Rivendell Cheviot One-Year Review


Last year about this time, I was in the market for a new commuter bike: I had been riding my electric-assist Yuba Boda Boda in the rain, my steel-rimmed 1969 Robin Hood when it was nice out, and my Linus (which was slightly too big for me) with studded tires in the winter. I wanted a bike that I could ride comfortably year round, and since I had decided not to buy a new car, I had some cash to spend. (I also sold the Linus.)

The Rivendell line of bikes seemed to get universally positive reviews — almost to the point of fetishizing these (expensive) custom bikes — and my local shop, Harris Cyclery, had a Cheviot to test ride and the expertise to help me set it up to my liking.

The Cheviot, considered to be in the mixte family of bicycle frame geometry, has a relaxed fit, meant for upright to semi-upright seating with swept-back handlebars. It's steel frame is sturdy and beautifully lugged, with longer chain stays than usual for an exceptionally steady and balanced ride, even loaded with lots of weight on racks and in baskets. I find it easy to hop on and ride, to stop and go in city traffic, and to put a foot down when I need to.

These are the frame and parts I ended up going with (most parts carefully chosen by Elton, then the custom-bike fitter at Harris Cyclery):

Bike:
Cheviot 50 cm (includes frame, fork, seat post, and bottom bracket)
Nitto Tech Stem 10 cm
Nitto Albatross Handlebars 55 cm
MKS Touring Pedals 9/16" (Silver)
Brooks B67 Sprung Saddle (Honey)
Rustines Constructeur Rubber Grips (Natural)

Gears & Brakes:
Sugino XD500 165 mm 24x36x48t
IRD Alpina Triple Front Derailleur 28.6 mm
Shimano 8sp 11-32 HG51 Cassette
Deore M591 SGS Rear Derailleur
Ultegra 8-spd Bar End Shifters

Tektro R559 Cantilever Brakes (Silver)
Shimano BRL34 Brake Levers for Cantilever Brakes (Silver)

Wheels:
Pacenti Brevet Rim 650B/32H (Silver)
Deore M590 Rear Hub 32H (Silver)
DT Competition Spokes (Silver)
Comp Loup Loup Tires 650Bx38 mm (Tan/Black)

Lighting System:
Schmidt SONdelux Dynamo Front Hub 32H (Silver)
Busch & Müller IQ-X Headlight (Silver)
Busch & Müller Toplight Line Brake Light w/Pulse

Extras:
Tubus Logo Evo Rear Rack (Silver)
Velo Orange Zeppelin Fenders 650B 52 mm (Silver)
King Iris Bottle Cage (Silver)
Pletscher Single Leg Kickstand (Silver)

To some cyclists (even some of the experts at Harris!) it seemed crazy that I planned to ride this bicycle in all weather, even in snow. Such a lovely bike surely was just too nice to ride all the time, back and forth to work on salt-covered, pothole-ridden roads, they said. But to me, the idea of buying a luxury vehicle to roll out only on special occasions seemed idiotic — it reminds me of my grandparents' living room furniture perpetually covered in clear plastic. My point of view is, what's the point of having nice things if you can't use them!?

If you estimate that, on average, I commute to work 3 times a week, 8 miles round trip, plus some local errands, I calculate that over the past year, I have ridden this bike approximately 1,250 miles.

SPRING

I rode my new bike home in a light drizzle on a cool day, Apr 7, 2017. What a wonderful feeling!


I used my old Po Campo briefcase and no-name-brand black pannier for my stuff to and from work for a while. (Recently I bought a new Linus tote bag pannier and a new Po Campo briefcase, because the old one had some tears in the fabric.)


I love the little hearts in the lugs and the Rivendell head badge.


On the "wrong" side of the frame, Rivendell tells you how to pronounce "Cheviot" (not like the French)!


The rear rack I chose is very compact and has a built-in spot for the dynamo-powered tail light. I love not ever having to think about charging batteries! And Elton did a fabulous job routing the wires from the front wheel to the rear rack unobtrusively.



It rained a lot last spring, and I found myself wiping down the frame, spokes, rims, handlebars, and rack every time I arrived home for a month and a half. What a pain! But I really wanted to keep this bike nice (and show those Harris nay-sayers that I could keep it rust-free). 

As I got to know my new bicycle, I improved at friction-shifting gears with my pinkie and palm — much different from all the other gear-shifters I'd ever had. Bar-ends require a bit more balance and timing, I found. I admit I watched a few YouTube videos showing how you do it.  I got the hang of it after a month or so. 

One thing I noticed about the gearing nearly right away, and this hasn't changed in the year I've been riding it, is that I never need the lowest ring on the front derailleur. Going up steep hills with a lot of weight on the bike (laptop, lunch, snacks, hat, gloves, scarf, lock [ABUS chain, very heavy!], bike tools, etc.) and I still find that I only need to go down to the middle gear in the front and the next-to-lowest gear or lowest gear in the back. Should I have gotten only two rings in the front? I don't know.

SUMMER

In the summer I found myself using the Cheviot mostly for commuting, turning to the Boda Boda for trips to the farmers' market and the CSA pickup and back and forth to summer camp with the kids.

Occasionally I ventured farther afield on the Cheviot: I rode from my office to my dentist and passed this lovely reservoir in Waltham, on my way to Lexington, on June 26, 2017:


Notice in the picture above, how slanted down the handlebars are? My elbows were really aching from the bent-over position the handlebars were set up to allow, so I loosened the nut where they attach to the stem and lifted them up a couple of inches — within a week, my elbows and wrists felt much better. I had also, at some point, decided to inch the nose of my saddle up — it looks weird, but this is my preferred position. 

Going out with friends, I stopped to take this shot at the Moody St. Bridge over the Charles River, July 28, 2017, and you can see how I'd pulled the handlebars higher:


One of the things I really love about this bike is the color of the frame: see how it offsets the pinks and purples of the sunset?

Another thing I should note is how smoothly it rides, and (maybe because I'd gotten used to riding a heavy cargo bike) how fast it goes.

FALL

As the sun began setting earlier and earlier, I realized that the headlight needed to move: it was reflecting off the front fender and blinding me. I took the bike back to Harris Cyclery for a checkup and they happily tuned it up and, per my request, moved the headlight to the left side of the fork. Much better there, though it still reflects off the sidewall and the spokes — I may eventually put a basket on this bike and move the headlight to the front of it.

Gloves, tights, boots, and sweater weather, Oct 17, 2017:


Daylight savings time ends, Nov 6, 2017, and I was (of course) already ready for it with my dynamo lighting system — always powered on:


Then came the snow.

Dec 11, 2017:


At that point, I realized I needed studded tires if I was going to bike through the winter. I called around, and nobody had any, even Peter White in NH. (Sigh.) I sent an ISO email to my local Google Group of family bike riders and miraculously found someone who had a used pair of Nokian 650B studded tires! It was such a huge relief, and in exchange for homemade blondies, he even installed them for me. What a mensch!

WINTER

Studded tires on, and doing their job, Jan 18, 2018:



These studded tires are nobby and hard, creating a much different ride quality on the Cheviot. Most of the way to and from work is on main roads. They are plowed cleanly and salted heavily, so mostly I was riding on bare pavement, except for patchy areas of side streets. The studs clickety-clacked down the roads. My neighbor told me he could hear me coming up the hill.

My commute became more of a workout:
  • going up hills, I lost momentum
  • riding over bumps and potholes, the stiff tires barely took the shock and I found my wrists hurting after most rides
  • overall, I needed more energy to go the same speed as usual
Plus, the cold weather left me feeling tired. I needed to stop and blow my nose a lot. Not the most fun season.

The snow is beautiful though, and the bike didn't let me down. Jan 31, 3018:

One particular storm left me unable to ride, though it was sunny and not too cold the next day. In early February, there was freezing rain that left the roads slick as luge runs. I attempted to ride down my driveway, thinking it would be a good test. If I wiped out, I'd take a Lyft to work, no harm no foul! Well, even with the studded tires, my bike slid out from under me, and I went down in slow motion. I found myself on my butt gliding down the driveway alongside my bike, feeling like a doofus but grinning with the thought of watching myself fall down (no witnesses, unfortunately!). The handlebars had gotten twisted as they must have hit the ground, but otherwise the bike was totally fine. I straightened the bars out, walked the bike around the other side of the house (on crunchy grass) up to the garage, and summoned a Lyft.

SPRING AGAIN

Time to take off the studded tires and clean the bicycle! With a Halloween bucket of sudsy warm water and a couple of old toothbrushes and some rags, I gave the Cheviot a thorough bath, removed the studded tires and put on the Compass Loups again. For a moment, I though I'd forgotten how to get the rear wheel back on! But then I figured it out.

March 25, 2018:


Regrets…Not Really?

I kinda wish I'd gotten the gray frame.

I definitely want a shorter stem (but it has taken me a year to realize it).

I'm definitely swapping out my grips (which I'm not crazy about) and doing this.

I'm getting rubber-block pedals because I almost ruined my new leather-soled oxfords on these metal ones!

Thoughts on Price

Frame: $1,300
Parts (does not include my saddle, grips, and kickstand): $1,733
Labor: $475
Tax: $190
Total: $3,698

Seems like an insane amount of money to pay for a nonspecialty bicycle.

I think some decisions contributed to the high price, like the lighting system, which required a handbuilt front wheel (and Elton said it would be cost effective to get both wheels handbuilt with the same rims, because I'd have to buy a two-wheel set anyway.

Other line items, like the pricy rear rack and the top-of-the-line headlight and tail light, I think I could have sized down and gotten a better deal. As for the high cost of the labor, that would have been included in the price if I'd bought directly from Rivendell, I believe, but I'm not sure, and I appreciated having chats wth Elton about the bike, having the chance to test ride it. I went with the 50 cm frame, for example, after testing the 52 cm frame; and I decided to use bar-end shifters instead of mounting them on the handlebars because I thought the movement of the hand from the brake to the top of the bars was awkward during my test ride. I want to support my local bike shop, the expertise they have there, and so I didn't mind what I kind of perceived as a labor markup.

Finally, I have no idea if the cost of the individual parts adds up to a significantly better bike!

I do feel pride in owning such a cool bike. I love riding it. People notice it and comment on its beauty and "retro" style. I've enjoyed getting to know it over the past year and wonder how our relationship will change over its lifetime — presumably it will last longer than I will!

Comments

  1. Beautiful bike and lovely explanation of your design for the build process. Yes, dynamo hubs/lights increase the cost substantially but I'm very jealous of your setup. I have a Cheviot (friend basically gave me the frame to work on) and it's a delight to ride. Your all-season setup is definitely in the Rivendell spirit, "just ride" for sure!

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  2. How fast do you ride on average on your cheviot when going long distances...

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    Replies
    1. I have no idea! It takes me approximately 30 minutes to get to work, which is 4.4 miles. I wait at red lights. I go faster downhill than up. I walk most of the last hill, which is a quarter of a mile, sometimes. ;)

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