Rider: David Buzzee, Dublin Ohio PBP Ancien, 1999
Rider size: 5' 10", 190 pounds
Rivendell Bicycles produces well-regarded custom frames and bikes. In addition, the company makes several stock bikes and occasionally a smaller batch of limited-interest bikes. In this category are the single-speed Quickbeam and the Romulus road bike. I took delivery of a Romulus in spring 2004. Prior to that I had ridden brevets on a custom Softride 650C-wheeled bike. While the ride of the double-suspended Softride (it had a prototype suspension stem) was very comfortable, the short chainstays and small wheels left the bike a bit confining on long rides. So after 10 years and thousands of miles, I replaced it with a more traditional brevet bike, the Romulus.
The Romulus has seat and head tube angles of 72 and 73 degrees, not as laid-back as traditional touring frames. It also has a bottom bracket drop of 7.7 cm, noticeably lower than the traditional 6 cm. This gives a longer seat tube and lower center of gravity than the frame angles would suggest. Standard handlebar width is 46 cm. The combination of these features, along with a well-chosen trail from the classical bend in the fork, provides for quick but not twitchy handling. The bike inspires confidence on downhills. It carves smoothly and heels over in a predictable way, not "dropping off" the edge as the tires roll near to the sidewalls. The Rivendell design philosophy also is reflected in the relatively high handlebar position. I had been bothered by Shermer neck (JW syndrome in Scotland, after a Jimmy Wiggins who suffered on PBP B no nationality seems immune) on long rides with the Softride. I have ridden two Super Randonneur series on the Romulus and have had no neck problems, in part due to the on- bike position. The saddle, a Selle San Marco Concor Light, is atypical for randonneur applications. First introduced more than 15 years ago, it is narrower than most brevet saddles. However, as an example of individual differences, it fits my bone structure better than do wide saddles. Its identical predecessor was most satisfactory at PBP. It is unusual for racing gear to remain in stock for so many years. However, this saddle apparently is a favorite of Lance Armstrong so was available in Postal Blue when I bought the bike.
The standard gruppo is Shimano 105 except for the Sugino XD triple crankset with 48x36x26 chain wheels. I specified 175 mm crank arms. The rear cluster is a nine-speed 12 x 25. Rims are Araya 36-spoke f/r with Shimano hubs. Shifting is index using Shimano bar-end levers. Tires are 700 C x 28 Rivendell Ruffy-Tuffy or Rolly-Poly. The step up in size from my old 23 mm tires is noticeable in road shock (less of it) but not in rolling resistance (subjectively the same). I run them at 95 psi. So far, I have had one flat in 6,000 miles of riding, due to a metal shard from a shredded radial-ply auto tire.
For brevet riding I have added SKS fenders, a Nitto rear rack, Schmidt hub and dual Lumotec lamps, two LED taillights on a custom mount, and a Garmin GPS 60C unit. Ready to roll with Zefel frame pump, pedals, bar tape, a bell, empty water bottles, rear rack, GPS unit, Schmidt hub and full lights, the bike weighs exactly 30 pounds. As the pictures indicate, the bike is a classic in design and proportions, with carefully-brazed lugs and well-thought-out cable stops and other braze-ons. Paint is somewhat above average, not bad but not striking. Idlers at controls are attracted to the bike— it looks "right."
There are three items I would change on the bike. First, as equipped with the Shimano 105 rear derailleur the largest cog which will fit is a 27 tooth. I would prefer a different derailleur to accommodate an 11-32 cogset. Second, the excellent side-pull 105 brakes do not permit ready wheel removal of the 28 mm tires unless I partially deflate the tires. Current Romulus models are available with cantilever brakes which would eliminate that annoyance. Finally, I find fault with the propulsion system. It is far too slow for such a well-thought-out and comfortable brevet bike.