The other day I received a Rivendell catalog in the mail. By a strange juxtaposition, it came the same day I received my issue of Bicycling, which is about the other end of the cycling spectrum. Now I’d been lusting after a Rivendell catalog for a number of years (Yes I know, normal males would be more interested in a Victoria’s Secret catalog but we cyclists are strange folk). I had heard that they were the last bastion of retrogrouchiness, and I considered myself a died in the wool retrogrouch. The reason I had never had a Rivendell catalog before is that some years ago, they started charging money for their catalogs. Now many of the snootier companies started putting a dollar figure on their catalogs but in actual fact they could be had for free. Not so with Rivendell and it is against my religion to pay money for the opportunity to spend more money. Yes, I know, these are righteous folks fighting the good fight, etc, but principles are principles.
So, it was with much enthusiasm that I perused my very first Rivendell catalog. But after reading a few pages, enthusiasm turned to disappointment.
The first several pages are dedicated to extolling the virtues of wool, complete with a picture of a sheep. I have nothing against wool, I own plenty of it, and wear it a lot in the winter. And it is definitely true that it doesn’t stink as much as the synthetics, though it does have its own distinctive odor. But when they started waxing eloquent on “natural” fabrics and getting down on polypropylene and friends, I had to object. I reckon the invention of polypropylene ranked up there somewhere on a par with the discovery of fire. I got on the polypro bandwagon from the start (I think the Lifa polypro top I currently commute in is of that vintage). And cotton’s fine in the summer if you don’t mind carrying around a pound or so of absorbed sweat, so give me Lycra or give me death.
Then they get into gearing. The claim is that you can use a smaller big chainring, you don’t need to go 50mph like all the racer types. Well, that may be true, but with a nine speed triple, you can crawl up Smuggler’s Notch at several miles per hour and scream down the other side at 50mph and still be pedaling. In my book, you can never have too many gears. Then they suggested you could ride without shifting quite as much. Excuse me, but I have a long history of gear mashing, and with my fine STI setup I’m finally using all the gears that God gave me, and in fact riding better.
So then I read how all these tried and true components are more durable and reliable than the modern gear. I have to admit, I was of the same mind in the early days. Who needs indexed shifting, more parts to break, etc. My first bike with index shifting I immediately put it into friction mode. Then when STI came along I was really skeptical, because you couldn’t dial it out if it went south. But my new bike has Ultegra STI and except for an annual adjustment, it has required no maintenance at all.
So, finally, I decided I wasn’t too keen on the technical discussion, but if I could save money by buying not so state of the art equipment, maybe I’d be interested. But the stuff they sell is no cheaper than modern equipment and in some cases more expensive!
They did have some good hints in the catalog, like using wine corks for handlebar plugs (which I’ve been doing for years), but on the whole I decided much as I’d like to agree with their philosophy, I really didn’t. Guess I’m not a true retrogrouch after all. So, I don’t think I’ll be buying anything out of the Rivendell catalog. And I’m certainly not going to buy the catalog!