Let’s not beat around the bush: The Riese & Muller Homage is an expensive bike even in its most basic version, and when you’re talking about a no-expense-spared build such as this – with ABS, a double battery and an Enviolo hub system – it’s the most expensive city bike I can think of. It’s really good, but unless seven grand is small change for you you’ll need a pretty compelling reason to buy one over excellent city bikes that cost less than half as much.
Let’s dive in to the frame design first - not many city bikes use a full suspension frame. The R&M single pivot frame is straightforward, and one big bearing is a lot easier to service than a linkage design. The bike is available in three sizes to suit riders from 1.65m up to 2m tall.
Normally I’m prone to moan a bit about suspension on city bikes - they tend to run cheap suspension forks at the front that they’d be better off without. On a city bike most of your weight is on your bum, not on your hands, so rear suspension – be that in the form of a suspension seatpost or a suspended frame like this – makes more sense. And the Homage is a very, very comfortable bike to ride. The suspension works pretty well, although the damping from the X-Fusion shock isn’t brilliant. R&M do offer an upgrade to a Fox rear shock if the bike isn’t expensive enough already. The Suntour Aion fork at the front, with its 34mm stanchions, is plush and stiff. Overall the suspension works as you'd hope it would, giving the bike a floaty-yet-assured feel.
The Homage I tested also has Bosch’s ABS system. There’s a sensor on both the front and the rear disc rotor that checks what’s going on with the brakes. The ABS system works on the front brake only, and is designed to stop you washing out the front wheel on loose surfaces, or going over the bars, so the front brake will release if the rear wheel lifts off the ground or the front wheel starts to skid.
It’s a hard system to test in anger. At Eurobike last year Bosch had a test track where you could brake hard on a gravel surface, and try to make the bike wash out. In those controlled conditions it’s easy to make the ABS kick in, and it works. On a bike that’s as heavy as the Homage, with a position that sets your weight quite low and far back, you’d have to be doing some serious front-end braking to be in any danger of going over the bars. But for the sake of completeness I tried, and couldn’t get the rear wheel off the ground at all. So if these things are a worry for you, the ABS is there to put your mind at rest. As if to prove that it’s still possible to fall off the Homage I did, slipping on some diesel while rolling round a corner. ABS can’t help you there!
It’s worth noting that all the extra kit on this bike, coupled with the fact that it’s a very solidly-built machine with dependable components, makes it a heavy unit overall at 30kg. This isn’t the bike for you if you’re especially light of frame, or mobility-impaired, or you have to heave your bike up a set of stairs every day to the office or the garage.
One thing people will say to you when you’re on your e-bike is: “Why didn’t you just buy a moped then?”... to which the answers are numerous. E-bikes are cheaper to run. They don’t require VED, or insurance. You can park them anywhere and ride them most places. But of all the e-bikes I’ve tried, the Homage is the one that actually feels most like a moped. It’s partly the position, partly the suspension and partly the level of tech you’re surrounded by. But it’s quite 'mopeddy', if that’s a word. Obviously you still need to pedal it though. The Bosch Performance line CX motor is powerful as always, and the Enviolo continuously variable hub is my favourite e-bike transmission. There are no gears, you just twist one way to go faster and the other to make it easier, and a planetary system within the hub, which I won’t attempt to explain, does the rest. It’s excellent, and the hub and the Gates CDX belt drive are as low-maintenance as a bike transmission can be.
R&M offer the Homage with the new Kiox display from Bosch. It’s a smaller colour screen with a bar remote, and it’s really nice. It’s Bluetooth enabled, so you can sync it to a heart rate monitor if you’re into tracking your fitness. Further down the line it should be possible to sync with your phone to use its GPS for route finding, but that functionality isn’t available yet. It’s a very neat display though, offering all that the Intuvia does (and more) in a more compact package, with colour. For the £94 upgrade it’s worth having.
The £839 DualBattery upgrade probably isn’t worth having, unless you’re off on some unusually long e-bike adventures or you’re using the bike for work all day. The Homage is a comfy bike to ride but the position is designed more for shorter trips rather than long ones, and it’s very unlikely you’ll need more range than the internal 500Wh battery will provide. The bike looks much neater without the second battery too. I found that the range was more or less on a par with other similar bikes. Because it’s heavy, and the Enviolo hub isn’t the most efficient, I was getting a maximum of eight commutes out the Homage, which would be halved with a single battery. Some 500Wh bikes manage five, but they tend to be the lighter ones, with derailleur gears. Four commutes for me is less than 40km, but it does include over 600m of climbing. On the flat, with a single battery, you could expect 60-70km from the Homage without being too frugal with the assistance. You’re not likely to need a bigger range than that for the kind of riding this bike is designed for.
The Homage is a practical bike. It has a built-in rack and full mudguards, excellent Supernova lights front and rear, and it’s capable of carrying a decent load in a pair of panniers. It ships with an Abus link lock with a built-in alarm, which sits at the front end of the pannier rack. It’s a pretty good lock for securing the bike around town, though you’ll want something more sturdy in your shed/garage for overnight use. It’s a great city companion.
Given that this build (even without the second battery) is the best part of six grand, you’re going to have to really, really want the ABS and the full suspension. You can buy an awful lot of city bike for half that outlay, and there are some really good ones out there in the £2,500-£3,000 price bracket. Even within R&M’s own range, the excellent Multicharger Vario and its more compact sibling the Multicharger are much better value in terms of what you need for fuss-free city riding. The Homage is a really nice bike to ride, but it doesn’t – for me – do enough to justify the price tag. If, though, you really need full suspension or ABS, or the price just isn’t much of a problem, it’s a very nice thing indeed.