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Sheldon Brown interviews Grant Petersen

 

September 29, 2005 Grant Petersen Interview (8.8 MB mp3)

I interviewed Grant Petersen in Las Vegas at the Interbike show. This is a good one! See also my photos and report from Interbike at http://sheldonbrown.com/lasvegas/2005

A reader, Bone Killian, has kindly transcribed this Podcast for the benefit of those who prefer the written word:

Sheldon:
Okay, I'm here with Grant Peterson of Rivendell cycles who has found us a relatively quiet corner of interbike, which I did not think existed.
Sheldon:
How ya doin' Grant?
Grant:
I'm doin' OK, Sheldon.
Sheldon:
So, what's new and exciting, or old and exciting, or just mildly interesting?
Grant:
Here at the show?
Sheldon:
Or in the Rivendell world in general.
Grant:
People come by our booth and see the bikes, and they usually make some comment about how cool and retro it is and then they continue to walk on by them, and that's a little bit disturbing, but we're all getting used to that by now.
Sheldon:
You aught to be.
Grant:
Yeah, but overall I'm a little bit disturbed by the shape of modern bikes these days. And I mean that probably literally. I mean I think that saddles are high and skinny and the tubes are sort of out of proprtion, at least for steel tubes. You know I look at them - I'm used to slender tubes on a bike and now, the tubes aren't really tubes anymore, and they all seem to have this similar look, you know that bladed high-volume carbon fiber look.
Sheldon:
I prefer the term 'plastic.'
Grant:
They are plastic, but you know, if they make people happy, that's good, but they aren't the kinds of bikes that make me happy. On the other hand it probably helps Rivendell because we don't have as much competition.
Sheldon:
No, it's true. There's not much out there. I notice over at the QBP booth, this new Bleriot frame. That looked really tasty.
Grant:
Oh yeah. That's a new frame that we're doing. It's the first frame that we've done in Taiwan. I approached QBP about the idea of us designing a bike and having them distribute it, and the advantage to us is that we can sell it also and we will have better delivery of the frame because they will warehouse them.
Sheldon:
That's always been an issue with your stuff.
Grant:
Oh yeah, it's a real pain in the neck.
Sheldon:
They've got alot deeper pockets
Grant:
Yes they do.
Sheldon:
And have a huge warehouse
Grant:
Yes, and it's also a 650B bike. and so it's a chance for 650B to make it into the mainstream and maybe (it's not going to get a huge toehold, but maybe a baby toehold) and become more available because, although there's nothing really magic about the size, it's an old established size that made sense when it came about (I think in the 40s or 50s) and it still makes sense. And it's a good bike and the Bleriot is a lugged steel frame.
Sheldon:
It's very pretty.
Grant:
Well thank you.
Sheldon:
There'll be some pictures on the website I took.
Grant:
Oh good. We're counting on that. Sheldon would at least take pictures.
Sheldon:
I have to admit I'm a convert to the 650B also. I have my IRO aluminum fixed-gear bike originally now set up with 650B tires. It was never comfortable with 700Cs, because it would only fit really skinny ones. But now I've got 650x38s and I got fenders, and it rides confortably now.
Grant:
you know there are so many bikes out there now like tight clearance 700C bikes that are ready to be converted to 650B, but people don't really know that that's an option. But I know at least 50 of them have been done in the Unites States so far, and everybody is happy with them. you know it doesn't change the standover height appreciably, in many cases not at all.
Sheldon:
I did the math on that. As I recall, 650x38 and 700 by either 20 or 23 are exactly the same outside diameter.
Grant:
Yeah, so the bottom bracket height, lean angle, pedaling clearance, all that's the same, you just have suddenly, a higher volume tire that you can run at lower pressure and more comfortable.
Sheldon:
I'm really excited to see that quality is getting on the bandwagon too, because they are the biggest and best distributer and if they have it, any shop can get it. And it's not gonna be such a wierd, oddball "retro-grouch"
Grant:
I don't want it to be seen as a retro thing or an oddball thing or a freaky thing at all. I know it's maybe a little bit that way now, but Quality can help that.
Sheldon:
They can. And there's so many of these bikes out there that people bought because they were fast, and then they discovered how uncomfortable and fragile they were, and they're not riding them! And maybe they could.
Grant:
I think the worst thing thats happening in bicycles these days and it's been happening for years is using racing and competition bicycles to sell bicycles to people who are not going to do that. I mean, it wouldn't happen in cars. You don't see people driving around in cars that people race on the dragstrip or in NASCAR cars but that's the kind of bike that people get on and ride. It's not a practical bike for everyday living, but people, I don't know, they get caught up in the excitement of racing, and in the bike industry, everyone is sort of fretting about "what's going to happen with road bike sales, now that Lance Armstrong is retired?" And that's a pathetic way to look at it. Normal people should be able to ride bikes and they should be able to be comfortable on a bike. Riding a bicycle is a fantastic thing, but if you have to dress like Lance (and I'm a Lance fan, by the way.)
Sheldon:
Oh, who isn't?
Grant:
If you have to dress like him and look like him and try to ride like him, you are not going to have a fun time on a bike. I would have a miserable - the most miserable rides I ever do are the ones where I try to go fast. I try to go fast about once a week, and those are the rides that I don't like. I'm caught up in it a little bit, and everybody is.
Sheldon:
It really bothers me, the concept that you need to wear special clothing to ride a bicycle.
Grant:
I think that's what keeps people off of bikes. If you had to wear an oddball uniform to go buy a McDonald's hamburger, McDonalds would go out of business.
Sheldon:
Good point.
Grant:
People who don't ride bikes now, want to ride a bike, but they don't want to have to change who they are and thier whole look. The look that you have may seem casual, what I'm wearing now may seem casual, but there's a certain amount of calculation in it.
Sheldon:
he's actually wearing a cutaway coat, a white tie, a brilliant white shirt and patent leather shoes, but you folks can't see that.
Grant:
When somebody goes into a bike shop, they just want to buy a bike. They're investigating bicycles. They're not a bicycle person, but they think "well, I'm not gonna be a runner, and I wanna get some exercise, and riding a bike seems fun, and I used to do it when I was a kid, so I wanna do it now." Then they go into a bike shop, and if somehow it becomes clear during the interrogation that they have a certain amount of money to spend, then it's garanteed that they're going to be sold clipless pedals and the whole uniform. And they may get a raod bike, and if they live in a hilly area, the gears are gonna be too high for them. The tires are going to be skinny and intuitively they'll think "boy those tires are skinny," but they put so much trust in - I guess- the thought behind the bike, they'll think "This must be the way it is. I mean, they wouldn't sell me a bike that wasn't practical." But, in fact, alot of inpractical bikes do get sold. I don't know what hope there is.
Sheldon:
Lately I see alot of these wheels coming out that have like a dozen or sixteen spokes and so on. That really bugs me. Because people think it's a feature, actually what it is is the manufacturer did not want to spring for genuine Shimano hubs
Grant:
Oh sure.
Sheldon:
So they got this off-brand stuff with just a couple spokes and it looks racy, but the fact is it's not going to hold up, and if the hub breaks down, you can't get replacement parts for it.
Grant:
And it takes half the time to build if it's got half the number of spokes. And a huge cost of any wheel is in the labor to build it. If they can reduce the number of spoke from 32 to 16, or to 20, they save a lot of labor. And you have to think - what are you gaining, a little bit or aerodynamics...
Sheldon:
That's basically it, because when you don't have that many spokes, you need to have a heavier, stronger rim to hold the whole thing together. And they're not really lighter in many cases
Grant:
Oh no, they aren't lighter, and the aeodynamics don't make a difference. I mean, how much do you hate riding, that your 10 mile ride has to take you 15 seconds less? I mean, what is the whole point? It goes back to people not dignifing riding a bicycle unless it's in high performance terms. And it shouldn't have to be like that. It's that way maybe only in the United States. I'm not all that well traveled, but, when I see pictures of people riding in other countries, I don't see that happening. But if you think of a bicycle rider in the United States, that what you think of. You think of somebody who is living in another world, where he or she is a fast bicycle racer, and they're really just going out for a bicycle ride.
Sheldon:
Well thank you very much, Grant. It's been good talking to you.
Grant:
Nice talking to you, Sheldon.

spoke

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