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  1. #1
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    Rivendell. Hate them? Love 'em? Read This.

    Even if you just don't care or are ambivalent this makes a great read:

    Rivendell: Against the Wind

    Rivendell Bicycle Works has existed barely ten years, and beginning even before its founding, it has managed to engender almost continuous controversy, as well as outpourings of both love and scorn.

    In 2006 it comprises merely ten people, plus a contract framebuilder and a painter for custom bikes, and a contract factory in Japan for production models; it has recently announced a French-style frame to be mass-hand-produced by Maxway, a respected Taiwan factory; it does nothing more radical than many other artisanal "bicycle ateliers" do; yet internet forums flame with contrary opinions over this tiny company, and both supporters and detractors have a tendency to get a little bug-eyed when engaged in frank and open exchanges of opinions on the matter.

    Rivendell builds bikes and sells parts, which is not unusual in the bicycle business. So why, then, all the fuss?

    Perhaps it is simply that Rivendell, by virtue of its very existence (even if it didn't regularly and emphatically speak its collective mind) exposes some of the gentle delusions (and sometimes outright lies) that the bicycle industry in America lives by in these early years of what will probably become — with the help of companies such as Rivendell — the Bicycle Millennium.

    The bicycle industry in the US sells Technological Advancement! It sells Power and Mastery! It sells Big Air and Daredevil Skills! It sells World Conquering Fitness! And it sells a lot of racing bikes to people who don’t race; it reluctantly sells a whole lot of lumbering, ill-fitted hybrids as city bikes to people who barely know how to ride; and it introduces its children to cycling on the garish, barely-functional imbecilities excreted through the just-in-time supply guts of Wal*Mart and its ilk. Whether you spend thirty dollars or three thousand, whether you buy TIG-welded Chinese steel or carbon fiber hand-laid in Midwest clean rooms, if you buy your bike through any sort of mainstream purveyor, you are most likely to end up with a bicycle you will rarely use. Perhaps never use after the first disappointing weeks.

    If you're lucky enough, and persistent enough, to stick with bicycling despite the difficulties of buying a reasonable bike in the US and riding it on the public ways, you will — if you haven't much money — end up buying a used classic built between 1965 and 1985, or you will — if you do have money — go to an artisanal framebuilder and wait several months to get a bike built to your needs.

    Oddly enough, Grant Petersen, founder of Rivendell, feeds both those channels; custom and high-end production bikes through Rivendell, and classic '80s designs through the dwindling but revered remnants of Bridgestone's bicycle production during his stewardship in the late '80s and early '90s.
    Defining the Bicycle

    A quote from Rivendell's website says it nicely and plainly:

    We're a ten-year-old manufacturer and mail-order bike shop for bike riders who prefer traditional, classical bicycles and parts and accessories to today's ever-changing high-tech fare…. Sometimes people hear "classical" or "traditional" in the context of bicycles, and think turn-of-the-century highwheelers or '50s ballooners, or English three-speeds, or restoring vintage racing bicycles. Those are good pursuits, but they're not our deal. We just like to ride bikes, and are more influenced by the pure, practical, and beautiful design ethics of the '70s to late'80s…. We offer gear for cyclists who can't relate to the aggressive, thrill-seeking and/or body-shaping approach that passes as normal today. Our bikes are designed and built to withstand a lifetime of long, hard, fast riding and racing, if that's what you're up to, but we don't go out of our way to appeal to the rambunctious, speed-before-all crowd.

    Sounds innocent enough, you'd think. But Grant was famously labeled a "retro-grouch" a decade ago by a glossy bike rag editor for the crime of recommending lugged steel frames, 36 spoke wheels, and the infamous moustache handlebar for workaday bike commuters. Some even blamed the moustache bar for the closing of Bridgestone USA, since a couple of Bridgestone models came with this elegant sort of curving flat bar. In fact, Bridgestone closed the US bicycle division when the dollar fell too far against the yen to keep it profitable.

    Grant kept up the tradition of neotraditionalism with Rivendell–in fact, he now had the opportunity to run free with the concept, since it was all his show. So Rivendell offers not just lugged steel frames, but elaborate, nearly Victorian curlicues on the lugs; it lists not only the moustache bar but two or three new curves of traditional (non-ergo) drop bars; it even sells you a $2300.00 custom frame, then suggests that you dress it with a twenty-dollar wire bike basket (made in a Kentucky hollow!) for shopping trips.

    Frankly, this shouldn’t bother anyone. If people want to buy it they will. If people don’t want to buy it, the business will fail. But they buy it. There's a considerable waiting list for custom frames, and production models often sell out in two or three months. It's not a megacorporate business; it's a mom-and-pop bicycle design and marketing firm, and it just gets by. But it offers something few other entities in this advertising-addled world do, and what it offers is just plain wonderful for real-world riding.

    One of Grant's — and therefore Rivendell's — fundamental dogmas is tire clearance. He feels that even a sporty bike should give you room to put a largish tire on. We're not talking huge knobbies or anything here — maybe a 28mm or even 32mm tire instead of the 20-23mm common on sport bikes today. With room for fenders in case you commute and have to ride in the rain. And to allow you the freedom to ride a gravel road if it goes somewhere interesting.

    You can always use a small tire if you want to, if you only ride fast on smooth roads. But on most modern road bikes you can't use anything else. And most modern hybrids are something you wouldn't want to ride long or far, as they're just not comfortable after the first two or three miles — the upright seating puts all the load on your back, the handling is heavy, and they are slow.

    So Grant says, make road bikes that can go beyond their definition.

    And this irritates the hell out of those who have defined the modern road bike.

    What? Steel? Not carbon fiber? What? Elegant and inexpensive quill stems that let you adjust your bike without buying a sack of spacers? What? Leather saddles still made to a design a hundred years old? What? Bar-end shifters instead of integrated, never-quite-in-adjustment brake/shift levers? What? Long wheelbases, instead of ultra-quick handling for cutting off the other guy in a sprint? Blasphemy! Burn them at the stake!

    And they label Grant a Luddite.

    They don't look at the exotic steels he specs for his frames, or the finely-tuned geometries that make the bikes both quick and stable (as Bridgestone were). They just see something that looks quaint, and that is attempting to redefine the market for bicycles, so that they are seen not as expensive toys for overgrown-but-wealthy adolescents, but as tools for interacting with the world, with society, with an economy that doesn't depend on waste and false obsolescence to keep it going.

    The future, after all, belongs to the bicycle. Just not to the carbon-fiber whiz-bang wonder which, for all its speed, is as delicate as the racehorses it has supplanted in our cultural imagination. In a world where the choice has become a bicycle thoroughbred or a bicycle mule, Rivendell sells saddle horses.

    Maybe the US bike industry is really afraid that people will just notice what's going on.
    What Really Matters

    Because Rivendell believes that bicycles are important in the bigger world, it sells bicycle accessories that seem odd to anyone raised on bikeshop glitz and catalog splash ads, and it sells things that have nothing, really, to do with bicycles per se, but everything to do with the way of life of which bicycling is ideally a part. It sells bicycle bells–not cheap sweatshop-molded tringle bells, but beautiful brass ones from Japan, with a plaintive yet penetrating tone and a simple elegance that enhances the curves of Riv's Nitto-made handlebars. It sells absurdly expensive cloth and leather saddlebags that will last for two decades of daily commuting. It sells wool jerseys–not just wool, but plain wool, lacking even a single garish logo! It sells, famously, Grandpa's Pine Tar Wonder Soap, the best bath bar ever. It sells beeswax in paper cups. It sells hatchets, pencils, erasers, and fenders–each one the best of its kind.

    And it has just introduced the Bleriot, a handmade-in-Taiwan lugged steel "camping bike" in the French tradition–one that uses 650B wheels, a size that was always rare in the US but that has never died out in Europe or Japan. It's beautiful, sturdy, flexible, and cheap. And it will be available through QBP (Quality Bike Parts), meaning any bike shop anywhere will be able to order one, and the wheels for it, if you want.

    So now there are more choices in front of you than ever before. And that makes the megacorporate bicycle manufacturers nervous for some reason. And they once again accuse Grant of being a throwback.

    A throwback to what, you might ask. As it says in the Old Testament, "There is nothing new under the sun." In the Bella Cosa book Bicycles (Le Biciclette), you can see a photo of the Coventry Swift Dwarf Safety Roadster, the first modern bicycle–meaning one with two wheels more or less the same size and with chain drive. It came with a suspension fork. In 1880. You can also see a Softride-style bike, though its seat beam is made of laminated steel rather than carbon fiber. (Naturally, Rivendell used to sell this book.)

    You can read (in the Rivendell Reader) an illustrated article on classic French bicycles, and you will see cantilever brakes on aluminum frames as far back as 1930.

    You can see that most ancient bikes were welded, and that lugs were a step forward in strength, lightness, and style–and you realize that it took welding 100 years to catch up with lugs, and did so only after the development of supersteels such as Reynolds 853. And after you ride a few bikes of different types, you realize that in many cases, a well-made lugged steel bike just feels better. And it certainly lasts longer. And it's easy to fix if it breaks–and it's worth fixing if it does.

    You realize that future and past trends don’t matter so much, that it's bicycling that matters, and that when bicycling matters, oftentimes it's bicycles in the style of Rivendell that matter most.
    Sweet Subversion

    Grant really, quietly, and persistently wants to change the world. He believes that bicycles can save us from ourselves, from our profligate natures and our self-centered, self-defeating competitiveness. And he is committed to supplying bicycles that we can ride into a better future. Call him Arms Merchant to the Velorution.

    This habit of subversion started with Bridgestone, and the propaganda with the Bridgestone Owners Bunch (which still lives on as iBOB on the internet); they continue with Rivendell, its membership program, and the Rivendell Reader. It's a revolution that will return us to ourselves. And the movement is growing….

    Artisanal companies such as Kogswell, ANT, Vanilla, IRO, and dozens of others will sell you elegant and fast commuter bikes, mostly of lugged steel, often with–yes–moustache handlebars, at price points ranging from absurdly cheap to staggeringly expensive. Even BianchiUSA — descendant of one of the original large bicycle companies — is selling a cheap drop-bar fast commuter with only nine speeds! Called the Castro Valley, it's a fairly steady seller, and you can be sure that sales of that sort of bike will rise in the post-petroleum, post-debt, post-consumerist economy.

    Concurrently, the fixed-gear fascination is spreading from city to city, with many young people rolling serenely down the street on bikes that can't coast, bikes that require a real commitment to the bicycle. Rivendell, of course, now sells the QuickBeam, a ready-made singlespeed/fixie bicycle, and many more have recently jumped on that bandwagon.

    Other hipsters buy new-generation Dahon folders that fit neatly in their apartments. Icebike.com gives snow-country cyclists tips for year-round riding. And every day there's a few more bicycle commuters out on the streets.

    That's a good thing for us all. And so is Rivendell.
    ---------------
    I took this piece from: http://www.ebykr.com/?p=42

    There is some great pics of Rivendell on there too.
    http://www.rhizomes.nl/twenty.html
    My Tweaked and modded Raleigh Twenty. Lots of pictures and lots of general info on for example a different & Cheap Bottom Bracket solution as well as fork solution.

  2. #2
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Thanks !

    It was a great read.

  3. #3
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    Cool. Glad you liked it!

    Although i know it is (sadly) unlikely i hope the article will not only inform but cause people to stop maligning Rivendell and Grant. You don't see almost any people bad mouthing the CEO's of Trek, Bianchi or Specialized while one could find at least as many (and some might saybetter) reasons to do so than for Rivendell. But the best thing would be if everybody stopped talking smack about any bike manufacturer making decent kit.
    http://www.rhizomes.nl/twenty.html
    My Tweaked and modded Raleigh Twenty. Lots of pictures and lots of general info on for example a different & Cheap Bottom Bracket solution as well as fork solution.

  4. #4
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    Yada, yada, yada....

    Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad read, but anyone who has an opinion of Rivendell either way has most likely been exposed to all the ideas in that piece and has an opinion on them as well.
    Stomping as lightly as I can...

  5. #5
    Violin guitar mandolin
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    I suppose there are legitimate points. I'm a bit annoyed that my fancy carbon bike won't take 25 mm tires and doesn't like carrying weight. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to ride it! I just got another bike that will do the heavy stuff.

    I wouldn't be surprised if most bikes just sit around. Most guitars just sit around! Most kitchen stuff just sits around - very few of us wear out bicycles and kitchen stuff, although I've done both.

  6. #6
    `````````````` CaptainCool's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by v1nce View Post
    What? Steel? Not carbon fiber? What? Elegant and inexpensive quill stems that let you adjust your bike without buying a sack of spacers? What? Leather saddles still made to a design a hundred years old? What? Bar-end shifters instead of integrated, never-quite-in-adjustment brake/shift levers? What? Long wheelbases, instead of ultra-quick handling for cutting off the other guy in a sprint? Blasphemy! Burn them at the stake!
    What? Attacking a roadie straw man while defending a perfectly ordinary description of a modern touring bike? What?

  7. #7
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Longest post I've seen lately. Looking at the Reader reminds me a bit of reading the Whole Earth Catalog a long time ago.

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    Is Rivendell becoming the next BikesDirect? Have sales dropped at the Rivendell plant? Are we going to create another 500 post thread exposing newcomers to their website thus creating more sales?

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainCool View Post
    What? Attacking a roadie straw man while defending a perfectly ordinary description of a modern touring bike? What?
    The article attacks everyone who rides a bicycle. There's nothing worse than a "know it all" who tries push product by putting others down.

  10. #10
    Mooninite shakeNbake's Avatar
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    Thumbs down. For the reasons mentioned in the previous posts.

    Also:

    It's beautiful, sturdy, flexible, and cheap.
    beautiful: subjective
    sturdy: compared to what? Carbon bikes designed to be raced by 130lbs Spanish climber? No ****! (see strawman) Sturdier than other utilitarian bikes (Soma, IRO, etc.)? I Doubt it.
    flexible: bad, bad word to use in a bike review
    cheap: hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

  11. #11
    Spandex free since 1963! HauntedMyst's Avatar
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    Ummm, what was the point of that article? I like Rivendell but that marketing fluff disguised as an article just wasted minutes out of my life for no good reason.

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    It might be good to remember that the article was written by an avid (and knowledgeable, judging by his many articles) cyclist on a little known blog, so in that sense it is not marketing. What does the author have to gain? Nothing. Hence it is an opinion not marketing.

    Also the Bleriot is cheap indeed. Pretty much all other models could be said to be cheap if one factors in their durability, versatility and craftmanship. And the fact that Rivendell is a tiny outfit. They are offering bikes that can do almost anything reasonably well, should last a lifetime and are pretty much custom. While they do all that they offer them at prices about the same as the of the rack Carbon machines offered by Huge manufacturers with Huge economies of scale. By comparison most Carbon's simply can not employ larger tires, do not do well at all with more weight, are not apt for touring, can not weather suffering minor damage and should last a few years to a decade at best.

    Which if the two is a better deal or more beautiful is indeed a personal and subjective thing, but if we are going to compare prices let's factor in all the qualities and circumstances i mention above...

    And btw i love bikes by IRO, Surly, Soma, Kogswell etc.! I am not advocating "Rivendell or Death!" I am advocating that people consider the alternatives to the more typical offerings and consider them fairly. In fact i have never bought anything by Rivendell and were i to buy a new frame or complete it would be more likely be by one of the brands above. But i might buy some smaller gear from Grant since i like his outfit, want to support him rather than the big boys and he has some doo dads that almost nobody else has.
    Last edited by v1nce; 11-25-07 at 02:39 AM.
    http://www.rhizomes.nl/twenty.html
    My Tweaked and modded Raleigh Twenty. Lots of pictures and lots of general info on for example a different & Cheap Bottom Bracket solution as well as fork solution.

  13. #13
    jcm
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    No matter whether there are underlying or overt opinions in the article, or in Grant's world view, I would love to have an Atlantis, a Romulus, or an ANT Rohloff model. I like the super light wonder bikes that technology has provided, too. It's like cheating - but within the New Rules, so to speak. Unfortunately, I don't have the bucks for either, so, no matter the market niche, I don't qualify.

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    Quote Originally Posted by v1nce View Post
    Even if you just don't care or are ambivalent this makes a great read:

    Rivendell: Against the Wind ....
    I would definitely agree that a lot of (US) riders end up buying racing-style models, when often that's not the ideal setup for them.

    What I disagree with (since getting into recumbent bikes) is that there's much significant difference between what Rivendell sells and what they don't.
    ~

  15. #15
    www.chipsea.blogspot.com ChipSeal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by v1nce View Post
    ...Our bikes are designed and built to withstand a lifetime of long, hard, fast riding...
    I don't want to buy a heirloom, I just want a good efficient bike!

    Gee whiz! The bike I own will not be the last bike ever for me. (Assuming I am alive and physically able to ride.) I bought my CF Dura-ace equipped bike last December, I have put 6,600 miles on it and expect many more years of use.

    But in the next 5-10 years I will buy another high quality, cutting edge CF frame. (Or a whole bike!) Will it be because my present bike has "worn out"? I doubt it. CF frame building is still learning how best to apply the material to cycling, and it has come a long way, but there is more to come. (See the new Madone for example.)

    Please note: This is what works for me and my values. I thank God I live in America where there are so many choices available to me. Your mileage may vary.
    Vehicular cycling techniques have not been tried and found difficult. They have been presumed difficult and not tried.

  16. #16
    RacingBear UmneyDurak's Avatar
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    And this irritates the hell out of those who have defined the modern road bike.
    No what irritates is the holier then thou attitude of some of the Rivendell owners, and being put down and insulted because they chose to buy a road bike made from modern materials, and components. Don't believe me? Look in to any Rivendell post, you can't read a page without encountering such an attitude and terms like "poseur" being used.
    I see hills.... Bring them on!!!
    Stay calm and bring a towel.

  17. #17
    blithering idiot jhota's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shakeNbake View Post
    cheap: hahahahahahahahaha... etc.
    though i like Rivendell, i've got to agree with this "statement."

    $750 for a frameset or over $2000 for a complete bike is in no way "cheap." sure, it's less expensive than any of their other frames - but that's not saying much.

    i've also got to agree with the folks who take exception to the goofy 650B wheel size. so it used to be popular in France. so what? that's nae really an endorsement. and so what that QBP stocks it! my local shop isn't QBP. realizing that i'm going to be painted as a "wants everything now American," i like to be able to get parts same day. what if i actually decide to use this touring bike as a touring bike? and i prang a rim on a kerb in East Nowhere, TN? nothing like waiting an extra five days or so for rural parts deliveries...

    i'd dearly love an Atlantis, though...

  18. #18
    Stratiotika ktemata
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    The article attacks everyone who rides a bicycle. There's nothing worse than a "know it all" who tries push product by putting others down.
    After reading that marketing copy, I had a flashback to every Apple commercial in the past 5 years and almost killed myself.

  19. #19
    Senior Member barba's Avatar
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    There are things I find admirable about Rivendell, but this article is not one of them.

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    Some people still seem to be confused about the fact that the article was written by a private person About Rivendell, the article is NOT by Rivendell!!!

    Implying that you dislike Rivendell (even more) because someone unaffiliated wrote an article you don't like,.. it is like,... well it is just incredibly obtuse!
    http://www.rhizomes.nl/twenty.html
    My Tweaked and modded Raleigh Twenty. Lots of pictures and lots of general info on for example a different & Cheap Bottom Bracket solution as well as fork solution.

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    As for cheap, fair enough, i am not about to tell anyone what they should find cheap as this is so relative.

    But let me put it this way, if i ever wanted to buy a Rivendell even i could! And due to choice/my preferred lifestyle i only make about $ 1200 a month! Yet i could easily save up the cash and buy one.

    An old saying comes to mind: 'Quality is long remembered after Price is forgotten'.

    This would apply to a bike that should last a lifetime.

    But once again, at present i don't intend to buy one, i have enough bikes for now.
    http://www.rhizomes.nl/twenty.html
    My Tweaked and modded Raleigh Twenty. Lots of pictures and lots of general info on for example a different & Cheap Bottom Bracket solution as well as fork solution.

  22. #22
    Bourbon junkie ricebowl's Avatar
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    I strongly disagree. It's 3am I'm having trouble sleeping and I still want my five minutes back.

    Quote Originally Posted by v1nce View Post
    Even if you just don't care or are ambivalent this makes a great read:

  23. #23
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    Well you have every right to disagree, and we are all blessed with free will,... You could have decided to stop reading at any point or in fact from the onset disregarded my opinion that it made a great read.

    Hope you get some sleep. I got insomnia sometimes, it sucks.
    http://www.rhizomes.nl/twenty.html
    My Tweaked and modded Raleigh Twenty. Lots of pictures and lots of general info on for example a different & Cheap Bottom Bracket solution as well as fork solution.

  24. #24
    CRIKEY!!!!!!! Cyclaholic's Avatar
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    Here's a summary of the article in case you don't want to read the whole thing...

    "Rivendell - our ***** doesn't stink, that's why we expect you to pay $750 for a $400 steel frame."

  25. #25
    Senior Member d2create's Avatar
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    This whole thread is just one of the many reasons I love my Riv.
    2008 Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen
    Pics and Specs Here!

    2010 Specialized Rockhopper 29er

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