Sunday, March 18, 2012

Doesn't Even Have a Top Tube

Notice Anything Different About This Betty?
Rivendell Betty Foy [review here]

The other day I received an email newsletter from Rivendell, where, among other things, they announced that their mixte model - the Betty Foy - is becoming their most popular bike... which, they promptly added, "was quite a surprise considering it doesn’t even have a top tube." 

Okay, so I know that was meant to be tongue in cheek. At least I think/hope. But it references a sentiment that is prevalent in the bicycle industry: that step-through/mixte frames are inherently inferior to diamond frames and therefore it is not worth making them with the same degree of care, precision and attention to detail. After all, customers are unlikely to buy these frames at the same price point as diamond frames. This idea comes from the fact that the "two triangles" design of the diamond frame construction is stiffer and stronger than any variation of the step-through design, and I do not intend to disagree. But there is more to a bike than that, particularly when we are talking about "real world" bikes. When it comes to accessibility, ease of transporting a rear load, and cycling in one's everyday clothing, step through designs are in fact superior. It is no surprise that people are willing to pay for them. 

Soma Buena Vista Mixte 650B
Soma Buena Vista [review here]

When I considered buying a Betty Foy over two years ago, it left me with mixed feelings to read the following in the description of the bike: "This style - mixte, lady's bike, step-thru, whatever you like to call it - came about originally to allow a woman's dress to drape gently down so it wouldn't get blown up by the wind. Most women don't wear dresses anymore, and if they do they don't ride bikes in them; but there remain benefits to this style frame..." And this was the manufacturer talking, trying to sell this bike? Sheesh. Walk into any clothing store or office building, and it is clear that women can and do wear skirts and dresses. And why on earth should they not ride bikes in them? The Betty Foy's popularity is not news to me, or to anyone else who is familiar with the female bicycling blogosphere. Countless women with an online presence pine for this bike, if they don't have one already. After all, bikes like the Betty and the Soma Buena Vista are well-suited for hilly, long distance real-world North American commutes, and many women turn to them when Dutch-style bikes prove not to be sufficiently fast or light for their needs. But there aren't enough bikes like this made; we need more.

I was so excited when Velo Orange introduced its lugged mixte in 2010, and I was equally disappointed when they discontinued it in 2011 - due, apparently, to less than stellar sales. I have a theory about why the VO mixte did not sell, and I will state it at the risk of being perceived as sexist. My impression is that (despite some vocal commentators ready to argue the opposite) it is women who mostly want mixtes. But VO was reluctant to cater mainly to women, and so they intentionally made the colour scheme aggressively sporty/ masculine just to say "look, this bike really is unisex!" Okay, yes technically it's unisex. But what ended up happening, is that many of the women who would have otherwise loved to buy a lugged mixte frame found the colour scheme unappealing. And the men did not want a mixte in the first place. I have a strong feeling that if VO were to introduce the same frame in a different colour it would sell. I hope very much that they give this a try some day.

Royal H. Mixte, Garden
Royal H Custom Mixte [review here]

Even custom framebuilders have a difficult time constructing lugged step-through and mixte frames, because standard lugs for these designs are no longer available. A few years back Reynolds stopped producing tubing suitable for mixte stays, which is why Mercian has discontinued their classic mixte and now makes only this. I believe there is money to be made in producing batches of split-stay mixte lugs and tubing, for anyone interested. 

Bike manufacturers need not be afraid of step-through frames. And they need not be afraid of catering to women. And they need not be afraid of acknowledging the fact that many women wear skirts and dresses, and for this and other reasons they prefer step-through frames. Please do make bikes without top tubes, and make them nice. Rivendell is a case in point that it makes sense financially.

104 comments:

  1. I've always thoroughly disliked the tone in Rivendell's description of the Betty Foy; such a patronising statement seems like it hadn't occurred to Petersen that women might actually read it.

    Also I know I'm far from alone in much preferring to cycle in a skirt- no need to worry about hems getting caught on the cranks, no uncomfortable seams, breezier on a warm day...

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    1. It is simply about reality. Walk down the street or walk into any professional environment, and it is obvious that regular women wear skirts. Ask department stores for stats on their skirt and dress sales and there is hard evidence that women are buying them. Being out of touch with this strikes me as odd. But okay, Riv is in Northern California and maybe all they do is hike there and everyone has IT jobs so super casual and no skirts? Maybe. Still, there are other parts of the country and I am sure they've been to them or at least seen them on TV...

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    2. I thought the statement in the latest posting was self-deprecating. As for the skirt comment, isn't that more a recreational vs. transportation bias.
      You skip right over the part where they specifically say,"What's it for?"
      -- any kind of road rides--solo, club rides, fitness rides, whatever
      -- weekend touring
      -- commuting
      -- fire trails
      -- bike camping

      You could/should say they are under-valuing the transportation/utilitarian use of it (commuting is only a single bullet), but that is different than having an anti-female bias.

      If you look at most of Rivendell's site, they are marketing their bikes as "country bikes." Riding trails or going for S240s on Mt. Diablo sort of thing. Not anti-woman, just pro get on your bike and get it out in the dirt (with or without a skirt).

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    3. Leaving aside that I think there is no way in heck the BF is suitable for road rides/ club rides (unless everyone else in the club is riding the same bike), you are right.

      But... Rivendell has made it a point to argue that cycling should not have to involve roadie clothing, clipless shoes, etc. They ride in what they consider to be regular clothing - which they define is slacks, various button down shirts, and wool. Women wear casual skirts and dresses in the same context. Visit any REI and EMS type of store today and even those now offer skirts and dresses you can hike in, stuff like that. Also, here is a Rivendell Betty Foy owner doing an S24O in a skirt.

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    4. Sorry, got distracted by the "super fresh beer" part, what were you saying??? :-)

      I feel Riv is consistent in tone. I'm sure they would say a Sam Hill would be perfect on a club ride.

      So Rivendell is saying "most women don't cycle in skirts" and that may be gender bias but alos based on what they see from "most" customers. As you noted, NorCal is pretty crunchy.

      As a male of the species, Rivendell totally appeals to me, so their marketing may not be the most gender-neutral or female-inclusive.

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    5. I live in NorCal and the all people do here is hike all the time comment totally made my day. That said...
      - the IT workforce here is heavily male dominated.
      - skirts are quite popular here, even more so among the crunchy folks. Remember we don't have cold winters.

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  2. I realized the full value of a stepthrough frame when I almost roundhoused my son who was sitting in the rack mounted child carrier when I swung my leg over.

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  3. Besides the 'draping gracefully' (and yes, I do wear mostly skirts and dresses, if only because my body shape makes it virtually impossible to find pants that fit well - and continue to do so if I lose or gain a few pounds. Skirts and especially dresses are just much more forgiving), I also find it near impossible to ride a diamond frame because I just cannot mount a bicycle with that sweeping leg movement you need to get over the top tube.

    Have tried many times, resulting in some embarassement and lots and lots of bruises.

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  4. Before the Yen went into the stratosphere over the dollar, Rivendell offered two Mixtes made by, I believe, Toei. One had a more conventionally feminine name and colors, the other masculine.

    The bikes had exquisite details and by all accounts I have heard well made and rode wonderfully. They rarely come up on eBay. When they do, they sell at good prices.

    You can still get Toei Mixtes through Jitensha In Berkeley.

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  5. I guess I'm not your typical Guy. I actually like U-Frames and Mixtes for their ease of mounting (leaning mainly toward the former but love the sportier look of the mixte)

    I tend to choose my bikes more for practicality and utility than image.

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  6. Fantastic commentary on mixte production. Mixtes are all I ride now and I will likely never go back to a Dutch frame. There is so much to love about them. I really don't understand why they aren't that popular. Depending on how you set them up, they can do just about everything.

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    1. In the US they are very popular. Vintage ones are snapped up in no time, and frame builders get lots of requests to make them. Manufacturers should be paying attention.

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    2. Here you can find them either dirt cheap or in the trash ready to be recycled. There are 3 Reynolds 351 mixtes on Marktplaats right now under 100 dollars. Two are Raleighs and one is a Gazelle Champion Mondial. They are just not well loved here :(

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    3. OMG! Rona, where do you live?!

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    4. V @ 7:54

      Certain vintage mixtes are snapped up in no time. I just gave away an early '70s Bottechia I had been 'selling' for four years. Chrome headlugs, chrome fork crown (crown not cap), half chrome fork blades, half chrome on all six stays. Fly yellow paint in glorious condition. Maybe 100 original miles on the bike. White Pirelli tires. Inverso levers. Chromed and lugged stem. Couldn't get even $50 for it, would not break it for parts so I gave it away.

      Peugeots and Motobecanes sell. Raleighs sell. Some Japanese mixtes sell. Try to sell a Bottechia and the customers say "Never heard of it." "What's a Bottechia?" "I've never seen a bike like that." (Only one like it I've ever seen.)

      Customers want exactly what they want and nothing else. They want an ideal image that exists in their mind and not a bike that might be better than anything they've ever been on. After I listed the bike free 3 women came to look at it and not one test rode it. "Do you have a Peugeot?"

      The guy who took it didn't test ride it either. I've no idea what will happen to it.

      I would like to see new mixtes too but can't imagine why a mfr should go out on that limb.

      Maybe it's different in Boston. Should I bring a truckload of mixtes east? I see a lot of mixtes I know will be scrap steel if I don't give them a final chance and I give them a pass. I could have 100s of unsold mixtes filling the basement waiting for the world to decide offbrands are rideable.

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  7. I personally don't care for the color of either the VO mix tie or the Betty Foy. Nothing to do with sporty or not, just don't care for them.
    Have considered the Yves Gomez ( Betty Foy in drag). But mostly I just haven't needed a mixtie.or at least not enough to make the plunge

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  8. So Soma is OK with a dark gray mixte but VO is at fault for a bright blue color? I think there's a bit of a double standard there. I would call VO's color choice too bright and maybe sporty but not masculine. It seems to go against the VO asthetic either way.

    We need more classic transportation bikes at different prices points, sizes and styles in the US. I was happy to see Torker add some additional step-through bikes (Interurban Mixte, for example).

    And yes, I'm a guy that rides a step-through bike (it's dark gray).

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    1. Soma's frame is silver, and they also have a white version. Both colors are versatile and what the end result will look like depends on the accessories and components. The VO mixte was a primary blue colour with orange lettering, resembling the colour scheme of an athletic team jersey more than a bike. I actually know of a few women who got the frame on clearance when it was discontinued and with the money saved they had it repainted.

      Some of the budget manufacturers are making mixes these days, but they seem to be interpreting them as upright cruiser-type bikes, usually with hub gearing. The ones I've tried have not been especially fast.

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    2. I found the VO colour scheme unattractive, but I do like the silver or white of the Soma. I would have been fine with VO mixte if it had been blue with white lettering or Orange with white or silver lettering, but the combination they chose was too much

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    3. Jennifer in ScotlandMarch 18, 2012 at 4:17 PM

      I agree with you regarding the colour scheme of the VO mixte. I bought one on clearance with the intention of getting it repainted but cancelled my order (which they allowed me to do with no hassles) when it looked like I wouldn't be able to arrange the make-over locally and at the right price. It's a pity as I wouldn't have hesitated to buy it if it had been a nicer colour.

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  9. This luggite thing seems almost Luddite. If a top tubeless bike is the goal, why complicate its attainment by championing a construction technique that is more complicated (i.e., more expensive) and hampers marketing by lending itself to the construction of mixte frames that apparently threaten some prospective buyers' sexual identity. You've made an excellent case for designs such as the paper bike and that yellow Canadian job that are fun to ride, sturdy, easy to mount, and don't have a history that whispers "unmanly."

    The weight and cachet advantage of a true mixte is still available for anyone who wants to fork out the cash for a Betty Foye.

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    1. If you have the energy to look through the comments after my Paper Bike and Urbana posts, you will see a lot of people hating on the U-frame/unitube, saying that it's things like that that make the bike heavy, therefore it is stupid and inefficient.

      I champion a number of construction techniques. Different strokes for different folks. In this case, beautifully lugged and relatively lightweight diamond frame bikes with derailleur gearing exist and do quite well. Yet when it comes making mixte versions of same bikes manufacturers figure it is not worth it. I am merely arguing the opposite. For Rivendell it proved to be very worth it.

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    2. Rivendell only sells lugged bikes. Whether mixte or diamond, their frames are going to be lugged. That's always going to cost more.

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    3. I think it's really uncharitable to read it as patronizing considering that they sell the same bike in black as "the International Men's Mixte"

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  10. I agree for the most part. But with regard to the VO mixte, I think the garish colors they chose did not appeal to either gender. I am with you on bringing that bike back with a different paint job!

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  11. When I read that comment (I also get the RBW emails) I took it to be a reference to all the back and forth in discussion groups over the twin top tubes and "diagatubes" they tend to put on larger and/or stronger frames, and definitely tongue in cheek. I believe the addition of a second top tube to some of the Sam Hillborne sizes has drawn mixed reactions.

    Based on the strength of your reaction in this post I think you are a bit sensitive on this topic. Your post reads like a tirade against something RBW shows few symptoms of.

    The Betty Foy sells at the same price point as the Sam Hillborne. It is built with as much care, though possibly at greater expense. My bike riding daughter thinks the bike looks great. To placate guys who don't want that color scheme (or name) they offer the Yves Gomez (black and gold) for an extra $150. The up charge covers the extra cost of the paint job (I think the Yves are painted locally instead of at the factory).

    Product speaks louder than copy. Despite writing a couple things that put you off, RBW is doing pretty much what you are asking.

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    1. I think you are missing my point. This was not meant as a tirade against Rivendell.

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    2. Sorry that was meant to be a longer reply.

      This post was not a tirade against Rivendell. I like them and the whole point is that they are offering this bike, and benefiting from it, and I think other manufacturers should pay attention.

      But I also think it's funny that Rivendell, despite the stellar sales of the Foy, is perhaps not 100% in touch with why this sells so well. The comment about women and skirts in their product description juxtaposed with the myriad of online pictures showing their female customers riding Foys in skirts is evidence of that.

      Oh and I do realise that the "no top tube" comment is at least in part a self-aware wink to all the jabs against the over-tubed models. But that's a whole nother can of worms.

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    3. Grant is basically a solipsist, and as brilliant as he may be at what he knows, I don't think that that includes understanding how stylish women dress for transportation cycling.

      I'd have been surprised if he'd nailed the overview of the Betty Foy.

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    4. The video at the bottom of the Betty Foy order page on RivBikes shows a woman in a dress with grey leggings riding the Foy.

      Also, while skirts/dresses are becoming more in vogue among women in the creative community, at least here in the Midwest the corporate middle class who most likely are the majority of Riv's customers, women are far more likely to wear pants than skirts.

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  12. Sure, women sometimes do wear skirts and dresses but I can't say I see them riding bikes in them. I'm sure it happens, but it doesn't seem all that common.

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    1. I ride in sundresses all summer.

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    2. or the Netherlands :) You'll see dresses everywhere!

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    3. Look to any city/town where women commute to work! I'd wear skirts every day if I didn't have a labour job.

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    4. I prefer to ride in skirts and only buy ones that I can ride in!

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  13. I have a Rivendell Glorius - the more ornate predecessor to the Betty Foy (made in Japan rather than Taiwan, with fancier lugs) - and it's the best bike I've ever owned. I ride it everywhere, from metric centuries to trails to daily grocery trips. It was painted a sort of British racing green, and has a honey Brooks saddle and matching shellacked cork tape and grips, so it's not at all girly, and I'm far more often asked by men than women where I got it. If anything were to happen to it - perish the thought! - I'd get either the Yves Gomez (Riv's dark painted version of the Foy) or a Miss Mercian, since I very much like my Mercian road bike from the 1980's.

    One great thing about the Glorius is that you can fill the basket on the rear rack to overflowing and still mount and dismount easily. Even for folks that don't generally have a problem with diamond frames, that can be a problem.

    Apropos of Riv, I've been doing business with them for nearly ten years now, and I've never experienced anything other than complete equality from everyone there, so whatever the ad copy, I encourage you to check out the Foy.

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  14. I'll add my voice as another guy who prefers a step-thru frame for transportation. It's simply more convenient. I've loaded mine down with over 100lbs of stuff at a time and it has performed well enough, and if you want to carry anything on top of the rear rack, you kind of have to have a step-thru (or it's a considerable help, anyway). It also just makes mounting and dismounting easier overall. It just makes sense to have good step-thru options available, there are very good reasons to use them.

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  15. "I believe there is money to be made in producing batches of split-stay mixte lugs and tubing"

    Hm. I've ridden the Betty, like it quite a bit, but I'm not sure you're grasping the economies of scale in producing these things.

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    1. The other thing to mention about mixtes....

      As elegant as they are, there are more effective frame designs without a top tube--the best ones ride as well as double diamond frames. I can't say that I've ever ridden a mixte frame that performed as well as a comparable frame with a top tube.

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    2. The Betty doesn't twist as much as a twin lateral and derives its cushiness in no small part from the tires that were on it, plus it was ridden in Walnut Creek at Riv Int'l HQ on the baby bottom-smooth asphalt in part.

      The Public is very good; in fact I've been toying with the idea of buying a clisted one, putting a short quill/long stem on, slap my dog on the back and go for road rides with my wife. Horses, or dogs, for courses.

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    3. "The Betty ...derives its cushiness in no small part from the tires that were on it"

      I have to agree with this. I am fortunate enough to be close to Harris Cyclery, a Rivendell retailer, and I've tried 4 or 5 Bettys over the years with different sized tires over varied terrain. The ride quality is okay but not stellar once you go narrower than 38mm. My mixte with 35mms is better over bumps than the Betty with 38mm. However, the Betty will fit 42mm Grand Bois Hetres and then it's just awesome.

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    4. Conversely the Public, w/700cs and narrower tires, is cush in the frame. Speaks to the desirability of a monotube rather than twin laterals as a performance bike.

      I'll give credit where credit is due - GP, and to a lesser extent JH, is largely responsible for us seeing 650bs on a mtb world cup winning bike last weekend.

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  16. On the VO Mixte frame. I have one, not built up. The blue is nice; its the combination of the orange that throws it off and makes it look a sport team's color.
    Anyway, I ended up buying a Linus Mixte 8 when it came out just because the price of the whole bike was about what the build-up of the VO was going to cost. I'm not sure what I am going to do with the VO frame at this point.
    On a different note, REI has been featuring some "X-frame" commuter bike that lowers the top-tube but still leans the the masculine/unisex side of things.

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    1. What size is your VO frame?

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    2. I'm interested to know too - I have a dream to do a rando event on a mixte. . . Pam

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    3. I'm pretty sure you won't have too much trouble selling your frame on the trading post if you ever want to... Heck, I wish I could make you an offer!

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    4. Erin B, I'll keep the trading post in mind then, if I decide not to build it up.

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  17. Well take Reynolds for instance. They make a wide range of specialised tubing, and the economy of scale should apply to all of it, right? It is odd to me that in 2009 - just as the popularity of mixte frames was on the rise, they discontinued that particular tubing. Framebuilders lament this, so there is certainly demand for it.

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    1. That's a misunderstanding of how Reynolds tubing has been getting produced over the last 10 years or so — supply is often spotty on anything even slightly out of the norm because of how it's produced in batches and the way they take their time making more after selling out (since there'll be scattered stockpiles among their distributors and customers to whittle down). Their high end stainless stuff is frequently unobtainable for yearlong stretches, their butted Titanium stuff was essentially only produced once and is gone forever.

      I'd place a strong wager that the stock of mixte stays that sold out in 2009 was drawn in the 90s and sat on a shelf that whole time tying up capital.

      Framebuilders can easily get straight gauge 4130 in a wide range of small diameters and thicknesses from the aircraft builder supply houses to build with. Is it worth adding $100 to the materials cost of hundreds of custom frames just to have a nice little taper on the stay towards the dropout and save a couple oz?

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  18. Right on, V. I agree with you on pretty much every point. It's worth noting that in the older Peugeot catalogs what we now tend to call a "mixte" frame is clearly identified as the "Modèle Dame" ( http://home.xmsnet.nl/retropeugeot/1957/1957_5.jpg ) -- it's always been conceived as a design for people who wear skirts, and this whole insistence that it's not is kind of silly.

    That said, I disagree on one point: in my experience, step-through/mixte frames are definitely not better for transporting heavy loads on the rear rack. I used to ride a Peugeot mixte, and when I loaded it up with groceries in the Wald rear rack baskets, the rear end would whip back and forth in a really distressing way with each pedal stroke. Really unpleasant and a little scary. (For what it's worth, I'm a man, and I subsequently gave that bike to a buddy who is also a man, and seems to like it just fine.) For cargo, I'll take a diamond frame.

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    1. I have a peugeot mixte and I experienced that too-- but on my Bridgestone mixte I don't experience it at all. That whippy-ness depends a lot on the mixte methinks.

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    2. Yeah. I'm not an engineer, but it almost seems to me that mixtes should have stiffer rear triangles if anything. (All other aspects of construction being equal.) The fact that two of the stays have a contact point that could be several inches wide instead of less than one should increase side to side stiffness.

      Engineering aside, I really can't swallow the BF as a "real" mixte unfortunately. I'm sure it's a great bike. But without the two long split stays, visually it just loses most of the charm that mixtes have for me. But, as always, no accounting for taste.

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    3. BG - The flex you experience with the Peugeot is not a matter of design, but execution.

      The later model Mixte's from the large French and English manufacturers barely secured the split downtubes to the seat tube with a weld.

      On the other hand, the design originated by the French constructeurs (Rivendell uses the same concept) with solid tube that meets the seat tube at a lug and two middle chainstay tubes extending to the rear drop out is every bit as supportive as a diamond frame.

      Mixtes with split tubes from the head tube to the drop outs that incorporate either a plate, lug, or as in the Hunter example, brace tubes at the seat tube tend to work well also.

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  19. That's what I mean. Like you've identified a certain segment that wants these because, naturally, you are kind of a lug king pin. But travel outside of New England - there is a vast wasteland of lugless America out there. PDX and SFO, everyone knows, are not America.

    Point is the demand has to be a known quantity before a manufacturer produces lugs, tubing too.

    Lugs can be cut and reformed to fit a given geometry they don't fit stock, but think of the amount of labor involved. You're talking a very expensive custom frame for utility purposes. This case applies to custom frames.

    Say someone produces stock lugs; there would have to be not only demand, but a large variety in them to accommodate the popular sizes alone. Then there is the matter of taste - some will like the shape, others not, nixing the sale.

    So the manufacturer needs to tool up and invest huge capital to even start on the project, a huge ask.

    Lugs, if you remember, were utlized as a cheap, fast joinery technique before custom-fit bikes. Their aesthetics were secondary, unlike now.

    So really, it's stock vs. custom. As mentioned price out your Royal H. full retail vs. a Linus or Public to see what the difference is. There are only a handful of Vs out there who are willing to do the fully monty.

    Pretty sure this is an internet-skewed reading of actual demand.

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    1. Yep the capital investment for an upstart to get their first batch of 100 fully-lugged twin-lateral mixtes made would approach 6 digits, and the lugs wouldn't even be thin/pretty. They'd have to sell for at least as much as the Betty Foy even with low margins and generic paint/badging.

      Back in the day those lugs made production vastly more efficient and less tooling intensive. Now labor is massively more expensive and lugs are big timewasters.

      Even the Betty Foy is TIGed at the middle stays, and forgoes twin laterals to make the top lug feasible.

      You could bilam sleeve the top of the headtube with a faux lug and TIG the stays to the back of that, but the paragraphs of disappointment Velouria would write about that make it pretty much a non-starter.

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    2. Lugged tubes aren't mitered additionally, are they?

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  20. I think mixtes are a micro-micro niche bike (and I'm *not* suggesting there is anything functionally or conceptually wrong with the frame)in terms of the larger market. Consider the zillions of competing "WSD" models: commute, hybrid, sport/rec offered by Trek and others("WSD" being Trek's phrasing)as well as the R&D costs,tooling and marketing costs, and I'm sure you'll agree that mixtes will remain and remain in their niche regardless of your apparel.

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  21. I personally prefer the look and sportiness of diamond frames but I've found they are limiting for everyday city use. I like to have a versatile bike for daily use which means a bike that can haul stuff, go fast or slow, long & short distances, and be comfortable in any attire- jeans on weekends, slacks when I go to work, or dress/heels when I go out at night. I don't want a bike that limits my lifestyle, I need one that enables it. But it's not all about skirts! It's more about recreational biking vs. everyday urban commuting. I would love to see more options.

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  22. It seems to me that some people who can ride tubetopless are reluctant to ride top tubeless. Maybe there is something to learn from this, but it eludes me.

    Also, I wonder if it would be impolitic to call a female person who loves classic bikes a lug wench.

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  23. I was about to buy a Miss Mercian as a gift for my wife when they switched to the new design. She was disappointed and no longer wanted the Mercian; it now looks just like her step-through mountain bike from the 80s. We've been considering the Betty Foy and with the new sizing might just pull the trigger.

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    1. Well the Mercian's lugs are much nicer than any step-through MTB from the 80s I've seen, but yes I know what you mean. When I first discovered Mercian they had just discontinued the original twin stay mixte and I was upset as well.

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  24. I think you are right on target describing the mixte as you do. Despite the design being intended as a unisex machine and some rather obvious structural advantages, you find very, very few men riding them. I heard many on forums and blogs saying they would love to have one, if they could get one in their size. Rivendell, Velo-Orange and Soma all responded with "man-sized" mixte designs, but the sales are just not there among men. After I built mine, I heard a lot of positive comments, but am still the only guy I know who uses one.

    Marc

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    1. Marc, I would like to have a mixte. I use my wife's and love it when I do. If I get a cash windfall I'll probably buy a BF (like the blue a lot more than the Yves black). I've always kept an eye out for one on the used market, but have seen a total of one come up for sale. People hold on to them!

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  25. V. I tend to agree with you - I'm not sure Grant is in touch with the female market - but I am coveting a Betty Foy. I'm also looking for a Rivendell Glorious (if anyone wants to sell a used one). I'd like to get a mixte frame for not only long commutes, but also for shorter rando events. . . and skirts are very popular among certain of us:)

    P.S. I've thought of commissioning a Sweetpea mixte (check it out) but don't know if I can wait that long. . .

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    1. Sweetpea's mixte is a production bike. You can have it in just a few weeks, not several years.

      A friend of mine has one. It's a gorgeous, drool-inducing bicycle, and she loves it.

      Delete
    2. Yes, I did see her A-Line - but if I'm going to go that way - I don't know - maybe the lure of the custom may prove too much for me!

      But, good idea about the production bike. . . it's definitely an option and I'll be in Portland in late May. One thing I really like about it is that she says it's less than 22 lbs.

      Delete
    3. Wow, that is super light! Please report back if you are able to try it :-)

      Delete
  26. I love mixte bikes; I don't own one, but my wife does. I don't think of a mixte as a "Lady's bike" (as others have touched upon, the name basically means unisex), and I borrow my wife's frequently.. even the hot pink powder job and the B66S don't trigger any sort of masculine insecurity.

    The ppl on here poo-pooing the concept of modern lugged mixtes as not being economically feasible might want to rethink their stance a little. During the "bike boom" of the 70s, most low- to mid-range roadish bikes were offered in a mixte version, often with different sizes. With another bike boom imminent, demand for "unisex" frames will go up, and we've already seen demand for lugs in general going up. If it was economically feasible to offer mixte versions of a cheap Fuji Gran Sport in 1978, it can be feasible to offer lugged mixtes now.

    As for the long tubing for the diagonal stays, you can do the Betty Foy thing with the fat tube from headtube to seat-tube, with extra stays...or you could just run some regular non-butted small-diameter 4130 as the twin lateral stays. Those who think such a thing would be appreciably detrimental to weight or ride characteristics: come back to the real world. We miss you here.

    Point is, if we can pay folks in taiwan to build us an entire track frame out of chromoly to be sold at a retail price of $99, we can pay them to make the unique upper headlug, seat lug, and whatever you'd cAll the juncture at the seat-tube for far less...They sell complete TIG mixtes on bikesdirect for $229; does anyone honestly think we can't get affordable lugs for higher-end lugged mixtes?
    -rob

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    Replies
    1. I thought of Far East-sourced lugs after I posted, you are right.

      But my point, as framed by V's tastes and her penchant for nice frames, is nice looking lugs are expensive on expensive frames. She's pointed out the clunkiness of other lugs in the past.

      I'd like to see cheap mixtes come back, but you can bet they wouldn't have "pretty" lugs.

      Anyway, just the usual armchair chit-chat.

      Delete
  27. Being newly reintroduced into the biking market, I just bought an Electra Amsterdam Royal 8i (it would have been a 3 hr drive to a Pashley shop just to test drive one &/or get it serviced, etc). But I also test rode the Electra mixte, since I've read so much about mixtes on your blog. I have to admit, I really liked it, and will probably buy one in the future. I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable it was, yet gave me a really responsive feeling in handling. I was really tempted, but had already decided that I wanted an IGH, 8-spd, dutch style city bike with a more upright riding position.

    FWIW, I really liked the Amsterdam. I hadn't been certain that I would, but was really surprised that it just seemed to 'fit'! The drum brakes on the Royal 8i provided greater stopping power than calipers would.

    I live in Northern California, and finding a dutch style city bike was really difficult.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Here Here! I always found it a bit irritating that Petersen wrote that women don't ride in dresses anymore. Of course women wear dresses and skirts on their bikes! It's doable on diamond frames, but there is more risk of blow up than if there's room for the fabric to drop. I have been coveting a betty foy for a few years and wish I had bought one, but I had to buy something locally available with a BC bike credit. There is something about the geometry though that makes me hesitate. I preferred the Glorious frame-it is a bit different from the betty foy. Velo Orange definitely missed out on the mixte by offering it in an unpleasant colour and I could only find reviews etc with men riding them! They sold out before I could get one, but would really like a velo orange mixte frame if they are out there! VO might bring the mixte back, I hope they keep it lugged and with a threaded headset. Even Soma advertise the Buena Vista with guys riding it and that is weird. I also read a review in a cycling mag for the buena vista written/reviewed by a man. Why not market the bikes for the ladies? Why not just go for it and have a woman riding it on the advertising and web photos? They are missing out on a massive demographic. Women want a bike that can be road bike fast for long distances and still be able to wear their dresses for work or nice dates. So as much as mixtes are mixed and loads of men seem interested in them, you still almost never see a guy on one. Seeing a bike company cater their 'lady' frame to men is a bit off putting and frustrating. We all know step through and mixte frames were first designed for skirts and dresses, why pretend otherwise? The lower top tube is also much appreciated for people with issues with getting their legs over top tubes.
    Another issue, is that the mixtes are often made with inferior tubing, and the Soma Buena Vista is an example. Their frames are all tange prestige, but the buena vista is infinity which despite it's cool sounding name is heavy. The VO mixte was also made with cheaper stuff than their rando and polyvant at the time. There is no need for this. Despite the need to compensate for the mixte splayed tube, there is no need to use heavier tubing. Mercian offers their lady frames out of reynolds 853 for example.
    I have no problem with the single tube step through instead of a mixte if the mixte lugs are not really available. I have been looking for a vintage higher end mixte or step through frame and am constantly told they do not exist. But they do, just do not exist en masse in North America. In the UK especially raleigh, dawes and other british builders made and continue to make high quality women frames with 531 reynolds tubing or better. I am desperate to get a hold of one.
    I also feel I have to justify why I want a step through or mixte frame, as if they are inferior, and why not just get on a diamond frame? I am short, so the availability and choice is not great. With a lady frame, I have more choice in sizes because I can stand over them without any problem. I've had the clunky low end mixtes and step throughs. I love my raleigh sports and other vintage raleigh lady bike, but I want a regular ride mixte/step through frame of higher quality.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tange Infinity is seamed chromoly which is both redrawn and butted. After all the processing there is little difference from seamless tubing. Standard Infinity frame tubes are butted to 0.9/0.6/0.9. Just like other Tange tubes. I suspect Soma uses the slightly different spec for some reason other than price and there isn't a weight difference.

      Start looking on ebay.co.uk. Hilary Stone's site is worth a look too. What you are looking for is really not that common but it does exist. Ebay.fr could be useful too, more sellers are willing to ship to US. You may be looking at seriously old bikes though.

      Delete
    2. Yes, i have a bike on order from Hilary stone, just waiting for him to bring in the right lady frame. Well, my husband has a tange infinity bike and it is quite heavy.

      Delete
    3. I acquired two lovely Reynolds 531 mixtes (a Raleigh Clubman Lady and a Holdsworth Lady Mistral) in the US, if you don't live in a large city/vintage bike haven, it takes some patience and stalking the auction sites... then pounce! :-)

      Delete
  29. Stepover's important if you carry stuff. The bike's not always tippable, you might not be able to swing your leg over the back. With an ever-so-slightly-dropped-and-somewhat-long top tube (Big Dummy, 20" frame), I've learned to swing my foot up and over for the dismount, and I'm working on the mount.

    This bike at Oregon Manifest really caught my eye. Longtail, with stepover. http://oregonmanifest.com/constructor/retrotecinglis-cycles/
    One big question for a low-stepover bike with cargo is how they deal with frame flex and various oscillations.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Mixte bikes are super common in North Africa. I suspect the large number has to do with France being a major trade partner with Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, and some may also come in from Spain and Italy. They are mostly ridden by men. Men and boys wear full-length Berber shepherd robes called djellabas, so this may have also drive the preference for mixtes. However people are increasingly wearing western clothing. Inexpensive Chinese mountain bikes are taking over. All bikes have cheap components. Roadies (of which there are quite a few around) sport expensive frames and components just like us. Again I think this is French and otherwise Euro influence.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I've got a Raleigh Rapide mixte, built in Taiwan circa '83. Started as a drop-bar, safety levered 10-speed with stem shifters. COnverted it to a single-speed coaster with 3-speed bars. Now, it's a fixed gear with pretty far back square-bent bars that came off of a '50s Huffy cruiser.

    I've noticed on this frame that even though the head tube is the same size as my 58 cm bikes, the seat tube is SUPER short. Like, hard to find low-cost seatposts short. I've also noticed that it's got a very short "top tube" - probably a full inch shorter than comparable diamond-framed bikes.

    I love my mixte - the looks, the convenience, etc. It's just kinda weird as far as the geometry goes...and this was a typical mass-produced bike...

    I'd buy a new mixte frame, but I have a hard time spending a bunch of money on a bike that would be built as an upright city bike. I'm a guy, and maybe it's my guy...sensibilities? but I'd have a hard time building a mixte with drop-bars as a fast bike; it just seems at odds with the style of frame to me

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just had to reply to this as I also had an 80's Rapide mixte and it was a ton of fun to ride. I bought the bike for something like $20 and rebuilt it, as I specifically loved the odd configuration and the small frame was appealing to me, being a shorter gal. You mentioned the drop bars and, although most mixtes I see are built with upright bars, I kept the drop bar configuration on mine, and it worked really well as as a fast bike as well as a city commuter. Ideally, I would have put upright bars on it if it would have been used primarily for commuting but the drop bars made it more versitile (to me). Anyhow, I ended up spending about $400 on this bike from start to finish which was still much less than the Soma, Linus, Mercian or Rivendell which were all out of my budget. I have more about this one (including before and after photos) here:

      http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php/718729-1980-s-Raleigh-Rapide-Mixte-Ongoing-project

      Good luck with your project! :)

      Delete
  32. I love mixtes. SO MUCH. I used to have a mid-70's mixte made of really heavy steel...had gorgeous lugs. Alas, no good for touring, and making it touring-appropriate would have been expensive, and Shawn found me a Miyata on CL for the same price as the updates I wanted to make....eventually it became the bottom half of a tallbike.

    I eventually plan to own another one and turn into a fantastic city bike. I plan to buy an 80's era Japanese-made mixte--so a Univega or Nishiki or Miyata or Raleigh or something equivalent and strip it to the frame and fork and start over, basically. Upright handlebars, IGH, dynamo lighting... This year, I swear....

    When Shawn and I visited Winnipeg, I was really startled at how many mixtes were there. It was really freakish. I don't know why there are so many mixtes in Winnipeg!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting. Sekine had a factory in Manitoba for a long time, and perhaps people bought lots of them. Winterpeg and other prairie cities have typically brutal winters(not anymore though) and rarely do people bike through them. So, many vintage bikes have been preserved.

      Delete
  33. Ok, only slightly relevant:

    http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/01/03/donts-for-women-on-bicycles-1895/

    I had to laugh at "•Don’t scratch a match on the seat of your bloomers."

    ReplyDelete
  34. On the subject of males and mixtes...I have lately been riding my daughter's sort-of-a-mixte "ladies" bike,a modern Schwinn Suburban,on some of my grocery runs (with rack and panniers),back to back with my regular go-to bike (Origin 8 700CX cyclocrosser)...I must admit,the greater the load,the nicer the mixte is getting on and off,especially with multiple stops...maybe it's time to find a classic Mixte and do a restore,hmmm....

    Good points in a good read,my friend :)

    The Disabled Cyclist

    ReplyDelete
  35. I wanted to buy a new mixte for my wife, but the lack of availability of larger frames (she's 6') without spending Rivendell kind of cash meant that I had to hunt and down a vintage frame instead (not that there's anything wrong with that, I'm just having to do a fair bit of work on the frame - spreading the stays, oxalic acid bath, lots and lots of touch up paint) and even that was almost impossible find in a larger size (still easier than now when most mixtes I see stop at 52 as the largest) so I ended up with I think a 55 cm rather than the 58 like I'd have liked to get for her (tall, long stem and long seatpost will help).

    If I were a guy in the market for a mixte, especially as I'm 6'3, I'd see a lot of the same problems (and probably more as most mixte's I see are pastel colors that don't appeal to me).

    I would love to see more mixte frames being made (especially in larger sizes) if for no other reason than so that my wife would stop feeling bad because she has the same problem shopping for bikes that she does when shopping for clothes: all the women's bikes are made for short ladies just like most women's clothes. That was the whole point of me hunting down and building a mixte for her anyway - to show her that she can have a "girl's bike" in her size.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Edit: I should probably mention that I was speaking about the bike in the past-tense because I sold it, a fact that has everything to do with apartment size and nothing to do with the performance or quality of the bike itself. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  37. I have a Betty Foy, which I love, and I always wear skirts when riding it. It has been great for me on rides of up to 40 miles on the road per day and carries a load very nicely.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Just curious but how well do compact frames work with dresses/skirts. Is there enough clearance? Some compact frames I have seen are not that far from mixtes, for instance the women specific roadbikes in the Specialized range. I do understand that they are not optimal for riding in normal clothes but just wondering if someone has tried it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You mean the slightly sloping unisex top tube? They were designed so more people could fit onto them and manufacturers could make less sizes. They really don't have the same clearance and do not have the look of mixte or step through frames at all.
      like I said earlier, it's doable on diamond frames, but not ideal.

      Delete
    2. Not well, the tube is not low enough. I could not step over this bike in a skirt comfortably, and bikeyface says the same about her urban commuter (she is now shopping around for a mixte).

      Delete
  39. Heather @ 01:02

    HS has the bikes and he knows his bikes. He can seem at times curmudgeonly but just ignore that, a moment later he's the pure enthusiast again. He knows so much he has a hard time slowing down to our speed.

    The one thing to be careful of is English standards for paint. They don't have any. The pictures he posts highlight all important build details, showcase the character of the bike, and help you overlook how rough that frame is. He can take a strictly accurate photo that just oozes romance while the frame is totally in need of repaint. By American standards most all his bikes need paint.

    If he says the frame is sound, it's sound. If he says the top tube is 56.5cm, then it's 56.5cm. If he says it's presentable, well, it is to him.

    The Claud not-a-mixte he has up right now looks a treat to me. That one is ready to go.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Replies
    1. Wasn't Susan Sarandon in that movie?

      Delete
  41. Anyone have any insight on the Handsome Cycles She-Devil?

    http://handsomecycles.com/bicycles/she_devil.php

    ReplyDelete
  42. Kona has added a mixte to their mix: http://www.konaworld.com/asphalt_simplicity.cfm?content=roundabout

    I believe Giant and Civia also have mixtes in their lineups.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Hi, my name is John Bennett. I am the General Manager of Rivendell Bicycle Works. Just a quick note: I haven't had time to read all of the comments here, but I wanted to say something about original post. "Doesn't even have a top tube" is definitely a remark made in fun.

    We're big believers in mixte frames. When we introduced the Glorious (predecessor of the Betty Foy) a number of years ago, people looked at us funny, like we were nuts. The mixte was dead, they said. We didn't believe them.

    We're glad they're back. Discussions like this one prove they're a smart design. We agree!

    Have a great weekend.

    John

    ReplyDelete
  44. you can still get a glorious. They're deemed "custom" now. Just call them instead of fomenting these dumb flamewars


    riv reintroduces 650b on a production scale, the bike world catches up, others copy, riv isn't french enough.

    riv reintroduces the serious mixte on a production scale to the bike world, the bike world catches up, others copy, now riv is the sexist bike devil.

    no good deed they say....

    get a sense of humor folks. they're just bikes. it's not culture war against skirts. far from it from the company that makes the finest skirt friendly bike around (and like JOhn there said... look at the glorious, jeez those were nice)


    -guy on a mixte

    ReplyDelete
  45. Dear John, guy on a mixte, etc. I know that Rivendell's fabrication of mixtes goes a long way back. And I know they still make custom mixes just like the Glorius.

    This post was about the cycling industry, using the success of Rivendell's Betty Foy as a starting point for a broader discussion.

    To read this post as anti-Rivendellian is to misread it. Analysis is good. Not all responses to a manufacturer need to be love or hate.

    I think it is interesting and exciting that the Betty Foy has done so well. Rivendell took a chance on what was then a not very popular concept, and it paid off. There are female customers out there. There are skirt-wearing customers out there. It makes sense to build bikes for them, and the popularity of the Betty is a case in point.

    ReplyDelete
  46. I didn't read the post as anti-Rivendellian, and we certainly get plenty of responses that are neither love nor hate.

    We're a small company, doing our own thing. We made our first mixte in 2001.

    We're glad that more manufactures are now offering mixtes, racks, baskets, upright bars, fenders, and 650B wheels.

    Analysis of the bike industry is good. We've been doing it Ever Since 1994.

    Cheers,

    John at Rivendell

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    Replies
    1. Great to know about the Glorious! I had no idea - so glad this did come up at the blog - I'll be calling for an order!

      Delete
  47. Based on this post and some other things around the web, I scored a great deal on a Buena Vista frame and built up a 700c sporty mixte for my wife. This is one terrific bike! Thanks for the info! https://m.facebook.com/home.php?__user=1276080755#!/media/set/?set=a.3229646941490.2126248.1276080755&type=1&__user=1276080755

    ReplyDelete
  48. I love Rivendell bicycles and I own 2 of them: an Atlantis and a Glorius (predecessor to the Betty Foy). Grant Peterson says and writes alot of things; personally I think it's rather silly to take everything he writes/says seriously! I'm a great fan of Rivendell bicycles; they are hands down the best bicycles I've ever ridden (and I've ridden and owned many bicycles). I never thought I'd own a 650B mixte with upright handlebars, but my Rivendell mixte is the most comfortable bike I've ever had .... unbeatable for urban riding/commuting. It's not fast, but the ride is fantastic. To each his own!

    ReplyDelete
  49. The She Devil complete is now available in two different colors: Plum Crazy Purple and Grandma's Ashes. The price for the complete is $1199.95 and comes with free shipping to the shop of your choice as well as free assembly and fitting. If you have any questions about the specs on the She Devil, please contact Handsome Cycles at info@handsomecycles.com
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/26117248@N03/9086167206/

    ReplyDelete