Meeting Russ & Laura

I’m a fan of The Path Less Pedaled featuring Russ Roca and Laura Crawford. So when I received an alert on Patreon that they would be in LA and to come on by, I couldn’t resist.

The author with Laura Crawford and Russ Roca of the Path Less Pedaled

Russ and Laura are an inspirational dynamic duo that shed their worldly possessions in 2009 to travel the world by bike. They logged over 15,000 miles traveling the US and New Zealand and shared their stories online.

I discovered PLP perusing YouTube for bike traveling videos. I learned that there’s more to the couple than bike travel. They offer a philosophy on cycling that emphasizes fun and de-emphasizes competition. I found this to be highly relatable. In fact, as I posted earlier this year, I can relate to each of the “5 Things I LOVE that SERIOUS Cyclists Hate“.

You can follow PathLessPedaled on Instagram and YouTube.

I am an “unserious” cyclist

If you’re unfamiliar with Russ Roca and Laura Crawford of PathLessPedaled, subscribe to their YouTube channel here. One of Russ’ videos that I completely aligned with is “5 Things I LOVE that SERIOUS Cyclists Hate“. Sums up how I approach cycling and how others do not.

Everyone recognizes the “serious cyclist”. Lycra top to bottom. Jersey commemorating a competition. Aerodynamic helmets. Cycling glasses. Carbon fiber frames. Cleated, expensive cycling shoes that sound like tap shoes when worn indoors. Grim countenance. Unfriendly. Snobbish.

An “unserious cyclist” could be the exact opposite of the serious version, but after viewing Russ’ video, it’s more nuanced than that. So here are the 5 things Russ and I love that serious cyclists hate.

  1. Crocs. Russ favors Crocs for riding because they’re flexible, versatile and waterproof. Riding through a stream? Leave ’em on. Drives serious cyclists crazy. I wear tattered sneakers most of the time, and sandals when it’s hot out. I can wear any kind of shoe really – see #2.
  2. Flat pedals. I love my flats. They have studs on both sides that grip my sandals or sneakers. I can change foot positions as needed. Any shoe will do. It’s easy to dismount. But serious cyclists always make a comment when they pull up alongside me during a ride. Something like – “Oh, you’re riding flats?” Or “how those flats treating you?”. Rolls off me like water off a duck’s butt.
  3. Non-cycling kits. I favor loose fitting regular shirts or t-shirts and baggy shorts with chamois liners underneath. I have some Club Ride long-sleeve shirts with snaps so I can easily pop open the shirt if the riding gets hot. The long sleeves protect my arms from sunburn, or I can roll them up for a short-sleeve version. My shorts are mountain bike shorts with five pockets. I carry everything I need and reach it quickly, rather than contorting myself to reach around to get something out of the back pockets of a Lycra jersey. Way too casual for serious cyclists.
  4. Friction shifters. I have friction shifters on my 2010 Surly Long Haul Trucker. When I bought the bike second hand, I didn’t understand why the shifter didn’t click between cogs. My bike mechanic explained it to me, and ever since then I’ve truly fallen in love with my friction shifters. Most serious cyclists I know a) don’t know what a friction shifter is, even though it was standard equipment on 70’s bikes. They favor electronic shifters that are right by the brake levers for rapid shifting, like for a race. Mostly I think they favor electronic shifters because they’re electronic, the latest thing, and expensive. And forget about adjusting your electronic shifters, whereas I can easily adjust my friction shifters.
  5. Rim brakes. Serious cyclists favor disc brakes, especially hydraulic versions, but I prefer a rim brake. This style of brake has plenty of stopping power, but for me, rim brakes are easy to adjust by yourself, no mechanic needed.

Let’s face it – the cycling industry loves serious cyclists. They buy the most expensive stuff – frames, tires, Lycra, electronic shifters. The unserious cyclists, we few, just love the freedom of riding a bike, around the block, the city, the state or the world.

Meet Homer

I definitely observe what bikes cyclists are riding. And wearing. But when it comes to bikes, I’m always on the lookout for a ride like mine, made of quality, durable steel. There are bike manufacturers that build exclusively in steel, companies like Surly, the brand I ride. Another steel frame brand is Rivendell Bicycle Works in Walnut Creek, CA, founded by Grant Peterson (more about him later).

So, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen bike at a rest stop during the Lighthouse Century a few weeks ago. Rivendell bikes are known for their beautifully lugged steel frames. Take a look:

Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen
Example of the art that goes into a Rivendell nameplate

As I’m admiring the A. Homer Hilsen the owner comes and takes it out of the bike rack, so I immediately struck up a conversation with him and learned we had something in common: the love of a high-quality, durable and inexpensive (comparatively) but beautifully crafted steel bike that’s meant to last a lifetime.

I first learned of Rivendell bikes during an Adventure Cycling Tour in Death Valley, earlier this year. Of the dozen or so riders, three of us were riding Surly’s, with one Rivendell. Not long after that I watched Russ Roca of Path Less Pedaled interview Grant Peterson, Rivendell’s founder. The title of the YouTube video is “The Future of Rivendell Bikes?” Notice the question mark. You can view it here.

In the interview, Grant Peterson comes across as a guy who cares about his product and the people he employs. A small niche bike manufacturer, Rivendell doesn’t make a lot of money, so its future is dependent upon a steady but growing customer base. For more insight, read the history of Rivendell here. Just the mere fact that Rivendell named one of its bikes A. Homer Hilsen tells you a lot about the company and the people.

Grant Peterson is also the author of “Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding a Bike”. I downloaded the Kindle version, read it and it has become one of the most influential books in my library. Just Ride is a love letter to the joy of riding a bike, before cyclists became obsessed with racing, weight, speed, distance and spandex outfits.