Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rivendell Sam Hillborne: 2 Year Review

Rivendell by the River
It has now been nearly 2 years since I began riding my Rivendell Sam Hillborne and it seems a retrospective is overdue. My initial review of the bike was written in the Fall of 2010 after 6 months of ownership, and it was basically a celebration of what this bicycle did for me over the course of that time. I had not been able to master riding a roadbike with drop bars until I got the Sam, and so this bike opened up a whole new world to me and made me very happy. Two summers later, I am a different cyclist than I was back then, and my main roadbike is currently a racing bike with skinny tires. So while the Rivendell Sam Hillborne has not changed over the time I have owned it, my perspective has changed dramatically and it is only natural that this review will reflect that.

In its essence the Rivendell Sam Hillborne is a road-to-trail bicycle optimised to fit fat tires and to carry a good amount of weight. Smaller sized Sams are designed for 650B wheels and larger ones are designed for 700C wheels. The frames are made with cantilever brake bosses, eyelets for fenders and racks, braze-ons for two water bottle cages, a kickstand plate and a pump peg. The lugged steel frame is built with oversized tubing that is somewhere in the middle on the heavy-duty scale as far as Rivendell models go. A good way to describe this bike would be as a touring bike with off road capacity. It can also be set up as a transportation bicycle, since it can be fitted with either drop or upright handlebars. The current price for a Taiwan-built frame is $1,050 - almost half the price of most other Rivendell models. It is worth noting that "back in the day" when I got the bike, it was the pre-2TT era and this model came standard with just a single top tube. Now the larger sizes have double top tubes.

Origin8 Seatpost, Zero Setback
The frame geometry is relaxed (71.5° seat tube angle) and "expanded," with a 6° sloping top tube. The Rivendellian concept of an expanded frame is the exact opposite of what in standard roadbike speak is known as a compact frame. A compact frame's sloping top tube is designed to have lots of seatpost showing and the handlebars low. An expanded frame's sloping top tube is designed to have little seatpost showing and the handlebars high. Unless I am completely misunderstanding these ideas, the compact frame and the expanded frame are in fact one and the same, only the sizing is determined differently. According to the compact philosophy, the size of the bike is determined by the top tube's virtual intersection with where the seat tube would have been, had the top tube been level. According to the expanded philosophy, the size of the bike is determined by the actual seat tube length. As such, by Rivendell's standards my Sam is a 52cm frame, and it is the size they recommend for a person of my height. However, a compact geometrist would consider my frame to be more like a 56cm given how tall the headtube is and how long the top tube (57.5cm). 

2 Year Riv SH Frame-a-versary
Have I thoroughly confused some of you? Think of it this way: Rivendell's sizing guidelines assume that the rider wants their handlebars at or above saddle height. If that's what you want, go with their sizing guidelines. But if you want a more aggressive position with handlebars below saddle height, go smaller. Given my current riding style, technically the bike I own is now too big for me to set up exactly as I would prefer (ideally I'd like a longer stem and the bars several cm lower). On the other hand, Rivendell's philosophy is what enabled me to learn how to ride with dropbars in the first place. The fit and geometry of this frame size worked well for me two years ago and I was thankful for it.  

Currently my 52cm frame is fitted with a 70mm stem, a zero-setback seatpost, and bars 1cm or so below saddle height. The bike is set up with a Shimpagnolo drivetrain with a triple crankset, a 9 speed touring cassette and Veloce ergo levers. The 650B wheels were built with a dynamo hub in the front, which powers the headlight and tail light. The tires are 42mm Grand Bois Hetres. The bike is fitted with VO Zeppelin fenders, a Nitto front rack, and a large Ostrich handlebar bag. I also have a Nitto Campee rack with lowrider attachments that I use during loaded trips, but it is not part of the bike's usual setup. I use Power Grips as foot retention. This setup was arrived at gradually, but has remained stable since the middle of last summer. The complete bike weighs around 30lb, give and take depending on how it is set up. There is no toe overlap.

Rivendell by the River
I am very pleased with the aesthetics and the construction quality of this bicycle. Rivendell is one of the few manufacturers that designs its own lugs instead of using commercially available lugsets, which I find really cool. You can see my close-up shots of the lugwork here. The frame is finished beautifully, with no imperfections. There is a couple of small chips in the paint after two years, but they are not noticeable unless you know where to look. I love the c. 2009 shimmery moss-green of my frame and the dark gold accents. I like the design of the headbadge and the decals. I like the fork crown design on my frame, which is slightly different from subsequent fork crowns on the same model (see the comparison here). I do not mind the 6° top tube slope, though if given a choice I would prefer a level tube. 

As far as weight, I do wish the bike were a bit lighter while retaining the characteristics that make it what it is - namely the fat tires, fenders, rack, handlebar bag and dynamo lighting - none of which I am willing to give up. However, I recognise that the 30lb range is a fairly typical weight for bikes of this style, built up in the same manner. 

Metric Century, Cape Cod
I will take a deep breath at this point and tackle the subject of speed. Over the past year, I have been test riding some racing bikes and a lightweight randonneur, and being that the Rivendell Sam Hillborne was my only basis for comparison at that point I described those bikes as "faster" than the Riv. The biggest difference I feel between the Sam Hillborne and the racier roadbikes is the acceleration: the Sam is not as quick to take off from a stop and not as quick to accelerate. All that said, I think it's important to note that those comparisons should be considered in context. The Rivendell is slower than racing bikes, because it is not a racing bike. It is a heavier, more relaxed machine, designed to perform a different function. It is reasonably fast for a touring bike.

Rivendell, Summer 2011
When it comes to handling, my favourite characteristic of the Rivendell Sam Hillborne is that it is stable and intuitive. In describing test ride reports often I'll mention that such and such a bike takes getting used to before it starts to feel "normal." By contrast, the Sam Hillborne does not require getting used to; it's intuitive from the beginning and remains so. Everything feels safe, neutral and predictable. It is stable at slow speeds and it is stable at high speeds. It is stable uphill and it is stable downhill. It turns easily and does not need to be "forced" to corner. Neither does it "over-react" on turns. The wide tires on my bike further enhance the stability, as well as contribute to the cushy ride quality. Once you've ridden  on 650Bx42mm tires over pothole ridden roads and dirt trails, it is difficult to forget the ride quality. 

My favourite rides on the Sam Hillborne are those best described as "exploring." Unstructured, rambling, with no time constraints or ideas about optimal speed. With my camera in the handlebar bag, a book, some food, maybe a notebook, a pen and some extra clothing, the bike feels like home away from home.

Loaded Rivendell, Rockport MA
And perhaps the most definitive characteristic of the Sam Hillborne is its ability to carry weight. As I've mentioned previously, I ride this bike with a full handlebar bag and experience no adverse effects on speed or handling. The bike just does not care.

When we went on vacation last summer and did not want to bother renting a car, I carried most of our (2 weeks' worth of) things on the Sam and it was great fun. Carrying weight on a bicycle is not merely a matter of attaching racks and strapping stuff on. Not all bikes do well under a front and/or rear load, and not all bikes have the proper clearances to carry panniers. The Sam Hillborne was designed specifically for things like this, optimised for the culture of "bike camping" that's so popular with Rivendell owners. The front end seems insensitive to properly supported weight, the chainstays are long enough for panniers without heel-strike, and the frame's tubing is robust enough to handle the weight itself. It is really a shame I do not take advantage of these characteristics more often. 

Nitto Campee Rack
In my view, the Rivendell Sam Hillborne is a good choice for loaded touring, bike camping trips, commuting, exploring-by-bike, and all around casual riding - on paved and unpaved terrain. To get the most out of this bike, I would definitely recommend lights, fat tires, fenders, a rack, the whole nine yards - it's what makes it special. If, on the other hand, you are looking for an aggressive lightweight roadbike for training rides, competitive long distance events and such, this isn't it and was not meant to be (Rivendell does make a more aggressive and paired down model that may be more up that alley). 

I have tried to put together my thoughts on this bicycle in a way that is fair and well-ballanced. For anyone deciding whether a Sam Hillborne is right for them, I suggest reading my original 2010 review and this review (if you can stomach that much of my writing, that is) in sequence: They are both sincere and accurately describe my impressions of the same bike at different points in time. 

115 comments:

  1. I think Rivendell beautiful makes beautiful bicycles and I am always on the verge of getting one, but I just can't get past their terrible names. Atlantis is the only name I find acceptable, but it is not the model I want and I am unwilling to compromise. I wish they would make their names as neutral as the geometries of their bikes, or that I were less sensitive to language. Same with color. I don't understand people who are indifferent to these aspects of things. Bleriot was a great name. I wish they would bring it back.

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    1. Wait, what's wrong with the colours?... I am okay with most of the names, certainly the Sam Hillborne.

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    2. I just bought their MOST ridiculously named frame -- the Hunqapillar -- and dropped it off at my LBS for build. When filling out the paperwork, the guy asked me the make/model. Should have seen his face. Not only did he have no idea what I was saying (much less how to spell it), but he couldn't make sense of why there were wooly mammoths on the headbadge. He finally just shook his head and continued the write up. A beautiful bike, though.

      Have to admit I like their use of "proper names". The Sam Hillborne, the Homer Hilsen, the Betty Foy, et al. Just seems to fit the retro-ness of the bikes and the Riv philosophy in general. (But yeah, totally get how it could be too cute for some.)

      BTW, I also have a Sam -- orange with albatross bars -- and for the record, I think it's the perfect all-arounder. No, it will never keep up with a racing bike, but it does a ton of things really, really well. It's fast enough, sturdy enough, versatile enough. If I could only keep one bike, it would be my Sam.

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    3. I like most of the colors, but for the prices being charged, you'd think they'd offer more no-cost color options. One or two is all they offer, unless you wish to incur a massive upcharge...like $300!!

      I agree that most of the names are cringe-worthy. As is the whole Tolkien/Middle Earth rip-off theme. "Atlantis" is the only passable current name, but they ripped that off of a pre-Grant era Bridgestone touring bike.

      To be fair to Riv, if the Sam is too heavy, they sell the Hilsen which should be a noticeably lighter frame that would (as I see it) fill the same basic cycling niche as the Hillborne.

      -rob

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    4. Speaking of colors, why are all their bikes suddenly turning blue? BORING...

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    5. @screech
      They also sell the Soma San Marcos, which is essentially a lighter version of a Sam but spaced for wide tires and 130mm rear hubs. It's made by Soma but use the same Riv lugs as the Sam.

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  2. Something you may be unaware of Velouria: On the newer models, the smaller size Sams are no longer made for cantis. Sidepulls only. Good review.

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    1. Oh, seriously? I wonder why they did that.

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    2. My 2010 60cm Sam has side-pull, too. Tektro 559 long-arm dual-pivot's are MUCH easier to maintain (for me, anyway) than cantis (which I have on all my other bikes).

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  3. Rivendell colors are for the most part very nice; no complaints here. Your Sam Hillborne is a beauty, especially the way you have it set up. I like the cream tires but they are too feminine for me. For my next bike I am thinking blue frame with creamy accents and brown tires with leather saddle and bar tape or grips. Is brown the masculine cream? Great site by the way. I am enjoying it way too much and not getting any work done.

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  4. How does the Campy shifter mate with the 9spd cassette? Are you using the alternative cable clamping method? I saw Dan boxers build using 9 speed with the 11spd shifters, but he has a modified cassette to accommodate the chain rest on his frame.

    http://boxerbicycles.com/2012/03/12/mitchs-bike-breaks-the-compatibility-barrier/

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  5. I'd call this a 57.5. If I'd bought this thinking it was 56 it'd be too small.

    Speed is not subjective. The perception of it is. Speed is not mutable; it is distance/time.
    This is quite a slow bike vs. a race bike. There's no doubt about it. Acceleration and sustainable top speed are diminished, no need to equivocate about it. There is no "normal road bike" speed.

    This is a good-looking touring bike that does what it's supposed to do.

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    1. Oops, that was meant to say "speed is relative." Changed it.

      I don't think this bike fits like a 57.5cm - which must be due to the slack ST angle. For instance, it's a bit smaller than the Rawland I rode. I don't know. You're near them, have you seen the 52cm frame in person?

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  6. Hey-
    I have a Bleriot, the spiritual precursor to the Hllborne. One thing I've noticed is that I really don't like the relaxed, stable geometry with the Hetre tires. The bike feels too.... steady is the est way to describe it but perhaps "slow" would also work. I use Soma B-Lines which are 35-38mm wide and enjoy the ride much more. My around town fixed gear is a Motobecane gran jubilee with Hetres on it and feel no sensation of slowness however. Perhaps a mix of geometry, tubing and the width of the tires produces it. I can see using that combination for touring this summer though. Just a thought - maybe take Sammy out with some Somas or Gran Bois Lierres.

    -J

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    1. That is interesting. It never occurred to me that it could be the combination specifically. Though I have tried a Sam with 38mms and don't really remember feeling a difference.

      A Motobecane Gran Jubilee fits Hetres? That's good to know. Hmmm...

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    2. Perhaps this is where pneumatic trail comes in?

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    3. It fits them in front just fine. In back I have mm to spare but it works very well.

      -J

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  7. Going on my second year with an orange, single top tube Sammy and I couldn't be happier. A great bike for commuting and hauling groceries. It handles very well and is beefy enough in frame to ride down (for example) a very steep, minimum maintenance road through the woods to the Mississippi River. I complement this bike with a 1980 Trek 710 road bike because of their different functions.
    Appreciate your blog.
    Tim

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  8. Nope - there's a picture of me there, captioned "Do not service".

    The seat angle wouldn't work for me, so basically the fit question is moot. That Rawland looks interesting, aside from the really long ht.

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    1. 'Nope - there's a picture of me there, captioned "Do not service". '

      Really? What'd you do?

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    2. I posted one too many times here. Another joke!

      I was outed at another shop recently tho. Hi ___!

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    3. I almost believed it, imagined a huge poster of you in the window

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  9. "My favourite rides on the Sam Hillborne are those best described as "exploring." Unstructured, rambling, with no time constraints or ideas about optimal speed."

    Yes, exactly, you hit the nail on the head with this quote. This is precisely what my Sam Hillborne is great at. I absolutely love my Sam Hillborne, 48cm, Pari Moto tires, dyad rims, original orange bike with a fork crown that is like the green one in your link(circleish one).

    I also use my Sam in group rides because it is currently my only functioning bike but have no illusions that I am Lance and usually stay with the "B" group. I do fine on it at those speeds. Last night I did 20mph sustained group riding for about 20 miles. That aint bad for a fat tired touring bike using friction shifters and a triple crank.

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  10. I feel sheepish admitting that the Hillborne is not getting as much love as the Pelican these days. It feels a lot heavier and I don't feel as comfortable on it. Sadly, it doesn't get ridden as much.

    It's not you that has changed, beautiful bike, it's me!

    I had a plan to add racks and make it a touring/camping bike, but I'm not doing much of that type of riding either. Hmmm. My friends keep sending me links to this: http://sfbay.craigslist.org/sby/bik/2955395816.html

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    1. What rack/bag are you using howzit handle?

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    2. "My friends keep sending me links to this:
      http://sfbay.craigslist.org/sby/bik/2955395816.html"


      I know this is blasphemy, but the vintage Bridgestones don't do much for me. So nice to look at a bike and not want it, for a change. The Rivendell Betty Foy on the other hand is kind of growing on me : (

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    3. The only vintage Bridgestone that I would want is the XO-1. Sort of an unrequited love thing. I wanted to buy one when I was shopping for my first "adult" bike but Bridgestone wouldn't sell me one. Then they went bankrupt with a warehouse full of unsold bikes...

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    4. Eh I have a hand-me-down rack on the back right now and I'm occasionally using Timbuk2 saddle bag panniers for some tranpso needs. It handles well. I used to have a basket on the front and that handled awesomely as well.

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  11. V, I have been in love with this bike since your first review.
    Being an avid reader of your blog over the years has been tremendously helpful as I have learned so much from you as you, in turn, learn and share with your readers.
    Thanks for the reviews and revisit of this gorgeous bicycle.
    -S

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  12. Hi what is the pannier you have on this bike? It looks sooo good

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    1. That is a set of Carradice Kendal panniers, customised with the R&K klick-fix attachment system instead of what they normally come with.

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  13. Good lookback and update-I always liked the looks of that bike-makes me wish I owned a Riv myself somedays.

    The Disabled Cyclist

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  14. A couple weeks ago I saw a Betty Foy with this color scheme in person. I like the blue and red better, but the gold and green was definitely beautiful! The owner was kind enough to let me ride it a bit, but her saddle was not getting along with my crotch so I only took it a couple dozen yards before turning around! Dang.

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  15. I see the lug fetish remains strong. If you ever want to just totally surrender to that try www.tjcycles.co.uk. Trevor has been cutting lugs for about half the time there have been bicycles.

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    1. It's safe to say that between this bike and the Mercian Vincitore, my lug fetish has been satisfied. The Flying Gate frame is not really my thing : )

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  16. If what you want is a Ferrari, your not going to like a Bentley, and vice versa.

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  17. About toe overlap: How much room is there? Do you think there would be overlap with the 50cm frame?

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  18. Anna - (my reply button is not working) there is loads of toe clearance with the 52cm frame, provided you have a good fender line. There is no 50cm frame and the next size down is 48cm (with a 54.5cm top tube). They list the front-center measurement for that one as 590mm (see geometry chart here), which is borderline for me. I'd love to hear from someone who has that size frame though.

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    1. I have the 48cm Sam (and yeah, it's for sale...) There is no toe overlap and I have mine set up almost identical to V's, with the cream hetres and the VO fenders and whatnot. I use power grips and there is no way in hell my foot (US Womens size 8.5) could touch the tire/fender without first being removed from the strap.

      For me, the top tube is absurdly long. It was my first non-vintage road bike and I didn't realize just how ill-fitting it was until I rode a specialized wsd carbon bike in my size on vacation. Being able to comfortably ride (read:reach) the hoods was a revelation. I will not be going to carbon any time soon but am expecting a new road bike with custom geometry any day now. I also don't really do tours or road to trail like I thought I might when I bought the bike and am just frustrated with the sluggishness while I am trying to do regular road rides.

      It pains me to say all this, because I believe that for the price it would be hard to find a frame more beautiful or of higher quality, and indeed I have paid more for it's replacement. But I suppose you live and you learn.

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    2. Rachel, just curious...who is building your bike?

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    3. It's a Sweetpea LBD with the custom geometry option... Apparently my proportions are very..."unique" and I am interested to find out how appropriate geometry will benefit me

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    4. Rachel, I would be very interested in hearing about how you like the Sweetpea. I lust over those frames for real.

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  19. Velouria,

    Reading your earlier review of this bike, I came across the following: "I can keep up with the Co-Habitant just fine on the Hillborne, and he is a fast cyclist."

    However in your Bicycle Quarterly review of the Royal H randonneur, you write that you could not keep up with your husband on the Rivendell.

    So you understand my confusion. Which is it?

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    1. Ah yes. The two reviews were written a year apart. In 2010 the gentleman in question rode a 1970s hi-ten Motobecane 10-speed. I could keep up with him more or less on my Rivendell (though my definition of keeping up back then was different as well). In Spring 2011 he replaced that bike with a Surly Cross-Check and overnight became faster than me, with the difference being especially apparent on hills. I will insert an edited-to-add aside into my original review specifying which bike he was riding at the time, in case others are confused by the discrepancy. And thanks for pointing this out.

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    2. ...And to clarify, the above does not mean that the Surly Cross-Check is a "faster" bike than the Rivendell. My husband is a stronger cyclist than I am. This means that I need to be riding a faster bike than he in order for us to be well matched in speed.

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    3. I have a 48 with full fenders and I can report that there is no toe overlap.

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  20. This may not be as apparent to new readers of your blog. However I see a striking similarity in your experience with both transportation and road bikes:

    From an initial: I love my gorgeous heavy Pashley, to: I am selling my Pashley after finding that other loop frame bikes are lighter, easier to carry, more responsive, faster climbing hills.

    From an initial: I love my gorgeous heavy Rivendell, to: I will be selling my Rivendell after finding that other road bikes are lighter, easier to carry, more responsive, faster climbing hills.

    Not criticizing, because ease of carrying and climbing and speed really matter to me too. However, I do think lots of readers come to your site because you have written so well about lovely bikes. I think its only fair to warn them that your initial choices, though lovely, are ultimately being sold after gaining more experience.

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    1. True. I started this blog as a complete beginner who not only had not ridden a bike for 13 years prior, but had all sorts of issues with balance and coordination. My reviews were written from that perspective and my choices of bicycles were made from that perspective. The blog is now in its 4th year. I am a human reviewer. Preferences change and perspectives change.

      But. I do not think the take-away message here is that preferences change in the same direction for everyone! There are those who start out with racing bikes and transition to touring bikes and upright bikes. There are also those who've owned Pashleys and Rivendell Sam Hillbornes for years.

      Also, with the Rivendell it is not quite the same issue for me as with the Pashley. I thought that I would go touring and camping on the Rivendell, but I almost never did. Instead I did the kind of road rides that absolutely do not require a build like this. So in essence I simply have the wrong bike for the task. The Pashley was the right bike for the task, but the handling did not agree with me.

      Those who haven't already should really read this. All reviews (not just mine!) should be treated as subjective, with the writer's frame of mind at the time of the review taken into consideration.

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    2. And for the record, there are those of us who NEVER feel the need for speed and who's preferences DON'T change. So it's not a forgone conclusion that you will "outgrow" the slow and steady bike you purchase early.

      And yes, I've TRIED going faster. I bought a used ti racing bike to do a triathlon, hated every minute of training and haven't ridden it since the race. In 2006. Speed just isn't my thing. But I love my Sam as much today as the day I first bought it. :-)

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  21. What an absolute beauty! The gold and green colour scheme is stunning!

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  22. Hmmm, 70mm stem and zero setback seatpost. Sounds compensation for a too long top tube. That seatpost makes the 71.5 degree seat tube angle effectively much steeper. Women are said to be 'high waisted', i.e., longer legs, shorter upper body. Hence the 'Terry Bike' for women with its shorter top tube for a given seat tube length. Your Rivendell is better proportioned for a typical male build. And that would allow a more conventional length stem and setback seatpost.

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    1. The zero setback seatpost is because the 71.5deg ST angle + setback feel too slack too me. But the short stem is indeed compensation for reach. It was even shorter when I first got the bike. As I wrote in the review, I would prefer to have the bars lower and the stem longer, but with the TT length and HT height that is impossible.

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  23. Do both bicycles have the same wheel size? Smaller wheels will require more effort to keep up with larger ones.

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    1. No, they don't. How heavy the wheel/tire combo is ultimately matters (as does air resistance), but I just want to oversimplify and say that wheel size has no bearing at all on amount of effort required to reach and maintain a particular speed.

      Larger wheels NOT faster than smaller wheels.

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    2. If you're so sure about this explain to me why the entire xc world cup circuit has switched from 26" to 29" wheels.

      Some have gone to 650b for specific courses or if they're small, but your summary from the math doesn't compute.

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    3. I think there are so many factors involved with these things that it is simply impossible to tell how much wheel size accounts for.

      Anon - You might find this post interesting.

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    4. Lap times from the same rider on the same course will tell the difference. The bigger wheel/tire will roll over things better and carry more momentum. Pro riders aren't dumb - 29ers are faster in a lot of cases.

      Conversely 26ers are more agile and may be better suited to certain kinds of downhills.

      Is this relevant to the road? Depends.

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    5. It's not relevant to the road at all.

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    6. I believe Anon was implying that smaller wheels can't keep up with bigger ones because they don't travel as far per revolution. I hear that all the time from people that don't realize that smaller wheeled bikes just need bigger gearing in order to make up for the smaller wheel diameter. I once helped some acquaintances buy Bridgestone XO-1 bikes, which have 26" wheels. When they "couldn't keep up" on fast group road rides, they were told it was because their 26" wheels weren't as fast as everyone else's 700c wheels. So they brought all new bikes, with "full-size" wheels instead of just changing their gearing a little bit. Needless to say, I never spoke to them again.

      So many people forget that the distance traveled with each turn of the cranks is a factor of chainring size, cog size, AND wheel size. When I raced RAAM, another competitor was on a Moulton with, I think, 16" wheels. He kept up just fine, thanks to the 9 tooth small cog and enormous chainrings.

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    7. "Depends"

      What? All this time I thought road cycling racy-type people wore shorts with a chamois ... but now I find they use Depends. That may explain some of the occasional hostility toward the slower folks.

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    8. "It's not relevant to the road at all."

      Well, of course not because you said so.

      There's this factor called road texture that's highly variable and affects the way different sizes of tire/wheel interact. And a crappy road is nothing more than a trail.

      Pretty easy to do the math without accounting for real-world variables. In your calcs did you quantify optimum tire pressure along with size? Didn't think so.

      I'd have more respect for your opinion if you actually put your scientific theories to the test.

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    9. Now that you all mention it, I do remember reading about a Rapha x Depends collabo in the works...

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    10. Reply to Chris - I rode a very efficient mtb on the road for years with 1" slicks and could keep up with guys on road bikes when not spun out.

      Then I got a road bike and immediately started initiating breaks. There is no question in my mind that race bikes are optimal go-fast machines.

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    11. Rob English, Engineer and test pilot for Bike Friday, builds custom frames under his own name. Those customs are mostly with full size wheels. Must be some reason for that.

      With perfect pavement the difference between 559 and 622 is not that great. Pavement is never perfect. And the discussion is mostly moot since fast tires and good rims/wheels are primarily made in the one size and anyone who is going fast is using that size.

      Small riders definitely get more flotation out of any tire than someone bigger does. Maybe smaller diameter matters less for them. There is no way to get firsthand data on that if the tester is already large. As a large person who's ridden plenty of "fast" 26 inch as well as comparable and really fast 700 there's no comparison. Just none. GRJ is spot on.

      There are good reasons the pack is all on one size wheel. The bikes all handle pretty much the same. It's safer. Outliers that are lionized by the slow people are not that welcome, for good reason. I pacelined exactly once on my Moulton and pulled myself shortly after warmup was over. The pack does not, cannot flow if every rider follows a different drummer.

      How is Moultoning RAAM at 12mph relevant? Why would anyone endure the chordal grind of 11T cogs, much less 9T?

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    12. Exactly my point, GRJ: Smaller wheels just need a little taller gearing to not spin out. Of course, an XO-1 is not a mountain bike and they've been used spectacularly in plenty of races, both roadbike and triathlon. When I did the Triple Ironman, I was on my XO-1 with 1" tyres and it rolled great. But certainly an actual mountain bike is going to be a bit slower than a road bike, no matter how it's set up, because it's heavier, less compliant, and probably less aerodynamic. Of course, I've had people finish Furnace Creek 508 on "roadified" mountain bikes on occasion and RAAM has been done that way on a two-man team. But such bike choices are never made by race leaders.

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    13. Chris, you missed my point but never mind.

      I challenge you to ride a Calfee Adventure like Jan did and give some honest feedback on it. Modern bikes under a strong rider are measurably more efficient. Yes, wheel size and aerodynamics make a huge difference too. If you start averaging speed as in an endurance event the tech starts to lose some advantage, but it is still there.

      Delete
    14. Whitt and Wilson, Bicycling Science, 2nd Edition, MIT Press 1982 p.107

      "...a wheel of a given diameter has a rolling resistance (in the sense of surface power absorption) of approximately half that of a wheel of half the diameter."

      Chapter 5 'The Wheel' explains this in detail, for hard and soft surfaces, all terms defined exhaustively, equations, and any way you look at it the bigger wheel is faster.

      Besides being engineering professors both authors are riders and wrenches.

      Delete
    15. Anon Apr 18, 2012 05:09 PM: RAAM is ridden much faster than at 12mph. I spent most of my RAAM at 17-20 on the flats, often faster when dueling with another competitor or pursuing my goals for that day or stretch of the country. It's the time off the bike and the 75,000 feet of vertical ascent which push down the irrelevant average speed that you cite.

      Besides, Anon, you missed my point and choose to take a swipe at me instead. (Such a childish thing to do, especially when using Anon to post.) I won't restate my point again as I'm sure the non-trolls understood and appreciated my contribution to this conversation.

      BTW, I have 11 tooth cogs on all my bikes; they are not discordant, unlike you.

      Delete
    16. GRJ: Right when I think we're actually agreeing about something, you go and throw the conversation in a totally different direction. Last I checked, this thread is about wheel size and its affect on speed, handling, etc. When did we start comparing carbon race bikes to other bikes and issuing challenges? Challenging me is a waste of your time, anyway.

      Delete
    17. That's chord with an "h". An 11T cog is not a circle, it's an 11 pointed star. Tooth root to tooth root is an 11 sided polygon. Superimpose a circle on the polygon and each side of the polygon will be a chord of the circle.

      A chain is a series of straight line segments literally trying to square the circle. It can't be done. There have been major efforts in recent years to fine tune tooth shape on the small cogs to make them acceptably smooth. Mathematics does not compromise. Small cogs run rough. Reductio ad absurdum - do you really think a 1 or 2 or 3 tooth cog could be made that would function acceptably?

      I was not remotely thinking of taking a swipe at you. I know your reputation. I've heard Lon and his dad say nice things about you and that's good enough for me.

      12mph for your friend on the Moulton comes from the Moulton site. Average speed for his ride. At 17 or 20 mph it's going to take instruments to tell a fast tire from a slow tire. Subjective impressions will be all over the map. Precise tire used will have just as much effect as rolling diameter.

      People talk past each other online. Nature of the medium. There's a reason site hosts allow anon comments.

      Effect of rolling diameter on rolling resistance has been settled at least since Archibald Sharp and I feel about that old myself right now. Anyone reading this who doesn't know Archibald should go look him up. You will avoid a lot of pointless and erroneous disputes.

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    18. Chris, no we are not in agreement - 26ers are slower irrespective of gearing. That was my point.

      My point in introducing the Adventure into the equation is: race bikes are faster than non-race bikes. An Adventure, though not a race bike, is faster than most any metal bike. Everything on a race bike makes it faster. Your examples of Moultons and one guy keeping up are hardly science.

      Challenging you is a waste of my time? Surely it is if you've worked out speed differences in your mind alone. You and MDI can reinforce your ideas over a cup of Luddentia tea.

      It's widely acknowledged you are a strong rider, but many of your opinions about bikes is ill-founded. Jan and you have that in common, but at least he's willing to change his mind. He rode the Calfee and all his 650b/Singer being fast talk went right out the window.

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    19. I am sorry, but I have to stop you here. Am I the only one who thinks it is awesome that the wheel size controversy has eclipsed the Rivendell controversy? Luddentia tea for all!

      Delete
    20. Now that you've figured out your Sam isn't as fast as your race bike, there is no controversy. Bizarre how people are.

      Delete
    21. GRJ: That's just it: I'm entitled to my opinions. I don't need to cower under the shroud of science to try to protect myself from trolls or demonstrate my lack of confidence in my manhood.

      People have won all kinds of races and set all kinds of records on all kinds of bikes and wheel sizes, often with ones that were less than some scientists and researchers say are optimal. BFD.

      That's not what we're talking about here, especially on a blog that has nothing to do with racing. You've taken this conversation in entirely a different direction for no reason whatsoever other than to thump your chest and insult people. I'm not the only one who finds you boorish and childish, nor the only one who wishes that Velouria would just kick you out of the playground.

      You may have a few odds and ends of useful knowledge to bring to the table, but your offensiveness and eager desire to constantly challenge people, as if you're the sole arbiter of what's right, wrong, smart, best, or whatever are just pathetic and sad and add absolutely nothing whatsoever to the otherwise enjoyable and often enlightening conversation we have here.

      Besides, you have no real name, nor blog, nor verifiable identity. You want to challenge me? Try it in person some time after showing me a legal ID and posing for a photo so we can all see who you really are. Then I'll drop you like a rock while riding a steel bike with 26" wheels. Until then, your blogger handle might as well be UselessInsecureNoName because anybody who really has something of value and insight to say would use their real name to do so.

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    22. Uh, I was challenging Chris to challenge his own assumptions. Apparently he doesn't like them challenged.

      No chest thumping here.

      Delete
    23. Attempt no.2: I officially request that we close this particular conversation. I don't want to close the comments altogether in case someone wants to actually add something useful about the Rivendell Sam Hillborne. But now that everyone's had the last word on this particular issue, I will not approve any more follow-up comments from either party involved.

      Delete
  24. A clarification for those who say the Sam is heavy: A 52cm frame weighs about 6.5 pounds.

    It would be interesting to see how that stacks up with other bikes that are described as lighter.

    Choice of components, racks, and bags play a much larger role than frame weight.

    Factor in rider weight (the engine) and frame weight becomes almost moot, mathematically speaking.

    Thanks!

    John @ Rivendell

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    Replies
    1. For comparison, a Soma Smoothie (fast road) frame is 4lb. An average Seven titanium frame is between 2.6lb and 3.3lb. That is not a huge difference in the long run.

      Do you know the weight for the complete SH frameset (frame + fork)?

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    2. I think 6.5 pounds is for the frame and fork.

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    3. No disagreement in principle here, but if you build this kind of frame it necessitates "heavier" components like a quill stem.

      And of course an animal saddle is de rigeur.

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    4. I just heard from John at Rivendell:

      "...6.5 lb, frame and fork. Caveats: it was a Waterford-built frame without canti-bosses and the fork was unpainted (add, at most. 0.25 lb. for that stuff and the diff)"

      There we have it.

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    5. Don't know what your experience is. Try keeping up with a racing bike at speed on a rigid MTB with 26" 559mm wheels as compared to 700c. Think you will find it has nothing to do with tyres. You will have to turn a higher gear and pedal harder to keep up. Don't comment again until you have tried it and then come back with an answer.

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    6. I keep up with dudes doing 20-22mph with 650b wheels about 4 times a week.

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    7. Ryan we have already established that you are a superman who needs to ride a fully loaded Riv on paceline rides just so others can keep up; stop bragging : )

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    8. thank you john! its simple physics: F=MA and the total mass must include rider mass. Its the weight of the wheel/tire combo that restricts the angular acceleration of the wheels that is important.

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  25. Velouria,

    I've had a progression in the opposite direction of yours. After years of riding a super stiff, aluminum-framed, skinny-tired Klein Stage (my first "racing"-ish road bike) I was tired of the harsh ride. I tried a Trek Madone for a while (great bike!) but quickly tired of the skinny tires and lack of braze-ons. Then bought a Specialized Tricross - a cyclocross bike that can take larger tires (I used 32mm) and racks, fenders, and relatively upright geometry. It was very comfortable, allowed me to carry more stuff. Then I found Rivenedell. I read about their bikes and ideas endlessly, and after a couple of visits (while visiting family in San Francisco) and test rides, I ordered an A Homer Hilsen last fall, received it at the end of the year, and absolutely love it! It shares similar capability to your Sam. It is the beautifully lugged, steel-framed sport-touring road bike I grew up seeing, along the lines of my dad's Raleigh, but that I never had myself. I use 38mm Soma Express tires, acorn saddle and handlebar bags, and like you, love it for all my bike exploring. It is comfortable and stable, and has made riding my road bike as easy as my city bike - just get on and go! It is not for racing, just for enjoying long rides and carrying whatever I want to take with me. I encourage checking out the Riv website for those interested - there are tons of great ideas about bikes and other topics.

    Thank you for a great website!

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    Replies
    1. I agree with you and followed the same kind of path. Used to ride race bikes but eventually migrated to comfort, more versatile biking. I like to be able to go off road if I feel like it and with the Sam I don't mind hitting cracks and potholes. Speed, just for speed sake, just isn't me anymore.

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  26. "The Sam Hillborne was... optimised for the culture of "bike camping" that's so popular with Rivendell owners. The front end seems insensitive to properly supported weight, the chainstays are long enough for panniers without heel-strike, and the frame's tubing is robust enough to handle the weight itself. It is really a shame I do not take advantage of these characteristics more often."

    That pretty much says it all. I have a 56cm Hillborange Sam that I got around the same time you got yours. I use it for bike camping every other weekend and for commuting and errands every day. But for fast club rides I have a lightweight IF Club Racer. Each bike is great at what it does and not great at what the other does.

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  27. I do think there is a design difference between "compact" and "expanded" frames. Both share a sloping top tube that accommodates a variety of leg lengths and a raised head tube. Both allow the builder to stock a smaller number of frames compared to frames with level top tubes that used to be stocked in 2 cm increments. The differences are in the chainstay length, top tube length and front center measurement. Compact frames generally have short chainstays and relatively shorter top tubes and front centers than expanded frames. I have a 52 cm Serotta compact frame with a 52.5 top tube, 41.75 cm chainstays and a 57.5 cm front center with toe overlap. The 52 cm Sam Hillborne that I looked at has 44.5 cm chainstays, a 57.5 top tube and a 61 cm front center without toe overlap.
    The Serotta is designed for spirited riding. The Sam is designed, as Velouria states, for more leisurely riding. Horses for courses.

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    Replies
    1. My impression is that chainstay length is a completely separate issue from compact/expanded geometry, and that the latter refers specifically to the sloping TT design. After all, frames with standard, level top tubes (i.e. neither "compact" nor "expanded") have varying chain stay lengths depending on what the bike is for. I am pretty sure that any bike shop employee not versed in the Rivendell fit philosophy would call my SH a "56cm+ compact touring frame with long chainstays" and they wouldn't be wrong.

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  28. I briefly owned a 56 cm, single tt Sam Hill (it was Riv's shop floor model, in fact). My opinion is that it has many of Rivs "trademark" features, is a great buy and very versatile. But I found it wandered horribly when climbing steep hills seated in very low gears (ie, not much weight on the front end) with 25+ loads in the rear -- Tubus Logo rack, so the fault was not a flexing rack. I also found it did not fit into my admittedly self-imposed riding categories: it is indeed best as a pavement-cum-dirt allrounder, while my preferred riding is pavement (Riv customs) and sandy dirt and/or heavy loads (groceries; that some-day-promised loaded tour) for which my Fargo is a better match since it accepts 65 mm wide tires with fenders and air space between. Too bad, since apart from loads and sand, the SH was a very nice bike; just slower on pavement and not much good on sand and, as above, wandering under uphill loads.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmmm. I have never experiences any kind of wandering with my Sam. I wonder if the different sizes has something to do with it. 48cm vs. 56cm??? What handlebar was on it?

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    2. I have not experienced this on my 52cm either.

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    3. It had a 46 cm Noodle. (Aside: I just swapped out the 46 on the Fargo for a 42 and like it much better.) I wonder if the problem was weight distribution. The 56 SH has a 59 cm tt, which is 2 cm longer than my usual for a road bike. This required a bar that is at least a couple of cm above saddle to get the right reach, all of this meaning that there is less weight on the front end. Add to this the rearward saddle position that I favor as well as the high "flop factor" in the steering geometry ... OTOH, the SH was unerring in fast, downhill sweepers and handled nicely in routing manoeuvering on the flats.

      Delete
  29. I never rode those big soft tires, but I had a pair of the 32mm Grand Bois. When you jump on the pedals it feels like there's a ball and chain hanging off the back of the bike. For some reason I hate that sensation. The Rivendell Maxty Fasty tires feel more solid and make the bike feel faster. It probably rolls slower, but acceleration and climbing feel more like a racing tire. I think lighter riders stand up and jump on the pedals more than big strong riders and the perception of what is a fast or slow tire is different. Those Hetres tires would make the bike feel like a stretched limo which would be good if you weighed twice as much, but being small they would make the bike feel like a slug.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Grand Bois and Rivendell tires are both Panasonic made tires. I've not personally tried a Maxy Fasty. I've used Grand Bois 700x32 Cypres.(Think it's labeled narrower but it's 32.) The GB tire uses the lightest fastest clincher casing Panasonic has. The light casing Jack Brown uses the same casing fabric as the GB, just wider. The difference in how these tires are reviewed is comical.

      Delete
    2. Anon Apr 18, 2012 04:37 PM: You are dead wrong. Those tyres are not even in the same ballpark. You obviously haven't ridden both Grand Bois and Maxy Fasty or Rolly Polly, or you wouldn't make such uninformed comments. The Riv tyres are boat anchors, while the Grand Bois tyres are wings. The flip side is that the Riv tyres will last significantly longer and get a lot less flats. Just because these tyres come out of the same factory or even share some of the same components doesn't make them anymore similar than two tyres, or bikes, made in totally different factories.

      Delete
    3. I've entirely worn through three sets of Rolly Polly, for quite a while they were the best 700x28 out there. They are now out of production. Or at least Riv announced they were and I haven't seen any notice they've resumed.
      The R-Ps were not the same casing as the Cypres or the Jack Brown. I've been riding Panasonic made tires since Schwinn started marketing them here 40 years ago. All Panasonic/National tires do share broad similarities. Always have.

      If you think Riv tires are/were boat anchors my assumption (you make assumptions with regard to me) is that you're thinking of the Ruffy Tuffy and the other tires with extra belting and thicker tread. Since I got minimum 6000 miles on each set of R-Ps I didn't need more tread.And 20,000 miles on one tire variety is not uninformed.

      I rode the R-Ps on plenty of club rides and did the sprints (40 mph) and did 35 mph leadouts and would've noticed if they were slow.

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    4. That's the other side of the argument that doesn't get talked about. Tires are fast in different ways. Maxty Fasty tires with lots of air in them really fly when you jump on them and the GB tires don't. A squishy tire is boring. There's more to it than rolling resistance. I don't care that the GB tires roll quicker over 1200km. I go out for a few hours to have fun and the Maxty Fasties are more fun.

      Delete
  30. Hi Velouria - Just curious what width the drop bars are? I am currently getting a Betty Foy built by them - I believe I need a 38 and it seems the smallest they have is a 42. I have pretty narrow shoulders though.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Boat anchors? C'mon, Chris.

    Best regards,

    John at Rivendell

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maxy fasty is a great tire, I have a set on a spare wheelset and love to take them on faster rides. Certainly not a boat anchor.

      Delete
  32. I dont think its fair comparing the acceleration of two bikes unless they are equipped with the same wheels and tires. The weight of the bike is not nearly as important as the wheel/tire weight.Bike weight must include rider weight when acceleration is being discussed and the differences in bike weights alone become less important as a % of the total. The acceleration of the wheel/tire combination however is independent of rider weight and is a very significant component of total.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Can you tell me more about your Shimpagnolo drivetrain with the Veloce ergo levers? I have had difficulty finding information on combining MTB derailleurs (with their high tooth capacity) with brake lever shifters. Which components did you use. Did you encounter any problems with your combination?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will try to post about this soon. We used a J-Tek converter. Here is some info about how it works from Peter White.

      Delete
  34. it's pretty obvious that your fit is off because you slam the bars. looks cool i guess, but fits like crap. raise the bars and they get closer, then you don't have to shove your saddle forward.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I started out with the position you describe, but eventually found it limiting. As I explained in the review, I moved the saddle forward because the slack seat tube angle made me feel I was too far back, and not to get closer to the bars.

      Delete
  35. Hi, Velouria. Greetings from Brooklyn! I didn't see an ordinary contact link here (mind, I haven't had coffee yet), but I thought you would find this page interesting. Granting that you may know of it already, here it is:

    http://www.classiclightweights.co.uk/index.html

    I've become obsessed with IGH road bikes, a la the Raleigh Record Ace

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/9157103@N05/6695279521/

    and the Raleigh "Clubman" cycles like the Lenton Clubman and Reg Harris model. I keep vacillating between converting my existing single-speed and buying a Traitor Luggernaut, the one bike currently available that fits the pattern. Have you ever tried such a bike? I'd be interested to read your take on the idea, maybe including a brief test/ride impression.

    Rudy

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  36. Re: my earlier post, this is the time trial/roadie version:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/9157103@N05/sets/72157629068692065/

    Rudy

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  37. What us the measurement of your saddle nose to bar top at the clamp now that you have the no set back seat post?
    I am thinking of getting a 52 and want to make sure the reach is good for me.

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  38. The Hillborne's used to be hand built in the USA, and now they are built in Taiwan. I'm curious what people may think of the difference in quality... I'm getting close to buying one of these frames and trying to decide wether to just get a new one, or look for a used one.

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete