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Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Rivendell Roadini 1000 mile review

 1000 miles should be enough to review a bicycle, even one as flexible and multi-use as the Rivendell Roadini. I started with it configured with 30mm tires, then decided I didn't like how tall they were and tried them with 25mm tires, and the bike rode great that way. I got fed up with the seatpost slipping and replaced the Kalloy with a Thomson Elite, which no longer slips, but had less of an offset. Then I put on Continental Terraspeed 40mm tires and treated it like a gravel bike, which is the mode it seems to be permanently settled on, so much so that I swapped out the PD-ES600 for the M520s since in gravel mode, I treat it pretty much like a 1990s mountain bike!

Here's the thing, with 700x38mm tires, I stop feeling like I need to drive to the trailhead, but then just ride the bike out my door to the trailhead. If there's 2000' of climbing, I ensure that I pump up the tire to about 44psi, and then when I get to the trailhead I get out my pressure gauge and let it down to about 28psi. If I'm not going that far, I pump it up to about 33psi and then ride it on and off road, taking the hit on the pavement and going slower than I would go with a modern mountain bike down gravel roads. The steel frame flexes like a leaf spring, and I'm no doubt voiding all the warranties associated with the bike, but I buy bicycles to ride them not to baby them.

In road mode, the bike rode as well as I expect a touring bike to ride --- it's a fun, fast, neutral ride. With the Terraspeed tires on it it's not nearly as fun --- you can definitely feel the knobs robbing 1-2mph of speed from you. On a descent, that's a good thing --- I doubt my collision with a deer would have had a good outcome if I'd been going 5mph faster. On a climb, 1-2mph from my already slow 6mph is 4mph. 30% of my speed is robbed from me by the tires, but it's still better than driving! On descents, I can't go as fast as on a bike with suspension forks on dirt, but the bike really behaves well --- far better than a mountain bike does --- there's a direct feedback and a feeling of grace you never get from a mountain bike which wants to just plow through all obstacles --- the Roadini expects and wants you to ride with finesse, picking good lines and going just a tad slower. I did mention that I collided with a deer on the Roadini and survived to ride home with no damage to the bike and only a sore lower leg for about 3 days --- the bike handles so well that while I was convinced I would crash I never did --- despite my vision bouncing up and down and sideways during the 1-2s the collision and immediate aftermath lasted.

Other cyclists who see me riding on a bike with downtube shifters and drop bars and sidepull caliper brakes always do a double-take when I'm off pavement. It's such an odd contraption that people assume (correctly) that I built the bike myself. On wet trails the tires sink in just a little bit before I get traction --- looking at the sidewalls it looks like the tires submerge to the point where the side knobs start to assist with the traction, so there's a little feeling of spinning the tires before everything digs in and you get traction. It's a slightly disconcerting feeling but you get used to it.

If I had to have only one bike to ride in my garage I'd pick the Roadini --- it's got the clearance to treat like a mountain bike, it handles fine with touring tires and light wheels, and short of doing expedition style touring there's nothing it can't do. The only change I'd make is to make the BB lower (maybe 80mm drop --- same as my Strong frame), and if I ever had another custom bike built that'll be exactly what I do. It gets rid of the toe clip overlap (which doesn't bother me but now that I know how to solve it without making a bike handle badly I think I like Grant Petersen's solution), and it doesn't have chainstays so long that i'll be difficult to pack the bike into a bike box when you need to fly with it to a touring destination. I think the Roadini is by far the most versatile bike in the Rivendell lineup (the A Home Hilsen has ultra-long chainstays and requires 135mm wheels --- which are stronger but would render the bike incompatible with my collection of 130mm axle wheels), and doesn't feel overbuilt for a lightweight 140 pound cyclist. Now that they're in stock, I can recommend them to anyone who can fit them.

1 comment:

chocolatiers said...

Thanks for the write-up Piaw...I picked up a Roadini in late December after reading your encouraging reviews, and have enjoyed it thus far...haven't reached 1K yet, but I'll follow up when I do!