As some may have gathered after the guest post recently from Sam, I have acquired another Rivendell bicycle. I intended to wait a bit longer to post any sort of opinions or thoughts about the bike, but because the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, I thought I'd write some initial thoughts and will follow up at a later time as things change, and as I have more time to ride the bike. Please keep in mind that these are just some thoughts after having the bike for a somewhat short period of time (a couple of months), and I'm sure they will change as more riding takes place.
To provide some sizing comparison info for the two bikes I'm riding:
Frame Size: 48cm
Stand Over: 74.9cm
Top Tube (effective): 54.5cm
A. Homer Hilsen
Frame size: 47cm
Stand Over: 73.5cm
Top Tube: 52cm
To obtain more info on sizes, geometry, etc, you can see Rivendell's size chart here. There's also a ton of information that can be read on the Rivendell website in regard to each frame, as well as numerous reviews to be found with a quick search of the web.
The Homer was built up first with randonneur bars (from Nitto). I have wanted to try these and thought it would be a good opportunity to give this a go. I took the bike on a few rides with this set up, and ultimately found (as I have in the past with new bicycles), that I, personally, cannot seem to get a good working set up with any kind of drop bar. I really like the "hook" portion of these bars, as it feels like a more natural hand position (to me), but inevitably, after 10-15 miles, I find my hands and wrists to be in severe pain. So, off came the rando bars, and on went my old standby: the albatross bar. A few rides later, I started to think that maybe I should try the randonneur bars again (maybe I hadn't given them a fair shake), so they were put back on, and then subsequently removed when I came to my senses. I have to admit, I definitely have "drop bar envy," and it's difficult when I desperately want to make this type of handlebar work for me. I keep trying, so perhaps one day I'll find the right set up.
In more arbitrary terms, I find the Hillborne to be a stable and solid bicycle, and while I wouldn't say that the Homer is not solid or is unstable, I have yet to find the right balance on this bike quite yet. If I look at the history of edits with the Hillborne though (of which there were many), I know it is likely just a matter of finding the right pieces to the puzzle to help this all come together. I have noted, however, that the Homer seems to ride a straighter line without steering. Meaning that if I were to take my hands off the handlebars on the Homer, it would pretty much steer itself straight ahead (assuming the road is level, of course), whereas the Hillborne, in my experience, requires a bit more handling to keep a straight line. Neither way is bothersome to me, but I've just found it interesting.
I am still trying to determine exactly how to set up the Homer so it functions in the best possible manner. Most of the parts were items sitting around, so they weren't specifically sought out for this frame, nor are they particularly exciting, but I will share them regardless. Currently, the bike is running with a Sugino XD2 crank (24/36/46), a 3x8 drive train (cassette is 11-32 teeth), Pari-Moto 650b x 38 tires (which, actually are kind of exciting, but I can share more on those later), an inexpensive wheel set picked up on e-Bay last year, and Shimano 8sp bar end shifters. The derailleurs are also nothing impressive - both are Shimano - the front is Sora, and the rear is an XT Deore. I have switched back and forth between the Brooks B-17 and the B-72 saddles a few times now, but I'm having difficulty finding one that works well. If I lower the handlebars, the B-17 works better, but with the stem raised higher, the B-72 is a closer fit (thought still not ideal).
I have yet to mention the looks of this bicycle, but it is in fact gorgeous. Perhaps I assume this goes without saying? People stop and stare, want to touch, ask if it's an old bike, and so on. If this bothers you, perhaps it's better to go in another direction - it's hard to keep people from touching it, frankly. In fact, I had it at farmer's market recently and it was definitely a topic of conversation (which included some caressing and touching of lugs/paint/handlebars/saddle/etc. I have made my peace with the idea that it's simply a bike that needs to be touched, and I understand that it's part of having a bike that's different from what most are riding.
Ultimately, this bike has already undergone a multitude of changes, and they will undoubtedly continue as I attempt to understand it better. I am happy to update about the Homer at a later time, as I'm sure some thoughts and opinons will change. Would I buy the Homer again? Yes, I believe I would, though I will be happy to have it settled into a more permanent state. If I had to choose between the A. Homer Hilsen and the Sam Hillborne, which would I pick? That may be a topic to tread upon lightly. I think I can more accurately state that if I were looking for a road bike to race with, I wouldn't choose either of these (but if you're looking at one of these, it likely isn't for road racing anyway), but if I were looking for an every day bike, a ride that can do distance and provide comfort, and/or a bicycle that works in many different set ups or variations, one of these two would definitely be on the list. Time will tell if one wins out over the other, but for now I am enjoying simply discovering the differences and similarities between the two.