The Rivendell Garage Sale

Editor’s note: The following is by TCI (and RKP) friend Philip Williamson.

Elbow deep in a box of various stems, unidentifiable rack parts, orphaned pedals, and a saddle or two, another pair of hands and mine were stirring, turning, digging, setting aside or releasing goodies back into the box for the other to examine. 

Finally I stood up holding onto a Brooks “carved” C-17 saddle and a new IRD quill “faceplater” (I think this is a cute Rivendell name for a Merry Sales stem) stem. At $40 each I didn’t need either one, but I couldn’t pass them up. My fellow box-stirrer was done as well. 

Hey! It was Reed, a delightful bike nerd I’ve camped and ridden with, who maintains a repository of every Rivendell Reader ever printed, as well as a database of real-world bicycle tube-wall measurements from 100s of sample bikes, correlating tube weight to ‘planing’ feel. We chatted about his baby, and laughed at the crazy curved NIB “power” cranks he was inspecting (but not buying). 

A few friends and I drove down from Santa Rosa, California, to the Rivendell garage sale in Walnut Creek. More than a place to get good deals on wooly items and small savings on blemished frames, it was an opportunity to connect with the Rivendell underground/mainstream online/real-world bike scene I’ve been part of for 20+ years now. Rivendell Bicycle Works has been around ever since their, “Ever since 1994,” slogan was amusingly and self-deprecatingly ironic, and I’ve been a member, acolyte, and fellow-traveler ever since. 

Through articles in the Rivendell Reader, Grant Petersen taught several generations of bike nerds that they weren’t alone—it was okay to love bikes, love riding for its own sake outside of racing or competition, and that the highest and most noble purpose for a bike was get you to work, or get you into the woods.

This “garage sale” was the first in a few years, and it pulled in all those ex-fixie kids, bike tourists, commuters, randonneurs, dirtbag campers, and allied bike-lovers to a gritty Walnut Creek parking lot like pilgrims to Lourdes. 

Thanks to my friends’ promptness and navigational skills, we slipped into a parking spot on the street, double-locked the French tandem I was bringing for a friend, and walked up the steep drive and into the sale just as the clock ticked over from 9:59 to to 10:00 am and the floodgate opened. We flowed in with the waiting crowd without breaking stride. 

The sale was outside, flea market style, with various “zones” manned by Riv employees. Frames standing in boxes alongside prizes like a $1,300 “Mermaid” colored Platypus with a dinged seatlug point and an $800 repaired Rambouillet with torched paint and a mismatched fork laid out on blankets near boxed up build kits in one area; wheels, rims, rims, and more rims in another area. 

I followed my usual strategy in mass-start events like this of going deep, all the way to the end, and working my way back to the entrance. That’s where I met Reed while murmuring my mantra of, “Don’t buy wheels. Don’t buy wheels. Don’t even look at the rims.” Extra wheels mean I’ll start looking for extra frames, and i didn’t want to repeat my previous garage sale experience of excitedly buying the first $5 rim I saw, only to find out at home that it’s a 40h 650B.

I got some good stuff. A Sogreni bell for $5, those two $40 items I sold on to Internet friends later that weekend (hey, they approached ME), a couple $10 cassettes, and a free coin purse promoting Rivendell’s 33.3mm Jack Brown tires from back when that was considered a plump tire. 

Digression 1: The coin purse is a very ”Riv” bit of swag, a throwback to a kind of shittier golden age when people carried coins around in grubby plastic vulvas. Digression 2: Grant Petersen really did push the culture to wider road bike tires.

I saw a lot of old acquaintances, and met some cool new people, including Mr 100 Tacos who was walking around with a Suntour logo tee shirt over his shoulder. 

“Hey, nice shirt.” 

“Yes it is! Would you like to buy one?” 

“Bootleg parking lot tee shirts? Hell yes.”

We went around the corner to his friend’s white windowless van. Long pause … an ‘80s Toyota with NITTO stenciled on the side, and a CA black plate that said HI ACE. We bought shirts, talked about vans, and I threw a mini-zine on their dash when they weren’t looking. 

The rest of our time in Walnut Creek was spent walking downtown to the vegan restaurant (I’m not moving the car), talking to three low-rider bike riders with killer custom machines, having a beer at a brewpub that no longer brews their own beer, and riding that tandem a little. I was fired as captain in a single pedal stroke, but was still allowed to drive everyone home. 

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  1. alanm9 says

    I was a big Petersen/Rivendell fan, and would still buy a frame in a heartbeat if he would embrace disc brakes. Yes, he points out correctly but unhelpfully, rims are just big discs. Living in central CA though, he probably has never ridden through an icy puddle in the dark at 6am then tried to stop at a busy intersection.

    1. Piaw Na says

      It rains here in Northern California. And he’s more than capable of riding at 6am on a fixie and stopping at a busy intersection in the rain or on ice. People who have not ridden with Grant don’t know how good a bike handler he is.

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