HomeCyclingThe Rivendell Gus Boots Willsen Hillibike Makes a Case for 550mm Chainstays

The Rivendell Gus Boots Willsen Hillibike Makes a Case for 550mm Chainstays

Okay, right here it’s. A lighthearted, albeit detailed evaluate of the Rivendell Gus Boots Willsen and the manufacturers that contributed to the construct. This bike defies classes and is difficult to label. Grant Petersen prefers to name it a “Hillibike”. However, actually for all intents and functions, it’s an all-terrain bicycle (ATB).

I take advantage of it as my sole mountain bike. However, no matter you wish to name it, it’s an pleasant bicycle to journey.

Legendary Bike Designer Grant Petersen

Okay, let’s contact a bit on Grant, as he’s a giant a part of this story.

Grant began Rivendell Bicycle Works out of his storage, again in 1994. Rivendell got here to fruition after Grant’s profitable run because the “man in cost” of the U.S. bicycle division of Bridgestone, producing some influential and iconic bikes within the late 80s and early 90s.

I used to be first launched to Grant by means of his cleverly written, fantastically photographed, and illustrated mountain bike catalogs whereas purchasing for my first actual MTB in 1989-90.

The bikes had been mild and properly constructed and didn’t comply with the “tendencies” of the time. Grant was spec’ing the bikes half by half, as a substitute of spec’ing them by “gruppo” like the opposite manufacturers. This gave the bikes a extra “customized constructed” really feel to the road.

I noticed, again then that Grant was a free thinker, not sure by what the “remainder of them” had been doing within the trade… he was a maverick, nearly defiant in doing his personal factor. I used to be hooked.

Gus Boots Willsen Review Bridgestone MB-0

However, though I actually needed a Bridgestone MB-0 (MB Zip), I simply couldn’t afford one. So, purchased a model new, shiny ’89 Shogun with Shimano 7-speed “push-push” listed set off shifters. I continued to gather the catalogs and pine over that MB-0…

Why Rivendell?

I found Rivendell round 2014, at a time in my biking the place I used to be in search of one thing dramatically completely different. I had executed the entire racing I might do again within the day (XC and Downhill).

And admittedly, I used to be executed with the sensation of making an attempt to be aggressive with my mates (and strangers, for that matter) on my leisure rides. I’ve been driving that approach because the early 90s and it turned exhausting.

So, after drooling over the Rivendell bikes, for a very long time, I made a decision to lastly pull the set off on my Clem Smith Jr in RBW Blue again in November 2021. If you wish to nerd out on that bike, verify my weblog publish on it right here.

Why the Gus Boots Willsen?

Rivendell Gus Boots Willsen Review logo
(Photographs/Ron Frazelle)

After placing in nearly 1000 miles on my Clem, and loving all of them, I made a decision to promote my solely mountain bike and purchase the Rivendell Gus Boots Willsen in March of this 12 months.

The Gus can be Rivendell’s equal of a mountain bike, though Grant prefers to name them Hillibikes, leaving the opposite nomenclature for the remainder of the mainstream bike manufacturers.

Who’s Gus Boots Willsen?

With the guts of an early mountain bike, the Gus is the one bike in Rivendell’s line that got here with a threadless fork and a 1 1/8″ headtube. I used to be drawn to the whole lot about this bike, together with the non-sensical title. I couldn’t discover something about why Grant would title a motorcycle Gus Boots Willsen.

So, I went straight to the horse’s mouth, so to talk.

At first, I despatched an e-mail to Will Keating, the Basic Supervisor of Rivendell and a really busy man. I hadn’t heard from him but, however completed the piece and wanted a solution, so I referred to as Rivendell straight and spoke to Vince.

Vince didn’t know, and Grant wasn’t in to ask. However Vince tried and guessed that “perhaps it was a approach for Grant to distinguish the bike farther from the entire macho and aggressive nature of mountain biking”. That sounded good… and made sense to me. Thanks, Vince!

I used to be going to run with that. However, after I obtained residence from a brief journey, I discovered Will’s response in my inbox. I used to be excited to listen to why Grant selected such a novel title. However, upon opening my e-mail, I disappointingly learn that there truly was no cause for the title… “Grant simply made it up”.

Regardless of my unusual disappointment in that reply, it additionally made sense to me, and I discovered some pleasure in it. Grant doesn’t take into consideration bikes like the remainder of us do, clearly. He picked a splendidly distinctive title for a splendidly distinctive bicycle.

To me, judging by the instrument decals on the highest tube and non-drive chainstay, and the truth that the face on the headtube (I’m assuming is Gus, himself), has a harmonica as much as his mouth… to me, Gus is a New Orleans Jazz man.

Nonetheless Hand Made

The Gus’ body and fork are manufactured from chromium-molybdenum metal (CrMo) and are each lugged and fillet-brazed of their building. The body is made in a Taiwanese manufacturing unit that’s recognized for its prowess in relation to fillet brazing, lug work, and bending bigger diameter tubes.

Gus was made with a tube set that sports activities barely bigger diameter tubes with barely thicker tube partitions than the opposite Rivendell bikes within the line. These few variations, make it worthy of driving it on actually tough terrain. Which I do.

For these of you who must know stuff like this, my Gus with no saddle bag or handlebar luggage mounted, weighs in at 26 lbs. That’s fairly spectacular contemplating the scale of the bicycle.

Look, this clearly isn’t the bike if you wish to race downhill/XC or do any loopy “high-speed/high-risk” sort of driving shenanigans. And, if that sort of driving is your jam, that’s nice. Nevertheless it additionally implies that you’re in all probability not even studying this. And that’s effective as properly.

Notes from Grant on Geometry

From the Gus information web page on the Rivendell web site:

We might present the geometries on-line, however might not. I’ve blended emotions about that as a result of I feel they mislead individuals into considering they will inform how a motorcycle rides by its numbers, and numbers that modify from what any given reader’s norm tends to come back off wacky, even once they make tremendous sense

In case you are interested in what dimension Rivendell bicycle you must select, simply name. The extraordinarily useful and passionate workers will information you thru it. Trace: it is going to be nearly completely based mostly in your PBH (Pubic Bone Top). I’m 6’1″ (PBH: 87cm), and my Gus is 57cm.

The Story of the Orange Fork

I needed the brand new orange Gus, I cherished the way it appeared, however that coloration was out of inventory and never returning. The ultimate cargo of the orange coloration was arriving at Rivendell and the entire 57cm Gus Boots had been presold and accounted for.

I used to be too late.

In a determined act, I reached out to Will at Riv to see if there have been any left in dimension 57cm. He knowledgeable me that there was a frameset out there, however that they had been required to carry on to it for a alternative if one obtained broken in delivery.

Rivendell Gus Boots Willsen Review Gus

He was type sufficient to place my title on it simply in case, with no ensures although. I nonetheless obtained my hopes up.

After a couple of weeks, I used to be knowledgeable the out there body was gone. Will informed me he did discover a lone 57cm from final 12 months’s mannequin (in Riv’s lovely Moss Inexperienced) hidden in storage, however couldn’t discover the matching fork.

After a protracted seek for an identical inexperienced fork yielded no outcomes, Will and I began to brainstorm doable options. He prompt I get the inexperienced Gus with the newer orange fork.

Hmmm… I used to be hesitant, thought of it, and since I needed to expertise the Gus, I stated “okay, let’s do it”.

Simply to be crystal clear, Rivendell doesn’t mismatch body elements upon request. This was a uncommon event the place the ends justified the means.

Rivendell Gus Boots Willsen Review front light

Because it seems, I like the orange fork on my Gus, it differentiates it from all others. It provides to the bike’s already one-of-a-kind uniqueness. I find it irresistible, and I’m without end appreciative of the trouble, thanks Will!

Okay, we’re transferring on.

Constructing It Up

The photographs of this body coloration do it zero justice. Belief me, it’s a completely lovely Darkish Moss Inexperienced that takes on a unique life within the daylight. Extra on this later. On to the construct.

Let’s take a look at what manufacturers helped me spec out this magnificence… ranging from the underside to the highest.

Velocity USA:

Velocity USA is positioned in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and consists of 14 year-round staff. All of their rims are made right here, within the USA. They get their rim extrusions from Profile Precision Extrusions in Arizona. They roll, drill, anodize, construct, and distribute their rims and wheels from their manufacturing unit.

I reached out to Velocity they usually had been completely satisfied to have their Wheel Division hand-build up a set of Velocity Cliffhangers for this construct. I selected to make use of their very own, self-branded entrance dynamo hub and the White Industries MI5 polished rear hub that was shipped to them straight from White Industries.

They didn’t have a silver dynamo hub, so I swapped it for a black one. Contemplating the mismatched fork on the Gus, it simply appeared to make sense.

The Cliffhangers are nice rims which are robust (I take advantage of one other set on my Clem Smith Jr.). They’re usually used when build up a set of wheels for touring. The Cliffhangers for this construct are 700c, black, and have 36 holes for added energy and future bikebacking excursions.

Rivendell Gus Boots Willsen Review custom Cliffhangers
Velocity USA Cliffhangers and Sim Works Brass nipples

Cliffhangers have an inside width of 25mm and are supposed for rim brake software with a machined braking floor. They had been constructed utilizing double-butted stainless spokes and Sim Works’ uncooked brass nipples. The black rim with brass nipples appears to be like superb.

I’ve them arrange tubeless, and within the first 300+ miles I’ve stacked on them, they’ve been with none points, by any means.


The Ehline was a tire I’ve needed to run for some time. And the Gus was the right bike for them. I picked out the 29 x 2.5″ tan wall, with the supple sidewalls. This. Tire. Is. Superior. The facet wall is supple however not overly compliant like some are typically beneath my weight.

Rivendell Gus Boots Willsen Review Teravail Ehline tires

I’ll get daring and say that it is perhaps my favourite off-road tire… interval. I like them higher than Teravail’s Honcho which I reviewed some time again. It’s for certain a greater all-round, multi-surface tire. And make no mistake, I journey the Gus, precisely as I did my Surly Krampus, so I can say that these tires carry out exceptionally properly off-road.

The Gus lends itself to be ridden on no matter floor you need and fairly effectively, I would add. these tires didn’t appear to have any actual negatives, even on prolonged rides on paved roads and trails.

Tumbleweed Bikes:

On one other bike, I used to run the gorgeous, heat-treated, triple-butted, uncooked chromoly model of their Persuader Bar within the 800mm width. I favored it loads because it was compliant and comfy. It had the correct quantity of again sweep (30 levels) and an honest rise (50mm). However, boy it was heavy (638g).

Rivendell Gus Boots Willsen Review Persuader bars

I’m not a weight weenie, however when in search of a bar to make use of for this construct, I noticed that Tumbleweed had an aluminum model of the Persuader Bar. I needed to make use of that for the Gus construct.

So I reached out to Daniel at Tumbleweed. The aluminum model of the Persuader bar had the identical dimension, besides the sweep was now 31 levels. Weighing in at 411g now in the identical width (800mm) the bar is loads lighter.

The journey on the alloy model isn’t as tough as I believed it might be. Throughout the first few miles, I’d rapidly stopped noticing any tangible distinction in compliance between the 2 variations of the bar.

Paul Element Engineering:

I might think about the Gus Boots, for the dearth of a greater label, a bicycle that’s of the neo-retro ilk. That’s as a result of rim brakes, fast releases, and 135mm rear spacing. Issues of the previous for some.

Fortunately for me, I don’t care about that type of stuff. We used to run all of those requirements at one level in our previous bike lives. Our cantilever, and “V” brakes stopped us completely effective again then.

Our QR hubs held as much as loads of abuse with out failing. Don’t get me began on the 135mm rear spacing. Look, we’re nonetheless right here to speak about it, and that speaks volumes. We’re lucky that corporations like Paul Element Engineering nonetheless make high-quality bits for some of these bikes.

For this construct, Paul Comp equipped their lovely black Boxcar Stem within the 50mm taste.

Rivendell Gus Boots Willsen Review Paul Love Lever
Paul Comp. Love Levers paired with Spurcycle Authentic Bell and Ergon GA3 grips (shhh…my favourite grip)

Additionally they provided their black Love Levers and their attractive linear-pull Motolite brakes. The Motolites pop within the black anno with the adjuster nut within the orange anno. These brakes are highly effective, modulate completely, are silent, and work rather well.

They’re straightforward to regulate and arrange, and the pads appear to be the right compound for the place I journey.

Gus Boots Willsen Review closeup qrs

To high it off, they despatched a pair of their 5mm Fast Launch Skewers within the black/orange combo, clearly.

Velo Orange:

I needed the construct to be particular right down to the little particulars, so I reached out to Velo Orange, as they’ve what I would like in relation to ending a particular construct. They provide the whole lot you want to construct a motorcycle, together with their top-notch frames.

Gus Boots Willsen Review stainless cable housing
Classic-style Stainless housing

For this construct, I turned to them for the unglamorous stuff, like shift and brake cables, but additionally for one thing that may set this construct off. One thing completely different, that you simply don’t at all times see on a construct.

Rivendell Gus Boots Willsen Review Stainless housing

I selected their Retro-Type, Stainless Wound Equipment for each the shift and brake housing. I additionally needed to run strong, uncooked Brass Housing Caps as a result of, properly… brass means class, that’s why.


Wanting the identical sturdy, water and dust-proof dynamo mild on the Gus that I ran on the Clem Smith Jr., I requested the Supernova E3 Professional 2. They had been type sufficient to shoot one over to me in anodized orange, and admittedly, it appears to be like superb on the bike.

Rivendell Gus Boots Willsen Review front end
1 1/8″ headtube… stack for days.

The sunshine is ultra-durable, and rugged sufficient to have on a mountain bike the entire time. It’s at all times confirmed to be brilliant and dependable even at sluggish speeds. The E3 Professional 2 is switchable on the again of the unit. It even sports activities a brilliant shining emblem as a facet marker for added security. It additionally carries a 5-year guarantee.

White Industries:

I’ve fairly a couple of White Industries elements on all of my bikes. It’s protected to say that I’m a fan of their high-quality merchandise, consideration to element, and the aesthetics of their elements, and I’m an enormous fan of the people who find themselves employed there.

Gus Boots Willsen Review Rear MI5 Hub

I reached out, they usually hopped proper on the challenge. They provided their MI5 Polished Rear Hub that was despatched straight to Velocity USA to make use of for the rear wheel construct.

The Backside Bracket is their Exterior BSA Backside Bracket, in silver. It’s sized to run a 30mm spindle and has exterior bearings. It appears to be like superb and was straightforward to put in.

Trying on the White Industries web site for a headset that may match the Gus was pure aid. I didn’t should verify any new-fangled requirements, or bizarre high and backside cup combos. Simply a regular headset for a 1 1/8″ head tube and straight steerer. The EC34/EC34 in black match the invoice completely. Growth, Bob’s yer Uncle.

Rivendell Gus Boots Willsen Review crank

The crank arms are their M30 Cranks for mountain bikes. This was a easy alternative as properly, black anno, 30mm spindle, 175mm arm size, and a gold extractor cap… stayin’ elegant. I’m operating their 30t, silver MR30 TSR 1x chainring within the straightforward to decide on, 3mm offset (customary/non-boost)

All the pieces from White Industries, not solely installs with out concern however operates and features completely. I’ve a variation of this crank on all of my bicycles, and it doesn’t get any higher.

And for the TSR (Tall-Short_Ring) 1X chain retention methodology is perfection. You possibly can see the tall tooth popping up by means of the chain across the high of the chairing rotation.


Talking of seatposts. The seat collar on the Gus is lugged and due to this fact is the less-than-popular 26.8-size. I might’ve used one of many Nitto or low cost Kalloy seatposts that Rivendell sells, however I needed this construct to be excellent.

I imply, the Nitto choices are very nice, however to me, being an older bike nerd, after I consider a high-end blingy seatpost, I consider Thomson seatposts. They’re made very properly, have been round without end, have that signature, ovalized inside diameter for energy, and have a cool-looking setback mannequin. To not point out they arrive in a plethora of sizes.

I requested an Elite Seatpost within the 26.8 x 330mm setback in black, they usually delivered. I added a smidgen of Phil’s Waterproof Grease on the publish and within the seat collar, and set up was eventless. Ahh… metal and aluminum, not a peep or budge in 300+ miles of offroad tomfoolery.

Forager Cycles:

I’ve stated it earlier than, however the particulars matter. And in relation to going quick and searching actually good, the Forager Cycles Cable Cherries will do the trick.

Listed below are a couple of advantages of the common-or-garden cable cherry…

Gus Boots Willsen Review Forager cable cherries
Forager Cycles Cable Cherries with the Velo Orange Brass Housing ends
  • No extra crimps falling off your cable finish, leaving you with these blood-letting cable strands.
  • Makes a tasty deal with for changes.
  • Completely reusable.
  • Assured, if one occurs to fall off, Forager Cycles will ship you one other one without cost.
  • CNCd in Washington and shipped in very minimal packaging.

I truly obtained these by means of Velo Orange. However you will get yours right here.


Nicely, I wanted a drivetrain proper when Shimano wanted somebody to journey their new LinkGlide system. I had them ship me the 11-speed, XT Linkglide gruppo for the construct, plus they despatched alongside a pair of XT Path pedals as properly.

Gus Boots Willsen Review LinkGlide drivetrain

I’ll contact on some highlights of the system, however it is going to get its personal separate evaluate after I journey it for a pair hundred extra miles.

The XT LinkGlide system was designed to be extraordinarily strong and sturdy. It has completely different shift ramps on the 11-50t rear cassette, permitting a very completely different and smoother shift level when beneath load.

Gus Boots Willsen Review XT LinkGlide rear der

The rear derailleur has a brand new geometry and won’t play properly with the present XT 11-speed Hyperglide.

Up to now, it’s been a pleasing expertise. There are some issues I like about it and a few issues that aren’t so nice. However, we’ll get into that within the precise evaluate.

How My Gus Rides

I’m certain you observed that the Gus has lengthy chainstays. You’re proper, they’re simply shy of 550mm. That measurement makes this bike tremendous steady in all facets of its journey. It climbs very properly, even the punchy steep stuff. It descends properly. It’s very compliant with out plenty of lateral compliance.

I’m discovering that the lengthy chainstays truly imply a extra steady climb, not the other like we’ve all been informed. I sat upright and comfy and motored up one of many quick and steep (20+ %) climbs that I’ve ridden persistently for the final 20+ years and was in complete management.

What’s Up with These Chainstays?

After I arrived on the high, I discovered myself not practically as winded as I normally am. I didn’t must consistently alter my physique weight up over the nostril of the saddle to maintain my entrance finish on the bottom, like I needed to with my Krampus. And on the Gus, if there was an impediment, I simply simply steered round it.

Hmm, lengthy chainstays, go determine.

The journey high quality is second to none, I’ve by no means ridden a totally inflexible mountain bike that was as comfy because the Gus. Its compliance appears to assist it nook properly, because it type of “settles in” to the nook, even within the looser stuff. The Ehlines assist loads in that regard.

The purposeful and chic bend of the fork when paired with the Ehline supple tire, at about 19-20psi provided a pleasant supple journey. Add these lengthy chainstays and it rides amazingly, providing its personal “suspension”.

The journey place may be very upright, it’s not for everybody. The sloping high tube is not any slope-ier than say a contemporary enduro bike, it’s simply obtained extra of a curve, resulting in the conclusion that the slope was simply executed extra elegantly.

Gus Boots Willsen Review fork details

I like the whole lot concerning the bike. The quirky decals and painted by hand highlights across the lovely lugs and fork are that “one thing completely different” I used to be in search of.

The development of the bike is of very top quality. You possibly can’t actually mass-produce a fillet brazed bicycle body, and it exhibits within the brazing and building of the Gus. It is a bike that was constructed with longevity in thoughts and can, greater than probably final for a really very long time.

In Conclusion

The Rivendell Gus Boots Willsen retails for $2000, which incorporates the body, fork, seatpost, and headset.

I couldn’t be happier with my buy of this frameset. Whereas I actually cherished my Surly Krampus, the Gus provides a unique expertise. I can accomplish the identical type of driving because the Krampus… however with Gus’ personal type of fashion.

It’s a bit sluggish to react on tight single monitor, however barely. Not a deal breaker in any respect. I can nonetheless shralp the sh*t out of certainly one of my fave spots and have a blast doing it.

The Gus Boots Willsen is that particular bike that’s like nothing available on the market, and like nothing you’ve ever ridden. Gus is each fantastically elegant and purposefully rugged abruptly. And it rides like that.

Gus Boots Willsen Review Gus and me

I feel Grant nailed the design of this bike. It’s purpose-built for climbing, singletrack, lengthy bikepacking journeys, quick filth loops, or taking it to go get groceries. It’s constructed to be a lifetime bike for a bikey sort life-style. It’s a bicycle that’s constructed for enjoyable and frolicking within the filth or wherever you see match, and that’s actually what it’s all about.


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