Why buy a Rivendell or Rene Herse bicycle?

9 04 2009

Naw, Both are great.  You are not going to find a negative blog entry here.

What I really want to talk about is Mark Nobilette.


Marketing is a wierd, wierd thing.   Both the top of the line Rivendells and Recreations of Rene Herse bicycles are made by Mark.   You would think with such a gem laying about of a builder that customers would be clamoring to get the frame directly from the source but no.   Mark sells far more Rivendells and RH’s than he does his own product.   Am I the only one who finds this strange?  It would not surprise me to find that in the future these brands are more collectible than the man who made them.

We see this in all sorts of businesses.   Jewelry manufacturers like Cartier don’t  make the jewelry.  Jewelers do.  The very same quality of jeweler in fact may be right around the corner in NY city but demand is high for the name, not the work.  I read once that a particular Ferrari was extremely valuable while the actual guy who made the whole chassis was alive and making them for a fraction of the price.   Sorry Enzo, but I rather have the real deal.   Here the car can command 8 million but the 80 year old guy who built it is looking for work.  Odd.

So to keep this short.   The best bicycles ever are being produced right now all across the world.   Consider buying your frame from it’s source not some company that name is based on a J.R.R Tolkien novel or another that bought a name from a gentlemans family who has been deceased since 1976.




7 responses

16 04 2009
Gentleman's Bike

I have a nobilette Rivendell. Know why it’s different/possibly better than just a Nobilette custom? Because it was designed by Grant Petersen. He designs the most best bikes out there in my opinion, which is why so many custom builders base their frames around his old designs. Don’t know what the deal is with Herses but that’s why you buy a Rivendell. A few decades of experience designing great bikes for people. Petersen designs, made by the best possible frame builders out there, whether Nobilette, Waterford, or Toyo, are why Rivendells are just about the best bikes out there.

17 04 2009

Gentlemans bike. Thanks for commenting on my blog.

I have no problem with Rivendells or Grant Peterson. I am also glad you like your bike as it is very nice.

Respectfully this is my comment. We “custom builders” have not based any of our geometry on Grants geometry because it is not Grants to begin with. There are appropriate ways to design a bicycle for the task at hand and many, many bikes have been designed for many years longer than Grant has been alive and are just like Grant emulates now.

Getting back to Mark for a moment. Mark has a longer history of making and designing frames than Grant and could design a frame every bit as well, if asked. Heck, ask Grant yourself. I am positive Grant would affirm my assertion.

Once again, Rivs are great as are many other frames. There is no magic in any of this. Well designed bicycles, well made are just that. IMHO I think one should seek out the source, that is all.

24 10 2009
Lovely Bicycle!

You make excellent points, both in your post and in your comments. As much as possible, I try to give my money to independent manufacturers and to the source of the talent I am paying for.

The way I see it, the benefit of good designer intervention (and I consider Grant Petersen a good designer), is that they direct the customer towards a sound and appropriate decision, which the customer may not have necessarily been able to make if interacting with the builder directly. This comment is not meant to undermine either customers’ or framebuilders’ competence, but simply to say that a good pre-fab menu works better for the majority of people than ordering a la carte, even from the best restaurant. Grant Petersen put together an excellent menu and he keeps customers happy by not allowing them to order off that menu. You can go to the source, but you have to know what to ask for if you want a bike as good or better than a Rivendell.

As for René Herse… I am sure that the new company offers fine bicycles. But they are not René Herse bicycles. Nothing more can be said about that, as far as I am concerned.

24 10 2009

Lovely Bicycle. You make a great point that I have not thought of before. I understand how daunting it could be for a potential frame customer to just call an unknown framebuilder and order something they have never seen nor know much about. I order the pre-fab menu all the time at restaurants because it usually works well and eases my decision.

I would add though that is one of the primary jobs of a framebuilder. That is to help educate and lead the customer to the proper design. Many people think they have to understand geometry, components, tubing etc. In reality I do that almost entirely and so in that sense I and many other framebuilders are just like Grant. That is I direct the customer to sound and appropriate decisions. This is learned. That is when I was a new builder I was much more likely to do as the customer wanted (the customer is always right) but as I have matured I have confidence in my own knowledge set and almost never have those kinds of interactions any longer.

Thanks for posting.

24 11 2010
Welder work

i would like to think that the best restaurants would serve very delicious and healthy foods “:*

10 06 2012

Mark Nobilette built a custom frame for me in 1977, serial number N0012, He just refurbished it with a new Reynolds 531 threadless fork, new brake bridge for recessed bolts, and spread the rear triangle to 130mm from 120. He’s building a new stainless steel road frame for me right now. He doesn’t need any help to design frames. I accepted his suggestion for a slightly sloping top tube on the new one. This will be a responsive road frame for individual and group rides. The older frame was built for stability with loaded touring. I believe that Mark bought the Rene Herse name. Rene Herse now is simply a retro alternative Nobilette brand. Rivendell makes no secret that their custom frames are made by Mark. However, I see no need to add a middleman.

1 07 2013
Paul Gallagher

The serial number on my Nobilette looks like either N8129 or NB129. Circa 1989 or 90. I had known Mark for a couple of years by then, and he had repaired a couple frames that I had crashed. (I had a tendency to lay them down sideways back then, … but, enough about me.). Right around that time, my circumstances changed, and I was able to upgrade to a custom frame.

So Mark knew that I was a big boy and rode hard, but that I was not a racer. So even though he was recently one of the first to be certified to use Reynolds 753, he wouldn’t sell it to me. He prescribed 531 Super Tourist for me. Everyone was moving to straighter forks then, but he knew I needed the raked older style. He knew I wanted a retro look and needed more stability into the turns, so there is a flat top rather than a sloping crown on the fork. He knew that I would import my Campy Record components from the latest crash, so he ran the rear brake cable guides down around the side of the top tube. (4 o’clock rather than high noon.) Not so far down that they would interfere with the frame fit pump, but enough so that my sweat would not gather under the cable housing and corrode the top tube. (Did I already mention the sweat?)

At that time, Mark did his own painting. I wanted a 1970s look, and we settled on white for the head tube and down tube, and red on everything else. There are cut-outs in the hand cut lugs, and the cut outs have the contrasting color, which highlights them beautifully. The Brooks Pro saddle tops it off.

I don’t ride as much as I should or used to, but I always get compliments when I take it out, from both hipsters on fixies and racers on carbon fiber. (Did I say I still live in Ann Arbor?) Even non-bikers can tell there is something special about it.

A few years after Mark custom tailored a bike for me, my circumstances continued to improve, and I needed to have some business suits made-to-measure. The experience was remarkably similar. The old German craftsman tailor took as many measurements, and told me not to pick fabric with narrow pinstripes. He told me that the narrow stripes would not work well with my “prosperous girth.” (He pronounced it “girt.”) Like Mark steering me into the Super Tourist line.

Bottom line, I agree with all of you. Work directly with the builder if you can actually do so directly.

I am sorry about the length of this, but I am glad I found you people.

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