Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hunqapillar is ...

It's a strange name, for sure. According to Grant Petersen at Rivendell, it's a name he saw on a mailbox many years ago, perhaps spelled a little different, but memorable enough ... and he thought it was a good name for this bike, a Woolly Mammoth bike, as it is aptly described on the decals and depicted on the headbadge.

But what is a Woolly Mammoth bike and what makes it special?

Well, besides the fact that it has a funky name and a cool headbadge, here are some personality features that might help to explain it's "specialness":

  1. It goes anywhere. Really. Anywhere. It's just as happy and comfortable on a smooth paved surface as on a rough, bumpy trail. I was mildly skeptical, but now that I've had it out for several rides in different places, I totally get it. While it's a sweet ride on the road like a great bike should be, it somehow comes alive on the dirt and gravel, still remaining stable and smooth. I suppose the Mammoth would have the same sort of behavior. Smooth flat surface? Okay, let's go. Rough terrain, rocks, dirt? Sure ... sounds like fun!
  2. It carries lots of stuff. I love that there are brazed-on attachment points all over this frame. Almost any kind of front or rear rack or other carrying hardware can be installed, making it a truly great exploring bike. The small rack up front currently holds a tiny trunk bag for my "personals" (cell phone, keys, wallet, garage door opener, paper and pen for inspirational moments). It could just as easily be a full-size rack intended for the rear, since there are mounting points on the top of the fork crown in addition to the center mounting hole. It could also have low-rider rails for front panniers. The rear mounting options are just as versatile for any kind of rack system. I have a larger bag in back that carries my repair kit, camera stuff, and whatever else I might decide to take with me. There are no worries of supporting the weight of any riding load. Rivendell describes the frame as "stout", which sometimes brings the image of a portly dude drinking a dark beer to mind, but this isn't that kind of stout. It's more like "extra-strong and rugged without an ounce of fat". The funny thing I noticed is that the bike rides pretty much the same whether the bags are full or empty. No weird or squirrelly handling and no noticeable flex in the frame.
  3. It's geometrically awesome! In other words, it's incredibly comfortable, without ever being sluggish, and has none of that "watch out when you turn slowly or the front tire will eat your foot" toe overlap thing. In the past, I've always ended up feeling like I have to keep pushing myself back on the saddle, and after a long-ish ride, my hands and neck would get stiff. The design of this bike has a more relaxed seat tube angle, which places the center of gravity further back. Cool! What that means is that when I pedal, the force is more forward and down, as opposed to down and backward on a bike with a steeper seat tube/more forward center of gravity. That shift in force keeps me in place on the saddle, rather than pulling me forward away from it. It also seems to give me a larger percentage of the pedal stroke where I'm applying full power. I can't back that up with science, but I can feel it in the physical action. The other benefit is that since the pedaling force is now more balanced, keeping me back in the saddle, there is less forward force (meaning weight) through my arms and hands onto the handlebars. On a bike with a steeper seat tube, the balance and pedal force pushing forward places more weight on my hands in order to maintain balance. Even though I'm technically reaching about 6cm further forward than on my other bikes, there's a LOT less weight on my hands, and the long-ish rides (and the LONG ones, too) are much more comfortable.  It is a pure joy to ride a bike that is so well balanced.
  4. It's smooth and stable. This is mostly due to its geometric awesomeness (see #3 above), which includes long chainstays, and a proper fork angle and rake, which give it the right amount of trail. Yes, I know ... more technical bike jargon. Basically, as mentioned earlier, the bike is just well-balanced. Whether I'm riding slow on tight uphill turns, coasting down a steep hill, riding fast on a smooth road, or kickin' it on a gravel and dirt trail, it just rides smooth. I've yet to notice any squirming, no matter the conditions, whether I'm riding with a full load or empty. I don't have to grip the bars tight and push. I just gently guide them in the direction I want to go. It's so stable that I can ride it no-handed with full bags. I've never, EVER, been able to ride for any length of time with no hands on the bars, loaded bike or not ... until I rode this one. That says something big to me. And that something is not "Hey, dude, your bike skills suck."  No ... it says this bike is designed right and rides stable.
  5. It's stunningly beautiful. You'd have to see it in person to really understand. For some reason, the photos don't truly capture the look. So just trust me on this ... it's gorgeous. It's like classic roadster, 87 layers of deep rich paint, lustrous satin silver hardware, hand-finished-and-polished ... it's that sort of quality in the appearance.
  6. It's funky. In a very good way. Not like dirty greasy funky, or strange and weird funky. It's unique and different funky. As I was riding the other day, I stopped to look at the ocean for a minute, and as I started to ride away, a man actually ran across the street to ask about the bike. He'd never seen anything like it before, but said it was almost exactly what he pictured in his mind as the kind of bike he wished he could find. Even though he's reasonably happy with the Trek and Jamis bikes he owns, he wanted something that wasn't a road bike, or a mountain bike, or a city bike ... but something that was maybe the good parts of all of them, with something "more" added in. A good way to describe it. I just like to say it's funky. Funky is good.
  7. It's fun! I've never enjoyed riding a bike as much as this one. Well, maybe that red Schwinn Sting-Ray with the 3-speed stick shift I had when I was a kid ... the one that got handed down to me from my older brother. But that's completely different ... or maybe not. I suppose it's much the same, actually. I used to love riding that Sting-Ray. I rode it everywhere and tried to do everything I had the courage to do on a bike. I have that same sort of feeling with the Hunqapillar. I want to ride it in places I've never been, just to see what happens. I'm no thrill-seeker, mind you, and I avoid danger whenever possible. But there are trails to ride here ... and hills to climb ... and this bike makes me want to go find them.
One last note ... if you have to ask whether the Hunqapillar is fast, or need to know how much it weighs, you should leave this blog immediately and go to to read about the latest crabon fibre (thanks BikeSnobNYC for the proper spelling) race bike. Seriously ... go now. The Hunqapillar is not about being fast, and it's not about being the lightest bike on the market. It's about going anywhere and everywhere, being able to take the stuff with you that you'll need when you get there, and being supremely comfortable and fun in the process. It goes much faster than I'll ever need to ... but is happy to move at whatever speed the situation calls for. It's certainly not a "lightweight", but it's not what I'd call "heavy", either. Even with the racks and bags, it's surprisingly liftable (is that a word?). I just think of it this way ... it's fast enough and light enough for whatever I could ever need to do with it, and doesn't feel like I could break it by doing any of those things I could ever need to do.

Rear bag full of camera stuff, tool roll in bottle cage
Front bag with "personals"
Stunningly beautiful and functional butt perch (Brooks B17 Select)
View from the driver's seat, including the driver's seat

And here's a video shot by the Rivendell crew that reflects the fun nature of what the Hunqapillar is all about:

If my information is correct, that video was shot by Jay Ritchey, who also did the riding in the video, and who ALSO did the assembly work on my Hunqapillar. Sadly, Jay is leaving (or has already left) Rivendell ... I think the Blug post said it's for a nice lady in Arizona ... but I'm glad he was the one to build up my bike. Nice little touches he added ... to be elaborated on in the future.

So ... to sum it all up, it's fun, it's funky ... it's Hunqapillar! Perhaps we should modify the name just a little more from that mailbox Mr. Petersen saw all those years ago.  How about this ...

Plus FUN

More to come ... thanks for reading!


  1. Tx! Very good review but now I have a problem, I want one, badly......

  2. Thanks for reading, David! I know exactly how you feel. When I saw and read about the Hunqapillar, it seemed to be calling me ... rather loudly.

    It took over a year to save up for mine, and then another two months after I ordered. Seemed like forever while admiring the photos from other Rivendell owners ... but it was definitely worth the wait, and worth giving up some other things to save for it.

    Hope one comes your way soon!

  3. For those of us who would love a Hunqapillar but will never be able to afford one, Velo-Orange is bringing out a very similar bike in May. It's called the Camargue and it's an expedition touring bike (exactly what the Hunq is) that was designed around 2.1" tires. It's very similar in it's geometry but less than 1/4 the price. A great alternative for those of us who lust after the Hunqapillar.