The A. Homer Hilsen is a Country Bike.
"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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
bike makers design bikes to work with the available components, and
don't ask for anything different which might allow a breakthrough.
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
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?
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.
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.
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?
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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:
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:
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. Miscellaneous
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!