Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bikes: Rivendell Quickbeam

Figured I'd follow the bicycle blogging conventions and post one of my bikes, my most recent build.  As you may have gleaned (or already known, if you know me), I'm a big fan of Rivendell bicycles and their philosophy of what makes good bikes.  Having been a fan for years, though, I haven't really been able to afford more than a few of their parts and accessories, and even a few of those I got at heavy discount from their garage sales (for instance, I was one of the lucky few that got one of the $35 slightly mis-manufactured Nigel Smythe Country Bags).  However, late last year I decided to take the plunge, and, aided by their layaway program, I acquired one of their beautiful frames to build up myself, and I'm really happy with what I came up with.

Some pre-history on this bike: for most of college years in Berkeley and my post-college years living in San Francisco, I had a "beater" fixed gear built up from an old Schwinn World Sport Frame, an old bent-then-straigthened 1" threadless  fork off my touring bike (which, with a long axle-crown measurement, slackened the angles of the whole bike somewhat), the first wheel I had ever built in the rear, and Nitto "North Road" swept-back (3 spd style) bars.  It was a real mongrel with a badly flaking rattle-can paint job, but man, that bike rode well, and it was my main form of transportation for many years.  I would ride it all over the city, to my job, to late nights at the bar.  The relaxed-yet-efficient position from the slack angles and upright bars made it easy to ride, and I never worried about locking it up anywhere. 

Then I moved up to Sacramento, got a longer commute which I normally did on my road or touring bike, and the beater fell into disuse.  For a while, I kept it at my then-girlfriend-now-wife's house in SF to ride on the weekends there.  Then, a deal came up on a cool classic bike (an old Takara "Overland" touring bike in a massive 66cm size), and the beater was sold to help finance that purchase.  My thinking was that I'd trade my beater for a slightly nicer and maybe better-fitting ride.

For a number of reasons, the Takara ended up not really meeting my expectations (more on that later), and late last year, I found myself pining after my old townie, how it was so easy to hop on and "just ride" for whatever purpose.  I even went so far as to email the guy that I sold it to, but he was enjoying it and didn't really want to sell it.  So, one evening over dinner I was discussing my wants with my (by that time) fiance.  The conversation went something like this:

Her: "So what do you really want?"
Me: "I want a comfortable fixed gear, probably with upright bars, for everyday riding, something I can just jump on and go."
Her: "It sounds like you want a Rivendell."
Me: "Yeah, I guess I do."  (Translation: "Well, duh--why hadn't I thought of that?"  Yes, I have an awesome wife). 

At the time, Rivendell was having a deal to blow out the last of the SimpleOne, the Made-in-Taiwan successor to the Quickbeam (which had been made in Japan, by Toyo).   So, we made a trip down to Walnut Creek one weekend with the intention of seeing about a 62cm SimpleOne, the largest size they made.  However, after measuring my fairly large PBH (somewhere around 96cm, if I remember correctly), Vince at Rivendell wasn't convinced that I'd fit well on the 62cm SO, even with Albatross or similar bars.  He said, somewhat mischievously, "Lemme check what I have up in the attic" and disappeared into some unseen part of the Rivendell complex.  He returned with an Orange 64cm Quickbeam frame.  My jaw hit the floor.  The Quickbeam had long been one of my favorite Rivendells, and Orange was my favorite color of the three production runs--after all, it had been the color of all my favorite Grant Peterson designs (XO-1, Rambouillet, and Quickbeam).  I had thought that my chance to own a Quickbeam, much less one of the orange ones, was long gone, so when Vince pulled out this beauty, I was sold.  It was basically NOS--I guess the story was that it had been partially built up for another customer (there were marks on the dropouts where wheels had been put on, for instance) but the customer had pulled out, so it never got sold, until I came along.  I put down a layaway deposit and four months later, it was mine!

It took me another four months after that (my life got busy with a move and a marriage) to acquire all the parts and get it built up, but here it is, in all of its glory.  I've been riding it for about a month, and it's perfect for exactly what I wanted it for--everyday, hop-on-and-go riding.  I still have further changes planned, and some of the parts are temporary, but this is what it looks like for now.

64cm Rivendell Quickbeam

Quickbeam front 1/4

Quickbeam Front End

Quickbeam Drivetrain

Quickbeam Rear 1/4

Quickbeam Rear Wheel

Quickbeam Cockpit

Frame/Fork: Rivendell Quickbeam 64cm, Orange
Headset: Tange (Levin?)- stock, came with the bike from Rivendell. Repacked with Phil Wood Waterproof Grease.
Handlebars/Stem: Nitto Bullmoose, 200mm extension, unpainted.  I treated them with some cheapo hardware store spray-on clear coat, but it didn't work--they're rusting underneath.  I'm thinking about trying some different bars anyways (Civia Adlrich 70 degree), so these may be coming off.
Brake Levers: Tektro FL 750.  Simple, minimalist, cool-looking.
Brakes: Tektro Oryx cantilevers.  Front setup with TRP fork-crown mounted cable stop.
Cranks: Sugino AT (175mm).  Came off an old Specialized Sequoia.  Surly 42T stainless steel singlespeed chainring.
BB: Shimano UN-55, 118mm (gives good 42mm chainline with the AT's).  Replaced the stock, shouldered aluminum NDS cup with a plastic cup from a UN-26 after the original was loosening on me.  More on that later.
Chain: SRAM 8spd.
Pedals: MKS Touring Lite with XL Power Grips, "custom fit" with the Matt Chester Method.  These are great for fixed gear townie riding!  All of the advantages of toe clips without any of the drawbacks (i.e., I can still center the balls of my giant feet over the pedals).
Seatpost: Nitto S-84 Lugged Steel "Wayback" post.  I like setback.
Seat: WTB Speed V (with Nitto Saddlebag grip).  Pulled off another bike, this is temporary--I've got a Selle Anatomica Titanico X coming.
Wheels: Surly "Ultra New" Hubs, Rear 120mm Fixed/Free (these are great!); H+Son TB14 rims, Wheelsmith 14/15g DB spokes, Continental "Cyclocross Speed" tires in 700cx42mm (listed).  Surly 17t 3/32" fixed cog, All-City track lockring.

Possible changes include the aforementioned Civia bars with a Technomic stem, a lower-geared freewheel for the flop side of the hub for hillier rides, fenders and slightly narrower and slicker tires for the winter (probably Jack Browns or Schwalbe Kojaks, if I can get my hands on them).


  1. That's a beautiful bicycle (at least according to another orange Quickbeam owner)!

  2. I always wonder what happens when you put on a flat bar on a bike that was designed for drops. Does it change the handling any? I had a green QB some years ago, but sold it. I think your setup would have worked better for me. Enjoy!


    1. Well, if you read the literature on most Rivendell designs, including the original flyers on the QB, Grant anticipated that people would use drops (noodle), Mustache, and Albatross bars on pretty much any of his bikes, so I wouldn't necessarily say that the QB was "designed for drops." Even if it was, I love playing around with handlebars (hence the name of the blog) and using bars that seem to be "wrong" (go drop bar MTB's!). I don't think upright bars like the Bullmoose make a huge difference on Rivendell designs.

      In my experience, overall weight distribution--which is also substantially affected by saddle position--plays much more of a role in comfort and handling characteristics. Even with drop bars, the riding position on Rivendells tends to be substantially more upright and farther back than other "drop bar" bikes (like a road racing machine, for instance) and that is what leads to the distinctive Rivendell "feel."

  3. Sounds like you and this QB where destined for each other, us "off the rack guys" (54-60cm frames) rarely have bikes in our size come out of the attic ;-) Enjoy miles of smiles

  4. That's a great looking bike! I love the story, too. Green QB, here. I was just thinking I'd like three different Quickbeams - offroad, fast road, and 'round-town.

    1. Thanks Philip. I've always liked your QB--the old WTB bars are awesome!

  5. if those bullmoose bars didn't suit your fancy and you might fancy selling them, shoot me an email...

    Thomas (dot) McCause (at) g m a i l (dot) c o m