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  1. #1
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    Empty My Cup, and Start Over

    For some time now, I have been trying to make my cycling more "pure" and less adulterated by the constant pressure to buy the latest-greatest-lightest-biggest-bling-for-the-buck. Admittedly, I have utterly failed over the past 2 years, as I went from a Trek to a Specialized to a Litespeed. I even tried mountain/off-road cycling (which I really enjoy), but that too had its issues at complicating what otherwise should be a simple pleasure.

    The first whiff of epiphany came to me while attending my LCI course in August of '05, where I had thought everyone would be riding some sort of racing machine.

    Observation # 1: Those bikes are called "racing" bikes for a reason; they are meant to race; to go fast. Their secondary concern (or even tertiary concern) is comfort and enjoyment of the rider.

    A guy at my LCI session was riding this amazingly beautiful steel machine, with exquisite lugs, a Brooks leather saddle, and a sweet canvas-type saddle bag. The bike didn't look fast, but it looked smooth and regal, mature and refined. That, I thought, is a bike. I was riding a machine; he was riding a piece of art. My bike was otherwise replaceable and expendible; his bike was to be cared for like a faithful companion.

    Since then, I have been struggling with defining why I ride. I have tried not to allow my cycling to be an ego supplement, and I have tried to avoid riding with others who see their bikes as mere toys, like the next-best golf club. The bike is to be respected, treated with respect, shown respect, and the roads to be treated as the canvas, with the bike being the pallette.

    With this mindset, however, I found myself very alone, isolated, as if everyone else "got it" and I was off on some crusade, the fool wandering the desert looking for nirvana and enlightenment. I didn't want to be wrong, but I also don't want to be the fool wandering alone.

    I was fortunate enough to come across the Rivendell Bicycle Works website, where I found someone else's prophetic words, which reinspired me and confirmed for me, not so much that "they" are "wrong, but rather, that I have been fortunate enough to be riding on a "higher path".

    http://www.rivendellbicycles.com/html/about.html


    About Rivendell Bicycle Works

    "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. If that sounds remotely like you, you're sure to like our catalogue and quarterly newsletter, the Rivendell Reader. 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."

    "Then, the cycling powers in Japan and Europe were mature, and hadn't yet been corrupted by power, and were not yet influenced by the need to radically change technology every couple of years in order to increase sales in a flat market. There was variety and healthy competition, and the best of the new designs were refinements of already excellent ones. We took it for granted at the time, but have come to appreciate it now."

    "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. It isn't us versus them, or retro versus techno, or old versus new. It isn't niche marketing in the tactical sense, either. It's the same gear we prefer and ride, every day. It is not a "market-driven" approach, which is one reason we're so small."

    "As you look through our catalogue, and through this web site, you'll see a common theme. It is simple gear, because bikes aren't improved by complication, and simple parts allow for more rider input. It is practical gear, in the sense that it fulfills a fundamental cycling (not just psychological) need. And it is proven - much of what we offer was born before we were, and even new items borrow heavily from materials and designs from the past. On the other hand, when something new comes along that really is better, we're open to it."

    "We believe the best bicycles are simple to operate, simple to fix, and simple to understand. They aren't black box point-and pedal bikes. Those kinds of bikes are important, and get a lot of people into this sport, and for some people, they're the best choice. But just as a point-and shoot camera leapfrogs the full photography experience on the way to getting you the snapshot, we believe part of the fun of riding a bike is interacting with it. That's why we like bikes that allow human input - manual bicycles. Compared to the point-and-pedals, they're at least as fun to ride, easier to service, less likely to need service, and more satisfying to use. For anybody."

    "Also in here, you'll find leather saddles, wool clothing, waxed cotton saddlebags and panniers, standard pedals clips and straps, assorted curved handlebars, chains and freewheels, forged aluminum cranks, sidepull and cantilever brakes, friction shifters, and cotton handlebar tape. As technology goes, we don't consider it outdated, but refined, and in some cases, perfected. We have all you need to build and equip your bike, but there's no gratuitous high-tech, and our selection is narrow. Every item earned its spot by being the best, the best value, or the last of its kind available. And, if we sell it, we also use it, know its quirks, believe in it completely, and can tell you anything you want or need to know about it. Ask away!"

    "We are able to survive-if-not-thrive because we don't depend on local business. The web helps a lot. Word of mouth helps as much. We do right by our customers, and they seem quite loyal; and we're always trying to find new ways to reach cyclists who like traditional gear and a non-race-oriented approach."

  2. #2
    Senior Member howsteepisit's Avatar
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    In the usenet bicycle archive put together by Norman Yarvin (http://yarchive.net/bike/index.html), Jobst Brandt has some interesting things to say about the bicycle industry, and the trends towards ever lighter and fancier, more gears geared towards racing road bike of today. Essentially, bicycles are marketing driven towards ever less durable but higher "bling value". In the old days, ( like back in the 70's), durability was a big thing. Even the pro racers did not have the cash to be constantly replacing parts that were built to be light but not durable, so bikes were durable. Comfort was at a premium. So, for me, since I no longer have any desire to race, I have a steel frame so if I crash it is either undamaged or repairable. I use conventional spokes wheels, so i can replace a spoke and true up the wheel, or even rebuild them when needed. I do use a 9 speed gearset, at the expense of needing a new chain every couple of thousand miles. (Chains used to last 10,000 miles or so if cleaned and lubed). I use a Brooks saddle, as they fit me and are comfortable for 100 miles rides. I have fenders, and a nice large saddle bag, so i can carry some cloths, a foldable tire, tubes and minor tools. Yea, its not as fast uphill, but thats not what i ride for. I also use clipless pedals, because I do like them. I cannot agree with everything Grant at Rivendell has to say, but overall I like his approach - Bikes are to ridden and enjoyed. you should not be at risk of having to call for a ride when your gossamer tires fail, or you hit a pothole and ding a rim.

    Not easy to an old crumudgen in the moder cycling world.
    Recycle, Reclaim, Reuse and Repair
    The 4 Rs to save the planet

    "Toes"

  3. #3
    littlecircles bmike's Avatar
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    Newbie as of October 2006?
    Only 2 posts and they are identical, basically copying and pasting from the Riv site?

    Is this a Rivendell "viral" marketing strategy or something? I don't get it.

    If you are for real, you need to search a little harder. There's alot of great stuff on the web... and Riv's got its own schtick to sell. They wouldn't be in business if they didn't.

    It appears the biggest challenge you will face is from yourself - and getting over what the cool kids think - cuz if you enter Riv land, your just a cool kid of a different sort, to someone else.

  4. #4
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    Though you come across as pompous, I doubt that was your intention and I will take your comment at face value - to avoid becoming a conformist in the quest to not conform.

  5. #5
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EmptyCup
    Though you come across as pompous, I doubt that was your intention and I will take your comment at face value - to avoid becoming a conformist in the quest to not conform.

    Questions for you ......


    What sort of long distance riding have you done? What are your "credentials"? What does your cycling CV look like?

    Are you interested in getting into Randonneuring? You say you don't like the racing scene ... but maybe ultra-distance cycling would be your thing. If you want some info on Randonneuring and other long distance events, check the Links section in my website (below), I've got lots of info there.


    Most of us here are familiar with Rivendells, and Brooks saddles, and things like that. Many of us have been riding similar types of bicycles with similar types of equipment as what you have been describing for years.

  6. #6
    littlecircles bmike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EmptyCup
    Though you come across as pompous, I doubt that was your intention and I will take your comment at face value - to avoid becoming a conformist in the quest to not conform.
    pompous:
    1. Characterized by excessive self-esteem or exaggerated dignity; pretentious: pompous officials who enjoy giving orders.
    2. Full of high-sounding phrases; bombastic: a pompous proclamation.
    3. Chracterized by pomp or stately display; ceremonious: a pompous occasion.
    I think your original post was rather pompous.
    I didn't post an entire chapter on validating my desire to ride based on someone else's, much less another company's, marketing vision of what cycling is. Reread what you quoted off the web, and remember - you are "riding on a higher path" - awfully judgemental - as if they ONLY way to ride is ONE way.

    Search yourself. A carbon fiber techno bike is just as "true" as a steel framed retro racer. It's all relative, when you look for validation for what you do.

    Conformism is relative as well. At a Riv convention, you'd all start looking the same - and the spandexy racer roadie would be the "non-comformist". If you show up at a Pro UCI race on your Riv, you may be the one who is "non conforming" - but in order to be a non-conformist, you must have something to rebel against - and this means you are at conflict - with either yourself or others about what is "right".

    If you read, shop, and ride racer boy bikes - and don't like them, perhaps a change is good for you. If you're searching for some sort of "truth" in riding - you'll only find that when you let go of the gear and the image you have of yourself in fornt of others with that gear.

    If you wanted to be "pure" - why not ride what you have, and stop consuming? Why not find an old beater bike, fix it up with components you love, and find contentment in your ride. Why not....

    I could go on and on.

    But this is already giving this post more life than it deserves.
    Viral marketing? A new step for Riv...
    Last edited by bmike; 10-05-06 at 09:04 PM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member The Octopus's Avatar
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    It's an intersting issue, if not well presented....

    FWIW, I come at riding from exactly the opposite perspective. My own "nonconformism" is riding ultra-distance rides on a racing bike with racing geometry and a racing saddle. I like speed and effeciency. My ride is comfortable because I'll finish the longer rides a day or more ahead of everyone else. Less butt time on that non-leather saddle. I totally accept that I live on the margin of comfort and durability and that my ride will much more likely end in a phone call for a mechanical reason than the guy on the Riv or the Airborne touring bike.

    I love and respect my bike, but I pound the living hell out of it. My bike is a tool, and it's meant to be used. It's not art. I ride it hard, and I don't cry when I break it, ding it up, or lay it down descending a steep, gravel, icy road (been there, done that, breaking a finger in the process). I respect and love my bike by pushing it, and me on it, to it's absolute limit. That's what it was designed for. I respect it by keeping it in absolutely top mechanical shape. Some day I'll break it and then I'll get a new one, and remember the old one fondly. But the bike is just a tool. Worship the art or the artist, I say, and not the paint brush.

    A short, related vignette from skiing.... Mrs. Octopus and I were backcountry skiing in New Hampshire a few years ago. I was on a brand new pair of extremely expensive skis. We were skiing the run out of this ravine after an absolutely epic day of spring skiing. Big smiles all around. The trail was getting more and more narrow. Mud and rocks appeared. Mud, rocks and grass became more common than the snow, which was no longer continuous. Mrs. Octopus and I came charging around a bend, snow flying off our skis in equal parts with mud and sticks, and we were deftly hopping over and around the lurking rocks. This fellow with a stern face, standing off to the side with his skis strapped to his pack -- he was down-hiking -- observed us and called out to me disgustedly, "Nice rock skis." I replied, "All skis are rock skis!" and bounded off with Mrs. Octopus through the mud, hooting and hollering like a damn fool. Wow, was that a fun day.

    Gear is replaceable. Don't worry about it overly much, whether you like a racing steed or a touring bike. The memories last a lifetime (or at least until senility sets in). Just get the hell out there and enjoy the ride!

  8. #8
    Senior Member Waxbytes's Avatar
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    A famous bike racer once said, "It's not about the bike."

    Which is very true except that I really like my bikes. And I think I'm probably quite obsessive about maintaining them, well beyond the point of strictly utility and need.

    I'm not in the same league as Machka and Rowan and others on these boards who do incredible distance rides as my longest single ride is only 130 miles. However I have looked at a lot of pictures and read a lot of stories from people who put in big miles and the only consistent thing is that there is no consistency in the type of bike or equipment they use.

    Rivendell espouses one design philosophy, Marinnoni another. Some riders love titanium, others steel. Some ride only on Brooks saddles, for others it's Specialized, or Selle Itallia.
    I guess what I'm trying to say is there is no "right way" only many possible ways.

    Then we could always expand this by including recumbents and trikes.

    I ride because when I'm riding my life becomes simpler, clearer, and I feel more in charge of my destiny. My passion for my bicycles is an outgrowth and a result of what riding means to me.


    hmmm... I seem to be rambling so I will stop and post this now
    Uhmm...

  9. #9
    Has opinion, will express
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    Paris-Brest-Paris is a smorgasbord of bicycles -- and Rivendell is only one of the brands represented. Grant likes to promote Rivendell as the "alternative" bike company for the American market. But, and this is where all this gets a bit humorous, he really is only espousing the philosophies of many British, and more broadly, European riders. Without offending my American friends here, I think that shows the degree of immaturity that exists in the US bike market. Still, Grant has found his market niche and is making his money and employing others, and good luck to him for all that.

    If you take out the Rivendell references in the OP, yes I can believe the epiphany in there. That the bike which fits you and performs the way you want it to doesn't have to match anyone else's idea of a bike. That's why there are DFs, recumbents, even high-wheelers, and a whole lot in between and above and below! A bike can express our personalities too, just as a car and any other consumer item can.

    In my case, I've had to dispose of my bikes and keep one. One of the bikes I sold was a fixed gear made up of a tipshop frame, and all up, it cost $75 ($40 of that was a BB cartridge). I didn't ride it much, but I had a blast doing so. I regretted disposing of it. Another was an aluminium-framed Merida with downtube shifters and Sora components. I stacked on 11,000km on a single chain and gearset and had a lot of fun as you would in a sports car. I regretted selling it. A third was a mountain bike made of Hi-Ten steel that someone elsewhere on BFs so sneeringly derided as a frame material the other day. That was my tour guide bike when I operated a micro-business in bike tours, and served me very reliably for around 12,000km. I was sad to let it go for the emotional attachment.

    But the bike I kept is my Fuji Touring that I love to death because it has been a faithful companion on more than 52,000km of commutes, randonnees, tours, training rides and all sorts of other outings in between. It has been around the world (albeit flying to attend events and tour). It fits well and is comfortable and does what I ask. It is a bike that in the US would have cost around $800 new in 2001 -- a bike that the swanks sneer at because of its price and it's steel and heavy and all the other unfashionable things. Even the swanks of the Rivendell and iBOB lists over at bikelists would look down their noses at it because it is unlugged and STI-equipped and common.

    I also aspire to one day owning another sporty bike, likely CF. It's like aspiring to own something like a Ferrari. I also aspire to own a recumbent trike, and a funny bike and another MTB and...

    Ultimately, it's a case of each to his own. And if you love bikes and riding them, then there really isn't anything wrong with whatever choice you make.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Waxbytes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan
    ...Without offending my American friends here, I think that shows the degree of immaturity that exists in the US bike market. .....

    Whaaaa!!!!.....whaaaa.....ahhh....whaaaaa!!!! HE called me immature.......Whaaaaa!!!!!!


    Uhmm...

  11. #11
    Senior Member Road Rash's Avatar
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    This is not a conflict that needs to be overcome - it is possible to have more than one bike and more than one riding style. I personally enjoy riding my Lemond Zurich on fast club rides , for my more intense training efforts and Centuries with friends who want to go fast. I also enjoy riding my Trek 720 Touring bike when I am heading out on my own, on slower Centuries and anything longer than Centuries. If I go out on the Trek I am more concerned with comfort, but if I know I will need to keep up with a "fast" group I will always choose the Lemond. I don't believe that riding a bicycle requires having an all encompassing philosophy that determines my bike, my clothing or even my saddle.
    Road Rash

  12. #12
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    A 40-year-old Raleigh with a Brooks and a set of canvas bags is a classy machine and I wouldn't much mind having one to show off around town or for a picnic and tea in the countryside. That being said, I like my bike with brifters, a cyclecomputer, and all that other nonsense for getting me hundreds of miles away from home. I like holding a fancy new bike part in my hands and imagining the engineering, testing, and care that went into its creation. I've been spending the last few weeks drooling over folding bicycles- in part because they'll add another dimension to the biking I do. Bicycles are tools that can be (in context) works of art, though I'd imagine that's because form does follow function.

    As a side note, I'd imagine that waxed canvas bags with leather buckles wouldn't seem like a work of art when you're wet and half-frozen trying to get in there for another layer. I'm plenty happy with my waterproof bags with clasps that I can get open with frozen hands to find my cache of entirely dry clothing inside, thankyouverymuch.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Waxbytes
    Whaaaa!!!!.....whaaaa.....ahhh....whaaaaa!!!! HE called me immature.......Whaaaaa!!!!!!


    Yeah, I know, pot calling the kettle black... but we all have to have a degree of immaturity to love ride bicycles, don't we?
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by 8bit
    As a side note, I'd imagine that waxed canvas bags with leather buckles wouldn't seem like a work of art when you're wet and half-frozen trying to get in there for another layer. I'm plenty happy with my waterproof bags with clasps that I can get open with frozen hands to find my cache of entirely dry clothing inside, thankyouverymuch.
    What makes you think that it is difficult to get into a waxed canvas bag? One of my Carradice saddlebags has worked well and kept things dry for nearly 20 years now (admittedly with a re-waxing). I assume it will wear out eventually...

  15. #15
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LWaB
    What makes you think that it is difficult to get into a waxed canvas bag? One of my Carradice saddlebags has worked well and kept things dry for nearly 20 years now (admittedly with a re-waxing). I assume it will wear out eventually...

    Ditto. My Carradice bag works well in all weather conditions ... the buckles aren't nearly as difficult to work with as you might imagine.

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