Rivendell's new Gus Boots-Willsen

RENO, Nev. (BRAIN) — For the first time since it began selling lugged steel custom bikes in 1994, Rivendell Bicycle Works is exhibiting at Interbike. The company, which is based in Walnut Creek, California, has historically sold mostly consumer direct, first by catalog mail order and later online. But a handful of shops sell Rivendell, and founder Grant Petersen said he’s here at the show to connect with a few more.

“It’s only my second or third Interbike in 24 years. The show is close to home and an easy trip, but I’m also really proud of our bikes. People like them and don’t often get to see them,” said Petersen, who worked at Bridgestone for 10 years before starting Rivendell. “If a dealer really likes them and it strikes a cord, it could work out. We’ve never not had dealers, but our bikes are antithetical to the kind of bikes dealers usually sell. They want, generally speaking, bikes they don’t have to explain.”

Rivendell is known for bucking trends with lugged steel-framed bicycles, wool clothing, cotton bags and leather saddles. Petersen doesn’t do carbon, electronic anything, suspension or disc brakes. Instead, he builds what he calls “contemporary, functional, wonderful bikes.”

“When I started Rivendell I knew the kinds of bikes I liked and wanted to do. They aren’t retro but they’re not trendy or popular. I’m not going to build generic bikes. I always fought that a little at Bridgestone,” he said. “The bikes that dealers thought were too funny to buy sold well with customers who would call asking for them. It was a frustrating situation.”

Rivendell works with builders in the U.S. and two small factories in Taiwan to produce five models, including the best-selling Atlantis touring/”all-rounder,” the A. Homer Hilsen fat-tire road/”country” bike that accommodates up to a 40-millimeter-wide tire with fender, and the Clem Smith Jr., which is a less-expensive TIG-welded all-around bike similar to the Atlantis.

At Interbike, Petersen is launching the Gus Boots-Willsen. Designed for off-road/trail/hill riding (Petersen hates categories, so don’t call it a mountain bike), the “Boots” frame can fit up to 2.8-inch tires and will be available either fillet brazed or TIG welded. Like all of Rivendell’s bikes, the Boots is fully rigid and not designed for racing but for fun and efficient travel.

“Our bikes are a little quirky, and it takes riding them, being educated and talking about them with enthusiasm and freedom to sell something different,” Petersen said. “We have a good reputation and haven’t screwed anyone over. People can buy with confidence.”

Rivendell employs 13 people and operates out of a 6,000-square-foot warehouse that includes a 1,000-square-foot showroom where it sells bikes, accessories, tires, racks, books, lights, fenders and bags. Its Sackville bike bags are made in collaboration with a company founded by former bag makers from Coach and Dooney & Burke. The bags are designed for Rivendell and made in Connecticut. They are also on display at Rivendell’s booth.

Petersen is also giving away 200 free copies of his book “Just Ride” — one per shop until they are gone at Booth 2467.

Editor’s note: A version of this story appears in BRAIN’s Interbike Show Daily, Day 3. 

 

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Author: Stephen Frothingham

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