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Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen - Custom Lugged Steel Country Bike

50cm A. Homer Hilsen with Albatross bars and some (now discontinued) Rivendell bags. 

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

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 hellaciously 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.
71cm A. Homer Hilsen with drop bars. The biggest frame we make and just about all that's out there for someone with at 100cm+ PBH. 

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 eleven-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, known as the Silver sidepull, or Tektro R559, 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 42mm, 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.

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 33mm 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 38mm 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 25 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: $2400
65-71cm: $2500. 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 $350 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 $3600 to $3800 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 $2400 (or $2500 for a big one) and ship it right out. If we have to build the frame, lock it in with a $1,200 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 $2400 down for the frame and we charge the rest when we start to build it up.

If we don't have the frame in stock, put down the $1,200 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 43mm
Brake type: Sidepull or center pull
Brake reach: 64mm
Rear dropout spacing: 135mm.
Tubing: Lightweight butted heat-treated CrMo steel.

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