Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Popular Girl: Test Riding the Rivendell Betty Foy

After last week's review of the Rivendell Sam Hillborne, it seemed appropriate to follow up with a test ride report of the Betty Foy. I have ridden her a couple of times before, but never had my camera with me until now. Harris Cyclery has just built up a new floor model in my size - so I took the opportunity to take some pictures and put my impressions into words. While the pictures reflect how this particular bicycle was built up, keep in mind that it is fully customisable: You can change everything from the saddle and grips, to the handlebars and pedals, to the type of components that are on the bike.

Rivendell released the Betty Foy in Spring 2009, in conjunction with the diamond frame Sam Hillborne model. Inasmuch as a hand-built, niche-market bicycle can "sell like hotcakes" I believe the Betty does. She is charming, comfortable, and tough - and the ladies love her for that. The price of the frame alone is $1,000 and a fully built up bike starts at $2,200 or so, depending on the options. To see how this bicycle compares price-wise to other lady's frames in its class, please visit my new Semi-Custom Options page (now linked in the upper left-hand corner).

In terms of construction, the Rivendell Betty Foy is a version of the mixte frame: What starts out as a sloped single top tube splits into two stays at the seat tube and continues (at a slightly different angle than the slope of the main top tube) all the way back to the rear dropouts. The frame is lugged, with custom-made lugs in the shape of hearts and elaborate filigreed designs.

There are many cute and feminine touches, such as the downtube decal featuring tiny red apples

and the filled-in curly-cues on the fork crown. Some of the lugs are also filled in with red, complementing the robbin's egg-blue of the frame.

The Betty Foy frame is available in several sizes (47cm, 52cm, 58cm and 62cm), with the middle two built for 650B wheels, the largest built for 700C wheels, and the smallest for 26" wheels. There is enough clearance for 40mm tires plus fenders.

The frame is made for derailleur gearing, and is typically built up with three gears in the front and eight in the rear. There are eyelets and braze-ons for fenders and racks.

Rivendell states that the Betty frame was designed to be built up with Nitto Albatross handlebars - which are wide and swept back, similar to (but wider than) the handlebars you would find on a vintage 3-speed. I have also seen her built up with drop bars, but the upright set-up is more typical. This floor model was fitted with black rubber grips and "thumbie" shifters, though some prefer cork grips and bar-end shifters.

One thing to note about the Betty Foy, is the unusual sizing: The frame sizes recommended by Rivendell seem larger than what a person would normally ride. For example, I am 5'7" and normally ride a 52-54cm road bike or mixte, yet it is recommended that I ride a 58cm Betty Foy. Having tried both the 52cm and the 58cm frames, I can confirm that the recommendation is accurate. The 52cm Betty Foy felt much too small for me, whereas the 58cm version felt just right. I could have raised the saddle by another inch from the position in which it is shown above, but did not feel like going back inside the shop once I started riding the bike.

I rode the Betty Foy on the roads near Harris Cyclery (actual test ride not pictured), both this time and the previous times I've tried her. It is difficult to compare her to other bicycles on the market, because in a way she is unique. If you are accustomed to road bikes and vintage mixtes, you will find the Betty to be considerably more upright, stable, and comfortable. She is more relaxed than a typical mixte and has a long wheelbase - so that there is no toe overlap with the front tire when turning at slow speeds. I also find the step-over height to be lower than on other mixtes I've tried, which is convenient.

If you are accustomed to Dutch-style city bikes, you will find the Betty Foy a faster and sportier ride, but still within your comfort zone. The posture is slightly leaned forward, but still more or less upright. The derailleur gearing may take some getting used to if you have only dealt with internally geared hubs before, but you will appreciate how easy it makes cycling uphill.

In my view, the Betty Foy's greatest asset is her versatility. If you combine the feeling of a vintage 3-speed with that of a derailleur-geared touring bike, she handles like a union of the two: a fast, comfortable bicycle that feels safe and pleasant to ride. I can imagine riding her around the city for transportation, as well as 20 miles over some hills to the next town over. The ride is soft over bumps and potholes (not as soft as on my Sam Hillborne with 42mm tires, but I would need to ride Betty with equally wide tires to compare). Maneuverability in traffic is good, but the handling is not aggressive. I did not ride her on any serious hills, but with the derailleur gearing, the light frame, and the somewhat leaned-forward posture, I imagine it should hardly be a problem. She is what Rivendell says she is: an "all around" bike. If you plan to have only one bicycle for both urban commuting and long distance cycling, this seems like the closest thing on the market to that ideal.

The question I am inevitably asked at this point, is why I did not get a Betty Foy for myself when I was looking for a mixte, if I think she is so great. My main reason, was that I wanted a specific kind of mixte: one with twin lateral stays and proportions that resembled the original French constructeurs. The Betty Foy is not that kind of bicycle. Additionally, I must admit that I find Betty's femininity overwhelming. All the hearts and the bright colours - it's very American 1950s, whereas I am more of a European 1920s kind of girl. And my final reason is ironic - because it is the reason most people love this bike: I don't like the way some of the lugwork is done. If you look at the seat cluster above (see here for what that is), you will notice that the seat stays are welded directly to the main lug, rather than capped. No other Rivendell bicycle is made that way, and I don't know why this model is the exception.  Personally, I would rather have a traditionally lugged seat cluster than hearts and curly-cues.

The same is repeated at the junction of the seat tube and support stays. My preference would be for something like this to have been done here instead. I recognise how nit-picky and obsessive these quibbles are, but little details like this are important to me and I have my preferences when it comes to the way a frame is put together. It's an excellent frame, just not what I was looking for.

After I posted the above image, it was pointed out to me by a couple of attentive readers that there is a blemish right at the weld junction, next to the big lug. I myself did not notice this until my attention was directed to it - but now that it has, it's only fair that I mention it. Personally, I am not particularly bothered by this blemish (I have seen worse on more expensive frames) and it would not stand in the way of my wanting the bike, if it were not for the other factors. Your views may vary.

These issues aside, the Rivendell Betty Foy is an attractive and well-constructed bicycle. A great deal of thought went into the design, with a special emphasis on versatility - which I feel has been achieved here better than on other bicycles I have owned or tried. And apparently others agree, as the Betty has an excellent record of owner satisfaction. All things considered, I think the Betty Foy's popularity is well deserved.

65 comments:

  1. One of the salespeople at Bicycle Habitat loves her Betty Foy.

    The bike's namesake is a character from Wordsworth's poem "The Idiot Boy," which was one of his series of "Lyrical Ballads." Her surname is a form of the French word "Foi," which means "faith." So she is a sort of romantic-religious allegorical figure, who represents a sense of duty and responsibility to others. And the poem itself is a kind of romantic allegory for the joys of traditional country life.

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  2. The Rivendell mixtes are beautiful bikes! My wife has Betty's older sister, the Glorius. Fantastic bike that I ride as often as I can! I hope I am representing this correctly, but the original Glorius and Wilbury frames had to be tweaked as they were tremendously expensive to make. The seat tube lugs were the big change on the current generation of Betty Foys. You can see the Glorius' original stays here.

    Oh, I looked for a Bob Brown SS frame photo, but only found the same ones you did. Still incredibly beautiful frames!

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  3. I never understood the connection of the Wordsworth character with the bike, because I don't think the appearance of the bicycle reflects the Betty Foy of that poem. Anyway, I thought it best to review the bike and stay away from that stuff all together - though I appreciate the romanticism behind the bicycle's name.

    cyclotourist - Thanks for the link, I had been trying to find a picture of the original Glorius stays and lugs. I will switch my link to your picture. Any inside info as to why this design was changed for the Betty?

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  4. I recall Grant Petersen wrote about how incredibly expensive the lugs on the originals were. You can see how the mid-seat lug wraps the entire seat tube on the Glorius. Compare that to the lug brazed only onto the face front of the downtube on the Betty. That plus the less time intensive attachment of the seat stays let them keep the bike at a reasonable price. I'm going to guess that the even with these changes, the profit margin on their mixtes is quite minimal.

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  5. Speaking solely for myself, I wonder what the difference in cost would be if they got rid of all the heart and filigree cut-outs and made the lugwork similar to that of the Hillborne, but kept the seat cluster and stay/toptube joint the way these were on the Glorius - or at least a minimal version thereof. But to be fair, I think 99% of their target market would prefer that Betty remained just the way she is.

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  6. I've admired the Betty Foy for ages and it's probably a good thing she's not available here in Oz or my bank account would be the poorer. From everything I've read she's a lovely ride and your review confirms that.
    There's one little thing about her I don't like though. The way the angle of the stays changes behind the seat tube. It just looks a bit odd to me.
    I can cope with the welded stays here and there, although lugs would be desirable, and the lugs that ARE there I do like, hearts, curlicues and all. They make for a unique design.
    But that top tube just annoys me! ;-)

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  7. I think the extra lug work makes it a really special bike. They really couldn't just take Hillborne lugs as only one of the four would work. Along with the mid-seat tube lug, the top lug of the head tube had to be redone due to the angle of the top/down tube. Same for the lug at the top of the seat tube (no top tube tying into it). So if you're going to have a custom lug set with three of the four lugs new, might as well go wild with it!

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  8. Oh, and I love the Glorius. The colour is a bit Barbie (sorry to all Glorius owners) but the bike itself is beautiful. The top tube sits just right, too ;-)

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  9. @Carinthia: They were all custom painted to order. No two are alike!

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  10. @cyclotourist, then I'm doubly embarrassed about my Barbie comment! 8-0!! But a very Glorius bike... you ARE lucky!

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  11. I'm a very happy Betty-owner, with a 47 cm frame (which has 26" wheels). The ride feels to me just as Velouria describes - she's incredibly stable and cushy, but so nimble that you feel as if you could ride for ever. And I splurged on getting the lighting just right, taking Peter White's helpful advice on a fancy dynamo hub and lights that are perfect for a poorly lit, copiously potholed midwestern town. Aesthetically I almost completely agree with Velouria, though. I do enjoy 40s and 50s kitsch femininity (I live in a pink 1940s house!), but could really do without the hearts. The fork crown curlicues are fun, but I'd prefer Hillborne style simple, elegant lugwork, to all the over-emphatic girliness. Still, she's a lovely color (more subtle in real life), and more importantly, an amazing bike, so I cheerfully live with the hearts and apples.

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  12. I have to say- test riding her last fall was amazing. I loved it. I came into Harris beaming- I felt like how a 50 year old man feels after riding a fancy sports car. She was quite perfect.

    Yet I agree that ther are things that gave me pause. I love the look- but it's almost too much. Too much to be my only bike. I like how Dottie can go from black Oma to Betty depending on her mood. but I'm leaning toward her for sure. I have to remember how dismounting was though- it wasn't awful- I was just mindful...

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  13. Perhaps Rivendell should issue a properly-lugged frame and call it the Velourius.

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  14. Nice bike.
    The seat post needs to move 1" (snort)
    Up or down, it doesn't matter.

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  15. Love my Betty Foy! Being that I was born in the 50's, I really love the retro look of this bike, filled in lugs and all. Sorry! I find that being only 5' tall this bike in the 47cm is the best fitting bike I have tried. The ride if very smooth and the bike very responsive, with great stability. Thanks for doing a great assessment of this Rivendell.

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  16. no nickname - Wheel size corrected, thanks! I have dynamo lighting both on my Sam Hillborne and on my custom mixte, and they are key to my enjoyment of the bikes.

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  17. My better half test-rode that very bike (that actual bike at Harris) a few weeks back and loved it... it may be that the Betty Foy will be the catalyst that brings her into the cycling fold -- since after riding several of the other options, the Rivendell was easily her favorite for many of the reasons you cite.

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  18. Dave - The seatpost clearly needs to be moved to the side 1" !

    Anon 7:57 - Somehow that name sounds disturbing : )) But I think that while I love the diamond frame Rivendells, their mixtes are just generally not my style. It's not just the lugs, but the inherent shape of the frames. I guess that's good; it's unhealthy to uniformly want every product a company puts out.

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  19. I love my Betty. I think Velouria really hit it on the head when she said that coming from a Dutch-style city bike, the Betty is a sportier bike that is still within your comfort zone. That is exactly as I found her. As someone not that experienced with "sporty" bikes, Betty to me was perfect. She had all the power I needed without being uncomfortable or out of my league. I also own a Pashley, which I love. But with the Betty, I was able to get out and explore more. She really gave me the freedom to go on some long rides and hit more bike trails.

    I have to admit, I am one of those girls that love the hearts. So much so that I had all of the lug hearts filled in red so they pop out even more! (Not all the lugs are filled in the standard frame.) I definitely a girl that embraces whimsy and kitsch.

    And as a 6 foot tall girl, it was so nice to be able to get a feminine frame in my size. (A rarity, for sure!) I got the 62cm frame with 700c tires.

    Basically, I am in love with my Betty.

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  20. I'm glad you mentioned the lugwork, because I'm going to go out on the limb and say that I really dislike most of Rivendell's fork crown designs. The details seem chunky and indelicate. I don't see where they derive the forms from when I look at the rest of the bike, which is usually beautiful.

    Critique aside, I really lust after an Atlantis or an A.H.H.!

    P

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  21. since this is a review of a bike for sale at a retail establishment (and i notice that this establishment is a sponsor), i'm curious what the price tag of this betty is, built-up as shown?

    also, not to nit-pick, but as you noticed on your flickr set for this bike, i commented yesterday on what i thought was (how do i say this delicately) "oversight" to attention to detail on some of the lug work... which leads me to my next question: are the betty foy frames hand-built as you state (in the classical sense of a framebuilder building the frame one at a time by hand, hand-filing the lugs? or semi-production made)? or, did you mean merely hand-built "up" in terms of the component build-up and component choices?

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  22. MamaVee -- "Yet I agree that ther are things that gave me pause. I love the look- but it's almost too much."

    yeah, that has rather been my general sentiment towards all of Rivendell's bikes. I had an afternoon to kill in the East Bay and spent part of it in Walnut Creek, hanging out at Rivendell, test riding a Legolas and an early Bombadil prototype. They are all very well built bikes and the attention to detail is outstanding, but the aesthetic is unabashedly particular; and it just doesn't quite overlap with my own. On all other points, though, I have come to expect the same from almost every Rivendell bike -- comfort, versatile, faster than it looks.

    Yet, when you get to a certain level of craftsmanship that separates a specific bike from its mass produced cousins, that sort of does become par for the course and beyond that, you range into the ineffable realm of matching yourself to a certain builder and have you 'get' each other. It's not unlike, dating and flirting, I suppose.

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  23. P / Anon 9:48 - I actually have a post from a year ago that's just a bout the Rivendell fork crowns! I like it that the forks have flat-top crowns, and I like the raised motif on the top (the part that's done in red on the Betty). But when it comes to the side cut-outs, I have a strong preference for the plainer "closed circle" design on my Hillborne as opposed to the curly-cue and the three dots on the newer Hillbornes and on the Betty Foy.

    somervillain - I have added the price, though I wonder how useful it is, given that you can build the Betty Foy up as a $2,000 bike or as a $3,000 bike, depending on components. So really it's only the price of the frame that matters.

    Of course I have never visited Rivendell's factory, but as I understand it the frames are hand-built. For what it's worth, I have seen the same kind of finishing issues you've described on 100% custom frames from big name builders. Not saying that's a good thing, but just saying it does not mean the Riv frames are not hand made. Also, I imagine that when many frames are being made at a time, not as much individual attention gets lavished on each as when a builder is working on a single custom order.

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  24. velouria, thanks. and no, no, i wasn't implying any connection between being a sponsor and price. it's just that in most bike reviews, the bikes are judged against similar competitors in their respective price range (think back to the trek bellevile review and how relative the gripes were to price). but also in the context of this review: the bike is built up a certain way, and the review of the bike may have been significantly different if the bike had been built up with different tires, different bars, drivetrain, etc. i thought it would be useful to know how much "this" particular bike was priced at, since so much of a subjective review is based on how a particular bike is built-up. i dunno, i just like to see this type of info with reviews... maybe it's just my nit-picky self.

    i guess if anything were being implied re: the connection with being a sponsor, it was that you hadn't mentioned anything of the finishing issues, but rather just talked generically about design preferences. again, maybe it's just me and being overly obsessional about details.

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  25. v, somervillain -- the Betty Foy is built in Taiwan by (I believe) Maxway though I don't know if Riv's still maintaining some of their legacy contracts with their Japanese partners. Maxway, as an aside, also does the frames for Dawes, Surly, Jamis and a few others. Almost all of Rivendell's other production frames are also made overseas... though the data is somewhat buried on the website. The only exception to these are the Rivendell full custom bikes, which are made by Mark Nobilette. So it is, perhaps, somewhat murky as to how much of the frame work is done by hand vs. robot; but from what I understand, final assembly of the complete bike is done by hand in Walnut Creek and that, plus the relative small production lots gives Rivendell and Grant a lot of say in whether a particular frame meets their standards -- though this outsourced manufacturing approach might be why certain details like the welded stays are present -- as a compromise on ensuring consistent quality by reducing the need for some finicky tasks.

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  26. somervillain -

    (Sorry, I condensed and re-arranged my previous comment a bit before you replied!)

    Oh, I see what you mean re the price. I actually do not know what the Harris floor model costs; I did not bother looking because I figured who-ever bought the bike would alter the build anyway.

    I did not mention the finishing, because personally I do not consider it a problem and the review is from my POV. In other words, if the seat cluster and the stay/tube junction were lugged and capped the way I wanted them to be, but there were some burrs or crinkling on the edges, I would not care and would not consider it a problem.

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  27. chris, thanks for that info, and velouria, thanks for clarifying your position.

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  28. cris - It's actually not so simple. The production frames are made in Japan, Taiwan and USA, depending not only on the model but on the batch. And they have been moving away from Japan because of the exchange rate, so increasingly it is split between USA and Taiwan only.

    For example: The Homer Hillsens are all made in the USA; the Sam Hillborne is made in Taiwan *or* the USA, and the Betty Foy is *I think* made only in Taiwan, though I might have seen something stating that some of the frames are made in the US. I think Rivendell wants to make the point that if the tubing is theirs, the lugs are theirs, the geometry is theirs, and the workers/factories are picked by them - then it does not matter what country the frae is made in.

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  29. yeah, don't get me wrong -- I'm not a huge proponent of "Made In the USA". I mean, yes, when it make sense due to equilibrium in the market, it's great ... but I don't extol "locally made" as a virtue in and of itself, and I don't necessarily hold Taiwanese origin suspect. I'm just answering the question with regards to the balance of hand-built vs. factory and indicating that when you've outsourced the manufacture to a factory that's on another side of the ocean who also builds frames for one of the biggest distributors on the planet (QBP\Surly) then that's a different process than, say, Sacha White hand-welding every Vanilla in his Portland shop.

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  30. oh, i have no problem with country of origin and would not judge a frame differently whether it originated in japan, the US, or taiwan. for me it's more about production method and control.

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  31. Oh and re finishing and pricing again - Just wanted to add that my Sam Hillborne frame did not have any finishing issues, but I have read comments from others who have. I think that there is a difference between the extent to which the $2,000 frames vs the $1,000 frames are finished and that is what we are looking at here. But while the Homer Hillsen is the higher-end alternative to the Sam Hillborne (gosh these names get to be a mouthful after a while!), there is no higher-end alternative to the Betty Foy, which is another reason I did not even go there in my post.

    As for the price, I think that financially it does not matter much if you get the bike from Rivendell directly or at your local Riv dealer such as Harris. But getting the bike locally (sometimes) means that you can pick a specific frame and/or test ride a floor model before buying.

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  32. The Betty Foy that I bought from Harris Cyclery looked like the one that you are riding in the pictures. I had the handle grips changed to cork which I shellaced, the seat to a honey colored B17s Brooks Saddle, a Tubus stainless rear rack, paul thumbies, fenders and a mirror installed and the total for that bike was high 2,600 plus tax.

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  33. chris, i hear you on the production methodology. personally, i try to reserve the term "hand-built" for things made by an individual or a small handful of people skilled specifically in their trade from the raw parts with an attention to detail-- the artisanal approach. others might use the term more loosely, to describe anything that isn't made by complete assembly line automation. heck, my bike friday tandem and even my daughter's burley trailercycle claim to be "hand-built" in eugene, oregon, but i don't consider either of them to be "hand-built" in my sense of the term because the production is at least semi-automated, probably with a limited amount of attention paid to detail... i would probably put rivendell frames in that same category.

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  34. somervillain - I agree with you and wish there was a better classification system in place. What I ultimately do, is use industry terminology. Riv frames are described as "hand made" by pretty much everyone who critiques them, so I don't want to invent my own system just yet. By the same token, Pashley and Bella Ciao frames are "hand made" - by just a couple of framebuilders working in a tiny shop (not the same shop/framebuilders, mind you), and I describe them as such as well.

    Cheryl - How do you like the Tubus rack? Is it the narrow one, or the big touring one?

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  35. The rack is the wider Cosmo style. I have not used it a lot yet, so I can't give much feedback on it, but so far, I can find no fault with it.

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  36. Thanks! (I am considering the Tubus Fly in stainless steel for one of my bikes, but that is off-topic.)

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  37. Interesting review. I find Betty's femininity similarly overwhelming, though I really admire the bike a ton. Are the lugs on the Yves Gomez the same as Betty's. I would think he would be a good option for some women.

    I am a Homer Hilson fan, myself. He is perfection.

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  38. If the Betty Foy seems too girly for your taste, Rivendell has offered up a more manly mixte: Yves Gomez.

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  39. This bike looks so wonderful! I love Rivendell's style-- so classic. Do you think this bike would be able to handle fully-loaded touring? www.againstthegrind.com

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  40. I agree with Somervillain: A bike review should include the price (range) and how the bike compares with others in that price range. Of course, you are not reviewing for publication outside your blog, but I imagine that is the direction you are moving in.

    I love reading bike reviews even though I am not in the market.

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  41. jbarnthouse - According to Rivendell, it should handle loaded touring. I know that Dottie from Let's Go Ride a Bike went camping on hers.

    neighbourtease - The Yves lugs are the same, just painted black and gold. I agree about the Homer Hillsen. If I had an unlimited budget for any road/touring bike I wanted, that is the bike I would get - in a custom colour and possibly with cantilever brakes like the Hillborne.

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  42. Anne - I do not believe there are any comparable bikes in its price range, which perhaps I did not express so clearly. The VO makes a lugged mixte frame now, but for a number of reasons it is not the same kind of bike (not as relaxed, considerably less tire clearance, etc).

    Actually, I am not moving in a direction that attempts to make my reviews more professional or suitable for outside publication. I don't think I am interested in being systematically thorough or following any sort of protocols, which would be a problem in that context.

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  43. On the reviews, I like that it is YOUR point of view. In a way its more helpful because I know where you're coming from. I don't always agree. I have a very different aesthetic and don't care one lick about lugs :)
    On the Betty Foy, I agree with you. I also think the bike looks better in person than in photos I've seen. Still, I don't care for the "fussy" hearts, etc. Comes across as a guy's version of girl's bike rather than a bike for anyone who prefers a mixte. I haven't done a test ride so couldn't comment on that. However, I do appreciate that Rivendell has its own design sense and making bikes that they feel need to be made.

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  44. Velouria 10:35 I remember that post. I guess I have the opposite beef about the fork crowns; I don't mind the relieved shapes on sides (although I agree that the short spiral is not a fave) but I think the raised motif on the tops is a weird detail in that it's jarringly perpendicular to the way my eyes travel up the frame. So, for example, when I look at bike pr0n I like to start at the fork ends and make my way up to the head tube. However, Rivendell has put in this detail that conflicts with the natural direction my eyes take when I "check out" a bike frame. Now it's all I see! Damn you Petersen!

    P

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  45. P - I almost spit out my coffee at the description of your bike p0rn viewing preferences. I can just imagine someone closing the curtains, locking the door, dimming the light, and getting ready to look at some sweet, succulent... lugwork! from the fork ends to the head tube, baby! Gosh, we are sick - though I guess it is at least safe for work.

    Anon 2:43 - "don't care one lick about lugs"... Stab me in the heart, why don't you : ) On the other hand, there is ANT. I am currently trying to convince myself that I do not need a truss frame bike. Don't. Need. (But oh, how I want!)

    BTW: I have nothing against thorough reviews that follow some sort of protocol, make sure to mention prices and comparisons, etc. I just feel that there is benefit both in those and in a more free-form, subjective kind of review. Sometimes the latter can capture a detail that the more professional review would miss, and that's the kind of details that often appeal to me the most.

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  46. Velouria, if I had the kind of addiction to "original flavor" pr0n that I do to bike pr0n, I'd have been fired long ago. SFW is a big plus.

    Gotta say, one thing I do appreciate about Betty is the way she dresses. I love that color combination.

    P

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  47. anon-"Still, I don't care for the "fussy" hearts, etc. Comes across as a guy's version of girl's bike rather than a bike for anyone who prefers a mixte."

    yes, I agree! Considering that there is "no comparable" alternative to this bike on the market, it strikes me as odd that the bike's aesthetic should be so idiosyncratic. It's a style that evoques a strong reaction. While the bike is "cutsey" and "funky," I personally could never desire a bike decorated with hearts, apples, or anything else of that genre--unicorns, rainbows, etc. On the other hand, their other bikes give homage to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so I suppose there's no escaping the kitsch! Oddly, I don't mind the Tolkien stuff.

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  48. Re the whole "guy's version of girl's bike" thing... Although I personally don't go for this style, I don't think that statement is fair - simply because if you look through the internets you will find women, not men, gushing over this bicycle. Even in real life - almost every time I am at Harris, some woman will see the Betty Foy and exclaim "Oh honey, I want that one!" (they would typically be there with a spouse).

    If I had to speculate - and I have no relationship with anybody at Rivendell, so this is pure speculation - I would say that they surveyed some ladies (possibly wives and daughters, and not necessarily "cyclists") about what they find attractive in a bicycle, and designed this bike with the question "What kind of bike will inspire a woman to RIDE?" as opposed to "What kind of bike would a female cyclist want?". Based on how this bicycle looks and feels, that is my instinct.

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  49. Kara: I'm only 5'10" and I have trouble finding nice feminine frames that fit me well. That's the reason I got my custom Miss Mercian and snapped up a LeTour with a 22" frame.

    I can only imagine how difficult it is for you.

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  50. V.--Your personal voice and strong opinions are what is missing in most bike reviews. I hope you will consider taking on a column in the Phoenix, or some other publication that would recognize your talent. Think of how many folks you have inspired here.

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  51. Wow, I can’t remember when a post had so much controversy. I personally like the fact that this is a blog with a woman’s point of view. I have been following V. for several years and enjoy her personal reaction and reflection on both products and bikes. Her growth as a cyclist is the main reason that I follow this blog daily. As far as the Betty goes I have had the pleasure of test riding both the Betty and the Sam at Harris. I agree with V. that the Betty is both girly and the lugs and posts are not as nice as the Sam. Currently, I’m saving my pennies for a Sam. The frame and the ride are what make the difference for me personally. As a follower or Dottie’s blog I do feel a pull to the Betty but I have to say that for overall comfort, style and ride I like the Sam.

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  52. Anne - Thank you so much for your kind words.

    I don't want to come across as all snotty and blase as in "I've done it all already and don't care about fame" - but in my non-bicycle life I have both published and been featured in a few publications (including the Phoenix) and most of the time it has not been a good experience. At least for now, I would rather have my own little universe with my own sponsors and without pressure from editors. Also, if I think about what it is that I actually want, I am more interested in product design (hint, hint...) than I am in doing additional writing projects. I like making stuff! But we'll see and thank you for the vote of confidence.

    Anon 5:19 - I am always surprised by what ends up being controversial here! Good luck with the Sam purchase. Did you really sense a difference in ride quality, and if so, were the bikes set up with the same handlebars?

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  53. V. Yes I really did feel a difference slight that it may be, but it was there. The bars were different, the size the same. The bars may have been the big difference but the Sam was sooo most more comfortable both were stable, fast, and fun to ride but the Sam was just the right fit for me. A personal preference for me. Everyone has a different feel when they ride a bike and the Sam was just perfect fit for me. I think this personal style is what mades people read your blog daily. I wouldn't want to see this blog conform to what the bike manufactures would have you say about products.

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  54. The Betty Foy is a lovely bike. Overall an excellent review on the ride performance of this bike. I find the lugwork appealing and not overstated. The hearts and curls are suttle and enhances what makes this bike unique: it's not the same ole lugwork you see on every bike. The welded stays add a dimension of smoothness to correlate with the swirl of the lugs and does not hide the lugwork, but showcases the artistry. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder :)

    SM

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  55. This bike appears a bit stretched in person (also in pics), perhaps due to a large size and longish wheelbase which makes it handle beautifully, I am sure, but makes it look a little odd without fenders and other filler details, maybe fatter tyres. Watch that massive fork, it's begging for Honjos and Grand Bois. The bike would look tons more elegant appointed with this stuff. So take the frame issues and ride quality details and let your mind fill in the stuff you would add yourself.

    In any case, Riv makes a solid bike and I almost feel like it got a beating here and on flickr. I even find myself mentally defending it, even though (ghasp!) I dislike single top tube mixtes. Anyway, I hope Grant had a really good reason to bend the mixte "stays" because it looks even more odd with the line "interrupted" like that. Perhaps he did it for that ease of entry that everyone loves so much. I guess you can't have everything. :)

    Oh and why is everyone jumping on the hearts & apples? The stuff looks awesome. It's not like there's schmutz all over the frame. Feh!

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  56. MDI - Given that Betty's specs state it will take 40-42mm tires, I wonder why no one's built it up with fat 650Bs yet.

    That is a good point about the change of angle at the seat tube being done for lower step-over. Makes sense.

    I like the apples, just not the hearts. Too many hearts! I would love it if the lugs had apple cut-outs instead.

    Anon 6:15 - I also felt a difference in ride quality, but I have only ridden the Hillborne with moustache and drop bars, so I felt it would not be a proper comparison. I am not sure how to properly articulate the diff I felt between the two bikes, but I will give it some more thought.

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  57. Velouria what you said about Betty at 4:20. I agree. And I am among those who gush. I look longingly at her each time I am there. I've missed her for the while Harris didn't have a frame on the floor. My gut say perfect. But just like my gut has longed for a Morgans le Fay gown that isn't quiet practical for everyday use. Luckily betties way more useful than a gown!

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  58. Interesting review. I wholeheartedly recommend the Betty Foy! :)

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  59. Anon 5:19 PM

    Could a Sam H with it's geometry be really more comfortable than a Betty which is more upright ?

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  60. Anon 11:40 - Their geometry (angles and distances and such) is actually similar (not the same, but similar), but Sam is often fitted with drop bars, whereas Betty is almost always fitted with Albatross bars, which is the only reason she is more upright. It would be interesting to test both models with upright bars for a controlled study.

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  61. Thanks for the review. I'm having trouble finding reviews of the betty foy that don't gush nonstop about how cute it is but say nothing about the ride. I would have liked if you spoke more about the ride and how it compares to the sam hillborne. I am looking for an all purpose bike-one that can also go fast, far and loaded.
    I LOVE rivendell's bicycles but have yet to ride one so it could be all about aesthetics. However anytime I have seen a real live rivendell I have been amazed at their beauty and the riders look like they are having a wonderful ride. Very smooth.
    I fell in love with the betty foy at first sight although I am unsure about various things as you were. The paint job-is it sparkly or matte? I love robin's egg blue but every photo of the bicycle looks different! And I'm more an art deco girl, but I thought the apples were adorable. There is also something about the angles that makes me scratch my head. I would have loved a glorious and maybe one day I will find one as I do not think rivendell are making them anymore. I would take a sam hilborne but not in orange, but mine would be so tiny.
    The riv frames are made in Taiwan and USA depending on the lot or frame model. They still have some japanese built saluki frames around which cost a great great deal.
    Heather

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  62. V. I'd love to test both the Sam and the Betty if only Harris had them build up the same. With the different bars I agree it is like apples and oranges to compare the two bikes. Maybe I just felt the drop bars were more comfortable for me. I do have many mixte frames and upright bar bikes. I might be pulled to a diamond frame and the drop bars for something different. However, the Sam just felt right I can't put into words it was more of a feeling. Total comfort, no pain, smooth ride just perfect!

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  63. Surprised to see low-end components on the Rivendell. And the frame is too big for the girl riding. Be careful how much you stretch the leg on the downstroke. And your spine should be straight

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  64. Flo - Which components on the bike do you consider low end? I disagree about my spine needing to be straight. A mixte is not a bike that is intended to be 100% upright.

    Anon 8:43 - Yes, that is how I felt from the moment I test rode the Sam Hillborne!

    Heather - The paint is matte. The colour of this bike is very difficult to photograph. It is like a turquoise that is more blue than green. The red is a bright "lipstick" red.

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  65. It's a silly comment, there are no low end components on this bike, except test riding pedals.

    There are components that could be upgraded, but nothing on it is crap. Shimano + Sugino drivetrain, Paul thumbies with Shimano shifters, excellent Tekro brakes and the usual Nitto stuff. The hubs & wheels are well made.

    There's nothing low-end about it. I am not even going to further address the frame-too-big, stretching the leg and spine nonsense.

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