Say Hello to the Future – Rivendell's Betty Foy!

Along with the gorgeous mast that Trisha designed, we’ll soon have a new addition to Let’s Go Ride a Bike. My decision is made, finally! Long-time listeners may remember my first steps to finding a bike to replace my stolen Jamis. I oggled bikes the I could not afford, such as ANTs and MAPs. I encountered annoying bike shop guys. I toured Chicago’s bike shops. At one point I thought I had something on the horizon, but that did not work out. After (almost too) much thought, I’ve decided that I will purchase the Rivendell Betty Foy. This was one of my original loves that’s pretty much perfect and reasonably in my bike budget (which, by the way, comes completely from selling my car and renting out my garage parking spot).

Betty Foy - Size 52

Betty Foy - Size 52

The whole time I’ve been considering the Betty Foy, she’s been only a twinkle in the goddess’s eye, but today, coincidentially, the first shipment arrived at Rivendell.

The Betty Foy is designed for women, with a low diagonal tube that’s easier to step over…What’s it for? any kind of road rides–solo, club rides, fitness rides, whatever; weekend touring; fully loaded touring; commuting; fire trails; bike camping.



The lugs are truly extraordinary.

Every lug is investment-cast, a rarity for girls frames, which historically have been short-sheeted in the lug department. They’re the best quality lugs available in the world today, and were designed specifically for the Betty Foy. Same with the bottom bracket shell.



The red touches, such as here on the crown, are luscious.

The fork crown, also investment-cast, is the same one we use on our most expensive custom frames. As fork crowns go, it is as good as they get, with functional and structural details others plain don’t got. It’s wide enough for 42mm tires; the brake hole is cast low, to maximize tire and fender clearance; and the “wing” on top is visual art in a space that’s usually blank. In the Betty Foy’s case, the wing is painted fingernail polish red.

Crown Color

Crown Color

However, I object to their mixte language:

This style–mixte, lady’s bike, step-thru, whatever you like to call it–came about originally to allow a woman’s dress to drape gently down so it wouldn’t get blown up by the wind. Most women don’t wear dresses anymore, and if they do they don’t ride bikes in them; but there remain benefits to this style frame.

Erm, I ride in a dress a lot! I will forgive them this, but they do get a demerit.

Golden Headbadge

Golden Headbadge

Their drop bar diatribe, however, is awesome.

Sometimes we get guys calling for their wive’s or girlfriend’s bikes, and they want drop bars because “they’re better for climbing.” Wrong way to think, pal. For one, Albatross bars are great on hils–I/Grant use them a lot, and they’re on my Atlantis, my main bike-camping bike. Two–climbing is not about bar-shape, and if you slap drops on your wife’s bike and then expect the little lady to dance up the hills like a feminine rocketship, give it up and back off, to boot! (End of preaching, most humble apologies.)

I’m going to get fenders, rack, and basket as shown on the drop bar version below. Except I might order the Honjo hammered fenders that Chic Cyclist has on her bike.

Fender, Rack, and Basket

Fender, Rack, and Basket

Now we’ve come to the advice portion of the post. Betty Foy comes in two sizes and my measurements fall exactly in the small overlap between the two. Either I’m the biggest person on the size 52 or the smallest person on the size 58. I have a fear of bikes being too small for me, so my natural instinct is to go for the larger size. The very helpful Rivendell guy sent pictures of each size with the saddle set to my height – the very first picture in this post (I’ll wait while you scroll up) is the 52; the picture below is the 58. He said that either would work for my size, but based on the look of the seat post, he thinks the 52 may be the better fit.

Aesthetically, I am a bit repulsed by the sight of a lot of exposed seat post, so looking at the two pictures, I’m drawn to the 58. Another consideration is that I have a long torso (for example, my darling sister and I are the same height, but sitting down, I’m two inches taller!). The reach difference from the tip of the saddle to the middle of the stem is only 1.5 cm. Any wise words on the better size for me?

Betty Foy - Size 58

Betty Foy - Size 58

Once I get past which size frame to choose, I still have to choose all the components to build up the frame with! I’m having Rivendell build it all up for me. Here is the “budget” list they sent me, which is at the top of my bike fund budget. If I should shell out a bit more money for a part really worth upgrading, though, I will happily do so. I plan to have this bike approximately forever, so it’s worth the investment.

Tire – 650B x 35 Middy Schwalbe
Tube – 650B, Schwalbe
Crank – Sugino XD2 170 46/36/24
Dhain – 7/8 SP Sram PC850
Cassette – 8 speed 11-32 (13-076)
Brake levers mtn bike
Brake Caliper – BM 73 Allen
Grips – Genuine Cork
Handlebar – Albatross Al 54 HT Nitto
Stem – Mixte Nitto Tech 10 25.4
Shifters – Thumb friction
Der F Shimano Sora triple
Der R Shimano deore LX RR Long
Wheel – 650 Budget pr 135/32

This leaves the fenders, rack, basket, pedals, and seat – all of which I’m pretty decided on. Opinions on any particular parts it would be wise to invest a bit more in to upgrade? I asked helpful Rivendell guy this and he said I may want to consider changing the thumb shifters to bar end shifters, if I prefer. I have only a vague idea of what these shifters are, and a look at Sheldon Brown’s glossary was only mildly helpful. Thoughts on the pros and cons of the different shifters?

I plan to order this weekend, after which Betty Foy will take approximately 3 weeks to get built up and shipped to me. Squeak!

P.S. Betty Foy, who sounds like a much better woman than I, is a character in Wordsworth’s poem The Idiot Boy.

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24 thoughts on “Say Hello to the Future – Rivendell's Betty Foy!

  1. Tinker says:

    Velo Orange sells Nitto bars, “north Road” alloy style for $20, and 50 dollars for the high rise Nitto stem, too. I like Velo Orange’s Rubber/cork grips, mostly because they are black as is my bike. Basically, Vello Orange sells nitto parts cheap. Velo Orange saddle, model 8, brown leather? $85.00

    Oh, Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires?

    Do they make them in that size? Because they tend to not get punctured as much as some other brands/models/styles. Nice ride, too.

    Other than that, carry on. I hope you love it, as I am rather envious….

    I suppose I could recycle a Peugeot 18, cheap, as is my wont.

  2. anna says:

    It’s really a cute bike. I love these old-style bikes. Hm, about the size I don’t really know. I guess I would rather go for the smaller bike, but it depends how close to your own size it is. Have you got similar bikes to compare?
    Bar end shifters? I think they look a bit odd, don’t know if they’re comfortable (it seems that they are used for road bikes with dropped bars sometimes). I would definitely go for the thumb shifters.
    Anyhow, I wish you a lot of fun with your new bike once it arrives. You really make me want to buy another bike soon ;-). But it will be a tough decision as there are so many lovely bikes out there. Maybe I should also check whether Rivendell bikes are sold somewhere in Europe..

  3. Erich says:

    Go with the 58 for sure – I’m a torsosaurus like you, and I always am happier with the larger-than recommended size. Plus it looks better. For shifters either will work just fine, and I’d start with the thumbies since it’s cheaper at first. You can switch to bar-ends later if you get adventurous.

    For tires in 650B I always first think Grand Bois Hetre in red, but I doubt it would fit the Betty with fenders. I have some Grand Bois Cypres that roll super fast and look great. The rest of your components seem just fine, and I’m sure whatever you do, you’ll be able to ride the wheels off this bike. Smart choice.

  4. Charlotte says:

    OK, question – how did you arrive at your bike “size”? I ask because it’s often your inseam length (with the stem adjusting for torso length), but if you went by height your proportions might mislead you.

    We need more information!

    Gorgeous bike.

  5. Dottie says:

    I followed Rivendell’s sizing instructions. My height is 5’6 and a
    half, pubic bone height (kinda like inseam) is 80 cm, saddle height
    (from top of saddle to middle of crank) is 71. Rivendell says:
    “PBH between 70&81 and saddle height between 60 and 72, get a Betty
    Foy 52. Probably 98 percent women between 5ft 3 and 5ft 6 will ride a
    52 Betty Foy. PBH between 80 and 92 and saddle height between 70 and
    82, get a 58. Ninety-eight percent of women between 5ft 6 and 5ft 10
    will fit a 58.” – So I am right in the overlap.

  6. Trisha says:

    I think you should get the bigger one, no question about it!

  7. Charlotte says:

    Sounds like you should get the larger bike.

  8. One thing you could do if you do not mind spending the money is find a shop that has a fit bike. Take the measurements of each frame size to them and see what works. Fit bikes are usually used to tinker with adjustments for those fancy ti and steel racing bikes but can be used for this purpose as well. If it is a true fit bike everything is adjustable. Stem top tube etc.. and it will calm your fears about which fits better. I’d hate to see you spend money on such a greatly researched and well thought out bike just to have this bike be too big or too small. If the bike does not fit right it will be money down the drain. You’d never ride it because it would be uncomfortable. Good luck with your search!

  9. doc says:

    As for bike fit, keep in mind the reach. With the Albatross bars, you typically need a longer stem to push them forward. So if you get the larger frame, which will have the longer reach, you can always get a shorter stem if you are too stretched out. I don’t think a fit session at a bike shop will help, because Rivs are typically a different geometry, and fits are geared towards the lycra/carbon crowd.

    I have used both bar cons and now thumb shifters on Albatross bars. I much prefer the bar cons because you can shift without taking your hands off of the grips. I also have bar cons on two other bikes with drop bars, so I’m used to them.

    An alternative to the hammered Honjos that intrigues me are the Velo Orange fluted or Zeppilin fenders. They come in 650B and are awesome.

    Finally, I think you really have to be self assured and confident to ride a bike with pink dots painted on it. Well done!

  10. antbikemike says:

    Dottie, Great choice:) I am really glad you stretched a little to get the Riv….a much better bike and so pretty too. I would suggest the 58cm as well. I look forward to hearing about your new ride in the coming weeks!

  11. Pete says:

    Congrats on your decision to purchase Betty. I’m both jealous and excited for you.

    I think the axiom of buy large is probably right, you might wanna bounce the long torso idea off of the Rivendell fit mister, just to get their idea of how that plays out in the scenario.

    I have bar end silver shifters and I love them. There’s an elegance in the way they feel, natural and direct. I’d recommend having Rivendell install them so you won’t have to redo the cork grips to accommodate the new shifters. (They do such nice things with twine and shellac) The one thing about the bar end shifters is that the cabling may interfere with a front basket installation. Again, something to ask the riv guru.

    I’m looking forward to seeing pictures of your new bike.

  12. Kinya says:

    Congratulations! I think it’s really cool that you decided to get something you really wanted. As for sizing, my first thought was to go with the 52cm. I’m 5′7 and ride a 52cm road bike and if I went any bigger, it would be too big for me, but then the Betty Foy is not a road bike and your seating and hand positions are really different too, so I think with the right parts, 58cm would work too. Heck, if antbikemike is suggesting the 58cm, who is to argue?

  13. dadabean says:

    If it wasn’t a mixte, I would say the smaller, but the way it is, the larger just looks much better, will give you more room, etc. I have used both thumb and bar-end shifters, I like them both. I would say the thumbs are a little easier, and I was always able to shift while my palms were on top of the grips, but the bar-ends have a certain panache’…

  14. I have a question- why drop bars on a mixte? I don’ get it. I have been wanting to ask someone this question since I saw the picture of one on the Riv site but have not known anyone who has done it to ask.

  15. Good move, D. I got my Rivendell (Romulus) a few years ago, after being tortured regularly by a “racing bike” that was much too small for me. All my aches and pains disappeared on the first ride–and never returned. Many thousands of miles later, I still enjoy the bike a lot and it (if not me) still turns heads.

    I’m with you on the sex appeal of hammered chrome fenders, but in the end I stayed with plain black plastic, so as not to overwhelm my Rivendell.

  16. Nico says:

    Hello Future! :)
    Are 650 B tyres standard in the US? They look unusual to me. But the frame is gorgeous.

  17. dottie says:

    Thanks, everyone!

    I’ve decided to get the larger, 58 cm, size. I still don’t know whether I should get thumb or bar-end shifters. I should find out how much more expensive the latter are.

    Adrienne, I wouldn’t want drop bars on my mixte, either, but I suppose if people like drops, there’s no reason not to do it. Anyone out there have this set up?

    Nico, 650 B are not the norm in the US – most bikes have either 26 inch or 700C. I’ve heard lots of good about 650 B and here’s what Grant Peterson says: “The wheels are 650B. Five years ago, were rare in the U.S., but no more. It’s well-supported in this country–it’s even trendy–and has a secure future.” I’ll carry an extra for long rides.

  18. I will be very interested to hear how you like those Albatross bars. Good luck!

  19. Kate says:

    God. That is a beautiful bicycle. Congrats!!!

  20. dottie says:

    And…….she’s ordered!

  21. hanziou says:

    So did you go for the BarCons or the thumb shifters?

    I personally have had better shifting with the barcons than with friction thumb shifters. I have noticed that I will use my whole hand when moving the shift lever for friction shifting. The friction thumb shifters I had required me to let go of the hand grip to be able to turn the shifter. (I must admit that was on a borrowed bike whose owner may not have been as meticulous about maintenance as I am.) With the barcons I can slide my hands back and use the heel of my hands for shifting.

    Something else I like about the barcon compared to the thumb shifters is that the barcon don’t clutter up my handle bars. I have enough other stuff with speedometer, lights, bells, etc. That may not be an issue with the Albatross bars.

    One problem that I have had with barcons was knee shifting. Mind you, that was with drop bars. That is, my knees would hit the levers and cause a shift to occur. Nothing more fun than an unexpected shift when mashing the pedals. (I’ve also had that happen with stem mount shift levers (remember those?).

    I think one of the biggest strikes against barcons is that they get in the way of putting tassels in the end of the handle bars.

  22. dottie says:

    Hanziou, thanks for the info! I ended up getting bar end silver shifters, mostly for aesthetics. Good to know they’re also easier to use.

  23. Trisha says:

    I probably should have told you this days ago but based on my experience with stem-mounted thumb friction shifters, a bar-end mount definitely seems like it would be more convenient.

  24. dottie says:

    Built and shipped on UPS today! Should be here by Friday, I hope!!

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