Like most Rivendell owners, I’m overly enthusiastic about my bicycle–you know, the kind of enthusiastic that makes people back away from you at parties. (At least when parties were a thing, and we didn’t just back away from each other all the time anyway.) And of course if you don’t want to hear about Rivendells, I invite you to do the digital equivalent of backing away from me by visiting another part of the Internet. If you don’t know where to go on such short notice, might I suggest here.
For those of you bold, foolish, or apathetic enough to remain, so fond am I of this bicycle that I actually seek out content about it when I’m not riding it. (Especially when I take it on vacation with me and am riding it exclusively.) Sadly, most Rivendell content amounts to Internet forum posts in which people argue about whether Grant Petersen is a genius, a huckster, or some combination of the two. (None of those are accurate, and I’m fairly certain he’s simply a space alien.) However, I was pleased to see that “The Path Less Pedaled,” which is a YouTube channel about the sort of plump-tired, gravel-y bikes of which These Kids Today are so fond, recently got hold of a Sam Hillborne, and I’ve been watching with interest:
That’s one good-looking bike.
As I understand it, the Sam Hillborne is pretty similar to the H. Homer Hilsen I’m riding. In fact, Rivendell lent me a Hillborne when I visited back in 2016:
And you can tell from my goofy-ass grin I was already scheming about how to put a Rivendell between my legs on a permanent basis:
Riding a Rivendell in Rivendell’s backyard was one of those, “Oh, now I get it” moments for me, like the first time I tried good Scotch, or used a truly high-quality toilet tissue.
Anyway, the obvious difference between Path Less Pedaled’s Hillborne and the one I rode (as well as my Hilsen) is theirs has canti studs and V-brakes. Also, it’s got knobby tires, and while the cockpit is fairly similar to my Hilsen (different bars but same general idea), theirs also has the nifty friction-shifter-as-thumbie setup:
I could totally see myself trying that one of these days.
In the video he makes a big fuss about the rim brakes, though I’m assuming he’s being tongue-in-cheek. Certainly V-brakes provide plenty of stopping power, especially in the dry conditions as seen in the video, and I imagine he’ll cop to this in future videos. I also suspect the up/down gravel-type ride he does is pretty similar to my vacation mini-gravel loop:
Which is also a perfect test of loose-terrain climbing and braking:
If the extra-long sidepulls on the Hilsen can handle that with aplomb (I’d even go so far as to say they handle it with two plombs) then a pair of V-brakes is more than enough.
Incidentally, I also recently got to try the Hilsen on a long descent:
Yes, at high speeds, long-reach brakes and upright bars are not quite as confidence-inspiring as short-reach brakes and drops, especially since when you’re in the drops you can keep your brake levers covered at all times without sacrificing control. However, I still had plenty of control, and really the only limiting factor was my own timidity. My fastest-ever time on this descent, according to Strava, is nine minutes 24 seconds; on the Rivendell I did it in an even twelve minutes. (For perspective, KOM-holder Kevin Bouchard-apparently did it in six minutes 57 seconds.) I’m sure I could have done it at least a couple minutes faster if I’d kept my hands on the forward portion of the Choco bar and gone into an aero tuck, but I’m way too much of a woosie to keep my hands away from the brake levers whole descending at speed. Instead I kept my hands back where I could feather the brakes, and I let the wind resistance of my upright torso make up for any flex in those long-reach calipers. Let’s just say I didn’t hit Fred “Woo-hoo-hoo-hoo” speed, but I still went more than fast enough to get the ol’ butterflies in the scranus:
One thing he does say in the Path Less Pedaled video is that he wished it had a dropper post. Putting a dropper post on a Rivendell seems like slathering your Wagyu beef in A.1. sauce, though I suppose you could get away with a Hite-Rite.
There’s also another video where he takes it on some singletrack:
Ironically, the Hillborne as he’s riding it is way more of a mountain bike than most mountain bikes until like the mid-’90s. Sometimes it feels like the road/gravel/mountain bike continuum is just one big Möbius strip:
Pretty sure I make one of those when I wrap my bar tape around my brake levers.