Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Elusive Chain Guard

There isn't a feature on a Bike For The Rest Of Us more essential and elusive than the chain guard. 

Why elusive, you ask? 

Just walk into your local bike shop and count the number of bikes with chain guards. Yes, plenty of kids bikes have them, but they seem to vanish when you get to wheel sizes over 12 inches. And if you do happen to have a chain guard sighting it will probably be a partial coverage one that just covers the top half of the chain.

Torker T-300 Partial Chain Guard

On some new bikes the chain guards are so tiny that you'll probably miss them at first glance. These 1-inch strips of metal are very much the thong of the chain guard world providing only the minimal amount of coverage and not obscuring the circular lines of the front sprocket and chain.

Electra Tincino's Low Profile Approach

Now there's no question in my mind that chain guards are essential. They keep your pants clean and remove another barrier from just hopping on your bike and riding. OK, so there are other solutions that people have suggested like cuff rolling, pants strapping and knicker wearing. But a BFROU is about using your bike for transportation. You wouldn't think about special clothing modifications for driving your car, so why should your bike be any different?

Chain guards have other functions like keeping the lube on your chain and the dirt off of it. If you're really lucky you'll find a bike with a chain case. Chain cases enclose the chain on both sides and keep the weather out, extending the life of the drivetrain. Dutch bikes are commonly equipped with chain cases because, like our beloved cars in the US, are made to sit out in the weather for many years without frequent maintenance.

Mighty Batavus Chaincase
Chain guards and chain cases are not without their drawbacks. They add an extra step to removing your rear wheel. Access to your chain for inspection, cleaning and lubrication will be hampered as well. At one time chain guards were fashionable and made to enhance the appearance of the bike; however, now the bare lines of the chain are the desirable visual cue thanks to the dominance of fixie and track bikes.

I'll mention that if you want to add a chain guard to your existing bike they're hard to find and can be a challenge to retrofit. They range from the very functional and plastic
(SKS) to the handcrafted and unique (Velo-Orange). Soma even has a modular one that they say works with front derailleurs. With the resurgence of internally-geared transportation bikes we hope to see more chain guards and more BFROU along with them.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Peugeot Mixte from Velo Cult

Velo Cult is a shop in San Diego that restores vintage lugged steel bikes. The Peugeot pictured above was stripped and powder coated and accessorized with an embossed Brooks saddle, Honjo fenders, Velo Orange racks and cork grips. "This is the ultimate vintage Mixte." And I'm guessing that the price is a bit steep (you can find out how much by emailing them at -- which is just more proof that used lugged steel bikes retain their value.

By the way, Peugeot still makes mixtes -- using lightweight aluminum -- and sells them in Europe. It comes with a chainguard, rear rack, fenders, and lights.

The specs for this new Peugeot can be found here.

Given a choice, which Peugeot mixte would you want to own?

UPDATE: Bike Club of Falls Church, Va also has a vintage Peugeot Mixte for sale:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Electra Ticino

The Electra Ticino 8-speed (latte), expected to sell for around $800. According to Chris at Electra, the latte 8-speeds will start arriving at Electra's east coast warehouse on November 20, and the denim 8-speeds (see below) are due in on December 11. Expect to see these in bike shops this spring.

Electra knows how to produce practical bikes with classic style, as they proved when they put out the Dutch-inspired Amsterdam models. The Ticino 8-speed has hammered alloy fenders and bar-end brake levers. The 20-speed chestnut-colored Ticino (see below, second to last pic) looks beautiful as pictured with a front rack. The price range is $500 for a singlespeed to $2,000 for a 20 speed.

The 8-speed frame is made from butted alloy, has a Shimano 2300 derailer with a 12-26T cassette, and Shimano rapidfire shifters. The men's bikes have Tektro canti brakes; the ladies' bikes have DiaCompe centerpull brakes. You can find more specs at the Electra website or on Bike Rumor.

The Ticino line is just coming out now, but already there is plenty of commentary on the web:

Bicycle Times: Mini-review of the Ticino 18-spd.

Urban Velo: On the Ticino singlespeed.

Bike Rumor: Pictures and specs. (wait, I thought that was our thing?) Ticino preview.

Tree Hugger: Sexy bike alert.

Electra allowed me to download pics of all the Ticino models, so why not share? Here they are, for your viewing pleasure.

8D (plum) ladies

8D (denim) mens

7D (oyster) ladies

8D (wintermint) ladies

Singlespeed (pearl white) mens

Singlespeed (nimbus grey) mens

7D (portobello) mens

20D (pearl rose) ladies

18D (creme fraiche) ladies

16D (pearl white) ladies

20D (chestnut) mens

16D (putty) mens

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

IRO Phoenix

Iro Cycle, which assembles single-speeds and fixed gears from its shop in Middleburg, Pennsylvania, has come out with the Phoenix, a relaxed geometry steel frame that is available as a three speed for $650 plus extras as they build it up for you. The frame includes mounts for two bottle cages and rack and fender mounts. It accepts 700 x 38cc tires, or 32c with fenders.

Here's hoping that IRO will restore its build-a-bike application on its website so customers can play around with the design before placing an order.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Another Point of View

Many of the latest city bikes (and bikes we have focused on here) feature internal gear hubs and chainguards or chaincases. This makes it easy to hop on and ride no matter what you're wearing. However, the blogger at Planetary Gears (a Minneapolis bike shop owner) offers his view that these types of bikes are not necessarily the best option for the practical cyclist. Check it out.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Jenny and Willy Schwinn

I know this sounds like ad-copy, but really? What's not to love here.

Jenny and Willy look like a winning pair. So much fun, and PRACTICAL: fenders, chaingaurds, racks, easy. Enough gears, but not too many. MSRP $399. Just like your old Schwinn, but new.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Worksman Industrial Newsboy

Worksman Cycles touts its Newsboy as "the most popular industrial bicycle in North America." It's currently on sale for $339, but that price does not include the baskets and other options. H/T to Tom for bringing Worksman Cycles to our attention.

Worksman declares that "these Bikes are not toys... these are authentic Worksman Industrial Bicycles. Remember, choose Worksman because you want the best industrial bicycles on earth, with components that are more heavy duty than any other bicycles. Also, all Worksman Industrial Bicycles are proudly made in the USA."

The Newsboy is offered in a variety of colors and certain upgrades are available at extra cost. For example, steel rims are standard, but you can upgrade to alloy. A front brake is not standard, but you can add front drum brakes for $70 (a very good idea). The 24" handlebar is standard, but you can choose riser bars. You can get it as a single speed or, for an additional $90, as a 3 speed. The standard fenders are chrome, but for additional cost you can have them painted. Finally, the front baskets and dual rear saddle baskets cost extra. When you put it all together, the bike will cost a good bit more than $339. However, you will have a very useful bike.

Worksman makes an eclectic collection of models including pennyfarthing highwheelers, folding bikes and trikes, and what I can only describe as trikes for the rest of us.

They also make an "urban commuter cruiser" as pictured below.

These come with front drum brakes and thicker than standard chains. Worksman says the frames are built with "heavy gauge steel." It's great to hear a bicycle manufacturer brag about that! They are shipped "mostly assembled." Worksman calls its urban commuter "a bike that will last a lifetime and offer a lifetime of function and pleasure."

And, yes, they are made in the USA.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Paul Frank Vintage Style City Bike

On this blog, we encourage bikes shops to sell “regular bikes to regular people.” And we encourage regular people to buy their bikes from their good ole local bike shop. If you live in or around D.C., you will find a handy list of local bike shops in the metro area in the lower right column. For reasons that David previously discussed here, we believe that local bike shops offer superior quality and service to “big box” stores.

With that cautionary preface, let me introduce you to the Paul Frank City Bike, available at Target and for $510. It is made by Nirve, which puts out a number of models under other brand names, such as Paul Frank and John Deere.

This 3-speed cruiser has the basics of an everyday ride: lightweight fenders, lugged frame, and a rear rack. It would be a good idea to add a front brake for city riding. The Paul Frank City bike is sufficiently attractive that it could cause you to do a double-take when strolling down the aisles of your local Target.


3820 Paul Frank City Bike

Vintage style City Bike, Black

· 19'' Frame - 700C Wheels
· Shimano Nexus 3 Speed with twist shifter
· Coaster brake
· Hand Made Lugged frame
· Upright city handlebars
· Aluminum 3pc crank
· Aluminum wheels
· Leather like double spring saddle
· lightweight fender set
· Welded cartridge Kickstand
· Polished aluminum rear rack

MSRP - $510.00

#3822 Paul Frank City Bike

Vintage style City Bike, Sky Blue
· 17'' Frame - 700C Wheels
· Shimano Nexus 3 Speed with twist shifter
· Hand Made Lugged frame
· Upright city handlebars
· Aluminum 3pc crank
· Aluminum wheels
· Leather like double spring saddle
· lightweight fender set
· Welded cartridge Kickstand
· Polished aluminum rear rack
(May come equipped w/either a foot operated rear coaster brake or hand operated roller brake)

MSRP - $510.00

UPDATE: Nirve is discontinuing these models when the current stock runs out, which is expected to happen by the end of 2009. At that point, Nirve will assist interested customers in contacting any area bike shops that may have the bikes.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bowery Lane Broncks Black

The Broncks Black from Bowery Lane Bicycles is available through their website for $595.

Bowery Lane Bicycles, founded in 2008, is a family-owned operation in New York City that produces handmade "vintage-inspired" cruisers. According to their website, Bowery "is committed to making affordable bikes that meet the actual day-to-day needs of the urban cyclist. We actively support urban cycle advocacy and the goal of reclaiming city streets for safe sustainable transportation." In the D.C. area, Bowery Lane bicycles "can be seen" at Farinelli's (a clothing store) at 2839 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington, Virginia. H/T to the anonymous commenter who brought Bowery Lane Bicycles to our attention.

The Broncks Black, which Bowery calls the "quintessential city bike," features a chain guard, fenders, kick stand, rear rack, and "a locally hand crafted wooden crate that can easily carry a briefcase, grocery tote (or 2 six-packs of your favorite local brew... ours is Brooklyn Lager)." The crate is definitely a nice touch.

A few specs:

Frame: Steel (grade not specified), 21" size

Wheels: 26" aluminum bolt-on (Bowery touts the bolt-on wheels as "theft-resistant." True, but you'll need to carry a socket wrench with you for changing flat tires).

Brakes: Rear coaster only. (I recommend adding a front hand brake for city riding).

Saddle: Dual springs, leather.

Handlebars: Swept back with long stem. Cork grips.

Weight: 29 lbs.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Trek Belleville

This beautiful blue 3-speed (also offered as a mixte) is a nice surprise from Trek, to be sold for $660. Hat tip to Darin K. for bringing this to our attention.

According to Trek, "the Belleville is the perfect choice for anybody looking for an Eco-smart bike with cargo capacity. Belleville comes completely equipped with front and rear racks, generator lights, and fenders to help you get the job done." Sounds like a BFROU!

The internet buzz is growing:

Cycling News: Commuter specials from Trek

Bike Hugger: Trek's Unexpected Mixte

Bike Hugger youtube video

Eco Velo: Trek Belleville

Here are the specs:

Sizes 46, 51, 55, 59, 64cm
Frame Cro-Moly steel, city design
Fork High tensile steel w/rack mounts

Wheels Shimano Nexus 3-speed rear hub, dyno front hub; alloy 36-hole rims
Tires Bontrager H2 Eco Design, 700x35c

Shifters Shimano Nexus, 3 speed
Crank Alloy 3 piece, steel 44T chain ring
Cassette 19T cog
Pedals Steel city

Saddle Bontrager Nebula Eco Design
Seat Post Steel
Handlebars Steel, city design
Stem Steel, integrated
Headset Aheadset w/semi-cartridge bearings, sealed
Brakeset Tektro alloy caliper

Extras Matched fenders; chainguard; front and rear racks

If you've seen or ridden on one of these in real life, please leave a comment about your impression.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Specialized Globe

Is Specialized getting serious about bikes for the rest of us?

In an interesting development in the bike industry, Specialized has put all of its BFROU models into a "stand alone brand" called Globe. According to Specialized, Globe is part of the "dream of a world where bikes are the majority - where cars come with labels that say 'Use Sparingly'."

Not long ago, the Specialized Globe was the name of a single model - a basic hybrid offered to fill all the needs of the everyday cyclist. But now, rather than a Globe model, there's the Globe brand, which includes:

The Vienna series, which seems to have been scaled back from the prior models which we discussed here;

The Roll, which is your basic fixed gear/single speed urban "assault" model;

Haul, a nice-looking 8-speed cargo bike;

Carmel, a beach cruiser/comfort bike; and finally...

The Globe Live models, which appear to be the flagship Globe models, "for riders wanting an option for every whim." Notably, the Live 3 model is built on an aluminum frame and comes with belt drives, fenders, a chaincase, and porteur racks. The Globe Live 1 goes for $580, the Live 2 for $940, and the Live 3 for $1550. The Live 1 and Live 2 are also offered as mixtes.

Here are the specs for the Live 3:

FRAME Globe A1 Premium Aluminum cargo design, fully manipulated custom tubing w/ fender and rack braze-ons, integrated kickstand mount

FORK Globe Live straight-blade aluminum fork w/ custom forged crown and porteur basket/rack system

HEADSET 1-1/8" threadless, integrated, semi-cartridge campy style bearings

STEM Forged alloy, 2-bolt, 15 degree rise, 25.4mm clamp

HANDLEBARS Alloy, 25.4mm, 610mm wide, 43 degree up, 57 degree back sweep

TAPE Globe City 140mm

FRONT BRAKE Tektro Auriga Comp, hydraulic dual piston, w/160mm rotors

REAR BRAKE Tektro Auriga Comp, hydraulic dual piston, w/160mm rotors

BRAKE LEVERS Auriga Comp brake levers

SHIFT LEVERS Shimano Alfine tap fire, 8-speed

CASSETTE Gates belt drive cog, 24t

CHAIN Belt drive, 122 links

CRANKSET Sugino EX-1 aluminum, w/ alloy chainguard

CHAINRINGS Belt drive, 50t

BOTTOM BRACKET Cartridge bearing, square spindle with crank stop right side and capless bolts

PEDALS Classic full alloy pedal

RIMS Globe RHD 700c, alloy double wall disc specific, 36h

FRONT HUB Hi Lo flange, loose ball, QR, 36h

REAR HUB Shimano Alfine internal 8-speed, 36h

SPOKES 2mm (14g) stainless

FRONT TIRE Specialized Infinity Armadillo, 700x32c, 60TPI

REAR TIRE Specialized Infinity Armadillo, 700x32c, 60TPI

INNER TUBES Schraeder valve

SADDLE Specialized Body Geometry Fitness, 143mm width, front and rear bumpers

SEATPOST Alloy, 2-bolt forged head, 12.5mm offset, 27.2mm

SEAT BINDER Globe Chevron forged alloy, chrome plated

CHAINCASE Globe aluminum chain guard for internal gearing

KICKSTAND Pletscher double leg kickstand

RACK Globe porteur front rack/basket w/ wood bottom, 25kg recommended max capacity

FENDERS Globe classic aluminum fenders, long, 700C x 35C wide

If you buy or try out any of these models, let us know what you think in the comments!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Raleigh Sojourn

The Raleigh Sojourn is classified as a touring bike, but it would also make an excellent commuter or all-arounder. Currently available at REI for $1,000.

There is much to like about this bike: aged Brooks saddle and matching bar tape; bar-end shifters; standard rack and SKS fenders; disc brakes; and the Reynolds 520 steel frame. Here are two reviews of the 2008 model:

Dirtrag Magazine

Bicycling Magazine

2009 Specs:

Sizes: 53/55/57/59/62cm

Frame: Reynolds 520 Butted Cr-Mo w/CNC dropouts, Spoke holders, pump peg

Fork: 4130 Cr-Mo Cross w/Disc Mounts

Cranks: Shimano FC-R453 Octalink 30/39/50t

Bottom Bracket: Shimano Octalink

F. Derailleur: Shimano Tiagra

R. Derailleur: Shimano Deore

Shifter: Shimano Dura-Ace Bar End, 9spd

Brake Levers: Tektro R200 Aero Road Levers

Brakes: Avid BB5 Road 160/140mm rotor

Gear: SRAM PG-950 9spd (11-34)

Rims: Freedom CTX 2.3 Trekking Double Wall

Tires: Vittoria Rondenour Cross w/Reflective Side 700x35c

Pedals: Wellgo M21, alloy body/cage

Handlebar: WTB Mtn Drop, 31.8

Stem: Alloy 3D Forged Ahead 2 bolt Clamp

Seatpost: Alloy Micro adjust 26.8 x 350mm

Seat: Brooks B17 Aged

Headset: 1-1/8 threadless

Colors: Khaki

Chain: KMC Z9000

Hubset: (F) Joytech Disc 32h (R) Joytech Disc 32h

Spokes: 14g Stainless MAC w/Alloy Nipples

Grips: Brooks Leather, Drk Brown

Extras: SKS Fenders, Cateye reflector set, Bell, Water bottle mounts, Rack, Lezyne Pressure Drive pump, Owners Manual

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Surly Cross-Check

The Surly Cross-Check is probably one of the most popular all-rounders, so it's about time we mentioned it here. At City Bikes, you can purchase the complete bike for $1,050 or the frameset for $410.

The frame is steel, and it has eyelets for fenders and braze-ons for a rear rack. The fork allows plenty of room for wider tires.

Here's the specs for the complete bike:

Frame: 4130 CroMoly steel. Main triangle double-butted. TIG-welded. Rear rack bosses

Fork: CroMoly, lugged + brazed crown. 1-1/8" threadless steerer

Headset: Ritchey Logic Comp. 1-1/8" threadless, w/ 15mm spacers
(+ 10mm clamp-on hanger = 25mm stack total). Black

Stem: Kalloy 1-1/8" threadless. Forged. Black

Handlebars: Salsa Moto Ace Bell-Lap 26.0mm clamp diameter. Black

Brake Levers: Tektro #R200A standard levers on 52-62cm sizes, R100A small hand levers on 42-50cm

Brakes: Tektro Oryx cantilever #992, black

Shift Levers: Shimano Bar-end type #SL-BS77. 9-Speed

Front Derailleur: Shimano Tiagra #FD-4500 Double

Rear Derailleur: Shimano Tiagra #RD-4500-GS Mid-cage

Crankset: Andel Forged arms, Silver aluminum, granny ring compatible. 110mm BCD rings, 36 & 48t, ramped and pinned, Black


Bottom Bracket: Shimano Deore LX #BB-UN54, 68x113mm

Seatpost: Kalloy Uno 27.2mm x 250mm. Black

Saddle: WTB SST Steel rails. Black

Cassette: Shimano Tiagra #HG-53 9-speed 12-13-14-15-17-19-21-23-25t

Chain: Shimano HG-73 9-Speed compatible

Hubs: Shimano Deore #HU-M510. 32 hole, 100mm O.L.D. front, 135mm O.L.D. rear.

Rims: Alex #AL-DA16. 32 hole x 700c. Black

Tires: Ritchey SpeedMax Cross 700x32 Wire bead. Black wall

For fun, check out the Surly blog.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Smoothie ES; Part II

Here is my sister's Smoothie ES frame and fork (by Soma Fabrications) built up as a comfortable and stylish town bike. The rain in Portland appears to have infiltrated my camera, but you can still make out the important elements: upright and swept-back handlebars, platform pedals, full fenders, and a dynamo headlight.

The Smoothie ES is a light and sporty frame, but it doesn't have to be set up as a road bike. This bike is light and sporty AND comfortable and stylish! Also, the Cobalt Blue is luscious.

In case you missed it, here's a link back to Part I, regarding the Soma Smoothie ES.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pake C'Mute

Pake (pronounced "Pah-Kay,")" calls the C'Mute "a tough jack of many trades frame... fast commuter, sport tourer, CX, geared or single speed." It's made by the same people who make Soma frames, and the Soma Store sells the C'Mute fork and frame for $360. You may also find a dealer who will special order you the complete bike... prices will vary.

The frame really is built as an all-rounder, with double eyelets and clearance for wide tires. The horizontal dropout allows it to easily be converted to a single or fixed gear.


Frame: Butted Tange 4130 CrMo tubeset. Sizes 47-60 cm.
Clearance for 35c tires with fenders.
Decals: Removable w/o stripping clearcoat
Horizonal dropouts (updated to a longer slot for 2009)
Optional unicrown steel fork w/ rack and fender mounts and low rider pannier mounts;
44mm rake, matching paint
Extended headtube
Color: Pave-Mint

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fuji Cambridge

The Fuji Cambridge offers a steel, lugged frame with a Shimano Nexus internal 8-speed rear hub. It also includes a rack and fenders. For all this -- well, let's say the price is quite a bit steeper than the Palisade -- the MSRP is $1,250.


Sizes 52cm, 56cm, 60cm

Color(s) Black/Chrome

Main frame Fuji Double Butted Cro-Mo, Lugged

Rear triangle Fuji Cro-Mo Custom Taper, Lugged

Fork Fuji Crom-Mo Steerer, Cro-Mo Custom Taper, 1" Threaded

Crankset Fuji forged alloy, Square taper, 38T

Bottom bracket Sealed Cartridge Bearing ST

Pedals Fuji Alloy Platform

Shifters Shimano SL-8S20 for internal 8spd.

Cassette Shimano KSMGEAR16S, 16T

Chain KMC Z-410 RB

Front hub Fuji Sealed Alloy, 32H, QR

Rear hub Shimano NEXUS, KSG8R56VSA, 8spd Internal, 32H

Spokes 14G Stainless Steel

Rims Jalco DM-27 EN, Double Wall Alloy, 36H

Tires Kenda K-193, 700 X 38c

Tubes Kenda Schrader

Brake set Tektro R556, Dual Pivot

Brake levers Tektro RX 1.0

Headset Tange SE-32DX 1" Threaded

Handlebar Fuji Classic Mustache 22.2 Alloy

Stem Fuji Forged Alloy, Classic Quill

Tape/grip Fuji Classic Stitched Comfort

Saddle Fuji Classic w/Spring & Rivets

Seat post Fuji Micro-Adjust Alloy, 27.2, 250mm

Fuji Custom Rack and Fenders

Fuji Palisade 1.0

Fuji has a lot of interesting models out right now, and its Palisade caught my attention as a BFROU candidate.

Fuji deserves credit for paying attention to details on this "low-end" bike and not producing a lame hybrid with flat bars that has become the generic "city bike" offering of its competitors. Instead, Fuji outfitted this with a classic mustache handlebar that allows many more hand positions, and a front rack that has a built-in beverage holder. Just beautiful. The MSRP is $470.

Here are the specs:

SIZES: 15", 17", 19", 21", 23"

COLOR(S) Emory Blue, Gun Metal Gray, Cranberry

MAIN FRAME Fuji Altair 1 Alloy w/Tear Drop down tube, Double water bottle mounts

REAR TRIANGLE Fuji Altair 1 custom tapered Alloy, Fuji forged road dropout with replaceable derailleur hanger

FORK Fuji 1 1/8" Hi-Ten Aero w/eyelets and forged dropouts

CRANKSET Fuji Alloy Forged 28/28/48T Chainrings

BOTTOM BRACKET Sealed Cartridge Bearing ST

PEDALS Fuji, Black Plastic Platform


REAR DERAILLEUR MicroShift 7spd, RD-M35

SHIFTERS Microshift TS70-7

CASSETTE Fuji W4770D, 13-34T 7sp.

CHAIN KMC CNM54-Y, 7-speed

WHEELSET Fuji Sealed Alloy, 36H B.O. / Fuji Sealed Alloy, 36H B.O. / 14G Stainless Steel / Weinmann CN520 Alloy, 36H

TIRES Fuji, 700 x 32c
TUBES Fuji Schrader

BRAKE SET Promax-V, Forged Alloy, Linear Pull

BRAKE LEVERS Promax Alloy RA-320D

HEADSET Fuji 1 1/8" Standard Semi Cartridge

HANDLEBAR Fuji Classic Mustache, 25.4, Alloy

STEM Fuji Forged Alloy

TAPE/GRIP Fuji Comfort Rubber

SADDLE Fuji Sport Comfort

SEAT POST Fuji Micro-Adjust Alloy, 27.2, 300mm

SEAT CLAMP Fuji Alloy, 31.8mm, QR

OTHER Alloy Water bottle cage for hand bars / Front rack

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Soma Smoothie ES

Soma sells its Smoothie ES Road Sport Frame, constructed from tange heat-treated chromoly, for $400.

The frame has rear rack and fender mounts, and it will fit 32c tires with fenders. It comes with a carbon or steel fork, and requires long reach 57mm caliper brakes. The Smoothie ES is available in 11 sizes, ranging from 46cm to 66cm.

Basically, this is a quality steel frame for someone who wants to build their own commuter or touring bike. It has a relaxed geometry, which should make for a comfortable ride.

Here's what it looks like built-up (via Velospace):

And here's two reviews from Smoothie ES owners:

Crosswrench: The good and the bad after hitting the 2000km mark.

Nooksack: How he built up his Smoothie.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Dutch Bicycles

This week, the New York Times did a fashion piece in which it declared the glossy black Dutch bicycle "the new It object." Although still pretty rare, I am starting to see these on the streets of D.C., and apparently they have become common sights in Manhattan, Seattle, and Portland.

The Dutch Opa pictured above (Oma is the women's step-through model) is sold by the Dutch Bicycle Company in Seattle for $1589. They will ship it anywhere in the continental U.S., and they estimate that it costs between $330-365 to ship an Opa or Oma. According to the New York Times story, the Dutch Bicycle Company will soon open a store in NYC.

Dutch bikes, of course, have both style and function. Fenders, chainguards, rack carriers, headlights and taillights are standard. Here are the specs on the Opa:

Frame: Powder coated, hi-tensile steel, available in 57, 61, & 65 cm sizes

Hub: Shimano Nexus eight-speed, sealed, internally geared hub

Headlight: Shimano Nexus hub mounted dynamo powering headlamp and tail lamp
(no batteries needed - ever) 

Saddle: Brooks model B67, sprung leather

Brakes: Front and rear roller

Accessories: Center stand, fenders, mud flap, cargo rack and pump, rear wheel skirts/spats - spoke guards (keeps your skirt or suit clean), fabric and chrome chaincase cover, integrated rear wheel locking system

By the way, the Dutch Bicycle Company also sells German Velorbis models like the one pictured in the very first post on this blog.

In addition, Biria has come out with a Classic Dutch Series that includes this 21" Classic Dutch Men's:

The specs are similar to the Opa:

Frame: Hi-Ten Steel, 52 cm (21")

Fork: Hi-Ten unicrown

Rims: 28" steel black

Tires: 28x1.50

Gear: 3-speed Shimano Nexus

Brakes: Rear Roller and front v-brake, Alloy

Colors: black, dark red

Standard: full Chain guard, fenders, front and rear lights with generator, kickstand

Finally, don't forget the Dutch and Dutch-style bikes that we've already discussed on this blog, including the Batavus Old Dutch, KHS Green, and Electra Amsterdam.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A.N.T. Boston Roadster

Kirsten, originally uploaded by antbike.

This is a Step-Through version of the Boston Roadster, by Alternative Needs Transportation (A.N.T.). The frame and fork are handmade by Mike Flanigan in Holliston, MA (near Boston).

  • 5 sizes in diamond or stepthough style [48cm, 51cm, 54cm, 57cm and 60cm]
  • Your choice from ~20 colors for the frame, fork and rims.
  • frame, fork and front rack are made in Holliston MA.
  • wheels handbuilt and bike assembled in Holliston MA.
  • Delta bungee net included on front rack
  • WALD rear pannier rack [made in USA],
  • “Full Suit” chainring [made USA],
  • Chrome metal fenders [made in USA]
  • Front dynomo hub with front and rear lights,
  • Chain guard,
  • Sprung leather saddle, pre-softened, brown or black, your choice
  • Brass bell from VO Imports
  • Dual leg center stand
  • Rubber block pedals
  • Wheels are hand built with stainless steel spokes, powder coated alloy rims [in your color choice] with a
  • Shimano Nexus 8 speed internal gear hub
  • Cream [black if you want] colored Schwalbe 700 x 35mm tires.
  • Coaster brake (back pedal brake) in the rear and a roller brake in front. This braking system allows you to have powder coated rims, protects brakes from the weather, and your rims from abrasion by the brake pads. [If you don't like coaster brakes, which I don't, a rear hand-operated roller brake is available as a $100 upgrade.]
  • $1950. And money well spent. Please read on.

Clearly, the riding position and parts selections are designed for practical, comfortable use. For most bikes I've discussed here, that's all there is to it. Not so here. Mike thinks deeply about bicycles and has a strong commitment to principles that can grouped loosely under the heading Sustainability. As a result, he is one of the most innovative bicycle designers in the US.

Mike appears to re-evaluate constantly the principles and objectives that drive his designs, and how they are implemented. For example, the choices of TIG welded construction, flat stock instead of tubes in various frame locations, and the Ashtabula crankset (don't worry if you don't know what that means) increase the efficiency of construction time and material use, without sacrificing aesthetics.

Mike is also unique in his commitment to supply chain sustainability. In addition to local construction of the frame and rack, all of the raw steel tubes and frame fittings, and many of the other parts on A.N.T. bikes are made in the US. While all are good parts in terms of quality or cost, their use also supports domestic industries and local economies, and may reduce environmental impacts. I'm don't think of myself as a protectionist, but most bicycles made these days are made entirely and exclusively overseas, and this arrangement is part of a system that has some deep flaws. In comparison, most A.N.T. are distinctly multi-cultural, with three continents well represented. You can uncover a bit more about Mike's thinking here.

Obviously, he has a strong dedication to practical use, but his bikes demonstrate a deepening understanding of this principle, and a corresponding evolution of its implementation.

Follow this LINK to find out more about the Boston Roadster, by Alternative Needs Transportation.

UPDATE: On November 17, 2014, Mike announced that he was closing A.N.T.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Vienna Deluxe, by Specialized

Remember the S.A.T.? Trek is to Coke as Specialized is to Pepsi. Just as good. Maybe better. But not quite as popular.

The Vienna series is Specialized Bicycle Compenents' Bike For The Rest Of Us, and it's a good'er. The base model is the Vienna 1, offering:
  • A relaxed but sporty riding position,
  • More gears than you'll ever need,
  • Full fenders,
  • Rear carrier,
  • Bell (of course),
  • Kickstand, and
  • Front and rear lights, powered by a dynamo hub!
The dynamo hub is part of the front wheel, and contains a small electric generator that powers the headlight and taillight. No batteries needed, ever. No more taking-your-lights-with-you-so-they-don't-get-stolen. No more stolen lights becasue you forgot to take them with you. No more stolen lights at all! The taillight has a stand-light, which means that even when you stop, the light will stay on for several minutes. This is handy when you stop for traffic lights and stop-signs... You do stop for those, don't you?

Here is the step-through version:

I think it's got nice lines. The "diamond-frame" version too, which is distinctly not diamond-shaped, has a fine aesthetic sensibility. I'll stick with "relaxed but sporty."

If you've got the dough, the Vienna Deluxe 3 is a terrific upgrade. The biggest change is that the external drive-train of the Deluxe 1 is replaced by a Shimano 8-speed internal gear-hub. You don't have as many gears, but you DO have a virtually maintenance-free gear system with enough gears for almost any purpose, a single shifter you can use anytime (stopped, coasting, or pedalling), and a full-coverage chaingaurd. Other upgrades include:
  • Puncture resistant tires with reflective sidewalls, very cool,
  • A slightly nicer saddle, maybe some other bits here and there, and
  • Double wall rims.
Teachable moment!

Here's the difference between a single wall rim and a double wall rim:

On the left, single wall.
On the right, double wall.
On the left, weak.
On the right, strong.