All of Our Bikes Have Disc Brakes

For a generation or at most a generation and a half, people have become used to the idea of purchasing computer and car and photo and music and some other kinds of performance via improved technology.  And to an extent that can happen with bikes, but … that’s the topic here.

Immature, emerging, nascent, and futuristic widgets are the ones most in need of and most likely to benefit from radical changes. Bikes have been pretty good for at least twenty of the past 154 years they’ve been around, but the whole headline-making machinery behind the popular bike demands constant change, and this situation creates another situation in which change is automatically positive, and anybody who questions it is automatically an anchor in the mud living in the past.

Let’s try to be objective about brakes. I won’t be able to be fully objective, but I’ll try, at least.

The bigger diameter the disc, the more leverage it has against the rotating force of the wheel. If you could somehow apply brakes well above the wheel, where now there’s only air or maybe a bee, it would take less force to slow that wheel. That’s currently impossible, so the next logical place to brake is at the rim. I’m not advocating the ancient spoon-brakes that pushed down on top of the tire; just talking ‘bout the rim.

The rim IS a disc, the biggest practical disc on the wheel, and mechanically it has a theoretical advantage over a hub-mounted brake. Hub-disc brakes compensate nicely by providing more contact area, which also dissipates heat well. But there’s a ton of force on that disc, and the force is transferred to the frame (seat stays) and fork and spokes, which is why frames have to be overbuilt to withstand the braking forces, and spokes on disc wheels break more often.

Hub-disc-ers point out that a rim designed for rim brakes has to compromise its two functions (braking surface, holding the tire), and that also is a theoretical point against rim brakes. But it so happens that the compromises are nearly invisible. The taller braking surface on a rim-brake rim also adds strength. Why don’t hub disc-brake rims have this? I can’t see the advantage to a low, curved, brakepad-incompatible sidewall, unless it’s to shave grams. There are better places to shave grams.

There’s room for all kinds of technology and detail in bicycles. Thank god not all bikes look like ours, or else ours wouldn’t be special and we’d go under in a month. But the idea that hub-disc brakes are an advancement or even desirable for general purpose riding…is nonsense. For special purpose riding, they must have their place. They belong in the panoply, for those super slimy gritty conditions that characterize downhill races on the slopes of volcanoes in the rain…and even maybe on the greasy trails you ride. But when they’re tossed onto $700 commute bikes and then sold (on the sales floor) as a desirable technology bump, that’s where it gets weird. For most riding (maybe not the extreme-condition riding that people fantasize about, but for most riding, in all seasons and over most terrain) rim-disc brakes remain our favorite.

- Grant

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RBW headquarters will be closed Saturday for the Entmoot.

Rivendell Bike Book & Hatchet will be open normal hours 12am - 8pm at 1601 N. Main St. on Saturday.

What is the Entmoot?

A gathering of Riv fans organized by Jim, now Dan & Joe. They’re organizing, coordinating, all that. It’s not an official Riv thing, but some Rivvers will be there (not working, so go easy on them), and we’re officially not the organizers so please use this link for info.  All the info is assembled here. Campouts and group rides.There’s also a virtual Entmoot ride that Patrick organized. Info here.


This weekend. See the link. Bike Book & Hatchet will be open Monday 10am-2pm for all the returning campers.


The San Francisco Bay Area. Again see the link for details.


It was all organized by members of the Rivendell Owners Bunch and some employees are going.


Fun, mostly.


Boy oh boy. See the link. All over the bay, ferries, bridges, BARTs, bikes.

What a great group of customers we have. THANK YOU for organizing this.

Buddy says enjoy your 4th of July & this Roadeo Mark (his dad) just built up. The color is going to be added as a standard option to the Roadeo line-up. I think it’s called Brilliant Blue? Could be wrong though, Mark knows.

Have fun out there.


Closed Friday - Independence Day

A Happy Fourth to You and Yours!

from all of us here at ArbyDubya’s.

*Business as usual Saturday. RBBH open Sunday.

63cm A. Homer Hilsen, this build really received the royal treatment.

  • Rich built wheels, Polished Synergy mated to White Industries hubs
  • All the Nitto goodies… all of them
  • TRP levers with speed holes
  • XT front & rear Derailers
  • Asym shifters Dave/Lance style
  • SKS p50 fenders hiding some 40mm Schwalbe Supremes
  • Paul Racer brakers
  • Swiss made kickstand with rubber foot


Inventoria’s Secret

Have you ever been on the fence about ordering a product and wanted to know exactly how many we had available?

Here’s a trick that we do all the time, that you can do on our site and many others. Try adding 900 of that item to the cart. If the site is configured like ours it will say something like, “Sorry we’ve adjusted the total to the quantity available.” You’ll have something like 12 in your cart, and there you have it. The insiders view into our inventory. Still call though if you want, we like talking.


The Sam in many ways, a few ways, is the best all-around bike we’ve ever made. It’s not better than the Homer, but it costs like $1,000 to $1,300 less, and that has to count. It came after the Homer, so benefited from things learned from the Homer.

They ride identically enough that I can’t tell which bike I’m on.  I have a Homer-on-the-big side for me (a rare 60), and a Sam-on-big-side, a 56. They both fit fine, I ride them the same amount, both are set up alike, and when I’m not looking I can’t tell, and at any point on any ride I might not even know. This was the plan—to make the Sam ride like the Homer.

The second top tube doesn’t hurt anything. It must make the bike laterally stiffer, better for touring with a load, but since I have my Atlantis for that, I don’t put the 2TT to the test.

The Sam’s made in Taiwan. The SOUND of those syllables isn’t musical, but that it’s not musical is —- because we associate, still, deep down and from years of seeing it plastered on toys and junk, those same words.

I’ve been to many bike shops and factories, from one-manners to Bridgestone, with maybe seven others in between. Panasonic, Wford, Match, Toyo, and many small custom shops. They’re all impressive in their way, but none is more impressive than the one that makes the Sam. It’s big enough to require efficiency. There’s no pipe-smoking gnomes contemplating the next hand-miter there, but there’s also no rush. The floor is the cleanest I’ve ever seen. Each operation has a specialist who learns perfection by repetition, exactly the way you want your surgeon to learn it. There’s no sign of rushing, just of no wasted movements, no backtracking an oops, or anything like that. The frames are checked for alignment at various stages, and there are in-house testing machines that use hydraulics and computers to replicate specific tests.

Even if you don’t ask for test results (we do), they test the frames, because they’re in the loop and they want to know. It’s a comforting level of concern, and not at all what you might expect when you think of a “Taiwan bike factory.”