There has been a lot of debate in the steel bike internets about Grant Petersen and Jan Heine, which one is “right” about bike design, and various merits of their writings. I have been following both since 2008, when I moved back to Seattle and started commuting again in earnest. Now I should express full disclosure that I’m a Rivendell owner (obvious from my posts), but I have also ridden a few low trail bikes like the Rawland rSogn and VO Polyvalent with and without front loads. OK – not an expert by any means, and I certainly won’t try to resolve this debate here…
I see Grant and Jan as modern writers akin to sports/hobby guys such as those I read as a youth growing up in the Midwest. Back in my formative days, I was very interested in hunting and voraciously read all there was to read in the journals of the time. I still hunting as a romantic, meditative soul-soup activity that recharges me from time in the rat race, but I also get this from bike riding, randonneuring, and build/mechanic work.
Grant is sort of a Jack O’Connor (writer for Outdoor Life) who has great stories, and likes classic bikes that are designed in a certain way. His bikes use steel, lugs, oversized tubing, mid-trail geometry, large tires, leather saddles, and upright bars and riding positions. He likes bikes that are fun to ride everyday, and useful for a wide range of folks. He especially fits those that are on the larger or smaller size physically, and really tries to keep his designs consistent for his riders whether they are 6’6″ or 4’10”. He puts a lot of character (and characters) in his writing, and talks about other loves like cameras, fitness, and camping overnights.
Jan does a great job of appealing to the more technical or race oriented riders, and his love of the romance of the randonneur and the long rides fuel his efforts in soulful stories that inspire people like me to try endurance cycling (whether we should or not). Kind of an Elmer Keith who comes at things from a different angle but goes into it a bit more heavy on the “science”. He designs components, like Keith (who designed bullets and magnum handgun cartridges). His style is, in my opinion, more authoritative or perhaps parental which can put folks off when he pisses on someone’s dream bike, but I believe he tries to be fair, and just has an opinion he really believes to be true.
What I really like about both of these guys is that they work hard to put out a lot of interesting content, they both run successful businesses that rely on the reputation of their word, and they aren’t afraid to express themselves. I hope they continue to inspire bikers for a long time to come!