After a few years of riding, I have figured out some things about my tastes in biking.
I no longer lust after the high-end carbon fiber racing rigs. I’m not joining the Sunday morning ride to hammer hard for 60 miles. I’m not planning to ride for 40 miles without taking a break some where along the line.
But I still love to ride my bike.
I like to ride long. And I do enjoy more intense training, if I’m training with a goal in mind. For example, I try to work in a ride once a week that visits some of our neighborhood hills. These aren’t big hills, but after several repeats on them, they amount to a tough workout.
It appears there are others who share my interests — lots of others. We never hear about them because they’re not the kind who join clubs and do group rides. They just enjoy taking a turn on their bikes.
There’s a bike maker for them. It’s Rivendell bikes, of Walnut Creek, California in the San Francisco Bay area.
Rivendell is all about bikes that put the rider in a more relaxed, more upright riding position. Their A. Homer Hilsen model (Yes, they go in for odd model names, too) is perhaps their flagship bike, and embodies Rivendell’s idea of a good ride.
If it looks a little tall, it is — a 61 cm model.
Notice the handlebars on the Hilsen. They’re roughly even with the saddle, not a couple of inches below it. The steel bike has fenders (with mudflaps), a triple crankset, and a leather Brooks saddle. It can take tires as wide as 38 mm and still fit fenders, although many Hilsen owners probably run 32s.
Here’s part of Rivendell’s philosophy, as outlined on its website: “If you’re a mid-50s rider of moderate fitness, but ride fewer than 3,000 miles per year, and you want to ride longish and steepish hills, the standard road gearing you’ll find on virtually any stock road bike, is too high. Your big ring should be less than 50t, you middle ring should be 36t or 34t, and your small ring should be 24t or 26t. The biggest cog on your cassette should be at least 27t, and preferably 32t. For non-competitive riding, it’s hard to justify tires smaller than 28 mm.”
Yeah, baby. Give me a bike like that, and I’ll scoot right up all those steepish hills in this area. I won’t be nearly as fast as I can be on my current bike, which isn’t nearly as fast as some of my friends’ racing bikes — but I’ll be fast enough for me, and probably a lot more comfortable.
Grant Petersen, who heads Rivendell, has distinctive opinions about what makes a good bike. Poking around on the website will turn up a lot of Petersen gems, like these:
“Go for a one-hour ride underdressed sometime, because it’s good to be really cold on a bike every now and then.The reverse (overdressing in hot weather) is not necessary!
Never blame your bike or your health or anything else if you’re the last one up the hill or in to the rest stop.
If your brake hoods are black, wrap your bars with a different color tape, so it doesn’t look like a one-piece set-up.
Never let your chain squeak.”
It might seem that Rivendell is all about riding slow and easy. While that’s part of what it supports, it also likes a well-designed, comfortable, fast bike. So I suppose for some of us, it’s a matter of having your cake and eating it, too. Laid back — but fast — riding. Riding done for your own satisfaction, not anyone else’s.