgia, but they work for us bicycle riders, too.
Yes, help this company, and get some super good blue jeans in the bargain.

New homepage pix explan

March 31, 2009

To see the referenced pix, keep hitting the “refresh” key (circular arrow) at the top of your screen, and the main photo will change. There are about 26 photos in the random rotation, and maybe 10 of them are from taken on an S24O (sub-24-hour overnight—-a quickie ride-n-camp trip) nearby. Following is a brief story of it….

From HQ it was a casual 50-minute ride (mostly residential and bike path) to the trail head, where everything gets woodsy and creekish. Then ten minutes of flat riding, leading to 25 minutes of pushing the bike up a hill, then riding through dense woods, followed by more pushing and then we’re for the most part above the trees and in the land of green domes and wildflowers (fiddlenecks are the yellow ones, and they’re dominant). We were at the top 2 hours after leaving HQ, and rode around on the trails there before picking a campsite.

Rider is a friend. His bike is a Bleriot 55cm with one Col de la Vie tire, and one Schwalbe Middie. He had a Top Rack on back, where he strapped (using four John’s Irish Straps) his one-person tent and sleeping bag and pad.
Up front he has a Mark’s rack with a medium Wald basket with food, clothing. He’s been on a dozen or more of these, and this is his normal rig. Sometimes he rides shop bikes or prototypes, but usually his own.

Ordinarily at this time of year we’d cook dinner (Trangia stove), but this time we ate sardines, strawberries (kept unsquished and in surprisingly good shape in a Trangia box), gouda and parmesan, and walnuts, almonds, macadamias, and apricot kernels. Trader Joe’s sells apricot kernels cheap in a bag, and they’re surprisingly non-bitter. If they were almonds they’d be lousy. They look like small orange-ish almonds.

I rode my 56cm Atlantis with Albatross bars, with a Big Boxy bag in back with food, tent, and clothes, extra water, book, and wash kit, and a Nitto Mini rack in front, onto which I strapped my sleeping bag and pad.

My Atlantis is the first prototype, from 1998, and has been on more than 50 of these trips. Can’t beat it, but many of our bikes would be as good. I rode Schwalbe 26x50 Marathon XR tires and was glad for the volume and softness, because the cow hoofprints made some of the trails really bumpy. The Albatross bars are great for this kind of riding, although my buddy rides Noodles, no problem.
The photos were shot with a Voigtlander Bessa R 35mm rangefinder camera, with a 35mm lens. Friend shot some with a digital, and when I ran out of film, I used his digital camera, too. A Nikon Coopix somethingorother.
I’ll replace this post in a few days, with something less me-me/we-we.

well, thanks, Good Day, April 9. After bad day, April 8.

April 10, 2009

Today, April 9, was a day that’s everybody here will remember for ten years, no question about that. It was stressful and then great, and it was great on many levels.  I’ll just get to it. We have some monstrous bills coming up, for the Sam Hillbornes, and they’re due before the Sams arrive. My wife, who pays our bills and deals with that end of the business and is usually unflappable, was quite wound up yesterday, and I mean really wound up. She doesn’t get mean or yell, she just frets, and when she frets, we all have a reason to fret. (“And when Einstein’s scared, brother….I’m scared.”—Sam Hinton, Talking Atomic Blues, as sung at the Newport Folk Festival, 1963.)
We’ve pre-sold lots of them, but usually we don’t collect the money until the bikes arrive (then we charge the balance on the frame) and then ship the bike (we charge the remaining balance). We didn’t have the money to pay the bill, so asked the orderers if we could charge their frame balances now…to shift the payment forward and help the cash flow.
The alternative was borrowing money. We can’t borrow any more from the bank. We’re hanging in here, but we’re tapped out, too. We pay our vendors and make payroll, but behind the chit-chat and bike passion and all that, is a constant hi-wire tension that revolves around cash flow. I think that’s normal for a business. It certainly was at Bstone, and—-ask any business what its number one concern is, especially these days, and if it doesn’t say “cash flow,” and then you say, “even more than cash flow?”, that company spokesperson will probably amend the answer to, “of course cash flow, but I thought you meant besides that.”
Anyway, we needed your help and got it. You agreed to pay now, and we got out of a deep jam. The gang here came up with the plan and made the contacts, asked the uncomfortable questions, and you did it.
We’re still on a short leash, and we still tread water month-to-month. The fact that we’re still here after 15 years just means we’re used to it, and haven’t done anything really big and stupid. Work is good, but these are hard times for everybody, it seems, and Rivendell Bicycle Works is feeling it too. Yesterday was  horrible, today was great, and it’s not just the moolah; it’s the coming through part, too.


BLOGS? You want, like, insider stuff? Musings? Twitter-like and all? OK.

April 13, 2009

I invented the modern day blog every bit as much as Al Gore invented the internet. Some of you long-timers may remember the Progress Report in the early Readers. It was a daily journal of hold-nothing back, and it went on for five years or so, stopping only when—none of you, but other online Monday morning quarterbacks would publicly second-guess decisions that I’d already admitted were dumb or financial failures. It got to the point where I’d say (in the Prog Report), “Man, I shouldn’t have done that,” and then somebody would go online and repeat to the world that I was stupid to do it.

On bad days and in bad weeks that are stressful enough without public chastisement, it just got to be too much. I have opinions about bike things, and I state them succinctly, and that combo sometimes suggests I’m a tough jerk who ought to be able to take a good lashing, but I hope I’m not a jerk, and I know I can ‘t take the lashing…so I stopped.

Having a Forum is stressful enough. I go onto it every now and then, and sometimes post something, but I still find that I lack the intestinal fortitude for it. The same fellow who likes my writing sometimes, doesn’t like it other times. I tell myself, “That’s  only natural, what are you—nuts?—you expect everybody to like everything?” And of course I don’t. But I wonder what he likes and what he doesn’t, and then I wonder whether it’s even good to know, whether I should write to the audience or just write, just say what I sorta feel I have to say or whatever.

I got a lot of criticism for “spilling my guts” and one guy accused me of not being manly about it. One remembers those things. One problem, or feature, inherent in bloggy junk, is the danger of thinking people care what you’re feeling at any given time, that it matters. I know  people care, because I know people—and by this I certainly mean 99.9 percent of our customers, of you guys—are good people who care. But bloggy stuff can take on a life of its own. It can be reinforcing in a dangerous way, or a pathetic way, to watch one’s own musings slowly fill up the page. It’s like filling up Shea Stadium, but without the nervousness, and it can go to your head.

The Progress Report days were generally less busy than a typical day now. Early early, it was just Spencer and me and a part-time helper, Maggie. The first year we started with about $80,000 in the bank, but I hooked up a fire hose to it and started siphoning it into the sewer with lots of bad decisions, but there were some good ones, too. Still, at the end of a year we had minus $3,000 in the bank, and I had to borrow it from my dad. He died a few years later (I wrote about that in a Reader) before I could  pay him back, which bugs me still.

There’s a plan here to collect and consolidate and publish a “Best of the Rivendell Reader,” and so the other night I was going through some of the early issues trying to find things I liked good enough to put out there again, and I was not coming up with much. Some of the stories are good, but the photos were lousy, and I don’t even have the original photos they came from, so we’d have to use a dub of the lousy printed photo, and I’m not sure I have the stomach for it.

We’ll still do something. It feels odd to put out a self-praising “Best of…”, but it would simplify life here if we could do that. We don’t have all the files anymore, or even every issue.

Another thing, related, is that we’d like somebody to make a Reader-by-Reader list or some kind of searchable database for old Reader stories. Nobody  here has time, but if one of you, somebody who knows himherself to be a fastidious, meticulous, detail-oriented follow-througher wants to tackle it,  please do so and we’ll give you a $250 credit. On the outside chance that this offer gets ultra-pounced on by too many, we’re going with the first taker before Wednesday. That could be today, it could be tomorrow, and maybe nobody will jump on it. TAKEN CARE OF at 3:10 PM.

This post replaces one Spencer or John or Mark put up, about the Tweed bags coming in again. That reminds me—about tweed mudflaps, one thing one of my favorite Rivendelles groans about.

They were always tongue-in-cheek. A response to mudflaps made of thick, oil-stuffed English bridle leather. One one hand, it’s just a mudflap, so what the heck, go hog-wild with it (hog leather?). On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said of duct-tape mudflaps, and mudflaps made from recycled junk. Why not one of each?

But the tweed mudflap makers—-they’ve been hurt badly by both the economy and the horrifying trend of today’s British, youth not caring about their old, traditional bags. Our bag maker had to shut down for most of a year a few years back, and resurfaced reorganized and greatly shrunk.

Some of what we do here…is buy from makers who really need and appreciate our business. Most of the time, the stuff costs a ton to buy and a lot to ship here. Nobody here makes much money (me  included, yes) for what they do and the contribution they make. So…when I read that people are bummed about this or that selling for more here than at VO or some place else, it really bums me out. Let me tell you: There is NO FAT here. We try to make up for things with free freight on $150+ orders, and the 5% credit rebate, but we don’t price-shop our competition.

Who is our competition? We must have some. Many of you think many of us think VO is our competition, because it sells some of the same kinds of things, and some of the same exact things. I don’t consider them competition. It is challenging, I admit, to discover they have something we have cheaper; and to think that we’re being whittled away at by VO or Kogswell or SOMA or SURLY or Acorn, Carradice, VBQ, Berthoud, WallBike, or something…but these are good businesses run by good people. My overriding concern here is to keep my fantastic co-workers employed. Those other fine firms have the same concerns for their employees. And think of how disingenuous it would be for me to tout lugged steel and canvas bags and all that stuff…and then yelp like a whiner when whaddya know, other people start getting into it, too?

It is a personal battle for me to think of these guys as on our side, on our team. I’m winning the battle, but it takes diligence. I know we’re in a niche, or a small pond. There are two ways to deal with that. One is to think, This pond: Not big enough for more than one fish! The other is: Welcome, new fish! We got a good kind of pond. Let’s make it bigger.  That second way is the way I think about it, but as I said, it’s not always a cinch. I have turned the corner, though, and I think it’s good for everybody’s business, including ours—on a practical, money, cold-hard business level that goes way beyond karma points or whatever.

The competition, if anything is really our competition, is —- well, two things. One, my own emotions, which sometimes steer me down paths that aren’t all that profitable (you’ll read about one of these in RR42, and I will be strongly criticized…but I know all that now, before the fact, and I am resolute in this stupid-seeming thing we’re  about to do that’s not worth guessing at). It’s still not smart, but it’s not as dumb as it seems, and not every decision here is made with the bottom line in mind.

And the other is the racing community, which is tricking lots and lots of people into a way of bicycle life that …. ummmm, isn’t all that fullfilling. Not for all of them.


The “I invented blogging” is a joke, by the way. Not a good one, maybe a dangerous one. A bad, dangerous joke!

small note about new pix on homepage

May 2, 2009

Four or five new pictures, with Jay, Mark, Vaughn. The hills here are starting to turn brown, but it’s great riding. If any of you comes by and want to know where these trails are, we’re happy to direct you. There are hard and easy trails close to us, and if you have 2 hours or more, you have access to everything. It takes no time at all to get there, but there’s a lot of there there, and two hours just means you can spend more time in the woods.
Mark’s on his custom Riv cross bike. Jay, on a Hilborne. Vaughn, a Legolas with a front-mounted Carradice.
The new photo note: Olympus XA camera, Portra 400NC film. Does that mean anything to anybody anymore? I mention it in case it does.

To scroll thru the photos, keep clicking on the RIV circle logo. There are 31 different  photos, and they come up randomly. The fancy shoes are Allen Edmonds (MUSA!) Strands. Ha!

Seven or so new pics

May 26, 2009

Jay got a new camera, an old Nikon FM with a 50/1.8, and last Friday (May 22) he went up to the High Rocky Place on the mountain by himself and took two of the pictures. Then on Sunday he and Aaron (works here Saturdays) and Alicia rode down in Big Basin State Park, on the roads down there, and that’s where the other pics are frome.

Alicia rides a Bleriot, Aaron rides a Hilsen, and Jay was on his Hillborne. In the foggy rock picture you can see it. He used a prototype rack he’s working on with Nitto. You can sort of see it in the picture.

To see all the pics, keep clicking on the RBW button. They come up randomly, and there are around 33 pics up there.

Join the ranks of the ferocious arch-pedalers?

June 3, 2009

Friend Gary sent us a link to a Cyclingnews site column on foot-pedaling position and cycling shoes and biomechanics and all. Naturally it just elated me, because it fits right in with The Shoes Ruse claims. Now, if they could only get rid of the cleat itself and start riding in sandals, Adidas Sambas, and regular ol’ shoes, they’re really be up to Riv-speed.

Plug for MUSA

June 15, 2009

You won’t find many pure plugs in this section, but our MUSA shorts, pants, and knickers are—-well, I’m as happy with them as I could possibly be. If they weren’t ours, and they were made by somebody I couldn’t stand for some really good, deep, evil reason, I’d still buy them and wear them every day of my life. I wear M or L shorts, and XL knickers. I like the big baggy long knicker look. Anyway, the MUSA stuff is really good, and we get lots of repeat orders. If you’re needing some riding bottoms that double as everyday bottoms, you should try them.

General notes

July 6, 2009

The Bullmoose bars are selling fast, and Jay here loves them. He and Dave (also here) recently went touring on paved, dirt, and logging roads in the mtns of NorCal, and Jay came back really happy with the bars, especially with a heavy load and on rough roads. No surprise—that is what they were made for. I’m going to put them on my Bombadil.

They stopped by Dave’s girlfriend (Marcy’s) family reunion, and one of the new pix on the site is Marcy shooting clay birds. We’ll get a few more bikey pictures from the tour up there soon, too.

The Vegan bags (Brand V) are due in about ten days; and the orange Sam 56s and 60s will be here then, too.

We’re working on sort-of-a-Ramboiullet replacement, but more of a club-riding bike, so even lighter. It will be called one of these: Rodeo…Roadio…Roadeo. And we’ll offer it in your choice of threadless (for most club riders) and threaded (for more traditionalists). No rack braze-ons, light tubes, but still our bike thru & thru, with our lugs, our design and choice of tubing, all that. We’ll have the prototype by late July, and Mark will build it up and ride it, since he was the impetus behind it.

We’re getting in black wool cycling jerseys, from Australia. They’ll be here today. Ordinarily, black wouldn’t be a superb choice for a cycling jersey, because black on black looks rather dark…but when you’re riding with non-black shorts, no problem. And it really makes the reflective triangles pop.

There are several projects going on here. The normal gestation period is about a year for any project. It seems like a long time, doesn’t it? But it just takes that much time. Sometimes half a year, but never less than that. We’ll have some neat racks, bags, ‘skets, and then, in the fall, our riskiest item ever, in terms of “how will it go over?”

Usually we don’t consider “how they’ll go,” because the stuff is made the way we want it to be, since we are users, too. Then we figure that if we like it, you will, too—or a certain number of you will. It works out well that way, and with the sole exception of the wool felt pennants (which continue to be our all-time worst seller), we can usually sell the stuff we like.

But in the Fall we’re going to have orange rain pants. We’ve tried the samples (being sprayed with a garden hose), and they’re super. The worst thing about most rain pants is not enough ventilation, and these will have ventilation everywhere you look. Two or three times as much as normal. The second worst thing is the color. Most are dark, because dark is dignified, slimming, and doesn’t show grease. Ours will be orange, because when it’s raining out and the wipers are flailing away and peripheral vision is reduced, the key thing is to not get hit, and the key thing to that is to be seen.  So we will introduce the most expensive orange cycling rain pants in the world, at around $120. It makes us slightly nervous, but we’re firm on the orange (for safety), and the pants have everything we’ve always wished other rain pants had. So, we’ll see how they go.

Though it never made the Daily News, in the New York Times….

August 23, 2009

(that’s a flipflop of an old S & G song)

Many of you know, and have alerted us, that there’s a Quickbeam on the front business page of the New York Times.  I think you have to know what one is to identify it, but it’s still kind of neat. Its owner and the subject of the story about home-made bags that hanG on the top tube and other places (hambone designs) told us we might see it. Her name is Lisa M. Grillos, and she’s below the stogie-biting record bigwig on the upper half of the page.

new pix note, quick

September 7, 2009

You can now scroll through the big home page pix, there to the left; and we’ll be able to add captions, too—-just saying where and when. Ideally we’d list GPS coordinates, but you have to know how to do that, and not all of us do.

Some of the new pictures are from a recent overnight, and the two bat pix are from a couple of years ago. The bats fly at night, and if you sit around in the dark with a headlight on, the insects will fly in the beams and the bats will go for the insects. It’s not like you’re trying to trap the bugs, but it’s a consequence of wanting to not stare into darkness.
The bats fly by, often close, and with a wide angle lens (25mm) and a flash, you just aim the camera basically up and out and toward the light beam, and when you see a bat out of the corner of your eye flying that way, push the shutter off and take the film to Target the next day and see what happened. The photos are never technically good, but when you shoot bats for fun, your expectations are low.

There’s also a dead deer photo, which I hope isn’t too gross. I’d say it’s less gross than a deer killed on pavement by a car. What you don’t see is the track of packed-down grass where some animal dragged it off a slope onto the flat fire road (a table).We came upon it on the way home from the S24O on Sept 5.


November 6, 2009

It’s only a few minutes, like five.

For more, read the NYT column by Nicholas Kristof—Oct 31—“New Life For Old Pariahs.” There’s a link to it here:

All for now.

The Haiti deal: Update 1/16 Night

January 14, 2010

Here’s the update: Did well today, donating $700. Udooda math—; and thanks. Another update tomorrow.

Jan 16: Did well yesterday, pretty seemingly probably due to the Haiti deal where we (see below)…so we kicked in some extra ourselves to bump it up to $1500 since yesterday for Haiti earthquake relief, via MercyCorps——-

There are lots of charity groups out there. They seem to be competing for money. That’s good kind of competition, but it feels bad or funny or something to nix one and lay it all on another. Still, what a horrible thing.

Wednesday’s post starts right here:

Ten percent of receipts on Thurs and Fri will be donated to Haiti relief. You can read about this on the Velo Orange site, too. Chris there proposed it to me—VO’s doing it, too, and it’s a good idea. If you don’t know Velo-Orange, you should. On the surface they may appear to be competitors, and at the most basic level, at a business-discussion level, I guess there’s no denying that they are. But they’re also friends, and they’re pointed in the same general direction we are, and let me tell you, folks— it’s good to have more companies, more people, going in that direction. It’s not like the racing world isn’t ten times huger as it is; it’s not like this movement, or whatever you might call it, has a full head of steam. More really is merrier, so go to

and whip out your credit card.

Donating a portion of sales to Haiti relief is a sensitive, tricky deal—- as a business, you depend on sales, but also, you want to do some good along the way. I’ve thought of this as “leaving good snail tracks,” and there are selfish and altruistic components of it. If we swirled down the crapper in a few months or a year or some other dreadfully short time, I sure wouldn’t want to look back and think, “We cheated a lot of people and were selfish SOBs along the way,” and now we’re out of business, oh well.”
No matter how things are going and how they go, I want my worst thought to be something along the lines of, “Well, we tried hard. Maybe I wasn’t a good enough businessman, but at least we didn’t cheat people, and we gave a bunch of money away to good causes, and that’s better than nothing, that’s nothing to scoff at.”
Don’t take that to mean we’re going down. We haven’t had to lay anybody off (but are in no position to hire anybody new). We either earn business or don’t, and we try to.
The Haiti relief deal going on now—- a cynic who hates us (and hates VO) might say we’re using the disaster to boost sales. It would be hard to defend against that. Well, today we had a lousy sales day, capped off with a huge refund (bike deposit refunded, circumstances changed). We sent $1000 to Mercy Corp, directed to Haiti. It’s not braggy stuff, but I’m mentioning it as a preemptive measure, in case somebuddyboysomewhere gets the wrong idea.
Anyway, the Haiti disaster is a disaster for all other charities, too. Whenever one cause makes big news, money that would have flowed to the other charities gets refunnelled to the Newsy one.
I do happen to think Pat Robertson’s comments on the earthquake are —- well, I think he’s full of —- well, I should probably just say I think he’s off base. Is that OK?  And I’m sure he doesn’t care, or read this. I mean, I’m sure he’s a nice guy and all, and I’m sure he claims to mean well, and I’m sure in the next few days he’ll clarify what he really meant….but holy cow, Robertson…

15 Trilobites, one Mammoth

February 24, 2010

We’ll probably give partial credit for 15 beetles and a Snuffleupagus (any spelling), but in any case, the contest is closed. There will be others. Tons (twenty-nine is “tons” in these parts) of entries. (That was by 7 last night. By this morn, 89.) John will process them an post and email pdf-credits within a day or so.
This post will be replaced this evening…with something. Maybe something will happen today.  Grant

Long shot, but we have to try

February 27, 2010

I got an email late Friday afternoon from the Smile Train people asking if we can make a movie of us talking about Smile Train and why we do it and like it, and then uploading it on a private YouTube spot by Monday morning.

It has to be five minutes long, and there are some guidelines, but it’s mostly free-for-all, and I’m thinking we do have a Flip video camera, and Dave knows how to put things on YouTube, but we don’t have the kind of set and presence and experience to make a good show.

They’re asking for a demo tape, and if it makes a cut, then somebody real would come by and shoot it professionally.
I don’t know what to do or say, whether to do it inside or outside (those of you who’ve been here know how unimpressive it is).

At best, the chances are super slim that we’d get picked, because there are other people doing them, and I can’t imagine that we’d make a better one than anybody, much less everybody else, but we’ll see how it goes.

Anyway, we were picked because our fund is doing well, and so Smile Train must think we’re slicker than we are. The bikes are slick, and the bags are slick—-that’s for sure—-but we, and our building are far from it.
Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about this weekend.

Who’s going to hold the camera, if we’re all  in it? I don’t want to be the only guy. One of the other tenants here can, maybe. We’ll figure it out. We’re going to lose!


If you don’t know about our Smile Train fund (and the benefit to you for donating, and how easy it is, and how much good it does), here you go:

Various on March 1

March 2, 2010

We shot the Smile Train video and they probably won’t take it, meaning I probably won’t get the part. We’re shooting for $25K in donations, as you may or may not know. I think 90 of you have donated something (with several double and a few triple donations.
You know the deal:

It is a good deal. You donate, you get credit here, and for every $250, a child with a heck of a nasty defective mouth gets it fixed, so he or she can eat, drink, talk, and hang out with other kids. Just have a look, and then here’s other stuff—-

We’re working on panniers. Had some before, are doing them again, updated and ultra spiffy. But not, like, ______ spiffy. More modern and slack, natural and detailed. Nothing against some, and you might not like ours, but we’re going to like them. Bags: No matter what you do, somebody’s going to tell you, or at least think, that you barely missed the mark.

You know who hits too many marks? Topeak. Ever seen a Topeak multi-tool or trunk bag? The guy must be a genius, but it’s toooo much. It’s too indoorsy, too fretfrul, too spreadsheet-checklist, and fiddly. A bag or a widget needs a little room for change or improvement, and not in the god-fearing way of oriental rugs, or the Japanese way of wabi-sabi, but more like a fine boot in mud or something basic, that anybody can do without an emperor or king or duress or enlightenment as part of the picture.

There’s that old-and-often requoted quote from Antoine de Saint Exupery, the guy who wrote The Little Prince and Wind, Sand, and Stars, which was much better if you ask me, but longer and less famous. I first saw it out of context in the Chouinard Equipment catalogue in 1972. I borrowed the same quote for a Bstone catalogue, and I think somewhere along the line in Rivendell’s history we put it up  someplace. Since then, I’ve seen others use it, including other bike companies. It’s fine, dandy, it’s a good, thought-provoking quote that warrants the circulation, but I wonder if it can be  improved upon. Here it is (by memory, honestly, so I may get a word wrong….although my memory for such things is famous among those who know me well):

"In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there’s no longer anything to add, but when there’s no longer anything to take away….when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness."

That’s pretty close.  “Attained” might be “achieved, and I”m not sure if the word “down” is in there, and there might be a “left” missing between “anything” and “to.”

"The "stripped down to its nakedness" always seemed to take away from it, because it makes you picture a nude, and the quote is supposed to be about objects. So from that point of view at least, the quote could have stopped after "away." But everybody always included the nakedness part, always.

I’ve always seen it with the elipses (the three dots …) that usually indicate unquoted text, but — I can’t find my copy of Wind, Sand, and Stars to verify this, but I think the original passages in the book had those there, too, in which case there was no missing text, but it was just the part he wanted you to pause on. It was a good book and he was a good writer and that was probably the style of the day, before M-dashes, the long dashes we use now in place of semicolons sometimes. M-dashes don’t show up in these blogs, something to do with how the program works. They’re ignored like they aren’t there at all and the words just run togetherlike this. I put an M-dash between “together” and “this” there.

Back to the quote and the message behind it——- (that’s how I simulate M-dashes here); It’s one thing to appreciate the idea of getting rid of junky stuff and all, but if you take the quote close to literally and live and shop by it, you might end up with pocketless pants, and a house full of Shaker furniture (which I don’t put into the same category as pocketless pants, I’m just making a point), and there’s no flourish or decoration anywhere, because, you know, it’s just non-functional.

No bike would have a head badge, no lug would have any undemanded curve, it would be against the rule to hang a picture on a wall, and we’d all live lives of extreme violation and debauchery —- from that point of view.

This relates to bags, a lot. No matter how much you may like a bag, you can probably think of some way to improve it. The bag of ours that gives you the most for the least amount of money——hard to say, but maybe the Sackville SSS. One strap, one pocket, no provision underneath it for lashing it to a rack, and it’s only $105.

But, you could say it ought to have a kangaroo pocket on top, like the Medium and Large do, or that it should have a cell phone pocket inside, or something. But then it might cost $120, or $130, and it wouldn’t be such a good value. It’s where it has to be, and it holds a tremendous lot for what it is.

The new panniers will be here by June——is the target. We may do a vegan version also. I’m testing a new other kind of bag, which started as a copy of a Swiss Medic bag, which, if memory serves, Albert Eisentraut’s children used as a lunch bag in school for a few years. He saw me with one once and told me that. I’ve used them on rides for 30 years or so, and the new GrabSack is bigger and way more useful, and I really wonder how it’ll go. We do these things becasue we like them, and hope there are others who will, too.


In a month we’ll have a new garment, a commercial version (MUSA) of something I made up thirty years ago. It is a simple, cheap, super useful thing for cold or cool weather, and I can’t believe nobody else makes anything even close to it. Some of you will figure out what I’m taking about, but it’s coming soon, and we’re getting only 100 of them. They’re made from remaining fabric from other stuff that somebody else, not us, had made in red, orange, and tangerine (reddish orange).  I used the sample tonite, and I’ll see if somebody else at work wants to try it tomorrow and the next day. It’s not the kind of thing that’ll sell itself, but it is the only thing like it in the world, I think.

One of the guys reads a guys magazine, not sure if it’s GQ or not, but he brought in the current issue with an article about cell phone dangers, and wi-fi dangers, and now we’re all taking that seriously. I predict there will be lead-lined cell phone holsters within the year.

We’re going to do another seersucker. They”re always popular, and nothing beats them for hot-weather riding. It’s tough as heck to find fantastic seersucker fabric. Ninety nine percent of it is thin pastel stripes, which are fine, but not unique enough for us. So we’re  working on a modified Dress Stewart tartan, but instead of the white, it would be a soft blue, with a grey tint. These shirts cost us $40, we have to buy 300 of them and we’ll sell them for $65. Not enough. Those are the lowest clothing margins in the universe, but I personally want to have four of these shirts, and we do get requests. Please consider buying one. They’re made in the US, which is unusual, and they’re seersucker long-sleeves, which is almost freaky (but super functional), and they’re a unique variant of a classic tartan that will never, ever be duplicated again. Plus, they have two-not-one chest pockets, each with a button. Details, USA made, unique…..and we gotta sell them.

OK…..back to Smile Train. Did you know that a botox treatment costs about $400 per shot, that most people get shot in five spots on their face, and that it lasts 6 months?
That’s $2,000 for half a year of tinier wrinkles. A cleft surgery costs $250 and lasts a lifetime…and the results are more dramatic, too. Click on the link (here again) and see if it makes sense. I know times are hard. We’re almost at $25K, which is enough to fix a hundred mouths.

Here’s a good page with answers to lots of questions:


Traversing, poem, mo Smile Train stuff

March 3, 2010

Traversing is widely regarded as giving up, but that’s just a racer’s take on it. If you have to traverse in a race, you’re either overgeared or underlegged, and usually  it’s not the gears. I traverse all the time these days, because I think it’s better for me and I know it’s about a million times more pleasant than ultra-grunting up a hill.

Traversing is cutting across the road in lazy S-turns, so you don’t have to climb as sharply. Good traversing technique is this;

OK, you’re cutting mostly sideways toward the curb. Just before you have to turn, accellerate (it’s easy because the slop is flattish) and use your speed to gain elevation at the turny part, as you point the bike uphill. Save enough and muscle speed to flip it around the other way, then start all over. I usually give it a few good grunts straight up the hill, then turn sidways again and relax for a second ot two, and then accellerate after I’ve recovered for a second.

It’s a series of super brief sections of resting, accellerating, a stroke or two of actual uphill, and then the turn back and start over.

If you’re looking for a reason to traverse, here’s a fantastic one: To keep your heart rate lower. The key to burning fat and reducing your body’s stress response (which is bad for you) is to exercise both below and above the “training” zone of 75 to high-eighties percent of your maximum heart rate.

Basically, try to spend most of your riding time between about 55 and 75 percent of your maximum heart rate, and then once or twice a week shoot it way over the top to 90+ percent.

A heart rate monitor is a good thing to have, and get a cheap  one you can figure out. I’m bad at that stuff, so I assume everybody else is, too, although when I look at my history with devices and the popularity of devices that confound me, I know that can’t be the case. Anyway, my monitor is a Polar FS-1, but I’m not sure it’s made anymore. It’s the entry-level one, for cheap dummies.

You have no idea how easy it is to ride at 65 percent, for instance. It’s an effort level that you’ll swear is doing you no good, maybe even training you to go slow. It’s not. It’s better for you, and as long as you don’t have a gutful of Gu or Pasta or Power Bars, you’ll burn fat. Fat is the original fuel, which is why we’re so good at storing it. But among modern exercisers, and especially bike riders, it’s not just under-uitilized, but it’s circumvented, which is even sadder.

If you don’t want to burn fat, fuel up for your rides with carbs and ride in the training zone (75 to high 80s). In other words, follow the conventional wisdom.

That’s a sure way to prevent fat-burning. The carbs will spike your blood sugar, the training-level of exercise will burn sugar instead of fat, and the insulin in your blood (produced by your pancreas to lower the blood sugar) will convert any excess calories to fat and store it away, so your body can concentrate on the sugar-burning.

The thing about blogs is: Anybuddy can say anything. The thing about me is: I have no reason to lie about this. I don’t have the academic chops to talk biochemically about what happens, but by the same token, I can tell you the Sun is about 93 million miles away and the earth revolves around it—-without having a background in astrophysics or whatever. Once a fact has been established, it’s Everybuddy’s!

And the point here is: Traversing is easier than grunting, and better for you. Unless you’re racing, in which case, forget it.

I wanted to talk about Traversing because about 8 years ago I put a picture of then-employee Joe traversing up a steep hill down around Cambria, CA, and it inspired this poem, by our own Beatles-fan and GM John:

The Ballad of Traversin’ Joe
by John Bennett

There’s a man out West in Californ’
Been climbin’ hills since he was born
Don’t use no car, “Them’s fer squares!”
Don’t make him laugh by suggestin’ stairs.

That’s ‘cause he’s Joe,
Traversin’ Joe

He’s a bikin’ man with his own technique
He gets to the top in less than a week
Other fellas rush when a hill they climb,
But Our Man Joe is a takin’ his time.

That’s ‘cause he’s Joe.
Traversin’ Joe.

Yeah, it’s anybody’s guess
Why he always rides that “S”
Sometimes it’s better if ya’ just don’t know.
That goes double…when it comes to Joe.

He’s a mystery, that Joe
Traversin’ Joe.

"And the first one now/Will later be last"
He’s singin’  Bob Dylan as we fly past
So he can ride a bike, and play harmonica, too?!
Well, by gum, that’s our Joe for you.

We’re talkin’ ‘bout Joe
Traversin’ Joe.


On a poem-note, there’s a reference to an A. Homer Hilsen poem in the A. Homer Hilsen section of the site, and at least twelve people in the past year have asked for the entire thing, so here it is, sappy as it is, as recited by an old Scotsman on ‘is deathbed, or at least in ‘is bed:

A Life With A. Homer Hilsen

Tho travel wide and far do I
Oer stoney paths, tween fields-o-rye;
Past foggy crags, where the lost sheep bleat
I tell you, mate, tis no grand feat ——
    For I ride A. Homer Hilsen!

Aye, my bike do take me far ——
To lands I couldna see b car;
Byond the reach o mail or phone
But neer do I feel alone —-
    For Im with A. Homer Hilsen!

At times it is me campin bike,
When out to far - off lands I strike
With a pocket full-o-nuts, and a bedroll small
My worries? I forget them all ——
    On account of Im with A. Homer Hilsen!

Oh, the sirens call o-the-race mans steed
Tempts me not —- tis a fra-gile breed.
Twere lugs and steel—— joined strong, with fire!…
And room for mudguards, and manly tire
Steered me to A. H. Hilsen!

Surenow and then I get the urge
For speed; and I be known to surge
On up the road, so fierce m pace
The geese above concede the race
To my A. Homer Hilsen!

So … day b day, and week b week
There is no other mount I seek;
My stalwart pal, in cream & blue —-
The sites I see —- youll see em, too!
Come with, A. Homer Hilsen!

Alas, years hence when Im rid out;
My joints so stiff, so bad me gout
That I canna push the pedals round
An I stay at home, in armchair bound
    Ill bequeath A. Homer Hilsen

To a lad I know, his character strong
His smile, as wide as a June days long
Wholl ride him on Adventures New
(of the sort I can no longer do)
R-r-r-r-r-r-ride on, A. Homer Hilsen!

And if that plucky lad has time,
Mayhap hell regale —- in song or rhyme
Me, after dinner one fine night
(A long shot? Sure! But still, he might —-)
With tales of A. H. Hilsen!

And more on still, when that lads grown old;
His rides no longer swift, nor bold
His joints, like mine, all stiffened up
Then soon twill be his own grandpup
Who rides A. Homer Hilsen!

For a bike like this can neer be kept still
It longs for the trail disappearin oer hill;
It calls y to pedal, to pack, to explore
And een when you stagger, it begs you for more
Its the lugged steel A. Homer Hilsen!


And now Smile Train: We’re nearing the goal of $25,000. Of course we’d like it to keep going, because the need continues. But we’re going along pretty good with this one, and if I don’t post this link again, you may forget about it. As you’ll see when you read this, there is a pretty good incentive to donate.

In the world of cosmetic surgery, here are some facts:

A single botox shot costs $400 or so and lasts 6 months, and a typical botox treatment involves 5 shots—- so, $2,000 for 6 months. The thing about botox is….once you in the program, you stay in the program.

A cleft-repair surgery costs $250 and lasts forever. There’s no program, it’s just a 30-minute, life-changing surgery that lasts forever. Slightly more bang for the buck.

OK, that’s all. One has to tread lightly when pushing charities, or it’s no fun for anybody.



Mystery garment update, and last day of it. Plus wacky surprise news at the end of this.

March 5, 2010

(It’s a thing we’ll divulge in a few days, but if you buy it without knowing what it is, you save a whopping $4). Twenty dollars now, twenty-four after about Sunday afternoon or certainly Monday 12:01 a.m.)

We’ve sold ten so far, to ten bold, adventurous, gambling addicts who trust that we aren’t going to deliver a bad joke, which we aren’t. The part number is 60-004 if you call in the order or order it online, and after tomorrow time’s up for the earlybirder $4 discount. Twenty four dollars after that. There’s not a lot to this garment. If it were made in China or India or Vietnam, it might cost $5. But we have this MUSA thing going on, and this thing-that-it-is will last you at least twenty years, so the cost-per-year makes it reasonable. Your heirs won’t know what it is, and will throw it out, though.

Even here it’s getting snickered at, but I swear it’s really smart, useful, super good value, and all it has against it is there’s no precedent, and so people don’t warm up to it right away. I invented it (micro brag, because it’s not genius-like) about 30 years ago, and we’re going to make 100 of them.

They’ll cost $24——-which is pretty good for a Made In USA garment that’s bigger than a wrist band, bigger than a hat, bigger than a pair of sox, or all three combined. Tomorrow by 9:30 California time I’ll update this post with the part number, but still no description.

If you pre-order it without knowing what it is, but knowing that it’s a MUSA thing and quite useful, you can get it for $20—-but only while this post is the current one.

So, for a day or day and a half. It’s sort of like gambling, but I promise this: If you’re comfortable being casual and NOT dressing like all of your friends do, and you can see through the simple oddness of it and understand that it is the simplest version of what it is, the final reduction, the minimest common denominator of its genre—-like an acorn to an oak—then be one of those brave & economical early adopters and order this thing after 9:30 Walnut Creek time. Don’t quiz the guys about it.

And here’s this, in case you haven’t seen it:

We’re almost at $25K. Even ten dollars  helps. 

See what SmileTrain is all about in this video.


Hollywood Day 1 (super drivel, not worth reading, sorry)

March 8, 2010

I got to Paramount (!) studios and was directed to the Hair and Makeup trailer, where people were getting fixed, and I felt like the old ugly guy. The mirrors show every pore. No fun to see yourself in that place (for me).  Everybody gets their hair done and makeup, and for a three-second spot — it makes me think none of the famous are EVER without their makeup, guys included. They may be hooked on it, for all I know…but that doesn’t take away anything. I’m down here saying a short thing for SMILE TRAIN.

My deal is tomorrow. I feel like a real stupe, you know. I worked on my script, made out my cue cards, told the producers I might need a globe and a calculator for props. I asked them if they’d provide a script, or I should, and never got an answer. They picked me based on a quickie demo thing we did at work here, and I figured they wanted something like that, but refined, but..nope.

I got my script, and really had no idea —- and it’s fine —-how minute a role I’d be in this. Which is fine, because I don’t have to be nervous about anything now. Instead of 400 words all my own, I have five. More than I thought I’d have six days ago, and I’m just going along.

I hung around the sets set among a fake downtown district with buildings used for TV show or movies I’m not familiar with, but I took a couple of pictures anyway (with a 50mm lens, and I should’ve brought a wider one).

Most of the time is was John-Paul saying his line. Then when he was finished, this really nice looking woman named Sharido, which I know I’ve spelled wrong, but one doesn’t ask a woman like that how to spell her name . She’s a pro actress but also raises loot for a charity named Action Against Hunger, so—good for her!

I got a ride to my hotel, hung out for an hour or so, then thought I’d go down to the Kodak Theater to get a good streetside spot for the — what is it, an entrance or something? I was an hour late, so I got a Greek salad to go and ate it on the way back here, my Marilyn Monroe-decorated room in a Best Western. I have to say, it’s the best Best Western I’ve ever stayed in,

This is the kind of post I don’t want to get into. I’ll report again on my shoot tomorrow, only to close the can of worms, and that will be it, back to normal.

Hollywood Day 2

March 10, 2010

OK, a quick report—

I wore grey MUSA pants, a Pendleton tartan long-sleeved shirt, a Derby tweed vest over that, and some low-top musa leather clodhoppers—-the kinds of shoes a 12-year old kid digging holes for dad would wear in 1966. I had a daypack, and I was one of a diverse group of charity spokespeople.

Everybody was really nice, it was a great experience that way. Awkward for me to be filmed, get my hair and makeup done and all that, but the people were great, everybody friendly, no weird stories to tell.

After my big line;

"Grant Petersen….putting smiles where they belong"

After that, in another shooting segment, I and everybody else said a few other things (unscripted by them) about the particular charity they represented. Just for the record, because the acting thing may suggest something else—— I am a bigger Smile Train fan than I can even say. I think the surgeries, at $250, are the biggest bargain on earth, and I am so happy and proud that we’ve/you’ve raised so much money for Smile Train in such a short time.

I don’t know where or when the Paul Mitchell stuff will air, but in the next few months we’re going to make our own Smile Train video, and see how it goes. It’ll be fun. We can be looser and sloppier and say more.

Meanwhile, link to the page and you’ll see that for every dollar you donate, we’ll give you $0.75 in credit, up to $300. And if you plan to buy a bike, there’s even more stuff in it for you.

If you don’t know exactly what Smile Train does, watch this:


I think too  many people don’t donate because they think it’s like pissing off El Capitan. Not in this case. A whole surgery, a face-fixing, life-changing, lifetime-lasting face repair costs just $250, and so every dollar (well…every five dollars) is significant.

It’s the biggest bang for the buck of any purchase you’re likely to make today, and it takes less than a minute, and we’ll credit you seventy-five percent of your donation, up to $300. Don’t be put-off by t hat $300. If you can spare $5, that’s great.


UPDATED with broken promise/Movies, birthdays, mysteries

March 15, 2010

Some of our foreign customers can’t see the Hunqa-riding video because Sony blocks the song in their country, or their country blocks the song. Somebody in a big chair says No, anyway, and I’m sure it’s for a good reason.
So here is one without the music, and it’s a little longer too.

A lot of you have liked the video, but nothing’s going to our heads around here. It was Jay’s and Vaughn’s work, and Vaughn used his Flip Micro Supreme, or something like that. One of the more recent Flips. I hope they can make more, and we’ll try to get some of the S240’s, too, as the year moves ahead.

Sometime in the next few weeks we may ask paid-up members to tell us their birthdays. Not sure how exactly we’ll use this deeply private personal information, but it won’t be anything bad, and the plan is for the contrary.

If you’ve been reading these posts  lately, you’ll know we were offering a Mystery Item for $20 (plus freight) if you ordered it without knowing what it was. About fifteen of you did that. Today (Monday) is the last day, and tomorrow (Tues) or the next day (Wed) we’ll say what it is, and have some pictures.

Decided not to show it yet, sorry. We raised the price $2, still $2 below the final retail, and you can read more about it on the site here.

Vaughn and Jay took off a hair early today to practice shooting more - - - probably nothing will come of it, but eventually another video, so we’ll see how the sequel is.


New RivFilm #2

March 18, 2010

Vaughn and I did this video last Tuesday after work.

Thanks for helping reach the Smile Train goal of $33,333.33! The goal is now $50K. Remember, you donate up to $300, and we credit your account for 75 percent of that. Give ten dollars—you get $7.50 on your account, and we email you a pdf as proof. It’s easy and fast and does a lot of good. One mouth surgery costs only $250, so even $10 is significant.

Check it out here.


Reached Our Goal.. and Counting + Sat Ride Maybe?

March 24, 2010

Thanks to our customers for helping us reach our goal of $33,333.33 for SmileTrain. We’re now over $35k. That’s 140 surgeries. To all of you who donated, thank you. 

Here’s another short video from co-founder Brian Mullaney’s recent trip to Somalia.


Saturday ride?

No host, no waivers, no food provided, no suing allowed. Self-supported fun-yet-challenging ride in the emerald-velvet hills here, not sure which road and trails, but some roads and as many trails as we can manage. Lots of climbing. Regrouping for sure. If you hate climbing or descending, probably best to avoid this one, because there will be lots of it. If you’re uncomfortable walking down hills that others have just ridden down, then again, best to wait for another ride. It’s all friendly, it’s going to BE friendly, but steep climbs and descents can be ruthless if you aren’t ready for them.
In reading this over, it sounds scarier than it is. Look: Maybe 3-4 hours round trip maximum. The most luscious hills you’ll see anywhere. Maybe some mud in spots, maybe some bike-toting, but for the most part good riding.
If we go out in a group, for the good of us all and the reputation of bike riders universewide, I think we should be quiet and gracious to others and hikers. Bring food  and water. We’re starting before Rivendell opens, so there won’t be any pre-ride buying.
Skinniest recommended tire: About 38mm, but you know yourself better than I do.
We may go on trails that shake water bottles out of cages, so tape or a strap or something is good. It’s not a defo cage, it’s the bumps and angle, so plan for it.
OK: 8:30 Walnut Creek Bart. Leaving at 8:45 latest.

It will be a glorious, fantastic ride…just a lot of climbing, and some steep descents. Depending on which one we do. Come on….

If this one works, there will be more, and easier……..
Best to all,



water food (if you need it)
pump, spares.
cash in case we eat at Tullio’s afterward, where a great salad is $15…or there are other places downtown, but Tullio’s is the best and is 3 minute walk from Rivendell.
wear shoes you can walk in

OK! Let’s see how this works. I’ve got three places /rides in mind. I’ll size you up as a group and pick one accordingly!

Either everybody hates me or I made it sound too hard; and carbo, and Hunqapillar

March 27, 2010

Tony showed up and he and I were the only ones on the ride. It was as pretty as described but maybe not as hard as suggested. It’s may be better to overstate the difficulty (so riders are prepared), but it does nothing for the turnout.

Next time, a rating system, one to ten. Today’s well call a ten. Next time, a five.

The broke-in-half Swiss-made carbon frame in the Women’s Track World Championships…we’ll find out more details. Could be the break was the result and not the cause. Still, bikes shouldn’t snap like that.

To see it, paste this…

Ian D. writes:

At 1:15 in the youtube video, you can see that the down tube has already broken (buckled).  This is after the impact with the downed rider’s head, but before the bike hits the ground and splits in two. At 1:18, after the front wheel hits the ground, you can see that the downtube has severed at the point where it buckled.

I hate to talk about a person’s head like this, but the frame was not strong enough to survive impact with an obstacle that gave significantly on impact.  The failure had nothing to do with the crash, but wow.  I can only imagine all the other things that might have broken it.

It’s a bad crash but you won’t see any gore. Two broken teeth, which is bad enough.
More Hunqapillar pix will be….somewhere soon. If I can remember how to make a link, I’ll put it here. OTherwise, in the Hunqapillar section of the site, where they’ll be soon enough anyway.

Sorry for this waste-of-time post.


Week of March 28 TWO posts

March 30, 2010

Truth or falseth?
A woman, or maybe a guy buys a bike, not one of ours, in 1994, OK. She or he is an “active cyclist,” and rides the bike for fifteen years. A famous Hollywood director is making a movie down in that neck of the woods, on a public road. The electricity has to come from somewhere, so there was a …

… cord across the road. The rider was on a ride and came to the cord, all half-inch high of it, and doesn’t just ride over it, but tried to hop it with the front wheel, and the wheel came out and rider crashed and says it’s because the dropouts didn’t have lawyer lips…

Can somebody own and ride a bike with q/r wheels for fifteen years and not know how to close a quick-release? In that time, even if you never removed a wheel to put the bike on a roof rack or fit it into the back seat of a car, there’s a chance you’d get a flat or replace a tire and have to remove the wheel. So…how can somebody ride a bike for that long and not know how to close a quick-release?
maybe to be continued

April, week one POST one

April 6, 2010

1. Something that’s good enough to use, no problem, not anything wrong with it, may not be good enough to sell, because…little things. We’re working on panniers, and here’s the first sample. I used them on an S24O Friday-Saturday, and they worked fine, but there are things about them that won’t sit well with everybody—and I mean reasonable people, not just handwringers, and so we have to fix those.

In panniers, NOBODY is going to outwaterproof Ortlieb. But panniers should be fairly waterproof, if anything can be “fairly waterproof.” What about pannier covers? They also increase visibility. Will country pannier buyers be OK with city raincovers? And the raincovers, ideally, won’t be stitched through, or will be minimally stitched, so that means losing the reflextive stripes. OK for day, but for rainy nights the ‘nniers should…have them. There are other ways to shine up at night, but still, it’s expected and not unreasonable.

We’re working on panniers. Dave’s doing them, for the most part. With some feedback from whoever uses them, and he’s used them too. Rack compatibility, easy of on and off. I think that’s overrated, but not way overrated. More to come..

THere are two pix below. One is of North Peak, the little-ridden peak northand east of Mt. Diablo, and you can also see a trail down to the right of it—Prospector’s Gap trail, I think. It’s steep and loose, and spooky—-just right for the Diangonapillar!
THe second pic shows the panniers.
I’ll learn how to do smaller pictures tomorrow or the next day. Little steps, like everything else.

Week of 4/11. Four posts

April 12, 2010

4. One of five projects we’re working on is panniers, and they’re coming along OK. Dave has been working on the details, I’ve pitched in here and there, and you can see where they are right here. We’ve added two details since this, but basically, this is how they’re shaping up.  This is a note we sent to Waterbury (our maker), and I was going to make another pdf to post here, but…didn’t see the point. This is how the communication goes, sometimes. 

3. No hugey, but in today’s NYT there’s a photo of a bike that has Miesha’s Portuguese Cork grips.

It’s the periwinkle-ish one, and you can enlarge it and see the twine-groove, I think. The un-used twine-groove. So, I’m thinking they could’ve gotten the kind not made for bar-end shifters, and not had the useless groove there. Anyway, no biggie.

2. A while back I mentioned that we’re collecting a mess of crash-damaged frames and fixing them up as good or even better than new, and it’s an ongoing project that’s moving along just fine, and by I don’t know when, maybe June, we should have some one-of-a-kinds to sell. No holding them, and we don’t have a catalogue or spreadsheet showing what’s in the pipe. There will be fifteen or twenty frames, something like that. You can see one here, along with a picture of a guy’s Rambouillet that got roof-racked/garaged.


1. Bummer, the Sam decals were plastered on too high. We got a photo and the opportunity to either accept them or wait a month. There’s no decision here. A misplaced decal—-well, you might not even notice it, but I would for sure, and every time I saw one of those bikes I’d cringe. It’s too high by two inches. If we took them, I’d hate it, hate myself, and we’d be saying, “We’re Rivendell; we accept screw-ups. Please try harder next time.” I like the try harder next time, and we are Rivendell, but the screw-ups we don’t accept.

It shouldn’t take a month. Even new decals take just a day to make. Hours to make. The month part comes when it’s a new order and has to be scheduled. But when there’s a screwup, somebody should hop to it and get cracking instantly.
Painting bikes….well, Joe Bell takes eight and a half hours, Rick takes two to four hours, and places-o’er-there that paint bikes—-I’ve seen how it works. Bikes on hooks on conveyor belts, people with spray guns shooting them from all sides, at backwalls of water to catch the overspray. Thirty a day, fifty a day, even with painted fork crown wings, not that hard.
So, not happy with a month’s wait, and I hope my message from last night speeds it up some.

Race Crash

June 16, 2010

It’s a dramatic photo. Reader A.T. sent me a link to it. That’s supersprinterbigdeal Mark Cavendish, and we’re not turning into a racing coverage site, but a little non-death carnage now and then is all part of the game.

His wheel was rocking and the rider behind him was rocking the other way, and this happened. The rim flattened, but snapped back, cracked. The carbon didn’t cause the accident,and an aluminum rim would’ve been wrecked, too. Nobody can say how the ensuing pileup would have been different if the wheel had been aluminum, but since nobody died or got paralyzed, all’s well—although if I’m allowed to guess, I’d guess that none of the many crashed frames will ever be ridden again, because those kinds of frames don’t do well in accidents and can’t be trusted after something like this.


Good day for ME, don’t know ‘bou’ choo/P. 1-2-3

June 23, 2010

Not top-posting. Chronological from the top down.

June 23
Well, I don’t want to make too big of a deal about this, but today’s the first day in 6 weeks—-since I broke my thumb — that I’ve ridden my bike. It hurts my hand to, but it’s one of those non-dangerous hurts that’s due only to my hand guts stiffening up after being immobilized for a long time. It hurts to grip and my range of motion is lousy, but I can ride, and for me, that’s fantastic.

I have always been slightly too fitness-obsessed for my own good, and the forced layoff got me to thinking about what maintenance I could do. Upper body, nothing. I could have done right-side stuff, but didn’t want the lopsidedness that might result. Leg and cardiovasu-stuff was OK, with a stationary bike a little and the scooter a lot. KICKBIKE USA—-good Finnish Design, Chinese-made scooters, highly recommended and totally affordable—-$250 to $375 or so.

Along the way I’ve had a few, actually just one, revelation about exercise. I didn’t make it up, I read about it, and it would have been academically interesting to me if I were wholy well, but it was more than that since I wasn’t, and I got into it late in my scooter-convalescence. One  in twenty of you reading this now will give it a second thought, and that’s not a challenge, but a reality. I wouldn’t have been the one before, as I said. More tomorrow.

June 24:
I regret having said “revelation” because that sets expectations pretty high, and guarantees mass disappointment, and it all spirals down from there. If i had to say anything, i should have just woven it  into something else, but these posts aren’t that contrived. Here’s the deal.
I didn’t want to lose a ton of fitness or gain a ton of weight during my 6 weeks off the bike, and I didn’t want to have to starve myself to do that, because I like eating.
I got around on the scooter, but i’ve said that before and that’s not the R-word.
I like the book Protein Power more than I like the book’s name, which might as well be “Buff-up, Boys!”, and it’s not THAT kind of book. You should get it.
Anyway, I like that book, so I bought a book co-written by it’s authors, because I know they don’t monkey around, and the book was about exercise, which I thought I’d read about some to make up for not being able to do it. It’s not a substitute for The Primal Blueprint, but it’s a supplement to it, and it was only $15 or so.
The title is embarrassing and makes it seem like its audience is —- well, I bought it for its co-authors, not the title: The Slow-Burn Fitness Revolution (not Revelation….although now I’m starting to understand the forces that made me use that word).
If you’re above caring about the inner workings of exercise, that’s fine, but some things are good to know, and I’ll tell you a few things I didn’t know.

I thought that hearts grew with exercise,and that lungs improved with exercise. The concept of hearts getting bigger, from avocado to papaya, and pumping a volume of blood in proportion to its big buff size is something I’ve “known” for decades. It explains why a fit heart makes riding easier at harder efforts. I’ve read it, I’ve prolly said it, for decades, but it is apparently not true.
(I’m sure there are some heart experts out there, champing at the bit, licking your chops, rubbing your hands together, ready to correct me—and I’m ready to be corrected, but it’s not ME, man, it’s the book. Get it yourself and see if it’s a lie, but I’m guessing it’s not.)
Your heart can’t grow much because it’s in some kind of a sheath in some kind of a cavity or enclosed space and it’s not like there’s this automatic expansion room. A little bigger, the book says, but barely. And stroke volume, a little more, but not much.
That makes some sense, if you think of each heart beat as a light-weight rep with weights, or even “air curls”, considering that it beats all the time no matter what. Light reps don’t buik your ‘ceps and ‘uads and ‘torals or any other muscles, so why would they bulk up your heart? The book says they don’t, although the light-rep analogy is my own, as my way of making it make sense to me. Another way to think about it is this: If anaerobic exercise buiks up muscles, wouldn’t the heart require the same, it being a muscle? No matter how hard you ride, your heart doesn’t go anaerobic. Your laig mussells may, but not your heart.
A similar story for your lungs. They are as big as they are, there’s no room to grow. You can wreck them by smoking or breathing foul air, but volumewise, you have what your ‘arents gave you.

So the book explains what happens with exercise, if it doesn’t happen in your heart and lungs. I’ll continue this tomorrow or Saturday…enough for now, don’t mean to keep you on the edge of your seat, but I don’t think any of you are there, anyway.

Second day of riding, still good!

June 25
Ruveloution continued

I haven’t been much of a lower-body slacker, because I’ve been riding the scooter about 40 minutes a day, half of it uphill, and that’s not easy. So, I didn’t get lazy and now I’m pitching that lifestyle.

This is scooter related. When you do it, you find that your standing thigh gets lactic acid after about twelve pushes, and so you switch. Nobody could ever be a one-leg only scootist, because the lactic acid won’t allow it.

Now it’s back to the book thing, about your heart not getting bigger or upping its volume dramatically, and then if that’s true, then what happens to make fitness?

Here’s what the book says.

What you don’t see here but you would if you read more, is the it’s the big fast-twitch muscles that grow with anaerobic (lactic acid-inducing) stress, and then as it says on the page there, it’s the muscle getting fit as a result of the anaerobicness of it all that lets you recover and work harder later with less pain next time…

This is interesting, because (as the book points out), you get tremendous benefit from a couple of minutes of lactic acid pain. You don’t have to suffer on the bike. You can ride your bike for fun.

I was doing the scooter-induced lactic acid thing 2-3 times a week for 3 weeks in 90-second batches, two or three a day, which was way easier than the hill sprints I’d have done if my thumb wasn’t lame, and took about a quarter the time.

Then when I got back on my bike, riding the same hills I always ride and at the same pace, even with a heart monitor on (I used it for sprints, I don’t usually wear one), I found that even after 6 weeks, I was climbing at the same pace with less lactic acid and a lower heart rate, which is what the book said would happen.

My world has not been turned upside down, but I think it’s neat that such short periods of voluntary lactic acid pain on the scooter seemed to help on the bike, too.

On another note, a fellow came by today with an old hodge-podge bike, and look at his brake:

Wouldn’t it be nice if Shimano did them again?

Pauls are better, but still, it would be neat.

Anyway, check out the big-boy scooters at Just google it or  past this:


June 28

June 28, 2010

This is the last personal-type post for a long time, maybe ever, not because of any bad reason, but it’s not something I’m comfy with, and I’m the master of my keyboard. But this time…it’s a followup deal to the ill-received “revelation” post. I’m sure this means nothing, BUT:
On the ride to the junction Saturday with Dan and Sean, a 6-mile ride to the base, then a 6.5 miles and 2,000 foot climb to the junction. It’s a ride I’ve done a thousand times (literally, I’m sure), and the last section or so is my 5-minute sprint, named for the time I try to beat so I don’t spiral out of control out of shape downhill and totally throw in the towel on the fitness thing.
If you’re a local, it’s from the right hairpin about eight-tenths of a mile below the junction. This was my first ride-ride in 7 weeks, and the only other times I rode were four-mile round-trip tester rides Thurs and Friday to work and back.
Before the accident I was riding it in 4:50, 4:55, 4:47. This time, after a few weeks of laugh-all-u-like scooting with lactic acid buildup training, I rode 4:34, and I didn’t even feel thigh-burn. I know this is not science, but I think there’s something to the Slow Burn deal, and scooters are a great way to get it.

A picture of three grim riders partway up is here.

Dan on the left, me middle, Sean on the right. We’re looking grim because Dan took the pic with his camera on self-time, and we were…well, when there’s nobody to tell you to smile, you may not.
That’s my bike, laden with 700x47 Schwalbe Marathons, two full bags (not needed, but I didn’t empty them for the ride, and there were a couple of books in the saddlebag). So…it’s not like I rode a Rodeo with Jack Brown Greens or anything.

Now on another, thankfully non-fitness note: We’re working on ponchos with Grundens, the Swedish company that makes it’s super duper yellow slicker North Sea Cod Fisherman-approved rainwear in Portugal, the cod-fishing/cork/flannel capital of the world
We’ll settle on one and go with it.

draw a frame

July 26, 2010

Sometime starting this week I’ll start a one-step-per-day lesson in drawing (you could say designing, but mainly it’s drawing) a frame. It’s super basic, and any idiot can do it. This is exactly how I drew up the geos for the Bstone frames, and for 80 percent of our frames here. I have a cad-like program, but I haven’t given up this way. I use both, but the first stages are always this way.

Don’t expect it to be a fantastic education, because you’ll be disappointed. But if you know almost nothing right now and are interested in the steps, then that’s what you’ll get. I just know you’re expecting the wrong thing. Don’t!

You’ll need this:

Graph paper. 8 1/2 x 11 is fine. That will allow a 1:4 scale. A 1:4 scale manifies errors 4x, but for what we’re doing, it doesn’t matter. It’s easy enough to make it half-scale (1:2) if you have bigger paper.

A metric ruler. Clear is good.

A pencil. I like the Laddie we sell, but any…

An eraser. The best in the world is the Tombow we sell, but any….

A calculater for quarterizing the actual numbers.

A protractor. I like clear green or pink ones, or blue.

Compass. Not necessary, but if you want to scale the wheels, it’s helpful. I’ll also show you how to draw a near perfect circle without a compass. It’s not important for this frame thing, but sometime in your life it’ll come in handy. You won’t have a compass or a cup or round thing to trace, and you’ll need that circle.

The “lessons” are embarrassingly basic, and each lesson will be deleted two days after I put it up. I will do at least 4 per week. One line at a time, with some kind of explanation.



{NOTE: I gathered up all of Grant’s frame drawing PDFs and put ‘em here:   Grant’s Frame Drawing School. -Dave}


September 30, 2010

I just spent 45 minutes on a 4,000 word entry here about Shimano, SRAM, the SOMA San Marcos, and other stuff, and thought I hit saved, but it’s nowhere now. Sorry about that. Crud. I will do those in a word file from now on, and paste  in. Man, I hate that. There are worse things. I’ll try to get something up again tomorrow, but holy cow, I’m spent.


0ct 2 long ramble + phots

October 2, 2010

We’ve discontinued things in the past, and will do it again, but there’s always what I’d say is a good reason for doing it. The Rambouillet came out during a strong dollar and weaker yen period, and the Romulus that followed it did, too—-but not quite as strong a dollar. It comes up a lot that somebody bemoans the passing of these bikes, but if we brought back the Romulus (which retailed for $1500 as a complete bike), it would cost $2300 now; and the RambOUiIllet would cost close to $3,000….and they both presented huge cash flow PROBLEMS to us, and so…we moved on, and now life is different here.

The Rambou and Romu stories aren’t the point, but I want to acknowledge that we quit doing stuff sometimes, too. It’s normal, inEvitable, and if you don’t toss stuff out when the time is right, you end up like the guy whoSE old station wagon is parked on the street where I live, stacked almost to the roof with dead newspapers.

The one headline that’s clearly visible, from an old, brittle and yellow San Francisco Chronicle, is “Stark Raving Mad,” and whether that’s a message or coincidence, hard to say, but I take it as a glimpse into the guy’s sense of humor. I assume it’s a man. Women hoard, too. There’s a house on a ride route with junk piled all over the Deck; I heard that the woman’s husband died, and after that she quit throwing things away. About 5 years ago I left a note on her door that I’d be happy to help get RID of the stuff, if it was a matter of labor, but no reply. That’s fine. The stuff is still there, accumulating.

This leads to Shimano. Ultra insiders and Shimano academics can’t understand WHY Shimano has kept producing its 8-speed Ultegra bar-end shifter. I remember when 8 came out AND seemed so outrageous. I sort of think it still is, but I’ve gotten used it and over it. I was at Bstone at the time. IT WAS 1993, I think. WE didn’t bite on the 8 the way everybody else did, and we CAME this close to making T-shirts that said I Hate Eight, but some people react rather strongly to the word “hate.” I’m not one of them. Hate doesn’t mean “kill” or “death” or “violence” or “Hitler.” It’s just oppo- LOVE, and means “can’t stand” or something.

We didn’t do the shirts, and that’s no big deal either way.

But 8 now is so old and friction shifting so old and IT’S Fall 2010 and Shimano still produces them, and there has to be a reason that isn’t apparent.  Is  somebody at Shimano guarding Shimano’s Last Reasonable Shifter from extinction? It has to be something like that. The 9-speed Dura-Ace is reasonable also, given that it too has a friction mode. Without the 8 still being made, I’d be talking about the 9 in the same way, but in this case, the 8 is stealing the 9’s thunder in the same way that, in 1961 when Mickey Mantle hit his career high 54 home runs, Roger Maris hit 61.

I always liked and played baseball. My cousin was Jackie Jensen, the google-able Jackie Jensen athlete guy. I met him only once, but I remember it, because we were playing catch  on my front lawn one day when I was about 7 or 8, and unlike the 7- or 8-year olds of today, I’m guessing, I had good form and a good arm. Jackie Jensen told me to throw the ball as hard as I could to him, and we were about 20 feet away. I thought I’d hurt him, that he wouldn’t be able to catch it, but he insisted, so I did, and he caught it, which really impressed me.

You can buy a “Home Run Derby” dvid of Jackie battling it out with Rocky Colavito (best baseball name ever, after Honus Wagner), Harmon Killebrew, and Mickey Mantle. It’s not just a home run contest; it’s also a lesson in professional sports civility, and ought to be required viewing for every entering rookie.

Jackie Jensen was at the peak of his career when the pros started to fly to games. He had a fear of flying, so he quit. He died  prematurely.

SHIMANO, all of us here predict, will stop making both the Maris and Mantle bar-end shifters within 2 years. It’s clear they’re going to 10sp everything in the mid-to-high end, as SRAM has already done. Ten is too bad not just because it’s TEN, for heaven’s sake, but because the 10-speed derailers (like SRAM’S) have a different movement that make them incompatible with Silver-friction shifters, which are the best ever (yes, even better than Simplex Retrofriction).

So we’re planning for that inevitable and maybe even imminent extinction; and as part of that plan we are also working on some other stuff that may or may not show up under the SILVER brand. Mark here has some good ideas.

It was never and still is not the goal to make an entire SILVER group. The idea is to avoid total dependency on market-driven component makers. I’m not convinced that Sugino will continue the XD crank. It seems too good to be true, and after a while Japanese companies who aren’t NITTO changed things just so they don’t appear stagnant, and the XD has been around a long time now. It’s a $110 crank that, when you consider all aspects of a crank, practical aspects AND appearances, comes out on top of every other crank being made today. Sure, a crank here or there may “beat” it in finish, but certainly no black crank does. Other cranks are lower in Q-Factor, but not THAT much lower. You’d have to combine the best attributes of seven other cranks into one to come up with an XD-beater, and nobody’s doing that…so the humble yet lovely Sugino XD rains reigns reins supreme.

We got Round 2 SOMA San Marcos in yesterday and will have it built by Tomrrow. It’s looking good. The inside of the chainstay now reads, “A Joint Venture between SOMA Fabrications and Rivendell Bicycle Works,” but I want it to read, “Designed for SOMA Fabrications by Rivencell Bicyle Works.” Let’s see how it goes. We have no control over it at this point, other than that we’ll offer it also. Any dealer in th country can get them, and let’s see how many do. If we were a bike dealer, we’d snag ‘em in a second and get rid of so much other stuff to make room.
I did the geometry and OK’d the tube spec, that’s all. It’s a road bike, standard reach (55mm) brakes like the Roady-Oh.

A fellow was by on Saturday and we were talking about the Roadeo, and he pronounced it RoadAYo, like a lot of people do, and I kindly said, “We didn’t name it after the shopping street in Beverly Hills…it’s plain ol’ ROADY-OH.” And that was fine, but he said he actually went to a roadeo a while back, and the cowboys there said “RoadAYo,” which is disconcerting. That reminded me of the Nez Perce indians of easterm Montana. It means Pierced Nose, and French Conoisseur Randonneur Trappeurs named them that. I always said, “Nez Purse”, and figured that was it, but when I was in Billings several years ago I heard locals say, “Nay Purse-Ay” which is not in keeping with locals being able to mispronounce foreign names, the most best worst example of all time being Goethe Park and Goethe High School in Sacramento, where, OK, that’s a challenge for anybody, but to throw up your hands and say “gaytee” is over the top, I’d think. It’s closer to “guer-tuh.”

The San Marcos will be a neat and inexpensive frame/bike, and I’m hoping it ‘ll be out in Spring, but the SOMAFAB website is your best source of info, but we’ll put pix up in zero to two days, maybe now.

Shimano is quitting its RapidRise rear derailers, and that’s too bad. I think it’s the best thing Shimano has done in 30 years or ever, but they must not be selling well, and when you’re market-driven (which works, no doubt), you quit the things that don’t sell, even if they’re good. That makes the bar-end shifter situation so odd. Who uses them? We do, and some touring bikes like the LHT, and now and then a triathlete? But Mark was comparing a RR read der with a normal one of the same XT model, and voy la, he noticed the only diff is the way the spring is rigged. In the RR it goes from upper left to lower right; in the normal it goes from upper right to lower left. Think of a vertical rectangle with diagonal lines forming an X, and that’s about it.

No noticeable design change, just the spring connections. Mark asked, “Why can’t they or we or somebody else or anybody who makes derailers just reroute the  spring, or better yet, make it something a user can do? Well—-whatever—-I can see how a derailermaker might not trust a buffoon to change the spring on a bike part, but IF this is the only diff, then it should be easy for any derailermaker to do it….and if that’s all it is, why can’t Shimano just make a thousand of them and keep them as an option? We may work on a derailer with this feature. We have a good connection, and we’re going to pursue it until somebody swats us back down. But we have somewhat of a superman on our side, so well see how it goes.

This IS Peeking Thru the Knothole stuff. Usually it’s not, or it ends up in News. There’s no news here, not yet.

We’re planning some good things for next year. I don’t want to be too prematurely forthcoming, but if things get interesting and it makes sense to say something, then I’ll probably do that.

Up in Toronto an Atlantis owner reports he was riding his bike through a cemetary,between the Catholic graves and the Jewish ones, when a gravedigger driving a gravedigger gave chase. Slightly unnerved, not realizing he was doing anything bad, he stayed his course and upped the speed some, but the chase continued. Finally, not wanting to  play the escaping scoundrel role and baffled but not scared, he stopped to be confronted, and the gravedigger said this: “Hey, that’s a Rivendell! I’ve always wanted to see one, but this is my first. Beautiful bikes…” and then he said something about the Hunqapillar or something, and said something else about our bikes that the riderowner didn’t even know, and all was well.

Here’s some pix, not of that.


Free Barbour Jackets!

October 13, 2010

Yesterday afternoon, we posted this, and said that if you wrote to the Governor of Mississippi, and bcc’d John, we’d give you a $10 coupon.

We got a note from a great customer who also happens to be an attorney who strongly suggested that essentially paying people to write letters was probably not a good idea from a legal standpoint, and if nothing else, it might diminish the impact of the letters if it came to light.

We are reposting it here, but minus the offer. We’d still like to see what you wrote, so if you do send something, bcc

We’re going to do a little good, or give a little nudge, or something. To the governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour. It comes from this article.

If you can’t work the link or if the link doesn’t work, it’s Bob Herbert’s column today, about two jailed sisters in Mississippi, a bad place to be, after you’ve been born black. There’s nothing I can add to it. I think we’re all equally mortified.

I know you’d all do something if you could, but so many times there’s this feeling of being a droplet of water falling from the airplane bucket that dries up before hitting the fire.

Go to

I will report the first names of responders later this week, here. I’ll try to, anyway. Let’s shoot for a hundred. Subject in the subject field should be something along the lines of Free the Scott sisters, or Jamie and Gladys, or For the Love of God, Man.

Now on another note, today I got an email from a woman who thought I’d probably seen something that I hadn’t; this: barefoot pedaling.

I’m glad it’s out there. It’s not about BAREFOOT pedaling, but about pedaling “free”, or unconnected. The way some of us and you-all like it. Nothing I’ve written about anything ever before has generated as much mail as The Shoes Ruse, but mail generation isn’t the point.

The point is, people get wound up about what they wear or what I wear or what I or anybody else says about footwear and riding. It’s nice to see this, at least. Nothing is the last word. It’s all a matter of trying for yourself and seeing what works for you, of course.

new ders and shifters and tweed samps, and paint

October 26, 2010

We got some Microshift derailers in, front doubles and triples, rear long and midcage, and bar-end shifters…and we got three sample tweed bags, too.

Derailers (last time I will say this: That’s the Sheldon Brown spelling, which I adopted for life about 4 months before he died, and have not slipped up on even once since. It’s the RapidRise of derailer spellings, being more intuitive and natural and all, and I recommend it, but still answer email that comes with the eueueeureur spelling)…derailers offer a mfr so many places to cut a corner or make it ugly or something. Cutting corners is not evil. Everybody wants zero corners cut, but then the thing costs more, and unless one is a trust fund bon vivant (that’s a borrowed term), then one can’t always afford no cut corners. Besides, I think cutting corners nicely, in a smart or clever way can make a particular part even more attractive than not cutting any at all. It’s easy to not cut a corner, but not doing so often rules out a lot of people; so applaud the good instances of corners nicely cut, when you come upon them.

An example of a corner nicely cut is painting something instead of polishing it. Anybody would rather have polished metal than painted metal, at least in a bike part (certain camera bodies have more cache when they’re painted), but in bike parts, polish beats paint. Clear anodized and hand-buffed beats tumble-polished, too, but they both beat paint. I’m talking about parts, not frames. A painted crank isn’t all that great,though, because the shoe can rub the paint off, and that looks bad. A polished crank gets polished differently, and that’s….beausage!

Our local painter just dropped off a frame, and we started talking, and he left a minute ago, less than that, even, and I asked him, “Hey Rick, do you ever have any really super p***ed off customers?” (I don’t think we do, but if somebody’s unhappy with something, we kind of lie down. It’s uncomfortable writing “we kind of lie…” because it sounds like we tell lies, but “we kind of lay down” is bad grammar, so “lie it is.”)
Rick said he recently had two customers that were kind of rough on him.

One guy had him repaint an old Ritchey mtn bike, and Rick’s decal placement wasn’t the way the guy saw it in an old Ritchey brochure. The decal was more toward the top centerline of the tube, as it’s supposed to be. 

Rick painted the frame originally maybe 28 years ago, or at least the same shop did, before he bought it, but it was decaled at Ritchey, I don’t know why. Anyway, the original decals were lower on the tube, and Rick doesn’t do that—-he doesn’t refuse to do it on request, but it’s not his normal thing, and when you go to an expert professional type, you kind of leave them alone to do their best work. So Rick positioned the decals properly the way he always does it, and the guy blew up. Rick’s kind of low key and doesn’t blow up back at people, but he was bummed out about this, and agreed to redo the decals, which—-under a clear coat, means more than just redoing decals.

Then two days later the guy called up Rick and head-over-heels apologized, saying (1) He had a bad day the day he yelled, and (2) He’d been looking since at other old Ritcheys and seen that the decals were, if not “all over the place,” at least varied a whole heck of a lot. So that one ended well. When somebody can blow up and apologize, it’s really nice. The apology more than makes up for the blow-up, usually, because it reveals something nice that wouldn’t be revealed without the opportunity.

I asked Mark if he could remember the last time somebody was really mad at us for something—-a late frame, a detail told on the phone but not written down, or whatever—-and he couldn’t remember, and I can’t, either. I attribute that to niceness out there, not perfection in here.

The other hard frame Rick painted happened about a month ago, and the guy didn’t get mad, he was really polite, but Rick had to redo the paint job. It was a ’60s or so Raleigh Pro restoration (plus painted fenders), and everything had to be  perfect. There were five separate stripes on the seat tube. Seat tube stripes are always hard, because there aren’t any guidelines for wrapping, and if you don’t wrap perfectly perpendicular to the tube, the ends of the stripes won’t match up evenly behind the seat tube.

Not matching up perfectly was the world standard for all the top European frames from those old days, and even the ’80s. I never saw a Colnago or Masi with perfect match-ups. It’s behind the seat tube, and it’s one of those infinitesimally small imperfections that proves nothing beyond that a human did it.

Anyway, Rick got the vertical location of all the stripes perfect, and four of the five stripes had perfect matchups in back, but one didn’t. It was on a portion of the tube that was bent, and that’s a monkeywrench Rick didn’t plan on and didn’t account for on that stripe.

The fellow was nice, but wanted Rick to redo it—-so more than a full day’s work down the drain. Rick did it, but the irony is that if the purpose of the restoration was to duplicate the original, the more perfect the matchups, the less period-correct the bike. Wouldn’t it be wild if the bike were entered in a show and missed winning because some keen-eyed persnicketty judge marked it down for perfectly aligned seat tube stripes? Painting and decaling is tough. A drip-line isn’t a defect, a slight overspray…not too bigga deal…but sometimes it is a big deal, and we always jump on it. I’m glad they’re rare, though.

The derailers are Microshift brand. That’s a funny brand name, isn’t it? It’s OK, though. A. Homer Hilsen and Hunqapillar and Betty Foy and Sam Hillborne are pretty odd names for bikes, and so I’m not saying anything bad. It just sounds more like the name of a technology than a derailer brand.

I put a front and rear on my A. Homer HIlsen, which makes it, no doubt, the only bike of that name with derailers of that name.  The bar-end shifters are nice, but the rear is index only. My 700c Homer has Shimano bar-end shifters (BES) on it now (always had, we were out of the Silvers when it went together), and I’ve been meaning to switch it to a Silver like I have on my other bikes, but when things work I leave them alone. Now’s a good chance to change it, and I’ll find out whether or not the front Microshift BES has enough pull to shift the rear derailer through its range. I think it will, but I’ll try.

We got in three new sample tweed bags today: A Small trunksack, and a Small and XS saddlesack. They look great to me. We’ll get 3 more samples of other bags, and then we go. I’d have them up tonite, but I finally had to get a replacement for my 4-year old laptop, and it has updated software that I can’t work just yet. So, tomorrow, probably. Sorry this is long. -G

worst day in ten years, loot wise

October 29, 2010

Our days are generally steady in a treading-water sort of way. If we’re down a thousand dollars from average, we lose money; if we’re up a thousand, we make it, and of course we have to make it to make it. It’s better to look at weekly or monthly totals, rather than live and die by the daily numbers, but today stunk, and this post is therapeutic. It’s night and I have to do something. The Giants won, big deal. They’re all gazillionnaires, even the .262 hitters and…so on.

We’re a bad size for a business (too big and too small). I know nobody here feels overpaid, and I hope nobody feels tooo underpaid. We have medical benefits and a 401K which The Firm contributes to if the Emp does. If you call here between noon and 1:30 our time and you have a good ear you may detect evidence of eating, and it’s not because They Don’t Get Time Off For Lunch, it’s because They Generally Work Thru lunch, even though, of course, no points off if you don’t. But since working thru lunches is the norm, The Firm buys lunches MTWF and Saturday, and the lunches are good.

We’re not Google or Clif bar with the climbing walls, stainless steel kitchens, and masseuses (or masseurs) on hand, but we have our own version of a gym, and that’s not nothing. Two stationary bikes for rainy day Tabata workouts; a cheap Roman chair for lower backs, but nobody uses it. A rowing machine…gets used maybe 40x a year. Barbells, a couple of kettleballs, a pull-up bar, a dip station Scott the Muffler Master next door made for us out of muffler pipes, then painted yellow. We have rings, too, for dips and pull-ups. Several of us use the gym stuff 3-4 days a week.

Liability insurance is about $2,000 a month, and we’ve never had a claim from a customer. If we do, we’re screwed. For heaven’s sake, know how to close a quick-release properly. We have a youtube video on it. Don’t ride your tires threadbare, whether that’s under the tread or on the sidewalls. If there’s any doubt whether you should replace it, replace it. Nobody wears out tread anymore. Sidewalls go sooner and today’s tread wears so much longer than tread did in the early ’80s. I used to wear out a Specialized Touring II 700x28 in 600 miles….consistently. I put Shoe Goo on the tread to extend their life, and I ended up riding about 400 miles on the Shoe Goo. Now you’ll get 3,000 miles out of a Ruffy-Tuffy on the rear, so watch the sidewalls.
Don’t raise your stem past the Max Height line. Don’t ride no-hands fast and hit a bump and then scrounge up an expert witness who says it shouldn’t have happened and wasn’t your fault.

There are lots of expenses behind every business. None here are frivolous!

The best feeling I get from work is…well, getting people on good bikes and equipment for sure, but we all like and do that. For me specifically and personally and aside from that, it’s employing people. It’s a rotten time for that, and here we are, not having had to lay off anybody in the last 8 years, when so many people in bigger and better companies have been laid off.
We’re not big enough to absorb a slacker, but there are no slackers here. This is the only job Emil has ever had. He’s the last guy we hired, about a year and a half ago. He’s in school, too, taking a variety of stuff (as all college freshmen do), and I sometimes wonder what turns and twists would have to occur for him to never, ever work anywhere else. He’s interested in film and making movies, even though he’s good at math and science. Jay makes most of our videos and likes it, and maybe Emil could help too, and then if we become successful and have more instructional videos….but that’s not the kind of film he wants to make, I’m sure.

One of the next videos will be how we pack a bike, and then, after that, what you have to do to get it up and running again once you take it out of the box. Nobody packs bikes like we do. It’s a small claim to fame, and we aren’t even famous for it, but the bikes are a lot of work and trickle in and they cost a lot and take 5 to 6 hours to assemble (frame in the stand to complete bike), and you probably had to wait a month or five for it so we have to be careful. You should keep the box and packing material, because the boxes are custom and of the best cardboard available outside of a Nitto box.

We have a few projects in the works, but maybe it’s not the right time for them.
Our catalogue will be out in January. Online for free, in paper for…I don’t know what we’ll do. They’re costly to print and mail, but maybe we’ll do something like charge $5 for the paper one, but if you use the order form in it you’ll get that $5 back. We’re planning to print only about 5,000 of them, and that’s pathetic. For twice as much as as 5,000 will cost to print we could get 3x as may catalogues, but it’s the upfront cost that kills us.
We also have a holiday flyer that’s about halfway finished, but Dave wrecked his fingers mousing too much a few weeks ago, so he’s off the computer as much as possible. I can get things going, but I’m slow to wrap them up.

A goal for the end of the year is to raise another $6K for Smile Train…enough to pay for another 24 surgeries. That will bring us to $50K for the year, a nice number, because it means 200 surgeries.

Here is the page:

If you donate $100 or more………we’ll send you something worth $30. I don’t know what it will be, but it will fit. Donate on our fund and Smile Train will send you a receipt by email, and you can forward that to

and he and I will pow-wow about what to send you. It may take us a month, but you’ll get something for sure. It’s such a good cause anyway…and yes, you can write it off on your taxes and feel good about it.
We had a lousy day, but we all have our up and downs, and so…screw it, let’s just see how the rest of the month goes. If you plan to buy something anyway and we have it….hope to hear from you.
here’s Maynard’s blog:

What’s happening on this side here this week, we think

November 7, 2010

Dave messed up his fingers-hands-and arms in a marathon session of computer work, and we want him fixed…not so he can do it again, but because he’s Dave. He has an appointment monday. It’s one of those technology biting back injuries kind of like what I had last year and what (I’m guessing) many of you have had.

Dave and I have been working on the next Reader (I still am) and a Holiday Flyer (still am) and some other stuff. You may get a Holiday flyer in the mail sometime late Dec.

We got in four more of the Rivendell-designed SOMA frame prototypes and are building them up for testing and measuring and all that. There will be minor changes, but overall, not bad, pretty good. More photos next week, and details.

In some other post I mentioned some halfway exciting things coming out of Japan (and Taiwan) that seem sort of right up our alley, and when it is OK to spill the beans I will. You have your lives and all to live, so my alluding to it without giving super details shouldn’t mess you up at all. It’s just that it is really exciting to me and most of us here (all of us, I guess) and it’s some of the stuff we’re thinking about daily. It doesn’t take time, there’s nothing to do about it, but the news is flowing our way.

Thanks to all who responded in any non-negative way about the last post about the bad day we had. It was a bad whole week, and things have picked up some. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be as affected as any other business, but I am not all that insulated from the repercussions or possibilities or something, and now and then I use this space to spill…is all.

An official layaway plan is brewing and we’ll announce it small time in this or the News place within the month.’s neither revolutionary nor anything different than we’ve done on a case by case basis many times before. You want a bike, and hack off payments in whatever chunks you can handle over a period of two to six months. This time around we’ll formalize some things, maybe have your credit card on file and — this is just our thinking now —- charge an agreed-upon amount on the last Friday of the month, and at some point along the way we’ll put your name on a box with a frame in it, and it will be reserved.

At least five of you have reported having lost at least 30 pounds in three to five months by following the stuff Mark Sisson says in The Primal Blueprint. AND have reported rocketship high HDL (where high is good) of 75 to 100 mg/dl, and super low triglycerides (27 to 45).

On a completely opposite note, somebody sent us some fudge from a Trappist Monastery in Kentucky, and it is the most evil-tasting (in a good way) fudge you’ll ever eat. Here:

Get some before you read The Primal Blueprint. If it’s too late for that, get some anyway and eat it with toothpicks, with now and then a tablespoonful. Not bad.


Splats finally here. No biggie?

November 19, 2010

We got Splats in. One of us predicts they’ll be our worst-selling item ever. One other (not me) predicts we’ll sell out fast. It’s a funny thing, making something really good, really useful/functional, keeping the price down as low as possible—-but it’s something without a history.

Windshields may be in the same category.

Ponchos, they have a track record. But still, they’re not sleek or cool. A waxed cotton “rain cape” has cache, but a far more practical and effective yellow slickery one lacks the old world charm, and is about as far from coool as bike duds get—-although Splats and the Windshield beat the poncho in that regard.

Dave’s ulnar neuropathy is getting better super slowly. I’ve redeveloped some last-two-finger tingling and a throbbing elbow, but he’s way worse. It all means we won’t get out our Holiday Flyer, unless we can farm it out, but that’s costly. We’ll see. I have one connection that’s getting back to me, but we may just do stuff online.

The Reader is sooooo pathetically sporadic, but it is coming together. I’m writing it partly by hand, and using excerpts and stuff pulled from another project. The next one will be —- aimed largely at newer riders, but it’ll have other stuff in it, too.

SimpleOne is coming together. New Betty Foys have been ordered.

We’re all sort of nervous about holiday sales, how things are going. They’re not lousy, but not hopping. We have nothing to complain about.

We’ll have a few new things in the next month. SKS is coming out with “Longboard” fenders, designed with tons of input from Jay and Mark here. February or March, for them.

The Yen is now at 83.25. It was down to 80, but we want it at 115. If it got to 100, though, we’d be way better off.

Some neat shifter options are brewing in Japan. We’ve sold ONE pair of Splats so far. Thanks, TS. You will have dry shoe and feet all winter long, no matter what. Thanks for the fudge, too.


light and speed the english story

December 13, 2010

One thing funny about riding is that if it’s so fun, why is it also so important to shave seconds, or even a minute or two off a ride that isn’t a timed or competitive or timed competitive event? A recreational ride, for example.

The normal ways to cut time —- I’m not saying they work —- are:

Lighter bike     lighter wheels     more aero wheels      aero clothes    click-in shoes, and assuming a severe overbite so you can exhale to the rear (that last one was my old trick in time trials in the mid’-80s, and it won for me many a top-three time trial finish, so I can vouch for it).

There’s  lots of emphasis on shortening your ride. It usually flies under the banner of “riding faster,” but it’s not as though you go for a ride for a set time and stop wherever you happen to be at the end of it.
It’s a place to place thing, front door to front door. Given that, and given that riding your bike is assumed to be fun, it seems funnnnny that everybody wants to reduce the time spent on the bike.
That’s not how people think about it, but the emphasis on speed everywhere you look tends to permeate every aspect of cycling.

The link below has made the rounds, and you can go to it I think and see comments pro and con.

The con comments say how well sure, traffic is the great equalizer, but let’s put the two kinds of bike in a race, and then we’ll know the TRVTH, and the lighter carbon will cream the other.

I have two short related stories to tell. These stories are the main influencers of how I think about this stuff.

When I worked at Berkeley REI decades ago, and I was racing, every dadblasted ride was a time trial, because I could ride only 16 to 32 miles a day in 16-mile stretches, and that’s pathetically not enough for a racer, so I had to make each mile count. I timed everything, and my gold-standard time trial was from the bottom of Wildcat Canyon Road to the kiosk at the parking lot at the top of it, exactly 2.5 miles and 600 feet up.

I did it at least 4 days a week (sometimes I rode in another way, also timed). I was riding a Ritchey road bike with 700x32 tires (never loved skinny tires). My average time was about 9:40, with a fast one being 9:35 or better. My best solo time was 9:21, and my best in a race (when a skinny cat 1 racer wanted to race me) was 9:18.

If you know the climb and want to try it yourself, know that your split at El Toyonal should be around 4:30 if you want to come in around 9:40. Because it’s about 5 minutes from El Toyonal to the Kiosk, at least at that pace.

At the time, my bike weighed about 23 lbs and I weighed 176lbs.

I also owned a 53lb Schwinn Heavy-Duti paperboy bike with a huge Wald basket on it. It was my shopping bike. When I was riding 9:40s or so on my Ritchey, I rode 11:14 on the Heavy-Duti, or 1:34 slower. That’s a lot slower, but it’s also at full-speed, and the percent difference would be less at 75 percent, I think.

But a couple of years later, in late ‘84, I started work at Bstone, and my sprint-climb riding became a one-way 27-mile road and dirt ride, with no sustained steep sprints in it. I thought the added miles would make up for the lazier effort, and I’d be in shape. By then I’d quit racing, so I didn’t have that gauge.

Around 1988 or so I bought another Ritchey, built it up to 19lbs, and wanted to see if I could match or beat my old time up Wildcat. I weighed within a pound or two of my fast weight, and the bike was 4 lbs lighter, and had lighter wheels on it, and I rode 12:30, or 1:16 slower than my Heavy-Duti time.

So…anybody can say anything they want about how  important a light bike is, but I’m not going to believe a letter of it, because I KNOW, from THAT.

I still say what’s the hurry if you aren’t racing? And at night or in the rain or whenever getting a flat would be slightly more of a bummer than usual, it seems like trying to trim seconds by riding tires more likely to flat in the first place is a weird kind of gambling.

On an unrelated note, this was emailed to me about 7 weeks ago, but I don’t know if the link will work. If it doesn’t, no biggie. Here it is.

And here’s a fatty-treat link for you, of some deadly delicious stuff that one of you sent us, and now……well, primal or paleo or whatever, it’s off that, but if you have to give it up during the holidays, there are worse ways to do it, and maybe no better:
Try the #91 3-kindsa fudge sampler.

All for  now.


We need another thou for Smile Train

December 29, 2010

To reach $50,000 raised this year, which covers 200 surgeries. I know that seems like a greedy amount, but if it were your child, you’d pay $200K to have the mouth fixed, and you know, Smile Train does it for $250.

The tweed bags are due in March, late March, and if you haven’t ordered one…well, if you wait till they’re in they may be gone. Probably we’ll have a few, but we aren’t ordering all that many.

Looking back on the current year, like Hollywood likes to do, our big stars may be the Splats. We’ve sold out twice, people are liking them, it is really fun to make a really effective cheap product like that. The look and name scares some folks off, but the bold and semi-bold now keep feet dry.

We’re getting a sample of a new dyno hub in next week. Kind of a neat thing. I doubt it’s Schmidt-quality, but we’ll see.

We’re out of L XL 2X Railroad shirts, but are planning some for next year.

Bikes and frames and things of steel are always the biggest funnest things around here. SimpleOnes will be here by April 30, I’m sure. We’re told. We hope and expect. Nothing smaller than a 56 or larger than a 62 this time around. If you really want a size not offered, —- we’ll consider it next time if we get at least ten committments for that size.

Some old favorite things from the past will return in some form next year. Thank you all, a lot and sincerely sincerely, for your patronage and emotional support this year and always. We try to never offend, try hard to make things good and fun, and to fill in gaps that would be unfilled otherwise, and to push forth what kind of amounts to an unracing ethic around here. It isn’t that racing is bad. Racing is good. But racing shouldn’t dominate the whole mood of riding a bike. It’s exciting fringe, not center stage. I’m not even so convinced it’s so exciting, either. It’s worth a watch now and then, but the drugs and all….yuck.

Well. I believe we still have some Smile Train compensatory deal going on, where we partially make it easier. With a $60 donation you get a Taxi wallet with the Smile Train logo. Or you can buy a wallet for $25 and all the profit goes to Smile Train.

It’s all about the mouths. We’ve got ours in working order, but then there’s them.


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