101 PBH = 68cm Bombadil

Mark builds, maintains, races & rides some of the finest bicycles around. I think his custom cross bike is a testament to that.


Clem Smith Jr. ‘xplanation

Not that it’s owed, but there’s nothing to hide and we’re all in this together, right? I feel that way. There’s been slight hubub over the new cheapo bike we”re making—the Clem Smith Jr.

First, tho: What a fantastic thing that you care.  This is not a corollary to “any publicity is good publicity,” the thing friends say when you’re publicly being called a simon pure labrick. (First one to PM me with the literary reference wins $25 credit, but for the love of god, don’t google it, OK? I know I can trust you. You know I’ll sic my hacker on you if you do…)

Yes, it’s wonderful that you care and are defending lugs and our reputation and strength. Not just PM (different PM than the one above), but no doubt many others. I am not comparing us to Bob Dylan going electric in 1965 and bumming the folkies, but ten worlds away it’s kind of the same.

I recently saw a Salgado photo show, the most amazing photos I’ve ever seen, and I know he USED to shoot Leica and Hasselblad, and I don’t want to know if he’s now shooting a half-the-weight digital bubbly camera with no corners. It’s kind of like that, too.

Here’s the story.

When we started in late ‘94 bikes were starting to get odd and go downhill (from my perspective), but there were still PLAIN bikes at the low to middle price ranges. The racertechnocracy hadn’t yet trickled down, and an affordable bike was likely steel, strongish, and lacked suspension. It may have had a threaded headset, even. And, back then, there were lots of ten year old used bikes up for grabs, so even if the epidemic of complication had taken over by the late ’90s, the good ol’ past wasn’t too distant, and the old bikes were all over the place.

But now, in 2014, the big picture has changed some, and it’s not 100 percent like that anymore. There have been enough decades between the super ’80s and now. The all-steel Stumpjumper Sports and Bianchi Grizzlies and Bstone MB-whatevers have been dumped or collected, and even if you can find one, by the time you spiff it up, it’s now an $800 bike that’s still 25 to 30 years old and needs a  paint job. That’s nobody’s idea of a good time.

The point is, YES, lugs are still and always will be the preferred way to join steel tubes, but there’s a bigger picture to address now, and that’s Decent Cheap Bikes. (I use “cheap” as “inexpensive,” not “shoddy.”)

In 2014 there’s a shortage of good basic bikes that are unaffected by racing and fancy technology. Now the entry level and midpriced bikes are just crummier versions of race bikes, and you can see that happening with all widgets (not just bikes), but in Most Widgets it’s a good thing. Cell phones that take better pictures than the Canon G3 digital camera of 2001, for instance. But in bikes it’s a bad thing. On another level it even seems shameful, the way the less expensive bikes seem to hang onto the coattails of the fancies and shout out “see? We’re like them, but more affordable!”

I know about and like Somas and Surlys, and there are  others, too. I don’t want to pick them apart to promote CSJ. I want to say, tho, that CSJ will come from a different place, and that place is here, and it’ll be reconIZABLY here—for better or worse, but holy cow, the Clem will be a contender.

We’re told often—like, many times a week, not just “several times a year,” that somebody likes our bikes but can’t afford them. I know they like the lugs. I know that doing a pure tig bike is not the answer for them, and that’s why even the less-lugged Clem will have…lugs. Not as many and not as complex, but it’ll be clearly our bike, and I’ll it’s going to be that desirable in its own way. I won’t blend in with the oldies, and it’ll still obviously be one of ours.

More important, it’ll be a totally great bike for somebody whose budget absolutely stops at less than $1500.

None of our bikes have ever been “market driven” in the sense that we pay attention to trends and try to head them off at the pass. One of the few luxuries (along with headbadges) of being small is being able to ignore trends. Some would say doing so guarantees that we’ll stay small. Let me say that “staying small” is not the goal. The goal is to continue to employ people, to lay a foundation that has a life beyond me so that Will won’t  find himself looking for work when he’s in his mid-thirties, unless he wants to. And the goal is to populate the world, even in a small way, with bikes that will still be good in 30 to 40 years.

Those things, I THINK, require that we not be market-driven.

So the Clem will be an odd duck of a bike, and an unlikely bike, but a good one for us and anybody who gets it…and it’s still a way off. It’ll be wildly unlike any other  bike we’ve done or that exists today. Anyway…..that’s about it. With the CLEM we’ll be serving riders who can’t get up the do-re-mi for a fully lugged ultra-‘del, but still want something special.

Besides, it’s the decal-letter clarity and the way they contrast at the edges with the paint. You can’t put letter color on frame color just like that—you need “muffler” lines to make it look right. We’ve used dark blue or black a lot, and these years usually do black outside the cream with gold outside the black, and the thin lines there make a good transition, and that’s all part of the look of the bike. It’s also the tube dimensions relative to the tire dimensions, and the saddle and stem height. You don’t shoot for a certain saddle and stem height, but when the bike is right and fits, those things fall into place…and are part of the bike maybe not as much as the lugs, but in the case of CSJ, they neutralize at least some negatory points the low-brow welds might contribute. If an all-steel/all-tig ‘88 MTB scores points for its simplicity, then why not a 2014 Clem, which on of its simplicity, too? And on top of its simplicity, there are details that jump out at you or sneak up on you, which you’ll see.

Did I say this already? Mark, Jared, and Brian picked the colors.

Olivier did the decals and badge. He knows what’s acceptable here, and five years of Swiss design school and almost 20 years of experience have refined his taste and strengthened his opinions.

Here’s a way, maybe the best way to look at the CLEM. Would the world of bikes be better off with it or without it? Would it exist if we didn ‘t do it? (No on that one.)

There will be three sizes and three wheel sizes: 45/26…52/27.5…59/29. So, twenty-six, 650B, and 700C, all with tubby tire clearance. Their may be a Clementine, too.


The SILVER crank is about 9 months off and will be as nice a crank as you’ve seen, as long as we can nail the right finish on it, and that’s not a sure thing by any means. We may throw up our hands and say “OKOK, good enough!” at some point, but whatever the finish is, the crank beneath it will be another jab at the direction cranks are moving, and of course that’s not the point.


Red and yellow, black and white….

Our dominant concern here these days is trying to raise enough money to pay for an incoming shipment of Cheviots, right after a shipment of Sams. It never ends, it seems, these cash flow problems, but it IS a luxurious problem to have in the same month as the ebola virus, ISIS, Scotland’s future, and all of that.

BUT in the NYT a few days ago there was a column that’s worth intervening for. On the surface it’s about football player Adrian PetersOn’s beating up on his 4-year old, but deeper down it’s more far-reaching, and there’s some history and perspective that fills in some cracks for all of us. Although the focus is on black people (which include those who are not African Americans), this kind of stuff goes on all over the world, etc.

Here we go:



On a lighter note, we’re working on a handlebar bag for the Albastache bar, and of course it’ll also work for the Moustache H’bar, I’m sure. Three months out, but it’s coming.

And I think we’ve mentioned before that we’re coming up with a new cheaper bike. It’s NOT going to have all the culiqued—curlicued—oh my, how does one spell CURL-EE-Q’d ?—details of a Sam or Homer or any of our other bikes. But it won’t be blatantly bland, either. There will be some points to love in it, things to look at, stuff to trust. The name is — I think we’ve put it out there already, but it’s the Clem Smith Jr. I think we’ve put it out there because we’ve gotten a few calls on it, asking, and some of the guys here don’t know what to say about it. We all KNOW about it, but there’s the concern about leaking too much too early.

Here’s the deal so far:

Who: Clem Smith Jr.

What: A fat-tired towny bike with touring and trail possibilities and for us, a super  inexpensive one. Not made in China.

Where: I don’t know what “where” means in this context.

When: March?

Why: Because lots of people can’t afford $2600 for a bike, and although there are a FEW good bikes that sell for a thousand or more less, there aren’t all that many, and we figure we can do as good a job (+) as anybody. Also, even if you have a more expensive bike, you might want or need a less precious bike for trips to the Dollar Mart, or for locking up in the alley by the Pachinko parlor.

How: How will we get the price so low (shooting for $1500 rideable)? Some tig, but not all. Maybe cheaper pedals, maybe cheaper but still good wheels. It might not even come with a front derailer, so..THERE!

But it will be a special bike, fully in keeping…

We have three unpainted sample frames, and we’re changing one thing on the head tube, and I brazed the changes on. I am not a framebuilder. I design them, but we have pros build them to our specs. But this was an easy job and I do know how to braze, and managed to put the things where I wanted them to go, and now we’ll paint them and will soon show  photos of Assembled Clems, but no detailed shots of the flubby fixed area. With luck, two weeks.



Customer Ken made a lip-balm holder, the Beta-version of which is shown here. I BELIEVE it’s all in good fun/tongue-in-cheek, but one never knows. I assume there are fewer than a handful in the world right now, and I’m pleased to have one. Thanks, Ken.


Every time I use the restroom here I see this, clipped from the paper more than 7 years ago and preserved with thick plastic tape.


The caption reads:

Israeli riot police met resistance yesterday as they removed Jewish settlers from illegal residences in the West Bank cit of Hebron. As one settler was carried off near the market, an officer rushed to pick up the man’s glasses from the ground.

So: They’re on opposite sides, and this nice thing. I may have posted this seven years ago, but I forget. Anyway, it’s worth a repost.


Yesterday a really good friend, Japanese guy I’ve known and worked with for 26 years (he imports Nitto for us, and communicated our wishes to NITTO) came over for a week to commemorate:

1. His 50th b’day

2. And the 20th Anniv of Bstone closing and RBW getting off the ground.

And he brought me this T-shirt from the last month of Bstone:


I didn’t arrange for these and I was too nervous to be INTO it at the time—-I was losing a job and just lost my mom and getting a new baby in two weeks, and I was wound up  in other stuff, like how’m I going to provide for the family (an ongoing concern…but especially then). So I didn’t even get one of these, but I got one now. And two days ago a Japanese bike journalist who freelances for Bstone came by and shot photos and interviewed, because there’s some interest in RBW’s connection with Bstone. Most of the guys I knew there are long gone, but at least one is not. The story is old news here and not that interesting, and it’s in the catalogue, but he’ll tell some version of it over there, maybe.

He alluded to Bstone having a faint whiff of interest  in the US market, but it’s a different company now, so many things different, and if BStone-Japan were to come back, you’d be insane to think they’d have 1989 MB-1s and 1993 XO-1s and all that. I’d actually like to see them try, and I mean that in the nice way, not the snide way. I’d follow it as closely as anybody. There’s a 1-in-100 chance they’d re-enter.

The big bike market is so, so strange weird and nutty to me. I read the trade magazines, and I’m glad we’re not a part of it. Whatever moans I have here, I’m so grateful not to be THERE.

Don’t forget to click on this link:


Amazing Color-changing Cheviots

If you’re interested call soon, because not too many. 800 345 3918.

Top photo: Cheviots are on their way as we type. Most are orange, just like the last ones, but a few are this amazing “Chameleon” color that changes between green, gold and brown. It’s a green that wobbles. Sea-sick green? They call it “Chameleon.” We’re having fun with it, it’s fun, it’s a color right at home on a 90s drop-top Camaro.

We’re taking a gamble on the marketability of the world’s first (and possibly last) production lugged-steel color-changing mix-te. Will it go the way of the SpeedBlend™ Ruffy Tuffies? Good thing we only got a few.

Bottom photo: here’s that same Chameleon color on a prototype frame. It’s a better picture and shows the color better. The Cheviots won’t have cream headtubes though. See top photo. This frame is in our showroom if you want to see it.

Want one? Limited quantity coming. Six per size. First caller to plunk down a 75% deposit gets one.

Other Things from the email update

"An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory." - Fredrich Engels

Jellybean Contest

Guess how many Sams in a ton.

We don’t booth at InterBike anymore but our Sam Hillborne made a splash at the Brooks display. Thanks guys! (all i could find online... look at 0:55)

Our latest shipment of Sam Hillbornes arrived today. Guess how many we got and maybe win something based on the following info.

  • The cargo manifest weighed it in at just over a long (metric) ton.
  • This includes six wooden (not blue) pallets
  • 51cm, 55cm, and 62cm frames all weigh a little different, and the batch was mixed, we won’t say how many of each size (no 58s this time because we have them already)
  • headsets and bottom brackets installed
  • generous cardboard and styrofoam packaging included in the weight
  • 100 soon-to-be-announced dyno hubs and skewers among them

That’s all you’ve got to work with. Place an order online between now and midnight PST Friday and put your guess in the order notes. Correct guesses will get a small limited edition prize included in their order, valued at around a buck. Till we run out. We have about a hundred of these prize things. Incorrect guesses get a Sam Brochure, not bad.

Then on Monday, five randomly selected correct answers will get a gift certificate for $25, $50, $75, $100 or $125. We’ll contact you directly if you win.

All you’ve gotta do is guess in the order notes BEFORE SATURDAY… and be right. No minimum order.

New and Noteworthy

New Black Pletscher t-shirts available here. Great cotton tees made in America, logoed in America, and sold from America, but proud of their Swissness just the same.

It’s been too long since the last Riv-Vid. This one is sure to stir up the pot a little…. read the disclaimer a few times before watching. View it here.

Handsome new grey wool zips from Sweden. These are staff favorites that were only available at our Hatchet shop downtown. Now we have enough for you too. Also available in green.

New light bright from SoCal guys at Cygolite. You know, the usual: smaller, brighter, cheaper, the wheel goes round.

We gone done and did it, ordered up a custom batch of wool blankets from New Zealand Rivendell style in hopes of triggering an industry-wide trend towards bike blankets that would practically require sales of our larger than average saddlebags. Read about them and buy them here. Only a few, cuz gosh they are expensive. Cats go nuts for them. Just in time for those early evening sunset S4Ps (Sub 4 hour picnics). Be romantic like that. Wear your new wool zip.

New Coupon!

"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee."    -Abraham Lincoln

Use coupon code:


for 10% off the following coffee & tee related products till October 1st. While supplies last.

Aeropress & Filters
Trangia cooksets
Nitto Tees
Pletscher Tees

This Homer goes everywhere man. S&S couplers allow the customer to fold it in half and fit in a bag for travel.

Fork battle for pink slips….

This is an awful thing, but it does happen

Howdy from the Shipping Department,

Robert and I send out hundreds of orders per week, while Will and Sean send out close to a dozen bicycles and frames per week (sometimes even more).

We are all top-notch and put a lot of care and effort and thought into each individual package that leaves our hands, no matter what size it is. If you’ve ordered from us, you’ve seen it. Years ago, way before I began at RBW, I worked as a package handler (then courier, eventually) for a Major Shipping Company and have seen firsthand what happens to poorly packed items. A simple YouTube search of “UPS/Fedex throwing packages" can bring hundreds of videos that’ll probably bring you an emotion that falls somewhere between horror and amazement and rage. (And let me tell you, the videos are tame in comparison to what goes on behind the scenes in the hubs.)

Sam & the Void

After the next, incoming Sams of next week, we’re putting ol’ Sam on ‘old for a couple of years…is the plan. We had a rare meeting about it and it seems dumb or strange to do this “to” our most popular bike, we had to, to make room for two new models we’ve got coming up next year. One is the Clem Smith Jr., the other is so far unnamed, but don’t be surprised if “Buffalo” is in there somewhere, maybe with a first name tagged onto it, so  it’ll feel at home with A. Homer Hilsen, Sam Hillborne, and Betty Foy. Save your “Norton Buffalo” comments—that’s not happening and I can’t name one song from them, and we wouldn’t name a great bike after a Norton Buffalo song, anyway.

But a point I’d like to make is that although it’s always a good time to order a Sam from us, now is an especially good time. The last forseeable run of Sams are in a barge on the Pacific.

We also have a Cheviot order shipping next week, and they’ll be here after a few weeks in their own barge. Half will Cheviot orange, half a new greenish brown, reminiscent of but more lustrous than the old green Raleighs. No photos yet. Although, if you scroll down on the blog a little you’ll see a prototype frame teaser photo to the same green. We’re only getting half the run this color, so plan ahead.