Let’s Gawk At My New Bike, Shall We?

Firstly, I’d just like to assure you that there is no way you can get the coronavirus by reading this blog* or by patronizing its sponsors**, so make sure to do both as often as possible.

Secondly, let’s dig into my new bike, shall we?

It is of course a Rivendell, specifically the A. Homer Hilsen model, in a size 54.5. (Will at Rivendell worked closely with me to make sure I got the right size.) As I noted yesterday, the position is still a work in progress, and I continue to make changes as I get to know the bike, so try not to draw any conclusions from the bar height or anything like that.

My reasoning for choosing the A. Homer Hilsen was that I wanted a zippy all-rounder I could use on pavement and non-technical dirt, and that would be suitable for everything from riding down to Brooklyn to heading up north on the Old Croton Aqueduct trail. Moreover, I wanted a bike that would be conducive to doing all of those things in whatever I happened to be wearing at the time–in other words, a Jorts ‘n Sneakers Bike. In short, I want a high-performance bike I can hop on at any given moment with minimal preparation and ride for hours in any direction.

Certainly my Jones is capable of all that as well, but in order to truly turn it into a hop-on-and-go bike I’d be happy to ride 20 miles through New York City I’d have to swap the pedals and tires for flats and slicks respectively, and detuning it thusly would mean it would no longer be ideal for more technical mountain biking, which is something for which I really rely on it. And while certainly a normal person would have no trouble finding a happy medium with the Jones via judicious swappage of components, I’m a semi-professional bike blogger who is not in the business of compromising; rather, it is my imperative to have the perfect bike for every conceivable scenario, and I’ve come a long way towards attaining that goal with my latest acquisition. (I should also mention that Jones does also offer the LWB complete with smooth tire setup, so if you want an inexpensive all-rounder that arrives at its versatility via modern mountain bike-oriented components and cost-effective construction versus classical parts and lugs, that bike should certainly be on your radar.)

As for my appreciation for Rivendell and their approach to bikes, it has grown exponentially over the years, and it was during my visit there back in 2016 that everything really clicked*** into place–because I finally got to ride their bikes. See how happy I look?

Photo courtesy of Rivendell

The bicycle I’m riding in the above photo is a Sam Hillborne, it felt fantastic, and I knew then that one day I’d have to get my pubic bone onto a Rivendell.

Okay, so let’s move onto the bike. Here’s the cockpit:

The handlebars are Nitto Choco. I’ve long been a fan of swept-back bars like this, and I’ve been using a pair of Dove bars from Rivendell (which I no longer see on their site) on my city bikes for years:

As I mentioned, I wanted this bike to be zippy, and here’s why I went with the Choco bar:

It’s also good for road bikes instead of a drop bar, when you want a close grip and a totally perfect next-to-stem grip. It’s the best bar we have for that.  But it’s not a specialized-use bar at all. It’s good bar for any almost any bike.

I also knew I wanted bar-end shifters, and I went with Rivendell’s friction shifters in keeping with their ethos:

At this point I should mention that I specified the frame, the handlebars, and the shifters, and I left everything else up to Rivendell–and I’m glad I did, because everything’s fantastic:

Bars are flippable, note the logos

The Brooks B17 should come as no surprise, and happily I just so happened to have a leather Brooks saddle bag lying around:

And the pedals are so long and grippy they’re like stepping on the underside of a starfish in the best possible sense:

They’re so grippy you can bring your crank around to the 2 o’clock position at red lights without taking your foot off the pedal.

If you’re wondering about wheel size and tire width, here’s everything you need to know:

And yes, those are hand-built wheels:

I do believe a commenter yesterday mentioned something about a computer wire on the fork; nope, that’s actually for the headlight:

Which is powered by a dynamo hub. (Not to be confused with a dynamo hum.)

Oh, and here’s the crank:

With a 24-tooth small chainring and an 11-32 cassette I could pedal up the steep part of the Hudson River Greenway just north of the GWB without getting out the saddle, which for New Yorkers should tell you all you need to know.

While my Engin is a fully custom bike brimming with details beneath its stealth black exterior, the Rivendell is obviously the most classically beautiful bike I’ve ever had in my custody, so let’s just appreciate it wordlessly:

Not a bad-looking bike now, is it?

As for accessories, just as I’m still dialing in position, I’m sure I’ll also figure out things I should add to the bike. As of now however the only thing I feel is missing is a kickstand:

Kickstands are one of those things you spend your entire life thinking are corny and then one day figure out are totally cool–especially on a bike with swept bars, which is difficult to lean against walls. I mean obviously I’m not putting a kickstand on a road racing bike, but on a Jorts ‘n Sneakers Bike it makes total sense. And of course this being a Rivendell, it’s designed to accept one.

As for the ride, the bike feels comfortable, smooth, and fast. Some people might look at the leather and the lugs and the cloth and all that stuff and think this is a pokey bike, but the fact is you hop on it and you want to haul ass. Not only does it feel fast, but it feels light–I mean obviously its not technically light by modern road bike standards, but it feels light in character, and between the plush tires and the 650b wheels and the somewhat yielding non-oversized cockpit and the light action of the shifters it just makes you want to go. This is especially true on a dirt trail like the Old Croton Aqueduct (where I took it for its maiden voyage), but also on my 40-mile round-trip to Brooklyn yesterday, where I locked the shit out of it for the one hour I spent on the radio:

I don’t know that I’d make a habit of locking this bike up in the city, but goddamn it I really wanted to ride it.

Oh, if you’re wondering about the pink lock, that’s a Knog prototype they sent me many years ago, and there was a moment there yesterday when I was sure the key was going to snap and I was going to have to find someone with an angle grinder:

Fortunately I managed to get it open.

Then, on the way home I did more position-tweaking, and if you’re wondering where everything stands adjustment-wise here’s the current state of affairs.

Now you’re completely up to date. I think I’ll hop on it now and go for a ride.

*Unless you’re using a filthy public computer

**Unless your delivery person is infected and coughs in your face

***“Clicked” is an inappropriate metaphor in a Rivendell context due to Grant Petersen’s aversion to clipless pedals and indexed shifting, so please forgive me

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