No. 15 Mid-September  Tools, brakes, plans, Platypus, Gus Boots-WIllsen, the volunteer thing, y mucho mas

No. 15 Mid-September Tools, brakes, plans, Platypus, Gus Boots-WIllsen, the volunteer thing, y mucho mas


Will rides up Twin Peaks, some famous hill in San Franciso, many mornings. It's often foggy even in the summer, and with fog and smoke from fires...well, there goes the background. I think that's his Appaloosa. His friend Larry P. took the picture with a Rolleiflex, a Twin Lens Reflex camera ideal for Twin Peaks Riders.


 J.P. Partland's blog-column is always worth reading, and this one is relevant to riding position, and racing, and to some slight extent jibes with our thoughts on bike position. Thru the lens of ye olde Tour de France. It's about riding position and safety.


We got in eighteen Jim Stein-made headset presses, John put them on instagram, and they sold out in six hours. That's a bummer, because I wanted my thorough backstory (below) to be the reason they sold out. I'd already written it, but was late to post this, and ... I'm not going to just wipe it away like I wiped away another big long section already, so here:

 We've pressed in ten thousand headsets, all but a dozen or so with the same tool, which wasn't even made for pressing in headsets, but works better for it than any actual headset press we've used. It's more reliable, easier, less...fussy, fiddly.

It was made as a head tube and bb shell facer and chaser (more on that way below), but we removed some key elements, and wow, it's perfect for pressing in headsets. The guy who designed and made is Don Milberger, a pretty good name for a machinist, if you ask me. He started a company called Bicycle Research, which made really, really good and smart bike tools. He was a really good framebuilder, too.

Don died several years ago. Jim Stein, a friend of Don's, is alive and is also a machinist (and lapsed framebuilder), and has been making specialty bike tools for a few decades now. We use them every day. 

When you need a pro bike mechanic for a tricky task or something hypothetical out there that you can't or don't want to or don't know how to do something, hire one. If he or she has the tool or tools required and you don't and they cost too much for occasional use, support ye olde local bike mechanic, for sure.

But if from now on for the rest of your life you're going to pay somebody a total of $110 or so to press in four headsets...then hey, spend that much on the STEINRIV headset press, and pass it on to future generations for them to sell on eBay for possibly more than that.

I know what ye olde cheapskates are thinking: You can spend $20 on a threaded shaft and nuts and washers, and get some 3-inch x 3-inch by 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch plywood squares and do it yourself. You'll still need a couple of big wrenches, and it'll end up taking you 20 minutes at least to press in a headset, and you'll be wondering: Am I damaging the cups? Should they be resting right on the  plywood? Am I going to fold them in?

These cost us $70 and they cost you $125, the difference NOT EVEN paying for our development time+freight+cost of doing business, but if I had a few bikes and didn't have access to a press, I'd get one, and that's why eighteen of you have a chance, too. We got twenty made, we're keeping one, and sending Blue Lug one, and that leaves eighteen. If we do another run, they'll be $125 and still a bargain at that. To get one, order up with this and nothing else on the order, and pay whatever tax and freight is. It's not a cheap tool,'s not a cheap tool.

They're not mass-produced. One guy makes them meticulously. Be prepared to wait, and we won't keep these in our lineup forever.

Using the Stein Headset Press from Rivendell Bicycle Works on Vimeo.

 Editorial comment: In this video, after each turn Will checks to see that the bottom cup is going in straight. He's "driving home the point" that you don't want to push it in crooked, but after a couple of turns, if it seems to be straightish, it'll auto-correct, and you don't have to be all.


 My favorite stamp from now until eternity, but it won't work for delivery here.


 This came today.

Yep, so far it's as expected.

 If you follow us on IG you've already seen this, since John put it up on Monday, the 24th.

We got six sample badges, not the frames. Olivier found two things that weren't perfect with it, and they're fixing them. He admitted they were visible only on a huge screen blown up gigantically, and he told the badge maker no big deal if you can't, but it turns out they can, and so will--so this one isn't final.

 IT'S NOT ABOUT THE BADGE. The Platypus bike is as good as a mixte can get, though. The biggest diff btw the Plat and the Cheviot is that the Platypus has V-brakes, and the mid-size (55cm) fits 700c wheels, not 650b...and the chainstays are a hair longer on the small and med.


This isn't directly "race stuff," but it's related somehow. It's the ugliest speech since, I don't know, something by Hitler. That is not "too strong." It doesn't diminish Hitler's deeds. I know she's not as baaaad as Hitler, but the speech was lies and scare tactic intended to incite hate and were Hitler's speeches. Whatever......

This next link doesn't CLEARLY belong in this race section, but Bessie Smith was Black, and this song has the best title of any song of all time. If you want to read the lyrics as you listen, go to the second comment, by "Isha Sachdeva" and hit "more" and the lyrics pop right up.

and here's Diana Ross doing the same song glitzy-style:

And then, this story in the NYT. It's uplifting and bumming. Fifteen of the first twenty-eight AND the first one ever. It's about ye olde Kentucky Derby, and belongs between the pencils, as ye who dare to sally forth shalt see.



My opinions on some things have changed little since 1991. They are so predictable. These from the 1992 Bstone catalogue, written in '91, prove that):


one more:

I think the Rubber Bumper People and Spring People have gone away by now. I think I posted this page a few BLAHGS ago. I know I meant to, but sometimes I put things in and take them out and don't keep track.

This is the Pine Mountain Truck Road (PMTR) on Mt. Tamalpais, about 3/4-mile north of the top of Repack Road, the 2.1-mile descent/testing ground that turned paperboy bikes into mountain bikes.

This section of PMTR is pretty long, it doesn't let  up, and the rocks are big and hard and jammed together. There's no escaping them, yadda yadda, and Jeff on the left there, on his CLEM-L, is riding 700x50cm Cazadero tires. Dan on the right is on 2.8-inchers on a Gus. 

With decent technique, there's not much difference between the tires. "With decent technique," I know, sounds scarily impossible to achieve, but it's really easy. You put the pedals horizontal, stand on the pedals so your crotch is off the saddle, an lean back, squeezing the flare of the saddle with your thighs. If the trail is steep down, lower your butt. 

You can see that Jeff is off the saddle, because you can see the light spot of air above the saddle. Dan's doing the same, but the view doesn't show it.

Their heads are still and moving smootly, no jarring. Their grips on the bars are light-to-medium, and their arms are semi-relaxed. 

These Hillibikes are not at all a handicap on any trail, no matter how rough. 



In the last BLAHG I pointed out that you could get Shimano Nexave Rapid Rise rear derailers for $25 or so, and that it's the best-design Shimano ever made, if a bit on the weighty side, and now, it seems, the worldwide stash is all dried up. So, you bought them, so I can't anymore. Mixed emotions, but for the love of Buddha, please put them on a bike, don't sit on them and hope to flip them. 

They're meant to ride, of course.

We continue to work on ours. Succeeding by any measure of success with an American-made derailer is the most hopeless challenge in bikedom. Maybe we can get it made elsewhere, I don't know. Maybe it won't even happen. But it IS being worked on. We've got a smart guy on it, smarter about bikes and mechanics than anybody I know, super qualified, thorough, enthusiastic, meticulous, well-connected, and on the other hand, un-rushable. You haven't heard of this guy, but if this happens, you will. It will be his doing, not mine. We initiated it and make specific requests and style details, and are funding it and all that-----but the brains behind it are Shimano's and his. He's contibuting stuff that nobody else I know of can contribute.

As I say around here and as I've told him, the best result would be for this attempt to inspire Shimano to have another try at it. I swear to god, they KNOW this is the way to make a derailer, but they've thrown up their hands in frustration that the market has rejected them twice already. And now they're onto electronics, that vile way to shift that kills the skillful interaction of human and machine, that reduces shifting to pushing (or as SRAM would say, "tapping") buttons. It appeals to riders raised on and overdependent on tech in their work and everyday lives, who -- oh, this does make me grumpy. 

Last week an old friend who some of you know as Pal Jeff got his CLEM L. He wants to ride it on trails. Jeff doesn't necessarily listen to me. He mildly delights in not, and that's cool, but this time I said look, put a Rapid Rise derailer on your bike (I provided it), and a day later he reported his deepest truest feeling: 

"I've been shifting backwards my whole life!" This is a guy who still uses a beat-up Carradice saddlebag from 1995, who wouldn't take a Sackville Happisack if I gave it to him. A wonderful, stubborn pal.

Don't bum out with normal rear derailers. Normal-action (non-Rapid Rise) derailers have never been better (they've been as good since, about 1987, though...). Whether you go with a Shimano Altus, Acera, Deore, or something more expensive, the movements are perfect, and shifting is easy. But it's not as groovy as a RapidRise, so if and when we come out with one, please get it if you can afford its inevitable outrageous price. It'll cost less than a car repair or a piece of tech that you'll replace in two years or less.



Dan's Bike

My friend Dan, who has ridden the Proto-Gus for at least 250 hours, finally got his own, shown here in a not final stage, since he's waiting on a few things. He's riding some temporary handlebars, grips..might change gearing, MIGHT change brake levers for something fancier, altho there's no reason to...and so on. It's a Large, a 57cm Gus, and we spent part of Saturday 8/22 assembling it while taking the usual anti-covid precautions:

If you've seen the color in real life you know it doesn't look anything like this. How can that be? have to see it in real life. Overall, I think this bike looks spectacular. Beautiful and woodsy, not bad-ass and shreddish. Capable of any trail in ye olde cosmos. His are tires we don't carry but really like: Teravail Honcho. These are 700 x 2.4. They come in other sizes, too, but 2.4 is a good all-around size.


Dan picked the Silver2 crank, the macho-version of the original Silver crank. He wanted a 22 small ring, and we offer this in a 32 x 22 combo. Excellent crank, and the best looking modern style mtn-ish crank, I think. I'd say. We made sure.

The Shimano front der, on the other hand, is the ugliest front der I've ever seen, and I can't believe Shimano released it. Of course it works well--it's a Shimano, and Shimano engineers are the best in the bicycle world. But the artistry is nowhere to be found, and this bleeping thing has a fist-full of plastic bulk in it. It works great. It's not our fault. We have no better alternative, and won't apologize for it, won't go on a wild goose chase trying to find a groovier one. We have zero influence over the derailer makers. They don't even know who we are and our volume (which is all they care about) is laughable to them. SRAM doesn't even make front derailers anymore, does it? MicroShift just follows Shimano, but maybe there's a MicroShift secret one that'll work as well. LIsten, I don't even care. It's not worth it to care about something we can't influence. 

There are more options on bikes with smaller chainlines and narrower BB shells, but the Gus and Susie have 73mm shells (makes sense for other reasons, it's not a stupid spec). It's only a front derailer. But man, it's raging ugly, and the old Shimano never would have let this one escape. It works well. That's supposed to be all that matters, but is it, ever?

He eBay'd an XT Rapid-Rise derailer about ten months ago. Added a tab to drop it down, because he might put on a 46t cassette, and the tab allows the derailers to shift that high. I think. It should, I hope and expect, but am not declaring it yet.

Tons of clearance with the 2.4. The frame and brakes clears a 2.8 easily, too. But with a have to pick your other bits carefully, and if you do an eleven-speed rear, it's even trickier. If you want 2.8, try to stick with 9s. If you do 9, you can easily do 2.6.  A long story not for here, but we recommend up to 2.6. If you can go to 2.4, your drivetrain options are unlimited, and everything falls into place heavenly. Oh, just call or email. It's not about the NUMBER of cogs, it's about the low you need and how easy it is to get it.


He might switch to Shimano DX brake levers, although these SunRacers are the best value in the world. We're also getting in some Origin8s that we really like. We've by the end of August we should be up to our ears in brake levers.

It's a prototype TOSCO bar. Not as much rise as the Bosco, more rise than the LOSCO, and it's made in Taiwan. It passes the tests, and we couldn't get NITTO to make it at the time, too busy, so our fork maker makes it. 

Since he will probably swap bars at least when the final ones come in, these are temporary grips. I did them, he didn't. This is my ultimate temporary style, which I think is as good as grips can get. I like lots of grips, but I don't like long grips that eat up bar space and rob it from your hands if they're forward of the brake levers. I like my grips 105mm or even shorter, and I scoot the brake levers back as far as they'll go. I put two diff style flanges on these TEMPORARY griips--a small rubber flange on the left, and a ball-cock washer for toilets on the right. We can do any of this for you, and we'll offer both of those things on the site one of these days, but you can find them online at McMaster-Carr or plumbing supply places. Get into them, try them, toss them if you don't like them, don't care too much, whatever you like, but we will have them available only for frame/bike buyers, because I basically don't want to spend my evenings shopping on eBay for items we buy for less than a dollar and sell for a dollar. It's just a super lousy way to spend time...but these are nice additions (my opinion).

 People always -- me, too, it's unavoidable--wrestle with WHICH bar to get. The bar has so much affect on comfort, and also look, but we don't even offer any lousy choices. For these Hillibikes, go with BOSCO or TOSCO or BILLIE, if you like a swept-back bar. If you want a traddish mtn bike, the Wavie is excellent, just get a super stubby stem. 

Indexing or Friction or a combination. (Indexing rear + friction front). There's no reason for indexing front. Indexing rears are a "results first" pick that guarantee perfect shifts no matter what, as long as the indexing is adjusted. It's mechanism-dependent and takes you out of it. That's not evil, it's just a fact.

Friction shifting is more human-dependent. It requires more skill, and new riders find that terrifying, but the skill comes fast. You'll still blow shifts now and then, but it's basically easy. Whatever--it's up to you, and we have options.

It's all cool to shift index if you've tried friction and don't like it as much, or if your component package requires it or something. The point is...don't assume friction is hard or challenging, and don't be afraid of blowing a few shifts. Nothing gets wrecked.

Here's Dan attempting the hardest right hand turn I'm aware of, and failing. He's made it four times, all on the even longer-wheelbase XL Gus, but conditions have gotten worse, and these days you have to be a BMX ride who can to front-wheel wheelies and pivot the rear around...and that's just satanic tricker. Dan trying and failing:

A second after this he fell into me, so I didn't get that final picture.


HERE'S a good article about pandemic, riding, traffic, roads & sidewalks, space. By Tom Vanderbilt, who wrote a great book on Traffic. I really like this guy. Never met him, but he's smart, a great writer, worth listening to.


A Blagh reader suggested I address the mechanical processes known as "facing and chasing" head tubes and bottom brackets, specifically how necessary they are. I'm going to do that, but I don't guarantee it'll be interesting to YOU. It might be, but no guarantees.

"Facing" is a metal-removing process that makes sure the opposite ends of the bottom bracket shell and head tube are parallel with one another, because if they aren't, the bearings won't turn smoothly. "Chasing" is running a tap through the bottom bracket threads to make sure they're free of paint, grit, or other micro-obstructions that could interfere with threading in the bottom bracket cups.

I'm going to say this with as few words as possible.

FACING was most important in the old days, before precision investment castings and machining. On old frames, even pro frames, the tube-ends often weren't parallel. On cheap and mediocre frames, nobody bothered facing them, but on pro frames, yes. On a 1972 Colnago (which was good for its time but would NOT pass our standards now), you always faced it both places. But with investment castings, the ends are super square...and on our frames, at least, we look at how the cups go in, and make sure.

FACING BB shells isn't even a good idea if the BB is a modern style, with internally threaded cups. With a traditional bottom bracket (bearing+spindle), it would matter more, but with a typical Shimano or Phil or Tange, nothing butts up against the ends, so why even take the paint off (which happens when facing)?

CHASING is kind of the same. With investment castings, the threads are deep, crisp, and accurate (the threads are machined in, not part of the casting process). And our investment caster does a PERFECT job of it. There may be a little paint in the threads--in theory, at least, because most painters try to plug that area, but if the plug is only 99 percent complete, there could be some paint in there. But guess what? First we never see paint, and second, if we did it would be minimal, and we'd thread right through it. But it doesn't show on our frames, anyway. We usually run a tap through them, anyway. 

Old stamped and welded or bulge-formed bottom bracket shells always had shallow threads and often had grit, and chasing them is fine.

A shop should charge $80 for facing and chasing. It's tedious, it requires cleaing the tools, it's slightly risky, and it takes time. 


 Some of u-know we're working on some parts. None of you knows all the parts we're working on, but all of you will if you hang in here another two minutes:


1. V-brakes that  open up all the way to release monster tires even when inflated.

2. Cantilevers that du the same...even tho nobody cares about cantilevers anymore. It's a "when they go low, we go high" kind of thing.

3. A retrofit replacement piece for the Silver2 shifter thumb-mount. It has, ahem, come to our attention that when all the stars align just wrong, the cable can kink and break. It's rare, it's not dangerous, there are four ways to "fix" this, and rather than explain them all (they're all simple), we're making a part u-can substitute for another part, and then Bob's your uncle. In two months.

4. A rapido-riso rear derailer. It may take another year, but in a month or so we'll have a ridable sample. 

This rear derailes make me, personally, feel extremely lonely. I care so much about it, but I'm genius enough to know that less than, literally, one in 25,000 modern bike riders give a hoot. I kind of don't care. On one hand, I guess we're here to serve, but we can do that without making our own rear derailer. The derailer is partly an aging man's vanity project, but if it comes out as I envision it, it will be pretty good.

The THING about rear derailers is---how do you judge their performance, when the shifter is friction, which allows even the Buddha and Zeus to make mistakes? Huh? If you miss a shift, is it the fault of the derailer or the shifter? They must be well-designed, but in the case of mechanically operated non-indexed derailers, "well-designed" doesn't guarantee shifting success any more than a well-designed camera guarantees a good photograph.

Shimano is chasing SRAM to see who can be the first to eliminate human error, by eliminating human input, in bicycles. They HATE cables and visible pivots. Hate 'em.

5. Another rear rack.

6. Another handlebar. 

7. An updated version of the SaddleSack-Small, which we'll spiff up some and make it slightly slicker and jack up the price accordingly, and it will be known ans the SlenderSucker, or something like that. We're having a hard time getting the fabric, dam.

8. A new back on the Backabike Sacks. The current attachment works great, might work better than the new one, but the new one might be ten percent less awkward. It's my evening project, and I'll have it perfected  in a month.

9. More British sweaters of Cheviot wool. I think, probably, the last of them. They sell well but are a hassle, and take away from our bike focus. I'm going to have two of each, and I'll be set.

10. MUSA shorts. Maybe knickers too. More  pants. We have nobody here to take this on and make it a priority, and the factory was and probably still is shut down because of covid. So it's not like we've been losing time.

11. More T-shirts and Hats, in conjunction with John and Instagram and Rivelo and whatever else he has going on up there. Subscribe to his...IG or Etsy page. Is it "subscribe"? You'd know better than I.

12. We're still working on a Hillibike brochure and manual of some kind. I want to be proud of it in twenty years. It's hard, and covid is making it harder, but there's light at ye olde end of ye tunnel. 

13. Hobson-Zingo tools: Adequate tools for the adequate mechanic on a budget. No plastic.  A few at first, and more as needed. Nothing expensive, so no excuses not to get them and try them out on your bike. First, t-shirts and hats.

 14. I've been workin on a book for six years, and my current (that's not the right word for it) publisher isn't interested. Thinks it's too wlld, no focused enough, and I sense, thinks I've gone a little mad. It's hard to get another publisher. I'm co-doing it with an illustrator.

15. At least one other book, smaller but good, I think, and that one's 99 percent complete, but it's the big one that I wanna see first. I feel sorry for my family, seeing me work every night on these and getting wound up. I don't get mean, I just bury myself in research and writing and it makes me mad at myself.

16. Top Secret. 


I would like maybe six unpaid volunteers. This is not big or important. IT IS NOT< STRICTLY< a RIV PROJECT. We're not going to send you prototypes to ride, or ask your opinions. It's a personal project, but of course it involves things that pertain to bikes; not actual bikes. So far, seventeen volunteers (in 3 hours). Most have not included their addresses in the email, as I tried to emphasize below in normal font. Don't resend--I'll look you up--but from now on, no address with zip code, and I'll drag your entry into ye olde dustbin. :)   Seriously   :).   It'll take me a month to do anything on this. Thanks all!

The first six. Do you qualify? It's not something you should hope for, I just have to put it out there, to make sure for me. To qualify, you...

...must be honest, able to follow directions, must must treat the project like a test in school, assuming you weren't like...Huckleberry Finn or somebody.  Post-test feedback is OK and may be useful, but the feedback that matters come from following the instructions absolutely and turning in the assignment on time.

...must have up to four hours spread out over let's say ten days and be able to do this thing for up to 45 minutes a day, no skipping days. If your days are unpredictable, if your family or work or school situation is wlly-nilly, then this isn't for you. Gotta be able to use ye olde Snail Mail, and provide proper postage, which includes figuring out what proper postage is, and not depending on me to figure that out for you and text it to you. You can look at the postage on the pkg you receive and estimate from there. I'll include some cheap light freebies that will outweigh the ink you add to the outgoing package.

...must provide full name and address in an email, so I don't have to look it up AND on the paper assignment itself, printed so I can read it. I don't want to come seem like a jerk for repeating this, so please just do dat. 

Come on, please don't share the assignment with anybody else, even if they ask, even on social media, even anywhere. Unless you are intimate with this person. You may use the project as enticement for intimacy, if you must. Good luck with that, tho.

In exchange, you will learn some things you probably didn't know about bicycles.

At least one must be African-American. Or at least of African descent.

Must have at least one woman, too. Or somebody who identifies as one.


in the subject field:


And make your case in 40 words or less (I won't count). Include your age, how many years you've been riding bikes "seriously," and how you'd rate your bike knowledge. If you're Black, say so. If you're white and are mad that I want at least one Black person and at least one woman to do this--then include BUMMER in the subject field. It won't rule you out.

Here's an example of how to apply, to make my picking easy:

Joe Blow, 47, white/caucasion. Riding seriously 20 years, and I think understand bikes pretty well.

Then add whatever you want that you think is relevant. I'l send you the thing to fill out within a month.

Should this have been "between the pencils," where I generally put all things related to race? I kind of think of it as something else. Race won't be part of what you do, but I'm trying to get a cross-section. If you're gay or bi or trans or whatever, and you want to up your odds, put that in. None of that is relevant to the thing you'll do, the questions you'll be asked or whatever it is.


It goes widdout saying, which is always followed by saying it anyway: Nobody cares about cantilevers, and we've got one foot in that boat too, but about four or five years ago when we had zero feet in the not caring about cantilever boat, we dreamt up the courvoisier de elegance cantilever, which has more going for it than you can shake a stick at. It was in limbo for a few years and is still not on ye olde front burner, but it's moving along faster than it has in many a moon, and what you see up there is what it looks like now. There is no speeding these things up, and that's a fact.

Here are more..views of the connoisseur de todo que es magnifique cantilver:


If that's not enough detail for copying it, maybe this will help:

But maybe some other views will fill in gaps, answer questions:

Una mas!—

esta bastante suficiente ahora? so sorry this is dragging on. It just pours out.


The rear derailer is moving faster, and is still muchas lunas away, but where it is right now seems too good to be true. It will not shift better than a Shimano, but there's more to everything than perfection. The goal is sufficient imperfection, which leaves room for you.


I got a package today with these in it:


 On the back:

And the note explaining:


Oddly, sadly, ironically, the most useful tip in this or any other Blahg might be to get one of these bad boyz. It is or they are (there's more than one model) the BEST you'll ever use, but the video should have shown them in real-world conditions. That's my only gripe. Apologies in advance, but I am serious.


I'm a big fan of the Pioneer Swiss Army knife. We used to sell it, but Victorinox is not that easy to communicate with, as a company, and there are some mild things that bug me, and it never helped us much, anyway. But I went on the site to see what it was selling for these days, and came upon this other model, which is kind of neat because it weighs just 1.6 ounces WITH A SAW, of all things. 

I think that's pretty good, and the price is cheap. But what really got me was the copy for it. It is rather insane, given the actual tools on the knife:


Carving timber and chopping logs...on what fantasy micro-planet? And what tools take everything "in their stride"? Sling it in your pocket, go ahead. Intrepid hike?


Purple Riv rider Ana C. took this pic on her ferry-bike commute. It has to do with the fire-smoke:

Ana rides a pretty bike hard, as we all should. A year or so ago or more she cracked the lens on her iPhone, so every picture is signed with some kind of magnificent flare. That's the Queen Mary in the back there.



I SAW this on a car on the way to work, never seen it before. Maybe it's famous. I kind of follow it, not positive.

 Here's the one John sells, but it looks super-distorted here, because of I don't know why.  It's been controversial b/c the familiar Jesus cross isn't on the flag and some others are, but John has explained that to most people's satisfaction. U can get it and other bikey-political-human rightsy shirts and stickers RIGHT HERE.


Shorter next time.


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