My first real thoughtful bike purchase was the Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen. Color – metallic copper – one of the web frame specials in 2009 shortly after I moved back to Seattle from a brief 18-month foray to my childhood home of Minnesota. I had been commuting on a ’96 Kona AA that I was pretty much done with. The aluminum frame never felt right – too stiff. I was ready for a real road bike after spending much of the prior 20 years on a mountain bike.
I did a lot of research, but after I found the Rivendell site, started reading Sheldon Brown and Grant Petersen’s opinions, and did some test rides on a local friend’s vast collection of Riv bikes, I was smitten. I recall going to the Seattle Bike Show in 2008 and walking around forlorn, seeing nothing attractive. At all.
At that point, I knew a couple things about myself:
- Steel felt right. I grew up riding this material. My Raleigh Reliant, and Stumpjumper Pro (’91) were my benchmark rides.
- I wasn’t planning to pick up racing. I am a recreational and practical cyclist.
- Damn those lugged frames were pretty! They really hit a “homer” in terms of where my aesthetic sensibilities were concerned.
- I wanted to build this bike myself from the frame up.
I started watching the Riv site and decided the copper Hilsen was the one. It was a 59cm frame, and although I would probably fit up to a 61cm, this was as big as I wanted to commit to.
After a few months of collecting the parts and tools needed to put this together, I took it for the first ride and was amazed at the effortless speed compared to my mountain bikes. At about the same time, I had also stumbled on the RBW owners bunch online community, which helped me navigate a first bike build, as well as sharing lots of good technical advice.
Here was a large community of like-minded folks generally oohing and aahing all the builds folks were doing. This tight-knit community is one known for being a polite and caring group, and I’m happy to count many of the folks there as friends.
The Hilsen took me on my first 100k brevet, and then my 200k. Then my 300k. It helped me learn that I like the Selle Anatomica Titanico saddle best on anything over 100 miles. It showed me that clipless pedals were not necessary anymore.
I briefly became caught up in the low-trail Jan Heine camp, and picked up another rando bike (the Toussaint), but after all these years, the one bike I still enjoy the most is the A. Homer Hilsen. It is still as lovely as ever, and gaining beausage every year. It still gets more comments on my daily commute, rain or shine. After riding other bikes for several months, and then coming back to this one, it still feels “just right”. The ride is smooth, predictable, natural. I never feel like it has quirks, defects, or limitations that I’ve noticed on lesser bikes.
It has done brevets, snowy singletrack(!), loaded commutes, and just riding trips. Handled ’em all with aplomb. ’nuff said…