Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Blast from the Past: A Former Rivendell Returns

I've been stating for some time now that I was going to share more about the newest addition to the bike fold. It's taken a bit longer than I thought to actually get to it, but here we are and I am able to finally deliver as promised.

My first Rivendell was the Sam Hillborne (that has remained in the fold since day one), but it was not the only Riv to come into our house. It was followed a couple of years later by Rivendell's A Homer Hilsen. I felt a little silly having both of these bikes, but they really did serve different purposes. When they were both in our home originally, the Hillborne was loaded up with racks and bags and was providing more of a city bike/grocery-fetching functionality, while the Hilsen was my road bike, stripped down to barest essentials. I went through a few rounds with set up switching between drop handlebars and more upright bars, but the Hilsen's functionality remained the same while it was with me.

Unfortunately, we ran into some unexpected expenses when Sam ended up in the emergency room, and we had some bills to cover associated with that visit. In order to help with paying some of those costs, I made the decision to sell the A Homer Hilsen. At the time, I thought I was okay with the choice, but soon after the loss started to set in. It wasn't that I minded selling a bike to cover the bills, but it kind of set me off on a strange course of trying to find the perfect (at least for me) long distance road-ish bike again.

Ultimately, I was able to find a great replacement for the Hilsen in the Box Dog Bikes Pelican. As you may recall, one of the reasons I didn't get an A Homer Hilsen when obtaining the Pelican was price. I just couldn't bring myself to pay today's prices and even though I'd been looking for years trying to find a second-hand Hilsen in the proper size, it just never materialized. I had accepted that it just wasn't meant to be in my life and went about using the Pelican as a much-enjoyed replacement.

Then, one day early this year, I received one of Rivendell's mass emails. While reading the email I ended up back at Riv's website on their special's page and discovered there an unpainted NOS Rivendell A Homer Hilsen/Saluki. My insides started to jump. Could it be? Sitting here in front of my eyes was the right-sized past bicycle I'd let go -- and for almost exactly the price I'd paid several years prior. It was as though someone was playing an April Fool's joke on me in January. A New Year's joke, perhaps?

A brief discussion was had, but I knew Sam was aware of how much I would love to have this particular bike back in my life, so there really wasn't much to talk about. I wasn't entirely sure at the time how it would fit into the current bikes, but I knew that I had to get the frame and I could worry about set up and function/purpose later.

The frame was listed as a Saluki frame, but it was my understanding that the Salukis and A Homer Hilsens were virtually the same, and for the size I need, I don't think there were any differences as far as geometry is concerned.

The best part was that I would be able to pick the paint color and I was told I could choose between A Homer Hilsen and Saluki decals for the frame (which just reaffirmed my belief that these were very, very similar). While I was excited about choosing a paint color, I also know that I have a horrible time picking paint for projects, but I also didn't want to waste the opportunity to be able to pick a color different from the standard either. Decisions, decisions.

I opted to go with the Saluki stickers, though I didn't really have a reason for the choice. Perhaps, at least in some small part, it's because I have a great love of dogs, but truly I would have been okay with either set of decals.

It took longer than expected for the frame to get painted. It was supposed to be a couple of weeks as was originally quoted, but ended up taking about four times longer than my overly-excited mind was ready to wait. Then, one day I received an email that stated, "Here is your frame..."
One of the photos received from Rivendell to let me know the frame was ready to ship.
Leaving the color technicalities to the folks at Rivendell had me wondering what would ultimately end up coming to me, but I was happy to see that it was pretty and bright - though not obnoxious - just as I'd hoped. I couldn't wait for the frame to get into my hands!

As I waited for the frame's arrival, I started debating what to do with the build. We had nearly every part needed to build up the bike, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to make it more road-focused or built ready to handle daily needs around town.

Since my hands have been struggling over the last few years, I decided to stick with the Albatross handlebars (as these work well for me), but thought that I'd turn them right-side-up to make it a little different set up than the current build of the Hillborne.
The Saluki was ridden this way for several weeks as I attempted to ascertain whether the set up would work for me or not. I was enjoying the set up, but it felt a little too upright. Even as someone who likes to sit up a bit, it was feeling a little too cruiser-bike-like for my preferences. I continued to ride though, hoping that I'd adjust to this set up. We even dropped the stem low, hoping that this would be enough to help me find the comfort I was seeking on the bike.
Eventually, I knew that I needed to change the handlebar set up, so we made a small switch, turning the bars upside down to match the set up of the Hillborne and added bar tape instead of the cork grips.

Even with the change to the handlebars, there still seemed to be need to keep tweaking things mildly, and I'm sure that will continue for a time until the right combination comes together. I do have other handlebar options as well, such as the butterfly/trekking bars like those on the VO Campeur, a set of Nitto drop bars, as well as a couple of other possibilities.
What has been interesting is to compare my memories of the A Homer Hilsen with the latest arrival. It can be easy to build something up from the past and give it qualities that it didn't necessarily possess, but I have found this bike to be all that I remember.

Since the set up is slightly different than the former version, I am finding a necessary adjustment period, but the bike itself rides as smoothly as I'd recalled. It is also a bit amusing that, just as with my first round with this bicycle, I am almost unsure of what to make of the appropriately sized top tube. Having grown used to being more stretched on the Hillborne, it is as though I expect a bike to have more reach. The remedy in the past was to use drop bars, which seemed to help cure the mild feelings of smallness, but I don't know if I'll go that route this time or not.

After riding the Saluki for a handful of months, I can say that I'm happy to have it back in my life, though I still don't quite know what its exact purpose is in the fold. Oh, I use it for errands and transportation, and I've taken it on a couple of rides just for the fun of it, but having filled the road bike slot with the Pelican, and having an appropriate option for getting groceries and other needs with the Campeur, and the somewhere-in-the-middle bike slot being filled by the Hillborne, it's almost as though I'm not quite sure where the Saluki fits in - and it's an odd sensation, as I expected it would immediately find a purpose.
In some sense, I suppose the bike can hold the position of fill-in for whichever option may be in need of repairs or maintenance at a given time. It's never a bad option to have a back-up, I think.

With all of my uncertainty surrounding a specific purpose for this bike though, it may seem strange that I was anxious to get the Saluki back. Certainly, I would have lived without having it, but there's a part of me that was hoping to recapture a bit of the past; a past that had me pedaling at my best. Although I realize it's not exactly possible to go back, there is a quality I've always appreciated about this bike that I can't quite put my finger on when pressed for specifics. It's an intangible, but it's there. While none of the photos seem to do it justice, I must say that the Saluki is a beautiful thing to behold, which doesn't hurt my feelings either.

Ultimately, it has been fun to re-welcome this blast from the past, and I hope to have many enjoyable rides as we move forward together. I don't know where the road will take us, but I look forward to figuring it out as we go.


  1. That bike is gorgeous. I love red bikes anyway, but this one blows me away! It does seem like its current set-up makes it very similar in function to the Sam, but there's nothing wrong with that if it makes you happy. Maybe it'll be the bike you pull out "just because."

    1. You are very correct, Kendra. It is nearly a duplicate of the Hillborne with very small differences. I don't know if it will stay set up this way or not, but I think my indecision on what this bike will be is what has tripped me up along the way. I'm sure it will work itself out though (hopefully).

      I love red bikes too. It's been quite awhile since I've owned one, but there's something about them that just gets me. For awhile, I swore off red bikes entirely because I was convinced that any time I rode one, I was going to get a flat tire (because it happened just one too many times), so that's probably what kept me away for so long. :)

  2. Wow - that is a beautiful bike! The cream tyres really set off the lovely red.


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