Rivendell Clementine: a Belated, Befuddled, Bedazzled Intro

I do not like to describe a bicycle as magical, or mysterious. Despite any romantic cooings that might sometimes suggest otherwise, in the cold light of day I do not actually believe there is such a thing. Whether a bicycle is "fast," "comfortable," "stable," "climbs well" (insert other praiseworthy attributes here), it got that way not through some alchemical je ne sais quois, but through specific and replicable design factors. From tubing selection, to geometry, to method of construction - it all plays a role. Other, less obvious factors, lurk in the background also. And while even the most sensitive, most knowledgeable reviewers (of which I am not one!) find themselves stumped on occasion as to how to account for a particular bicycle's behaviour, that doesn't mean the explanation is not there - only that they can't see it.

All of this is to say: I've been testing a Rivendell Clementine over the summer. And I have stalled with its introduction precisely for this reason. I refuse to describe it as a magical bicycle. Yet there are certain things about it, which I am not sure how to communicate without coming across as implying just that...

But allow me to put that aside for a moment and provide some background. I have a bit of experience with Rivendell bicycles. My first roadbike was a green Sam Hillborne circa 2010. With its relaxed geometry, allowance for an upright fit, wide tyres, and general sense of sturdiness, it helped me learn how to ride with drop bars and eased me into the sportier side of cycling, despite my then-problems with balance. I owned the Sam Hillborne for two years, before ultimately switching to a "racy" skinny-tyre roadbike. The Sam's new owner set it up as an upright commuter, and, as far as I know, remains delighted with it to this day.

Having been lucky enough to live near Harris Cyclery during my time in Boston, I have tried other Rivendells over the years: the Betty Foy/ Yves Gomez, the Atlantis, the Roadeo, the Quickbeam, and a good few customs belonging to local riders. The bicycles continued to fascinate me, and I followed Rivendell news with interest.

In so doing, one trend I had kept an eye on, was the company's gradual shift from sport-oriented design (their very first bicycles in the '90s were fairly traditional roadbikes), toward utility. Over the years, angles relaxed, chainstays grew, virtual top tubes stretched, extra top tubes emerged, dynamo lighting appeared... and while the reasoning behind this was presented as mostly camping-oriented, to my eye it looked as if Rivendell was also inching toward releasing a transport-specific model. In thinking this, I was encouraged by Grant Petersen's involvement in the designs of Brooklyn Bicycles and the XtraCycle Radish - some of the best-handling urban utility bikes I have tried. Was Rivendell about to "drop" a homespun, country bike equivalent? I could only wait and see.

And one day, it finally appeared on their website: The Rivendell Clementine. In a strangely visceral way I knew immediately what I was looking at. Step-through construction, omafiets-like angles and chainstays, low bottom bracket, fat tyres, huge range of saddle and bar height adjustment, derailleur gearing... and a $1,500 price tag for a complete bike.

My goodness, I think they've done it! I had to unbutton my collar from the excitement.

At this point, I had been in vague discussion with Rivendell about getting a bike over to Ireland for review. And so now I immediately asked for the Clementine. The initial response was one of suspicious discouragement.

Are you sure?! It's not even fully lugged. And it's hefty, you know. You'll try to ride it in pacelines and complain it can't keep up with carbon bikes... 

Touché. But I assured them I understood what the Clementine was, and wanted to try that specific model. Eventually Rivendell relented. And when the huge box arrived covered in drawings of talking cats (have you ever received a Rivendell-packaged bike? a topic worthy of its own discussion!) I prepared for something rather interesting.

What I was not prepared for, was to be surprised. I had thought - or, rather, hoped - that I knew what this bicycle was. And to be sure, the Clementine is exactly that. Only... how do I put this? a better version of it. In addition to doing the things I expected of it, it has also behaved in some unexpected ways - leaving me dazed and confused and more than a little in love - in the end, uncertain how to write about it at all.

Having admitted that, I will nevertheless try my best to describe this bicycle.

In 2015, Rivendell introduced a pair of new, lower priced bicycle models, for utility-oriented town and country cycling: the Clem Smith, Jr. and his "mother or sister" the Clementine. These models were designed much the same as standard Rivendells, but with partly welded construction ("cutting some artsy corners to lower the price"), and beefier, reinforced tubing, for extra durability. The models were made available as frames or complete bicycles, for a considerably lower price than typical Rivendells.

While the diamond frame Clem Smith might resemble other Rivendell models, the Clementine is particularly unique in that it is the manufacturer's first truly step-through frame, with a considerably lower stepover than their mixte models (i.e. the Betty Foy, Yves Gomez, Cheviot and Glorius).

The Clementine frames are available in three sizes, with size-proportional wheels. The small frame is built to fit 26" wheels; the medium frame (shown) for 650B wheels, and the large for 700C wheels - and all are designed to fit tyres up to 60mm wide, with fenders.

You can see the geometry chart here.

The overall style of the Clementine I would describe as: best of Dutch omafiets meets best of 90s mountain bike, but with the added benefits of proportional sizing and a low bottom bracket. Here is what I mean by that in more detail:

Best of Dutch omafiets:
. ultra-low stepover, for easy on/off
. the possibility of a bolt-upright riding position
. relaxed angles, for comfort
. super-long chainstays, allowing for monsterously sized panniers without heel strike

Best of 90s mountain bike:
. all-terrain capability
. stable handling
. derailleur gearing, with possibility of ultra-low ratios for serious climbing

Proportional sizing:
. as frame size grows, all aspects of the frame (including wheel size) grow proportionately
. this makes for better fit
. and eliminates toe overlap concerns

Low bottom bracket:
. makes it easier to put a toe down at stops without having to dismount from the saddle
. particularly in transport bicycles, this enhances overall accessibility

In both aesthetics and feel the Clementine reminds me most of a certain type of German and Austrian utility bike that had been around for decades through maybe the early 1990s. While clunky in stature and most commonly used as city bikes, these types of bicycles were also surprisingly good over long distances and over unpaved terrain. They were not designed for sport, but for casual - yet, potentially endless - cycling. It is the idea of precisely this kind of cycling that first attracted me to bicycles.

As per its online description, the Clementine is a compromise between elegance and utility, between welded and lugged construction. Specifically, most of the frame is welded (you can see pictures of this in "naked" form here), save for the fork crown, head tube rings, and seat cluster.

But while the manufacturer describes the look as somewhat "less Rivendellish," I personally do not feel that way. To my eye, the overall aesthetic of the bike is unmistakably Riv. But in a way that you'll be perhaps less worried about scuffing it, leaving it locked up in the town, or using it in terrible weather.

When it comes to the Clem Jr. and Clementine builds, Rivendell recommends a medley of sturdy, but not overly pretty or fancy, components. I left it in their hands to decide on the demo build, specifying only that I wanted very low gears and dynamo lighting. The result was a build much like described here, with a 38/24t front / 11-34t rear drivetrain, v-brakes, an upside-down thumbie and brake lever setup, cork grips, and SKS fenders. I fitted my own saddle and pedals, and have been riding this bicycle as my main form of transport for much of the summer.

For anyone who reviews bicycles, we can never really anticipate what will go on in our lives when a demo bike arrives at our door. In case of the Clementine, it caught me at a time when I was in pretty great shape, followed swiftly by a period of time when, having just had minor surgery, I was unable to ride a bicycle at all for weeks. When I was finally allowed to cycle again, for a while it could only be on a bolt-upright bike. Having initially ridden the Clementine with the stem "slammed" nearly all the way down, I now extended it by a good fistful and a half and was pleasantly surprised with the bike's versatility - not only did the Clementine allow for a range of semi-upright and upright positions, but it felt equally "natural" in each setup. It also felt equally lovely to ride in sickness and in health, so to speak.

Despite the epic length of this post, this is not yet a review. But by way of introduction I would sum up the Clementine with the word "easy" - meant in the most positive sense. It is a bicycle that manages to accomplish what so many cyclists I know have been asking for since the Dutch bike's arrival to hillier, less bicycle-friendly lands: an upright, comfortable, casual, accessible, non-sporty bicycle, that can be ridden up hills and over longer distances without struggle.

The Rivendell Clementine is not a performance bicycle. It does not achieve its ease of travel by means of light tubing, aggressive positioning, or racy handling. In fact, it is a rather massive, and obscenely relaxed machine. Riding it down the road, I feel remarkably at ease. I want to be wearing dresses, fluttery clothing, flimsy footwear - and often I do. I want to meander endlessly. Yet despite this, the bike eats up miles. And I am left with the impression of getting to my destination quickly, without that tedious feel that long milage often begins to take on for me, when riding an upright bike.

Is it magic? Certainly not. But I have yet to put my finger on what exactly gives the Clementine this quality. Along with other mysterious traits, such as its unexpectedly lively climbing skills and superior headwind-coping abilities. I hope to explore all of that in detail in the long-term review, as well as to try the bike equipped with racks and some serious luggage by then (so far I've been riding it with an oversized saddlebag, large enough for my laptop and camera, but not nearly representative of what this bike is capable of hauling).

In the meanwhile, if you are in the market for an upright, step-through, non-performance bicycle that will take you places, have a look at the Rivendell Clementine. It may not be mysterious or magical, but it is more than meets the eye.


  1. Very interesting. Are these bikes liquid finish or powder coated? How has the finish held up? Thanks!

    1. Liquid paint. A tiny chip on the seat cluster lug, but otherwise intact after 2 months of use.

  2. Wow. That is a handsome looking bicycle! Are the proportion's different on the demo? Gotta say this looks better than other photos. I am forwarding your review to my daughter, who is in grad school and looking for a new bike. What do you think of the new colors?

    1. I had to check this against the Riv site. It didn't even look like the same bike I'd seen there. Have seen one on the street with an unfortunate setup that drew attention away from the bike's better points.
      You're just looking at the work of a superior photographer.

    2. The bike pictured is a standard medium sized Clementine, from the first batch of production.

      As much as it would flatter me to take credit for the photo skillz, I think the discrepancy can be explained as follows:

      1. The medium frame (the bike I have) has the most harmonious, elegant proportions of the three sizes. The Riv site features frames of all sizes, so have a look at how the proportions change from the small to the medium to the large, and you'll see what I mean.

      2. Keep in mind that the bike as shown in my photos is unusually, unnaturally uncluttered. No baskets, no racks, no stuff hanging off it.

      3. I set up my bikes more aggressively than is typical of a Rivendell build. The saddle and bars being nearly level fosters a sense of balance that would disappear if either of these were to be altered.

      4. Finally, I think the black paint makes the tubes look "skinnier."

      And to answer the question in the original comment: I really like the mustard colour of the 2nd batch. The robin's egg blue less so, only because I think it has played itself out too much over the years. I like the black also, as it is versatile and flattering (see above). If I were ordering a Clementine for personal use today, it would be a toss up between the black and the mustard. But really there is no right answer to this, and it depends on the owner's preferences!

    3. The earlier Clementine photo series on the Rivendell website that let you click from 45 to 52 to 59 seems to be gone. Though I too am partial to my medium (and think a 57-58 is about the perfect road bike size) because the wheels and the chainstays are proportional, I think the smaller and larger frames are really nice as well (though that 59 is a monster!)

    4. About that robin's egg blue...the color is more of a dark and stormy teal, or a dusky turquoise. It's different. Not many photos I've seen do it justice.

  3. Interesting assessment so far and being an owner of one (nearly identical to that one) I do echo many of your statements. You are not going to fly up any hills, but if you just relax and find a nice gear, you'll get to the top soon enough. The magic in the Clementine to me is exactly how you stated that you really don't seem to be moving quickly at all, but if you check your GPS or bike computer, indeed you have made pretty good time! I really find it shines with a front basket, it loves a front load. There are a few little nitpicks I have with it, but I still find myself reaching for it again and again. Last Friday, I left my Car at home and used the Clementine all day, 35 miles - No problem! - masmojo

    1. I would love to know what your nitpicks are.

      The bike actually *does* kind of sort of fly for me uphill (not by roadbike standards, but above and beyond transport bike standards). There is a distinct sense of "planing" action happening, which I am taken aback by.

      I have yet to test it with a front load. Looking forward to that.

    2. I like my Orange 'tine, but when I see the black ones they just look SO cool, almost sinister, like a black widow or maybe a black Praying Mantis! None of that flat black crap; shinny like a deep dark pool! - masmojo

    3. The nitpicks I have seem to be mine alone (I actually have two 'tines a small and a medium, my nit's only apply to the medium, but that's the one I ride, the small is for my family units), so I hesitate to throw these out there, but . . .
      I like the long wheelbase, but I feel like it's just a bit too long and the bottom bracket drop on my medium a smidge too much as well. To me shortening the stays a wee bit would negate the BB complaint OR shortening the BB drop lessen the chainstay issue. One minor thing that bugs me a little is the placement of the water bottle braze-ons on the top of the down tube; natural place for them really . . Understood, but if I mount the water bottle there, It's pretty much in the way when you want to mount or dismount, effectively wiping out the point of a step through frame, so I have a cage mounted to the handlebars instead. - Mas

    4. No such thing as "too much" bottom bracket drop!!

      While the chain stay length does seem excessive to me (I can shove my knee between seat tube and rear fender as a way of propping the bike up on a train - see here), I will stop short of suggesting it should be in any way altered, for fear that tweaking any element of the bike would change its overall feel.

      Personally I do not want a bottle cage in the way of my stepping-through either, but I think it is nice to have the optional brazeons (and in an easy to reach place). Me, I carry my water in the side pocket of my commuter saddlebag, or in a pannier, or basket, so I don't really need upright bikes to have the cage braze-ons at all.

    5. I tend to agree about BB drop in general, but on this particular bike, I find my crank arms striking things more than any other bike I've ever ridden. The tops of speed bumps or even just odd rises in the pavement where I am not really thinking it would be a problem. Also on more than one occasion if I don't have the ball of my foot right over the pedal axle when I start to sprint or climb out of the saddle, my toe's will sometimes drag the ground and I really don't have super big feet! (size 11) That is a problem I really don't recall ever having on any other bike. Luckily the Clementine is not really a bike that lends itself to wild bursts of out of the saddle riding. I hate to even mention these things, because it makes me sound unhappy with the bike, when I am not really. I've owned a lot of bikes and none of them has ever been perfect, most have their strengths & weaknesses, but we keep trying right? Someday maybe I will find that elusive perfect bike! Building an Atlantis now, maybe that's it!? - Mas

    6. I've got a BB drop of 80 and crank arms of 170…That's enough to create occasional issues so I would certainly not want to go lower!

    7. Mas

      I have size 11 feet as well. I once owned an Olde English with approx 95mm of BB drop. Never once rubbed my toes on pavement. That sounds painful and something I would remember. I was also riding that bike with 700x28 so much closer to the ground than you would be on a Clem. There was a constant issue of mashing the toeclips on the pavement when starting, I just learned to clip in quickly. I have an English bike now with 85mm drop and skinnies and never have a problem

      Your problem would not affect every rider. My observation is that most who point toes downward are doing so to reach the pedals while they have the saddle too high. So give a lower saddle at least one try. The other possibility would be to get the bike higher off the ground by fitting the biggest size tire the frame allows. As a final effort you could try shorter cranks, most who try them barely notice the difference. Come to think of it that olde English was a 23-1/2" frame and had original equipment 165 cranks.

    8. A vintage Moser I once owned had a BB drop of 85mm. At some point I had misguidedly set it up as a fixed gear, with 170mm cranks : )

    9. I am currently riding a fixed gear with 85mm of drop. It might have some limitations beneath my notice. Maybe. When simple stuff that works fine becomes a problem then it's time to look at the rider instead of the equipment. With big tires holding that BB up higher than your Moser or my Rivetts it taxes my imagination to see how a Clementine could have a clearance problem. Given that the Clem takes tires standing three centimeters taller than what I will be riding in 30 minutes there are hundreds of millions of bikes in service with less ground clearance than the Clem. Very few of those riding these bikes are having problems.

  4. Sounds perfect ... Sadly not available in th UK though, right?

    1. They do ship to the UK (and Ireland, and continental Europe).

      Rivendell has very few retailers, even in the US, so mostly their bikes are purchased on line direct. In Europe we do have to deal with customs charges. But the bikes are very much available to European customers.

  5. Thank you for your initial review.

    Could you provide some thoughts on how the ride quality of the clementine compares to their mixte bikes (not stepover or lugs, or price). I have the Yves Gomez, purchased largely due to your review of that bike, which I love, and have considered the Clementine as a winter bike, with studded tires, for example.
    Also, which model selle anatomica, and how do you like the saddle on this type of bike.

    Many thanks!

    1. To me, the Clementine's ride quality (assuming we're talking about the cush factor here?) actually feels better than I remember of the mixte models. And I think it is an excellent winter bike candidate.

      The SA saddle pictured is a 5yo pre-Titanico model. You can see it is kind of stretched. But feels very good on this bike, and the width seems just right for me, on a semi-upright setup (it did begin to feel too narrow when I had the bars all the way up).

  6. I know you said you were going to review this a while back. I keep missing your reviews of stuff I have/had--Bike Haul a Day, Rustine grips (did you do those yet?) I'm glad you are saddled up!

    My Clementine is my main squeeze. When I first saw it on the Rivendell website, I thought, My what an ugly, ungainly thing. But a minute or two later, I realized it would be my next (last new?) bike! Now I consider it the handsomest bicycle I own.

    I posted some of my initial experience with the bike on RBW a while back. Since then, I have come to fully embrace the Bosco Bullmoose bars. I've also installed a brown VO sprung saddle which is pretty awesome. I originally had the sprung B17, but it wasn't quite doing it. Being super upright, I like the wider saddle, and even though as a Riv it has the typical slack angles, the ability of the VO to go back even further is appreciated. The brown also softens it just a touch. Anyway, yes, a difficult bicycle to review because it is really a bicycle's bicycle. And they can't talk.

    I've done two installments of my review. The third one, coming soon, will be titled My Convivial Clementine, in the Ivan Illich Tools for Conviviality sense of the word, as well as the more common definition.

    Among other things, it serves as the tractor for my son's Piccolo.

    Here are my initial thoughts

    To test its mettle, I rode it to the top of Mt. Beacon.

    Here is a photo from this morning, after dropping my son and the Piccolo off on the other side of the Hudson. It shows the VO saddle.

    This bicycle heavily influences your riding mindset with its looks and geometry---hey, I'm going for a tootle, taking it easy, the living is good, let me take this little cut through path, hello neighbor!--then blows your mind a bit by delivering at an unexpected performance level. Weeeee!

    About the only thing I find non-convivial for me at the moment is lugging it up my to my third floor walkup. Although the weight when riding is actually felt more as a luxury, when lifting it up or down stairs, it is a bear...it will help with our scrawny bicycling upper bodies. (Luckily my landlord lets me keep it and my tandem on the second floor landing.)Though I am something of a tire snob, I even like the stock Kenda tires, because they fit the bike and its various purposes. They feel right, roll just fine! What would I do with the extra minute or two saved on my commute by having Switchbacks? In fact, it would be stealing time from my ride on Clementine!

    As Ireland is a convivial country by many accounts, it would seem to be the perfect bicycle for you! I know Jan H. just bought his latest review bike, a titanium all road...


    Mark in Beacon

    1. Understandable, my review timeline is not exactly predictable!

      "A bicycle's bicycle" - surely this should be a slogan.
      Thanks for the links to your write-ups.

      I may eventually try the bike with the Bosco Bullmoose bars. To do so from the get go, I thought, would be venturing so far off from how I would normally set up an upright bike, it would dominate my impressions. As is, I managed to set up the Clem very similarly to the normal position I go for, which I thought was pretty cool, since the same bike can also be set up full-omafiets.

      I have no problem lugging around heavy bikes... as long as I live on the ground floor : ) Getting the Clementine onto a raised train platform is enough excitement for me, thanks very much.

      Ah yes, Jan Heine bought a Firefly! Wanting to keep review bikes on occasion is an occupational hazard.

      {Oh and Rustine grips? they are fantastic.}

  7. This is a very interesting review, and I'll look forward to subsequent impressions. Clementine owners all seem very pleased with theirs, and though I've been somewhat skeptical of Rivendell's recent "cruiser" product line (I do try to keep an open mind) this "independent" review makes me look at the Clem again as a real possibliity one day.

  8. Perhaps you could give your UK readers some idea of the associated shipping / import duty and vat costs on importing such a ride. The uncertainty will probably put many off considering this and where could you get anything comparable over here?

    1. Unfortunately, there IS uncertainty. It depends on how the item is packaged, on how it's described, on which port/base it arrives at, at which customs officer is on duty, you get the idea. Worst case scenario, it can be up to 20% of purchase price. Seems daunting, but is not necessarily worse than the upcharge one would pay on a US-imported bike sold by a UK retailer.

    2. In terms of UK Customs charges, in addition to the VAT at standard rate (20%) it looks as though there would be import duty at 14 or 15%, assuming the item is classified as some a bicycle of some kind. These details are published in a document known as the "Tariff" and available online. Results for "bicycle" are here: www.gov.uk/trade-tariff/headings/8712?country=US.

    3. I've day dreamed about this myself.....Bike 1,500 + Shipping 200? = 1,700 + import duty complete bikes 15% 255 = 1,955 + VAT 20% 391 = USD 2,346 = £1,760 + importer handling charge say £1,800
      Frame 850 + Shipping 100? = 950 + import duty bike parts 4.7% 143 = 1,093 + VAT 20% 219 = USD 1,312 = £984 + importer handling charge say £1,000.
      It does all add up, but if it turns out to me the 'one' perhaps it's a bargain.

  9. I am just beginning to ride my Clementine and also posted my initial impressions. Because I recently rode a Yuba Boda Boda cargo bike, I was amazed both bikes had similar ride feel. That is, until I measured their lengths - both are 72".

    1. Oh, cool!

      Here is the report for all interested.

      Impressions of bicycles can be so different. I would not compare the ride quality to a Yuba (or to the Bike Friday Haul-a-Day reviewed here earlier). But as far as size, oh yes the Clementine *is* nearly as long as a typical longtail cargo bike!

  10. There's going to be a bit of confusion over the bike you've covered, the "Clementine", and the Rivendell website links which has the "Clem Smith Jr. L-Type" (including one Clementine photo on its page).

    1. As far as I can tell, they changed the name of the Clementine to "Clem Smith Jr. L-Type" during the second production run... However, some of the description pages (and bike decals) still call it Clementine. And I think, colloquially, the name rather rolls off the tongue easier than "Clem Smith Jr. L-Type"!

  11. Funny, I would have thought yours is the larger size. It does look tall and looming! The black frame paired with cork and brown leather accessories is stunning. Looking forward to the racks and luggage setup!

  12. You say: "In both aesthetics and feel the Clementine reminds me most of a certain type of German and Austrian utility bike that had been around for decades through maybe the early 1990s. While clunky in stature and most commonly used as city bikes, these types of bicycles were also surprisingly good over long distances and over unpaved terrain. They were not designed for sport, but for casual - yet, potentially endless - cycling. It is the idea of precisely this kind of cycling that first attracted me to bicycles."

    That (what we think of as) a city bike should be good for long(-ish) distances and, especially, unpaved roads, is no surprise when you think in terms of the historical development of these designs. When they evolved in pre-WWII Europe, most roads in rural areas were unpaved and city streets were often brick or wood, thus a bike for everyday transport had to be adapted to these surfaces. Even in the 1980s, people in my wife's village in what was then Communist Eastern Europe would ride similar bikes the 20 miles each way to market in the nearest city to sell produce. Not everyday, obviously, and most of them would take the bus (or a horse cart) but some would cycle.

  13. About the lugs and welds; I wonder if welds are not in some way more in keeping with the spirit of such a bike in the 21st century than lugs? Until maybe the early 90s, lugs were the way of joining steel tubes (though a similar bike I had a long time ago, which I think dated from the 50s, had bolted seatstays); now welding is the main, proven, method. Lugs were reliable and added aesthetic touches; but now they would add expense, and a well-made, smoothly finished weld has its own visual appeal (IMO).

  14. Did Riv stop the production of the big sizes of this bike? That big frame one I saw definitely pushed me the closest I've ever been to buying a new bike. I don't need one, but that tall step-through? That ticked every box I have, except for the desire to have a non-turning front rack, but that's rare outside of Europe.

  15. I have to say that in no small way do I find that the Clem bikes are Riv’s most interesting.
    Many of their more road-ish bikes are similar enough (IMO) to the better classic steel bikes of the 70s-80s that I’ve never been able to convince myself to come off of the $3k+ that would be needed to get involved with one of their bikes.
    As I get older, I find myself further away from skinny tires and going fast (though I still enjoy those, too), and no longer commute by bike. I enjoy a good tootle around the neighborhood. Perhaps even a meander. Sometimes an all-day meander that appreciates a good comfortable bike that can haul lunch and maybe some other junk thrown in a too-full bag. To date, my most enjoyable bike for this purpose has been an old steel mtn bike that has been changed to a kinda’ upright, peppy, "city-ish" bike that can do most anything I enjoy doing.
    When I see the Clems, I appreciate the uncommonly long wheelbase and braze-ons for everything under the sun, and can imagine actually purchasing one of them. Sadly, they don’t offer one big enough for me, and I don’t like miles of seatpost/stem to “fix” a too-small bike.

    Thanks for this introduction. It has seemed that you’ve been quite taken with the Clementine, and I look forward to the actual review of it.


    1. I believe the Clem Jr. is gong to be coming in a larger size at some point and they are going to eliminate the small. On the Clementine (Or Clem L) they will retain the sizes they have now I believe.

      But, if you are too big for a Large in the current frame you would indeed be a large fellow as they are designed for a wide range of body sizes. The brochure for the Clem lists a saddle height on the 59cm of 86cm and a PBH of 97cm! in order to be too big for that you would have to be over 6'7" approx.

    2. Yeah, I'm a bit over 6'7" tall, and long legs/arms. Like I said, I don't like making up for sizing issues with long stems and seatposts. I could probably make-do if they had a 62cm (64 is not a horribly uncommon size, and I could definitely make that work).

      It's certainly not a "need", I've got a plenty-sufficient stable to choose from. (Haha, that's what my wife tells me, anyway.)


  16. Velouria,
    I was wondering if you would reveal your SH (saddle height)? My bikes are set up at about 66 cm and wondering which size would be best for me. According to their charts, I could go 45 or 52. I've been told that the frame geometry possibly warrants going to the 45 cm (L) frame. Thoughts? Thanks. Laura

    1. From bottom bracket to saddle top, mine is 70.5cm.

      It is very difficult to recommend Rivendell sizing without knowing what kind of fit you prefer. According to Riv's fit philosophy, you'd get the largest frame you can possibly fit, so as to get maximum handlebar height and torso stretch out of the bike. Me, I prefer my handlebars lower and my position more responsive, so I size down. Hope that helps!

    2. Rivendell lists the Small (45cm) Clem L with a saddle height between 56cm & 71cm. ;-)

    3. If you are referring to this, then I am pretty sure the numbers are the recommended standover (PBH) range, not saddle height.

    4. According to Rivendell...

      PBH = Saddle Height + 11cm


      45cm L frame SH 45-60cm
      52cm L frame SH 62-67cm
      59cm L frame SH 61-75cm

      or something!

    5. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bzo7-V-zcAdRNjFld2JBLVUzY3M/view

    6. Nope. Here are the Saddle Heights for the two models, straight from the super Clem Smith Jr. brochure (http://www.rivbike.com/product-p/b-cleml.htm:

      45cm H: 62cm to 71cm L: 56cm to 71cm

      52cm H: 68cm to 78cm L: 63cm to 78cm

      59cm H: 79cm to 86cm L: 72cm to 86cm

      Of course the L fits a wider range, as there is no top tube to worry over. I believe the newest run features a 65cm Clem H, but no 45cm. The Clem L (formerly known as Clementine) no longer comes in 59cm.

    7. I'm looking at that same document again, and really not sure which way I'd interpret it, considering the L vs LH vs PBH labels. Also, I would just be really surprised if Rivendell put someone with a 71 saddle height on the tiny 45cm bike, since they normally recommend sizing up, not down. Will ask for the official answer on this and report back.

    8. I spoke to the folks at Riv, including Grant. After some discussion about set up on my existing bikes, etc...he definitely recommended the 45 cm in the Clem Smith Jr L. The size chart does reflect your SH measurement for the respective bike fit. Again, my SH is 66 cm., PBH is 77.

    9. Thanks for clarifying that and I hope the sizing works out for you!

  17. I briefly owned a 45cm Clem H (slightly too small, I'm your PBH range and guessed wrong, I sold the frame to help finance a lovely robin's egg blue Appaloosa) and completely agree with the planing sensation you describe. The bike looks much too beefy and utilitarian to get-up-and-go the way it does, I was stunned. They're very good bicycles, and I suspect I'll end up with a mustard 52 Clem eventually.

  18. In a hurry to get off to work this morning but can't stop reading for a couple of reasons.
    I love my Atlantis and respect Grant's efforts at producing real world bikes, and wondered what your take would be.

    The photos are dreamy. Your eye is for showing the details is keen. I see these things but can not capture them.

    I enjoy your writing. There are little gifts tucked away waiting for the reader to discover-
    "My goodness, I think they've done it! I had to unbutton my collar from the excitement."


  19. What a lovely bicycle indeed. I have a 20 year old Trek, which is a step through and has a curved double tube(I'm sure there's a correct term for that!) which is similar. Can you tell me if there is a way to sign up to follow your blog, please?

  20. If Grant Petersen knew one of his bikes got you into "sportier" riding, I think he'd have burned his business to the ground.

    1. : )) I suspect he knows. And I'm not the only one, either.

  21. Just to follow up, I did end up getting the Clem Smith Jr. (L) in size 52! (my PBH is actually 79 but I am only 5'4") The shop had one 52 left and I rode it...went back and rode the (sold) 45...back and forth a few times, and felt better on the 52. I had the seat post way up on the 45 and still wanted to push back in the saddle. The 52 does feel like a BIG bike, but it feels great to ride. Love this bike. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  22. Fantastic intro and photos, Velouria. I currently drive a Trek FX 7.2, which I love for what it is -- but have a 'need' for a Workcycles Opa and/or Clem. I'm really looking fwd to your full-on review of the Clem, and hope you do compare it to the dutch bikes and Pilen Lyx. It would be great to get a feel for what shines in those, and what doesn't work for whatever reason.

    Again, thanks very much for this intro and your continued contributions to this addictive hobby!

  23. I'm a luthier, and I can totally understand that subjective side of this Rivendell review. In both guitars and bicycles, there are lots of options offered in every price range. But there's also the artisans, whose builds have a special appeal that sets their work apart from the mass-produced competitors.

    A hand-made guitar (or bicycle) somehow feels different. Some owners say they have a life of their own, that responds to the player (or rider) in a way no mass-produced one can. Why?

    For me, it's all about pride. Pride is not a sin for a true artisan, and I want to prove to the world my value in every little detail of my work. But a more logic explanation the the "magic" of a Rivendell (or a Manzer guitar, for example) lies in the fact that we, as artisans, have control of all the materials and processes of the build and how they interact to produce a final result, one that our customer will like... because we know exactly who our customer is and likes.

    And that's the secret.


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