The New Rivendell Configuration and the Grant Petersen Effect
I don't think I posted anything about the new/old configuration of my Rivendell Allrounder. One of my mainstay bikes since the late 90s, this bike still is eye-popping and looks close to new even though it has been ridden thousands of miles, including some pretty good loaded bike tours, over the years. The current configuration includes a switch out of the bars and pedals and generally making it more early era mountain bikey. The Deerhead shifter/derailleur setup is pretty blingy if not as crisp as the '93 XT setup I've been considering switching over to the bike. The bars are the main difference and they just happen to fit the feel of this bike perfectly.
The wonder of the bike has continued to be just how well it works as a jack of all trades, master of most, which I've written about before. Consider it the thoughtful ways that Grant Petersen of Rivendell thought about bikes before fatter tires in "road" frames, and bikes versatile enough to handle pavement well and dirt, became the new normal. Interestingly, I was recently pointed to an article on why we should be thankful for Petersen's input into the bike culture. The reasons are interesting enough, but don't emphasize quite how much he was a beacon for steel, leather, and sensible bike designs when Rivendell first emerged in the 90s as a counter to the carbon road racing bikes that cool handle a 25mm tire at best and were pretty useless for anything other than smooth tarmac. The article is here. If you haven't visited Jitensha Studios in Berkeley mentioned in the article (sporadically open it seems) it is worth it.
Rivendell AllRounder - Jack of All Trades...Master of Most
I originally bought my Allrounder out of regret for not buying the legendary Bridgestone XO-1 and because of my deep respect for the vision of Grant Petersen as he was in the first few years of his new bicycle company, Rivendell Bicycle Works. He seemed like one of the few voices of sanity in the bike industry in the mid-90s when design seemed to be about making things as complicated as possible. Technological advancements can be super cool but sometimes it's just seems like bike wankery and you wonder if it doesn't get in the way of the actual enjoyment of riding.
Over the years my Allrounder has lived up to its name and here is a battery of photos from the various types of riding I've done on the bike and different configurations (tires, bars, etc.) along the way. I've had tires as skinny as 1.25 inch slicks all the way up to 2.3 inches knobbies. Bars have been rando, moustache, and noodle bars. Fully loaded touring, quick(ish) road rides, commutes, offroad adventure riding, and trips to the coffee house...it's done it all.
What do you do when a bike you are going to review arrives and includes an out of favor wheel size, a parts spec from the dark ages, and a frame made of that heavy steel material with tubes joined together with a technology so out of date that no major manufacturers have used it in over a decade? You go into the ride carrying some serious baggage about the review. Everything about this bike seems to fly in the face of conventional wisdom.
I opened the box which seemed strangely light and pulled out the frame and rigid(!) fork and noticed how strikingly different the powdercoat paint scheme looked compared to most Agro modern mountain bikes. Subtle even. The clear-coated decals over the âsea foamâ green were striking yet subtle. The only mention of the name of the bike was on the downtube and the gleaming brass headbadge, unlike most modern bikes where any bit of open real estate on the frame is an invitation to place yet another logo in case you might forget what kind of bike youâre riding. I had to begrudgingly admit that the overall aesthetic was tasteful and attractive.
The parts spec is going to be crap, though, I thought. There was an awful lot of silver on the components. Weird. Was that actual metal instead of plastic? The top mounted shifters looked so rudimentary. Push lever to extend cable, flick it back to pull cable. So simple. Looking at the parts specs I noticed that they were lighter than the top of the line shifters currently in favor. With so few moving parts I realized the shifter spec was simple, minimal and likely more reliable. Who was this company, âSuntourâ?
The rest of drive train included XCPro Derailleurs from Suntour as well as brakes from the company. The shiny Microlite Suntour hubs are attached to Ritchey hoops. The Ritchey Crankarms were striking as well. Elegant, Low Q, and a nice polish to them. Clearly the silver was growing on me as I noticed the way the sun popped off of the gleaming finish of the bike.
The bulk of the other parts were also from the Ritchey archive. The seatpost, stem, bar, headset, grips, tires, filled out the rest of the bike. On top of that seatpost sat a stately black Brooks Leather Imperial saddle. It was a nice touch as was the Bridgestone Bicycle bell attached to the bars to signal to other users on the trail.
Now, about those wheelsâ¦26 inch size must be a joke right? Everybody knows going bigger is better. My 29er rolls over things like a steamroller. And who rides a lugged frame anymore in spite of the claim that a âin a traditional lugged joint, the lug serves as external butting increasing the strength of the joint.â Surely the lugs with that Ritchey Logic Super Tubing by Tange, and the bike was going to be an anchor.
Total weight: 23.8 pounds
The Ride Report:
It was with a bit of trepidation that I put my leg over the bike and headed out to the closest trail to my house. The comfortable Brooks saddle flexed under me almost acting like a bit of rear suspension as I hit the first bumps on the trail.
Having that absolutely anorexic looking steel fork in front of me made me a bit worried but as I hit the singletrack I noticed immediately how precise the handling was on the bike. I looked at my best line and front wheel seemed drawn to it. A surprise rock on the trail as I rounded a bend and with a little flick I was around it. None of that steamroller effect from my modern suspension bike.
Soon I found that the bit of flex in the steel frame and the smaller wheels made the bike feel absolutely spritely when getting up to speed. When climbing the bikeâs 23+ pounds felt nimble and light with the smooth, simple shifting allowing me to feel secure in my gearing choices.
When descending, the precise handling helped when choosing a line and I was able to slide my weigh off the back of the saddle and rely on my legs as suspension and the Ritchey Zmax tires to dig in and securely carve turns and pop over any obstacles.
A couple of hours into the ride I stopped by the Truckee River to eat a snack and hydrate. As I sat there I gazed at the Resurrectio and enjoyed the play of light on the water, sparkling off the gleaming silver parts and shiny frame. I realized I had been won over by the beauty and simplicity of this elegant machine. Is it the bike for every trail I ride? Maybe not. But if the design and success of this design is any indication, we are going to see a new wave of big bike companies jumping on the bandwagon touting the smaller wheels and ânimble and simpleâ in the next few years as riders discover the joys of a light and fun riding bike with an elegant aesthetic and a bit of soul.
The bike review above is a bit of a tongue in cheek write up of my newly repainted 1992 Bridgestone MB-1. I borrowed liberally from the original 1992 Bridgestone catalog. The paint was done by GroodyBros out ofKansas City who did a spectacular job with the paint and with applying the decals that are available from Rivendell Bicycle Works. The headbadge was taken from a design from the original Rambler bicycle company that dominated the industry in the early years of the bicycle boom in the U.S. plus the name came from the earliest recorded bicycle club in the Reno area. Insigniaworks created the actual badge.
For over 12 Years I wrote the Reno Rambler Blog covering everything from Bicycle Advocacy, Reno Politics, Popular Culture, and my experiences as a long-time cyclist.