Saved by sardines

Way back in the day, when our rides were both fast and long, I hit a horrible bonk, and I was rescued by an interesting character with very different taste in bikes.

East San Francisco Bay Area, 1995ish – We were about four hours into one of our up-over-around-over-and-back Mount Diablo adventures, and Dr. Jim Norman was hungry. I gave him my fig bars. Bad idea. An hour later I was buried in the deepest bonk of my career.

Way off the back of the group, I teetered to the Mt. D ranger station and looked for food. A guy in wool rode up on an old-fashioned bike with moustache bars and a huge handlebar bag. “Excuse me sir,” I said. “I hate to ask, but I am so bonked. Can you spare any food?”

He smiled, reached into that bag and produced a can of Louisiana Cajun Sardines. My disgust was visible. He laughed. “I’ve found that I might eat an energy bar just for fun. This will always be here when I need it.”

I choked down the little oily fishies (pausing only when vertebrae crossed my tongue) and — dude — I felt great the rest of the ride. The rest of the group was horrified to ride through my clouds of sardine belch, but too bad for them. Bring your own food next time!

Back then I wrote a column called Bikes & Skates for the Contra Costa Times, where I was an informational graphics artist. I got a note at work from my savior, and it turned out this was a man with a story.

Grant Petersen worked at Bridgestone back when they made the sweetest mountain bikes around, and now he had his own enterprise, Rivendell Bicycle Works. Rivendell was all about classic, practical, utilitarian yet beautiful bicycles. Forget suspended carbon fiber, STI and SPDs; Rivendell embraced lugged steel, friction and flats. Not exactly my style, but very cool.

It’s been about 12 years since I’ve thought of Grant and Rivendell. Last weekend, while I was riding my carbon fiber suspended, index shifted, clipped in Stumpjumper from Lakewood to Boulder, I started dreaming of a more practical bike. Something roadish and quick, but comfortable for long rides, and able to take a rack and fenders. This would be perfect for errands and road adventures, especially during the winter.

I was musing at the computer when Rivendell sprung into my mind. Of course!

Rivendell is still going strong (if not profitable), and I sure would love an Atlantis road/trail/touring machine. I won’t be affording this any time soon, but it’s fun to peruse the Rivendell site.

Take a look:

4 replies
  1. Oso Negro says:

    Appreciated this post. Had heard of Rivendell and enjoyed looking at the site. The sardines work- Weir claims to keep them in his bag.

  2. jimmy says:

    It was probably the oil that saved you. I remember reading about a ultra long distance XC rider carrying a bottle of vegetable oil for emergency fuel. I think he also carried blocks of cheese for the protein. I forgot the dude’s name but he use to ride for the cheap titanium bike company and criss crossed the continent on a titanium hardtail.

  3. Eric K says:

    I did a tour from San Jose to Salt Lake in July and kept big bag of gorp handy. This kept me out of bonksville the whole time even though I did get tired of them after a while. Next time I’ll have to bring along a couple cans of these too.

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