Triples are there for a reason, and the best climber I know recently got a new bike. He put on the best or lightest of everything, a $500 rear hub, Silver2 shifters, and against the trend, he got a triple up front. He didn't see this a complicating his shifting life.
He's been riding a bike forever and has been all over the Americas riding places I'll never go, mountainous places with famous names and foreign animals. He didn't see his "extra" ring or two as complicating his bike's shifting. He wanted it because a lot of the time it's nice to have a 20-tooth difference up front spread among three rings.
It always has been. You get ten teeth in one step, up or down, it doesn't matter, sometimes it's just better. Big spoonfuls, big mouthfuls, big swallows aren't what you always need or want, but when you do want them, they're no less fantastic on a bike ride than they are during a meal, even if that meal is robbing the ice cream carton that a family member forgot to put away, and now it's gulping soft and gulping temperature, a combo of hard and soft at the edges, so you want one bite and go at it with a serving spoon. I can't be the only one, come on...
You can get medium gulpy gearing with two rings separated by ten teeth, too, but a third ring comes in handy to most people who aren't Will Keating, who pedals a 38 x 32 up hills I'd pedal in a 24 x36, and I swear to god, I am a decent climber. Everything I ride is steep and hilly, and I ride every day, so my body adapts.
Most of my bikes are 34x24 up front, but I put my Appaloosa together before we went into "double-mode" here, so it has those two plus a 44.
I don't always have the 44 (because I'm not always riding my Appaloosa), but I ride it a ton and I never wish I didn't have the 44, mainly on roads with a mix of flats, easy rolling hills, gradual descents, and steep hills. In other words, when your ride has everything in it, a triple is always good. I could gear my trailish bikes with a 44x34x24 up front and a 34t single in back (made by taking a cassette apart, it's not hard, but it requires a drill).
I find, in lots of situations, it's easier and more fun to shift ten teeth at a time in one easy unflubbable instant shift, and when you've got a bunch of rear cogs two to three or four teeth apart and all jammed together, you can't do that.
When you're tired and grumpy, it's great to discover that you're grunting up the hill in your big ring and maybe a middle to big (low gear) cog in back, and then you just plop the chain from the 44 to the 34, and it's great...or from the 34 to the 24.
The 44 comes in handy also on fast gradual downhills when it's more pleasant to pedal 50 to 60 rpms than, like 75 to 85. You get the speed with less effort, slower foot-circles, and with less pressure on your crotch (higher pedal pressure lightens the crotch-load).
It's rare these days to get an order for a triple. We don't have many in stock, and when it's crank-ordering time (Vince orders them), we don't give a lot of thought to triples, maybe ten percent are triples. That's insane. Doubles aren't stupid, they might make more sense for you, and if you've ridden triples most of the time and just want your Riv to be a neat tidy double with the groovy chainring guard, the best-looking chainring guards in the world, then we've got them for you. But just think about it before automatically rejecting a triple, just because the trend is to one ring, or two at most. Beware of all trends. Don't buy the "simplicity" story. At least question it.
I don't understand shifting-haters. Shifting has been presented as a technical complicated hassle, a necessity when you're desperate, and tons of technology has been thrown at dumbing it down to—now—tapping plastic to trigger some invisible electronic satan-worship shennanigans inside a black box. Please quote me on that.
I LOVE to shift and the challenge and the micro-control are part of it. It engages you and your brain and ears ten times more than anything else, and that's what people don't want. They want to buy their way around it because the industry has convinced them that they deserve to not have to think, because riding a bike should be only physiological.
The bicycle of the future, and the most successful bicycles of today, are those that require the least thought. They're marketed to pros and rich people as a way to elicit drools and impatience in recreational rides and the budget-minded, who always have to wait a few years.
If you think this is romanticizing difficulty, I'm not saying it right. There has always been some kind of satisfaction in using a kitchen or other knife right, or lacing up and tying bow-knots in your sneakers just so, or playing oboes and bagpipes or whatever, and that stuff doesn't have to fly out the door as soon as you throw a leg over a bike. You don't have to plop down on the saddle and start demanding instant electronic perfection, just because there are electricians out there masquerading as bike parts makers who're happy to take you out of the equation.
Derailer-makers are starting to not make front derailers that'll shift to the third/outer ring. I think they'll be here for four more years, because I think there's stiill a European market for them, but it's still a drag to have to even think about it. The Europeans are not to be trusted or emulated or counted on. They're going extremely whole-hog American-futuristic tech-macho. Like, in Amsterdam, something like 60 percent of the new bikes sold have electric motors. Germany's right on their heels. My ancestors in Denmark—I don't know and I don't want to.
The family went there on vacation (and to Sweden) several years ago, and the air bnb we stayed at -- the everyday dishes, the ones in the cupboard, were Royal Copenhagen. We have a little RC, but ours is on a shelf with the Quimper.
I prefer to think Danes will keep pedaling, but I understand that's a lot to ask, even for a country that makes the super fantastic Hoptimist:
Project updates, including some projects you might not have known were projects, and some you may not give two flying figs about:
7-speed cassettes: These are NOT just for angry unabomber-types who love to hate and hate to love and think anything grampa didn't have is unnecessary. Totally NOT. These 7-speed cassettes--as long as the highs and lows are right for you--make more sense than even the sensible 8s and 9s. Why? Well, the low-gear cog is further from the spokes, more to the right, and so it's less chain-strain, keeps the chain on a straighter path from big front ring to big rear cog. You can RIDE the big x big combo, something you can already do on our long-chainstay bikes, but you can't do (without violating some rules) on normal bikes.
But even on our longstay bikes, it gives a better chain path.
Background: Seven is plenty for ANY recreational (non-racing) riding, period. A 7-speed cassette is less wide overall/shorter when you lay it flat on a table, than 8-9-10-11-12-13-sp cassettes. It's thinner. It still fits on a 9/10 speed cassette body, you just slip on a 4mm spacer before you put it on. Each cassette will come with that spacer. It's not funky or Mickey Mouse, it's smart.
And get this fantastic gift from god: They work with 7-8-9-and 10speed chains.
So you got your Deore or whatever hub, you slide on the spacer and then the cassette, and suddenly, all of a sudden and just like that, your biggest cog is further from the spokes,
We're getting these in 11x32, 11x34, 13x34, and 13x42. Watch Will's posts and you'll be all set.
They're ideal for friction shifters, and work with 7 or 8-speed Indexed shifters. (Six-seven-eight speed cog spacing is the same.) Not indexing with 9-10-11 isn't a drawback to these cassettes; it's a mark against indexing...but if you prefer indexing, that's fine...but you can't use these cassettes.
As smart as these are, they aren't our doing. Jim Porter, like-minded kindred whatever and third-generation owner of Merry Sales/SOMA Fabrication got these going without us.
I asked for the 13x42, and I'm riding one these days on one of my CLEMS...
In the next few months we'll also have 7-speed. 135mm-spaced rear hubs, which will have flange spacing ye olde optimized for these cassettes, which MEANS ONLY that the rear wheels will have less dish, for more theoretical strength.
The 7sp hub needs the 7sp cassette, but we're going to have plenty of them, and the way the world is going now, two might be a lifetime supply even if you're 24 years old. Sorry about that.
V-brakes: Two variants in the works. I'm riding the prototypes, they're good, and the big deal with OURS is that they use road pads, which are shorter and thicker than std V-pads, and they open up and clear seat stays and fork blades, which, if you've ever tried to get a fat tire out and couldn't do it without deflating it because the pads hit the frame or fork, you'll know what a cosmos-changing improvement this is. We've gone thru four or five prototypes, I am riding version 3, and version 5 look something like this, and be prepaired for a non-photograph, because it's still in the "revised drawing" phase:
It has the Paul-style q/r on it, which is the best and Paul said OK. The spring-tension adjustment is also like Paul's, but SunTour had it in the late '80s, so that's not "a Paul original" thing. It's no better than the Shimano way. They both have pros and cons, but none of the pros or cons are of the gavel-slamming type.
We sold out of the knickers too fast and are trying to prevent that. Knickers, pants, shorts. By the time you read this we will have ordered tons of really expensive fabric. It's a big scary gulp for us, but I think we have to do it.
We're also working on another front rack.
And are ordering 2023 frames and bikes THIS WEEK. For the whole year. Here's one of the bikes. It's been in the works for almost 3 years, got Covid-delayed:
Western Toad found on a recent night ride. He was hopping toward a pond about 50 yards away, following the croaking frogs there. Dan and I rode up to the frog pond, heard the croacking like mad, but saw no frogs. The usual thing to do is spot their eyes just above water, but this time, nothing. The light from the flashlights made them all go silent. The pond is like 100 feet in diameter and maybe six feet deep, and until the rains started two months ago, was dry and hard, baked like overtoast, and you know what frogs and toads do in response? They dig down under while they still can and do some frog version of hibernating. Can you imagine digging down in hard dry earth and finding a hibernating frog? But that's how it has to be, because nobody plants new ones in there when the pond comes back. I've loved frogs and toads since I was three or four. They're a hard animal to draw, they're tender and fascinating, the way they croak, their hopping, the way they feel so vulnerable in your hand, so when you put them back in the water you feel like apologizing for scaring them, which is only right.
Froggie Went a-Courtin' is classic that originated in Scotland in the mid-1500s, so, like, who are we to skip it over? It's been interpreted / rewritten many ways, but Bob Dylan's is the best, (naturally). He respected the trad versions, and he sings it better anybody else. I don't expect you to read this, but when Bob Dylan sings a song about frogs, I can't resist:
1. Frog went a-courtin', and he did ride, Uh-huh,
Frog went a-courtin', and he did ride, Uh-huh,
Frog went a-courtin', and he did ride.
With a sword and a pistol by his side, Uh-huh.
2. Well he rode up to Miss Mousey's door, Uh-huh,
Well he rode up to Miss Mousey's door, Uh-huh,
Well he rode up to Miss Mousey's door.
Gave three loud raps and a very big roar, Uh-huh.
3. Said, "Miss Mouse, are you within?" Uh-huh,
Said he, "Miss Mouse, are you within?" Uh-huh,
Said, "Miss Mouse, are you within?"
"Yes, kind sir, I sit and spin," Uh-huh.
4. He took Miss Mousey on his knee, Uh-huh,
Took Miss Mousey on his knee, Uh-huh,
Took Miss Mousey on his knee.
Said, "Miss Mousey, will you marry me?" Uh-huh.
5. "Without my uncle Rat's consent, Uh-huh
"Without my uncle Rat's consent, Uh-huh
"Without my uncle Rat's consent.
I wouldn't marry the president, Uh-huh
6. Uncle Rat laughed and he shook his fat sides, Uh-huh,
Uncle Rat laughed and he shook his fat sides, Uh-huh,
Uncle Rat laughed and he shook his fat sides,.
To think his niece would be a bride, Uh-huh.
7. Uncle Rat went runnin' downtown, Uh-huh,
Uncle Rat went runnin' downtown, Uh-huh,
Uncle Rat went runnin' downtown.
To buy his niece a wedding gown, Uh-huh
8. Where shall the wedding supper be? Uh-huh,
Where shall the wedding supper be? Uh-huh,
Where shall the wedding supper be?
Way down yonder in a hollow tree, Uh-huh
9. What should the wedding supper be? Uh-huh,
What should the wedding supper be? Uh-huh,
What should the wedding supper be?
Fried mosquito in a black-eye pea, Uh-huh.
10. Well, first to come in was a flyin' moth, Uh-huh,
First to come in was a flyin' moth, Uh-huh,
First to come in was a flyin' moth.
She laid out the table cloth, Uh-huh.
11. Next to come in was a juney bug, Uh-huh,
Next to come in was a juney bug, Uh-huh,
Next to come in was a juney bug.
She brought the water jug, Uh-huh.
12. Next to come in was a bumbley bee, Uh-huh
Next to come in was a bumbley bee, Uh-huh
Next to come in was a bumbley bee.
Sat mosquito on his knee, Uh-huh.
13. Next to come in was a broken black flea, Uh-huh,
Next to come in was a broken black flea, Uh-huh,
Next to come in was a broken black flea.
Danced a jig with the bumbley bee, Uh-huh.
14. Next to come in was Mrs. Cow, Uh-huh,
Next to come in was Mrs. Cow, Uh-huh,
Next to come in was Mrs. Cow.
She tried to dance but she didn't know how, Uh-huh.
15. Next to come in was a little black tick, Uh-huh,
Next to come in was a little black tick, Uh-huh,
Next to come in was a little black tick.
She ate so much she made us sick, Uh-huh.
16. Next to come in was a big black snake, Uh-huh,
Next to come in was a big black snake, Uh-huh,
Next to come in was a big black snake.
Ate up all of the wedding cake, Uh-huh.
17. Next to come was the old gray cat, Uh-huh,
Next to come was the old gray cat, Uh-huh,
Next to come was the old gray cat.
Swallowed the mouse and ate up the rat, Uh-huh.
18. Mr. Frog went a-hoppin' up over the brook, Uh-huh,
Mr. Frog went a-hoppin' up over the brook, Uh-huh,
Mr. Frog went a-hoppin' up over the brook.
A lily-white duck come and swallowed him up, Uh-huh.
19. A little piece of cornbread layin' on a shelf, Uh-huh,
A little piece of cornbread layin' on a shelf, Uh-huh,
A little piece of cornbread layin' on a shelf.
If you want anymore, you can sing it yourself, Uh-huh.
A month and a half ago, in Shell Ridge. It's not all rocks and hard stuff.
The bike there is a V2 prototype of the Charlie H. Gallop. There may be small changes still, but certainly...nothing big. The decal, one detail of it.
I am at my peak of enthusiasm for our business and our bikes. I wish I was 35 instead of 67. I am healthy and not weary or any of that, but I want to see some of the plans materialize, and it takes time. I want us to become independent of Shimano and SRAM and MicroShift for derailers and brake levers, at least. It's not about "empire building" or ego, it's just as a practical matter, so we can equip our own bikes.
The mid-to-late 1980s don't seem that long ago to me, and let me tell you, if you weren't born or couldn't do a cartwheel or read a book then: Those derailers, forget nostalgia, that has nothing to do with it--those derailers were AS GOOD as any made today, mechanically simpler, more straightforward, and looked five times as good. I'm a RapidRise derailer fan, and they didn't come out until the early 1990s. Derailer evolution could have stopped right there.
It's fun or natural or rewarding--one or all of those things or something in the same family of them--to think that things get better over time, but derailers haven't. Some things have. I think the gazillion models of platform pedals is good. Cranks haven't. Cassettes have more range, but it's hard to say they're better. There's so much carving on the teeth to aid indexing (more than necessary) that the teeth don't wear as long. Eight-and-more cogs in back is not an improvement. Clutch derailers that allow 1-speeds and 51t rear cogs--not for me, but what the heck, let's have some variety. Just don't call it "simpler." It means no big satisfying gearing jumps up front, just a flurry of small steps in back, and the irony is it's mostly for trail riding, which -- who needs small steps for that?
Handlebars are better, way better, and I like all the variety. Tires, WAY better, 10x better, 100X better and more variety and it's all great. RIMS way better, hubs--more variety, but in the mid-range no better. I like the hub sitch these days, even tho I'm not a hubsnob, even tho I think a Deore Hub is the peak of value and incredible and nice and quiet.
Brakes are better, and I like the variety. Don't hate me or RIV b/c we're not into disc brakes. They're fine, but I still and for non-nostalgic reasons prefer rim brakes, and it makes me nervous that we're a rare holdout.
Frame materials have not gotten better. Frame designs have gotten ultra-specific, super-racey, wheelbases are too short, threadless stems make it hard to raise the bars, but are clever in their own way. Can't see a single advantage FOR THE RIDER, but I know extremely well the advantages for manufacturers and suppliers.
The internet makes it easy to get good information and bad. I'm sure I'm part of that in some way. It brings people together and divides them. It creates friends and enemies of strangers. As people get more isolated and put into smaller and smaller groups, it makes it easier to find people in similar smaller groups, but then it makes for more enemies for people not in your group. I think most of our customers/people are the best, really nice. I worry about coming off as a grump when I express strong opinions. I don't know how to fix that.
Our projects are exciting and not forced for the sake of having them. We are confident in our bike models and the design quirks we're running through the line. Higher handlebars are the single biggest thing you can do to be comfortable. Long chainstays and wheelbases add stability on a level that most riders have never experienced. "Stability" has both positive and negative connotations--it's easy to spin it to mean sluggish, for instance, but that's insanely wrong. When I say "stable," I mean smooooth and responsive to pedaling input, able to descend swervy roads faster and safer. No drawbacks under any conditions, just zero, and super fun to ride, almost guilty fun. THey're so smooth that when you ride one for the first time, you might think (and many have, over the years), "yes, obviously it feels good, but what's the catch? What am I giving up?"
Years ago one of the Big Companies asked me to design a bike for them. It was going to be made in carbon, but that wasn't the issue, that wasn't my concern, I was there to give them the numbers and bridge locations, the clearance details. I said I'd do it for free, didn't want payment, and was told, "We'll at least give you a bike," and I wasn't rude, I got the bike, but I rode it ten miles and gave it away. They used my name as part of the "team" that developed this bike...and they overrode not just some, but all of my input, and I didn't want to be associated with it, so I asked them to take me off the "team," and they did, no hard feelings, just a weird deal there.
Ted Lasso, if you haven't seen it; and Astrid et Raphaelle, if you haven't seen that. Onward!
The Hobson-Zingo line of bike tools is now back on track after a Covid-induced hiatus or whatever. Cheap good tools with no plastic for the practical non-snobby home mechanic on a slight budget. Stay tuned.
ANDIAMO underwear is probably, just probably, maybe, the best thing to wear for rides of more than two hours when most of those two hours is sitting on the saddle. When you climb standing, it doesn't matter. Cycling shorts, unnecessary. Surprise surprise, I'm not a major fan of synthetic anythings, but Andiamo undies are pure synthetic, but slightly padded and seamless where I guess you'd want them to be seamless, and they're really good. It's a one-woman business with a few cottage-industry sewers in and around Haley, Idaho. This is all she makes, she's made them since the '70s, and I wear them often enough (a few rides a month) to know without a doubt how they work and that I like them.
We have mens and womens, both black, and my buddy Dan wears both and says they're like almost the same, no diff. Women don't buy underwear from us. So it's up to you guys to step up and buy that women's underwear. We're cutting the price in half, we're. not going to reorder the womens, and that's that. Order here. If you want mens, they're $24 and will never go on sale for less than our cost, like the womens are until they're gone.