Rivendell Blériot: Maiden Flight, November 14, 2007

by Raymond Parker on November 14, 2007

in Cycling, Technical

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On the road less-travelled

Today, I piloted my newly-built Rivendell Blériot on its first adventure—a 100 kilometre tour over chip-sealed rural roads, rain-softened gravel trails, debris-strewn highway shoulders and pot-holed industrial areas.

This was also the first occasion to test the new 650b Grand Bois “Hetre” tyres.¹ First impressions are positive: great flotation, confidence-inspiring in the corners, with an overall sensation of floating on air, especially over rough surfaces.

They also seemed to roll pretty well. Half of my excursion was in the company of a dozen or so other riders. Whether in a 40 km/h pace line, or freewheeling downhill, the Hetres held their own. In fact, on one long decent, I found myself—or rather the Blériot—keeping pace with a rider weighing around 200 lbs. (I weigh 135) but running high pressure 700 X 23C tyres.

Climbing, especially out of the saddle, feels somewhat sluggish for someone used to harder tyres. I’m not sure yet if this is merely an unfamiliar sensation, or an actual downside to balloon tyres.

The bicycle itself rode like a dream. The 71° seat tube angle set me “behind” the pedals, after a lifetime of riding 74 degrees, necessary on small frames using 700c wheels.

There is some toe overlap on this frame, with the balloon tyres and mudguards, so I must use caution on tight, slow turns. This, however, is no different from even my largest (53cm) traditional frame, built around 700c wheels.

Contrary to some reports, I found the Tektro R556 caliper brakes to be powerful and finely modulated, even with the stock shoes. Admittedly, I’m not demanding the same of them as my stockier counterparts, but I detected no chatter or undue flex in the calipers.²

Though I have owned a Brooks Pro saddle for thirty years and commute on it daily, I was surprised to find the B-17 so comfortable, right out of the box.

Others have said that the Blériot, and 650b-equipped machines in general, inspire the rider to explore roads less-travelled. And isn’t that just what cyclo-touring is all about?

¹Inflated to 60psi. Width: 40mm on Velocity Synergy rims.
²Subsequent rides, in wet conditions, have reinforced this judgement. No, the R556s are not quite as powerful as short-reach calipers, but they are an excellent brake in their own right.

Photos (click for full view)
About town & country

Note: Original page created November 14, 2007 (updated 11/18/07) This page designed 12/21/10. Sadly, the Blériot is discontinued.

Blériot and 650b pageA tour on the BlériotRivendell Bicycle Works

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