Shop or read?

Daniel J. Levengood tipped us off to the biking gear site Rivendell.

I’m in the market for new pedals for my bike and ran across this bicycle company called Rivendell.

The site had a different feel from the start, like the description to the Grip King Pedals I’m going to purchase. Very personal. The very type of information that I needed to understand what made these pedals different.

I think I navigated through the entire site, reading up on an array of different topics.

Here’s an excerpt of the pedals description Daniel mentions. It’s great in how opinionated and plain-spoken it is…

Grip Kings aren’t ten-times better than our other pedals, but the differences and refinements are truly upgrades, although technically hairsplitting ones. If you can spend this much for pedals (in this age of $150 to $350 ones), and you’re committed to pedaling without any connection, then go for these. They feel just fantastic under your feet—-like nubby, grippy frying pans. (not the hot kind).

If you’re just curious about pedaling “free” like this and/or you want something cheaper, go for our MKS Sneaker pedals. It’s in the “Related Products” section, and is still our Best Deal Pedal. Not e’en the Grip King will knock it off that exalted throne. Still, the GK is a killer deal.

...and it’s the same way throughout the site. For example, The Big Picture doesn’t shy away from bold pronouncements.

Most riders today are riding bikes that by our standards, are too small. They make you lean over too far, which puts too much weight on your hands, and too much strain on your arms, neck, and back.
If you’re a mid-50s rider of moderate fitness, but ride fewer than 3000 miles per year, and you want to ride longish and steepish hills, the standard road gearing you’ll find on virtually any stock road bike, is too high. You don’t need a top gear more than 100 inches. You’ll appreciate a low gear of 23-inches or less.
If you weigh more than 150 lbs and/or are not racing (meaning, even if you weigh 122 lbs and don’t race), the smallest tire you should ride is 27mm wide.
You may personally prefer welded frames, or fillet-brazed frames, and that’s fine. We prefer them lugged, and so that’s all we make.
Modern bikes have too many gears…Our attitude toward the number of cogs on the rear hub is: Seven is heaven, eight is great, nine is fine, ten is kind of getting ridiculous, but it won’t kill you.

Gotta love the lack of hemming and hawing there.

Equal parts store and classroom.

Tips for Happy Riding also offers up juicy insights. For example: “Don’t ride in shoes you can’t walk through an antique shop in.”

And owner Grant Petersen is quite transparent about the company’s finances at the Company History page.

From late ‘84 to late ‘94 I (Grant) designed and spec’d bicycles and worked on catalogues for the U.S. division of Bridgestone Cycle, Japan’s largest bike maker. Bridgestone closed the U.S. office after ten years of no profit, when the dollar-to-yen exchange rate plummeted to the point where it became impossible to even break even. I was 40, and started Rivendell with $89,000, a mix of retirement money, savings, loans, and money raised by selling stock to friends.

True to the cliche, Rivendell was in my garage for two years. Now we have 5,000 square feet at about $0.90 per square foot, one of the cheaper rents in town. We like it here a lot. It’s easy to get to, close to good food and riding, and it feels like home, except that summertime temperatures average 90F and are often over 100F, and winter days rarely get above 57F. We drive home this point before we hire anybody new. We’ve been profitable three of the past fifteen years, but cash flow is neutral. Sales are about $2.8 million dollars per year. We’re just breaking even, there are no top-heavy salaries, and we fret a lot during slow weeks (and months). I do, at least.

Our mission is to make things that wouldn’t be made if we weren’t here, to offer an alternative to racing-centric bikes and parts, and to espouse a different approach to riding. And to resurrect and keep healthy many of the better ideas, designs, and styles of bicycles, clothing, and accessories that we personally like to use or wear.

Rivendell looks like another great example of a little guy using strong opinions and straight talk to stand out from the crowd.