Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen review

I picked up the new bicycle about a week ago, just in time for an unprecedented week of good weather. I spent plenty of time getting to know the AHH, riding over 250 miles. Here are my impressions.

The AHH is quite nice to look at. The blue and cream color scheme is classic and highlights the frame detail well. The lug-work is terrific; a tasteful amount of curls and points. The fork has a nice long curve. This is a nicely made frame and it shows. While the bike looks terrific, I am most pleased with how it rides.

My AHH is quick and comfortable. The bike is built mainly as a light touring and brevet bike. The components are similar to the more common Rivendell builds you see - Nitto randonneur bars with bar end shifters, 36 spoke XT hubs and Mavic Open Sport rims, Jack Brown tires, Sugino triple, 12-27 gearing, and a Brooks B17. (Special thanks to Elton at Harris Cyclery for putting this together for me.) This set up is ideal and I'm extremely pleased with how everything works together. The drive-train is quiet and the shifting is crisp. It's probably the first time I've been pleased with a geared system. The Nitto Randonneur handlebars have a noticeable sweep outward that not only looks great, but allows several comfy hand positions. The bar-ends extend back a little farther than those of other handlebars, which is really nice for riding in the drops. The wheels are ultra smooth, and the Jack Brown tires live up to the hype. Jack Browns look a little odd with their fat roundness, but they soak up bumps and roll just as fast as any other skinnier tire I've used.

The AHH frame brings everything together nicely with it's long dimensions and somewhat slack angles. There is a good bit of trail in the fork, which provides very steady handling - you almost don't need to steer at all. The relaxed geometry holds the road well. Perhaps the most noticeable thing about the AHH is how well it goes downhill. For a while I've been skeptical of all the Rivendell hype. People talk about Rivendell bicycles like they are magic or something - lot's of people drinking kool-aid. There are many Rivendell-isms or token highlights. One of these is how people talk about a Riv being a good "descender." What? Gravity is gravity and all bikes roll downhill. How can some be better at it than others? Well, I have to say that I'm converted. I don't think I'll give up my clipless pedals for sandals and platforms, but I will concede that there are some special bicycles and Rivendell is certainly in that category. As far as descending, the AHH loves the downhill. Instead of holding on and trying not to die as on other bikes, riding the AHH downhill more like flying along hoping that there is another steeper hill ahead. Perhaps the only con is that this is not a lightweight bike. Mine weighs in at 24 pounds (without the huge seat-bag), but you wouldn't know it when you are pedaling. The way I see it, the added weight gives back in overall handling ten fold. I spent many many hours riding this week and couldn't be happier. My former skepticism is cured.


Dan S said...

nice bike!

stevep33 said...


jores said...

"... the added weight gives back in overall handling ten fold."

That is so true!!! So many people talk about this or that converted 80's lugged steel bike (with racks and fenders) as a "poor man's Rivendell." But how are you going to duplicate the handling? To me, that is what you're paying for.

Anonymous said...

How about an update to your AHH? I'm very close to buying an AHH as a rando/brevet bike and glad to hear that weight's not an issue. Thanks for the write-up and the pics.

Pelagodromo said...

I am in love with AHH, but the cost is so high! If parts get jacked or the bike itself, it would just kill me! How did you get past this? Has the bike been practical for you daily commute? Nervous about parking it outside pubs? What locks are you using?

Anonymous said...

Considering the hefty price, though, is it a good value?