Rivendell Appaloosa

Photo courtesy of Rivendell Bicycles Works https://www.rivbike.com/

I recently ordered this lovely 2018 Rivendell Appaloosa frame.  It is designed for 650b wheels (a 51 cm frame) and has 135 mm rear spacing.

Why?  I have many wonderful bikes that I thoroughly enjoy riding.  But one thing I have never had since 1999 is a bicycle soul mate – that’s the year I crashed my 1976 Centurion Pro Tour.  Since then, while I have ridden many excellent bikes, I have never found that one bike that speaks to me, a bike that will take me into the next decades of riding, with comfort, competence, and a spiritual connection that is hard to explain.

In 2012 I built a 650b frameset while attending UBI’s frame building class here in Portland.  That experience helped me realize two things:  experienced frame builders have much knowledge and lore that newbies should respect and value. And, many cycling “experts” don’t know a thing about frame geometry, especially as it applies to riders under 5’6″.  One of the (few?) nice things about being an accountant by trade is that math comes naturally to me.  So, understanding the complexity of frame geometry has always been a high priority.

The 650b frame I built back in 2012 is currently being repaired with additional brazing on one of the lug joints that I didn’t do so well at filling with silver the first time out.  When that frame has been sand blasted and painted, I’ll build it up.

Rivendell Appy in shipping garb

Meanwhile, I received shipment of the Rivendell Appaloosa and 650b Velocity wheelset I had ordered earlier this winter.  When the frame arrived I was amazed to see that Rivendell had protected and packaged the frame in a way that only bike geeks can appreciate. As a buyer of bike frames, I have received countless frames shipped with no tubing or drop out protection.  Some eBay sellers simply do not have a clue as to how to properly ship a bike frame, so: Caveat Emptor.

As expected, this bike’s paint scheme is lovely, in fact, extraordinary for this price point.  The fork crown has ornate patterns, with mounting holes on top to accept stays for a front rack.  The Appaloosa head badge is fun and interesting (it’s a Rivendell!), and all the lugs have been filed and well brazed.  For a frameset that costs the consumer a mere $1,300, the value is clearly reflected in these features.  A Rivendell frame is one step away from custom, but inexpensive compared to custom options.

Is this a cargo bike?

Horseshoe seat tube/seat post drilling

Whether you want a kickstand or not – here is the bracket for it

Beefier than any other dropout – and with two threaded eyelets.

Two more eylets on the rear dropouts

3 rack mounts on the seat stays, plus the eyelets on the dropouts.

Silver tubes – butted and cro-mo

One thing to note about Rivendell frames is that they can have a longer wheelbase and longer chainstays than expected.  This Appaloosa has 51 cm chainstays. That means it is in cargo bike territory for its wheelbase.  For this frame (advertised as 51 cm size), I measured the seat tube as 50 cm and the top tube as 55.5 cm.  These measurements differ from the specs shown on Rivendell’s website.  My measurements are center to center.

There are a few condition issues with the frame.  The seat stay cluster was filed very thin, but the upper portion extends outward, and with a little paint loss, is not ideal.  Also the rear canti stud braze-ons are not well executed.  They look unprofessional, but after examination I think they will be safe to ride.  The head badge was not glued evenly to the head tube, as shown above.  Naturally, I am documenting these issues in case anything arises with the performance of the bike.

Because the frame is heavier than other frames that I ride, I expect to replace the FSA headset and the low-end Shimano bottom bracket.  I’ve got lots of interesting vintage options in my parts bin that are lighter weight and probably more likely to last through the ages, as well as provide better performance.  Smaller riders can benefit from weight savings, and I intend to focus on that as I consider options for components.

Spotted on Hawthorne: a Rivendell Rambouillet

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As I was having lunch at a neighborhood cafe, I saw a cyclist pull up on on a Rivendell and thoughtfully lock the frame up with a beefy cable.  I don’t see these bikes in Portland all that often, but the first thing I noticed before I even realized what kind of bike he was riding was the Sugino X D triple crankset – a beloved component which, especially as manufactured in decades past, would seem to never wear out.  I had one on my old Cannondale, and it definitely rivaled the performance of my 1984 Shimano 600 triple crank, which is still going strong and is now mounted on my Terry.

I introduced myself to the bike’s owner, Roger, and asked permission to photograph his bicycle.  We struck up a conversation and I learned that his Riv was a retirement gift to himself, fully spec’d by Rivendell, and purchased new back in 2004.

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This model is no longer available, but as you can see, he has taken great care of the bike, even though it has thousands upon thousand of miles on it.  It was nice to visit with another “mature” rider who, though older than most cyclists in Pdx, clearly relishes each ride on his beloved machine, from centuries to week long tours to neighborhood jaunts.

Grant Peterson has to be credited with the welcome shift in the cycling industry back toward the comfort of non-racing frame geometry and lugged steel construction.  He also championed a return to bar end shifters, platform pedals, and “normal” cycling clothing.  The Rambouillet was designed with a slightly (2 degrees) sloping top tube so that the stem position could end up a bit higher to provide a more comfortable ride.

The original components appear to still be going strong.  Probably the Ruffy Tuffy tires were replaced a few times over the last 12 years – but maybe not.  Although I personally don’t care for the way they ride, I did use a set for a number of years and they never showed any wear at all.

This Rambouillet is even equipped with Rivendell’s quirky hi-viz spoke mounted reflectors, and a Rivendell water bottle!

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Sheldon Brown championed a number of Rivendell models, and counted the Rambouillet among his collection, which he first had set up as a fixed gear, but then later converted it to a 7 speed. 

Fortunately, Rivendell  continues to fill an important niche in the cycling industry – riders who want a quality machine with reliable components, a bike that will last through the ages yet not bust the budget.  This Rivendell gives evidence to the success of that mission.