no. 14 for the year, mid august

no. 14 for the year, mid august

That's a sea anemone (four syllables). There were thousands of them where I found this guy. Is it encased in a sea cucumber, or what is that thing with the spreckles of cockleshells on it? Let's say it's a fully contained animal, which it might be, because there were tons of these there on the beach in the rocks at low-tide. It was like walking on the earth millions of years ago. 



I don't feel old, but I'm looking at Rivendell the way old people do. Down from a low balcony, not a high tower, and only because with more decades behind you, it's easier to see more. Here's the review.

On Sept 30, 1994, Bridgestone closed the U.S. office, and I lost a job. We could barely afford the mortgage on the house even with two incomes, and now we had none, because my wife was due in 12 days with our second child. We all have our moments of terror, and that was the big one for me.

First it was desperation...for a job I could stand.  I'd turned down jobs in SoCal and Colorado, because the house was still new, and we have emotional support of families around here. The interest rate on the house was 13.5 percent, and for a year every payment just covered that.

Early on, Rivendell turn into self-indulgent fun. It's kind of like that now too, actually, but the form is different. Then the fun was getting rare discontinued groovy stuff from France (Simplex) and Japan (SunTour), and getting the frame production up and running with Waterford. Our only employee was Spencer, and my wife did the books and legal stuff.

We sold 200 bikesthe first year, all made by Waterford, but by the end of the year we had negative cash. A friend bought $9,000 in stock, I got another $1,500 from my dad, and we were extra careful, and repeat business was coming in.

On paper we lost money most of the first fifteen years of business--but we always paid our bills, and had inventory to sell.

Now we're successful in the sense that we've lasted 25+ years at a size that shouldn't be workable. We're both too big and too small and poor to do all the things we'd like to do and CAN do and WANT to do to contribute more to the world of bikes.

Like, if we had $300K to invest in tooling and hardware, we could be totally independent of trends, which is always a goal-dream. Little by little we're doing that--Silver/Silver2 shifters, Silver cranks, the kinds of bars and stems we like. We "did" 650B before anybody else in the modern world, with rims and tires all our own. We got Tektro to make the 559 brakes (used to be "SILVER" branded, for one year, but since we didn't buy the molds, they got to use them freely after that, a nd that's great--a good thing). After the early years of selling Carradice bags, we went thru three other makers--Duluth Pack, Clark's, and Frost River (who ripped us off and made our bags under its label. The current Frost River is owned by new people and wasn't aware, so no marks against them)...but for a long time now we're locked into the Sackville line, made just for us in Connecticut, and I couldn't be more happy with them. I often tell the two owners back there, "Your bags are the best things we sell."

It's a slight exaggeration at most, and it might not be an exaggeration at all. The bikes are 99.9 percent perfect (to my way of thinking); most of the bags are 100 percent. We change things now and then, so maybe the overall is 99 percent.  We're not after cleverness with gussets and hidden pockets and convertiblism from bike to briefcase to backpack. 

There are lots of nice bags out there besides ours, too: BxB (bags by bird), Swift, others. Maybe they'd all exist without us having proved that their is a market, and having helped create that market. Nobody owes us anything. I'm just saying that we're here to do good, not to rule every damn thing we get into. 

Velo Orange bikes are good. Crust, good. Surly, good. They are all contributing so much to the bicycle life, and they're all friends, none is competition.

Several people emailed about one of them coming out with a new model almost the same style and color as a Gus. Well, good for them, and thanks for liking it! They reach people we don't, and whoever buys that bike will love it. It is here.

Everybody has a style, and ours are maybe locked in and more stagnant than other modern good bikes, in that there are things that we don't do, even tho they are popular and not dumb.  We don't check all the boxes, I know dat, but we check the maximum that work for us, and good god, if you can't find a Rivendell that works for the roads and trails you're riding on, what alternate universe do you live in? 

The thing I'm most proud of is our sticking with friction shifting. We sell indexing too, and the CLEM-L's come with indexing rear (friction front). I think everybody OUGHT to shift friction, because it involves you with the bike and is easy, and is a small and maybe the last way a lone bicycle rider can actually claim to "control" the bicycle, but that's a philosophical perspective that I've beat into the ground over the years (and believe now, more than ever, as a matter of fact). 

But with our bikes, I don't want friction shifting to turn off riders who don't look at a bicycle the way I do. I hope they start with indexing and then think hey, this is too brainless, i want more intimacy, lemme try that friction stuff.

BEYOND all that technical/hardware dream-philosophy stuff is kind of where I'm at now, and have been for six years. I want to employ really good people, and I don't want them to quit. Rich has been here 16+ years, Mark's been here at least 17 years, Vince about ten, Will almost ten. Robert was here for 18 until he retired. John was here about ten. Some of these numbers will be off and those employees or former employees who read this (most of them don't, unfortunately) will correct their number. John is back with us, up in Portand doing InstaGram stuff and selling t-shirts, patches, and pins with a Riv-theme or political theme, and with our full support. It's a charity-raising thing, too.

Our goal is to raise about $10,000 for the OKRA Project--food and shelter and generall all around support and safety for Black trans women...which, let me tell, you, would have been a far reach for me a decade ago, an uncomfortable fit five years ago, but now seems perfect.

Black. Trans. Holy cow, the world is against these people. They didn't choose to be black AND trans, or either one individually, and I'm not saying poor them for being either, but in this time of life, in this country, it's got to be tough. 

As I think only those who are closest to me know, I don't believe in choice, free will, whatever you want to call it. I don't think we make our situations without outside interference, and I don't confuse "choice" with "action." I don't see "action" and assume "choice" came before it. Other people do that.

This approach turns so much of the world upside down. Successful people no longer get credit for their success, sorry. Criminals no longer get blamed, sorry. The alternative isn't chaos, bedlam, rampant murders and human carnage. It's a way of looking at horrible things and seeing the horrible things, but not horrible people, the same way you'd see a scary rude dog and blame its past, but not the dog itself. Here's my dog:



Her name is Billie, after Billie Holiday.

For the rest of this trip-last week's fam vacation--and a lot since--we've been calling her "Cliff." She likes Cliffs.


 AOC/YOHO: This is a short, wonderful presentation with...political content. 

And here are John Lewis's last words:



Friend Dan was riding the Gus-Boots and came upon this. It's not like the place is crawling with them, but there are enough around, and you have to be aware, or something. Snakes creep most people out a little, and some out a lot. It is believed that the voice you might hear might be that of a man from Poland.


The headset press we use, have used since 1995, the one that's pressed in thousands of headsets and is good for probably a hundred thousand more, was made as a head tube reamer, with cutting tools on it, but was later adapted with pressing tools, and that's out headset press. It was made by Bicycle Research, in Concord. BR was Don Milberger's company. No tangent on him, but he was a local hero super smart bike guy, kind man, framebuilder, tool designer and makers, and machinist. 

The new one's on top, our oldie is on the bottom. The new one is better, is probably the best headset press anybody will ever make. Story below. 

One of Don's friends, Jim Stein, who was and still is all of those things except the framebuilder one. Jim is a bike tool specialist. We asked him to make frame quills for holding frames in bike stands. 

Now we asked him to remake the headset press...sent photos and dimensions and he made a sample, improved it, and then thought of another improvement, and wanted to know if we could pay $5 more for this last-second upgrade, and yes was it. This is better than the one we have. If you have need to put headsets in frames with traditional sizing or even up to like, modern 1 1/8-in headsets like Gus or the HHH and tons of modern bikes, then this is a good tool to have. It costs us $65 plus freight and a lot of time, and it costs you $110. If your order comes to $150 or more, free shipping.  

Is this tool worth $110 for a home mechanic? Well...a shop will charge about $25 to $30 to press in a headset, and you  won't have the incredibly satisfying experience of doing it yourself.

So if in the next few decades you think you might buy a few frames that don't come with headsets already installed, then this tool might be worth it. There are more "versatile" headset tools that will press in the craziest modern headsets that this won't. We tried one of those, from a super big maker, and it was fiddly and things came loose on it. Our mechanics kept going back to the Bicycle Research tool, and we don't use the one from Big Blue anymore. It hangs on the wall because we don't like it. THIS one is so simple, so UNfussy, just totally perfect for what it is. It is for two sizes headsets: The 1-inchers we use on most of our frames and are still out there by the gazillions on old perfectly good used and old bikes; and 1 1/8th-inchers, which we use on tandems and the Gus, and is still common beyond the Rivendell micro-bubble.

I don't know if it'll work on internal headsets or tapered steer tube models, or that 2019 Giant dual-suspension mtn bike. All we know, and all we care about, is that it's the best possible tool for pressing in 1-inch and 1 1/8th inch headsets.

This is the one we're going to use from now on. Well...Mark might want to stick with the oldie. It's still great. But new young James and the rest of us will use this new improved one.

 The threaded portion is long enough for head tubes up to 230mm. We may get some 5/8-inch ACME-threaded rod for longer head tubes. Or you could order it from McMaster-Carr:


 The thing is, we don't have written instructions on how to use it. You can find that on YouTube videos, or wait until we get something drawn up or photo'd. We're making a video/

We're getting in 20 of them. They're $110 each, and are a deal at that. Be your local headset presser-inner.

Here's a photo. The frame is actually mine. I'm getting a Gus, too. All of my bikes become customer demos, also. If you come by and want to try out a bike and your PBH is around 85, you might be put on one of mine.

It's SO simple, so strong, perfect in every way, and it'll last decades upon decades even if used 50x as much as you'll use it. Whew.

You can order one here when they show up late next week.


I got another CLEM L 59. My other one is perfect, but this is a slightly different geometry, just as perfect, and I want to have a loaner for friends, and set them up a little differently. Here it is. We were sold out, but one came back by a guy who said his family didn't want him riding at his age. It had some changes on it, I undid them and customized it for myself and did a quick grip job just in time for a ride in the Marin Headlands (just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, just south of Mt. Tamalpais.

I put on this bar-stem combo. It's a NITTO convertaquill, with a SOMA clamper-on stem. I didn't take anything OFF to put this on. I started with a plain frame and built it up, and wanted to do it this way. It's called "for fun." 

It is hard to beat this shifter position, but it's counter-intuitive (sorry for the cliche), and so it's hard to sell. The trad position works fine, but for shifting while climbing, this works 4 percent better and frees up handspace. 


The best-designed Shimano derailer ever, kind of heavy but still great, and now, morosely, disconsolately, long out of production. You can often get  'em brand new NOS for $24, sometimes shipped from the Czech Republic.

I'm riding 50mm Some Cazadero tires, designed as a combo tread, and at 50mm, is on the skinny side for trail tires, but they work great. If u-ride a mix or roads and trails, they're as good as anything out there, maybe better.

It's a mini pump and a tire lever, I think.


On Aug 2 you could see ye olde full moon + Saturn + Jupiter, and even take a picture of it with an iPhone. That's the top of a  palm tree, there at the bottom.


J.P. Partland writes a nice blog, way better than this one, and this was a neat post:


 Shimano has quit making V-brakes. Damn. All-auto, all-motor, that's the direction. Replace simple mechanisms with electronics and electricity. Replace levers with buttons, eliminate the need for learning with "improved" that don't require any of that. We've had two versions of our V-brake, but it's not right yet. Waiting for version three, and that should come in a month.


My daughters like the dog and made this video, with ABBA-inspiration.

THere's an ABBA-related Will Farrell movie called Eurovision Song Contest. It is right up my alley. I saw it a couple of weeks ago.



It's not easy to get this with a fully manual film camera. I had the fly rod in my left hand, did all the camera stuff with the other. I prefocused, yes. And after this I shot ten lousy ones, so that's that.


All dogs need a fishing rig. Fly or Spin or cane pole or anything, with tough cord holding a stuffed animal. I can't speak for all dogs, but it's Billie's favorite thing to do  in life.


Here's a Platypus frame. It'll be painted and sent here by the end of ye olde month.

Related to that:

It's part of an illustration from one of the three most beautifully illustrated books about platypuses that I've seen to date. This is a platypus eating a crawfish, which I always called a crawdad, which makes more sense because it could be a dad and isn't a fish, but the book says crawfish. Australians call them "yabbies," my "Australian Connexion" tells me. 

We're selling this book, Platypus, written by Sue Whiting and illustrated by Mark Jackson, both from Australia, where they know a thing or two about ye olde platypuses. It's a hardback, it's in the category of children's books, and is recommended for ages five thru nine, which I don't get at all. Ten year olds and ninety-year olds aren't interested in the platypus? Don't want to know anything? Don't like beautiful platypus art? 

The book is $17, and we have it HERE. If you buy it and later order a Platypus from the first run-o'-'em, you'll get $10 off the bike as long as we remember to keep good records. We'll try. The thing is, I come up with these micro-complicated plans and then leave it to others to keep track. They do it, they don't squawk, but I feel guilty about it, so --- well, we'll make it a $10 Platypus credit. That'll be easier, but still no guarantees. Don't get the book if it's not worth $17 to you, but it seems to me if you're going to get a Platypus, it out to be. Seems about right, is all I'm saying.


 This has been knocking around my garage and Rivendell for about fifteen years, and it's always bothered me, although it's a good tool:

It's no more disconcerting than this, though:


Sorry about this next section. iPhone nat-r-pix, and one of my dog, which I won't appologize for, and one of my sandal-tan feet, which I must. It's a cardinal rule-o'-ye-olde-thumb to not display feet pictures, but to paraphrase Eric Burdon:

It's my blahg and I'll do what I want. 

My feet are way tanner now.


OK now, my dog on the beach. My wife's shoe'd feet:

Now the nat-r-shotz: Mostly brown pelicans, which in recent decades were endangered. Their diet, I've heard is tons of sardines, and part of the problem was overfishing sardines. I think they've got that sorted out, as the English say:

Two gulls, three 'cans.



and the last one:

Look at the lone wolf at the bottom left there, look at his or her wings, the beautiful arc and the way each wing has a flipped-up feather like the one on the other. I wish I'd shot this in film, but oh well. It's not JUST the result that matters, tho. To me, it looks kind of like the cross-section of a fender.

They were all aimed and shot fast, and the ones from way under, I couldn't even see what I was shooting. The iPhone is  the electronic shifter of cameras. Unsatisfying, but sometimes you just don't care. When it comes to bikes, I always care, but the iPhone is pretty creepily phenomenal.


Hear ye, hear ye:

I don't want to assume that you pay attention, but I've been doing this irritating thing with "ye olde" lately, both here and in real life at home. As I mentioned before, I always thought it was corny, even when I was five, and I still do, so I kind of use it to let it know I'm aware of it and have control over it, but let me tell you, it bugs ye olde family (both daughters have been home for 3 weeks).

Oldest daughter was a Classics major and mentioned that "ye" comes from a letter called thorn, in an old alphabet, and if I wanted to play weird, I was doing it wrong. So I looked it up on ye olde wikipedia:

 It basically means "the" more often than it means "you," and is pronounced kind of like "the," if I've read that right. Ye can mean "you," but when it does, it is pronounced "yee." Is that the way town criers use it? Hear you, hear you? or are they saying Hear the—, hear the—?



The long-awaited Hobson-Zingo line of tools are inching forthward, and we'll have samples by the end of the month. T-shirts will come first, as will ye olde hatz, patches, stickers. 


I put a new sample bar on my Atlantis, and at about the same time I put an old saddle and post on it, too. The saddle and post were just in a box with nobody's name on it, and I think they'd come off a demo bike, and the saddle looked like it was probably mine at one time anyway, so I put it on, and was surprised to find that the nose was way high, kind of like (but not as extreme as) John's saddles. Will has been "riding high" lately, too, and says he was surprised how good it felt. I just thought oh well, what's it matter to me?

I didn't have time to nose-it-down, even though it takes a whole minute. I wanted to try the bars (which at some point will be presented to the world as TOSCO bars, and no questions about them yet, please.

The bars are fine, good, but what really got me was the saddle. I can' bring myself YET to do this to my other bikes--level works great--but I have to say this is the most comfortable rig I got:




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