[ This is the first of a series of short interviews with John. There’s been some inquiries regarding all-rounders so I asked John to tell me about the all-rounder. If you have a topic or questions you’d like discussed please send us a note.]
Q: I’ve noticed interest in all-rounders from some of your site visitors. Can you tell me about the all-rounder?
All-rounders are great bikes. It’s not this; it’s not that. It’s a lot of things packed into one. It’s like a Subaru Outback. The all-rounder is made for hauling a load, so you can put racks on it. Or, it can run without racks and have faster, skinnier tires on it. So it has a shallow seat angle, a long top tube, and pedaling is done from behind the bottom bracket instead of on top like a racing bike. It has a longer chain stay, a lower bottom bracket than a mountain bike but still has a relatively steep head angle and combination head angle fork rake so you have quicker steering than a 3 speed.
It’s kind of like an old 3 speed with improvements.
You also have a huge assortment of tires that you can choose from with an all-rounder design
It’s a cool bike. It’s very comfortable. That’s why I kept mine. It’s very comfortable. I use a mustache bar on it so that’s an oddity. It’s very versatile, a jack of all trades. It can be used for all types of things.
All rounders have a mountain bike size rim that could use a wide range of tire sizes on the wheel. What they’ve gone to is a 650c size tire/wheel combination which is bigger than a 26″ wheel but smaller than a 720c.
The 650c is a more unusual thing with fewer tire choices.
Q: So do you make the all-rounder 650c?
No. I don’t make weirdo bikes. [laughter]
I can make all-rounders with the 650c tire but I think it is limiting. It’s good for fewer things – like a track bike or a trials bike. The 650c is very specific. I think it’s best for people who have a lot of bikes. But for most people that are going to spend 5 grand on a bike and want it to last 100 years, they’re not going want a bike that they can use for one specific type of riding. I like to make bikes that you can use for more than one thing but I am more than happy to make a 650c bike for some one. Of course one way to make a bike last a long time is to only use it for one thing.
I don’t think that it’s a bad design but there are currently only a few tires that you can get for this wheel so you’re really painting yourself into a corner – when you build a bike around a wheel that is that is idiosyncratic, which is the opposite of why most people are asking for an all rounder. You can put a 26×2.1” tire on it down to 26.1. There is a huge range of tires that are available. And there’s more tire patterns that are available for a 26” (559) wheel than most other wheels.
So anyone that can build a good custom frame can build an all-rounder. With an adjustable fixture we can set it up however we want. You can say “I want an all-rounder here’s the ‘top secret geometries’ that Rivendell has, I’d like it to be like a 62 cm Rivendell all rounder geometry please.” And that’s what we build.
Q: What’s your history with Rivendells?
I started making Rivendells at Waterford in ’94. When Rivendell started out they had all-rounders, mountain, road and a long low road bikes. The All-Rounder was for hauling a heavy load, fender, and mountain bike size wheels. Their road bike was not a touring, but a century bike.
Since then, they’ve gone through several renditions of frame models with different builders, places where their bikes were made, and have tweaked geometries for the various interesting model types that Grant and his crew comes up with.
No one that I know of is producing all-rounders. Well, I’m sure there are builders producing all-rounders but you can’t buy an all rounder from Giant or other leading brand but they’ll have something close. The big guys are always chasing the 29er or whatever is the most trendy thing is – whatever the majority of the riders want, so they can stay in business, yaknow.