Gallery: Mel’s Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen

Mel's AHH
Mel's AHH
Mel's AHH
Mel's AHH

[Mel sent us these photos of his Rivendell AHH. —ed.]

My Hilsen is really pretty normal. It is a 59cm Waterford frame. The bars are the Nitto Noodle with the Standard Technomic stem. I got interrupters because I had always admired them but never had them on my own bike. Brakes are Silvers with the SRAM S500 levers. Shifting is done with Dura-Ace 9-speed bar-cons. The crank is the standard Rivendell Sugino triple. There is a 9-speed SRAM cassette shifted with a Shimano Deore XT M771 rear derailer and a Campy triple front. I splurged on the wheels and bottom bracket. In the years I worked in a bike shop, I handled a few wheels and bottom brackets built with Phil Wood’s equipment. So for this bike, my first Rivendell, I got a Phil Wood “Rivy” front hub and the Phil Wood 135mm cassette hub for the rear. The rims are Velocity Synergy with the rear being the offset rim. I wanted the rotating components to be strong, long-lived, and relative maintenance free but also totally rebuildable. The tires are the Jack Brown Blue’s that Rivendell sells.

Mel's AHH

Everything else is a work in progress. I have a Nitto Mark’s rack on the front. A Nitto Top Rack is waiting for installation on the rear as soon as I get a few shorter M5 socket head screws. The kickstand is waiting for a short, socket head screw replacement so it can be mounted on the kickstand plate. I am currently using my older Brooks B17 Special. It really was the same color as the Brooks Honey handlebar tape when it was new! I have a new pair of the SKS P45 longboard fenders in brushed silver waiting along with a pair of fluted Velo Orange fenders I will have to decide on mounting. The seatpost is the Nitto Crystal Fellow. But I have to say that I am really looking hard at the new Paul seat post as an alternative somewhere down the line. I have entered into the quest for the perfect pedal. So far, these MKS touring pedals are running neck and neck with their Grip Kings – which are currently on my Litespeed.

Mel's AHH

What else can I say? Everything others have written is true. The bike is superb. Building it up, I often had to just stop, look, and run my hands over the work. It is truly an artisan bike. The lug work that Grant talks so much about is truly beautiful. The frame is straight, true, and relatively light. But even beyond the beauty and thoughtfulness that has gone into the design, the actual riding of the bike is wonderful. The miles I have logged on the Hilsen have been slower than on my Litespeed. But the comfort level has improved incredibly. The larger frame (I have always ridden 56cm frames) puts everything where my body tells me it should be. That means little if any lower back pains. It is amazing.


22 Responses to “Gallery: Mel’s Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen”

  • tim says:

    wow! thats a beautiful bike

  • John L. says:

    Congrats on a beautiful build, Mel.

  • Eric Owsley says:

    Can someone explain the headset and stem configuration in the photos above? Is it a threaded headset with spacers and a quill stem?

  • Arevee says:

    Very nice. I’ve got the hillborne, but your lugwork and cream accents make a difference. Also, the more level top tube and normal sized head tube give the bike a more traditional look the Hillborne with it’s expanded geometry. That aside, I agree that Rive makes a wonderful bike be it Hillborne or Hillsen.

  • Mel Hughes says:

    Eric, you are correct, that is a threaded headset with spacers and a quill stem. It allows for placement of the handlebars at or above the seat. This one is relatively short, 80 cm but has a total of almost 6 inches that can be safely placed above the the top lock nut. It allows for a more upright position in whatever degree you want.

    That may sound simplistic. But coming from a roadbike that was not designed for the handlebars to be anywhere near the seat level, I can tell you that duplicating this on a threadless stem and headset is pretty hard unless you can get the steerer tube before anyone cuts it! My “Frankenstien” Litespeed is proof.

  • Mel Hughes says:

    Arevee, it took me a long time to finally decide between the Hillborne and the Hilsen. Krishna’s double top tube Hillborne was exactly the frame I was considering. The name of the bike, “Sam” Hillborne was even swaying me. It is my son’s name. In truth, either frame would have more than suited my purposes. Even Keven, Mark, and Rich at Rivendell were quick to point this out. I think the final deciding factor was that our tax return was larger than expected. My wife generously let me buy my dream bike.

  • Garth Liebhaber says:

    Very nice! I like how those SRAM levers splay outward. That would make the Noodle bars perfect!

    I once had a bike with a threadless headset. Never again! To me, it still makes no sense economically. To have to buy a whole new stem just to TRY to raise or lower the bar is crazy.

  • EcoVelo » Blog Archive » Gallery: Alan’s Civia Bryant Belt Alfine says:

    […] Garth Liebhaber in Gallery: Mel’s Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen: "Very nice! I like how those SRAM levers splay…" […]

  • Mel Hughes says:

    My experience with both threaded and threadless systems is that change does not come cheaply. There are many levels of stems in both the threaded and threadless variety. In my search for a good, comfortable riding position on my previous bike, I spent much more than I wanted to looking for a good combination of height and length. The “Fit Kit” fitting still had the handlebar an inch or more lower than my seat. The steering tube had been cut to accomodate this type of fitting so adding spacers was out of the question. I have quite a collection of different length, different angle threadless stems. What I will finally have to do to get the threadless bike’s handlebars tall enough with the correct extention is to buy another fork and use quite a few spacers, then search through my collection of stems to see what will work for me.

    For me, the economy of fit is best served by a frame that is most suitable to me and the style of riding I do, as well as the comfort level of the fit. This Hilsen frame fits me well enought that using the shorter of the Nitto stems gives me an incredible amount of variety in height while maintaining a very good, comfortable reach throughout that range. For me to have that ability with a threadless stem would have cost at least as much as one Nitto threaded stem – probably the lugged one…

  • Mike says:

    As someone who’s not afraid to admit they have a bag fetish, what bag is that you have on back?

  • Mel Hughes says:

    Hey Mike! My name is Mel and I too have a bag fetish! That bag is the previous model of Acorn’s Medium/Large Bag. They have since added two neat side pockets to it. They look as though they have very easy entry and are just about the right size for a cell phone or regular sized smart phone. I also have one of their Medium bags as well. Both are beautifully made. Obtaining them can be a little difficult as they are made in small lots by a husband and wife team and only offered up as they are made. But if you really want one, you can watch their twitters and they will post what is available and when.

  • Doug S says:

    Hi Mel, Beautiful. I’m just now getting a similar set up on the road and getting it adjusted to me. It’s fun to see how others are fitting the bikes out. Mine is also sporting an Acorn bag, pricey but a great size and layout. Not sure what to do up front as the interruptors don’t allow for a bar bag.

  • David Bolles says:

    This bike is awesome. I was in a LBS the other day. I saw some sort of Riv that had been or was waiting for a tune up. It. Was.Incredible. Looking!
    I thought “So, they are real!” and left it at that. So nice.
    Great build on this bike, right up my alley.

  • Eric Owsley says:

    Thank you, Mel, for clarification on the headset and stem. I had not encountered a threaded headset with spacers. I like that concept. I always learn something new on EcoVelo. Thanks, all.

  • Mel Hughes says:

    I really am impressed with the build and function of the Acorn bags. My only regret in retrospect is going with black. I think it is much easier to find things in a lighter colored bag. But then, the black doesn’t show dirt as easily as the tan…

    I keep looking at the small Sackville TrunkSack as a good match to the Mark’s Rack. It is also a bit pricey but it might be just about perfect for carrying overflow from a seat bag. The Nigel Symthe Li’l Loafer is a bit more pricey but comes in tweed. I think I like the more utilitarian TrunkSack. I also am intruiged by the Sackville SlickerSack used in combination with the Nitto Platrack combined with the Mark’s rack. My only reservation is that by the time you have gone with the Mark’s rack and the Platrack, you are close to the price of a Pass & Stow rack… Granted there may be more versatility with the combination but then again that Pass & Stow in chrome looks pretty incredible. I guess it all depends on what you have to carry or dream you might want to carry.

  • Mel Hughes says:

    I was keenly aware of Bridgestones in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was also aware that Grant Petersen had started his own company after Bridgestone pulled out of the US market. But somewhere in between job changes and raising my son, I lost touch with current events in bicycling. I knew vaguely about Rivendell but it wasn’t until last year when I stumbled across an article Alan wrote here, comparing his Sam Hillborne to his Surly LHT, that I began to study them. My initial reaction was much the same as your, “They really do exisit.” The more I read, the more I became convinced that the philosophy behind the design and purpose was exactly what had been seeking. It took a lot more convincing and hand wringing, and good solid testimonials from people who owned and road Rivendells (including Alan,) before I made the leap and ordered one. Tomorrow, I will have had the bike for two weeks. I have not been disappointed.

  • David Bolles says:

    That is so funny! I’ve only seen the Riv’s on line, you know. So I mean, are they really real?!?!?!?! :)
    Trouble is now I MUST have those SRAM levers!!!!! My wallet says “I don’t think so!”
    Honestly, there is nothing on this build that I don’t like. I love blue on bikes, love Brooks, etc. Hope it provides years of joy!

  • Mel Hughes says:

    I frequently see the SRAM S500 offered for $60 or so on-line. I had originally planned for the silver aluminum levers. But as my bike was going through the final build at Rivendell, the black levers were the only ones available. I was very pleased with them.

    I have to agree with Garth about the splay of the levers. I have been riding a bike with Ultegra 6700 brifters which are very similar. I find the splay to be very comfortable.

  • Micheal Blue says:

    Nice bike in my favourite colour. Great photos, especially the last one with the horse in the BG – brilliant. Alan keeps on posting pictures of nice, relatively expensive bikes. How about the not-so-expensive bikes that (probably) the majority of commuters have? How about the average Treks, Giants, Specialized? Well, I can understand that they may not have the visual appeal of the more expensive bikes…

  • Alan says:


    We post every bike that is submitted to the Gallery as long as the images meet the technical requirements for size and resolution; price, quality, etc. have no bearing at all as long as the bike is being used for transportation (not racing). You can blame the nice bikes on our readers and their good taste… ;-)


  • Scot says:

    That is such a nice bike. I actually ordered one 2 weeks ago, Same size but different build. I could not go as nice on the wheels because I was already pushing my spending sanity.
    I think Rivendell needs to put some high res pictures on their site because what they post does not do their work justice at all.
    I too was torn between the Sam and the Hilsen and when I called I actually had intentions of ordering a Sam. When Keven told me all they had coming in were double top tube Sams I talked myself into the Hilsen. I also got the Marks rack for the front and I ordered a Tubus logo for the rear. In time I am going to have Peter White build a Schmidt dyno wheel but for now it will have LX/synergy wheels. Also got the longboard fenders but I am having second thoughts about those. I may want to leave the fenders off since I have a Surly LHT with fenders and that may become my bad weather bike. I still love my Surly.
    They had to order my frame from Waterford and it is going to take 8 weeks to build. I am 2 weeks in and going nuts. I want my bike!!. LOL Sorry to ramble all over your page. I guess I could have covered it with a simple, “nice bike”. Ride on!

  • Mel Hughes says:

    It is that “in-between” time that is most dangerous, waiting and trying to picture in your mind what the bike will actually be. I had spec’d out XT hubs originally but convinced myself in the interim that since this was probably the last bike I would be buying for a while, that I really wanted (not needed) the Phil hubs. Keven at Rivendell made a point of telling me that, while the Phil’s were indeed lovely, the XT’s were also great and long-lived. I think he has dealt with the waiter’s insanity before. By the time my frame arrived at Rivendell from Waterford, I think we had gone through three of four revisions of the invoice, adding small (?) things.

    As for the photos, I stumbled upon Alan’s photos of his Sam Hillborne here and was really mesmerized. I then spent hours on Flickr looking at the EcoVelo and Rivendell group pages. A lot of folks had really good, detailed photos of their bikes. I am still considering a Pass & Stow rack for the front. I like my fairly large saddle bag without a rear rack. And I too, and wondering about fenders, especially during the summer. I have a pair of fluted Velo Orange metal fenders I bought on sale as well as the SKS Longboards. But I may hold off on either and see how my bike commuting/riding goes before committing to either. I could always cobble a set of fenders together for my “beater” Frankenstein/Litespeed for inclimate weather!

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