Price: $1,300 frame with fork and headset
Sizes: 47-68 cm
Source: Rivendell website and dealers
How obtained: cold cash
RBR advertiser: yes, 12/12/02 to 1/16/03
Tested: 65 hours
I bought an Atlantis frameset to replace my 18-year-old Fisher mountain bike (outfitted with a drop bar) that I used for dirt-road loops here in western Colorado. The steel-framed Atlantis combines the tire clearance of a mountain bike with the geometry of a road bike. It has a 2.5-degree up-sloping top tube and cast-in head lug extensions that allow the handlebar to be raised higher. The Atlantis has a low bottom bracket for stable cornering. It can be outfitted with a drop or flat bar.
My local shop, Cascade Bicycles in Montrose, Colorado, built the frame with a mix of new and old components. The latter were rescued from my parts box: 7-speed cassette (11-28 teeth), bar-end shifters, Shimano mountain bike crankset with 48/36/26-tooth chainrings, Shimano LX rear derailleur and XTR cantilever brakes. A Nitto stem, handlebar and seatpost came from the Rivendell catalog. With a Brooks B17 saddle and Shimano SPD pedals, the complete bike weighs 23.8 pounds.
Rivendell’s Grant Petersen advocates larger-than-normal frames so the handlebar can be raised to saddle level or above. I sized the Atlantis by top tube rather than seat tube length, so ended up with a 56-cm frame, which worked fine. Petersen would put me on a 58, but I like to retain my normal road position.
Rivendell bills the Atlantis as a “do everything” bike. it’s certainly adaptable.
With 26×1.25-inch road tires, the Atlantis handles like a sprightly touring bike on the pavement or on packed dirt. I can’t say I’d race it due to the weight, but it’s fine for sloppy-road group rides in winter. (Wait for me on the hills, guys!) THere’s plenty of room for fenders.
It can be a first-rate touring bike. I outfitted it with front panniers and Rivendell’s Baggins Adam saddlebag, then loaded it with enough lightweight camping gear for a week. It felt rock-solid on flat roads and descended with reassuring stability. The mountain bike gearing was easy on my knees even on steep hills.
The frame has a pump peg, three water bottle mounts, rear rack mounts and eyelets front and rear. The lug work is beautiful and detailed. The color, Testor’s Interior Blue Green #2135, is not quite Bianchi celeste but it’s close. Riders either like it or hate it.
The Atlantis can also be an old-school, early ’80s mountain bike with rigid fork and suspension provided by fat tires and flexed knees. There’s plenty of clearance for knobbies — 26×2.1 tires fit with room to spare. Frames 58 cm and larger use 700C wheels that handle tires as large as 700 x 52C.
Of course, being a jack-of-all-trades has drawbacks. In this era of 17-pound road bikes, the Atlantis is too heavy for competition, including fast group rides. With a drop bar and no suspension, it’s not what I want for bombing down the sandstone drop-offs of Moab’s Porcupine Rim Trail. (Been there, done that.)
But if I were limited to only one bike (Coppi forbid!) this would be my choice. The Atlantis shines as a touring, commuting and adventure bike. it’s also the ideal second bike. Since I got the Atlantis, I’ve ridden it more than any other steed in my stable.
One of my favorite local rides illustrates why.
It begins on a bike path where the Atlantis (with 26×1.25 tires) cushions the cement seams and gravel sections while being nimble enough to dodge dog walkers. A stretch of pavement lets me crank along in road bike mode. I bypass a busy section by detouring onto a singletrack created by kids on BMX bikes, then turn onto a little-traveled dirt-and-gravel road. it’s too rough for a road bike, so I wouldn’t ride it without the Atlantis. That would be a shame — I’ve glimpsed a mountain lion on this route. The road climbs 1,200 feet above town, but the mountain bike gearing keeps the steep stretches fun. Finally, I drop back to town on a highway shoulder where the sturdy wheels resist glass, shredded tire casings and rumble strips.
I couldn’t ride loops like this without an Atlantis, which is more thanenough reason to own one.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.