Tips For Happy Riding

Editor’s Note: This was originally published in the Rivendell Bicycle Works Winter ’04-’05 catalog. I happened upon it and enjoyed reading it, and figured it was worth a share.

Words by Grant Peterson. Photos by Helena Kotala & Evan Gross. 


Learn right away that the front brake is the most effective one, and never lock the front wheel in dirt. Learn how far you can lean over without scraping a pedal. Learn to keep the inside pedal UP when you corner, and learn to ride safely in all conditions.

Signal your approach to pedestrians, especially if they’re old, and a bell is better than “On you left!” If no bell, try clacking your brake levers. If all you got is “On your left!” that’s fine.

At least one ride in 10, go without your sunglasses and gloves. Sometime next month, put some double-sided cheap-style pedals on a good bike and ride in non-cycling garb. Carry an extra tube you can donate to somebody with a flat tire and just a repair kit. If you’re a guy, don’t try to be a mentor to every female cyclist you ever meet.

Don’t ride in shoes you can’t walk through an antique shop in. Don’t wear clothing that makes your sweat stink even more. Don’t think you’ll go faster in a significant way if you and your bike become more aerodynamic.

Put a $20 bill inside your seat post or handlebar and hold it there, somehow.

Don’t ride until you’re confident you can fix a flat. If you ride more than one bike, have a set of bring-along tools for each one. Learn how to remove your rear wheel (put the chain onto the small cog, etc). If you ride in a group, bring food for you and somebody who forgot to.

Go for a one-hour ride underdressed sometime, because it’s good to be really cold on a bike every now and then. Never blame your bike or your health or anything else if you’re the last one up the hill or in to the rest stop.

If your brake hoods are black, wrap your bars with a different color tape. Never let your chain squeak.

If you pass another rider going up a hill, say more than “Hi.” If you see another rider approaching you from the rear, trying to catch you, let it happen. Fun is more important than fast. Don’t put any cyclist up on a pedestal, except Lon and Freddie. Sometimes, bring normal food on your ride. Shoot photos on your rides and give them away.

Feel comfortable mixing high tech and low tech, old and new parts and technologies, and don’t apologize to anybody for it. Compliment other people’s bikes, especially if they’re new. Buy the cheapest helmet that fits well. Try seersucker shirts for hot weather riding, and long-sleeved ones are best. Don’t underestimate fig bars. If you get a new widget and like it, don’t “swear by it.”

Don’t always shop in price and never ask for discounts at your local bike shop. Every time you go into a bike shop, spend at least $2, and if you ask a question and get good advice, spend $5 (get a cable). If you buy a rack, don’t ask for a free installation. Don’t assume your bike shop is making money.

Ride only when you feel like it. If you know a fast new rider, don’t say, “You really ought to race…” If you see a stocky woman rider, don’t suggest she race track. Have at least one bike you feel comfortable riding in a downpour. Ride in weather than keeps other cyclists indoors.


Never keep track of your pedaling cadence. If you have a normal loop or ride, count the number of times you shift on it; then the next time you ride it, cut that in half and see if it makes any difference. Learn to ride no-hands and to hop over obstacles, but not simultaneously.

Never hit a pedestrian. In traffic, be visible and predictable. If you have several bikes, set them up with different equipment….but always ride in the saddle you like best. Don’t try to keep up with faster descenders if you’re not comfortable descending.

Never apologize for buying something that’s not quite pro quality by saying, “I’m not going to race or anything.” If you buy a stock bike, do something to it that makes it the only one exactly like it in the world. Don’t think it is important to match front and rear hubs or rims. If you borrow somebody else’s bike, for a short test ride or a long ride, say something nice about it.

Always bring a pump. Build at least one wheel. Wear out something. Don’t ever describe any bike, no matter how inexpensive or dilapidated, as “a piece of crap.” If you get a fancy bike assembled by somebody else, allow them a scrape or two, especially if the bike is really expensive.



Drinks With: author Grant Petersen

Many people know Grant Petersen as the chief bike designer and outspoken owner of California-based Rivendell Bicycle Works. But word is starting to spread that the man who eschews carbon for steel, gel for leather, and Lycra for wool is quite the wordsmith. He’s followed up his 2012 bestseller “Just Ride” with another one published by Workman called “Eat Bacon, Don’t Jog: Get Strong. Get Lean. No Bullshit.” We grabbed him for a quick interview to find out why the 60-year-old Walnut Creek resident went out on a limb to write a 240-page diet and exercise book.


Boulanger: Grant, you published two northern California-specific guidebooks in the 1980s, and enjoyed some regional notoriety while putting some coin in your pocket. Your writing was honed with the popular Bridgestone Cycles catalogs and Bridgestone Owners Bunch Gazettes in the early `90s, followed by 15 solid years or so of the semi quarterly publication, Rivendell Reader. Then “Just Ride” gets published by Workman, a big New York outfit who put you on planes and sent you on a proper book tour of the United States. How many copies have been sold?

Petersen: The three printings were 26,000, 10,000, and 7,500, so right now 43,500 are in print, and I’m guessing 35,000 have sold. The cover price is $13.95, and I get 10 percent of that on books sold to booksellers, and less than that on books sold to Amazon, but Amazon sells a lot of them, so I’m both pro-indie and pro-Amazon, if that’s possible.

Boulanger: When did you draft an outline of “Eat Bacon”? And when did you pitch it to Workman? Did you consider other publishers, or are they still your first love?

Petersen: Well, most authors have agents who do the pitching and selling for them, but in my case one of the Workman editors rides one of our bikes, and was familiar with my bike thoughts and writing…and he called me up and asked me if I’d like to write a book, which led to “Just Ride”.

The contract for “Just Ride” said I had to give Workman first rights of refusal of a second book, if there was to be one, so I had no choice…but I am actually in love with Workman, and they treat me so well, and … I’m happy there. My editor, Mary Ellen O’Neill, is a good friend now.


Boulanger: How many drafts did it take to get everything to your (and your editor’s) satisfaction? How long did it take to write and research?

Petersen: “Just Ride” took like three and a half years, went from 55,000 to 90,000 words, and ended up at about 32,000. Along the way it went from scattered to crazy to good, and that’s where it ended up. Thanks to my editor. I actually had two editors—the first guy, David, who signed me up, and then I wore him out and got Mary Ellen, who’s still here.

If you’re a typical active, athletic middle-aged adult and eat low-fat and high carb, you are constantly hungry, you poop a lot, and you’re gaining weight. The book explains that.

“Eat Bacon, Don’t Jog” took about two and a half years. The three printings were 26,000, 10,000, and 7,500, so right now 43,500 are in print, and I’m guessing 35,000 have sold. But remember, I have a full time job, too.

I read lots of books and studies, consulted with a few doctors and scientists and other with big chops. A pro in the field can lie and get away with it, but if you’re me you have to be careful with what you say, and so I was, I am. My lack of professional chops don’t make it any less true that the human digestive system thrives on fat and protein, and kicks and screams when you feed it horse chow. If you’re a typical active, athletic middle-aged adult and eat low-fat and high carb, you are constantly hungry, you poop a lot, and you’re gaining weight. The book explains that.

Boulanger: I’ve always known you as a health nut, staying fit through jogging, riding, calisthenics and more of a whole food diet, well before I was aware of Whole Foods. You certainly debunk plenty in “Eat Bacon”; who or what set you on this path?

Petersen: About seven years ago one of our employees, Rich, sent me a link that lead me to Mark Sisson’s site— Mark makes sense, it struck a chord with me, so much seemed so familiar—and lead to a dozen or more tributaries that I followed and … long story short, it ALL made sense and shook some sense into me.

Boulanger: You’re almost into your 61st year on this planet. Do your tidbits of advice apply to readers of all ages, or…?

Petersen: Any age. In “Eat Bacon”, I address teenagers and old people and – yes, all ages. The thing is, some teenagers have the internal combustion—in the form of testosterone (males only) and insulin sensitivity and growth hormone—that lets them get by eating garbage, but then they form bad habits and in their thirties they may weigh the same as they did in college, but the muscle’s gone and they’re flabby. Or  in the case of people who keep up their athleticism like I did, you become a food-eating robot who’s always hungry, and ends up exercising just to slow the weight gain. It’s all wrong, the wrong way to go, it doesn’t work, and it’s a miserable life—to ride only to eat.

Boulanger: Does (your wife) Mary notice the difference in the strong, lean, no bullshit Grant after knowing you half your life?

Petersen: I’m leaner now than I was 25 years ago, and I’m never hungry, and I ride fewer miles, but like them more. My bike is my friend, not my boss.

Grant Petersen riding Mt. Diablo for the millionth time. Photo: Gary J Boulanger

Grant Petersen riding Mt. Diablo for the millionth time. Photo: Gary J Boulanger.

Boulanger: Why do you think humans are so obsessed with health, fitness and living a long life?

Petersen: I’m not a philosopher, but I’ll take a stab at that one. Nobody wants to die of cancer or Alzheimers or other somewhat avoidable diseases. People want to look…desirable, too, probably because the grossest cave men and women didn’t get the chance to pass on their genes. And then, you know, by the time you’ve lived well over half of your life, you’ve known friends and relatives who degraded so much before dying, and you want to avoid that. I think health is a good obsession, unless you’re a nut job about it.

Boulanger: Are you concerned about any public ramifications of someone misdiagnosing their current physical state and making dramatic eating or diet changes, failing, then blaming you? “There he is, officer! There’s the man who made me eat bacon and stop jogging!!”

Petersen: The world is full of medical professionals and health organizations that for decades have given out deadly advice, and are still doing it. The book title is “Eat Bacon, Don’t Jog”, and that’s a synopsis of what’s inside, but it’s not the whole story. A title like “Quit the carbs and exercise with intensity and for a short time” fills in the back story better than simply “Eat Bacon, Don’t Jog”, but since most people LIKE bacon and DON’T LIKE jogging, I went with the shorter, more positive title.

Boulanger: Is there another book tour planned for 2015? If so, where will it take you? You certainly made the rounds for “Just Ride”; do you enjoy getting the chance to speak about your published words to total strangers?

Petersen: I went all over for “Just Ride” because I’m known in the bike world, but I’m not known in the food and exercise world, so I’m not touring—although I have some radio spots lined  up. I was both relieved and bummed about not touring. Relieved, because I’m not a natural public speaker and I get nervous all the time, and bummed because I thought it was a sign that the publisher didn’t have as much faith in the book. But it does, because the first printing is bigger… so I’m OK with not touring. If I were to tour, also, I’d have to really hone the body instead of just being my normal self.

Petersen’s latest book can be found wherever books are sold, including at the Rivendell website.

UPDATE: Listen to Petersen’s January 2 podcast with San Diego’s KOGO AM’s Sully here.




First Impression: Rivendell Hunqapillar


What am I looking for in my next bike? I’m sticking with steel. May as well be beautiful lugged steel. Carrying things has become very important to me, as well as a solid ride. And I want to run as fat a tire as possible, with or with out fenders. I want to hit the dirt. And trails. And I want to tour. I’m a big one and I want a bike that fits. This Rivendell Hunqapillar could be the next big thing for me.


Check out the head badge. Formidable, like the Wooley Mammouth represented on it.


A Bullmoose Bosco bar. I’ve wanted a bullmoose bar since Nineteen-Eighty-Something, and now I am riding one. Yes it is overbuilt.


The Hunqapillar is big. And the 58 and 62cm sizes have an extra “Diagatube” tube for strength and stiffness and gawk factor. And it is made in America.


I will not be afraid of dirt with clearance for 58mm tires. Plenty of braze-ons, too.


Did I say it was a wooley mammoth of a bicycle?


Here’s a view of the Bullmoose Bosco Bar. Plenty of places to mount lights and stuff. But the rise might be too much for even me. We shall see after I establish where the shift levers are going to go. I might move them lower or flip them right-side-up so I can get a hand position choices.


You like lugs? The Hunqapillar has more lugs. Bonus lugs! And gorgeous paint! Plus Shimano cantilevers and 2-inch Schwalbe Big Ben tires and a sweet fork crown.

DSC_1449 MT-rivendell-hunqapillar-first-impression-8



A Hunqapillar frame will set you back $2,000. Given steel’s longevity and repairability, this bike should be around a long time. The Standard build kit runs $1,340.

Here’s a standard build includes. All stuff that will function a long time.

  • Cromo Albatross Handlebar
  • Nitto Tallux 11cm Stem
  • Shimano MTB brake levers
  • Miesha’s Portuguese Cork Grips
  • Shimano Dura-Ace 9-speed bar end shifters
  • Tektro CR720 Cantis
  • Sugino XD2 172.5mm Crank
  • Velocity made 36h Wheelset
  • Schwalbe Marathon 700×50 Tires (x2)
  • Tubes (x2)
  • Shimano Claris Triple Front Derailer
  • Shimano Deore Rear Derailer
  • Tange or Shimano cartridge bottom bracket
  • Tange or FSA headset (our choice depending on availability)
  • 9sp 11-34 cassette
  • 9sp Chain

Not included in the kit, so you choose your own:

  • Saddle
  • Seat post (Recommended: Nitto Crystal Fellow)
  • Pedals
  • Racks
  • Fenders
  • Fender Installation Labor (if applicable)



First Look: EH Works Nomad Roll

I was introduced to the benefits of waxed canvas as a Rivendell Bicycle Works employee in the mid 1990s. Specifically, using Filson seconds as a way to wrap tools to fasten to my Brooks leather saddle with a handy leather toe strap. Fast forward nearly 20 years and I discover a Seattle-based craftswoman named Erica Hanson who has refined what Rivendell founder Grant Petersen called a ‘burrito wrap’, and providing tool rolls for bicycle and motorcycle use.


At 17″ x 9″, the Nomad carries much and packs tight.

See more details.

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