2019 Rivendell Custom

My 2019 Rivendell Custom Bicycle

I’ve written a lot about how, more than any other object, bicycles evoke a sense of wonder and adventure in me. When I was a little kid, bicycles represented freedom. Some of my best days both as a kid and as an adult have been spent pedaling leisurely with no destination in mind. I love that bicycles are simple, quiet, easily obtained, require human effort, and that it’s possible for even the crappiest dumpster bike to get someone to work or bring a smile to someone’s face. As much as I like roadtrips, I find car culture one of the least admirable aspects of the human experience. When I was a kid, I never dreamt about having a nice car. I always wanted a better bicycle.

In September of 2017 I scratched an itch I’ve had for decades—I went on a pilgrimage to Rivendell Bicycle Works in Walnut Creek, CA, got measured, and ordered a Rivendell Custom Frame. I (re)met Grant Petersen (a huge influence on my cycling interests) and some of the great folks who work there, put a deposit down and was emailed a form to fill out.

Two years later, I received a frame.

You don’t make a lot of choices when you order a Rivendell Custom. You tell them what you are going to use it for and through doing that, give them some idea of what kind of cyclist you are, then they design a frame for you. I intend to get back into loaded touring—I still fantasize that I’ll cross the continent on a bicycle someday—and my answers skewed the eventual design towards that. There were a few email exchanges here and there and perhaps a phone call, but not much else. The first glimpse I had of the bike was a blurry cellphone pic sent to me just before it shipped.

Mark Nobilette handbuilds Rivendell’s custom frames and the geometry in the frame design required a fillet-brazed bottom bracket—a thing of wonder. Joe Bell, one of the bicycle industry’s most respected frame painters, did the paint job and at some point he asked me to pick a color. As an homage to my former favorite bike, the Bridgestone XO-1, I chose pumpkin orange but “kicked it up a notch” by adding a pearl metallic. When Grant is designing the frame, Mark is making it and Joe’s doing the paint, you just trust that they know what they are doing and let them do it.

Eventually you are asked to select components. Over the course of twenty years I had refined the XO-1’s set up (and had ridden it in so many different configurations) that I couldn’t think of a better way to start this journey with the Custom, so I decided to build up the Custom very similarly, opting for upgraded components where I could because, well, this is my dream bike.

I’d be lying if I said that after two years I wasn’t getting a little antsy to receive and ride it. I’m a pretty unsentimental person when it comes to things, but I can’t recall being this excited about any thing since I was a kid; I won’t forget how absolutely giddy I was lifting it out of its shipping box. I opted to build the bike myself, including the wheelset, because while the folks at Riv are pros, I wanted to have at least some hand in the final result. Besides, I love building up bikes and gosh darn it, I’m pretty good at the details.

I was able to take it on one lovely fall ride around the neighborhood before decidedly unbikeable temperatures arrived. So to get a little more time with it, I set up the ol’ photo studio and took some pics, and those will have to do until Spring.

Thank you Grant, Mark, Joe, and everyone at Rivendell.

Here’s a link to the gallery of pics and below, the build list.

Frame Rivendell Custom, size: Me, Pearl Pumpkin Orange
Headset Cane Creek 110 EC30
Handlebar Nitto Billie Bar 580 x 25.4 (RBW-31)
Stem Nitto Tallux 25.4mm / 10cm
Seatpost Nitto S65 Crystal Fellow 27.2 x 250mm
Saddle Brooks B17 Special, Honey
Crankset Silver triple 44x34x24
Shifters Silver, downtube kit, + IRD Quill Stem Mount 
Brakes Paul Cantilever Touring, Anodized Silver
Brake Levers Paul Reverse Brake levers, Anodized Silver
Pedals MKS Grip Monarch
Bottom Bracket Phil Wood Cartridge, 113 (British Retaining Rings)
Front Derailer Shimano Ultegra FD-6700 / 6703 Clamp M/S Size (31.8/28.6mm) Glossy Grey
Rear Derailer Shimano XT RD-M772 Shadow SGS Rear Derailleur
Cassette Shimano CS-HG201-9 build OEM 9s 11-36T
Rear Hub White Industries MI5, silver, 135mm/36H, Shimano Cartridge 
Front Hub White Industries MI5, silver, 100mm/36H
Rims Atlas 650b / 36H
Spokes 277 (front), 271/273 (rear)
Nipples SS self-locking
Tires Schwalbe Big Ben, wire bead, HS 439, 650B x 48, B/B KevlarGuard Active line 10122
Tubes Vista 26 c 2.125-2.35 presta valve 48mm
Downtube Cable Stops Problem Solvers Stainless Shift Cable Adjusters
Handlebar Tape Brooks Leather Tape, Cork look-a-like
Bell Spurcycle, Raw finish
Kickstand Single Leg, Pletscher, Touring
Fenders SKS Model B65 
Mudflaps Sackville Fender Mudflap Wide, Light Grey Grid
Front Rack Nitto Big Front Rack 34F
Rear Rack Nitto Big Back Rack Large 33R

About the author Narayan Nayar

Family man. Designer. Photographer. Woodworker. Food enthusiast. Traveler. Flyfisher. Bicyclist. Platypus aficionado. Frequent user of the letter 'e'.

All posts by Narayan Nayar →


  1. That’s a pretty sweet ride, friend. Congratulations and good work! I love the color and the handlebars the most.


  2. That’s gorgeous! And it’s almost time to get out there, social distancing notwithstanding.

    Hope you and yours are well.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: