Rivendell Bicycle Works has been keeping steel real since 1994. It’s not about nostalgia or retrogrouchiness, but a true belief in the benefits and beauty of lugged steel and quality, sustainable component choices. This comes not just from appreciating the fine lugs and paint, but in knowing that your frame—and its components—will remain serviceable and repairable for many years.
Rivendell is also about fit, comfortable fit; with a more upright position than your average racer-shaped bike, but also with varying wheel sizes to better fit the full variety of humans.
Rivendell’s range starts with the road-only Roadeo and progresses through the line—each bike with a bit stronger tubing, more tire clearance and thus becoming more dirt-worthy, until you arrive at the Hunqapillar, the strongest and most fat-tire worthy of the gang. All Rivendells include braze-ons for maximum versatility, and the Hunq has three bottle mounts, front and rear rack, fender and fork low-rider braze-ons. There’s even a pump peg under the top tube, plus a kickstand plate on the chainstays for extra stability when parked.
My interest in this bike sprung from over a decade of riding my Rivendell Atlantis, a bike that has seen many a week-long tour and quite a bit of dirt. But I have become interested in something even more robust. That thought process pointed me to the Hunqapillar with its Diagatube, that extra tube you see in the photos. It adds strength and stiffness to the 58 and 62cm frames. Plus, for lug counters there are two more than any bike without a Diagatube. That’s two more lugs that Rivendell had to invest in castings for, and two more you get to look at.
The stock Rivendell component kit is based on functionality, serviceability, and longevity, with less emphasis on gram-counting. Highlighting this is a selection of parts from Nitto of Japan. Granted, handlebars, stems and seatposts are not usually singled out like this, but Nitto offers many bar and stems that provide a wide range of fit with top-notch finish, a pleasure to behold for many years.
For drivetrain, Rivendell prefers mid-range Shimano stuff. Deore rear derailleur, Claris front, and Dura-Ace for the bar-end shifters. Let’s not spend too much time and money whittling the gram count, but instead pay attention to functional, long-lasting stuff. The cranks are from Sugino of Japan, another forged beauty fitting right in with the Nitto stuff.
Wheel-wise, Rivendell has been working with with Velocity USA and is now offering their 36-hole Sport hubs laced three cross to Dyad or (Rivendell designed) Atlas rims, topped with Schwalbe’s Marathon 700×50 tires, although I got the 50mm Big Bens as an upgrade.
For handlebars, I selected the Nitto Bullmoose Bosco with cork grips. The bullmoose style has been around since the early 1980s, and I was ripe to try them. I chose Paul Thumbies for old-school mountain bike-style shifting.
Two thoughts came to mind on my first shakedown ride. First, “finally a bike that fits”. My 60 cm Atlantis was purchased a decade ago when I was only a mountain biker. I had thought the bike would be easier to handle on trails. True, but getting on this 62 cm Hunq has been a real eye-opener, giving me more space and opening my chest up for better breathing, especially when climbing.
But while totally in love with the Bosco handlebars we had originally picked, I took the liberty of switching them out for Albatross bars from my Atlantis to get my position a little more forward. For touring the Albatross bars can’t be beat, as they provide a wide range of hand positions. Most of the time I ride pretty upright, but it’s easy to slide the hands forward for stand-up climbing. If only they had a little less sweep, but Nitto is unable to bend their bars in the way I’d ultimately want them.
My first voyage was a weekend camping trip, so I installed a Pass and Stow platform rack on the front and a Bruce Gordon on the rear. Both are made in California: one in Oakland, the other in Petaluma. Two great locally made racks, baby.
My first major ride was down a local San Francisco Bay path for a weekend of camping, which was mostly flat so I didn’t concern myself with how much I was carrying: four panniers, plus a bag on top of the Pass and Stow, due to large amounts of beverages and musical instruments. And a kite. The Hunq handled this well as I pushed it to its limits. Super solid, but not quite as stiff as a Surly Karate Monkey with its much larger down tube and smaller triangle.
In daily use with varying loads the Hunq was bulletproof. I would sneer at railroad ballast, curbs, drops, and most everything else. Its versatility is enhanced by the many positions of the Albatross bar, from weight-forward climbing to upright cruising.
My final test ride was on Groundhog Day, a 14-hour day including 40 miles of pave and 20 miles of dirt, some of the rutty, fire road variety found in the Marin headlands. This is where the touring and mountain bike personalities of the bike came to fruition. I had plenty of gears and traction on the way up the hills, and strength and stability and fat tires to conquer the ruts at speed on the way down. I did hanker for disk brakes on a couple of steep technical occasions, but I’m happy with the Shimano cantilevers 90 percent of the time.
The $2,000 frameset is made in Wisconsin, and includes frame, fork and FSA headset. You can get a standard build kit for an additional $1,350, sans pedals, seatpost and saddle. Mix and match as you wish from Rivendell component choices; look to spend between $3,600 and $4,600 on a complete Hunqapillar. Lead time is typically four months, but at any given time Rivendell may have your bike in stock. A huge bonus is that your bike will be lovingly built by the folks at the home office in Walnut Creek, California (well worth a visit if you’re in the ‘hood).
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. I want to tour. The Hunqapillar does it all quite well. It looks great while doing it. It attracts attention as well. And yes it is more of an investment than your average bike. But you wouldn’t be reading this if you wanted an average bike.
- Price: $2,000 (frame, fork, headset); $3,600 and up (complete)
- Sizes: 48, 51, 54, 58, 62cm (tested)
Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a product review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.