News Archive

Most of the “News” articles from the old site:

We know the news

February 4, 2008

I got a call at home early this morning, and now that it’s up on the Harris site, it’s okay to acknowledge it here.

Everybody knows it by now, and thousands of words have been written about it by now. It should be hundreds of thousands. Even if hundreds of thousands, it wouldn’t approach the number of words Sheldon wrote in his enviable, concise, straight-to-the-point style that every communicator ought to have, and I wish I could do as well.

One thing you will read, or have read many times by now, is “there will never be another Sheldon,” and nothing is truer than that. It wasn’t just his hats and genius clownish demeanor, or his yellow-and-blue website, or his Sheldon Brownish knowledge of everything about bikes—from every era. His knowledge spilled over into music, acting, cameras, websites…whatever Sheldon was interested in he became expert at. But unlike many experts who flaunt it and use it to make those who knew less feel stupid, Sheldon was a humble educator.

Is there anything better to be? I think there isn’t. Is there anybody who has helped more people, solved more problems, and contributed more enthusiasm and knowledge about bikes to more people? Nobody else is even close.

The last time I saw Sheldon was in September, at InterBike, the big industry trade show. Every year I’d see him at the show, usually the first day, and we’d talk for a while and then go on. Sheldon had multiple sclerosis, did you know that? He’d had symptons for a long time, and about a year and a half ago he went from cane to electric wheelchair, and from a regular bike to a three-wheeled recumbent, but if you didn’t see it you wouldn’t know it, because he was always the same. His mood was always upbeat and respectful. He didn’t walk around like the hotshot he was, and he didn’t talk about his condition unless you asked about it, and he didn’t feel sorry for himself even though he had every right to.

Anyway, the first day of the show passed and I didn’t see him, but I knew he was there. That night I was eating dinner at a buffet with a friend and some Australians, and Sheldon wheeled on over, and we talked for fifteen minutes or so, food on the table. It was always easy to talk to Sheldon. We had our separate worlds, but they were linked by the common bigger one, and the feeling I got that night was the same feeling I always got when I talked to Sheldon face-to-face. I’m thought of as an expert at some things, it’s just stuff that happens to me, things said or written, whatever it is…and I know people think it, and it comes less from what I actually know, and more from just being known.  I know at some level it’s important to Rivendell’s success, so I don’t run away from it or anything, but what I want to say is that Sheldon was as much my hero as he was anybody’s, and for me, talking to him was especially relieving and relaxing, because with him, I knew he knew all I knew and so fantastically much more, so he didn’t have any expectations of me. There were no insights I could offer him, because he knew all I knew already. There wasn’t any part from the past, or trend from the ’70s, or even a flash-in-the-pan thing that he didn’t remember better than I did. 

About two and a half years ago when he came out to California to visit his daughter in college out here, he stopped by Rivendell and we went for ride. He’d lost about 50 pounds, and wanted to go on a good old ride, whatever I’d do if he wasn’t there. So we headed up Mount Diablo, a 6.5 mile 2000-foot climb to the halfway up mark. My plan was to go easy, just talk and all, but I didn’t have to slow much for Sheldon. He rode well and looked great on the bike, like a monkey handling a peanut, as smooth as we all want to be.

He wanted to ride something different from his normal riding, a ride he wouldn’t have been able to do two years earlier, and asked about trails heading down. The most direct trail down is Wall Point, a steep, loose, bumpy trail that has some of everything on it, and much of it not fun.  He’d already surprised me on the way up, but I wasn’t sure he’d be OK on the Rambouillet with 32s on the way down, since 99 percent of the riders you see on this trail have dual-suspension bikes, and it’s one place on the mountain that you don’t snicker at all that machinery.

Of course I wouldn’t be telling the story if Sheldon stumbled, walked, or did any of that, but he rode the whole thing, talking most of the way, unfazed by sections he should have been fazed by. So…..despite his physical problems (which had started to show even before this), and despite his desk-jockey day job, and his unfamiliarity with this terrain, he rode it as well his first time as I did my thirtieth or so.

I wanted to tell that story, because Sheldon is so extremely associated with computers and websites and links and all, that it’s easy to forget that he was a bike rider when computers were as big as refrigerators, and never stopped being one, and from what I saw that day, his skills never faded.

We in the bike world know Sheldon as a bikey computer guy, but of course there are more important things than bike knowledge, or computer ways, or riding ability. Sheldon always made you feel good. Even though he was a legend, he was easy to be around.

Sheldon died, and in our little bicycle world, news doesn’t get any bigger or any sadder than that.

Grant “I’m glad I knew Sheldon” Petersen

 P.S.  In 2001 in RR25, we did an 8-page interview with Sheldon.  You can download and read it here (it’s about 2mb and you’ll need Adobe Acrobat to open it). In the intro to it, last paragraph, you may notice the word “knowledge” is spelled three different ways, with only one of them correct. Not even half. Sheldon never would have let that happen.

Reader Forty in the Mail

April 5, 2008

Some of you will have it in three days, some in a week, and all by April 21 (if you’re a current member). It has a different format this time, and two words in the headline are intentionally misspelled, something I’m mentioning here only because in the final draft of the editorial, I mistakenly removed the reference and the reason.  The reference was a short sentence long and the reason was tiny, but its absence is not so tiny, and that’s that.

The part number for RR40, in case you are not a member and want us to mail it out first class immediately, is 24-213, and it’ll run you $3. There is at least $1.50 worth of information $0.50 worth of general enlightenment and another $0.50 worth of entertainment, and the missing fifty cents covers part of the postage.

We got some frames in. The first batch of A. Homer Hilsens to include the old Saluki sizes 47 50 52 54 56 for 650B wheels (in the same Saluki geometries, which are functionally identical to the AHH frames in all ways that matter), and just this one time, half a dozen 55cm frames for 700c wheels.  

Most of the 57cm and bigger frames in this batch are going to dealers—we still have about nine dealers—but the smaller 650b-ers are available. Since our delivery has been slow-late-bad, we’re having Wford build more AHH’s for us, starting this month. They’re already experienced with Hilsens (having built more than 50 already), and with the combo of weak dollar and slow delivery, it makes sense for them to make more. In a perfect world we could flow these in to our lineup seamlesslly and silently, but ‘tis far from a perfect world, so that won’t happen.

For the record and as a compliment to both Toyo and Wford, we here personally, candidly, honestly, and as the folks most in a position to take a credible stance on such matters, rate the two frames equally. But the Wfords cost us more (e’en with a strong ¥ and weak $), so if you buy a Wford-built AHH frame  only, it will cost you $100 more. If you buy a whole bike, we’ll absorb it and take the hit, over and out on that one.

Something of minor interest to a tiny percentage of you: The 72cm frame is now going to be a 71cm frame. We have steer tubes long enough for a 71, but not quite long enough for a 72. Are not going to get a custom steer tube just for the 72, so 71 it is, and if you need a bike in the low 70s, well, it’s still something to be happy about.

Our new cheap but excellent 650B wheelsets (read more about them in RR40) are now available with 135mm spacing, but will soon—like by April 25—be available with 130mm rear hubs. This makes road-bike conversions even easier, and if that’s something you’ve been thinking about, this is something you should know. We’ll have them up on the site when they’re here, and they’ll be the same $180/pair, and built with 105 hubs.

It feels a little creepy and strange to continue business as usual in a Sheldon-less world, as though now we’re over his passing. I’m still in the pretending stage, but I have pictures of Sheldon around here and there to remind me, and  for the sake of lots of things and many people the show really does have to go on, but every now and then another acknowledgement of him will pop up, like now. In Sheldon’s case, we all really did know what we had before he was gone, and he didn’t strut around as though he knew that, but he was smart enough to know it.


Gotta love that weak U.S. dollar…

March 23, 2008

IF you’re a tourist from Another Country. If you actually live here and have a business and sell stuff made anywhere except China, then it’s a harsh, bad deal. Same, if you buy things from one of those kinds of companies.

Giant to us is the strength of the Yen (¥, or “option Y  on a mac keyboard) which is key to our business,The more ¥ a Buck buys, the lower the price of anything Japanese. In what follows, an expression such as “The ¥ was at 150” means one dollar bought 150 ¥. Sorry about the financial talk, but it affects things.

In 1972 and before then, the ¥ was at 375 or so, and you could get really great Japanese cameras really cheap. Japan’s bike market and technology weren’t yet at the point where Japanese parts had much international appeal (that was about 6 to 8 years off still), so it’s not like you could get an Atlantis equivalent for $500 complete or anything. But cameras, sure. Nikon, Olympus, Canon,  Pentax, Yashica, and others were already up to speed.

Japanese bike makers and parts makers were getting pretty good by the late ’70s, and the dollar was still strong (¥ at about 250), and so you could go to a Japanese maker and basically say, “Give it your best, don’t hold back on materials, feautures, quality, details, aesthetics, lustre, or anything,” knowing that however over the top they went, the finished product would still be super affordable.

In 1984, the ¥ was still at 250, and by that time the parts-makers had learned plenty, and bike parts made in that year were Special. By today’s standards, they didn’t work any better, but they looked better, and even the cheap parts had details that even today’s best parts lack. One example: A pivoting rear derailer cable clamp, which assures the straightest pull on the parallelogram throughout the range of gears.

It’s not like it matters in practice, but it does matter in theory, and the smart designers knew that it was the right thing to do, so they did it—even on $12 rear derailers. And, the finish was really good. Today we have matte where then we had polished and anodized. Today we have screened-on names, and then we had forged-in, cast-in, and engraved.

Now, don’t go getting all weepy and pathetically and unnecessarily sentimental about things you didn’t even know about when they were happening, just because you can’t get them any more. I’m just saying: When the dollar is strong and the ¥ is weak (1:250 or so), you can pretend you’re Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey when you go bike shopping.

In 1985 and as the result of a Big Meeting of Five Big Governments from the US, Japan, Germany, England, and I think Italy but it might have been Switzerland, the exchange rates were arbitrarily leveled, and the USD went from 250 to 150 overnight (May 1985). As a result, there was a huge shift to Taiwan, and all the nice & classy details such as the pivoting cable clamp and non-rubboffable manufacturer’s marks, went out the window. No big deal, many things have improved, but just not in that way. We have The Clean Air Act, and now a guy is running for President and actually has a chance, who wouldn’t have had a chance back then. There’s more organically grown food, and a few good books have been published.

But now the ¥ is at 100, and that’s the lowest it’s been since a month or two in 1995, when it hit mid-eighties. We base our pricing on a ¥ at 115—which, by recent standards, could be considered a pessimistic benchmark, but you always want to err on the side of thinking you’ve got less money in your bank than you actually do, if you know what I mean. We PRICE things according to 115; and now it’s at 100, with no soon promise or reason to believe that the dollar will strengthen.

Even at 115, our margins are low, and now, it’s just not working. I mean, we have inventory, we want to sell it, but we’re going to have to raise prices. Even without the falling dollar, our prices have increased.

So, no big deal—if you want the good stuff, you’ll just have to pay more for it, starting in about mid-April. That’s when we raise prices on things from Japan and England, at least. Bikes, frames, Nitto stuff, bells, bar tape, pedals, headsets, tires, and so on.

The NIGEL SMYTHE & SONS bags have  increased tremendously—our listed prices were based on a much stronger dollar/weaker Brit pound, and in some cases our  prices are now 40 percent higher. So them too have to go up or go ‘way. These are low-margin items for us, since we like the idea of fine British Bags and all, but as of March 23, the new prices are in effect. Don’t be bummed—if you like us, you’ll want us to benefit when we sell something, not bleed.

If you’re a member, you still get the five percent credit rebate. That should help some, right? OK, all for now, thanks.


New, improved MSL prices

May 8, 2008

As I mentioned two postings ago, the weak dollar is jacking up our Japanese  prices so much that we can either stop selling it or raise prices, and since our entire business and all of these jobs and our whole dang company is so largely Japanese-centric, there is no actual decision to make, and prices are going up enough to Minimum Sustainable Levels (MSL) effective today at about 3pm Western Time.
As anybody who works here at Rivendell knows, I don’t like raising prices, but I much less rather like bleeding the business until it dies, so without further apology, that’s what’s going on.
Now: If you’re a member, you still get a five percent rebate credit based on your calendar year’s purchase, you still get free shipping on most orders over $150, and on orders less than $150, our $8 flat-rate is still cheap.

The MSL prices are much healthier for us. They aren’t that much higher. Moustache H’bars were $52, and now they’re $60. Noodle Bars went from $52 to $60, too. Nothing worse than that, and Nitto hardware is the best and the world, and still well below the prices of name-brand equivalents made not as well and not as beautiful in countries where the labor costs are a small fraction of what Japan’s are.

Thanks……  Grant (on behalf of all of us here)

Air conditioning question

May 18, 2008

We’ve had two 100-degree days here in our non-air conditioned office, and local meteorologicolical records strongly suggest we’ve got about 60 more days between 90 and 108 ahead of us between now and late September. The 90s we can handle with seersucker and soda pop (or water, for those of us on a higher plane), but once it’s in the low triple figures, work gets unfun fast.

We have five 24 x 40ft workspace units, sheet metal & warehousey, with high roofs that makes normal air-conditioning solutions pathetic failures. When it gets over 104-degrees, we roll out the swamp cooler and aim it at Mark, so he can assemble bikes in relative comfort. Other people use portable fans.

The main problem area is Miesha’s space. She’s here with 4-month old Freddy, and works in a semi-private 8 x 24-foot space at the far back of one of these rooms. It has a low ceiling (so would be easier to cool) , but there’s there’s no outside outside her walls, so a normal set-in air conditioner doesn’t seem like it’d work. And, since it’s 32 feet from the front door (a roll-up and a normal one), it seems like it would be awkward to run a hose-vent from her room to there. It would have to span our main showroom area, and there’s not a good place to put the hose.

We need to keep Miesha and Freddy cool. If you really know this stuff and can offer something more helpful than “spray misters and drink lots of cold water,” please get in touch. Thanks!

Air Conditioning follow-up

May 22, 2008

Thanks to upwards of 150 brilliant suggestions ranging from super low tech that even I can sort of understand, to way too unaffordable, we’ve got enough information now to forge on ahead. Air conditioning matters, but it is not the stuff of fascinating blogs, so this is the last you’ll read of it; but again, thanks.

Minor thing here, Nitto torque specs

July 27, 2008

We’ve been asked a few times. Here’s our answer.

Thanks, and we’ll have a more lively post up within the week.

General price trends….not down

August 8, 2008

They’re going up pretty soon. It’s hard to understand or believe or trust any price you see, isn’t it? You just don’t know. At some point, particularly if you understand anything at all about business and don’t just assume that all business is commercial evil and that everybody should work for nothing and give stuff away to people who appreciate its beauty and will say Thank You—once you’re beyond that (and many aren’t), then you understand that many things can affect the cost of something, and the mere passing of time and oil, not wind, drives up the cost when the goods come by truck or steamer instead of ponies and sailing ships.

And even in bike land, people want and warrant things like a medical plan, and cost of living increases and now and then an outright raise and a Christmas bonus…because fruit that used to sell for $0.49 per pound goes for $2.49 per pound now, and ALL THAT STUFF.

The bicycle trade magazine, Bike Retailer & Industry News, reports that tire prices are expected to go up 20 to 30 percent next year, because they’re made with oil, and the labor even in Everywhere gets more expensive every year. Raw materials—steel, carbon, titanium, are way up, too. Next year’s Chinese bikes are going way up. Everything is, maybe even more than your paycheck.

Our Japanese bikes have increased by about 30 percent, affecting any frames we get in after September. So they’ll go from $1600 to $1800.

The Taiwan frames we’re planning—-we’d expected to be able to sell them for $800, but it’ll probably be $1,000. They have all those investment castings, and steel is way up, and Taiwan labor is way up, as they’re losing work to China, and even that super cheap labor is way up.

The normal response, for a manufacturer is to look for ways to cut costs invisibly, because they’re afraid of scaring off customers who buy mostly on price, which is most customers. I’m looking at the bikes and seeing nowhere to cut. We’re using the best lugs and crowns and bb shells and dropouts. We can find cheaper labor, but don’t trust it. The tubes cost what they cost—what do I do?—go to the maker and demand lower tubing prices, when I have no idea of their costs, and we’re a minor customer to boot?

It’s all OK, because there’s no other way, and the bikes are good. It’ll be fine. That’s the idea, just keep going. More later.

Current AHH prices (etc) will hold for a few months.

Ian Hibbel killed by a car in Greece

September 4, 2008

There are names from the past and names from the past, and to anybody who grew up with bikes in the ’70s and paid attention at all, Ian Hibbel is one of the latter. He was probably the most travelled bike rider of all time. If there were a Bicycling Hall of Fame and it was Limited to Ten People, he’d be right in there with Sheldon Brown and Lon Haldeman (who is still living, by the way).

 I’m not qualified to write his biography, even a part of it, but in a nutshell, this incredible nut quit his job in 1963 and has never stopped riding since. He may have discovered several new countries on his trips—that’s how far and wide he pedaled. Google him, note the spelling, although I think you will see his last name spelled a few different ways.

His bike was a lugged steel English brand, Argos. It was custom-made for him, with an integral rear rack stout enough to carry the hundreds upon hundreds of pounds of water he needed to pedal across the thousands upon thousands of miles of deserts he pedaled across. His bike was burley for its time of manufacture, but by today’s standard—except for that rack—looks frail. I like the look, myself.  Here it is.

I’ve thought about Ian Hibbel a lot in the past 20 years. He’d have made a good interview. He has been interviewed, many times, and better than I’d have done it.

Ian Hibbel was a little-ish guy, and a monster-giant bicycle rider. His passing should be huge news. I wish I knew more details. I’ve read about his trips, I know his story, but I don’t know enough details to string anything together. Still, I have to note his passing, and I am so, so sorry to hear of it.


Superbrief microsnippet from InterBike

September 27, 2008

There are wheelsets that go for $4000+. Campy has a $130 front derailer, a $500 rear derailer, a $650 rear derailer…$400 brakes, $1,000 crank and bb, and the whole new top Campy group with the fanciest wheel goes for $6000. NO saddle-bar-stem. Pros won’t buy it, and what amateur….? Well, it’s no skin off my nose, as the saying goes, but at what point is it skin off my nose, or yours? Is it ever?
I know you can’t weigh every purchase against the good the money might do in a tenth-world country or the closest homeless shelter to you or whatever, but it’s still a shock to see where things have gone. I can completely understand somebody calling me disingenuous for selling expensive this-and-thats while being shocked or whatever about a $130 front derailer (note continued Sheldon spelling of the word), but we all have threshholds, don’t we?

My notes from the show, which I was planning to use for a longer storyaboutit, are in a piece of lost luggage. I fly about 4-5 times a year. It used to be 10x a year, for many years. Like many 54-year old, I have flown a lot, but never had any bags lost until the last two flights—last month’s and this one.

There’s a lot of stuff happening these days, isn’t there? Keep in mind this: The universe is 15 billion years old. There are 30 billion stars in the Milky Way. There are more galaxies just like the Milky Way than there are stars in the Milky Way. A $6000 component group isn’t that significant, but it seems noteworthy to an insignificant me. What would Grok think?

Brooks News

October 7, 2008

Maybe the wide wonderful web has already scooped us on this, but this:

  There will be a model called the Imperial. It is a resurrected old model that used to be called the Climax. It has a slot you know where, and drilled holes in the lower flaps, and seems to come with lots-o-laces of various colors, for lacing up the sag, if you get it. Availability in a few months or so.

Brooks has discontinued the wonderful B.68 in Antique Brown. That is too bad, but when Rich here told me that and asked if we should buy a little heavy on them, I said sure without going into or asking specifics. Let’s just say we’re well stocked, but there will be no more Antique Brown B.68s after this. Black, si; Antique Brown, no. I expect (read: hope to Zeus) that we’re out by the end of the year.

Gotta hate that weak dollar/strong Yen combo!

October 28, 2008

Well…it’s like this. Back in the olde dayes when I was at Bstone, the “break-even” point was reached when a dollar bought 150 Yen (that’s “option-Y”  on your keyboard). By the time Bstone closed us down, the dollar was buying 110 Yen. The choices were to raise prices and lose sales, to maintain prices and cut costs by cheapening the bikes, or for the parent company (Bridgestone Cycles in Japan) to sell Bridgestone Cycle (USA), Inc. bikes at below cost, which….well, aside from not being fun, you aren’t supposed to do that.
As dollar-to-Yen exchange rates go, Rivendell’s Happy Point is when a dollar buys 120.
Then we can also sell a few bikes to dealers not at a loss, and the dealer can sell them for what we sell them for.

Our Point of Contentment but not Happiness is 115 Yen to a buck. This rate allows us to maintain our retail prices, and we’re OK otherwise as long as we don’t wholesale many bikes.

 105 Yen to a dollar is Nervous Time, edgy time, bad mood, grumpy silence time. Why’s daddy so sad? time. Oh,  it’s because we have a big shipment due today and our money’s worth so little that we have to spend it all and more to pay for the shipment.

Today a dollar buys 99 Yen, which is like the devil cackling as he jabs us with hot vile knives. And today, wouldn’t you know it, a big order of Atlantis frames is arriving.

The one good thing about it: It’s unlikely Trek will start importing lugged Japanese frames anytime soon.

We’ll get by, just thought you should have this glimpse.



December 11, 2008

Footnote at the top- Today (12/17) is the last day for the below:

The flyer was/is quite specific, but many people are not reading it, or are getting out of it what they’d like it to say, rather than what it says. That’s understandable, human nature, and so on.

But now we’re getting calls from people who assume everybody gets a 30 percent discount, and it doesn’t work that way.

The intent is to extend help to Rivendell members (not friends, not relatives, not cyclists who hear about this discount but aren’t members) who have been severely hurt by the economy in the two ways specified here:

1. You or your spouse has lost a job because of the economy, so you’ve lost a huge chunk of income because of the economy.

2. You are retired AND living off your stocks, which have crashed, and you’ve lost enough of your retirement income that without the discount, you couldn’t afford anything.

When we give a 30 percent discount, we don’t even break even.
We do it because we feel lucky to be here, and we can do this for a week. Things are not super-booming here. We feel it, too.

Your relatives should not be calling in on your behalf.

The 30 percent is  purely based on the rules above.  It runs thru Dec 17.

 Several of our staff have been put in awkward positions with miffed callers, and so it is best to review the rules.

I hope the tone of this message doesn’t put a damper on anything. I’m just trying to write it with as little ambiguity as possible, and it just comes out kind of chilly, when I don’t mean it to be.



Somaly Mam (sounds like but isn’t “Somali Mom”)

January 7, 2009

UPDATE: As of January 22th, Rivendell customers have donated over $3,000 to Somaly Mam. Great going. We will continue the offer below until the end of the month. Thank you, donors. Much appreciated.

There’s never a good way to bring this up, because sexual slavery of children makes good people squirm&walk away, which is why it’s usually lumped under the broader banner of “human trafficking,” which includes other bad things that, bad as they are, aren’t in the same league.

Somaly Mam was a victim who went on to work to save other victims, by means of the Somaly Mam foundation.

It’s just a few years old. She and her organization’s work have received a certain amount of Hollywood press, been on the Tyra Banks show, and Susan Sarandon is a spokeswoman for it. But the glitter aside, it gets most of its money from normal-people donations, and that’s where we all come in.

I have two children (daughters), and maybe if I didn’t, sexual slavery would be easier to ignore, but I hope not. As it is, I—-like most of you, no doubt—-believe the worst crimes are against children, and sexual crimes against them are as vile as vile gets.

The Somaly Mam foundation struggles, needs money, and it spends it well.

We (RBW) struggle, but ours is a first-world, luxury struggle, a struggle to stay afloat in a lousy economy, a struggle to get good delivery, a struggle against a weakening U.S. dollar and how that affects our costs of expensive Japanese bikefinery——- not a struggle to escape sexual slavery. Big difference in struggles!

We’re giving $250/month to Somaly Mam Foundation this year. It may increase, let’s see how things go.

It is one thing to say: Hey, donate to Somaly Mam Foundation!
Many of you will do that, after hearing about it. But the more effective way is to offer to match your donation, up to $100, with a credit on your account.

When you donate online, you will receive a receipt. (You will be “receipted”.)

Send us by mail or email a copy of that receipt (to John- see below for details), and we’ll credit your account that much. Any amount. Don’t be embarrassed by $5. Suppose we have 7,500 or so on our mailing list, and 600 read this site. Six hunnert times five is $3,000, and that’s significant. Plus you know, we’ll match that in credit.

This offer good through January. {THIS PROGRAM IS OVER PLEASE JUST DONATE ON YOUR OWN BEHALF} You can give to Somaly Mam all year long, but the credit deal here—that’s good til the end-o-month.

Also—there is a ride to benefit Somaly Mam. I think the plane flies out of Australia, and the ride itself is (appropriately) in Cambodia. It’s the first week of March; the riding is short and easy, and you can find out more about it on the site. If any of you is already planning to go, let us know and we’ll certainly help with costs. We have contributed funds ($500) to riders already; might as well help one of our own. Aren’t we all our own, though?

Once again:

If you send email proof of donation, send to:

(Please forward it to John, and only John. He’s keeping track. Thanks!)

Please send email confirmation of your donation well before you order, if you want to apply the discount to your next order. Give John a day or two to create your create your credit/coupon.

SACKVILLE color shift, slight, unavoidable, not bad, but…

May 22, 2009

The plan was black, but supply was spotty, with waits up to 3 months just for basic black—-the stock, easy color. So we’re shifting to a just-as-excellent color that the mfr (in Scotland) calls khaki, but to most of us here, it looks like dark grey or light black, with a faint hint of super dark green in it. So far, it is easier to get.

It is a great color…..but the  point here is that if you bought a blackie early and have bag-matching tendencies, order up now.

On a global scale, these “problems” are not actualy problems, but in the past when colors had to change, we suffered the sting of arrows plucked from quivers and twanged from bows of bagmatchers, so we felt it was best for everybody to lay it out there here and now. If you want another black, buy it now, because we’re going to the dark grey or light black, with a faint hint of super dark green in it.

If supply of dark grey or light black, with a faint hint of super dark green dwindles, we’re going to pounce on another just-as-excellent color.

Thanks for understanding…


Save Haiti & Free Money

April 3, 2009

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Donations tabulated. 49 Rivendell customers donated $4,179 to S.O.I.L. Many thanks!

Tabulating donations today (4/22), and will post results. Thank-you to all who gave.

You may remember last month when we offered to match (to a point) charitable donations to SOMALY MAM FOUNDATION, the anti-sexual slavery group in Cambodia.
This month, until April 21, it’s Haiti, and the organization we’re raising money for is S.O.I.L. It sounds like dirt, and involves dirt—-and human poop to boot—-so it lacks the pull of sexual abuse of children. What doesn’t?

This time, like last, when you donate up to $100 to SOIL, we’ll match that in a credit to your account. We will PAY you to DONATE. If you don’t plan to buy anything, then your credit might not be worth anything. But if you do, take a minute, go to the site, follow the prompts to the donation link and click away $10, $35….whatever, up to $100, and we’ll cover your ENTIRE DONATION in credits.

You’ve donated $1600 so far. Twenty-two donations. We’re shooting for $10,000 by April 21. On the 22nd, John goes on vacation, and he’s the guy who keeps the donations organized and makes sure it all works. That’s why it ends on the 21st.

 SOIL turns human poop into compost used to rejuvenate the land so they can grow crops and live. Haiti’s soil needs the compost generated by human poop, and special toilets make it happen.

Heres a link to a recent NY Times story about SOIL. Theres a YouTube link in the story; watch that.

You might think, after the mention in the NYT, that some magnificent benefactor would cut a whopping check to SOIL. I thought the same, and asked. It turns out the mention raised about $8,000. SOILs monthly budget is a bit over $5,000. Now that the story is old news, donations are tailing off drastically, and SOIL continues to survive month-to-month. According to SOILs Sasha Kramer, the rent is due, and theres $2,000 in the bank.

Lets raise $10,000 in three weeks. Thats how long this post will remain up. Heres how it works:

1.    Go here:

2.    Read about SOIL or just go to the donation section:

Follow the prompts and send your proof-o-donation to

We will match donations up to $100.

On Mondays and Fridays, John will create a credit in your favor for the amount you gave (up to $100) to S.O.I.L., which will appear as an open invoice on your Riv account. Well post the tally in this updated News section twice a week. Lets go! Were kicking it off with a $500 donation.

Everybody here at Rivendell


Soon: New Sams, Tweeds, V-Bags

June 15, 2009

We’re expecting more 56cm and 60cm Sam Hillbornes sometime in early to mid July, and they’ll be orange with cream decals. Some customers have referred to them already as the creamsicle Sams, but that is the color and delivery news. We’re out of 56s now, and getting low on 60s.

The NEXT round after this one (as yet unscheduled) will include some 64cm Sams, with double-top tubes—that  new signature of our big frames. The extra tubes will jack up the price some, but is a fine idea for the bigger bikes.

I’ll tell you about my Sam. I wanted a 56 green, but we sold out, so I took the opportunity to do something I wouldn’t condone or allow otherwise—-I got a 60, figuring at worst it would be useful as a demo bike. My pbh is 85. The 60 really fits like a 64 to 66—with the 6-degree upsloping top tube and all—-and I can’t quite straddle the bike when it has, as  it does, Schwalbe Marathon 40s on it.

But my contact points are all in the right place, so when I actually ride the bike every day now, it feels like…my bike. I have a 7cm stem sunk deep, and three fingers of seat post showing, and the overall aesthetics are nothing I’m proud of, but my position on it is perfect, and I really love it. Let me repeat: We won’t even LET you do this, because it’ll make it look like we don’t know how to size people. I’m not entirely comfortable riding such an outsized bike in public (it feels like wearing plaid pants with a different plaid shirt—not that the same plaid shirt would be that much better….)—-but when I’m on my own in the woods with that bike, it’s dreamy.

The new tweed Keven’s bags were made incorrectly and we’re getting replacements. BUT…they work great as handlebar bags as they are, incorrect and all, and by mid-June we’ll put them up on the site at discounted prices and….and that’ll be a good way to get a beautifu cheap tweed.

We also are coming out with our Brand V line of bags; V being “Vegan.” No leather, less expensive, here and there some velcro, and still made in the USA. By the end of July, look for three models.

All for now.


August OMOL* sale

August 5, 2009

I mentioned last week that this was going to happen. Not earthshaking, not the kind of idea so good everybody’s going to copy it; just this:

Every month we’ll have some kind of item or widget or article that doesn’t fit in fantastically with our normal offerings (even as scattered as they may be). These specials will be things we buy once only. Sometimes we’ll buy the last of them, sometimes we’ll just offer things that we like a lot but don’t want to keep as a permanent menu item. It won’t be anything as strange as NOS Walter Kendall Fives. Always it’ll be something some normal person somewhere might want. Usually a really good example of whatever it is. It might not be down your aisle, but it’ll be down somebody’s aisle, and maybe next month you’ll like it.

The first thing is madras shirts. They’ll be up on the site by about 11 California time in the morning, Wednesday. Short- and long-sleeved, just a few mediums, more larges, and some XLs and even one XXL. We bought the lot, and this is all. A few Riv emps got them, but we’re not being greedy.

All of the profit will go to charity. The charity may vary month to month, but we may keep a charity on the hot plate for more than a month going, if the profits are so small as to be insignificant. We want them to at least whisper “wow, this is kind of nice!” at the other end. Since these are things we don’t live or die by, we can do this without hurting ourselves.

Thanks for helping us get through. We have some good things coming in the next several months. Everything just takes time! Anyway, yes—-thanks.


* one month or less!

Big old event, Far, far away

August 12, 2009

Mostly it’s always about bikes here, but now and then something else, like now. Astronomy is one of the many things I wish I knew more about, but I follow it a little, and I’m a big Carl Sagan fan, if that counts. I subscribe to Sky & Telescope magazine, but understand hardly anything in it. It has many advertisements for telescope stands that cost billions and billions of dollars, and telescopes with technical features that make me feel entirely out of the loop. But in the latest issue there was something I could barely understand, although it nearly drove me insane in the process. Most of you can get more out of it than most of me did.

You know how, when you see a star, you’re seeing the light from something that may not even be there anymore, because the sun aside, those stars you’re looking at are 4.2 light years away, at the closest. Light travels 186,000 miles per second, so even a million light years is quite some distance; and the closest star (cluster) is 4.2 light years away…at 186,000 miles per second. A light second is 186,000 miles. Even that’s far, by my standards.

But on April 23, 2009, at a little after 3pm, some scientists who look like you and me saw…well, click on this link, then click on the images link at the bottom, and then enlarge the photo on the right. Take it all in!

Fifty NOS DirtDrop bars Found August 13

August 13, 2009

Nitto DirtDrop handlebars


This was designed (I designed it) for the 1987 Bridgestone MB-1, the only production bike of its time to not have indexed shifting, and probably—Im guessing here, not declaring facts—the only production mountain bike ever to come with drop bars.

The bike in that form lasted a year, before its quirks killed it in the market (which specializes in killing good things and not accepting others, which is why we dont sell much through dealers and are not, in industry talk, market-driven). But the bar itself gained a following, and was a staple here at Rivendell until we sold our last one, in 2004.

The Noodle bar took its place, and I think the Noodle bar is the better bar—or else Id have kept the DirtDrop. But I wanted a bar with a flatter ramp (23 degrees became 15 degrees) and less flare at the ends (7 degrees became 4 degrees), while keeping the same reach and drop (92mm and 140mm). Plus, more widths, (45cm grew to 41, 44, 46, and then later, 48cm).

All in all, the Noodle was, for most riders, even more usable and comfortable than the DirtDrop.

But as always happens, when a thing becomes decommissioned, used ones sold on eBay for double what new ones cost. We started to get calls and emails about when we were going to get more DirtDrops in. Almost cults were nearly formed around the dreaded DirtDrop.

Today, August 13, Emil found a box containing 50 brand spanking-new DirtDrops. We could sell them for $90 each, but theyre going for $75, and this will be the last of them. Nitto doesnt stock them, so no distributor can just up and order them. Theyre my design (even though I was a Bstone employee at the time, technically making them a Bstone design)but basically, Nitto probably wont make them for anybody else without my approval, and the minimums are high and so here and now is where and when to get them.

It is too bad that youre not reading this now. Playing the net is like gambling. Click to our site and see what comes up. Today it was DirtDrop handlebars, and we expect them to last a week. It could be a day. Think of the future eBay possibilities! Not to mention, it is quite nice to ride, not just sell. The rugged, flared, drop bar remains a favorite with hoarders, collectors, speculators, and riders alike.

the TRVTH ‘bout the Atlantis, and other topics

August 20, 2009

There’s no great need to read rumors about disappearing Atlantis frames. All we can say now (not all we “will” say, but all we CAN say) is that the Atlantis out of Japan won’t be re-happening until several things change, and we have no control over dem tangs.

If the exchange rate changes, THAT would push us back toward Japan.

If the minimums decreased, THAT would, also.

If the lead time decrease, that, too.

It’s a combo-of-factors that will push us away or pull us back, and these are things we have no control over.

We like the Atlantis. It is the longest-lived bike in our line, and we’re sentimental fools here. We can’t predict the future other than to say we’d rather kill the Atlantis than kill ourselves, and right now, it would make no sense to order more Japanese-built Atlantis frames. Your iPod isn’t made in Japan; your camera isn’t (mine is!); and your other-things-that-used-to-be aren’t anymore. Same way with the Atlantis.

So, we are staying flexible for the future.

Right now we have most sizes through 61 in stock. If you need bigger, get a Bombadil—we can paint it Atlantis colors if you like, but we’ll put Bomba-stickers on it, because that’s what it is.

It’s kind of sad all around. Japanese makers created the bike boom, or at least allowed it to happen at the level and success that it did, way back in the ’70s. Falling dollars and rising Yen and the ramping up of Taiwan and now China have shut down almost all of Japan’s production in the past fifteen years. We’ve been the Stalwart Ones, and I’m proud of that, even immensely proud of it, and to every possible extent we’re still stalwart. I’m going to get another Atlantis (I’ve been riding the first prototype for 11 years now, and rode it home last night and up in the hills the night before, and will ride it home and in the hills after work tonite, and it’s my main camping bike, and so on). But I will get another one before the Toyo-built ones go away.

We’re getting some basket bags in about a month. There will be two bags to fit the the med and huge Wald baskets, and we’ll post pictures and info on the home page, and there will be an early buyer price (order before we get them in, we charge your card the day they arrive and we ship), and a normal price. In things like this, it’s really the only/best way to go. We have a minimum order, and with no guaranteed sales, it’s just too daunting. We’ve been using the prototypes (five variations now) for a month or two, and the finals will be just right.

The Nigel Smythe bags are sticking in tweed, but going away in tan, except for the Big Boxy. For the Big and Little Loafers, just get the Sackville Trunksack S and Trunksack L—same function, same size and shape, basically same bag.

We WILL have panniers and a messenger bag (<———maybe on that) in the Spring. There are still some mounting details to work out for the panniers. The big companies use plastic hardware that their in-house industrial designers design, then they order millions of them to get the per-piece cost down, and that’s not in the cards for us. If we can work out a dumbed-down version that works 95 percent as well, we’ll go that way. We’re about 75 percent of the way there now, but it’s not on the front-burner right now.

The Roadeo bike is evolving still, but it doesn’t have far to go. We’re shooting for a sub 4lb 55cm frame that’s totally safe and reasonably rugged. If after all the reasonable trimming it ends up at four pounds two ounces, then that’s where it’ll be, and you’ll just have to pee before riding it. BUT we think it’ll be 3.999999, and we’ll know in a month.

The Quickbeam is gone now except in the smaller sizes. The smaller sizes are always by far the last to sell. We sell more 68s than 50s, which surprises all of us here, but that’s what’s happening. We’re working on a QB replacement for this fall—-and it will start at 54 and go to 64. Still steel and lugged, but this time Made In Taiwan. It will be made just as well, and the design is the same, and the price will be lower.

We’re trying for a 64 Sam Hillborne for super tall guys, but there are lug challenges with that. New molds, more cost…..same old stuff, and we always do it, but it always happens.

Wasn’t a quickie, but….sorry.

Sigg Recall, and Us

September 3, 2009

Two days ago it came to light that Sigg bottles, the old classics from the most fastidious nation on earth, had, up through August 08 (last year, not this year) a bit of bisphenol in the lining.

Its not pure poison. If your children get their teeth coated to ward off cavities (common practice for the past 20 years), that has bisphenol in it. It may even be pure bisphenol, and Im sure one of the dentists among you will clarify that for me, and then me for you.

But bisphenol is why we quit selling the usual kind of plastic bottles, why we quit out in-house water cooler from Sierra Springs, and let me make this perfectly clear: bisphenol is something we shun as much or more than the next guy; so this Sigg news is a bummer.

The “Water Bottle of the Immortals” is BPA-free, by the way. We still sell those.

Sigg says cold water doesnt bring it out, and thats fine; but Sigg itself is in hot water now, because it wasnt up front with the info until it was forced to be.

Greenies and bloggers are attacking Sigg all over the net now. I dont want to jump in, but I want to address this, because its out there, and weve sold lots of the bisBottles, so were guilty by association. 

Sigg has to be hating life right now. Many people are miserable, and probably four or five here and in Switzerland are extreeeeeeemely miserable. Its enough, and lets resist the genetic urge to pounce on the wounded, no matter whose fault. 

Theres a return program. From our point of view, wed far much rather you return your wrong bottles to Sigg than return them to us, because a deluge of bisBottles would throw a monkey wrench into the works here, BUT we accept our role, and well take on any challenges. 

Alternatively—-not additionally—-we can offer the following deal: 

Send your bottles to Sigg, and well create a credit on your account for $10 per bottle you bought. That way, you get a new bottle from them and a credit from us. Its still a hassle. That we know.  The $10 will help cover postage, at least. (This is good for the old bottles with the old liners. If you have newer bottles, that’s a different story. Keep them. They’re fine.)  

If you send your bottle to us, well replace it and send it to Sigg.  

The bisBottles are dark-colored inside. The NobisBottles are butter-colored.

Heres a link thatll tell you all you need to know: 

- Grant

Brand New Sigg Update

September 10, 2009

Last week, I (John) wrote to Steve Wasik, the CEO of Sigg, telling him that I thought that they were making a mistake by not paying postage for the bottles that concerned consumers might be returning to them.

I also said that while mea culpas in business were not easy, they were always the right way to go for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the survival of the company.

He was undoubtedly swamped with emails, phone calls, blog updates, and Twitter posts, but he took the time to reply to me. Below is his email, and something that he sent to The Huffington Post, which he forwarded, too.

While he didn’t change his mind as a result of my comments, what he said was good, and made sense.

Hi John,

Thanks very much for writing to me. I understand that the cost of shipping is an issue for some and maybe we are making a mistake.

The reasons we chose to not pay for inbound shipping for the SIGG voluntary bottle exchange are:

1.      We believe the bottles consumers have with SIGGs former liner are leach-free and perfectly safe. They comply with all international safety standards. This is not a recall.
2.      However, we know some people feel they were misled, so for those people we are offering to exchange their old SIGGs for new ones. We believe that most of these people would be willing to pay the shipping in if they get brand new bottles and free shipping back to them.
3.      If we offered free shipping on new SIGGs, there is nothing to prevent everyone who has an old SIGG not just those concerned with BPA from sending their old bottles back to us. Please understand that there are millions of old SIGGs out there and that this type of offer would be unmanageable for us.
4.      And we do have some local SIGG retailers who  are supporting SIGG during this exchange program.

I am sure you know that in the Spring of 2008, polycarbonate plastic bottles were pulled off of store shelves for leaching of BPA. To my knowledge, none of these brands ever offered an exchange program similar to the one that SIGG is offering now. I believe our program is very fair.

As for my mea culpa, I just posted this message below to The Huffington Post.
Please accept my humble apologies for this mess. I should have done better.


I am writing to apologize.

As Chief Executive Officer of SIGG, a leading maker of reusable water bottles, I made a mistake when I decided not to announce that our old bottle liner contained trace amounts of bisphenol A.  I learned about the liners content in 2006, when there was debate in the scientific community about the effects of BPA.  Scientists lined up on both sides of the issue:  Some said BPA posed potential health risks, others said BPA was perfectly safe.

With the issue still very much undecided, SIGG decided to develop a BPA-free liner to eliminate consumer concern about our products.  To be sure that BPA did not leach from our bottle liners, we commissioned independent scientific studies and asked the labs to rigorously test our bottles and bottles made by other companies.  We urged them to put all bottles through tortuous conditions.  Those tests reassured us because they showed SIGG liners leached no BPA.  We posted those studies on our web site to provide consumers the information about product performance that seemed to me relevant at the time.

Today, the debate continues.  Scientists are still split on the issue.  But the consumer environment has changed.  Because of the all the conflicting data, a growing number of people have decided to eliminate the concern from their lives by avoiding BPA. Given the situation, I recently decided that we had to tell everyone that bottles manufactured with our former liner (prior to August 2008) contained trace amounts of BPA.

We were right to make the announcement.  But I was wrong to have waited this long.
One of our primary goals at SIGG has been to help reduce unnecessary waste and to educate people on the environmental benefits of using a reusable bottle. With that objective in mind, SIGG has been labeled a green company.

Unfortunately, I am still learning to be a green CEO.  When I took this position, I naively assumed that green meant being a steward of the environment. In 2007, SIGG became a member of 1% For The Planet and we have donated 1% of all of our sales to environmental organizations like The Sierra Club and Stop Global Warming. However, being a green company also means being held to the highest degree of corporate transparency.

Some executives learn this because they have grown up within the green movement.  I have learned this by reading hundreds of emails from SIGG consumers.  Some feel angry.  Some feel betrayed.  All feel disappointed because they were passionate advocates of our bottles.

People have written to explain why they are concerned about BPA.  They have written about their personal stories, their intimate worries and their very honest anger.  I have personally responded to hundreds of these notes, apologizing for my mistake, offering new bottles to make amends, realizing that my decision caused people real discomfort.

SIGG has been around for 100 years. Yet, we are still a small company with 127 employees worldwide about 90 of those working in our Frauenfeld Switzerland operation. SIGG is not a typical modern corporation and it doesnt have a typical relationship with its customers.  People have trusted SIGG and my decision breached that trust.  I wish I could turn back the clock and fully disclose the BPA content in our liners.  What I can do is make sure that I personally never again compromise SIGGs good name and proud Swiss heritage.

In the next few days, we will announce the first steps in our path to full transparency.  These will include some very specific things we will do to make sure we are the honest, green company that our customers expect us to be.  We will:
         Post details about the contents of our bottles: the new liner, the cap, the bottle itself.  And we will make the information as transparent and understandable as possible.
         Make it easy for consumers to exchange their old bottles for new, BPA-free SIGGs.  You can still ship your old SIGGs to us via our voluntary exchange program. Or if you prefer to avoid shipping costs and lead time, you can make the exchange at your local SIGG retailer most of whom are participating in the program. To make it easy, we will post on our website a list of these retailers.
         Unveil an independently managed grant program to help fund BPA and chemical research that will help eliminate confusion and concern about this issue.  While we have moved away from BPA in SIGG products, it continues to be used in countless products that we all use each day.  If it poses a real threat, we want to help curb its use.

When people buy Swiss made products, they are buying quality and peace of mind. I realize that my actions compromised SIGGs relationship with our loyal customers.  I pledge to try to rebuild the hard-earned trust you have had in SIGG.  I sincerely hope you will allow me to prove myself.
Steve Wasik

Red Glorius stolen in Saint Paul

September 17, 2009

New note: Karl G. lives in St.Paul and also has, whaddya know, a red Glorius—one of maybe four that color. His has skinwall tires and is a 56. My daughter’s (see note following) has a normal stem, blackwall Schwalbes, and is a 52. It was recently stolen, and here’s that  ol’ note again. Thanks to all who’ve cared and are looking. Pounce on the guy with the non-lugged stem and the Schwalbe all-black ttires;  be nice to Karl! Thanks——Grant

When a daughter’s bike gets stolen, a dad a couple of thousand miles away does what he can do to help get it back, and this is that.
My daughter is a student there, and her red Glorius (mixte) with cream head tubes was stolen from a rusty fence (it was U-locked to it, and they uprooted the fence-section) on Portland and Saratoga Aves. September 16.

Brooks saddle, Schwalbe Marathons…Albatross bars…but basically, if you see a red Glorious around there, a 52, that’s it. I don’t know how to go about getting it back, but I want to do what I can, and Put the Word Out seems to be the extent of my influence.

A reward, too. I buy bikes, too—they don’t come free to me—and she rode the bike all last year and so far this year, and she liked the bike a lot, and it’s just a bummer.

Keep an eye out for  it. Maybe it’ll show up on eBay or Craigslist.

You know, on one hand, it’s better that she lose her Glorius than maybe a bike-poorer person. But she got attached to it, and she wants it back, so I’m asking for help locating it. There will be a reward, sure. I don’t know. Something.

The same day one of my daughter’s roomates also got her bike stolen. It was a dark olive green All-Pro (brand) non-mixte with upright bars, black saddle, white grips. Maybe the same guys (sexist but statistically probable assumption) took it, too.

Anyway, it’s not tragic, but it is sad, and it is my daughter and it is her friend, and I think we can all relate. Thanks for any help.  Grant

Short note, gen’l comments

September 26, 2009

 Thanks to all of you who have and are still keeping an eye out for my daughter’s red Glorius. It’s still MIA, but who knows…and it’s nice to have you caring. Will report the finding, if it happens.

The second Rodeoprototype will be here next week, and it should be final. The last of the Japanese-built Atlantis frames are trickling out of here. The Sackville line of bags is expanding, but not too fast and weirdly, not with the unbridled enthusiasm that introduces errors along the way. We’re being super careful with everything, every new style, and we’re trying to do only necessary styles, or at least…irresistible ones.

Reader 42 is being completed, now that we have our final and long story in. It will be free on the site, or available for $4 including postage in paper. We’re shooting for in the mail in a month, but that may be optimistic. It’s not the Daily Planet here…we’re doing other things along the way, but the Reader is on the hot plate now, and we’ll shoot for four next year.

Also coming, a bicycle/frame catalogue with many but not all of our models. By November.

Sales are fair. Not great, not horrible. We’re hoping for a good fall-winter, so just keep us in mind….is all I can ask and hope for. Thanks a lot for anything; we’re working hard to get you the good goods and service.



Money money money

October 7, 2009

Every now and then I talk about the dollar and Yen. I think about it all the time, because we buy so much expensive Japanese stuff, and how many yen one dollar buys has a tremendous effect on what we pay. Short historical perspective. In 1972 a dollar bought 375 yen. In 1984 it bought 250 yen.
In May 1985, five country’s moneymen got together and came up with a plan to help the balance of trade among their countries (US, Japan, Germany, Italy, and England, as I recall). The way to do that is to re-value their currencies; and so it was de—-are any of you still reading this?—cided that a dollar should buy only 150 yen—that would make it easier for Japanese companies to import American-made goods, and that would help balance the trade between Japan and the U.S.—
But the change from 250 in April of 1985 to 150 in May made it way more costly for American companies to import Japanese goods, because it meant almost a doubling of prices for anything Japanese. Almost doubling retail prices was unacceptable, so the strategy was to cheapen the Japanese stuff, to lower the cost, to keep the retail prices the same. So if you bought a Japanese-made XYZ  before the re-valuation, it might cost $100, and would be made with hi-grade materials and intensive labor to make it shine. If you bought XYZ after the re-valuation, it would cost about the same $100, but would be made with worse materials or less labor. It would be cheapened somehow, so it could sell for the old familiar 1984-ish price.

To avoid an apples-to-apples comparison, something had to change, so you wouldn’t say, “Hey, wazzup with this? Last year it looked fancy and polished, and now it’s plain and painted and it costs the same.” Lugged bikes almost entirely died in the popular price ranges, and in the thrust from finery to technology we got indexing. Over the next decade, non-indexed (friction) shifting lugged steel bicycles became associated with classic nostalgia and connoisseurs and tweed and meerschaum pipes and waxed cotton and all That Stuff, which really isn’t fair to any of it, especially the bikes.

You can make a lousy lugged bike, and the kinds of joints matter only so much and not at all from a pure performance (speed?) perspective, but a nicely made and well-designed lugged bicycle blends craft and engineering and theoretical goodness and art in something simple like a bicycle, and when you spend a lot of your life riding and thinking about and looking at bicycles, that can start to matter.

I’m the world’s worst rambler off-tracker…what I meant to say is that a dollar now buys 88.81 Yen, which makes it hard for us, hard for Nitto and MKS and other Japanese companies to be competitive in the US bike market.

If things don’t turn around by the end of the year, we’ll be raising prices some. It’s a good time to buy Japanese stuff. It’s all going up next year, and some things, maybe sooner. The jobs-get-lost/prices-go-up model is not a good one, but there aren’t many options.

We hope you have a good Fall and Winter, and we hope you hope we do.


Smile Train shirts

November 20, 2009

Update: We are just about out of Large T-Shirts. We have 14 smalls, 9 mediums, 10 XLs and 5 2Xers. The December 3 deadline has passed, but we want to A) raise some more money for Smile Train, and B) sell the rest of these non-Riv-specific shirts, so we will let it ride through the weekend, and post your name below, until these are (mostly) gone. Thanks!
We’re trying to raise money for Smile Train, and so are donating all of the profits to that group. If you can use yet another T-shirt, but this time a USA-made organic cotton black one, then this is a good one. Buy one and we’ll list you here from now until Dec 3. Thanks….

The names:

Jonathan Tallman (4!); Scott Schroeder from Germany (4!); Keith Hansen (2!); Grant P.;
That’s one surgery paid for! And now…

Ned L. ($250 donation to ST, enough for one whole surgery); Lyle Bogart; Carl Jones, Eric Platt, Stephen Farrow, Thomas Skean, Roy Summer, Joseph Wilson (3), Greg Zaborac, Dan Jones, Michael McCorkle, Lou Behm, Kip Otteson, Joseph Bernard
Patrick Sollberger, Peter Heyward, William Hirsch, John A Philip, Andrew Hughes, Glenn Lindley, Ryan Gotch, Andrew Philip, Ryan Hammond, Mike Johnson, Ken Learman, Roscoe Klausing, Joe Baker, Ryan Heck, Eric Nye,

Thanks, everyone above. If we missed anyone, please email        

Updated daily. Thanks….

Jan Heine’s offer good thru Dec 8. Read it!

December 8, 2009

Jan Heine, 650B champion and co-conspirator has asked me to post this today, and Im happy to.—Grant

This past year has been good for bicycles, with more people riding bikes instead of driving or sitting on the couch. However, this past year has not been so good for many others in our country and our world.

Almost 5 years ago, Bicycle Quarterly donated all receipts from two days to Doctors Without Borders in response to the terrible tsunami that swept the Indian Ocean. We made a contribution of almost $2000, but I also learned that charities need money most during times when there isn’t a disaster to galvanize action.

Such a time is now. I read in the paper the other day that 25% of all children in the U.S. are receiving food stamps, because their families are too poor to feed them adequately.

In response to the need, here is our offer, good through midnight today (Tuesday, December 8, 2009):

Vintage Bicycle Press will donate $15 for each subscription or renewal to Bicycle Quarterly, or each purchase of our book “The Competition Bicycle” to two charities, split evenly:

- SAVE THE CHILDREN is an organization that fights child poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

- DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS helps those most in need of help.

These organizations are non-political, and they have a four-star rating, with more than 87% of donations going to recipients, and not overhead.

Unfortunately, as the need goes up due to the recession, donations have decreased, because everybody feels pinched. Here is our opportunity to help. Even though this time, we cannot donate all our receipts - the recession has affected us, too - I am confident we can donate more this time than we did in 2004, because cycling has grown so much.

If your subscription still is current, you can add a year or two by renewing now, and we will make the same donation. For checks or money orders, the date of the postmark counts…

For more info, see

Happy holidays!

Jan Heine


Bicycle Quarterly

2116 Western Ave.

Seattle WA 98121

What 2009 Was Like + Brooks FLASH

January 11, 2010

It was a year of not much Rivendell Reader progress. No issues were mailed since February, but any insider here will attest that there’s been progress all year long, but it just hasn’t come to an Old Faithful-like head, and if it were finished now we still wouldn’t have the loot to print it, although we could put it up on the web. It should be on this site in two weeks, maybe sooner, and in paper maybe by mid - Feb. We’ll print enough to send to those who’ve sent in $5 for one by Jan 25 or so, and then maybe a few hundred more, which may cost more. Low-volume print runs are inefficient that way, but massive print runs cost too much. This is why magazines have advertising

We’re losing our all-Japanese built frames - the Quickbeam, Atlantis, A. Homer Hilsen, Glorius and Wilbury —- and have already lost some others. They cost too much because the U.S. dollar is too weak and the Yen is too strong. We have some Japanese Atlantis and Hilsen frames in stock, but unless the dollar goes up to 115+ Yen, we can’t afford these frames anymore. So  —- whatever, but these are supremely well-built frames, with at least two Samurai-like details (in these last two batches) that are more artsy than you’ll find on any frame anywhere, so they’re good, and they’re the last of ‘em.

When we’re out of the Japanese Atlantis frames, the future ones will be made by Wford. The chainstays will be different but just fine, and some microdetails will be diff, but not functionally so.

Early this summer (late May, maybe June) we’ll introduce a new bike, the Hunqapillar, pronounced “Hunkapillar.” It’s sort of between an Atlantis and Bombadil; a toury traily du-it-all kind of frame in four sizes: 48 54 58 62, all with the “expanded, not compact” sizing like the Sam and Bomadil. So the listed size fits like a bike that’s two to five centimeters bigger. I ride a 59 AHH, and a 54 Hunqapillar, for instance. We’ll have more on the Hunqapillar (just today we switched from “-er” to “-ar”) in a couple of weeks. The 48 fits 26-inch wheels (like the small Atlantis does); the big three take 700c. We’re still in deep amour with 650B, but have enough of those bikes, and wanted a replacement Atlantis, so it made sense to keep this bike 26 & 700.

It’s shaping up to cost $1400 frame-fork-headset. The frame is made in Taiwan under the obsidian eyes of Tetsu Ishigaki of Toyo; and he builds the forks himself in Japan.

And the Quickbeam is gone and will be replaced with the SimpleOne. Same geometry, basically same frame and lugs and crown and bb and dropouts and everything, but made in Taiwan, so it costs less. I wonder how they’ll go, because you never can tell with one-speeds. So many people convert old junkers, and then there are Surleys for even less, and it all comes down to a guess. But this is a bike we like a whole lot, and so we’re doing one run of them this year, and that may be it. Frames will cost $1,000, with headset, seat post, bottom bracket — a 107mm Tange, which will work fine with the Sugino XD crank.

The Rodeo is doing quite well, as it ought to. We’re keeping it for sure, and we’ll lock it in forever. If you need a fasty bike that’s actually useful (can take 33.33mm tires and fenders), it’s the way to go.

About fifteen years ago Yvon Chouinard wrote an introduction to the Patagonia catalogue, saying Shaker-like things about simplicity and trimming down. He said something really close to, “Do we really need six different ski jackets?” And then explained that he trimmed it to two. I am not the climber-surfer-businessguy he is, but I do understand what he was saying, and I like it. “Selection” begets “confusion”  and “indecision.” Go to REI and check out the locks sometime; or the helmets or gloves, or sunglasses or Swiss Army knives. Aye, Chihuahua.

Do we need seven different pedals? Balaclavas in four colors, when all anybody ever buys is black? Brooks makes forty or so saddles, but you have your B.17, the slotted Imperial, and a wide model  —-  the .68 or .67, but not both, and that’s it. Brown or black. Special order anything else. We should get our stocked Brooks selection down to five, and that will be all. Brooks would probably like us to sell all the different models. I think Brooks doesn’t like us. We’ve been a good customer for 15 years; I bet  — no big deal, but I bet we’ve been Brooks’s best customer. It may depend on how you define “best.”

In the early years, Brooks saddles were hard to find, and that was all we sold. Over the years we’ve dabbled with other leather saddles, but have never wavered on Brooks, and yetI know this is petty  —-  but on the Brooks site, dealers are rated with rivets, and five is good. The last I looked, we were zero. We’ve done more than sell them, have been super low-maintenance, have never been late with a payment, have never asked for anything extra, but here were are, zero-rivetted. That’s OK. We don’t need to be in the Brooks Premium Elite Presidential Club. Selle Royal owns Brooks (not Brooks, anymore). They’ve improved the saddles since taking over. The boxes are a shame to throw out. Good for them, but screw the rivet-system (pun intended).

FLASH: Well, that posting raised a ruckus, and Brooks explained that to qualify for Rivets, we have to fill out forms and show pictures of our displays and employees and—-it all makes sense from their perspective, but the fact is, we have no displays, and our showroom isn’t impressive.  Plus, the 6-Rivet dealers have to sell the whole line—-bags, tool rolls. bar tape, leather grips. We’re in a simplifying mode, and that would complicate things here, so if anything said here reflects badly on Brooks, I take it back. I accept our zero-rivet station in life, and am happy enough just to continue to sell the finest saddles out there.—-Grant

Tires, in the bicycle world at large and even here at Rivendell, are out of control and so we’re cutting back. The 27mm Ruffy-Tuffy/Roll-y Pol-y tire mold is wearing out and we may see the last of those tires this year.

How does a metal mold wear out from being filled with presumably soft rubber? But that’s what I’m told.

When your bike can’t fit a bigger tire, there isn’t a better tire in the world than a Roll-y Pol-y or Ruffy Tuffy (I’d say). But you should have a bike that fits a bigger tire, and you should be riding bigger tires, mainly because tell me one reason not to. The Jack Brown (33.333mm) is the new Roll-y Pol-y. So there’s your new starting point: 33.3333mm. A small selection of stepped-up sizes from Panaracer and Schwalbe, but only one model per step, and not too many steps. We’ll get our 700c tires down from twelve or so to six or so. Welcome to the newer, simpler world here.

(Sheldon Brown once complained to me about the hyphenation of the Roll-y Pol-y, and he was a million percent right, but too late, and there still wasn’t and isn’t a better alternative. I wanted them to be long “o” sounds, and didn’t want the second word to read like the first part of polyester, so that’s how the hyphenation came about, but it sure makes it a pain to type.)

In 650B tires we’re still going to stock every one we can get, overlaps and all. But you have to understand, that’s the kind of support a “new” size needs, and it can count on us.  At some point we’ll have multiduplicates and we’ll have to cut back, but we aren’t there yet. Nine or ten or eleven 650B tires in 2010.

Bags is another area. We’re focusing on the Sackvilles, made just for us by a small company that’s been a pure delight to work with, and that makes the best bags I’ve ever seen. We’ll do one run of Nigel Smythe bags in the English Tweedy, sometime early Summer. And we’ll keep the Brand V line of vegan bags, because they’re more affordable, and it doesn’t bode well, to piss off the vegans. John’s one of them.

You know the heavy heathery gray long-sleeve Rivendell T-shirts? The maker, in North Carolina, is discontinuing that shirt, and there is just nothing like it. It’s the best toughest, t-shirt you’ll ever wear, good even for cold weather (with a wooly under it), and quitting making it is no less a shame than the shame of Case stopping the scout knife after eighty years because the knife market is mostly collectables these days, and kids don’t carry pocket knives anymore. There are worse shames, worse thing, but still. Anyway, we have some of those shirts left, with the big ol’ Rivendell Bicycle Works collegiate-style logo, and can’t justify another run of thoseso we’re going to do a more sedate kind of semi-cycling T-shirt, maybe one you can wear without looking jockish. If and when they come, they’ll be your last chance at this shirt, and let me tell you: Get one.

It has been a hard year in a few ways, but you don’t want to hear it and I don’t want to say it. We’ve all had enough of that, and no doubt hundreds of you have lost jobs or had hours cut back and are worried, too. It is great, though, to be able to follow a path that’s consistent with the kinds of things we like, and whatever commercial success we have along the way, just knowing (from hearing) that you like the stuff too, is gratifying and makes life way better than it would be if, for example, we found out that our major frame suppliers were going all-carbon next year, or threadless, or you get the point.

The view of the real bike world, from this bubble, is nearly unfathomable.  More like, I just don’t understand any of it. I go into bike shops and see the racks full there, I am glad we don’t have to sell that stuff. It’s not all bad, but it’s hard to come up with a story, hard to fit somebody on a bike that makes it impossible to raise the handlebar. I feel like, yes I know a lot of people listen to me, or to Rivendell, and think I’m good at this, or something, but they don’t realize how hopeless I’d be without this job. When you’ve worked for yourself for so many years you become hard to employ by anybody else, and on top of that, my skills are limited to bikes, and this particular kind of bike at that; and it’s not a popular approach to bikes.

This year we gave about $12K to various charities, but not too many. It doesn’t make sense or feel good to spread it out over too many charities, because you end up buying post-its and paperclips, instead of surgeries or toilets. By a similar token, giving $2K to a charity with a yearly operating budget of $100 million doesn’t feel superb, either, so we focus our contributions on some small, some medium charities that do special work, mostly for poor people, women, and children, and always ones that are efficient. There are some charities that spend 80 percent of the contributions on salaries and rent, and you can even look ‘em up. We do mainly Somaly Mam (anti-sexual slavery in Cambodia), the Carter Center (which does only the work that nobody else bothers with, and is truly singlehandedly eradicating horrible diseases in Africa, for instance, and is super efficient), Smile Train (cleft palate surgeries), and the Fistula Foundation (fistula fixing in African women, so they don’t leak feces and urine constantly, which gets them banished to the backwoods and they feel ashamed, and their families abandon them, holy freakin’ cow).  Ideally, we’d give $100 thousand dollars, but we’re eke-ing by as it is, and this was a particularly rough year, especially at the end.

In 2010 we’ll allocate certain product sales to certain charities, as we started to do late last year.

Remember the Bleriot? It wasn’t so long ago. That was a bike we designed and sold ourselves and sold through a distributor. It had a life of a two years or so, and through no fault of the bike or anything, it went away. Medium-length story,  not worth telling. Anyway, we have designed another bike for another distributor Merry Sales, owner of the SOMA brand. Jim Porter (Merry Sales owner) is a good friend, and Merry Sales has been a faithful supplier to us for several years, and they being a distributor and all set to sell to bike shops, which something we, for the most part, don’t.

That means we can reach more customers, get more riders on to good ol’ pretty-and-strong-and-comfortable lugged steel bikes, and probably 90 percent of those riders won’t have heard of Rivendell, anyway. So it all makes sense, and as long as there are no dealer problems, it’ll all work out. We’re going to sell the bike, too.

I hadn’t planned on spilling the beans on it yet, but the beans are already spilt, I think partly because we had the frame on a table here in the work area, instead of under a white sheet in a back room. I’d barely rather it be a secret still, because there are details to be worked out, and if they aren’t worked out, there won’t be a frame, and there’s no guarantee that they’re going to be worked out. It’s not financial arrangements, it’s techy frame things. Anyway, here’s what I have to say about the bike:

It’s what used to be called a road-sport bike. It has light tubing (by our standards — like the Rambouillet, A. Homer Hilsen), and accepts tires up to 28mm with a fender, or about 35mm without. It has two eyelets on the rear dropouts, one on the front, and hourglass mounts on the seat stays. It’s not for loaded touring, but fits a rear rack anyway, and you can use that as a saddlebag support, or put a trunk rack or some other light load on it. It probably won’t break-like-carbon if you load it up and head for the hills, but it’s really not stout enough to do that fantastically well. The tubing is too light.

It has the same “expanded” kind of frame as the Bombadil and Sam Hillborne. The top tube slopes up about 6 degrees, so ultra classicists will barf, but the upslope forces you to be comfortable, and some people must be forced. It also means you’ll ride a frame that’s three to five cm smaller than what you’d ride in one of our bikes.

The fork is threaded, so you can use a quill stem. All the lugs, the crown, and the BB shell are the same ones we use on our own bikes. The rear dropouts are a stock model that have been used on lots of frames, but I didn’t pick them. They’re small, strong, and light.

The tubing is Tange Prestige (heat treated CrMo). Tange is a tubing maker; Prestige is it’s top, heat-treated CrMo tubing, and it’s plenty good for any frame.

The downtube says the opposite of SOMA, and the model name - San Marcos - is in small letters on the back of the seat tube.

I think it’s best and fairest to evaluate this frame in the context of the current bike shop selection, and the price, about $895. I want to say that, because if all you do is consider “lugs” and “steel” and “fork crown” and maybe even “Rivendell-designed” it’s a short step away from being compared to frames that cost a whole lot more.

Please DO compare it to any carbon frame and fork. Compare the clearance, the bar height and comfort, the tire and fender clearances, and the overall look. DON’T compare it to an A. Homer Hilsen, etc., and expect the same details. The fork won’t be as beautiful, but it’ll look a whole lot better (by certain standards) than any carbon fork, and it’ll be way safer, too.

This frame is perfect for anybody who wants a really nice, super comfortable, attractive, safe, and versatile bike for well under $2,000. It’s great for any road rides, centuries, and (with 35mm tires run soft), some smooth fire trails.


SOMA San Marcos

Sizes: Probably 51/650 or 700c (not sure); 55, 59, 63. Maybe a 47/650, too. It’s designed, but nobody ever buys small bikes, so I may suggest to Jim to nix it. It’ll be up to him, so don’t get mad at me….

Fitting: Go three to six cm smaller than your level-top tube frame.

Color: Not set, but maybe the light blue that’s on the table (and the ‘net)

Brake style: 55 reach, sidepull or centerpull, but there’s no cable hanger stop, so if you want to use a centerpull you’ll need the stops and hangers, and I’m sure Merry Sales will make them available to dealers.

Max tire with fender: 30mm. (Who makes a 30? But if you have one)

Max tire no fender: 37mm.

Braze-ons: Two bottles, two eyelets on rear drops, one on each front, plus the normal cable stops.

Designed for: Road riding, light loads. If you’re light or if you ride light (don’t smack things, pedal smoothly, unweight the bike over bumps, things like that), you can go glorious unpaved places on this bike, but the bottom line is: Road bike, not trail bike.

Loaded touring?: Nope. It won’t break, but it’s not touring-stout. Don’t let the rack-eyelets fool you. It can take a rack and a light load, but it’s not the fantabulous touring bike. (People will ask: “If I weigh 120 pounds, can I load it up with 50? Isn’t that the same as a 170-pounder riding with nothing?” And I never know what to say. Body-weight rides different than static weight, but…the point is, it’s not a loaded touring bike. If you have just this bike and you must tour, and you can get in sync with the loaded bike, then foray away, knowing heavier people have toured on way wimpier bikes multitudinous times, but still….not a superb bike for loaded touring, not intended for it, but still a capable light all-‘rounder.

Rear spacing: 130mm

Fork type: Steel (CrMo) with Riv’s crown

Lugs, BB shell: Riv’s investment cast

Kinda tubes: Tange Prestige, with 0.8mm butts in the top and down tubes.

Seat post size: 27.2mm

Anything quirky, weird, or spooky that you’ll find out too late? No, it’s normal.

Frame weight: Shouldn’t ask, but a 55 will weigh about 4.4lb.

Available where: Bike dealers who opt to stock it, and Rivendell.

Available when: We aren’t going to rush it, and if all of the details aren’t nailed, it plain won’t happen at all. Right now the most optimistic guess is Fall, 2010. I bet it won’t land till Spring 2011, though.

If you’re on the Forum and have any questions, it would be good to designate a regular contributor to ask me questions ganged in bunches of three or four or something. It’s possible that I won’t know the answer, but if it’s about the frame sizing, fitting, tubing, details —- I should probably know the answer.

It’s going to be a really neat frame, and wouldn’t it be good to see normal people (not us!) on good steel?

—- Grant

… by candlelight

January 19, 2010

I know this is boring so I’ll make it quick: Out of power today, but it seems it wasn’t the local utility provider’s (PG&E)’s fault. The guys down in Unit 27 did something wacky that blew a bunch of fuses, and it just happene coincide with a piddly storm that knock out other people’s power. Anyway—we should be answering  phones & up & riding Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Mark assembled a black Atlantis with Honjo fenders (which, as you may know, are no walk in the park to install)…by candlelight. —Grant

Thanks note from Mercy Corp, and what they’re doing with it

January 19, 2010

Brief note here just for a day or two—-
note from Mercy Corps telling us what they’re doing with the $3,200 we send them, all as a result of you buying bike parts here. Thanks to all…




January 21, 2010

It’s a long way off, maybe July. It’s all designed, prototypes will arrive in two months. The LAST part of this or any bike is the head badge. About fourteen or fifteen years ago I was in the chair at the dentist’s office, I saw some pictures on the wall of birds dressed up like dentists, and I asked and fournd out that one of the patients drew them, and he was 16 or 17. I got his name, Andrew Denman, and eventually he did the Heron poster.

The Heron was a line (of two bikes) we co-developed a long time ago.

The kid’s name was Andrew Denman, and he’s thirty-one now and well-known among wildlife artists. His site is here:

We needed a wooly mammoth for the head badge of the Hunqapillar (pronounce the Q like it’s a K), and Andrew lives about seven miles from here, so I contact him, and he agreed to draw one for us, for the head badge.

Smile Train deal (there’s a link, this is short)

January 27, 2010

It kind of works like this: You donate to Smile Train on the Rivendell Fund, and we create a credit on your account for 75 percent as much as you donated. Donate $100, get a $75 credit; donate $87, get a credit for $65.25. It’s not dollar for dollar, but if it were, well—-we’d be, like, donating for you, and you wouldn’t feel fantastic about that. We’re happy to cover you 75 percent, though, up to $300.

In order to get your credit, {REDACTED…. program is over}

And if you plan to buy a complete bike between now and May 1, it gets even better. In that case, with a minimum $200 Smile Train donation (for which you get $150 credit toward that bike), we’ll also include a Campy front derailer ($55, you’d need it anyway); a Nitto handlebar (any model, up to $75, and you’d need it anyway, too; and a Nitto seat post (whichever one we have in stock, either the $65 Crystal Fellow or the $75 S83). 

Important note: If you make a donation planning to take advantage of the above offer for a complete bike, please tell us at the time that you send the email with the donation receipt. Otherwise, we will assume you are not, and credit you accordingly. 

So for a $200 donation to Smile Train, you save about $345 on your complete bike. Our goal is to sell bikes, sure, but our loftier goal is to pay the cost of cleft palate surgeries for 100 children (at $250 per surgery).

You get a tax deduction (Smile Train mails you the receipt). You still get a 5% rebate credit next year on your bike purchase—effectively a discount. And for that $200, you get about $345 off your complete bike.

Thanks, and here’s that link again:


More frequent updates

February 16, 2010

We’re not exactly hip-deep in the blogging world, twitter and all—-and we’re not above it, either. There’s a fine squiggly line between drivel and trivia, staying in touch and presenting unimportant observations as though they’re worth somebody’s time.
Anything could be worth somebody’s time, but when you say unimportant things to five thousand people (for instance), even if they take just fifteen seconds to read, you’re wasting 75,000 seconds, or almost 21 hours of people time, and that’s too much.
It’s better than 21 hours of violence or crime, or even moodiness, but it’s still too much to ignore.
IN MOST WAYS I’d rather use this spot to continue to rally you-all to donate to Smile Train, so we can pay off 100 cleft surgeries. We credit you —- effectively, we almost pay you do to it. We reward you when you do it, so everybody wins. Here:


And we’re up to $16K now, just $9K to go. It’s really a good thing for everybody, but the point I want to make is that this space will be updated nearly daily with information that isn’t as important as Smile Train, but will be more interesting than….maybe not all twitter stuff, but some.

Lunch today was pizza and a salad from Tullio’s, the best restaurant in Walnut Creek. That is true, but that’s not the way these posts will go. Still, if you’re in Walnut Creek, please stop by here, and eat lunch at Tullio’s. It’s a four minute sashay from here, and in the true trivia department, Tullio was the original Campagnolo’s first name.

Better and more frequent posts start tomorrow.

The  Paper Reader will go to print in a week. Will BE in print for that long at least. Will be mailed to those of you who’ve paid for it the right way, by March 4. The right way is to send $4 in cash and include your mailing address label.  

  "Membership" here hasn’t included the free Reader for a few years now.


Scored (as opposed to timed and measured) events should be banned from the Olympics.  If it wasn’t one of the original events, it shouldn’t be one now, so that rules out anything that requires choreography and make-up. Luge: No thanks. It’s  probably a good thing I have no say.

Long letter and answer about internal gears and so on.NOW, with more FOLLOW-UP at the end..

February 18, 2010

(Part of our new “nearly a new posting every day here” program)

Nick W. wrote:
My perspective on bicycle riding is as a commuter (13 mile round trip every day) and errands. I own several cars but almost never use them just by myself. Im 55 and just average fitness. Id like to take overnight trips and even travel by bike, but Ive never actually done that. I dont know anybody who is interested in bicycles as transportation; every cyclist I know is either a gung ho mountain biker or roadie wannabee. No sweat, but that means Ive had to figure out bicycle setup and gear without the advice of more experienced cyclists. What Ive settled on is that I want an upright riding position with a wide sprung saddle and pull back handle bars. I want an internally geared rear hub, a dynamo front hub, fenders, chain guard, kickstand, rear luggage rack, front basket. All of these set up decisions are based on having a comfortable bike with low maintenance and not being concerned with weight or speed.
It seems that you also have these same concerns and set up desires but theyve lead you to a bike with drop bars, narrower seat, and front & rear derailleurs. So my question is why derailleurs and drop bars? Isnt a 7, 8, or 14 speed rear hub a lot easier, simpler to use with a lot less maintenance and adjustment? Isnt an upright riding position with pull back handle bars instead of drops a lot more comfortable? Does the difference have to do with length of trip? I thought that maybe the upright position is more comfortable for trips under 10 miles and less comfortable for trips that are 2 or 3 or 10 times that distance? What about speed? Does your preferred setup make a little comfort compromise for the sake of better speed? Maybe the answer is simply personal preference but it seems to me that you know more about this than I do and have design basis reasons that arent just personal preference. Another way to put this is that Id like to understand  reasons for preferring a certain setup based on practicality and not on fashion or market force. Fashion might be a reasonable concern but its not my concern.
My second question is maybe simpler. Have you considered selling a bike with an internal geared rear hub? If you did would it have to have a chain tensioner or could you have adjustable rear drop outs or adjustable bottom bracket? Have you considered a bike with a drive shaft or belt drive instead of a chain?
Like I say, I dont have anyone to discuss these ideas with so if you or Peter White or Sheldon Brown (rip) dont write about them then Im not sure what to think.
Nick W.
So I answered:
Hi Nick,
My tandem and Atlantis have Albatross bars. If I had to pick one bar forever it would be that bar. Plus, we’ve promoted upright sweepy bars more than most expensive bike places, and so—-I think you’ve read some of our site etc, but maybe not enough and not that part. It’s OK, there’s a lot to dig through.
Your experience with local riders is pretty normal. The average Joe bike guy is head to toe spandex and rides in race costumes, believing that he’s going faster, or that without it his crotch would be scraped raw, or that he’d go slow without the shoes. It’s not easy to get out of that, and many never do, but they may enjoy the ritualistic dress and all that goes with it. The functional arguments aren’t there, though.

About riding position, I’d say it goes about like this: A bar with a rise and a sweep-back (like the Albatross) can make up for a bike that’s too small or long or for any combo of reasons makes you lean too much with drop bars, or flat bars on long, stretchy mountain bikes. BUT, and this is a big thing here, there is nothing  inherently uncomfortable about drop bars. The shape is smart, and offers lots of hand positions.

The key is to get the bars high enough (in the comfort zone), and close enough. Not right in front of your ribs or anything, but certainly high enough to take weight off your hands and to not require an uncomfortable lean. Most bikes have the bars too low, and they cant get higher because the steer tubes are cut short, the stems are the clamp-on kind. You can get a steep rising angle, but that looks atrocious and it’s usually not enough, anyway.

The big deal with our bikes, and the way we fit any bike, is that we get the drop bars well up into the comfort zone, so you can take advantage of the lotsa-hand-positions. Bar position, not shape, is the big deal.
Internal gears, etc.
We get this question or some variation of it many times a year. Eight or so. Sometimes, I’m not saying now, with you, but sometimes it’s more of an accusation than a question—-like, if you guys don’t talk about and sell bikes with Rohloff hubs or Sturmey-Archer gears, then you must be against them. How come you hate them so much?
We don’t hate them so much. We’re a small company with limited resources and a website that sometimes gives a different impression. We just can’t do everything, and so we focus on what we know best, and everybody here grew up with derailers and is comfortable with them.

The innards of a Rohloff or SA hub—-or Shimano, for that matter—-amaze and befuddle me. I understand how they work, with the planetary gears and all, and I know for a scientific fact that the designers are about ten times smarter than I am. How did they come up with it?
For some riding and some riders they’re the way to go. (That’s why we haven’t campaigned against them!)
Internal gears were developed for —- well, one could say “all weather riding,” but I’d say something along the lines of “crappy weather riding, and/or for riders who refuse to do any maintenance whatsoever.” If I were riding my bike to the Birmingham coal mines every day and I got home too bushed to brush my teeth, I’d go for an internal gear and hope the gear-chain dealybob didn’t slip and leave me spinning air.
I think—-not for all, but for sure for some riders, there’s romance in their history of utilitarianism, and how they’re so un-racy.

But it’s a rare morning for most Americans when the challenge is a sleety ride though a mucky peat bog. A typical bad weather ride is a commute on wet streets, or a ride on a muddy trail. I’d take external gears for that, any day, even if I were the only one, and  here’s why.

If I get a flat or have any mechanical difficulty in bad weather, I want to be able to diagnose the problem instantly, and the black box of internal gears doesn’t let me do that. A fully enclose chain case (often touted as the way to go in bad weather) makes fixing a flat a pain in the neck. No matter how stout the tires, IF you get a flat, you’re screwed. I don’t buy the argument that exposed everything leads to more problems. I’ve ridden in too much muck to swallow that, and cyclo-cross racers do it for a  living, with external gears.
Some riders—and I know Sheldon was one of them—-understood internals completely, and could or can overhaul them with their hands tied behind their back, but I’m not one of them, and nobody who works here is. But we do ride our bikes all year long in challenging and crappy conditions, and now and then a half-chainring guard shows up on one of the bikes around here, but for the most part, everything’s external, so the rare problem can be found and fixed fast.
BUT, internal gears have been around for more than a hundred years, and they’ll be here long after I’m not. It all comes down to me and everybody else here at Rivendell dealing with what we know, and we know external gears more.
We have NOT ruled out an internal bike forever, but for now, it’s not in the works. We arent up to speed on them.
Belt drives are fine, but I’m not into them, and replacing the belt requires a removable seat-stay. Again, it’s good for some things, theres tons of room for lots of different and good kinds of bikes, but for the most part, I think belt drives are an overreaction to getting a grease mark.  Shaft-drives—-way over my head. I hear they’re even less efficient than internal gears, though. And you’re limited to one speed, aren’t you?

Now, two emails rec’d from readers…

Dear Grant,
Enjoyed your response to Nick W.s letter re. internally geared hubs. I live in Germany where these things are everywhere and thought Id chime in. Youre right on about the no maintenance part. SRAM 7 and 8 speed hubs are defacto on most commute bikes here, but its important to emphasize most Germans ride and treat their bikes differently than folks in the States. People will buy a bike, ride it to work/school/errands every day, keep air in the tires and squirt oil at something if it squeaks. Thats it. I have plenty of friends who, after two or three years of this, start complaining of funny shifts or weird braking action (most of these things do have a coaster brake), cant fix it because theyre too complicated, then ride the hub into the ground and replace the rear wheel. Youre right about being screwed if you have a flat, though for most people in town its not an issue as the next bike shop is maybe 500m away.
Over the years (I moved here from the Bay Area in 2003), Ive come to doubt the long-term reliability of internal gears. You can have no maintenance or you can have all-weather, but unless youre riding something like Phils you cant really have both. The no maintenance part appeals to people, but in reality the weather eats them, then they break, cant be repaired and are thrown away. Theyre cheap enough that people deal with it, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Rohloff solved the reliability problem, but they cost a mint and you never see them in the city because bike theft is out of sight. (You see them in the woods though, always mountain bikes, always spandex).
Derailleurs represent long-term reliability and serviceability, internal gears are just another thing you toss out when it breaks. It would be great to see someone other than Rohloff make one thats reliable and not priced through the roof. I live in Cologne where the city and surrounding area are mostly flat, in the meantime I do okay on a fixed gear with moustache bars and Schwabel Marathon Supremes. Karneval ended two days ago and the streets are still covered in glass, no flats yet though Im still keeping my fingers crossed.
My best regards to you and Rivendell,
Owen in Germany
Hi Grant —

I’d add a few thoughts to your comments about internally-geared hubs, based on my experiences working in a shop:

1. I am proud of knowing how to overhaul a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub. I am proud that we insist on requiring all of our apprentice mechanics to learn how as well. However, it has been at least FIVE years since I was last asked to overhaul one for a customer. The fact is that far fewer of these bikes are on the roads now, at least in the US, and those that remain are either junked beyond repair or already up and running.

2. The “new” S-A hubs (re-designed and updated for the European market) take almost all the same parts as the “old” ones, but not exactly/entirely. There are a few subtle differences and if you don’t know which is which you can really louse it up. At this point, we only stock parts for, and service, the “old” S-A hubs. We are sitting on a small mountain of parts for the “old” S-A hubs and try to source more when and where we can. We do this because we’re still known as “the three-speed folks” here in Portland, and other shops still send three-speed jobs to us. But those jobs are showing up far less often. The time may come when bikes with original S-A hubs may well go the way of the Boneshaker — they’ll become relics; and when I’m in my eighties (G-d willing) and see one parked outside a cafe I’ll go all misty-eyed and nostalgic.

3. I own four bikes. None of them has an IG hub. After helping other folks with their bicycle issues all day, the last thing I want to do at home is deal with mine. So when I HAVE to deal with my bikes I want it to be as straightforward as possible. I live in a rainy place and even I don’t want to deal with IG hubs. That right there probably says something.

Thanks for the blog posts. Happy riding —Beth

slack off & buff up (formerly don’t ride toooooo much)

February 20, 2010

In 1985, pro bicycle rider Joop Zoetemelk was a contestant in a European fitness competition that pitted pro athletes against one another in areas outside their specialties, of course. He was a pro for 18 years, completed a record 16 Tours de France, finished second five times and won it once.

The year of the contest, Zoetemelk had won the World Championship Road Race, and now here he was at the bar-dip station. Starting in the up position, he let himself down and couldn’t push himself back up. Not one dip.

By bike racing standards, he was arguably the fittest bicycle racer alive, and that should tell you all you need to know about the kind of fitness a focused dedication to long miles gives you. All legs, and a cardiovascular system well trained for one thing.
Bicycle riding can be your main form of exercise, but it isn’t all-around enough to justify more than about two-thirds of your exercise time.
It does almost nothing for your upper body. It’s not load-bearing, so it doesn’t fend off osteoporosis. The repetitive motion leads to muscle specialization, and that leads to diminishing returns (muscles become too efficient at things they do all the time, and so the better you are, the fewer the benefits) and it takes lots of time away from other exercises that lead to all-around fitness.
This is good news, and it’s not anti-riding!
It means instead of grinding yourself down for fifty miles, or maybe a hard thirty-five, ride easier for ten or twenty, or five or ten. You’ll enjoy the ride more (if you dread beating yourself up), and you’ll ride for fun, not to ward off guilt for not riding.

With the hour-and-a-half or two and a half you save, you have time for a half-hour walk with your spouse or the dog or both, forty jumping jacks, twenty push-ups, and a half hour of chasing the Frisbee. Or reading, or pursuing something else that makes you well-rounded (perhaps a bad choice of words there) and happy.
When you cut short your ride and use a small fraction of the time saved to do a few push-ups or go for a walk, you’ll have used more muscles and done your body way more good than riding an extra ten, twenty, or thirty miles. Mixing up your exercise makes it go faster, breaks the tedium, and is way better for you than just more riding, with its localized, efficient feet-twirling. Confuse your muscles by changing things around and you’ll get more benefit. You don’t want to be one of those guys who rides ten thousand miles a year and is still chunky for it.

Chunky, fine—-but chunky plus 10,000 miles is a sign you’re doing something wrong, and it’s probably too much pedaling. It’s easy, if you weigh more than you wish you did (and who doesn’t?) to get into a trap where you think Holy cow poop—-I’m doing all this riding and I still can’t lose weight? If I cut back my miles, I’ll positively balloon!

It don’t work that way. Cut back your carbs and road miles, walk more, do other exercises that aren’t nearly as time-consuming. Eighty percent of your body shape & size is determined by what you don’t eat, anyway. Exercise just tones the underlying muscles show they show up a bit and makes it easier to do stuff. But if the only stuff you do is twirl your legs in circles, you may die someday because you can’t hold onto a safety rope.

Still now: Bike riding can be and maybe should be the foundation of your whole heathy-thing you got going on. It’s hard to get injured on the bike, it works your leg muscles so well, and those keep you strong and mobile and balanced throughout old age, even. It’s easy on your joints, which is why it’s the No. 1 exercise in rehab facilities all over the world.
But it works too few muscles in too repetitive ways to take up more than about 66.67 percent of your exercise time. Tomorrow (today if you’re reading this on Saturday, and it’ll be taken down on Sunday) I’m going to slog up the mountain here, anyway, because I’m used to it and it’s fun. I’ll walk the dog later and try to see if I can beat Joop Zoetemelk’s dip record. Dips are hard. Don’t be bummed if you can’t do one, they’re really hard. Do something else with that meat above your waist.

Make Friends With Mr. Burpie

They’re they antithesis of a long, smooth ride on a bicycle, and that’s the point. They work different muscles, and they work them hard, and they don’t take any time at all.
Four-count jumping burpie
    1.    Start from a standing position. Compress to a squat, with your hands on the floor by your feet.
    2.    Extend your legs rearward, supporting your body with straight arms.
    3.    Spring your legs back to the squat position.
    4.    Jump up as high as you can.
Each one takes about three or four seconds. Start with however many you can do, and add one a week until you can do fifteen or twenty. Do them more often than you like—-at least 3 sets a week. It does you more good in a shorter time than anything else.
Six-count jumping burpie
Like the four-count, but insert a down-up (two-count) pushup between steps two and three.
OK, that’s it. This is not a fitness site, but since these posts come and go 5x a week now, there’s got to be some variety.

SMILE TRAIN UPDATE: We’re still $7k short. We subsidize your donations heavily. Click here for details, and good job so far…

How to improve bike photos five to fifteen %, NOW WITH EXAMPLES

February 22, 2010

Just things to think about if you want to shoot some good photos and haven’t given it much thought. Nothing carved in stone here, but lots of opinions … This post will remain up for about two days.

At the end of this there’s a link with examples of still-bike photos. It’ll upload a PDF to your desktop, or wherever they go. Zoom in to read & view.

1.  Shoot the drive side.
Whenever possible, and if its your bike or a friends bike its always possible, shoot the right/drive side. If you shoot the left side of the bike, nobody can see the crank and derailers, and everybody wants to see those. 

When you shoot the bike on the street you always get the wrong side of it, because that’s how people park it, and that’s where you are as you walk by it. It’s hard to get a good picture of a stranger’s bike, because you can’t just move it around.

Also, our eyes are used to moving left to right. Its how we read and write, and so a bike thats heading left to right looks more natural. No doubt in Japan and other countries where they read right to left, this is less of a benefit. And in those countries, a bike with left-side drive would probably look better, aiming left. But as it is, showing the drive side components, even in Japan, trumps the bikes direction. It just so happens that here in America, a bike headed to the right wins both points.

2.  Back up and zoom in. Split the handlebar.
The bike looks cleaner and less confusing and is just overall a more pleasant subject to look at when you make everything look proportional and clear. When youre shooting the whole bike, dont get in close with a wide angle lens. With most cameras, this throws everything out of whack. The wheels look different sizes, and the handlebar looks a mess.

Instead, back up at least twenty-five feet and zoom in. Then, shoot from an angle that makes the bike look like its split in half vertically. Hide the left (far) side of the handlebar behind the near side of it, so you see only one brake lever, and theres as little evidence as possible that theres even a left-side handlebar. The ONLY way to do this is by backing up and using a longer lens. I think.

A bike photographed this way has same-sized wheels and looks right.

3.  Shoot in the shade to avoid shadows. 
There may be artsy ways of using shadows, but if the goal is a clear photograph of the bike, not some moody art shot, then keep shadows out of it. 

4.  Watch your backgrounds
If the bike is the subject and the shot is posed in a semi-contrived setting, use a plain background, or at least a consistent one. A brick wall isnt plain, but is consistent. A barn door—-not plain, but consistent. The entire background should be the same. Dont just lean it against a table outside a cafnd shoot away. 

Your goal is to make the bike stand out and make the background not distract. When the background is a complicated scene of Chinese New Year celebrations, machines, and muggings, keep the bike in focus and blur the background. (Cameras that let you control the aperture make this easy.)

When possible, shoot against a background thats white, off-white, grey, or black. 
Whatever looks right with the bike. Bright colors are distracting. We shoot bikes against our white roll-up doors, and the lines are distracting, but —- what we do and what is ideal aren’t always the same.

5.  Keep the cables, crop the wheels (a little)
If the bike has cables sticking up, show all of them. But if the focus is the bikes frame and parts, its good to crop a few inches of the wheels out. This enlarges the rest of the bike, and you arent eliminating anything that matters.

6. Dont get too wound up about perfection.
Catalogue shots of bikes used to show the tires with the labels legible, usually at 12:00 and 6:00, and with the valve stems either at 6:00, or hidden behind the chainstay and the fork blade. When its your bike or your friends bike, or a shot for eBay or whatever, thats too fussy. Its helpful to know some of these ideas and options, but draw your own line.

Pictures of riders on bikes

1. Apply the same rule (not law) of shooting the bike heading right, and showing the drive-side components. Its not so easy to do that here in Japan or England than in America, on roads shared with cars. Its easier on trails or bike paths or in , but you still need to have them ride on the left side, and try to find a good spot to shoot from off the road on the right.

2. Shoot them coming into you, not riding away. 
It just looks better, more inviting. Maybe that comes from a preference for seeing a dinner animal come toward you, rather than running away; or having your parents come home, as opposed to leaving you; or preferring to look at faces instead of butts. That may all be hogwash, but shoot coming and going, and see what you like.

3. Try to shoot riders with their right pedal between 2:00 and 3:00. Besided being at maximum flex, it just looks more active, and in a still photo, that counts.

4. Tell your subjects what to wear …
 . . . if you want them to think youre a controlling weirdo jerk. But honestly, if youre going out for a ride expressly to come back with some good pictures and they dont have a preference, leave the black at home. Navy, too. Dark colors are too easily underexposed and usually lack detail, and you end up with heads suspended above blackness, and arms coming out of the dark. You can see examples of this in some of the homepage photos of Sean in his black wooly. Near the end of the bunch. The one of him riding up the road with the green grass and grey sky would’ve looked great if he’d had one of our wine-red tops on, but no….he had to wear black.
In color photos, red looks great, and plaid looks great, and if you can combine the two, in a nicely composed scene, its going to look fine.

5. Helmets in the woods …
. . . make the rider look just plucked from a Sci-Fi movie set, or at least like an intruder who doesnt belong. People get all nuts about published photos of helmetless riders, but not every photo sends a message. It can be just an  image; and if you think brilliant super-vented elongated and aerodynamic  helmets complement any bucolic or idyllic outdoor landscape, then we disagree.The least photo-wrecking  bike helmets are plain looking ones, and not white. The photographer’s dream helmet looks like a coonskin cap.

Race team jerseys in the woods dont belong, either. Theyre covered with advertisements and corporate logos, and they wreck woodsy photo.

6. Camera angle
The easiest camera angle is riders head height, but its also the worst. When all is in place, the head-height camera can work, but getting the camera well above or below the rider makes even lousy photos at least less predictable, more interesting. 

7. Rule of Thirds
It’s an old and good rule (not law) for any photo. Visually divide the scene into three equal parts both vertically and horizontally, and try to put the subject at the line intersections. When riders are the subject and you follow the other rules already mentioned, thatll put them coming toward the camera on the left side of the photo.
This isnt the secret to a good photo, but its a guide many good photographers use.

When you have both land and sky in the photoor road and land whichever one of them you want to emphasize should make up two-thirds of the photo. In this case there arent any imaginary intersections to guide you, but there are imaginary horizontal lines.

8. Don’t let the road itself eat up the hole lower half of the photo
unless the road itself happens to be the subject. 
Otherwise, dont let it get so big. Its easy to let that happen when youre concentrating on the rider. You can save a half-road photo by cropping it from the bottom, but be aware it as youre composing, and youll have to crop less and less often.
The link.

Bike of the Week #1 with new note at the end there…

February 25, 2010

SOLD! $3,000. Congratulations!

 Top bid:
$3,000 from F.F.

We’re trying something new.. For the next however-many weeks, if this works, we’ll be auctioning off one bike spec’d by a staff member as his dream bike. The starting bid is a low $2000, for a bike that’s worth over $4,000 (see the build invoice). Anything over $3,800 goes to SmileTrain. 

Any taxes and shipping costs will be added to the final bid. Shipping is $110 California, $120 West of the Mississippi, $130 East of the Mississipi. Locals pick up here. Californians pay the tax for the county the bike is delivered to. 

Up first: Keven’s Bomber. It’s not literally his. It’s a brand-new bike that he spec’d out.

Lots of lugs, shining silver, beautiful big-tire Bombadil. A mountain-tour-trail-commute bike that can adapt to almost anything rough, and will surely be leading an active life under somebody (maybe you if you’re in your twenties) in half a century..

Bidding stops at Noon (California time) on Wednesday March 3rd.

We don’t know what to expect, and it’ll be a happy day if somebody gets this bike cheap, but after one or two bikes go out tooooo cheap, we’re probably going to post some others on eBay. Because basically….we’re after sustainability. But—-good luck to everybody, and we’d prefer to keep the bikes here, on rivBay.

HUGE PDF… sorry.

Update to yesterday’s post (after yesterday’s post)

March 5, 2010

Over the years we’ve collected a small pile of bruised and bent and busted bikes, accident victims that haven’t seen a road or whatever in a long time. The individual histories don’t matter and are long forgotten anyway, but when you see, for example, a buckled downtube and top tube on the same bike, and the fork is missing, it’s clear the guy ran into something big that didn’t give.
We have plenty of “roof-racked” frames, too. Being driven into the garage while still up on top buckles a bike a certain way, too—-depending on which way it was facing.

Now, if these were any material other than steel, they’d be landfill or garbage, but they’re steel. so they’re rebuildable, and they’re worth rebuilding. That was the plan when we didn’t toss them years ago.

Bleriots, Rams, Atlantises, at least one custom, and some others. We’ll look at them and figure out the best thing to do—-not to bring them back to exactly the way they were, ncessarily, but close and often even better. We can move bridges and increase clearance and change brake requirements and build a new fork to match, and on biggies, add a second top tube. We’re going to use lugs that fit the joint and in most cases won’t be the same lug as the original, because that’ll be our way of telling that it’s not an original, maybe in 20 years or whenever.

No matter, that shouldn’t wig-out anybody. It’s not a travesty, it’s a good, functional, creative, quirky use of superfine lugs, and it’ll result in a one-of-a-kind frame.

Then we’ll paint the bike  one color most of the time, and put on either a Resurrectio decal, or something else we come up with between now and then. We may sell the frame as a frame, or build it up as a bike.

The main thing is: This is yet another reason steel rules the world in bicycle frame materials. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Carbon rules the market, steel rules the world. That’s fine.

We’ll start seeing these in a month or so. We’re in no rush, so they’ll trickle in as they do. There’s no wait list, no details to not divulge. When they’re ready we’ll lay it all out there. We don’t expect a feeding frenzy, and certainly don’t want one…but we’ll tell a good story about each frame or bike, and we’ll post the info here, with plenty-o-pix.

Followups on Grant’s carbon bashing, now with Dead Squirrel Scrolls

March 6, 2010

Some on the Riv Forum—-one of the most polite and friendly groups on the net—-don’t like it when I “bash carbon”, and so…

Listen (or don’t…). If you’d seen what I’ve seen, and heard the stories I’ve heard, and you had the podium I have and didn’t use it—-I’d call you irresponsible (and I’d expect to be called the same, if you knew what I’d seen and saw me saying nothing).

It would be a luxury to be a casual observer in this, and it’s a burden to not be one. It puts me in the position of either not saying anything and calling myself a schmuck for it; or saying something and being called a schmuck for it. Since I don’t go to bed with you every night, I defer to me.

Carbon has many phenomenal properties, and under the best conditions it is THEORETICALLY superior to any other structural material. But carbon is not carbon is not carbon. Just being “carbon fiber” doesn’t mean anything….except lightness, and I guess that means a lot in some circles. It is the lowest common denominator.

Boeing spends tens of millions of dollars and a decade testing the carbon it uses in its airplanes, and its QC standards are way higher than those in the bike industry.

The bike industry doesn’t do that kind of testing. It recognizes a trend and hops on it fast. I’m not saying NO testing, but it can’t afford the rigorous testing employed by the aerospace makers. If the testing is so good, how come so many carbon bits fail? Carbon is like a super-buff boxer with lightning-fast hands, a long reach, trained by Angelo Dundee, but with a 21-20-3 record.

About two and a half years ago, 63-year old bike shop owner Ed McLaughlin was riding in a group of riders, slowly noodling along a mulit-use path at 8mph. He rode into a bollard, his fork snapped, and he’s a quadriplegic now.  If his fork were steel, I’d bet a million bucks he’d have felt a jolt, maybe crashed, but not as dramatically. What’s done is done, and it’s too bad we can’t turn back the clock and intervene. So we (I) intervene when I can, and that’s now.

Is it better to not mention this or better to mention it in the hope that it’ll give somebody out there pause before buying the same new bike he was riding (he was a bike shop owner, after all). Is this a bad use of “using” Ed’s tragic accident to sell a few steel forks? You can twist it any way you like, but I’m pretty sure nobody who knows me would twist it that-a-way.

A friend of one of my employees took his carbon mtn bike out on its maiden ride, rode over a dip (compressing bump), and the fork snapped. The company gave him a new one. Would you ride the new one? For how long, and with  how much confidence? He sold it—-which, I suppose, has its own bag of karma, but at least he was off that bike.

I could go on. I’ve had sword fights with carbon and steel forks. A fresh carbon fork can buckle a steel fork. But “buckling” isn’t losing, and this is what’s so important to understand if you have any hope of seeing straight with these failures. Buckling is what a structure ought to do when it’s traumatized by a blow. Steel nails buckle when mis hit, but can be straightened again. Carbon nails, like carbon frames and forks don’t buckle.  A carbon fork that’s been compromised by a gouge (I’ve done this, I’ve had this sword fight) will snap in half when smacked by a steel fork with a similar gouge.

Bike forks aren’t swords, but the sword fight speaks clearly to how steel and carbon respond to trauma, and trauma can happen on a bike ride. It does all the time.

You WANT a fork that bends and buckles. There’s no advantage to shattering——- Shattering is dangerous, and yet, that’s what carbon forks do.

All to save twelve ounces, and you get horrible tire clearance, too (on a road fork).
Some people on the Forum don’t like it when I say bad things about carbon.

I wish this weren’t the case, and maybe it won’t always be the case. But right now it IS the case.

I could (hypothetically) sit tight in our steel-bike niche and figure we’ll get our share of business playing the “classic” or “nostalgic” angle, but I don’t like angles of any kind. And to play up steel on the basis of the past, to promote it as the underdog—so let’s vote for it—-doesn’t address what really matters: Steel is the safest frame and fork material in the world. And that alone makes it the best. It “fails” slowly and predictably. It is more tolerant of internal gremlins and external gouges than any other material. It’s what you want to trust your neck to.

 I’m  not going to spout out about this neverendingly, but I feel like I have to say something. I fully recognize that stating these things so declaratively makes me look like a jerk, somebody with some kind of steel axe to grind—-and by the way, why can’t Grant just do his quaint tweed-n-steel thing and be a meek mole in the  peat bog?

I would LOVE to be able to, but —- now, don’t take this the wrong way —— I know too much, I’ve seen too much, so I can’t just shut up.

No doubt steel forks break, too. And statistically, we’re bound to have it happen here. No doubt some people will delight in that happening, in seeing me and Rivendell embarassed, shamed, and shut up.

But two key things: It won’t be because we were too lazy to build forks ourselves, or because we were being guided by the market, or because we thought  it was important to save 12 ounces on a bike-and-rider combo that weights 160 pounds or more. 

In the meantime, we have to make forks, and the best thing to make them out of is steel. The new NOMOCA forks we’re coming out with are not a smart business move, but it’s something we can do.

What good am I, if I know and don’t do?
If I see and don’t say, if I look right through you
If I turn a deaf ear to the thunderin’ sky
What good am I?
—Bob Dylan.

Letter from Joe Thomas.

I read your thoughts on the RBW site and thought I’d chime in. I’ll preface this by stating that while I’m not a material scientist, I do have a mechanical engineering degree and I’ve worked in system safety and reliability on the space station and space shuttle programs for the last 22 years.
That said, carbon fiber is a wonderful material *IF* it’s laid up in a manner appropriate for its intended use.No one would argue that it’s very strong but the key is the stiffness

.It can be made to be incomparably stiff, as in a Formula 1 race car chassis, or fantastically flexible, as in a Shakespeare Ugly Stik fishing rod.

What it can’t be, though, is resilient. Either it works or it doesn’t; there’s no in-between. Damage it and it’s done.

Ever seen an off-road vehicle or race car with a carbon roll cage? No, and you won’t because it doesn’t give. When it fails, it fails completely. Now, I can see that it’s a great RACE bike material, if you’re a high level professional competitor who doesn’t have to ride the same bike for more than a season or two but for the recreational rider who can’t afford to plop down several K every few years (and who isn’t a delusional racer wannabe), it makes little sense.

This effect is magnified for anyone who tours. If you suffer even a mild structural failure with a carbon bike, your tour is over. There’s no fixing that. In contrast, the local welder in Quinter, Kansas, can shore up your steel bike well enough to let you finish the ride. Aluminum and titanium are also fixable but in decreasing degree due to the more specialized skill required. Carbon has its place in the bike world, no doubt, but it’s far from the be-all, end-all of materials.
—Joe Thomas


Squirrel brakes bike, breaks aluminum fork

Squirrel breaks a carbon fork

Dead Squirrel Scrolls at this link
(from )

Slight, but not a thousand percent, change in topic

March 10, 2010

    The Hunqaprotos are due today, one of each size, and all unpainted. We’ll shoot some pictures and put them up here. We haven’t rec’d the decals yet, so it may be a week before we paint them, or maybe we’ll paint them now and put the thin kind of decals on, the kind that are supposed to get clear-coated over but in this case won’t, because we just want to make them rideable (I never get that word right) as soon as possible.
Pedalling and pedaling are both correct, by the way. I use the one-L way because why add an extra letter even if the dictionary has your back on it? It looks funny and people will think you’re dumb.

So are toward and towards both correct. The British people who live in England like the S, always have and will. That’s how they do it over there.

Nauseous means sickening, not sick. Nauseated is sick. Your loved ones cannot be nauseous (to you), but they can be nauseated, and may get that way if they see something nauseous.

Penultimate means “next to last,” not “super ultimate” or something. I’m not a master at this, I just know a few things, like these.

Ordinarily we’d put Protovelo stickers on the Hunqaprotos, because at this point that’s what they are, but this time the graphics are different from our normal way, and we have to see how they look. The suggestion and first plan was (as it says in RR42, which is online and will be mailed in paper in one week to those who sent in their $4 already)—yep, the plan was dark grey or gray with kidney-bean red panels and head tube; but at the last minute I also added (to the decal order), some ‘cals with blue and some more with orange panels, just to see.

There will be some minor metal changes in the frame itself. We know that already. Mainly now we’ll check clearances.

In the bag oven baking away are three new Sackvilles at least, and one isn’t even a bike bag. It’s perfect for riding, something I’ve used for decades now, based on a Swiss Medic bag, but bigger and more useful in more ways.

Panniers are  coming, too, but we have lots of things to work out first, and the prototypes aren’t here. There are so many good panniers out there already, and I wish we could just snap fingers and have them in our materials. We have a hard time getting the hardware, but I’ve bent and broken pannier hardware several times, and my preference is always to do without it, as long as the bag doesn’t suffer for it.


Now that we have steel seat posts and steel stems, I’m intrigued by the possibility of a steel Noodle bar. The Alba bar comes in steel already, but a steel road (not track) drop bar—-not a Bad Idea. We’d end it there—no steel cranks or rims. A Nitto aluminum bar is as safe as a non-steel bar gets, though, and way safer than you know what.

We’ll have a fancy new Double road crank any minute now. Sugino-made and about $300 with rings and no BB. The best deal in a crank is still the XD-2, the Sugino we sell now. It’s planets ahead of all other cranks in that way, but a certain percentage of riders don’t want a crank that inexpensive on their bike. When you consider the cost of a new racing crank, this new Sugino double will still be a good deal. Nothing looks like a good deal compared to an XD-2 triple for $110, so let’s not even talk about that anymore.

Reader-customer sent this link. An oldie but goodie from the 2006 Paris-Roubaix:

In this case it was an aluminum steerer. The British, of course, say aluminium. (“Let’s organise our aluminium steerers by fork colour, so we can ride towards the hills,” is how they’d say it.) Aluminum is better than carbon in certain uses, but still less-than-steel, especially in a steering component, like a steerer. A crack in stressed aluminum grows fast. He suffered no serious injury, but coulda. That’ll be the last carbon thing for a while. I don’t want to get a reputation, we have other things to do, and so on.

Here da Hunqa…(by Jay)

March 11, 2010

Vaughn and I rode in this morning with prototype Hunqapillar 62cm (My PBH is 92) It doesn’t have any paint on it, those pics/videos will come later.

Without music, and a little longer here.


Heads up

March 17, 2010

There are two topics on this most-festive of days. This first link (below) is a long one, and although it’s not bike-related, it’s  interesting—-especially when you think of what you think of when you think of lemmings. You’ll get something out of it.
I came to this from, a great site whether or not you take pix. Scroll down a bit and it’s the article titled “Picture Perfect.”

The other topic is heads—something dear to us all—-and helmets.  Now and then I’ve mentioned the phenomenon called “risk compensation” as it relates to riding bikes, and now it has another name.

I’m surprised that so far we’ve not been scolded for videos with helmetless riders. It’s never the plan. Jay and Vaughn do those on the way home and the way in, and that’s how it ends up.

I own about five helmets and always wear one at night, and sometimes  in the day when it’s raining, but never without mixed feelings. I’m always more careful without one, and that’s probably because my head is more vulnerable without one. But when you combine “more careful” with “more vulnerable” you may get “less likely to crash.”

Of course if you DO go down, you want that helmet on you, I’m sure. Although even then, it’s not as cut-&-dried as it seems, and as we’d all love it to be.

Shortly after  Hollywood actress Natasha Richardson died in a skiing accident, I was reading an article in the NYT about head injuries, and it seems there has not been a dramatic decrease in head injuries since people started wearing helmets. The same is true of head injuries among cyclers.

I don’t have at my fingertips all the studies, but this is a blog, not an academic paper. I’ve read that many times, in many places, and from sources I can’t recall in an instant, but who seemed to be in a position to say.

One thing also that happens with bike helmet mandations, probably not with skiing helmet ones, is that ridership goes down. Adults don’t seem to mind, but teenagers do. Teenage girls in particular, don’t want to buff up their hair for half an hour in the morning, then put a helmet on it and ride to school. It’s a looks thing and a thing about what the helmet will do to their hair. (My 15-year old…doesn’t spend that much time on her hair, and knows not wearing a helmet is not an option, and wouldn’t be even if were allowed by law, which it isn’t.)

As for the skiing article, a head injury specialist said the helmets helped when you bonked a tree, but not as much when you hit hard snow—-because with a helmet on your head is bigger, and bigger heads don’t penetrate as deeply into the snow, so your head stops more suddenly.

If you lie down on your side on a floor or the road, resting on your shoulder, and then you try to smack your head against the ground, you won’t be able to. If you do the same with a big helmet on, you will. Helmets hit before heads hit, and sometimes when heads wouldn’t. The fore-and-after headsmack test favors the helmet more, but the point here is: A smaller diameter may, in some circumstances, be better.

That makes sense, doesn’t it?

And helmets that stick out in back are more likely to get caught and twist your neck. Forget the caddy helmets.

Then there’s the Peltzman deal—which you can read about soon. There’s a link to it in one of the articles linked below.

And on a purely shallow vanity photographic level, helmets tend to dominate photographs. It’s not as noticeable in the Tour where most riders wear them and the whole thing is Las Vegas in the Alps anyway, with the follow cars and banners and hoopla and all. But when you see a super-vented red-white-or-yellow long-finned helmet in the ferny forrest, it looks like a robot has entered Eden.

Some helmets are way better in that way than others. The ones I’m liking these days are, in no order:

Bell Metro
Bell Faction
Bern (most)
NutCase (most)

They have rounded shapes. Most (not the Metro, or whatever it’s called these days) have simple strap arrangements, where the straps are riveted to the helmet and not adjustable.

THAT’S GOOD. They don’t swivel around and lost adjustment when you hang them on your handlebars, as people do. The helmet makers may not be the Stephen Hawkings of the manufacturing world, but by Buddha they know where to attach straps so they fit heads, and I say leave it up to them to do it.

The riveted straps stay put and are much easier to deal with. The “multi-purpose” helmets made for bike-n-skate tend to be rounder, less catchy, and less robotlike. I like that better, too.

For city riding, put reflective tape all over them, and go bright. I like the Nutcase Gumball helmet, although I don’t have one. And I’d  plaster tape over the gumballs anyway. You can make round spots with reflective tape.

If you ride at night, even if you hate helmets, think of the helmet as nothing more than yet another place to plaster reflective tape, and cover it like crazy. A well-reflectorized rider at night is way, WAY more visible than a normal rider during the day. The triangles we sell are fantastic. Day or night, I don’t ride without one, and in the day they’re about a hundred times more visible than a blinky light. At night, they’re even better.

Anyway, here’s something about risk compensation, the Peltzman effect, whatever. It’s not anti-helmet; it’s pro-thinking:

New Ass’t observations, and Dead Squirrel Scrolls III.

March 19, 2010

It’s about snowboarders banging their heads, and although risk compensation isn’t mentioned, it’s all over the story behind the words. I continue to be fascinated by this stuff, but won’t harp on it here forever.

We started calling the videos Rivideos, but then there’s another Rivideo, and in fact there’s our Rivideo #2, and another one. If that guy was first, we’ll change ours. Might do that anyway.

On a related note, we don’t have a Twitter deal going, but tried to register the name Rivbike, and it was taken. So…we have something like Rivbikerealmccoy, but don’t use it. If you know who has Rivbike, tell him, probably a guy, that we’d like it, but won’t pay for it. It’s the way things work.

We going to have instructional videos, too—-for mechanical things, installations (racks), and so on. All, so far, with a Flip camera.

Miesha wanted to learn how to fix a flat, so we’ve been poking tubes and giving them to her, and she’s done about twenty so far. Sometime this Spring we’ll start a series of clinics or clinic-type things, and she wanted to contribute by teaching people who don’t know how to fix a flat. Isn’t that nice?

We got the first painted Hunqapillar today, and well have more by next Tuesday. Pictures will be on the Hunqapages.

Keven is in Taiwan now, talking with Tetsu Ishigaki mainly about the Hunqapillar and surfing. He may even go surfing over there, with a friend of a friend. Both Keven and Tetsu (means “steel”) love to surf.

One of these weekends, followed by several, we’ll offer no-host rides, meeting at Rivendell, and riding the local roads and trails. We may have rides for people over 50, or women only (except for the Riv person going along!), and rides for beginners, or rides for—well, we’ll see how it goes. Maybe some ride-walk-lunch rides, eating on the trail.

Many have written to tell their story of how helmets saved them. No doubt helmets can do that. It’s still a complex issue.

We’re expecting AMOS No.2 within a month. It’s the SOMA bike we designed (and will sell, and we just call it AMOS for fun for now). If this one has the changes requested and seems perfect, then that bike will be available this Summer; and if not, it may be Spring 2011.

One second-to-last thing, it comes up every year and has started this year. It’s touring season, and people want to ride their bikes across the country to raise awareness or money for charity or something, and a popular thing to do is write to bike companies and ask them for free stuff for it.

Our deal here is: You’re on your own. You have a bike, ride it. Your cause may be fantastic, but any money we might spend on you would go further sent directly to the cause, not toward a free bike or money for food or whatever. We support/contribute to about five charities, and it’s not because we’re rolling in the dough and have spillover to throw about. We’re getting by, not a bit more. We have good weeks and bad weeks where we fall behind. The charities have always been part of what we do, and we’re trying to do more—-and those of you who’ve contributed, Way To Go!

But back to the touring-for-a-cause: Go for it, with our emotional support.

Last thing: I want to thank you for your support, which is what we survive by. We’re working on some neat things, and they don’t work, they don’t happen, if they don’t sell. We’re shooting for panniers by May, and we have a neat GrabSack (goes great with the Windshield) coming up in a month.

Dead Squirrels Scrolls III
(a letter received)

There’s another cautionary tale in the dead squirrel scrolls, and it fits right in with some of your other warnings about the suitability of high-tech racing gear for recreational riding.  

Note the front wheels on both of the squirrel-downed bikes with sheared forks.  One wheel appears to have 20 spokes, maybe 24 max, while the other front wheel has one of those goofy “8 pairs of spokes”  (or six trios of spokes) lacing patterns.

What do both of those front wheels have in common?  Huge gaps between spokes that allowed a very large squirrel to get his head INTO the wheel before his nose got knocked by a spoke.

 Look at the biggest space between spokes on the 32 spoke wheel, and you’ll see that once the bike is moving at even 10 MPH, Mr. Squirrel has a very narrow window and chances are his nose will get clipped and he’ll be deflected.  Sure, the bike rider may still go down, but it won’t be a hard front-wheel-stops-cold & over-the-bars-you-go disaster.

Anyone who has tried to replicate the “Breaking Away” frame-pump-in-the-spokes trick, hopefully just for fun, has probably learned how hard it is to jam even a stick into a 32 spoke wheel when it’s spinning.  With a 36 spoke wheel, it’s even harder.  Easier with a 28, or course, but compared to the wheels shown with squirrel heads in ‘em, even a 28 spoke wheel aids your chances of survival when something, or some squirrel, tries to cross to the other side of the road when you and your bike are in the way.

The wheels with huge gaps between spokes are asking for trouble, as puppies, chickens, radio-controlled cars, not to mention squirrels, are given a bigger target, easier to hit. Even with a steel fork, it’s gonna hurt. The few extra ounces and wind-tunnel drag that comes with 32 spokes is cheap insurance, especially when you don’t have a team support car only seconds away.

Richard Johnston, 63

The T:T Faqtor?

March 23, 2010

It’s the Tube-to-Tire Ratio Factor.

Friend Ted wrote a couple of days ago and as part of a long email that included family stuff and a video, he also out of the blue said something like, “fat tires and skinny frame tubes look way better than skinny tire and fat frame tubes.”
I’d already been working on that exact topic, and it was reaffirming to hear Ted say it right there out of the blue. I wonder how many other people have thought the same thing.

The early mountain bikes were great, widespread examples, but it doesn’t have to be that extreme to look good. (A current Atlantis-Bomba-Hunqa with fatties is the same).

There’s no formula, so I’ll make it up on the spot. It’s not a formula to be taken too seriously, it’s just for fun and to get you to think about it. And it is truly loads of fun.

The skinniest tire on the bike should be at least 11 percent larger in diameter than the average diameter of the seat-, top-, and down tubes, and at least 16 percent larger than the front-to-back dimension of the fork. 

You add the diameters of the three tubes. Divide by three. Multiply by 1.11, and that’s your visual minimum.

For the fork, measure front-to back and multiply by 1.16.

Maybe the calculated tire size won’t fit. The formula isn’t designed to make your frame or fork look bad. It’s designed to make your bike look good. Whether it still rolls or not is another issue, but fat tires + skinny frames and forks = hubba hubba.

The seat stays and chain stays are sad to be left out, but there’s a formula there waiting for somebody else to come up with.

Bicycle looks, or aesthetics, are not the most important topic in the world of bikes, but they’re always at least in the background, and I don’t think anybody can deny that they care how their own bike or bikes look.

It doesn’t matter to me what you like, and shouldn’t matter to you what I like, but Ted and I like the same look, it seems. In bicycle frames, I guess what we’re talking about is the “lead pipe look” of inch or inch-and-an-eighth top tubes, inch-and-and-eighth seat tubes, and inch-and-an-eighth to inch-anda-quarter downtubes … especially when combined with 32mm or larger tires, which make the tubes look even skinnier.

We don’t make frames out of lead pipes, or anything close. A thick tube has a wall thickness, at the end, of just 1.0mm (1/25.4th of an inch). For most of their length, the tubes in our frames average about 0.7mm (about 1/36th of an inch).

So no, not lead pipes, but the lead-pipe look. Big diff there. (Not more tea; more tea flavor. Remember that one? Lipton has what—-just given up? Commercials now are cars and drugs and sodas, with now and then a fast-food.)

Maybe you have to be old to like the skinny-tube look. For sure, the bikes I grew up with had skinnier tubes still. Schwinn Varsities, for instance, —- I’m sure they had top tubes that were less than an inch in diameter. (Unrelated but noteworthy, their fork blades still hold the most aerodynamic of all time record.) Those Varsities had the skinny-fat thing going on.

Those bikes were nearly indestructable, and maybe living with them, and old Raleighs, Peugeots, and Motobecanes that basically never died is why I associate skinny tubes with strength.

I know the physic-al advantages of fatter-thinner tubes. More torsional rigidity and lateral stiffness per ounce, but that comes at the cost of dent-resistance  and toughness. Beer cans dent easily, and V-8 cans from the early ’70s don’t (didn’t). Putting more metal between the air outside the tube and the air inside it makes a tube harder to crack or buckle.

There’s a balance between weight, strength, efficiency, durability, costs, and marketability, but there’s not one tiny sweet spot that gives you the best of everything. It’s always a compromise.

Usually the compromises err on the side of marketability, because sales drive everything, and there are some smart battles that a manufacturer could spend a lot of money fighting, with no chance of success.

For  instance, a good case can be made for straight-gauge (not butted) top tubes and down tubes. A straight-gauge top tube is less likely to dent in a crash, and weighs only about 2.5 ounces more. That it costs less makes it seem worse, but I’d say it’s better. We use butted tubes on most of our bikes, although the Bombadil and the big Homers have straight gauge top tubes—as they should.

A straight gauge down tube resists twisting more, and down tubes are supposed to be heavier than the other tubes. Here again, it would weigh about 2.5 to 3.5 ounces more, and you can lose that much fat in a day easily (not that you want or need to!).

Week of March 28: Four

April 1, 2010

Hunqa…we may shift the second top tube around. Lotsa thought going into this one. Just so you know, it may be more diagonal. Prolly this should be a “Peeking thru the knothole” post, but there it is. Keven and Jay got this started…..and I like it. So…..we’ll see. It’s a bad thing because no consensus…..


Here’s a good story that…well, just read it.

Today’s topic is Hearts, and here’s something from yesterday’s NTY.

Heart Rate Monitors and so on

I used to regard heart rate monitors as a tools for racers bent on exercising in the training zone as much as possible, but now Im a fan. I wear one a few times a week to make sure Im riding outside that zone. The 75 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate is the glucose-burning zone, which is evolutionary unnatural for any mammal. As an Unracer, you want to stay below it, in the fat-burning/easy riding zone about 98 percent of the time, and a heart rate monitor will help you do that.

You ride along thinking youre slacking off, thinking “I really should ride harder because that chunky guy on the Giant just passed me,” and your monitor affirms that youre riding just where you should be. Its especially useful on hills. Hills jack up your heart rate really fast, and if your goal is to ride in the easier, healthier, fat-burning zone, youll probably have to shift into your granny (small) ring to do that. If there are hills you used to ride in a 40x28 as a racer, youll be riding them in a 24x32, and and maybe traversing, on top of that. The new 12 x 36 9sp Shimano cassette is a good way to go in hilly areas.

Racers dont allow themselves that luxury. They see every hill as an opportunity to get their heart up. They feel like cowards when they ride a familiar hill in too low of a gear, and they feel like slackers when they traverse.

Monitors are useful when youre riding intervals, too. In this case, its the same for the racer and unracer. You figure our your target heart rate range, and shoot for 90+ percent of that. The monitor, not your discomfort, tells you how hard youre going.

Mr. Natural would never wear a monitor, but why not know how hard your heart is working? You dont have to wear one all the time. Once youve worn one enough, you can tell about where your heart is just by how hard youre breathing, or the effort in your legs. Wearing a monitor can help you learn about your body. Then, if your monitor bothers you or distracts you in any way, just dont wear it. I wear one about ten percent of the time, and always during intervals.

Of course you can take your pulse without a heart rate monitor. But not mid-sprint, and not without taking your hands off the bar and counting. 

I have a cheap, one-button, two-function monitor that cost $50 (Polar brand) and it does all I need it to. There’s nothing weird or obsessive about knowing what you’re heart’s doing.


I think I’ll write one on top of another (Sheldon called this “top posting,” as I remember it, and do that a week at a time—-three to six posts maybe. Then start again with a fresh one the next week, The title will be Week of March 28 ONE or TWO or THREE or however many posts there are.

It’s a variation of how does it, and it makes it easy to see the other posts of that week. I can’t believe I’ll stick to this as stated. I’ll change it somehow, but for now that’s the plan.

Hunqanews: More stuff up soon, and we’ll have two or three bikes built up and ridable, testable, by the end of the week. Not sure which sizes yet.


Riding on dirt roads and fire trails…a little thing about it

The Bike

You don’t need a mountain bike with sophisticated, articulated, complicated suspension to be safe, comfortable, and efficient on dirt roads. You just need reasonable tires a good minimum is about 35mm wide; and good technique, and lower expectations.

The best bike for woodsy riding is a low-tech, suspensionless, dull-colored bike that doesn’t encourage you to go full blast down every trail. It may have two-inch or even bigger tires, but it’s not a bike that’s forgiving of reckless riding and excess speed. On the contrary, it forces you to get off now and then, and ride at less than full-blast speed the rest of the time. Walking the bike is no sin or sign of defeat. Your bike in the woods is a convenience for when conditions allow riding, and a walking partner, a pair of wheels without the barrow, when they don’t.


Any kind of handlebar works great for off-road riding as long as it’s set up comfortably for you. Drop bars are associated with road riding, but high, wide drop bars work terrifically on trails. And so will any other bar that’s high enough.

Height is rather key, especially on descents. As I’ve already

mentioned, a key to good descents is keeping your weight back so you can brake effectively, and if the bars are higher, it’s easier to do that. Most riders do best on descents when the top of the bar is level with or even several inches higher than the saddle.


Not racing in the woods quintuples your tire options. The big knobby 2.2-inch fatties cushion and grip more, both good things, but if you scale back your speed about ten percent, refine your technique about twenty percent, and pay about five percent more attention to the trail, you can ride 32mm to 35mm knobless road tires on most fire trails.

Those tires would handicap you in a race, but they’re good for you in the woods when you aren’t racing. You’ll go slower, so you’ll see more. More of the trail, for sure, because you’ll have to pay attention to the best paths through the rough or mucky spots, but you’ll also see more of the land, because even in the smooth sections you’ll be riding slower.

Hikers respond much better to bikes that look more like wimpy underbikes than motorcyclish overbikes, too. They see you as more vulnerable, more outgunned by the trail, and they’ll often wish you well.

How small you can or want to go with tires should depend on the roughness of the trail, your weight, and your skills. If you’re used to riding huge tires and full suspension (and haven’t quit reading this already) and you want to mess around with skinnier tires, first mess around with medium sized tires, in the 40mm/1.5-inch range. That’s my favorite size for all-around riding, roads or trails. Going smaller isn’t a sign of higher achievement, and isn’t a worthy goal. The whole point is that once you agree to slow down in the woods and pay a little more attention to what you’re doing, you don’t require super macho tires.


An unracing, or hiker’s approach to woods riding doesn’t put a premium on brakes. Any decent medium-to-high end brake works fine, and if you’re riding small to medium tires, that includes sidepulls and centerpulls neither of which will fit a big fat knobby, which is why they’re usually off-limits on trails.

Braking power is a widely misunderstood quality, especially on dirt. It’s usually too easy to lock up the wheels when the traction is low, and so the last thing you need then is more brake power. Where pure brake power matters is in wet, slimy, even oily conditions, more often found on roads than trails.

Then, a disc brake beats all others, but even so, don’t ignore your own strength as a component of braking power. Riding a bicycle on the road or trail sometimes requires unpurchasable hand-strength. 

Most of the time, though, the braking goal is to not lock up the wheels, and for that you need brake control, or what, these days, is usually called “modulation.”

A brake that’s easily modulated is one that responds most predictably, linearly to your squeezing of the brake lever. If you have to squeeze hard to have any effect, and then just a little harder still locks up the wheels, that’s not good modulability.

But guess what? Modern brakes aren’t that wacky. Whether they’re sidepulls, centerpulls, cantilvers, V-brakes, or disc brakes, they’re all predictable, and therefore easily modulated. You squeeze harder, you stop more. Anytime you try a new kind of brake, or you introduce a new rim or tire or brake pad or lever or even cables into an existing brake system, you’re supposed to get a feel for how it works now.

A change of cable probably won’t make any difference, but a different kind of brake pad will. Cleaning your rims may. The point is, you try it out and adapt to it before risking your health with it.


Whether or not fenders help or hurt depends on the mud and water on the trail. If the trail is muddy and the mud is sticky, they’ll jam up and make life miserable. If the mud just flings off the tires without packing them, they’re good. In dry conditions, they don’t help or hurt. In really wet conditions, you should try to avoid trails, anyway, because riding a bike (or a horse, or hiking) on muddy trails damages them more.


Good technique means comfort and safety, and it’s not so difficult.

Nothing teaches like experience, and although books have been written entirely about technique, this isn’t one of them. Even so, when it comes to riding on trails, there are three things that will keep you safe and comfortable almost anywhere, all the time.

Easter week Four posts

April 4, 2010

4. Keven’s in Mexico but will be back Monday, and he’s the diagatube decider, but I suspect it’s a done deal. We’ve looked at faked samples alotta, and have just to work out the final Hunqagraphics, including which tube gets the Hunqadecal, and then, what to do with the other tube. Robert is working out these details, and he has good taste, always has.

The second proto-panniers are coming next Tues or Wednesday. Dave is working on the final details, and they’re going to be fine. Fantastic panniers don’t make the ride,  horrible ones can hurt a ride, and these will be….good enough. One main pouch, and a pocket on the flap, and that’s it. Small stuff, you put in other bags, and you organize your gear with separate stuffsacks inside—either mesh or waterproofers, depending on the weather. We’ll show the details when they come in, but even these won’t be final.

A new bag, called the GrabSack, is coming next week, too. And a new Vegan BarSack that’s no better than the current one we’re out of, but a little different.

We’re working on a poncho for next Winter. Ponchos are best when they’re heavy, so the wind doesn’t blow them around. A poncho you can fit in your fist is too light. Ours will fill up a saddlebag, I’m sure, but it’ll be the way to cross town and stay dry.

The Viyella tartans are going pretty well. It’s such a great fabric, and these shirts are so crisp and soft. I’m not sure we’re the right business to be selling them, but don’t plaid shirts look great? Maybe you have to have grown up with them. I doubt we’ll sell any to guys under 45. Women look great in them, too, as you can see on that shirt page. Some women have bought them.

Tweed bags. I’m trying to get word from the maker; not so easy. It’s a different world, there. A fast response is 4 days. There’s no urgency, it’s a land of molasses clocks and everybody is infuriatingly patient. Sometime, we’ll have them again.

Jay wants a Hunqabuckle and a Hunqabolo tie. We’re looking into those. He and I and Dan-Ben-Ryan rode tonite in the hills and took lots of pictures. Dan’s plan is to give a riding-photo class c/o Rivendell, one of these weekends. It’ll cost something. Sometimes things do, or they don’t  happen. We’ll keep it reasonable. Is non-free acceptable? I hope so.

Jay’s working on how-to videos. Installing racks, and so on. The Silver Hupe, for sure. We have one on that already, but somebody on the forum made a comment about it that had us howling with laughter….about how hard it was to mount. Jay uses  one all the time. He’s figured it out, and it works well. But if you put a hundred people into a hundred dungeons with a hundred bikes and a hundred Silver Hupes and gave them a hundred hours to figure it out or stay there forever…..half would stay there forever. We’ll fix that with a new video.


There’s a new video of the Hunqapillar prototype in action here. Jay shot and filmed it by himself. There must have been a lot of running around, but you’d never know it.

3: Diagonapillargate

We need to figure out if and when to show prototypes from now on. We need pre-orders, but should overemphasize that they are prototypes and can change. We’ve done that plenty, but maybe not enough. It’s not, from my point of view, “bait and switch.” We’ve never downgraded anything. The diagonal tube, if that’s where it goes, will be better for a rough-and-tumble load-hauling bouncy trail bike like the big Hpillar. If I thought it were ugly, that would be another thing—-but I’d still look for a nice solution.

I don’t THINK it’s ugly, and although I don’t think of myself as one who goes around categorizing things purely by looks, I think lots of bikes come up short, even way short, even nearly obscene (a little extreme) in the visuals arena. The Diagonapillar isn’t one of those.

The Protopillars eventually will be sold as Protovelos, as all our prototypes are.  As part of the resurrected and prototype frame sale we alluded to about a month ago either in this section or in the Knothole.
The finals will have more clearance, another key braze-on, and possibly a tube change. Here isn’t the right place for those details, because truly and most respectfully we can’t have it up for debate, but I want to say that the protopillars are not quite there yet, and they won’t happen until they are.  THe decals have already changed, and may change more. The downtube panel might even disappear. I know it looks good, but there’s more to it than that. I’m not saying it will, just that it might. If that creates a rift, we’ll get by, but I hope it doesn’t and we aren’t counting votes (because we can’t).

Oh, the pros and cons of disclosuring on the interweb! I need to rethink a lot of things. Maybe we’ll even have a meeting, and things will take a turn for the better.

Post 2: Dahunqadebate

The problem with showing prototypes is rearing its head, cobra-like, right now. The protopillars had parallel top tubes, and since then we’ve angled it down more to creat two nearly equally sized triangles, both smaller than the one before.

In matters of taste, style, aesthtics, there’s no pleasing everybody, and in this case the new bike is either liked or hated, never neutraled. One refund so far and there may be more. It puts us in an uncomfortable spot, but not one we can’t handle. “Not handling” it would mean what? I don’t know. But either we cave or we don’t, and the thing about all the ‘pinions and emails is: It forces our hand, doesn’t it?

I’m all for the diagonal, and it wasn’t even my idea. It works. It looks different because it isn’t the same as you’re used to or as the prototype. Aside from that, I think it looks good, but I would, triangle-fan-that-I-am-Sam. Small triangles are good. Bikes are triangles, and the bigger frames are made better this way.

We may lose friends or fans or customers over this. Don’t think that doesn’t hurt and that we don’t care. We do care, but we still have to do what we think is best for the bike. Thank you, if you’re out there!, for understanding.

Keven is on vacation en Mexico. Maybe he’ll address this when he gets back.

FIRST POST: 1. We got the Windshields in, and S24O buddy Sean was the first to use a non-prototype two days ago on the way down the mountain from a campout. There will be a photo of it on the site in the Windshield section soon. If any of you have pix of yourself using it—-and I don’t mean joke pix of sitting down in front of a big platter of ribs about to dig in, but actual riding pix, then send them in and maybe they’ll go up on the site with no remuneration, but some appreciation. The best size is 505 pixels wide x 316 tall, and 72 dpi is fine, but I can fix ‘em if they’re even close.

2. Slightly Used is the title of a column by Rob Walker in today’s New York Times:

I’ll repeat that address later in this post so you can keep reading now, if you have the time.

It’s interesting to me on a few levels, and I bet you’ll feel the same. There are parallels in our world, for sure. You want things beautiful AND functional, and as a designer/maker of record, I want it out there that I/we here shoot for both. The target isn’t fixed, and often isn’t obvious, and when on top of that you consider that there are targets you might not see that I DO see, and targets I might not see that you think should be targets, and may even assume I’m seeing them and aiming my best, then the whole idea of hitting THE bullseye becomes ridiculous. For instance….

Take the Hunqapillar-Bombadil/Hilsen-Hillborn combo. One of our —- it’s not a problem-problem, but it’s a challenge we often don’t meet —- is differentiating the first two from one another, and the second two from one another.

In a regular bike company differentiation is easy. If you have two mountainy-tour bikes, you make one a dual-suspension bike, and the other a hardtail; and if you have two roadish trail bikes, you make one fataluminum with a steel fork and the other fatcarbonsnap with a carbonsnap fork.

You lay out the bikes in a lineup by category and price point, and fill them in, and make notes on the upgrades the customers get as they move up in price. That’s how we did it at Bstone, and I am a thousand percent positive that’s how every bike company except Rivendell does it.  Our method here is less calculated. We have no yearly line up, but bikes come up as a need materializes, and then it’s a matter of how we put everything possible into that model.

Since after steel and lugs, the next-most-powerful forces are versatility by means of tire and fender clearance, each model tends to get as much of that stuff as the kind of bike it is, and the kind of brake it has, allows. The Roadeo fits a 700x35, and it’s a club-rider’s bike. The Hilsen fits a 700x40 with fenders, because that’s a great thing for a bike to do….to fit those. Why shouldn’t the Hillborne also fit the same stuff?

I say it should, but then we have two bikes that are functionally the same. The Hillsen is more dainty in the details (not less tough), and I’m often in the position, as are others here, of comparing the two bikes. What do you get for $1000 more? Well, there’s no way to point out the diffs without implying that the Hillsen details are intrinsically better, and I’d say they aren’t, but once the cat is out of the bag, that’s it. The Hilsen has skinnier and more beautifully bent fork blades. The upper and lower head lugs are better matches. The seat stays are double-tapered. The tubing is heat-treated. It’s made in Japan or America, not Taiwan.

All of those things step on the Hillborne unfairly, like a beauty contest between the prettiest girl in town’s going against a Venezuelan super model out for blood. It’s not a fair comparison. In the Hillborne’s defense, and this is where something I said earlier comes into play, there is less obvious beauty a layer or two deep. The mismatched lugs are every bit as well-made as the matched ones, and they fit the geometry (of the Hillborne) better. Originally the top lugs was designed to go with the bottom Hilsen lug, in an upsloping Legolas frame that never happened. So we sat on the lugs for three years without using them, and then came the Hillborne. It uses that top lug, the non-used Legolas lug, with the bottom lug from the Romulus, and it’s a perfect solution.

Lug snobs (and don’t play that game with me, because I can win if I try hard) might reel at the mix we have, but when I see the Hillborne (and now Hunkapillar, and Bombadil) head tubes, I see a nice solution, a beautiful foreign adoption in those bikes. They’re my favorite head tubes these days, because of how I look at them.

Sometimes people get our frames and take a year or more to, or just plain never build them into bikes. “They’re too pretty to ride” is the compliment, but it’s infuriating. A bike that’s too pretty to ride isn’t worth owning. A bike lovingly, lavishly appointed and restored only as an object of lust with some romantic idea of gritty riding in a faraway land in a different time in a different life is pathetic.

If you get a Bohemian frame (Dave Bohm), ride the heck out of it. The bike looks better trashed than it does pristine, and that’s always true, of anything beautiful. Don’t keep it for fair weather club rides. I don’t KNOW Dave Bohm, haven’t spoken to him more than ten minutes in my life, and I don’t know his frames, other than by reputation and website, as sort of the fanciest frames out there these days. I believe they’re more than fancy, though; and based on the short conversation, I’m sure it would bug Dave to know his customers were preening, not riding.

One of our customers is custom knifemaker Tim Wright. Tim’s knives are all you’d expect custom knives to be, and custom knife customers are as picky and weird as any colllectors of anything can be. A custom knife can be the best-made knife out there, but Tim has his own ideas about knives and what’s good, and what’s weird, and makes a distinction between knives made to collect and knives made to cut.

I’ve never met Tim personally, but over the last decade I’ve spoken with him for several hours, and NOT ONE of our conversations has lasted less than twenty minutes, several have been an hour long, and I wish I’d recorded every one of them. He has been a huge inspiration to me, has affected how I look at anything that’s made to be used, and without knowing it he has had a strong positive affect on the bikes we make today.
He has or at one time HAD a line of knives he called “Therapy knives.” After being driven nuts by collectors who, I don’t know the particulars, but maybe they wanted the mother-of-pearl handles on their knives to come from 40-year old virgin clams in the seas of Micronesia—-that’s how knife collectors can be, it seems—-he needed to make straightforward beautiful knives for himself, for his own sanity; knives where he drew the stop line short of ridiculousness. These “therapy” knives were a third the price of his customs, and to look at one you’d still stay, “Hey man, that’s the best-looking non-weird knife I’ve ever seen.”

It’s a knife that make you want to cut food, and it’s been used at least twice a day for five or more years. Yes, it has beausage, but beneath and before the beausage, there was super beauty, and it’s not the blind, mind-numb beauty of some simple things that try to claim beauty with simplicity and that’s all they have going for them; but real recognizable beauty, if any beauty’s real at all. I don’t think Tim Wright has a web site. I know he has no car. He lives in Sedona.

This may not work, but I’m doing my best. Here’s a knife:

William Hurlow died about a month ago. I got an email two days ago saying so, and there was a story about him. Maynard once wrote about him, too. He was an English builder who, over the years, built for several makers under their name, and finally, under his own. He was the guy who inspired Art Stump, and if you’re the guy who inspired Art Stump, I’d say that’s something.

But Hurlow made thousands of frames, and Art Stump, just nineteen (I think that’s the figure). In 1977 I was on a list to get an Art Stump, but then my Raleigh Competition was stolen from the campus of Mills College, and I had to get a new bike soon, so I got a lugged Ritchey, as my gotta-get-it-now consolation.

In looking back, I remember thinking, “it’s STILL a good bike” in an apologetic way, but now when I think about it, I think it was a better bike. Tom Ritchey, by that time, had brazed thousands of frames; Art Stump: nineteen. No doubt Art had metalworking skills that predated and contributed to his frames, but Tom Ritchey was (a) No slouch, either, to say the ultra-least; and (b) had a more active torch, which counts for a lot. I got the better bike.

William Hurlow has built bikes for Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton. They prolly are equipped with full-Campy 1985 parts (I’m just guessing) or maybe Croce d-Aune from 1991 or whatever. I can see the dust  on the chains now. I’m not saying Mick and ‘ric don’t ride bikes, although Mick certainly has the thighs of a non-rider; I’m just saying that if they do ride, they  probably don’t ride the Hurlows, not as their daily/or monthly rides). I can seeeee the drop bars with the levers too low, and the Benotto tape, and the Binda Extra straps. It’s all so clear, but maybe I’m way wrong.

The Rob Walker column mentions a 1.2 million year old hand axe found in the Olduvai gorge, and there’s a comment, a quote, from Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum of the same name. He says: “I don’t believe it has any intent — serious intent — behind it.” Because the axe (a hand-axe, remember) is sharp on all sides, which I take it to mean that, by that comment, MacGregor took it to mean, that the user would get all cut up using the axe.

Rob Walker points out to the reader, though maybe he didn’t say this to Neil MacGregor, that the same axe design remained in use for about a million years, so by that measure it was successful. A good point to make, I think.

It shouldn’t disturb anybody, the idea that these cave men were hacking their hand-palms as they were chopping and scraping meat off bone with these MacGregor-Unapproved hand axes. I’m no paleoanthropologist, but I’ve held a rock or two in my time, and it seems to me they’d grab it with a grip—maybe pressed between fingertip pads and hand heel, a grip that kept the inside sharp edge away from the inside knuckle-creases. That’s the grip they used when making them, so it would have been familiar to them, and functional. Here’s the address again:


Week of April 11 THREE posts

April 13, 2010

THREE: THis isn’t news, and the Knothole already has a new post, so this is where it goes. It’s nothing interesting, mostly practice, but if can spare five minutes, click here.
(and if nothing happens, I fouled up and it’ll be fixed on Friday by eleven)—- G

Two: The tweed bags are a PITA, but we’re not giving up. I got bad news yesterday and good news this morning, but it seems we’ll be getting them. An Englishman says so.

New instructional videos for the Nitto Big Back Rack and the Top Rack were just made. We are planning on having more like these, some for products and some for mechanic projects.

One: Every year at Paris-Roubaix time I think wouldn’t it be neat if just for this one-day race the riders had to be self sufficient, with no mechanics waiting to rescue them. Then bikes would be different…for this race. And in this year’s race, last Sunday, the winner (Fabian Cancellara) wouldn’t have won if those had been the rules, because his carbon wheel broke and he got a new one. He was still the strongest rider, but he didn’t have the strongest bike.

One team, Focus, rode steel forks. They had to be specially adapted to the carbon frames, but still, steel—-and with a crown, too. Most teams rode 27 to 28mm tires, and many had frames made with more clearance, and used the 57mm reach Shimano brakes. A Roadeo or Hilsen with Jack Browns or Schwalbe Kojaks would’ve been better, but it’s just racing, and racing and racing gear shouldn’t have the influence it does, but it does.

Week of the 18th Two Post: Paper Cat, Earth Day, BOW#2 simple1

April 20, 2010

Post 3: We’re giving the Bike of the Week auction a try one more time. This time, a 64cm SimpleOne prototype.   UPDATE: SOLD!!!

Post 2: Earth day, in a way, is responsible for the touring bike. See the “Presidential History of the Road Bike” in RR42.

We’re going to make a paper catalogue again, but it won’t be complete, and it won’t have prices in it, but on a separate piece of paper. Easier that way. A surprisingly large number of you —- well, not YOU —- don’t have computers and have been asking for paper, and we’re figuring out how to do it cheaply. Dave’s working on it now, and the goal is Summer.

After more than 30 hours of backandforth — a record here — and a more capitulation than is normal around here, we completed a custom frame for a really nice customer, but missed one cosmetic detail, and we’ve given him a refund, which is probably best. But now we have a Bizarro frame, Joe Bell paint job and all ($800+ in that alone), and the frame sez Rivendell but doesn’t represent the kind of work we ordinarily do, and so from that point of view, it’s not a shame that he’s not taking it.

What is a shame is that we’re prollygunna repaint it, or at least strip it of decals, and sell it at a huge financial loss, perhaps donating half of the loot to Smile Train or the Fistula Foundation or some other favorite charity. We’ve learned a lesson and life goes on, and no hard feelings anywhere. We’ll show a photo or two in the next week or two.

Week of 25th. Tom Milton Boy Scoutsropeswingdepositionscouts…Satmorn RIDE

April 26, 2010

I’m wondering if the ropeswing we put up on the last S24O (bike camping overnight) is still up, or did somebody take it down? People take down ropeswings if they think (1) They’re dangerous; (2) They’re a blight, or (1+2=3) They’re a dangerous blight. It is on public land, in an open space. If a troupe of hikers came upon it on a nice day, it could be the high point of their hike-and-picnic. There are other ways to see it, though, and I’ve had ropeswings cut down at least three times before.

Anyway, I’m going to ride up there and see, and if you want to go along, you’re welcome. It’s a no-host/no sue/no how/no way ride. Here’s a description of the ride, followed by logistics:

Meet in the parking lot in front of Discount Muffler right next to Rivendell. About 35 to 40 minutes easy bike path and road, at a talking pace. Then we go up a steep paved road entering the open space. The climb is beautiful etc, but it’s a five to ten minute grunt to the top, then a short descent to a parking/picnic area by a pond. It’s not a race up t he  hill, but if there’s a group (I’ll probably be the only one) and there’s separation, we’ll regroup there, by the gate at the trailhead.

Then we have some bumpish trail riding, not too steep, and if you made it up the steep paved part, you can make it up there. Then it flattens a short bit till there’s a steep left, and you have to be semi-strong and semi-skilled to make it up this without walking. It’s a great walking hill, though, and that’s probably the best way to go up, because if you ride it, you’re concentrating too much on every pedal stroke, and … well, walking’s more fun.

Shortly after the top we go up a long steep singletrack, a photo that’s been on the homepage before, with Gary in a pink shirt. It’s a walking hill. We can see from the bottom whether or not the ropeswing is there, and if it doesn’t seem to be, we’ll prolly go up anyway to make sure somebody didn’t just tuck it around the trunk to hide it from below. Then down the same way, and left back toward Rivendell, on trails not as steep as the ones you’ve already been on.

Recommend tires no skinnier than 38s, but if you’re comfortable riding 32s on trails, come on down.

Meet at Rivendell at 9am. Store’s not open till 10, but you can shop if you need to when we get back. Bring your bike, or you can ride a demo if you can ride it as is, with no more than a saddle height change, and if you’ll need that, know your saddle height so we can set it and go.

Leaving no later than 9:10; back no later than…hard to say, but barring stuff, around 11. A casual ride. Some walking, but basically just nice. You can do it.



About the deposition, which read way below—a note from reader Ned Watts:

I like your theory about how the front wheel came off. Years ago, I had a canoe blow off the roof of my car. The canoe was firmly lashed to the roof rack, which also blew off. The roof rack attached to the car’s rain gutters with the same sort of over center cam as the quick release/vise grip mechanism. And someone engaged me in conversation while I was putting the rack on the car, so I forgot to latch or check the levers. As a lawyer, I can categorically state that that did not make the levers or their design or construction unsafe. It made me unsafe. Have a checklist. Check your work.

How about if the wheel was bolted on instead of using a quick release, and the owner forgot to tighten the nuts? Would we then need lawyer lips on all nuts? That’s nuts. Where will it all end? I do not know when it will end. I do know how it will end. Badly.

I just read an article about new lifeboat requirements after the Titanic sinking. The new law required lifeboats or rafts for everybody on board. Old boats were retrofitted. The ship S. S. Eastland was retrofitted with the legally required lifeboats. It was not designed to have so much weight added topside. In 1915, it rolled over at its dock when 2,752 people came aboard for a picnic trip out of Chicago. 844 people died. The law of unintended consequences. Or, perhaps, no good  deed goes unpunished.



Comment about my comment about scouts getting merit badges for video games,and my response to this below.


You wrote: This just in: Boy Scouts can now earn merit badges for achieving certain levels of mastery of certain video games.

This is not trueor even close.  First of all, its for Tiger Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Webelos age boys, not the older Boy Scouts.  Second of all, no actual Merit Badges are involved (Merit Badges are for the older Boy Scouts).  Thirdly, theres no mention of attaining particular levels inside games, or even which games should or should not be used to earn the awards.

Having a Cub-Scout age boy myself, I can tell you that I am most pleased that he and I will be going through the process below:

Belt loop: Complete these three requirements
1. Explain why it is important to have a rating system for video games.

2. Check your video games to be sure they are right for your age. With an adult, create a schedule for you to do things that includes your chores, homework, and video gaming.

3. Do your best to follow this schedule. Learn to play a new video game that is approved by your parent, guardian, or teacher.

Academic pin: Earn the Video Games belt loop, and complete five of the following requirements
1. With your parents, create a plan to buy a video game that is right for your age group.

2. Compare two game systems (for example, Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Wii, and so on). Explain some of the differences between the two. List good reasons to purchase or use a game system.

3. Play a video game with family members in a family tournament.

4. Teach an adult or a friend how to play a video game.

5. List at least five tips that would help someone who was learning how to play your favorite video game.

6. Play an appropriate video game with a friend for one hour.

7. Play a video game that will help you practice your math, spelling, or another skill that helps you in your schoolwork.

8. Choose a game you might like to purchase. Compare the price for this game at three different stores. Decide which store has the best deal. In your decision, be sure to consider things like the store return policy and manufacturers warranty.

9. With an adults supervision, install a gaming system.

Now, to be honest, Im not a big fan of the amount of time my kid spends with the video game console; if the boy hadnt saved up and purchased it himself, we wouldnt have it in the house.  But he earned all the money by doing yardwork throughout the summer, and bought it with what I consider hard-earned money. I actually thought that was a good lesson.  At least, by following the steps above, I feel that some good can come of the whole experience.

Now that you know more about what the awards entail, do you have the same opinion?

I copied these new rules from the link below.  It contains a good explanation of the new awards:

My response:
I read the link but remain suspicious and skeptical. Scouts be monkeying around with video games under the banner of scouting, Video games are ubiquitous, a fact of life, etc, but Scouts (to this non-scout) seemed to be nearly the last bastion for outdoorsiness for young ones, and it seems that letting in video games is caving in to pop culture in order to get more kids signing up. THere are lots of things kids ought to learn, or would benefit from learning, but isn’t scouting about outdoorsy stuff? They can learn video game stuff, even the stuff on this list, easily without scouting.

Teach them how to start a fire without matches, how to tie ten useful knots, how to Make a Safe Ropeswing (yay!), how to sharpen a knife and an axe, how to climb and rappel, how to make a fire the Yosemite Ranger Way, how to lace boots so they won’t get heel blisters, stuff like that. Stuff they’ll be able to teach their kids in twenty or thirty years, and make their video-same playing friends jealous with now.

Some of the Video Award criteria make some sort of sense, but I say print the list on a sheet, give it to the parents and say “If you find this useful, fine,” and be done with it.
How about one new knot for every video game played? Would that cause a ruckus? Maybe it’s a ruckus that needs to be caused and dealt with. Who’s da boss? Who’s Hugo Boss? Who’s Hugo Boss’s boss? If they have to learn a knot first, will the Boss still get Hugs?

Well…..I won’t stick my nose into this sticky business anymore. I don’t mean to be the columnist with the last word. The writer has some good points…but still—-go for the knots.


On an S24O last weekend we put up a ropeswing in a tree on top of a hill at the end of a long skinny singletrack hike. We swang on it, about 7 of us, and it was fun and safe, and a good way to end an evening of riding, after setting up camp.

Here’s how you get the rope over.

You tie a thin cord to a throwable thing (in this case, a 7-inch diameter monkey’s fist (knot, hence my disgust with the scouts who can play video games but can’t tie one). Then you tie the other end to the main rope. Thow the ‘onkey’s fist over the branch, which we did, and it trails behind it the cord. Pull on the cord which is attached to the main rope, and it comes over, and then you tie the main rope to a tree-or-something so the business end of the ropeswing hangs where you want it to hang.

The biz end has a flat board with a hole in it. You tie a knot so the rope stops there, and leave some left over for slinging the swinger. Otherwise, on flat ground, the guy or woman (we had two of ‘em this time!) doesn’t swing up and out of reach.  The leftover rope gives you a  handle to grab and fling from.

It’s 6:30 and raining and a friend just came by for a ride, so I’ll finish this later, short. The deposition went fine. Nobody’s going to jail, probably nobody’s even going to court, but we’ll see. Let me ultrare-emphasize this: Has nothing to do with Riv. Got it?

We left the rope swing up, betting on how long it would last. I said two weeks. Sean said a couple of days, and I’ll check on it this weekend.

This just in: Boy Scouts can now earn merit badges for achieving certain levels of mastery of certain video games. Did this replace, say, knot tying, or supplement it? Holy Zeus.
Today I go to a deposition to verify that Bstone did, indeeeeeeeeed, sell bicycles in this country a number of years ago. A rider owned an RB-1 for 15 years. A triathlete. It’s not a tri-bike, but whatever. Fifteen years after buying it and riding it a lot, the front wheel came off mid-ride, and boom. No permanent injuries, but in a case like this, human suffering aside (if we can ever put it aside), would it matter?
Is it possible for an active rider to own and ride for fifteen years without once taking the wheel off and putting it back on? It is impossible for a quick release to wear out. The mechanism inside is something called an “overlocking taper,” and is the same gizmo-type thing that makes a Vise Grip work. Think of a cam that’s closed over center, and it’s the same. Vibration can’t open a properly closed Q/R.
I think that the fact that it opened points to it not having been closed properly. Somebody didn’t do it this time, for whatever reason. I have my hunches, but it’s all kind of piecing together a scenario that fits the fact.
A bike on the roof rack with front wheel in back seat. Drive to the ride, take down the bike, put in front wheel and go take a leak before closing it, or otherwise get distracted. The wheel’s in it, the q/r isn’t closed, and up the road on the ride there’s a small obstruction that the rider wheel-hopped over, and the wheel came out.
How else?
Is a dropout without lawyer lips a bad dropout? Should all bikes without them be recalled? How does that work?
I gotta go now. Disgusted with Boy Scouts and lawyers. Rivendell is not involved, by the way. I’m there only to say something like, “I went to work everyday and seemed to be working for Bridgestone.”

Tom Milton of Selle An-Atomica saddles comes by once a month or so to get another set of wheels by Rich here, and was by about four days ago to pick up another set, his fifth. You know what’s coming. About halfway thru Saturday’s  local Devil Mountain Double Century, as tough and hilly as double centuries get, Tom died of a heart attack. Tom appeared to be in his late 50s, or early 60s. He was about 6-1 or so, weighed about 165, and was an experienced high-mileage rider, tackling centuries, doubles, and brevets. He looked super bicycle-fit.

Tom loved bicycle and riding, and after a career as an engineer, he set out to design the most comfortable saddle ever, and most riders who tried his Selle An-Atomica saddles will vouch for his success. I will, for sure.  I believe he was working on some modifications to improve the saddles, but I don’t know what they were.

It’s been said and will be again that Tom died doing what he loved, and there may be some solace in that. But dead is the final, sad word.

Tom is the guy who made Brooks sit up and pay attention. Would Brook’s new Imperial model, with the slot and all, have been resurrected from the early 1900s if Tom hadn’t converted so many Brooks riders to Sella An-Atomica? We don’t know, but I’d bet not.

 Tom was the swaggery guy one who took on the King and inspired others to do it, too. No doubt Brooks’s sales are at an all-time high, and good for Brooks (we R fans…). But Tom deserves credit for his contributions to comfort. A new Selle An-Atomica Titanico Clydesdale saddle is still, to my crotch, the all-time comfort king.

Tom Milton was a good guy, and he certainly made his mark. People die every second, but it’s sad when you know the guy. We and many will miss him.
— G

superlong AHH poem/Ropeswing/Rich Wheel Building Seminar

May 3, 2010

Last week in the NYT there was an article ‘bout the evils (well…) of sitting. Mark Sisson has a follow-up on that, with some neat links. I promise you, promise you, you will sit less if you read this. If you don’t want to sit less, don’t go here:


On Saturday, May 15, Rich Lesnik, our own wheel builder and proprietor of Hands On Wheels, will host a wheel building demonstration and seminar in the Rivendell showroom at 11AM.

Non-compulsory raffle tickets will be sold for $10 each (benefiting Smile Train) and the winner will take home the wheel that Rich builds in the course of his talk.


Monday. I don’t expect everybody’s following the ropeswing thing, but basically we put up a ropeswing last week, wondered whether it would still be there on the weekend, invited random riders to ride there and see, and here’s the story:

check out the PDF


The Great Scot, A.Homer Hilsen

(Written two years ago for fun, found deep in a file when I was looking for something else, briefly updated and exposed.) It takes a while to read, but if you’re bored…

On the high bluffs of Ben Nevis
On that highest mount in Scotland
Which o’erlooks grand fields of bluebells
Blazing in the verdant meadows
See the shining ribbon eastward
Aberdeen, the silver river!
Spy the sea beyond its south cliffs
Gaze at thick and constant clouds there
That ‘cept for a week in August
When the winds blow hard and northward
Are opaque, as boiled egg whites.

In an unmapped cave no guide knows
On those bluffs above Ben Nevis
Huddled near a bean-can lantern
In which, flickers faint a candle
(It’s the only light for miles)
Who is the withered form there?
Is it ghost, mirage, or dead man?
Did the body meet some foul harm?
No, a closer look reveals that
It’s just old A. Homer Hilsen!

And, though outside now the snow swirls
In this Highlands winter night-time
Shivers not A. Homer Hilsen
Au contraire, he’s warm, he’s cozy
Clad from head to toe in sheep’s wool
Thick and grey, boiled, and felted
Faintly scratchy by our standards
Thirty-micron wool, by measure
Used by Persians for their carpets
But A. Homer Hilsen squawks not
Of this wool he’s grown accustomed
And this wool to A.H. Hilsen
Feels like Portugal’s best flannel.

But sleep’s not yet coming to him
Truth be told, A. Homer’s restless
As he thinks back upon his long life
Recollections clear, yet dreamlike
Block out all of his distractions
In that desolate cave high up there,
In that hole-cave on Ben Nevis.

Known to all Scots as The Great One
For his selfless way toward others
For his ” ‘nificent donations “
To the poor and sick and needy
Often grownups, mostly children
Now and then an institution.
For the gifts of woollen sweaters
He himself knit from wool gathered
From his flock of hardy black-face
Roaming wild on ol’ Ben Nevis.

Sweaters tightly knit, then boiled
So the children of the miners
Kids whose folks cannot afford wool
Living in the Border Country
In the north of Minnesota
Several thousand miles from here
Where the iron ore mines have shut down
And there is no other business
Where the schools are two hours walking
From their cabins in the country
And the mercury it rarely
Climbs above the single digits
So these children would be cozy
In the bitterest of winters!

Thankful are these children to him
And much more so are their parents
Who, despite their independence
Who, despite their pride, so ingrained
Humbly thank A. Homer Hilsen
For his wool gifts, warmly given!

But the Border Country children
Tho in poem, they’re recollected
Are the tip top of an iceberg
Two, three brush strokes in a mural
Drops of brine in oaken barrel
Holding pickles in a deli!

For the kind A. Homer Hilsen
Now sequestered in the Highlands
Now an old man, poor and homeless
Near bereft of all possessions
Having sold them, gave the proceeds
To the orphan boys and girls who
Work the dry, cracked land in Malta;
To survivors of disasters
Whether earthquake, flood, or fires;
To the doctors and the nurse-staff
Who need gauze and pills and ointments
These he sends, by helicopter
To their hospitals in Ghana

I could tell these tales forever
Those in need, who are forgotten;
Those whose plights don’t make the papers
Certain not a soul knows of them
Never heard of this man Hilsen
Never met him, still don’t know him
Don’t know where to send their Thank You’s
Most assume “God smiles upon us!
Sends us help down from his heaven!”
But in this case, “God” is Homer,
“Heaven: Just chilly cave-hole
No Saint Pete; devoid of angels.

Down to only three possessions
Is the old A. Homer Hilsen
In the cave, just six by eight feet
With a rock roof barely four feet
Lies on flattened tufts from thistles
Plucked by hand. A. Homer found it
Tween the nooks and crannies up there
Plucked from Scotland’s purple flower
Sheltered from the Highlands’ high winds
Lucky he was, just to find it
‘Fore the fierce winds blew it distant
And to bring it back in fistfuls
So to make his final rest-home
Slightly softer on his old bones.

I’ll now speak of his possessions
First of them, his pinhole camera
Like his lantern, made of bean-can
He was rarely seen without it
Like a surgeon with a scalpel
Like a farmer with a pitchfork
Like a sea capt. and his sextant
Like Dave Crockett and his coon-cap
Like young mother with her baby
Or that baby with her blanket
Was A. Hilsen and his camera
Oh, so constant was its presence
Oh, so naked, him widdout it!

And though always well-intentioned
Were the gifts of modern cameras
Gifts from heads-of-state, and family
Bought online with cards of plastic,
Up to sixteen megapixels
Fancy with the largest sensors
To give Hilsen in his old age
Technological advantage!

Brushed champaign or satin silver,
Sometimes blackend paint, like Leica;
Often bulky plastic lightweights
Packed with complicated menus
That reveal their dirty secrets
When you push the buttons proper;
Or the small ones, tiny wonders!
Could fit inside an old sardine can

And they did so once (he tried it)
Every year in weight they dwindle,
Jam-packed full of complications.
Said to simplify life greatly.

Said to relegate his darkroom
To a room, that, with a lantern
Like the bean-can one he loves so
Would be useful as a guest-room
For the old A. Homer Hilsen
Replaced by scanner, software, printer
For a virtual desktop darkroom!

None of this he learned to master
Never understood the options
Even after hours of study
In six languages he knew well
Not enraptured by the manuals,
Ne’er deciphered the instructions
Never figured out the options
Never pushed the proper buttons
Never understood the plug-ins
So although the cameras promised
Such instant gratification
It was all lost on the old man
Progressed passed A. Homer Hilsen
As they piled up in the corner
e-waste in the Scottish Highlands
In his cave on ol’ Ben Nevis.

Sure, despite these gifts of wonder
He was faster with his pinhole
Faster with his humble pinhole
Made himself, just like his lantern
From a humble, empty empty bean-can!

They say A. could take a photo
With that bean-can pin-hole camera
Like Kwai Chang Cain snatching pebble,
Faster was he with that camera
Faster could he snap a photo
Than that famous western dandy
Paladin could draw his six-gun.

And the scenes his pin-hole captured!
In his cave’s darkroom, developed
On the plate-glass shipped by clipper
All the way from Nova Scotia
Where his cousin, Roy MacMillan
Owns a shutterbug’s supply house!

Next in line behind the camera
In the hierarchy of possessions
On the totem pole of widgets
Owned by old A. Homer Hilsen
Is a meter-long shillelagh
Made of genuine Irish Blackthorn.
Prickly bumps along its dark shaft
So hard and sharp you just can’t hold it
Save in one smooth part exception
Where with flint-knapped knife he whittled
Smooth the knots, to form a handle
‘bout two feet below the knothead!

When he made this old shillelagh
It was in his eighteenth summer
And for many years that followed
‘Twas the only one in Scotland,
Objet d’envie, that shillelagh!

 ?Now and then with his shillelagh
Hooligans he showed them what-for
Swift hard clouts rained down on shin bones,
Cracked too knuckles, knees, and noggins
Sent thugs back to where they came from
Rough rapscallions taught a lesson
By a swift, pitch-black shillelagh
Wielded by its master Hilsen
Left behind, bruises that lingered
Bruises black and blue and purple
Now and then, the skin ‘twas broken
Oozing from it, creeks of scarlet
“Just deserts for young Scot hoodlums!”
Was our hero heard to mutter
(None dare twice harrass A. Homer!)

But like magic, blows delivered
By that fearsome black shillelaugh
Wielded faster than a numchuck
By the Scottish Ninja Hilsen!
Did much more than just comeuppance
To those surly louts, delivered
That shillelagh taught a lesson
To those ne’re do-wells and scoundrels
And as history has proved it
Each man knocked about by Hilsen
Changed his life after the smacking
Change from crime and General Mayhem
To philanthropy and caring!

Some, like Schweitzer, became healers
Some, like Milton, men of letters
Some, like Lincoln, glorious statesmen
And at least a dozen: Teachers!
To a man did they attribute
Their U-turn-like transformation
To the lesson taught by Hilsen
With his magical shillelagh!

And the last of his Possessions
Aft the camera, the shillelagh
Was the finest of his play-tools
And the way he worldly traveled.
 ?It was steel and lugged and lovely
Slender tubes that joined with others
With such swirls and points of lugwork
Even dolled-up ladies viewed them
Wearing monstrous hats with birds nests
Hats with vast bouquets upon them
Ladies snugly laced with corsets
In their dresses ‘dorned with lacework
Hand-sewn with Egyptian cottons
Or French silks and British velvet
With high boots with umpteen laces
Ladies as I’ve just described here
Even these upper-crust ladies
Have commented on its beauty,
On that iron steed of Hilsen’s,
Have felt dizzy in its presence
Woozy, swooning, finally toppling
When with looking glass examine
Strong and beauteous lugged frame joints
On the bike of A. H. Hilsen.
(Smelling salts, they come in handy!)

A. Homer Hilsen’s bicycle
Was blue-grey with cream appointments
Silver racks he bolted to it
Silver racks with smooth dull finish
Buckled bags on to them fastened
Made of canvas, wool, and leather
For to hold his grub on long rides.
And a bedroll, should he tarry.

Fifty years did Homer ride it
Fifty years with no new paint job
Fifty years and endless pleasure
Oh, the beausage that bike boasted!

Rode in snow and rain and windstorms
Making camp where there was water
And a place to lay his bedroll
From Alaska to south Chile
From Mongolia to Maui
All these places Hilsen pedaled,
Learned the language spake by natives
Learned the customs, ate the food there
Helped the children, cured diseases
Built fine schools and educated
He left every place he rode through
Better off because he’d been there!

And at long last, here he huddled
By that lantern made of bean-can
With his camera and shillelagh
With his bicycle for company
And his heart now beating slower
Than it beat in his long lifetime
Slower even than when sleeping
Ever slower by the hour
Fifty forty thirty twenty
In that cave up on Ben Nevis
In that hole in rock, in mountain
Simultaneously the candle
Beacon in his bean-can lantern
Stopped the instant that his heart did,
In that cave-hole on Ben Nevis.

Upper case hiatus/Rich’s Wheel Building Demo

May 8, 2010

Thank you to everyone who made it over for Rich’s Wheel Building Seminar on Saturday, and congratulations to J.M., the winner of the raffle. We plan on more clinics, seminars, and rides in the coming months. -John

Rich’s Wheel Building Demonstration & Talk is this Saturday, May 15th, at 11AM in the Rivendell showroom. Rich will build a 700c 32h front wheel, which we will raffle off (all proceeds go to Smile Train) afterward. If you have any questions, email Mr. Lesnik at  - John

That t there will be one of few upper case letters for the next 6 wks until my left thunb is up and running again. i’ll try to spell right and all, but i fell off my bike last night riding trails with two friends, and crashed and broke my thumb. i’ll prove it with jpegs in a week or so, but for now i’ll be a reluctant ee cummings guy, and less wordy than usual.

the trail was rutty, so I was in tall grass on the edge, but the grass was floppy and hid another rut. i wasn’t riding nutty, just didn’t expect that particular rut.


Excuse, and some of what’s coming

May 22, 2010

Left thumb and up to mid-forearm is casted, is affecting typing so I’m doing as little as possible just to minimize frustration.
Several new bags coming along, vegan and cow versions, should be here by late June. Sams, Bettys, and Hunqas in late June to late July.
Working on paper catalogue, about 130pp, short run of 5,000, and we’ll sell it for $5 to cover print costs. NOT YET.  It will have good info in it, not just stuff.
I can’t safely ride till July, so am scooting around, and  it’s not bad. Limiting, but no big bad deal—-I can move. Pull-ups and dips are on hold, showers are a drag, but I see the smallness of this in thebig picture. Anyway, things are fine.

Broken bike, broken thumb update

June 2, 2010

Update on the repaired-renewed frame project

It’s not a project-project, but over the years we’ve collected crashed frames (usually owner’s insurance compensated them) with the good intent to fixemup one day, we’ve been doing that. Sometimes we’ve taken additionl liberties—adding a second top tube, or moving a bridge and increasing clearance and changing the brake requirement. Sometimes, we just replaced the tube that got whacked.

Every frame has its story, and we don’t have a logbook, and the frame’s history is an unimportant time sink, while it’s current state is all that matters and is available.

We’ll call these RenoVelo frames, and it has nothing to do with Nevada. Had that thought even come up, we’d have come up with another name, but it didn’t, so RenoVelo it is (all short vowel sounds).

The decals will be here in one week, and then we’ll send the first of the RVs to the painter, and it may take 6 weeks. We’ll likely paint them one color with no cream details, but under the simple paint will be super frames. Most frame prices will be btw $800 and $1100, but expect a few exceptions.

Click here for the PDF.

Spelling Bee Blues

June 6, 2010

This has nothing to do with bikes, but behind the bike and before it, we’re all spellers, and did you watch the National Spelling Bee on Friday night?

Spelling Bees bum me out, because they’re not fair. Everybody should get the same words, and have to spell them out, Jeopardy-style. It’s not traditional for spelling bees, but when one contestant gets “gnocchi” (which is on the menu in every Italian restaurant in the country) and another in the same round gets, oh, I forget, but it’s a word nobody’s ever heard of, then it’s not fair.

There was a Japanese word, too. “Gyokuro.” Apparently it’s one of those Japanese words that’s become English, too, like “sushi,” “teriyaki,”, and “karate.”

All fine, BUT the pronouncer pronounced it without any hint, without the whispiest whiff of a long “o” sounds, which is new to me. He said “gyahkuro” as plain as that, over and over, even after the girl asked seven or eight times for a repeat pronounciation. Finally she spelled it “gyakuro.”

I am NOT an expert on this, even among dummies I’m not one. But I took 3 months of Japanese lessons and have studied with tapes and I’ve hung around a lot of Japanese people, and I’ve spoken a lot of it, and “o”, sounds more like Homer’s “doh!” than “owe.”

I believe romaji words, those roman-lettered spellings of Japanese words originaly written in kanji and katakana and hirigana or whatever…the whole point is to be phonetical.

Anyway…happy for the winner, sad for everybody else.

Movie tip only super old timers will remember: Akeelah and the Bee. It’s a spelling bee movie, and one of my favorites. Right up there with The World’s Fastest Indian, Groundhog Day, Spanglish, Last Holiday, Nanny McPhee, and Tommy Boy. All women hate that last one. It makes ‘em nervous. It has a great ending, though.


Ghana beat the US in the World Cup

June 28, 2010

It’s the drag of competitive sports that somebody has to lose, but I guess there’s no winning without losing. Still, it’s hard to cry too hard when Little Old Ghana (well, pop 23 million, average yearly income in US dollars, $1500) beat the US in soccer a couple of days ago. I never understood or fully got the nationalist pride, or even the home-team pride. I can see if you go to this school, but once it’s more grand than school size, it’s beyond me how it gets so boiled up. Anyway, sorry for the US team, good for Ghana!

Should be in Peeking thru knothole; not really NEWS..

June 29, 2010

I apologize for the snotty tone here. I don’t have a snotty attitude about this, but by “not mincing words” it comes off all cocky and overauthoritative, which is not my intent. Onward ho!

Five times a year somebody well-meaning and semi-armed with a new vocabulary without much context or history, but a good intellect and a sincere desire to get to the meat of the matter and know facts…calls up starts off the conversation this-a-way:

"What’s the wheelbase on your XYZ?"
We’re thinking: If you know the other dimensions, wheelbase doesn’t matter. And the other dimensions are always known. Wheelbase should never be a design criterion. It is a dependent variable, the result of other criteria (independent variables)—namely, the seat and head tube angles, top tube length and upslope, fork rake, chainstay length, and even bottom bracket drop.

A hundred bikes could have the same wheelbase, but they wouldn’t fit or ride the same, or accommodate the same tires, if the independent variables are different.

Frettin’ ‘bout wheelbase is a vestige of the early ’70s, when the country had a major infusion of rookie riders (I was one of ‘em) who wanted things boiled down the the simplest understandable form, even if things got lost in the boiling.

Then, if a bike had a 39-inch wheelbase, it was a Racing bike. At 40, it was a Sport-Touring bike. At 42, a Touring bike….and now we move on.

There’s a smattering of logic in the wheelbase story. Racing bikes have smaller tires than touring bikes, so the chainstays CAN be shorter, and so they usually are. (I cannot help but mention that Pino Moronni, Italian designer and consultant to the stars on record attempts) thought all chainstays should be about 45cm—-more than 2-inches longer than normal race bike chainstays. Whether one thinks Pino was a nut or a genius doesn’t matter, but to whatever extent  one can call bikes “fast” or “slow” independent of riders, his bikes were fast.)

So back to the wheelbase and how it’s nearly meaningless as a solo number. The important numbers are:

Chainstay length….too short, bike is too jumpy.
Tire and fender clearance….too little, can’t run a big fun tire or fenders
Seat tube angle….too steep, can’t put seat back far enough
Head tube angle and fork rake: Combine to influence how the bike responds.
Fork blade length: Affects front wheel clearance
BB drop: Affects ground clearance, standover height, and bike “feel”

I may be missing one or two, but Wheelbase isn’t one of them.

When the independent variables are “right”—whatever your own personal “right” is—-then the wheelbase will be right, because it can’t be any other way. By definition it must be right, as long as you agree that it’s a dependent variable, and not an indepedent one masquerading as a dependent one.


We also sometime get questions about “trail.”

Here’s my stance on it, and by default, Rivendell’s: Trail is a stabilizing factor in steering. Not enough of it, and the bike lacks what I feel is a good amount of “self-righting,” meaning if it get jostled by something, you may crash.

But I’m not Buddha, and other smart-thinking people (notably, Jan Heine) like bikes with less trail. And Jan Knows Bikes. We just happen to disagree on this, but have agreed to not feud about it or let it affect a long-running friendship.

High trail, low trail….take a stance, or ride them all. The bottom line isn’t a wheelbase or trail or head tube angle spec, but how the bike rides in common circumstances. There will always be circumstances that require you to be at the top of your game and to pay a little more attention to the task at hand and less to the mermaids on the rocks waving at you from afar. What you’re after is a bike that handles well and predictably and controllably easily most of the time. When there’s a performance gap in strange circumstances, then it’s up to you to fill that gap.

Most of our bikes have trail numbers in the high 50s to low 60s. This is in the “historical normal range in post-Korean War bicycles.” Combined with a high handlebar—-which I think affects steering a lot, but I’m not going into that here—-the result are bikes that, for better or worse, but I hope better, ride just the way I want ‘em too. It is a rare rider who gets one of our bikes and isn’t  pleased. Statistically, 100 percent satisfaction is impossible, and so I end up going by what I think a bike should feel like, and coincidentally or not, our bikes are well-received.

Whenever we get a question about trail we know the number the asker is looking for: Mid thirties. Most of the bikes made have trail figgers  in the high-fifties to high sixties (for mtn bikes, which need more “self-righting”). Ours, as I’ve said, are in the high 50s to low 60s depending on the model (and the TIRE), and this number is the result of years of experience, certain preferences, and how a higher bar position affects steering. It is not a willy nilly spec. It isn’t a spec I’ve copied from Trek, or the Italian Grand Masters or anybody. From my point of view, which is only my own, it works, and that’s why I design bikes this way.

(It may well be that in time my taste or mood will change. I like to think my convictions are based on some kind of evidence or experience, but I don’t like to think I’ve locked in. Time will tell.)

About asking about “trail” and “bottom bracket height”:

You have to specify a wheel, because wheel radius is an independent variable that affects both “trail” and “bottom bracket height.” Frames don’t have bottom bracket heights or trail. Bikes have both.

July 17? tweed, tires, other, long

July 17, 2010

Tweed Pneus

We Just Don’t Know when the tweedies will come. The order was placed in Feb, but it’s not 1950 anymore, and cultural shifts having to do with British Youth buying Chinese everything instead of London Fog, Belstaff, and Barbour, and Ruth, Helen, and Betty have long since retired, not to be replaced by Michelle, Nicole, and Fabiana.
Factories that used to hum along now lurch and stop and creak along, and the wants and the needs of a company our small size don’t get thing exactly humming along again, but the order is still out there, and at some point it seems we may get the bags, and the smart money’s on November.

As we get samples, we’ll show. These bags are possibilities:

Trunksack Small
Trunksack Medium
Saddlesack XS, S, and Med

There is an outside chance for the Seat Pouch, formerly Banana Bag.

There is also an outside chance that nothing will come of anything.

Nothing in all of Middle Earth is more iffy than Tweed Bags.

The tweed will be the same as last time, or so we’ve requested and have been told.

Now on another Pneus-related topic: Miesha has been a tire-patching fool here, and her next-door neighbor kid had a couple of BMX-style flats, and she went to work on them.

The other day an older couple came by on the advice of the triathlete daughter of a friend of the family (true!) and we ran into something we run into regularly, which is somebody wants a bike—they both did—and the last time they bought one bikes were still deep into the double-figures, pricewise, and so here and now they’re shopping where bikes start at $2K.

We sized them (PBH, saddle height, test rides to get the feel of what a bike can feel like when all things are in place), and then followed up later with some more affordable recommendations (at night, by email). I looked for 40 minutes on the net for bikes that could fall into the Affordable Yet Wholeheartedly Endorsable category and found none, and the Wholeheartedly part was the hard  part.

I know how it is to sit in a meeting talking to sales reps or dealers or both, asking what kind of bullets they need in their bandolier next year. If the bike that’s beating them up this year has an XT derailer and costs $700, they want one at $600 next year. If Trek starts shocks at $400, they want $375 with shocks. Back when I was at Bstone and sitting in those mtgs, shocks went down to about $700, and we didn’t have any until our “last gasp” MB-4-S, a mid-year introduction to appease dealers.

We did have an MB-1 with the Allsop Stem, but you know what? The original Allsop stem didn’t pass Bstone’s or Nitto’s tests, so Bstone had Nitto remake, with better hardware.

Now almost every bike abovet $300 has a shock fork and almost no bike below a Surly is steel. Fuji has one. Raleigh has eleven. Raleigh’s slogan in the ancient days, way before mom and dad met, was “The All-Steel Bicycle”, and I think Raleigh now is trying to recapture the spirit, maybe.

It would be so easy to tig-weld a cheap bike that was Affordable Yet Fully Wholeheartedly Endorseable, but we’re locked in to lugs, and it’s staying that way. Over the years we’ve talked a little about making a Super Cheap with lugs, but the lower limit isn’t all that low, because the labor is so much more intensive.

It makes some sense, though. Everybody needs a beater and too many people are afraid to make their Rivbike into the bike they can lock outside the movie theater or bookstore for a few hours. I’m thinking of a way to do it, and it’s not looking likely, but it’s not been ruled out yet, either, and it’s not a front-burner project. I will get to it if at all in many moons.
Old post here deleted.

We’re going to have a poster or so, and a T-shirt or so in the next month or so. So…please save your change between now and them. They’ll be good ones.


commentary and news

July 22, 2010

I don’t actually care who wins the Not-At-All-a-Tour de France, and I’m proud to say I can’t name more than 5 riders in it (Contador, Schleck, Zsa Zsa Zabriskie, Armstrong, and—-well, I bet there’s a Lopez in there somewhere, or maybe a Stein or LaPierre). I watch it a little, a half an hour or so every fourth day, and if YOU follow it you know that a few stages ago on a climb, Contador—-the favorite and last year’s winner—-didn’t wait for his arch rival Schleck when Schleck hit a little bump and dropped his chain. They were both going at it, and this happened, and it took Schleck a whole thirty seconds to remount his chain.

Contador has been criticized for not wating for him. There’s something of a tradition to wait until the bad luck guy is back in action, and if you don’t, you’re a scoundrel unworthy of the yellow jersey. I disagree. It’s a Big Old Race Around France, not a club ride, not a Tour de anything, and these riders have every technological advantage going for them, and lots of illegal ones in the van. If Andy Schleck hit a bump, bad luck, but luck is always part of it. If it were a tour or club ride, yep, you stop and wait. In a marathon, if a a frontrunner gets a sideache, the leader doesn’t wait. If a hurdler trips, everybody keeps going. In Nascar Racing……and so on. Too bad, but it shouldn’t have taken 30 seconds, and he was the captain of his bike, and he didn’t see the bump, and…anyway, I hope Contador wins by more than the half a minute, just so people don’t say it’s a tainted win.

I don’t expect to write about the race in question anymore, and no disrepect meant to its history etc, but from now on it’s BORAF, not TdeF.

We got in some black MUSA shorts, and some Navy ones. Spencer and John, I think, wanted the black. We’ve had many requests, and let’s see how they go. Maybe getting black AND navy at the same time wasn’t a fantastic move, but we got ‘em.

The Cowboy shirts are selling OK. I think we’ll find a horse-type charity and maybe give half the profits to it. That seems fine. We have a few members who are super horse people, and maybe we’ll ask them. Or, looking online.  Maybe another charity. MISSSY (with three esses) is a good, local one. We’ve given to them a little here and there, and this That’s how we often do it when we go outside our area (that would be bikes) with something. Also, for every cowboy shirt you buy, you’ll get a $5 credit toward the next one we get in. Since it can’t go on forever, if we stop with the shirts, you can apply the credit toward something else within the calendar year.


Today we got in some double-pull mountainy brake levers, for one-handed riders or riders who (like me in May and June). We’ll put them up in a few days after we confirm whether they’re for V-brakes or cantilevers. We have lefts and rights, two versions of each, I thik about 15 of each, and I expect it’s a lifetime supply. They were cheap, and we’ll sell them cheap. Not a bottom-line influencer, unless the bottom line is offering something for one-handed riders.


Sally ended up with a carbon bike. It’s fine.
We should have AMOS #2 prototype in three weeks, but it seems to be happening so slowly.

Hey, the oil is getting capped!

Hey, the dollar is at a 14-year low against the Yen, and we have a shipment due at the end of this month.

(Every time I mention that, at least ONE guy sends me a note saying quitcherwhining, and that’s kind of harsh. It affects our  prices tremendously, and we absorb all we can, and we’ll absorb this one, but it’s quite like watching stocks drop.)


Keven is back from Italy-Germany-seeing his brother now.

We’re moving along with T-shirts, posters, print catalogue, and Renovelos.

Remember the fancy one we took back and were going to turn it from stripped-down fancy to useful and plain? Jay picked the color. I was expecting brown or grey, but he picked green and cream, and it came out kind of a tealy-green, not what Jay was hoping for, and now it looks like we tried on it. Anyway, we’re awaiting the head tube decal for that and a couple of other RENOVELOs, and we’ll have them up mid-next week. Two 64 Atlantises, and this Fancy one. Details later. Maybe we’ll sell as frames, maybe as complete bikes only (with U-pick the parts).


Posters, speed records, and so on

July 29, 2010

It’s local news that a rider attempting a downhill speed record on one of the steepest roads in the Berkeley Hills (15 miles west of us) crossed the centerline, hit a car, and died. The controversy stems from a website that lets you download your cyclometer data to prove your speed and get the record. I don’t know the ins and outs of it, but here’s one story about it:

Sorry it’s not a link—you’ll have to cut and paste it, but it’s still amazing that this can even happen.

Stories and controversies like this make you think about things like influence, free will, personal and corporate responsibility, fate, families, blame, do-overs, technology….lots of things that people take strong stands on.

Years ago when I first got a cyclometer, I went 52 mph down the same road. I’ve never been a radical descender, so I was surprised to see his time was 49mph. Maybe my cyclometer was off—-that’s what I’m thinking now.

Readings ending in “9” always push you to the next even “0.” Downhill speed record attempts are always scary and not worth it. How much of the “prize” is personal, and how much of it is “the admiration of others”? This comes up in a lot of things.

Rock climbers who “free solo” (climb alone and without a rope) go up vertical and even overhanging rocks a thousand feet or more. Would they do it if nobody watched, or nobody would ever find out about it? They may say it’s a personal challenge or provides some kind of insight, but would those reasons still hold up with no audience?

A few years ago a unicyclist came by and told stories of touring Europe in a group of other unicyclists. There is a lot to be said for camaraderie and shared experiences and all, but it makes me wonder if there are any solo unicycle tourists out there, and IF they’d do that way out in the Scottish boonies with nobody around, if given the choice of a one-wheeler or two-wheeler. How much of it is external drive, and how much internal? That’s a good question, I think. I don’t know the answer, and for the record, I like unicycles. I can’t ride one, but I likem….

 We’re going to have a few posters for a while. Old French bikes, Hunkapillar, and maybe another. Postcards, too.

Poser Pedaling

August 9, 2010

Nope, not a mean rant with name calling, sorry.
In an old Rivendell Reader we had a thing about Chi Running, which is a technique that blows holes in conventional running technique—-or at least suggests many opposites. A similar thing called Pose Running sprang up. A Rusky running coach started it. Chi and Pose may claim to be different, but the difference are small, and they have tons of similarities, and I don’t like running anyway, so why even talk about it?

It’s interesting, is why! And now there’s “Pose Cycling,” which — well, the Russian guy says it’s all about efficiency, and the whole Pose Thing is a combo of performance-based and injury-prevention based, and although I like the second, I don’t care about the first all that much. I’m not against what anybody might consider to be “high performance,” but I don’t agree with all the things that get lumped in as that, and the whole idea that racers and racing should set the standard and be the role models for us schmucks is —- makes me sick, sort of. I couldn’t be more against that, I couldn’t possibly believe it any less than I do.

So it is with that single misgiving that I ultra-highly recommend you read the link (if I can figure out how to make it a link) or cut and past the url-thing that’s coming up momentarily.

Naturally, we all love authorities who agree with us, and this may be that kind of case.  I think he pulls back on the shoes, although he does qualify it by stating that the fancies are good for long distances, where you may go zombie-like and slip off. I’d say no even to that, but I’ve never ridden my bike to the point where I felt I needed to go to sleep mid-pedal stroke on it.

Anyway, here’s the

 Pose Cycling Home Page. Nice Croc in the main photo! (see how much better that photo would be if the rider were riding to the right, into the screen, the way we move our eyes when reading or looking? But the Crocs make up for it.) Anyway, read all the links in it, all the sections, whatever you like.


Carbon and Touring (not related)

September 15, 2010

The lead story in the current issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News is titled “Carbon Fiber Conundrum,” and is about how, up to now, carbon has been unrecyclable. If there were just a few hundred frames out there, Adherent Technologies (AT) of England wouldn’t have been born. But there are thousands, and the number will grow by leaps and bounds in the next few years. AT isn’t recycling only bike frames and forks, but they’re a significant contributor to the mix, and there’s no “upcycling” going on. AT pulverizes the scrap and turns it into tiny pellets that are used for “electrical conductivity purposes,” according to one of the spokespeople.

It’s a start and I bet carbon recycling becomes a big business in this and other countries in the next decade. It’s a growth industry, or whatever.

Do we have any Renovelos up now? I’ll check, but I think not. We’ll have more soon.

We’re also working on a super cheap bike, by our standards, for sometime in the next few years. It will be lugged and steel, and that’s all I’ll say about it now. A tandem isn’t out of the picture, but it’ll come way after the Groovy Cheapie.

The NOBS sunglasses are selling way weller than I’d expected. Sixteen dollars for optically correct, moldable-temple safety glasses with classic styling is a good deal.

Last week Matthew B. came by at the end of his tour, and there are some photos here.

We have a darkroom here now…made with donated labor and bartered for locally, and it all came together cheap. So the plan is to…next year…show only photos we develop and print ourselves. They’ll all be black and white. If it seems too boring, we’ll go back.

Dave and I have been working on a new catalogue, paper and online, and the plan is to make it a useful keeper, and to have it out by December. The next RR is shaping up slowly, but it’s coming. (There’s no preorder so please hold the calls).

The EURO is weak (good, but we don’t buy much from Europe), and the Yen continues to be way too strong. Next year, prices have to go up or we go down. They gotta. It’s bad for all of Japan, except the Japanese who travel to the U.S.

Splats are coming soon!


I’m thinking about Rome a lot these days

September 16, 2010

My oldest daughter’s in Rome and she just saw the Coliseum, and there are different accepted ways to spell that, and I like the Silver Shifters, and I think about them lots more than I ought to, and the combo lead to this.

the future of derailers and shifteurs, and even ponchaux

October 26, 2010

I don’t know what it is, but when the road has been heading NNW for the last twenty years, it’s a good bet it’ll keep going at least N or W or NW, if not NNW like it is now, and that means more unnecessary and honestly unhelpful gears, because when you’re making parts for an external drivetrain market, what else is there to do? Nuances don’t get noticed. If any derailer maker reintroduced the pivoting pinch bolt like even $10 SunTours had in 1982, nobody would care and it wouldn’t make much difference. It would happen only if it were…an old weird influential engineer’s dying wish, and he’d have to be related to the spouse of the founder, but otherwise, no.

I don’t like playing. I don’t like playing cards. I don’t like playing cards close to the chest, as they say. It’s so unnnatural. Is it part of business? Is it smart? It may be both sometimes, and it may be one of those now, but I can tell you that we’re not going to sit around waiting for fine stuff to die. Your definition and ours of “fine stuff” may differ, and we go by our def of it, but there’s bound to be loads of overlap.

In the meantime, here’s a little thing I did this mid-day, with Miesha’s help holding the piece of cardboard so as to keep the clean background.

We got the sample Swedish-Portuguese Ponchos from Grundens in. No peep holes for hands, but we’re going with them, anyway. It’s the nicest poncho I’ve seen, weight and fabricwise, but I’m a sucker for yellow slickers. Don’t know the price. You can call them “rain capes” like the British do, if you like, but we like “ponchos.”  Fenders or mudguards? Rear derailers or rear mechanisms? Small or wee? It’s all the same.

Tomorrow we get a new refrigerator. To remember how to spell “tomorrow,” think of it as a guy’s name: Tom Orrow. That’s how I learned it, but there’s no equivalent for “occurrence” and “occassions,” and the most commonly misspelled word is “definite”  in all of its variants. THere’s no “a.” Remember “there’s no “zoo” in “zoology”? They should give up on that. I still pronounce it “zooology,”  and always will. It’s fun to walk a crooked line!


Ashorted sorts/updated with packing a bike in a box video.

October 31, 2010

0. Watch this video showing Emil packing a bike for shipping.

1. At some point in the next 30 days it will behoove you to have emailed miesha with your birthday (if you’re a member).

2. I’m in regular touch, like 3x a week, with an old friend who also used to work at Bstone, and nothing WITH Bstone is in the works, but some other things are, and they involve a lot of old shaker-movers in the J-bike industry, and what they’re doing now, and what they’re fed up with and what they’re doing about it. It’s pretty interesting stuff, and maybe something will come of it with us-and-you-all.

3. Next year or super late this year (coming up) we’ll have a layaway program.

4. My spam box continues to catch non-spam mail, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Every month or so somebody asks me why I didn’t respond to something I don’t remember getting, and I find it in Spam along with twenty or thirty other non-spams, amid the usual several hundred actual spams. Just so you know, if you’re one of them.

5. Five speed cassettes? Really? Cassettes?

6. It is really, really hard to ride off weight, so don’t have a frantic winter trying. Three friends have each recently (all since mid-July) lost between 25 and 30 pounds, but not by riding any more. They go by the Primal Blueprint stuff. This isn’t a diet site, but honestly, if you’re too fat to be happy about your weight, look into that.

All for now. Sorry to end it on the weird diet thing, but it’s pretty amazing.


December 10, 2010

December 10, 2010

We got some yellowy warm orangish wool tops in today. They’re double-knit crew neck longsleevers from Australia, and sort of hit the crosshairs of warmth and visibility. I don’t know of any other orange wool out there. Orange and wool often don’t go together. It’s a light orange, and pops.

We are working on more Derby Tweed tops, like we had before, like everybody who has them likes and wants another one of, and we’ll just see. The homeliest sweater in the land (intentionally) was the most popular one we sold, and we’ll have something like it again, plus something slightly more sporty.

A while back in a product descriptions somewhere or something I said, I forget the exact wordage, but I said that Abraham Lincoln was not a racist, and got called on it. You have judge him by the standards of the day, and toss in the fact that he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, which was ballsy back then. 

I also got an email last night scolding me for what the writer thought was an attempt to be cool or retro by means of not showing helmeted heads on some (OK, most) pictures on our site. It is not like that, but it is fun to feel righteous indignation whether it’s warranted or not. We’re not against helmets. We don’t overestimate the power of a photograph. If our photograph of a hairy head makes you discard your helmet, then the next photo of a helmeted rider will make you don it again. You’ll discard and don all the livelong day. Helmets save lives. Helmets don’t work as well as you think they do. Helmets do save lives. I wear an orange Nutcase with reflectors all over it, and an EOS bike light semipermanently zip-tied to it in front and back. I wear it at night. I wear it on many descents. I don’t wear it on the local and oft-ridden 6.5 mile ascent, because I don’t fear falling over at 7.5 mph, but maybe that’s just because I’ve never done it.

We now have a small sized Splat. By popular demand, if one request constitutes that. My Splats work great. We’ll keep them in the line forever.

Reader 43 is now up to 48 pages, but it’s different this time and a lot of you won’t like it. That’ OK, because you don’t pay for it anyway, unless you buy it, and it’ll be worth, I’d say, the $5 we charge for the paper version. It’ll be free and in color on the site, but only for a short time. I’m just not sure what to do, but of course we or I reserve the right to be willy nilly about it. Look for it Late Jan. I like how it’s coming out. Don’t get me wrong. But it’s a bit out of the mold for a Reader, and change is rarely welcome.

Several of you, five or six, have reported massive weight loss on the foodstuffs recommended in The Primal Blueprint and by Gary Taubes. And improved blood scores. Soway to go. The Gary Taubes Dartmouth presentation is worth an hour of your time if you’re interested in stuff like that.

On another Lincoln note, I’ve been working on the Gettysburg Address, memorizing it. It’s about a four-evening plus 8 bike ride project. There are some great lines in it, with sounds and mouth-movement qualifications that rival the best of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Bob Dylan’s complicated mouth-movement lines. For instance, from Bob Dylan’s Jokerman:

It’s a shadowy world, skies are slippery grey
A woman just gave birth to a prince today and dressed him in scarlet
He’ll put the priest in his pocket, put the blade to the heat
Take the motherless children off the street
And place them at the feet of a harlot

It’s not the words but the mouth movements. The words aren’t nothing, for sure. We’ve all seen skies that are slippery grey, we know it’ a shadowy world, and “harlot” is a good old fashioned word. Mainly, though, I like the mouth movements.
 It’s a lot like this one in Coleridge’s Kubla Khan:

And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
 Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:

That may be the best verse of poetry ever written by man or beast. “Ceaseless turmoil seething” is worth hundreds of dollars. The description of the earth erupting (the mighty fountain) with swift, half-intermitted bursts. Can’t you just picture that? We’ve all seen hail rebounding off the blacktop, but he describes huge fragments doing that, and you can see them all cold, white, and chunky. They may not have been cold. If they were, they might not be erupting; but I see them as white, anyway.

But the Lincoln Lines are these (not poem-form):

It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us —- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion —- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain;

That is one hard two sentences to memorize exactly. He says both “dedicated here” and “here dedicated,” and “for us, rather” and “rather for us.”

There are a few versions of the Gettysburg Address, but they’re all basically the same. It was given on November 19, 1863 at a memorial service honoring the almost 3,800 soldiers who died in the Battle of Gettysburg the previous July 1-3, and all he was saying was that nothing, no speech or anything, could do justice to their sacrifice, and you don’t have to be a war-hawk to appreciate the 272 word in the Gettysburg Address.

And here’s another Samuel Taylor Coleridge passage from Christabel:

There she sees a damsel bright,
Dressed in a silken robe of white,
That shadowy in the moonlight shone:
The neck that made that white robe wan,
Her stately neck, and arms were bare;
Her blue-veined feet unsandaled were;
And wildly glittered here and there
The gems entangled in her hair.
I guess, ‘t was frightful there to see
A lady so richly clad as she-
Beautiful exceedingly!

Earlier in Christabel there’s this:

Sir Leoline, the Baron rich
Hath a toothless mastiff _______;

And the funny thing is, how would you complete that line?
If you know a mastiff is a dog, you might say “bitch.” In fact, I have it in a book as “bitch,” and that’s the way I learned it. On many a bike campout I’ve said either to myself or outloud, “Sir Leoline, the baron rich, hath a toothless mastiff bitch” and laughed. I like the way “hath” and “toothless” go together, with the strong “th” sound. When you say “hath a toothless” it feels like you’re saying “hath a toothleth.” But more to the point, now online I’m reading

..hath a toothless mastiff, which…”

And now I’ve got to wonder. Somewhere there must be a copy of it. Somebody knows. Why change something like that?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. The main thing is: Orange wool!
The tagua tiddly winks are slowly moving. Not Splats-fast, but a bag a day or so, and that’s OK, actually.


SimpleOne Update

December 17, 2010

SimpleOne Update

Sizes: 56-58-60-62

Why no smaller or bigger: It takes forever to sell them, minimums are 30 per size, and we can’t sit on tons of bigger ones that long. We still have, like, six 50cm QBs left. We have long been, and at some level still are, dedicated to the taller and shorter riders not often accommodated by the bigger brands. But we’re kind of tired of having them pile up and collect dust, and so keep them going in the more normal models that sell better.

How the SimpleOne compares with the Quickbeam:

— Made in Taiwan by our Sam-maker. Hand-brazed. QB was Japan. Quality in this case is every bit as good, at least.
— Geometry is nearly identical.
— Same braze-ons plus a kickstand plate.
— Same tire/fender clearance (for 40mm with fender, or 44 without)
— Fancier  paint. With the cream head tube, etc, that many of our bikes have. Mark picked a dark slimy green that’ll look super.
— Brakes. Uses sidepulls or centerpulls. QB was a canti-bike.

Frame price, with headset: $900 if you reserve one before Jan 20 with a non-refu $400 deposit (see below); $1000 if you wait till we’ve already had to pay for the lot before they ship.

To reserve one: By phone, 800 345 3918.

Complete bike price: We build it as you like, but will offer a package that should allow about a $1,600 bike before shipping.

Delivery: End March to Mid-April 2011
How many: 30 each of 56 cm, 58 cm, 60 cm, 62 cm

Some notes on riding a single-speed, for the benefit of those who haven’t done it.
It’s not just harder, it’s different. You give up a lot by not being able to shift, but you get some things in return for that sacrifice:

Having no options means having no pressure to shift, or be in the right gear. You see the hill ahead, and you know the gears are in your legs, so you just go. You grunt more, yes, but it is mentally relaxing to not even have a shift option.

On flat terrain, you go easier. Why spin like the blades of a Waring blender? The gear and terrain dictate the speed, which is always proper as long as it feels good.

On steep hills, you have to get off. This is good for you. Rather than grunt like an overgeared fool, you get off and hoof it. It’s almost, but not exactly, like being a duathlete!

That’s it. Sometimes people say, and I’m sure I’ve said it myself at some point, that there’s less maintenance because of no derailers and shifters. I don’t say that anymore, because I never do anything to my derailers and shifters, and anything that might go wrong with them—-it’s hard to even think of what that might be—-is not going to be long or hard to fix or replace.

Bike variety is a good thing, especially if you ride the same routes all year long. A different bike makes the ride different. Each bike makes it easier to appreciate other bikes even more. When you ride a one-speed, not shifting teaches you that you don’t have to shift as much as you’ve been shifting on your 27-speed. When you really sweat it out on the one-speed, you really appreciate the gears on the 27-speed.

A one-speed is a good way to put together a really durable, high-quality, fun bike for not all that much money.