Grant Petersen of Rivendell coined the term “Country Bike” to describe a bicycle that, in his words, “…is just a road bike designed for comfort and versatility.” He goes on to say, “It has 32mm to 38mm tires, fits fenders easily, can carry racks and luggage, but is still zippy when you strip off the extras. It’s a bike without racing’s influence. It’s not going to be the ticket for racer-wannabes, but it’s just right for 90 percent of the rest of us.” While the name has not caught on outside of the relatively small circle of Rivendell acolytes, it does a good job of describing the unique bicycles produced by his company.
In my mind, country bikes are not all that different than what we used to call “sport touring” bikes back in the 1970s and 80s. Versatile bikes that filled the void between racing and fully-loaded touring bikes. Sadly, these bikes all but disappeared when racing bikes and mountain bikes swallowed up the entire market in the late 80s and early 90s. So-called hybrids were developed to fill this niche, but many people feel they fell short in many regards (myself included).
Petersen’s definition of a country bike is fairly broad, and many commuter bikes made by other companies certainly fit the description today. That said, country bikes are often used for things other than commuting, so in that sense this new title is fitting and useful in my opinion.
I use my Rivendell Sam Hillborne for just about everything other than multi-modal commuting or cargo runs. Long rides in the country, pleasure rides to the coffee shop or cafe, Sunday afternoon bike picnics, and light errand runs that don’t involve carrying large loads, are all made on this bike. It has a decent amount of carrying capacity, and I might use it as a daily commuter if my circumstances were different. It would be possible to place larger racks and bags on this bike and use it for hauling heavier loads, but that would defeat the purpose of having one bike that’s lighter, livelier, and simply more fun to ride, than my more utilitarian bikes.
Speaking of being more fun to ride, this bike is a blast. It’s more lively and responsive than my cargo and commuter bikes, bikes whose frames are necessarily stiff for carrying weight. The cockpit on the Sam is more open, and when combined with the compliant frame, the ride quality is well-suited to longer rides on just about any road surface. It’s a lovely bike that I grab just about anytime I’m not interfacing with bike boxes, bus racks, or grocery bags.
- 60cm Rivendell Sam Hillborne
- Nitto Moustache Handlebars
- Nitto 80mm Dirtdrop Stem
- Silver Bar-End Shifters
- Japanese Cloth Bar Tape, Clear Shellac
- Shimano Tiagra Brake Levers
- Tektro CR720 Cantilever Brakes
- Shimano Deore XT Hubs (36 Hole)
- Velocity Dyad Rims
- Rivendell Jack Brown Tires (33-622)
- Honjo Hammered Fenders (45mm)
- Shimano Deore Long Cage Rear Derailleur
- Campagnolo Triple Front Derailleur
- Sugino XD2 Crank 170mm 46/36/24
- 8 speed 11-32 Cassette
- Nitto R14 Top Rear Rack
- Nitto Mini Front Rack
- Sackville Small TrunkSack
- Sackville Medium SaddleSack
- Brooks B.17 Special Saddle
- MKS Touring Pedals
- Pletscher Kickstand
- Japanese Brass Bell
- Nitto Bottle Cages
I’ll have a full report on the Sam Hillborne later this spring. You may have noticed this bike is larger than the commuter featured further down the page. I’m working on a post for tomorrow that will explain how one person can comfortably fit both a 56cm and a 60cm frame.
Disclosure: Rivendell is a sponsor of this website. View our review poilcy here.