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  A. Homer Hilsen
rivendell a homer hilsen

65-71cm Frames $2400
Made in: Japan, USA

Availability: Made to order. Please call.
product code: F-HILSEN


Description Warranty/Specs/Other Testimonials

A. Homer Hilsen

See more photos of customers' Hilsens here.

Another nice set of customer Mel's Homer on EcoVelo.

Though travel wide and far do I
O'er stoney paths, 'tween fields-o-rye,
Past foggy crags, where the lost sheep bleat,
I tell you, Mate --- 'tis no Grand Feat:
For I ride A. Homer Hilsen!

(From "A Life With A. Homer Hilsen" and the other 12 or so verses on request to grant@rivbike.com)

Read some testimonials in that little tab above the description here.

The A. Homer Hilsen is a Country Bike.
A "Country Bike" is our name for a smart, useful, comfortable, practical, and hellatiously versatile road-ish bike. It's a road bike with good clearance for tires and fenders, and one that can carry racks. It's not a loaded touring bike for self-contained extended tours. But you can certainly put 20-25 pounds on it and head out for the weekend. Everything you wish your current road bike can do, but it can't, the A. Homer Hilsen can. The zippiness that you wish your comfort or mountain bike had, but it doesn't, the A. Homer Hilsen has.

Thats a 33.3333333mm Jack Brown tire right there, but you can squeeze a 40mm AND a fender under these fantastical Silver brakes that we designed just for the Hilsen.

It comes in sizes 47cm thru 71cm; and the wheel size depends on the frame size:
47-50-52-54-56-58 are for 650B wheels.
57-59-61-63-65-67-69-71 are for 700c wheels.
Included in the batch of photos here are some of a 69cm A.Homer Hilsen, with a double top tube (2tt). We do that on 65cm, 67cm, 69cm, and the King of All Homers, the 71cm.

Calling the A. Homer Hilsen a "country bike" means it's a road bike you can do a light tour with, a sport bike you can ride trails with, a trail bike fast enough for club rides on the road. It's a brevet bike, a commuter, a daily everything bike. It looks and rides like a classic road bike, but it's far more comfortable, and can take you places you plain can't go on a road bike. On fire trails, it's more practical and more fun than a mountain bike.

The A. Homer Hilsen is Versatile

The A. Homer Hilsen's versatility isn't a result of design genius or high tech breakthroughs. Its versatility comes the way versatility always comes: by means of properly dimensioned tubes and properly located bridges, which lead to the clearances that fenders with medium-volume tires require.

It feels odd to boast about that or even mention it at all, because it's kind of a boring topic, and it seems as though making forks the right length and putting the seat stay- and chain stay-bridges in the right spot for good clearance should be a given.

And yet good clearance is almost unheard of these days, which is why we love to talk about it. Bike makers are all agog over materials and light weight and ten-speed cassettes and other things of questionable value unquestionable. They've either consciously leapfrogged the basics of good design to get to the glitzy stuff and to capitalize on trends, or they don't know what good design is. It has to be one or the other.

In any case, until late 2006, the clearance that allows the versatility was
impossible with quality sidepulls. Campagnolo's and Shimano's are too short. Nobody made a sidepull brake in the right dimensions until Tektro pulled it off in late 2006, and that brake, which we sell as the Silver sidepull, opened the door to a versatile bike with sidepull brakes.

With these brakes, the A. Homer Hilsen is able to fit tires all the way up to 40mm, and up to 38mm with fenders. Maybe you'll never ride a tire that fat, but having the ability to means the A. Homer Hilsen can go where road bikes can't. And yet it still looks great and works magically (well...that may be slightly enthusiastic) with the normal 32mm to 35mm tires you'll be on 90 percent of the time. Fenders don't get squeezed, and wheel installation and removal couldn't be easier. No single detail on the A. Homer Hilsen by itself is all that earth-shattering, but the combination of details in just one bicycle is truly a breakthrough, or at least an anachronism. It amounts to this, in a nutshell: The A. Homer Hilsen has the sort of design smarts that bikes used to have fifty and forty years ago, but the details have been refined, evenized, and perfected. It combines these design elements with the absolute finest modern materials, and a build quality that is rarely equalled and remains unsurpassed by anybody in the twenty-first century.

The really big ones get double top tubes to make 'em stronger. Most big bikes don't have 'em but should. Really there aren't that many models out there to choose from for tall riders. This is your bike.

The A. Homer Hilsen Is Smart

The A. Homer Hilsen, also, is a stellar example of what can happen when frame design isn't driven by a poor selection of components.

This is worth harping on. If you have the interest and the time, it's even worth reading. Otherwise, no, because it's long.

Most bike makers design bikes to work with the available components, and don't ask for anything different which might allow a breakthrough.
This is a matter of fact, not opinion, not hunch. I know it sounds lousy to declare something a fact, but I did put the word "most" in there, and that makes it a fact.
Before we went to Tektro for the Silver brake, we asked Shimano for a good-clearance sidepull like the Silver. We don't have the influence that comes with volume, so Shimano suggested I contact the high volume makers to make the same request. I did, they didn't, and so Shimano realized there was no market for a brake like this, and naturally didn't make it.

I think they should've made it, anyway. If they make it, they can introduce it with the normal high-kicking chorus girls and sparklers and media-blitzing that they normally employ to kick off their other parts, and then the bike makers would see an opportunity to make "country bikes" (or, if you prefer, roadish bikes with practical, useful clearances for medium-volume tires and fenders). But as it is, the big bike makers are content with racy, single-purpose, minimal-clearance road bikes that are out of their element in wet weather or on pockmarked roads. They don't take that kind of riding seriously.

Anyway, at this point it doesn't matter to us that Shimano doesn't have an offering in this neat kind of brake. We've got the brake, and Tektro made it, and it's unlikely Shimano could outdo-them on it, because it's perfect as it is. But Shimano's inaction just reinforces our belief that Shimano prefers the extremes. Extreme road racing. Extreme mountain bike riding (the Saint and Hone groups were designed for death-defying feats and super hard landings). Extreme commuting (internally geared hubs, generators). And its next group is called "Coasting." It's for yet another extreme group for people who don't ride bicycles. That's a noble target no doubt, and in itself isn't criticizable, but it just completes the circle on the extreme fringe.

What about a component group for people who ride a lot but don't race, or even pretend to; who just want to ride a bike for fun and health, and want a comfortable bike that can take them just about anywhere, with the ease and efficiency of a road bike, but one that's not limited to smooth, dry roads? That's all a country bike is, and it's a concept foreign and uninteresting to Shimano; probably because this style of riding doesn't inspire fear or admiration, and has no famous protagonists.

For the record, Shimano is a fantastic company, and overall Shimano parts are probably the best in the world. With all Shimano does, it's still more all-around than any other parts maker, and the things it makes work really well, of course. I'd have no quarrel or gripe if it would just do this one little thing, that would be so easy for them to do and by its inclusion suggest that bicycles can be normal toys for normal people, not extreme tools for the fringe. Back to the bike.....

Who shouldn't get an A. Homer Hilsen?

Folks who merely like the idea of a versatile bike, in principle , but can't let go of their racing fantasies. If you stay home on July weekends watching your heroes challenge the hills in France, and your dream vacation is dressing like them and riding those same routes and dreaming of cheering throngs, then the A. Homer Hilsen is not your bike.

Get the A. Homer Hilsen only if 95 percent of the time you'll ride tires bigger than 700 x 28 and want to fit fenders with tires up to 700 x 38. For all-purpose road-n-trail riding, that's a good way to go. The A. Homer Hilsen is ideal for any riding that isn't road racing or gonzo mountain-bike riding or racing. From club rides on smooth roads to centuries to mixed road and trail rides and bike camping overnights that's what it's for.

The A. Homer Hilsen isn't revolutionary. Almost every non-racing bike made before the Era of Racing's Influence from the Schwinn Varsity to the Dawes Realm Rider was laid out a lot like the A. Homer Hilsen is, so from that point of view, there's nothing revolutionary about it. If anything, it's resurrectionary.

What makes it special in a modern context, is that those older bikes weren't nearly as well-made and beautiful as the A. Homer Hilsen, and had crummy parts; and there's no other modern bike that does as much, as well, and looks as beautiful doing it as the A. Homer Hilsen.

What does it ride like?
The A. Homer Hilsen feels like any Rivendell-designed bike. When you get the right size and set the bike up in a normal way, you have a good position and feel comfortable on it immediately, no matter how new it is, no matter what you're used to.

With 32mm tires pumped to 95 psi, it feels like a fast road bike. Not a race bike, thank goodness, but a fast-enough road bike, with zip. With 35mm tires at 40psi, it feels perfect for fire roads. It turns easily, but doesn't overreact to wind. The most we've put on it so far is about 22 pounds, and it handled that wonderfully, even on fire trails with a 185-lb rider at the controls. If you weigh less, you can carry more. All in all, it combines the best of a late-'60s road bike with the best modern materials and craftsmanship. It's a good, smooth, bike you can ride anywhere.

TRIVIA: During its development, the A. Homer Hilsen was named the Honus Wagner, after the early 20th century Pittsburgh Pirate shortstop. All we talked about was Honus Wagner this, Honus Wagner that.

But it turns out Honus Wagner is trademarked. So we contacted the firm that represents the Heirs of Honus (and about fifty other famous people), and started two months of talks and negotiations. Not full-time, mind you. We were optimistic enough to have completeted the decal art for Honus Wagner, but then the contract included a few unexpecteds that killed the deal for us (who were already stretched to the max), so we didn't sign. Instead, we holed up in our Model-Name Think Tank, and after about an hour and a half, emerged groggy but giddy with A. Homer Hilsen shocked that it hadn't already been taken, and that it wasn't, like Honus Wagner, trademarked.
We considered names from the usual sources----Middle Earth, geography, birds, fish, and mammals. The good ones were all taken, and besides, they all get lumped together. I never liked combo-computer names, like Lexuva&Futura&Diamante, that sound precise, smug, and high tech. As bike names go, A. Homer Hilsen is their antithesis, and that's why it won. It's kind of a filter, actually. That may not be a great thing, but it's a useful thing.

How to get one, price, delivery, and so on.
Frame and fork when you buy them alone, no parts, up to 63cm: $2300
65-71cm: $2400. These sizes come with a second top tube (2tt).
The 2tt adds triangulation and the strength and anti-twisty stiffness that comes with it, to frames that could use that, due to their longer head tubes. Some people object to the unusual look, but there are hundreds of thousands of examples of 2tt bikes in the world, and it is a feature that came about to solve a problem. So if you're tall, embrace your gangliness and get the 2tt bike. If you're tall and light and will ne'er ride with any sort of weight on it, you can get a tall Homer with 1tt...but you don't save money doing that, and the bike is worse. So....?

"What if I want another color?" You can probably get it, but it'll cost you $300 more. That's what it costs us. It's possible that we'll change colors on future productions, but it will always be some shade of blue, and the only other blue that's in the running is a really pretty one, too.

How much for a complete bike?
Depends on parts picked, of course. We're happy to help you figure it out if you feel overwhelmed by all the parts decisions you have to make. The way we like it? Around $3400 to $3600 with a smart mix of parts.

If you want to upscale it here or there, we've done it before and offer great advice. Want top of the bar shifters, a second set of brake levers, STI? We've done it all. We won't let you wreck the bike with a fantasy part that doesn't work, but we're quite flexible if you have a notion you'd like to explore, or just want our opinion about some idea you might have.

How long to get one, and how do I get the ball rolling?

Frame only:

If it's in stock, we'll charge you the full $2300 (or $2400 for a big one) and ship it right out. If we have to build the frame, lock it in with a $1000 deposit and we'll charge the rest when it ships.

For complete bikes:

If we have the frame in stock, it won't take long at all, maybe a month to build and ship. Put $2300 down for the frame and we charge the rest the day the bike ships.

If we don't have the frame in stock, put down the $300 non-refundable deposit. We order up the frame. The rest gets charged when it ships. In the meantime, you have plenty of nights to think about the parts.

Of course, special-ordered parts, custom wheels, and custom paint take longer.


Where's it made? Early Homers were made in Japan by Toyo. Then gradually and now totally production shifted to Waterford, in Wisconsin. Although it's human nature to wonder, "Which ones are better? I want one of those!" --- there is no difference in quality. If there were, we'd know it and lay it out there for you.

Tires: designed for 32mm to 40mm
Brake type: Sidepull or center pull
Brake reach: 64mm
Rear dropout spacing: 135mm.
Bottle mounts: Toyos had two, W'Fords have three.
Tubing: Lightweight butted heat-treated CrMo steel.

See Also: the Rivendell Bicycles group on Flickr. There are tons of photos there!

Average Customer Review: 5 of 5 | Total Reviews: 13   Write a review.

  2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
The most fun to ride September 25, 2013
Reviewer: William Klitgaard from PRINCETON JUNCTION, NJ United States  
I have a number of bikes...too many probably. This one is my favorite to ride. It is comfortable, stable, nimble and beautiful to look at too. It is fast enough despite weighing in the low 20s range. Mostly it is just FUN.

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  0 of 0 people found the following review helpful:
Great! July 30, 2013
Reviewer: Dave from Buffalo, NY United States  
After wasting a good deal of money trying to make lesser frames work, I bought this beauty, and I'm very glad I did. I've had mine for year now. Fast, smooth, nimble, and just plain fun to ride. Even handles great with a load in the basket and saddlebag.  Joy to ride.

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  1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An amazing Bike June 17, 2013
Reviewer: Jack Stewart from Bella Vista, AR United States  
I've had by Homer Hilsen, named "Jenny -the road/trail Warrior" for 3 months now.  I used to ride a "normal" bike purchased at a LBS since that's what everyone else rode.    It was uncomfortable, and not especially attractive.   But I can tell you now that Jenny is the most comfortable, most attractive, most everything bike I could have imagined.   Thanks so much to Keven and all the folks at Riv for your help in putting her together.     I could not possibly be happier with my choice.   Your products and customer service are A++

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  2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Comfortable Bike February 9, 2013
Reviewer: Bruce Herbitter from Prattville, AL United States  
Mine is an early Toyo made 50 cm. After 5,000 miles, it is still the go-to bike for a smooth pleasing ride. Self-supported 3 state tour with bags and fenders? yep. stripped down with quicker tires? Yep.  It's as fast as my legs are, same as my other bikes. Loaned it to friend this week so his wife could compare a steel bike to a carbon Pinarello from the bike shop. I hear she's looking at a Riv now.

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  1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Lives up to its good reputation. February 7, 2013
Reviewer: Keith from Worthington, OH United States  
I've put a few thousand miles on my AHH so I'm ready to review it.  I've enjoyed riding it on road and off road and in the rain, for commuting, neighborhood rides, and bike camping.  Lots of fun on those rides!  I can't think of a word to describe the ride quality, but I love it. And it's in a four-way tie as my prettiest bike-the AHH gets unsolicited compliments, even from folks riding carbon. The buying experience was also positive. Keven patiently walked me through size and component choices and spent a great deal of time doing so.

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