Great time to buy a Sam. Two colors to choose from. Build kit prices going up NEXT WEEK. Next is shipment in June… so if you need a bike for the season read up. - Dave
The Sam Fleet. Enough sizes to fit most people. All sizes in stock!
Sam Hillborne is a beautiful bicycle with smart features that make it practical and reliable at a price most working adults can stomach. And unlike this year’s comparably priced laptop or tv model, it won’t be broken or obsolete in three years. It’s a lifer. Beautiful, smart, practical, reliable and in its own way economical.
Sam Hillborne is a bike with a human name.
Any self-respecting bike needs decals and most bike names are silly anyways, so instead of “seeing what sticks” with a name like Excelsior or Executive or Exclusivo, we opted for a normal name. And in America in 2008, Sam Hillborne was a normal name. If you’re a near-normal person with near-normal needs, this will be a great bike for you.
A 58cm Sam Hillborne with Moustache bars.
Since 2008 or so, because of the versatile design and big value, Sam is our best seller. There have been a few minor adjustments to the color and sizing, but now-in-2014 this updated write up should get all the facts straight.
A 55cm Sam with a typical drop handlebar setup. The number one complaint we hear from customers with other drop-bar bikes (popular new ones, most old ones) is that they are too low and far away. Not a problem on a Sam. Easy to get them up, see? You could always go down.
What in Sam Hill is it?
It’s a country bike. That’s what we call it. But most people don’t know what that is exactly so to kowtow to categorization here we go: Road tourer.
We shouldn’t be pigeonholing Sam like this, but for the prospective bike-shopper choosing options in an established category, we could say it’s a “road touring bike.” And it does that one thing better than any other bike we know of (we’ve tried ‘em all).
Sans-racks you’ve got your zippy mountain roadster. Just add racks for loads. Our 55cm, generally called “medium.” In any case our most popular size.
Let’s face it, for most of us, vacation days are precious and few, and full blown tours are quarterly at best. But the features that make Sam a great bike for a carrying food and camping gear and clothing around the country, make it equally smart for weekday commuting and weekend adventuring.
Like reducing your carbon footprint really effectively by cycling to work? Great bike for that. Grocery-getter basket-bike? Nails it! Like birdwatching and taking pictures in the far reaches of your regional parks every Sunday? No better vehicle. Occasional charity ride or big self-affirming road rides? Strip her down and throw some light tires on and off you go.
51cm Sam Hillborne with Albatross Bars.
So yes, you can still use it to pick up groceries after a century ride. It’s also nimble and more than able for fast fire-road rides with the right tires. There are plenty of tires to attire your Sam from gravel-grinding cross tires to light and zippy road slicks to bulletproof commuters. Off-road “expedition” tourers and single trackers should look to our other models like the Atlantis and Hunqapillar. For the rest of you.. Sam.
Everything that makes it a great touring bike also makes it a great commuter, camper or all-rounder.
Here’s some from the archives. If you do it just right, you can photograph bats at night with your flash. We do overnight campouts on Sams all the time. Go camping!
How does he do it?
When you look at touring today, you have many options ranging from factory race bikes with rack mounts to overkill overkill custom expedition fat bikes. They have their places and uses, but for touring (defined here as: “riding from town to town with your stuff, mostly on the road”) we’d say you need the following:
- Tough steel frame
- Comfortable seat
- Handlebars within reach
- Rack Mounts in the right place
- Fender Mounts in the right place
- Room for big tires
- Wiggle room for those big tires
- Room for the fenders
Let’s go down that list. It doesn’t get any tougher than lugged steel, and one advantage lugs have that welded frames don’t is that they can be repaired. When you start logging the miles on a bike, you get sentimentally attached, and when you crash it, if it ain’t lugged, into the garbage it goes, a sad fate for the machine you spent a paycheck on years back.
Comfortable saddle: get the Brooks b17. They have a proven reputation (read about it elsewhere) with long distance riders. One thing nobody talks about is that they were designed 100 years ago when seat-tube angles were much slacker and saddles had much shorter useable rail space. Combine those two things and you have the common predicament of not being able to get the Brooks saddle back far enough on a modern road geometry. If that’s speaking Martian to you, take away this: Designed for the B17. Other saddles work fine too.
58cm Sam with a Brooks B.17 Saddle. Notice easy high bars.
Research all you want, any competition we have out there doesn’t put the bar-exit point high enough. Bar exit height should be listed on every bike’s geometry charts. Visualize it from where the stem comes out of the headset to the ground.
Discomfort, the number one reason we get referrals from local shops, their customers want the handlebars higher and closer and nothing they have in stock gets them there. When it’s too low, all your weight is on your hands and your position on the bike is more standing, less sitting. After a few hours, it’s miserable. For quick fast jams on a race bike, this is okay, but all day… uck. Lower back pain, taco neck, pins & needles, crackly joints, why do that to yourself? To those who just caught the touring bug, trust us on this one, for veteran touristos, duh.
Rack and fender mounts (called braze-ons in our case) are in the right place for our racks and regular ol’ generic bike-shop touring racks.
Sam Hillborne fits 40mm+ tires and fenders with wiggle room. You might be in the skinny tire camp but you’ll come around and thank us for the flexibility. Don’t need fenders? Fine, you can now put 45mm tires (even some 50s with the right rims and brakes). The best road touring tires out there generally tick in around 38mm. Even with a fender you have room so if you hit a blind pothole and dent your rim (hard to do with a big tire, but possible) the wheel doesn’t jam against the frame. Wiggle room is essential in a touring frame.
Where are they made?
That’s the Pacific Ocean in the middle there.
Sam Hillbornes are made in Taiwan at a factory we visit regularly that has the cleanest facilities and strictest quality control of any we’ve seen. And the Sam demands their best brazers, doing their best work.
Taiwan is the steel and bicycle capital of the world and it’s no surprise that they can produce great frames at impossible to beat prices, while maintaining clean and happy work environments. Our American made frames cost more and have some frilly details we won’t even go into mentioning here. Both the imported and domestic frames qualify under our banner of best bikes in the world.
The frames are inspected, prepped and assembled into complete bikes here in Walnut Creek California. When you call to change a part, we just run across the building. It’s a small operation. You’ll get excellent service.
These are some of the guys you’ll likely talk to. Mechanics and salesmen, a few friends in there too.
When can I get one?
Timing is always subject to change, but if it’s in-stock, (call now to see 800-345-3918) there’s a two week turnaround on the build and maybe another few days to pack and ship it. We do the best assemblies that are worth the time. Our staff is here till the end guiding you through the parts and sizing. You’ll get the right bike.
Sometimes you’ll call when we’ve sold out of your size. It might be a few months (really) depending on a number of circumstances. Call 800 345 3918 for current availability. The earlier you get the ball rolling on this, the better it will work out for the whole process. A good time to call would be… now.
Why is it better than my old steel road bike?
Der schlopping tope tube. Now and then the Sam and other frames make a little stir in the “classic” bike community for it’s sloping top tube (it slopes UP from the seat-lug to the top head-lug) which some say “isn’t traditional.” Sloping top tubes have been around as long if not longer than flat or even down-slopers. But we don’t need to defend it, the slope is a back saver and means that you can go longer and farther without suffering.
So many cheap production steel bikes exist with the stock-level tubage they’ve become what people associate with normal, but there’s no advantage to low bars. Wake up! It’s an advantage! Form follows function here, and function is beautiful. See it? If you insist on low bars… you can have that too, it’s just a few turns of a stem bolt. Slam away, raise them up, go hog wild till you find the bar height right for you.
Here’s a Sam in a discontinued color, but you get the idea. Where the stem comes out of the headtube there, you have more flexibility to perfect your handlebar height than any other bike we know of. Part of the advantage is the threaded steerer, all but gone from 99% of bikes being made today.
The Sam’s "expanded" design gives you high handlebars easier, best for comfort and looooong rides. It’s the opposite of the downer you see on some old track bikes and triathlon bikes. The downer looks fast in pictures and gives a theoretical aerodynamic advantage in sprints on manicured surfaces (what those bikes are good for) but in a touring or just-having-fun application, they’re just…. a downer. “Chin up cobber!” Lots of small bikes have upslopers already. Big bikes suffer when they don’t.
The expanded design means that Sam has a big head tube compared to most bikes. When that head tube gets really big, we stick in a second top tube to brace the frame. It should really be heretofore called a mid tube, but double tube stuck. This keeps it from flexing too much under load. When you’ve got front and back loads and an adult human on the bike, too much flex is bad. It makes descending scary. It makes climbing awkward. A little flex is fine, some say desirable, on an unloaded sprinter, but on the long-hauler it sucks.
So buy one already. We have all sizes at the time of this posting. 800 345 3918. We’ll make one that’s just right for you. Order before February first and save on the parts before our annual price adjustment.
Measure your Pubic Bone Height PBH. And match it up below.
51cm 650b = 78-83cm
55cm 700c = 83-87cm
58cm 700c = 87-91cm
62cm 700c = 91-96cm
If you have any questions at all just give us a call. (800)345-3918.