Born for the Hills! A Review of the Rivendell Sam Hillborne
I have owned my Rivendell Sam Hillborne ("Graham Greene") for 6 months now, and have ridden it for 1,800 miles. It is time for a review. The short version is: "I love it. I love it so much!" For the long version, read on.
I received a Rivendell Sam Hillborne frame as a holiday gift in December 2009, purchased from Harris Cyclery in West Newton, MA. We were not yet comfortable building up a bike on our own, so the build was done at Harris as well. It took me a few months to save up for the components, and the bicycle was ready in the end of April. Note that Harris Cyclery was not a sponsor at the time, and that everything in relation to this bicycle was a standard purchase.
My choice of build for the Hillborne was informed by test-riding a floor model in my size. Since I had no real experience riding a roadbike at that point, I mostly went with recommended specs. These included a 3x8 drivetrain, Sugino cranks, Nitto Noodle handlebars with Silver bar-end shifters, and a Brooks B17S saddle. My 52cm frame was built for 650B wheels and cantilever brakes.
The three things I specifically chose for this bicycle were handbuilt wheels with dynamo lighting (see details here), Grand Bois Hetre tires (see review here), and Tektro short reach brake levers. The discovery of these brake levers was crucial for me. One thing that had hitherto prevented me from riding bicycles with drop bars, was my inability to squeeze the brake levers - especially from the hoods. I have small hands and I have damaged nerves in my hands. The combination made squeezing this type of lever impossible. When I described the problem to Elton at Harris Cyclery, we went through different brake levers to see whether any existed that I was able to squeeze. The Tektro levers were it and I am extremely happy with them. Elton also showed me some methods of hand and finger placement that work well for me and do not send electric currents through my fingers. I cannot stress enough what a break-through this was in terms of understanding why I was having problems riding with drop bars before.
Renaissance Bicycle (a sponsor), an Ostrich handlebag bag from Velo Orange which I use on long trips,
here for my initial review of them).
chainstay protector. This product is great for preventing the paint on the right chainstay from getting nicked by the chain slapping against it when the bicycle goes over bumps - which began to happen to my Rivendell within the first few rides I went on.
handlebars quite high, so that I could get used to the drop bars. The Hillborne has what I would say is a long top tube, and I have a short torso - so the degree of lean this placed me in required some adjustment on my part.
I love pretty much everything about this bicycle and find it difficult to muster up any words of criticism. It may be worth noting that some dislike the slight upward slope to the top tube on the Hillborne, but I have no problem with it. If I have to find something bad to say, then maybe it's that the paint seems to be a bit delicate - but then I am used to powdercoat, and it's just a fact that liquid paint is easier to nick. I am equally happy with my choice of components - perhaps with the exception of the Shimano Deore rear derailleur, which I have managed to bang up pretty badly in the course of ownership. Next spring, I may replace it with the Shimano XT "Shadow," which seems more immune to abuse. Otherwise, everything is perfect.
track bike I rode in Vienna and to the Italian racing bike I subsequently built up as a fixed gear. Once I learned the skills on the Rivendell, I felt comfortable on other types of roadbikes as well - but I would not have been able to learn on them.