No. 11. MID MAY. The T-shirt and T. Gabner Rughut, the Phillips hoax, more derailers. A long one for shut-ins.

No. 11. MID MAY. The T-shirt and T. Gabner Rughut, the Phillips hoax, more derailers. A long one for shut-ins.

 A baby platypus is a puggle.   


This BLAHG is too long, but I just did a little every day and it grew, and you may be holed up somewhere and need to kill some time. There's a lot of STUFF in it, bright stuff and color stuff, and at the last minute here I'm going to  pull some older black and white riding photos and put them in randomly to kind of tone it down. It's too colorful, technical, detailed, and intense. 


This is a product endorsement you should act on immediately. You won't need them this spring and summer and maybe not fall, but holy cow, in the winter, holy cow:


This is a feel-good thing related to coronavirus. I know you don't like links, but this is a short good one, and I promise you won't say, well that was a waste of time!:


 Dan getting a Gus over a tree on Mt. Tam last winter.


I've been thinking about clarifying stuff about our bikes and approach and why, because a lot of, let me put it another way. Because it's confusing. So here's a try to fix that. 

Sorting out the kinds of bikes we do, starting with the kinds of bike we...

...don’t do. We don't do—

  1. Racing / competition bikes. 
  2. Homage/intentionally “retro” bikes. The old French, Italian, and British frames continue to influence the best steel bicycles of today, but by our standards, they hunched you over too much.
  3. Collecteur bikes. If a bike is so precious that you’re reluctant to ride it, it’s a waste. Bikes are like dogs, they want to get out there.
  4. Hidden cables. The basic external cable stops, water bottle, and rack mounts are fine, but we also don’t do hidden headsets, brazed-on front derailers, or internal cables that “clean the lines” of a bike and make them hard to work on. Visible cables make bikes make sense visually and mechanically. If it's there for a reason, we like to show it.
  5. Techno-erotica bicycles that use technology developed for motor vehicles. Disc brakes, electronic shifters, hydraulics to soak up bumps easily managed by soft tires and technique.

Our deal is:

    1. Beautiful bikes that improve your life and are fun to ride. Bikes to get you out of the car for short trips and off your feet for long ones. Bikes for fun, travel, shopping, commuting, and joyful riding. Not just workout tools.
    2. Safe bikes. We aim for bikes you can ride for a lifetime with no worries of sudden, life-changing failures. The frames and forks are chrome-moly steel, the safest material by far. There is no sacrifice in performance. 
    3. Comfortable bikes. A bike shouldn’t be just tolerable, and you shouldn’t have to “get used to it.” A lot of comfort is in the set-up, and we put as much into that as we do the frame geometry.
    4. Usefulness. Your bike should be able to handle a variety of surfaces, fit fenders for wet weather, and behave well carrying stuff. 
    5. We pick nice colors, favoring rich solids and fine pearls. Model names aren’t techy. A black inline and gold halo edging the letters prevents clashing with paint and makes them easy to read and nice to look at. Every model gets a metal badge with art, not just a mylar-like sticker-logo.

How many bikes do we sell per year? 

Thanks for asking. Between seven and eight hundred, but we don’t actually count.  We could sell 200 more, but we don’t have the cash flow to buy them, the warehouse space to store them, the money to reach more riders, or the people to manage more business. We don’t sell on commission or have sales goals, other than to sell enough stuff to keep on going. 

 Where and how well are the frames made?

All but a few dozen are made in one of two shops in Taiwan. These are small shops that take their time and are fanatical about QC. They’re as perfectly aligned as any custom frames and are brazed by pros who braze bikes all day long and keep their skills honed sharp that way. 

 Prices — Frames: $900 to $4,000;  

Whole bikes: $1,700 to $5,800 (parts add $1,500 or a bit more)

 If you want racks, fenders, bags, baskets, kickstands, lights, and other accessories, it can cost as little as $28 for Wald basket, or as much as $800, if you go with everything and a German generator lights. 

 Our lightly lugged frames like the CLEM and Roadini cost $900, because they have only one frame joint lug, plus head tube rings and a real fork crown. But that $900 also includes $125 of headset, seat post, and bottom bracket. They’re extremely well made, and cost less because tig-welding costs less than brazing with lugs. They ride as well as any Rivs, even customs.

 Our standard, fully lugged frames, about $1,600, and come with a seat post and headset. They’re built in one of two small frame shops in Taiwan, and the builders are as good or better than ninety-nine percent of the frame builders in America. Then they’re painted by a 1.5-person shop in Taichung. We have the best selection of fine, investment-cast lugs and fork crowns in the world, because we’ve invested so heavily in them since 1994.

 Our custom frames cost $4,000 with no headset, seat post, or bottom bracket. They are our unique design for you, based on your dimensions, weight, riding style, and use. They’re built in Colorado, by Mark Nobilette. Mark also builds our Roadeo road frames. Mark’s been a custom frame builder since 1972 and also makes his own brand frames. He’s a perfect fit here—an artist, technician, and problem solver who consistently comes up with creative solutions that work and look gorgeous.

 Customs are painted by Joe Bell, who’s been painting bikes since the ’70s, and has maintained his unequalled standards for decades. His paint is thin, detailed, crisp, and tough, and he is generous in his compliments of other frame painters. When I think of Joe Bell, I realize that he is better at painting bicycle frames than I have ever been at anything, and has been a personal inspiration since I’ve known him. 

 Ask for help.

We know these bikes and parts inside out, are not impressed by prestigious components or high priced derailers or whatever. We love the challenge of getting you the most for your money, and we certainly don't think "it's a shame" to put a cheap derailer or saddle on our best bikes. Cranks--yes, handlebars and stem, kind of. But not derailers or saddles.

Fun fact: Thirty-dollar rear derailers shift as well as ones that cost five times as much. Ten dollar front derailers work as well as seventy-dollar ones. On our personal bikes, we often mix high- and low-brow, so if you want us to watch the dollars on your behalf, don’t be shy about saying so.

 On the other hand, we don’t want to suck the joy out of putting together your total ultimate dream bike by recommending budget parts. If you've wanted Phil hubs your whole life, or White Industries, or Paul. We love all of their stuff, and can help you pick it. Just let us know your budget, don't pussyfoot around. 

Repaints, etc.
We try to keep stock of decals and badges, but don't see this as a major obligation.  A minor one, yes.  We have 95 percent of the headbadges and decals that we've ever had, so we're doing pretty well. Decals are $20/set and we sell only to the painter, to avoid somebody stealing your "just in case" decals and putting them on another bike. Many of our paints are custom blends and even the ones we pick off chips in a color book are probably Taiwanese, and your American painter doesn't have access to those paints. Our paints don't have "color codes" like cars do, so we can't give you a number or formula. Let your repainter eyeball the paint and give it a shot, or pick a new color. 
You quite well may not be able to get a local painter to match your original paint. Again, there is no paint code. A painter with a good eye can come close, but don't require perfection when you're dealing with people who didn't paint the bike originally. 

I've been using fool's screwdrivers for about 45 years, plus or minus. How many years has it been for you?

If you work on your own bike you may have noticed that the derailer adjustment screws and V-brake and cantilever-brake tension adjustment screws that appear to have Philips heads don't fit your Philips screwdrivers. That's because they're Japanese "cross-head" screws, and Phillips screwdrivers dive too deep and bottom out before the wings engage the slots right. Mark here has ground off the tip of a  Philips to deal with that, but the real things exist. 

Places that specialize in bike tools sell Phillps screwdrivers, which reinforces the notion that they fit the screwheads in question. Bike tool makers who offer Phillips screwdrivers are complicit in the hoax. There isn't a Phillips-head screw on your bike.

It must have been complaints— "Phillips screws suck!"  ?  that led to Shimano going to 2mm allens, which is extremely human-unfriendly.

Allens below 4mm are dumb. And even the 4's could disappear and I wouldn't car. Fives and up, if it was my call.

Tiny screws should either fit flat-head screwdrivers (best), so it's easy to tell if you've turned them. The Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) t-cross screws are what's on Japanese cameras, but camera places sell the screwdrivers for them. They don't, like bike tool makers, sell you sets of tiny Phillipses just to fool you.


This is one of my favorite photos, because it was one of the best four rides of my ife with a dear, dear friend, who was out here from his home in Colorado for a week or so. OM-1 camera, HP-5 film, 50mm lens, red filter. For those of you who like to know that stuff. 


I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE ABOUT TO THINK. First, "no you don't, and that's an irritating thing to say,"  and second, that I'm on a front derailer kick and rant and it's getting old. I know, but there's other stuff below this. 

Typical of 1960s high-end French stuff. Beautifully shaped, worsely finished than the best from Italy or Japan. But the cage is really nicely shaped, better than Italy's or Japan's best. This was a rod-front that used a cable, too. A transitionary design. I bought it off eBay recently (unused) for $24 or so. I like the simple slot for the bolt.

Eighty grams, when Campy's lightest was 100g. Not that I cared about weight; I'm just reporting.



Near the bottom of column 1 is Gary Zukav. He wasn't famous yet (as the guy who's appeared on OPRAH more than anybody else), but he had written a book--The Dancing Wu Li Masters--and I read it, and asked him stuff. But I also fitted him with packs and gave him excellent general outdoor gear advice in the late '70s/earliest '80s when I worked at REI's second store, in Berkeley.

Theresa Chiu and Jeannie Matlick, above Huret, were the only two BART station agents who didn't hassle me if I entered the station a few minutes after the extremely limited time slots for bicyclists.

The cover of the book. I tried to get a friend to ride for the cover, but he bailed at the last minute and I had to get the film to the publisher in a couple of days, so I rode myself. That's a Tom Ritchey lugged frame with a Huret Jubilee shifter...sometime in late 1983.


This is Sofia on Mt. Tamalpais in the middle of a bright sunny day, shot on HP5 film. It has that harsh '50s look, which it comes about genuinely, because I was using an old film 35mm camera to just kind of snapshot away



The CHEVIOT as it is, is as good a bike as we make, but we've changed a few things, and unlike Specialized, which still has a Stumpjumper that's a billion light years away from the 1981 Stumpjumper, we don't do that. A tweak, OK, sure, same name Two tweaks and we start reconsidering. It's something we get to do, although it may bum out some of you. Two possibilities have emerged. In alphabetical order, they are:



Vote in the subject field of an email, like this:

Model name / Your name


Maxwell Smart -- Winthrop-Charlene





 Painted red panel and a Rivendell decal. 

 This decal usually get centered about 60 percent of the seat tube length up from the bottom bracket, but there's a tube intersection there, so it went up here.

In only like three of the customs in the last 20+ years, the head tubes are all cream, the familiar RIV-style. Since this one is red, the cream went into the outline. 

 Another closeup of Joe Bell's pin-striping. This was a really expensive paint job. Probably about $1,200. I haven't seen the bill, but it's a good guess based on something.


Today is Saturday May 2. It's beeswax, lanolin, and pine tar. If you ride a bike, you need some. It's for treating leather saddles, threads on bolts, and adding extra grip to that favorite pencil we know you have.

We sell it for $10 a tub, because after 25+ years of doing this, not taking vacations, working fifty-hour weeks on average all that time, my weekend time is costly. You can't buy this much of any goop for $10, anyway...and this is better. Good for saddles (burnish it in with a bandana or rag, shoeshine style) and bolt threads, anything leather that you have and care about. Waterproofing random small sections of wood that get a lot of weather, with the idea being that in 30 years when the rest of the wood is rotten, somebody will see a museum-ready patch preserved by you and wonder how it happened.


You might know, if you're read the fine print, that we're working on a opposite-action rear derailer, Shimano has made them before, called them RapidRise, but the generic name is "low-normal", which refers to them relaxing under the large (low gear) cog==which is the opposite of every derailer made today and made in the last 25 years. Low-normal derailers are plain, pure better, but the market rejected them, and way to go, y' dumb market...

Anyway, making a derailer in America is simple in theory, hard in real life. A good one is harder, and a competitive one is harder than winning a boxing match with King Kong. 

You can still get a reverso derailer in China, or from China, but you need a key to the inner ciircle, or more accurately, you need to know someobdy who knows somebody who has the key, and we do. Here's one of those RapidRise copies:

Dang it's not here in time for this BLAHG.

Ours will cost $80 to $150, depending on our costs, which won't even include R&D time and expensive prototyping. Out the window with that. 

Why spend that much? Good question. You just never know.


This is Will and Sofia on Mt. Tam the same day, and another friend, Steve, up ahead and waiting. Another harsh black and white shot that wouldn't make a magazine cut. The thing about b/w film photos is...even the lousy ones look good. My standards are low, at least for my own. I end up liking eight in ten. It's more fun that way.


The Cheviot is of my personal favorite bikes, and we always sell out of them, but still, we're putting it on hold for a bit and brining out a supersimilar model with some changes that I hope can stand on their own and avoid the distasteful but seemingly irresistable temptation to throw a new bike in the  ring with its  predecessor and see which one bloodies the other one worst.

Will showed the new bike in the last email update. We're riding them, they're good, and after a few small non-geometrical changes, they'll be great. They're not revolutionary, given that we've made Cheviots for many years now. They're not better than Cheviots, but they are as good, and I am as happy with the fit and ride as it's  possible for me to be.

Here's a similar bike we're working on:

A bigger silver one was in the last BLAHG. This is a 50cm one. I assembled it today, quite inefficiently while doing other stuff too. The saddle is high so I could try it. I rode it home and asked my daughter Kate (Atlantis in high school, Glorious stolen in college, replaced with Betty Foy, which is the most beat-up one I'll ever see.) She was commuting on it until the virus.  First she took it around the back yard, Billie the dog in chase until, of course, I wanted to get them both in the photo. She's looking at him.

I know what you're thinking: Nice Grips of the Gods, nice rapid rise rear derailer, nice Losco bars, but where's her helmet?

She later took it around the block on pavement and declared, "It would be hard to crash this bike. It feels so easy."


Jay and Dan in the local hills. Super bright, but I used an orange filter to make the sky look better than it actually looked. Harsh light and tons of contrast.


From The New Yorker.


You know how, whenever you see this

these days---- assuming you're not a veteran or currently enlisted in the military---------you tend to associate it with:

  ??? That's what it's come to. The flag used to have a different vibe. Maybe you associate it with this (it's like 30 seconds long and you may've seen it already):

 This is more like it:

Related, I think you will like this link. Seriously, click on it. It's 3:01, and it may be the best thing in this BLAHG:

 Kind of related, for sure, we and John of Rivelo have been working on a thing that won't go far, but anyway it's a flag that represents a more inclusive version of the country:

RELATED TO THAT, just barely. This is not my kind of music, but go thru it to appreciate the link that comes after. This is bizarre, to me, but I was never much of a concert-goer:

Here's a French television commercial:

John of RIVELO is going to sell T-shirts with this flag. We're getting stickers. John may have stickers, too. 

Here's the first sample, printed today, May 4, at 2pm:

Don't get all mad at the this modified flag, which is no threat to the actual one. This is just a BLAHG.

On another but related note, according to Wikiwhatever, the colors:

White signifies purity and innocence. Red, hardiness & valor, and Blue… signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice.

Those qualities may have played a role in the escape from England. No doubt in 1492 the Native Americans and and in 1619 the African slaves noticed the hardiness, vigilance, and perseverance more than the valor, innocence, and justice. Jettisoned in the Atlantic?

To get a shirt:

They're Gildan all cotton SS Pocket-Tees. Mens cut, and Gildan (Will's near-only brand of T-shirt) is a big monster T-shirt maker and they have normal fittings, and for the love of assorted holy deities you shouldn't bother John with questions about how they fit or how to wash them or how much they shrink..right? Because you've been wearing cotton T-shirts your whole life, and Gildan's not going to spring any surprises on you, right? :)))))

It is almost impossible to get sixteen-color shirts. It's a process that most printers don't have. It can be done only on white.

From now until November 2, for every shirt you order, you'll get $10 credit here. It's kind of like taking $10 off the price of the shirt. Technically not exactly, I get it, but close enough.

John will report who bought what every friday by noon, and we'll create the credits by 3pm. That's the plan, but cut us some slack if we don't get to it until the following Monday. This works only if you're in our system. 


Will at the top with camera, and that's Sofia. We were practice-shooting the Hillibike brochure. This with either an OM-1 or a Hasselblad, I can't tell. This is exactly what it was like up there that late foggy morning. Sofia's riding a Susie W. Longbolts, 53cm.


T. Gabner Rughut

It's a bike starting with a mountain bike frame Tom Ritchey made in the late '70s or early '80s as debt payment to a guy who lent him some money. I bought this one several months ago, unused and unpainted, and I had semi-local framebuilder Steve Rex do some practical modifications to it; then local painter Rick painted it. The T. Gabner Rughut is an anagram of Greta Thunberg. In this case the T can stand for Tom, since he built the frame. It wasn't built and delivered AS a Ritchey, it never  had paint or decals, and I modified it like mad, so I didn't feel it was fair to Tom to put his decals on itThe fork is a Tange, I think, and that was modified, too. 

I was not a "good purchase" in the end. It's a good frame, it rides fine, it fits me (it's a 58 with a level top tube), but a NOS rusty frame that needs braze-ons, threads added to the BB shell (lots of hip frames of those years came threadless and took a different kind of bottom bracket)...and paint. Well. My $650 frame turned into a $1400 frame, and for that, I could have bought, at my Founder's Price ha, something we have here with lots of stuff on it.

But I also saved a frame from maybe a life of nothing. Now I'll ride it to the store or so, and commute now and then, and eventually I'll sell it or donate it and somebody will have a frame that's ready for 100,000+ miles. So, a worthiy project, I guess. I put as little into it in the way of parts as I could. I have zero in the derailers. Rich built me the wheels for nothing--thanks, Rich. I used sample parts we get for trying out, plus some new stuff. Enough of that, here it is:

It now has a rear brake, a regular binder bolts, and bags front and rear. Within a year I'll sell it, but it's a nice commuter as it's set up, and of course would make a really nice 26-inch wheel mtn bike. 



Roman in Briones Regional park, nearby, cresting a really, really hard hill on his first try. I've made it five times in 100+ tries.

Roman coming back later that evening, low light, shot at 1/15th second. This is what imperfect film shots look like.




 Same roll, same scene, one picture earlier than the other Roman photo. The hard hill is in the background.


This is what's so great about Mark. He is not "Mr. Basket"  himself, but he is the best and most caring mechanic in the universe, and here is is grinding the bottom part of a Wald clamp-on "Clem" basket to make it fit a little better. It's not a necessary step, but he always does it on his builds.


Early in Will's less-than two-year film career he shot this with an Olympus XA camera, near his house on the way home. Tons of coyotes in San Francisco.

Friend Jared on a local ridge riding a Gus Boots-WIlsen. They're coming soon. Thanks for your patience.


Here's the working area for our rear derailer project. This is not my work desk.

Taken-apart Shimano Altus derailer.


It's a purple custom Rivendell shot with a cracked iPhone with light leaks. Ana Candela's. 

Tight crop of an image taken in 1992, by friend Bob Schenker when he was shooting the cover of the 1993 Bstone catalog. Pentax 67 camera, 135mm f4 lens. Originally shot (of bike rider and advocate Kim) was in color, but I made it black and white. Truing a wooden wheel with a VAR spoke wrench in the lower level of the old Wheelsmith bike shop in Palo Alto, CA.


That's it. The next BLAHG will be shorter, less varied. Less interesting, more readable. I can't do this anymore. It's easy because it doesn't require work or thought, but it's shamefully long. I know you have other things to do, but I thought, you know, corona times, sitting around at home.


Remember John's sixteen color t-shirt. You have never seen a t-shirt with that many colors before...probably.



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