Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Practical Bikes

10 years ago, when Rivendell Bicycles was new, they stood for practical bikes. Bikes that could take wide tires, fenders, racks, but wouldn't actually be any slower, and wouldn't cost an arm and a leg because they were factory production frames.

Fast forward 10 years, and now we have a whole new generation of bike frames. Velo-Orange, for instance, makes a French Randonneur bike for $1650. Jitensha Studio makes an Ebisu bicycle for $1400.

By contrast, Bill Davidson's custom frame costs $1200. Put on a $300 custom fork and it's at $1500, the same price as a production Rivendell Rambouillet frame and fork! Carl Strong's pricing isn't that much higher.

I don't understand the logic of people paying more for a production bike than a custom frame. It makes no sense. If you want lugs, Bill's prices are $100 more, but for most people the advantage of going custom would be too large to ignore.

Today, when someone wants an economical bike, I point them at the Soma Smoothie ES. At $500 for a frame and fork with long reach caliper brakes, this is the practical bike that Rivendell no longer produces today.

And yes, I have test ridden the Kogswell P/R. It's not a nice handling frame. 650B wheels feel sluggish to me, and make the bike feel like a lopsided turtle on level ground. I think Jan Heine's taste is contrary to mine, and I am sad that the bicycle fashionistas have moved away from the quick handling, practical light riding bikes that I learned to love so much over the last 10 years or so, and I definitely blame it all on the pernicious influence of Jan Heine. Fortunately, folks like Craig Calfee keep turning out beautiful riding bikes just like the ones I rode 10 years ago, and judging from how popular his bikes are, these bikes are winning in the market over the fashionistas, which is all the satisfaction I need. Now if only someone made a light steel frame with that geometry...
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