My Rivendell Clem Smith Jr.

Hey, welcome back! I’ve been gone for some time, I know. I apologize.

Ok, so those last two posts were sad, but I had to get those feelings out.

In the post about losing my dad, I promised a post about my Clem Smith Jr, then we lost Baxter and I had to write about that….let’s not do any more sad “goodbye” posts for a while, ok?

Let’s get back to talking about bikes, and get on with the Clem post.

Let me just preface this conversation by saying no, it’s actually not a girl’s bike.

And, so what if it was?

I’m pretty sure your mom, sister, daughter, or wife would find that a pretty stupid and offensive thing to say…you know, as if riding a girl’s bike is beneath you and makes you, somehow less of a man.

Look, I know plenty of girls that would hand you your ass on this or any other bike you choose to ride.

So, put that in your pipe and take it to the bank.

So, let’s all agree to stop saying dumb things. Let’s learn a thing or two before we pop off and say something stupid.

Let’s start here. It’s actually called a “step-through” frame, mkay?

And the popularity of bicycles with “step-through” frames is quite literally global. But as it seems with so many things… people, in most cases, like using their own personal choice or experience as a platform to judge someone else’s choice or experience… which, is truly dumbfounding and mindboggling. Oh, and stupid judgy.

These “judges of all things” typically can’t, nay, won’t try to grasp anything that may be different from what they are used to seeing, doing, or identifying with. As I said, it doesn’t even make sense.

Then multiply that by a million for the ‘Murican cyclist…talk about non-transitional. Hell, even some of my closest friends had quite a few, (albeit innocent) ignorant, or shall I say uneducated things to say about my new bike….mostly said in jest, but there was some seriousness behind it.

It’s ok though, I knew what I was getting into when I chose this wonder steed as my next bicycle…FTW!

Let’s touch base on the man that started this quest for something different. Grant Petersen…and a little history on my Grant man-crush…

The man, the myth, the maverick and hero to many, Grant Petersen

I’ve actually been a big fan of Grant Petersen’s since the very late ’80’s when he was the driving force behind Bridgestone Bicycles. I was in the market for a new mountain bike and lusting over the beautiful Bridgestone MB-0 mountain bike, which was way out of my price range at the time.

But, I would read the Bridgestone catalogs over and over again. Grant’s approach to everything (what he calls his ‘velosophy”) was resonating with me. From the reasoning behind the subtle colorways he had chosen for the bikes (a real contrast to his competitor’s flashy ’80s neon paint schemes), to his simple approach to using slightly less desirable/marketable (but just as good) components on the bikes.

I liked the Kool-Aid that he was making. It was unconventional, “outta-the-box”, and “against-the-grain thinking”, and it really spoke to me.

The coveted 1991 Bridgestone MB-0

I drank as much of the Grant Kool-aid as I could back then. I mean, I was on board, and I liked it. I “got” it. He was an obvious maverick, and I really liked how punk rock that was. \m/

After Bridgestone left the US in 1994, Grant started Rivendell Bicycle Works out of his garage. And thanks to my stumbling onto Ulraromances Instagram account, I found Grant’s new bicycle company sometime in 2014.

It was kismet.

The universe delivered this to me at the point in my cycling life where I was really, really ready for something to change. I wanted something different. I was so excited to see that Grant was still going against the grain of the traditional approach of our beloved bicycle industry.

It was so refreshing! And, at that time…I needed to do something vastly different in my cycling life….being tired of the same old way of riding and the way I looked at riding my bike.

I started to re-think what being a cyclist meant for me.

Now, and for the past almost 10 years, I’ve been drinking Grant’s Kool-Aid with gusto! I try to spread the “gospel of Grant” to anyone that will listen. If you follow this blog, you already know this.


OK, enough of that.

Owning a Rivendell has been a dream of mine for a very long time. Actually, in an attempt to switch my approach on my riding, my beloved Surly Long Haul Trucker was built up as a low-cost substitute for a real Rivendell…and it worked perfectly and helped me reshape what I thought a bicycle should/could be used for and how I rode them.

Here’s a shot of me using my LHT on a bikebacking trip.

I loved my LHT, and I almost instantly regretted selling it. But, no need to cry over spilled milk. Make a mistake and learn from it. Right?

I’ve moved on.

Super fast-forward a few years. Just recently, I was finally able to pull the trigger on an actual Rivendell Bicycle. Woohoo!

I chose the 59cm Clem Smith Jr. L (the “L” stands for low top tube)

I chose to buy a 59cm Clem Smith Jr. for my first Riv. It was the least expensive complete bike that was available at the time of purchase. With the demand far outweighing the supply, there were no frames in stock, and the one that had the closest replenishing date was the Clem.

I’m not saying I “settled” for the Clem…it was a toss-up between the Atlantis and the Clem. The Atlantis was months out and $1000 more, the Clem, however, was only weeks out and for the price of an Atlantis frame, I could get a complete bike, so I opted for the Clem.

I didn’t want to pay for shipping or wait for it to get here…remember, I have been waiting for almost a decade to own one of Grant’s creations…over three decades if you count the catalog collecting and pining over the Bridgestone MB-0 mentioned earlier in this post.

Some of Rivendell’s HQ in Walnut Creek, California

So, I went ahead and pulled an all-day drive up to Walnut Creek Ca. from Orange County, Ca. It was a 7-hour drive, one way. I know, that’s crazy. But I did it. I left at 4:30 in the morning, got up there around 11:30-ish, met Will (that was a treat), got a free t-shirt for making the insane drive up there (thanks Will!!), got the bike, turned around, and came home, getting home around 7:30pm.

Loaded and ready for the 7+ hour drive home. Looks funny with “skinny” 40c tires.

I thought we’d go over what it came spec’d with from Rivendell and what I’ve added to it. Below is a picture of what the Clem looked like when I got her home.

This is how it was spec’d when I got it home.
How I wanted mine to look…like Grant’s Clem Smith MTB build

My original goal was to do some light mountain biking on it and build it like Grant’s personal Clem Smith Jr, so my build originally reflected that. I was running a WTB Ranger 2.6 upfront and a 2.4 in the rear.

The WTB Ranger 2.6 is “maxed out” in the front.

But, after putting the bigger mountain bike tires on it and riding it around town on a few errands, mostly on the road, it seemed lethargic. So, despite actually setting a new Strava PR on the Clem, when bombing a small dirt descent that I have done on literally every mountain bike I’ve owned, I decided instead, to ditch the bigger dirt tires and build the Clem to take on the “all-around bike” duty that used to be reserved for my beloved Long Haul Trucker.

I mean, I had a mountain bike already, right? I didn’t need two…yet.

The $45, 700x50c American Classic Kimberlites

After flip-flopping on a few tire changes and sizes, like a 47c, 50c, and 2.2″ I settled for the American Classic 700 x 50c Kimberlite tires for two main reasons.

1) After hemming and hawing, the 50c seemed to be the size that made the most sense for the bike.

2) They were only $45ea…making the pair the same cost (or cheaper) than everyone else’s cost for a single tire…just in case I actually didn’t like the 50c after a few hundred miles. 

Kimberlite in 700 x 50c

Well, I liked that size tire on this bike, a lot. The tires themselves are pretty great.

Ok, let’s move on to the build list.

I replaced a lot of the parts that the bike came with, not because they were bad, I had just bought the parts to build a frameset up, and didn’t expect to buy a complete bike. I left only the seat post and headset that the Clem Jr. came with… that’s it.

Let’s get started!


I swapped out the Tosco Bars for the Nitto Bosco Bars in aluminum and 58cm wide right off the bat, as I had picked the Boscos up when I picked up the bike. Then I swapped in a quill to a 1 1/8″ stem adaptor, and then put a polished Soma Fab MTB stem on it.

I felt that the MTB stem would hold the bars in place a little better… remember I was going to ride the off-road quite a bit.

Wrapped and shellacked the bars with orange Newbaums, slapped the best bell ever (Spur Cycle Original) on it and that’s it. I’ll touch on the computer holder a little later here.


Now with the wheels. I reached out to Sugar Wheel Works in Portland, Oregon for a custom set of 29er wheels. They built me a set of Velocity Cliff Hangers with a 25mm internal width.

They laced DT spokes up to a rear White Industries M15 hub in silver, and a Shutter Precision front dynamo hub in silver. they were stunning!


The Clem came from Riv with some kind of Shimano 9-speed cassette, I wanted a little more range and an easier granny for climbing so I swapped it out. I put on a Shimano Deore 11-36 9-speed cassette out of my parts bin.

Also, swapped out the microSHIFT thumbies for a pair of Shimano Dura-Ace bar end shifters.

I’m running a 9-speed Shimano XT rear derailleur and a first-gen XTR front derailleur. Swapped out the very capable Silver cranks for the set I had already purchased, a beautiful White Industries square taper crankset with a 24/38 set o’ rings.

I also swapped the brakes that the Clem came with for a pair of old Shimano XT parallel push “V” brakes. Possibly the best “V” brakes ever developed.

Bits and goodies

I am using a Paul Components front quick-release skewer, and a B.O.B trailer rear skewer, ya know…to pull the trailer if I need to.

I’ve added a Nitto front rack with a Wald 137 front basket attached to it. I’ve got the absolutely amazing Tunitas Carry All Basket Bag 137 in X10 Cotton mounted inside the basket 24/7.

I have a Rivendell Sackville SaddleSak in XSmall hanging off of my black Brooks B17 Special. It’s a great combo.

For the stem bag, I use the one and only Bartender Bag by Randi Jo Fabrications. It’s one, if not my favorite stem bag ever!

Ok, now… what is the computer mount that I’m running my Clem? It’s the Garmen Sport TT (Time Trail) mount from KEdge Bike.

Photo c. Kedge Bike

I am using this because I love KEdge products and it is the only quality mount that has a 22.2 clamping size (that’s the size of those little aero bar extensions on TT bikes), like in the photo above.

I have a Wahoo insert in it instead of the Garmen. And I have the insert rotated in a way so that I can read the computer the way I wanted it mounted.

I think that about does it. I hope you enjoyed the pics and the details of the spec swap on my Clem.

Not only is the bike unique in its appearance, but it is quite beautiful in its subtle frame-building details. And it really does ride amazingly!

I have never ridden a bike quite like the Clem, honestly, and I have owned and ridden A LOT of bikes. The Clem really is one of the best feeling, best handling, and most comfortable bikes I have ever ridden. I love it a lot.

I like it so much, in fact, that I’ve opted to sell my Surly Krampus mountain bike and replace it with a Rivendell Gus Boots Willsen. It’s Rivendell’s mountain bike that they call a “Hillibike”.

I am doing a sick build that includes all Paul Components where I can use them, more delicious White Industry goodies, some new tires from Teravail, bars from Tumbleweed Bikes, And a custom wheelset built by Velocity USA that includes their new dynamo hub.

Stay tuned!!

Inspired? Good, now go ride YOUR bike! 🙂

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