Saturday, February 25, 2012

Urbana Bike sans NASCAR

Most of the bikes in the US have some sort of racing heritage, born from downhill dirt races or circular tracks or high-speed races through the countryside. We have a NASCAR culture where it's not how we get from x to y, but how fast we get there. We want to make our bikes faster and lighter, creating compromises to eek out performance.

Here's where the Urbana comes in to the equation. This probably isn't the first time you're reading about the Urbana. If you've been reading Cyclelicious, Commute By Bike, or Lovely Bicycle you know it's a tough, fun alternative to your run-of-the-mill hybrid or mountain bike. So you want to know if it's heavy or fast, right? 



The Urbana is the first bike from the company of the same name out of Montreal, Canada. The key to the bike is the tough as nails frame that allows tires 2.6" wide to fit on the bike --with fenders. It's a step-through design out of aluminum with a love-it-or-hate-it look. The dropouts are modular for future upgrades to belt drive. The headset is threadless and the steerer is mated to a BMX-style 4-bolt stem. The handlebar is, again love it or hate it, a BMX type. Need to raise your handlebars? Just swap out the bars for ones with higher rise. If your 6 ft and like the bars a little higher than the saddle you'll likely need an 8" riser bar.


The components of the Urbana vary by model. My test bike had a Shimano red-band 8-speed Alfine IGH, a roller brake on the rear wheel and a cable-actuated disk on the front wheel. It's also equipped with an SKS Chainguard, and SKS thermoplastic fenders (would Bikes For The Rest Of Us ride it any other way?). The Urbana also had a tough rear rack with integrated grocery-bag hooks to make any disposable bag into a pannier.

How does it ride? Smooth. My regular commuter has 2” wide tires and a sprung saddle and the Urbana blows it away. The Nid de Poule (apparently a French term for pothole) Sidewalk tires soak up the bumps as you glide off of curbs or traverse gravel. Interestingly the tires don’t seem to sap my pedalling energy like I expected. The bike has some momentum to it but never feels slow.

What can you do with the Urbana? Take it grocery shopping, give a friend a ride (the rack can take it), commute to work or just cruise along your favorite gravel path or bumpy sidewalk. When equipped with fenders, chain guard and hub brakes there’s really no excuse to hop on a have some fun, regardless of the weather. I think one of the best uses would be bike camping along the C&O Canal towpath here in the DC area. The Urbana would just float over the gravel trail and let you enjoy the scenery. Besides, are you really in that much of a hurry?

Photos: Tom Wyland

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lighthouse Sequoia

The Sequoia is back!  Credit: Lighthouse Cycles.
The Lighthouse Sequoia, by Tim Neenan. According to his website, a new custom Sequoia is $1800 for frame and fork.

Neenan distinguished himself in the 80’s as Specialized’s first bicycle frame designer when he created the Sequoia, a sport-tourer, the Expedition, a touring bike, and one of the first mountain bikes, the Stumpjumper.

The Specialized Sequoia, a lugged, steel bike largely manufactured by Miyata in Japan,  is now recognized as a classic. It takes wide tires and was built to travel distances and to carry things.  It's an excellent commuter bike, as the blogger at "A Few Spokes Shy of A Wheel" can attest after putting 30,000 miles on his.  Neenan, with the blessing of Specialized founder Mike Sinyard, is now recreating the Sequoia at Lighthouse Cycles.  You can get it lugged or TIG-welded, your choice, with a custom fit.

Own the road! Credit: Lighthouse Cycles

Don’t have $1800? Here’s an alternative: find yourself an old Specialized Sequoia and lovingly restore it. Here are a few examples:

Mark Rosenberg on cyclofiend

Franklyn Wu on flickr

Kitchen Lattice on flickr

And for more on Sinyard, Neenan, and the history of Specialized, check out this Bike Rader article.

Do you own a Sequoia?  Tell us about it in the comments.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Trek Transport

The 2012 Trek Transport, including Bontrager bag.  Credit: Trek website.
While we're on the subject of 2012 Treks, we should mention a clear winner: the Transport cargo bike from the Gary Fisher Collection.  The MSRP is $1,390.

This is a cargo bike done the right way.  I'm very happy that Trek, having swallowed up the Gary Fisher brand, is at least continuing to execute some of his best ideas.  The Transport comes with well-designed, well-proportioned front and rear racks, fenders, disc brakes (makes good sense on a fully-loaded cargo bike), and kickstand (the specs say it's a double kickstand, but the photos show a regular kickstand). 

Now here's a feature I really like: flip-flop dropouts.  This means you can have vertical or horizontal dropouts, which allows you to choose whether you want a derailer with multiple gears, a single speed, or an internal gear hub.  Versatility is nice.

You can also opt for the Transport Plus, which gives you an electric assist. 

What are the Trek marketers trying to tell us about this bike? Click for big.  Credit: Trek.

Here are a couple of reviews of the 2010 Transport:

Bicycle Design


The 2012 specs:

Colors: Matte Metallic Bronze

Frame: Trek Aluminum cargo design w/folding load racks

Fork: Alloy, straight blade w/lowrider mounts

Sizes: 17, 20"

Wheels: Shimano disc alloy hubs; heavy-duty double-wall 36-hole alloy rims

Tires: Bontrager H4 Hard-Case Plus, 26 x 1.5"

Shifters: Shimano M360 Acera, 8-speed trigger

Front derailleur: Shimano Altus

Rear derailleur: Shimano M360 Acera

Crank: FSA Alpha Drive, 38/28 w/guard

Cassette: Shimano HG31 11-32, 8 speed

Pedals: Wellgo nylon body w/alloy cage

Saddle: Bontrager H1

Seatpost: Bontrager SSR

Handlebar: Bontrager Capital OS Urban

Stem: Bontrager SSR OS, 10 degree

Headset: Slimstak, semi-cartridge bearings, sealed

Brakeset: Shimano M416 mechanical disc front brake, Tektro linear-pull rear brake w/Tektro alloy levers

Grips: Bontrager Satellite Plus, ergonomic

Extras: Folding rear load racks, front rack, Bontrager Transport cargo bag, fender, wide-stance double kickstand

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Trek Cocoa

The 2012 Trek Cocoa.  Photo credit: Trek.
Trek is offering this "Dutch-style" step-through bike at MSRP $610. 

We can tell that it's a "Dutch-style" bike because it is only offered in glossy black.  All right, all right, maybe also because it has an internal gear hub, fenders, and full chaincase.  Despite the retro, Dutchy look, the frame is made of aluminum and the internal hub is Shimano Nexus.  There's definitiely a demand for this type of bike (did you read Tom's last post?) and Trek, the 800-pound gorilla of bike manufacturers, is weighing in with the Trek Cocoa. 

Who does Trek think will buy the Cocoa?  Here are a couple hints:

Do you see the appeal? Photo credit: Trek.

All and all, the Cocoa is a much better effort than Trek's last attempt to woo women riders - remember the Trek Lime? Jennifer of General Carlessness declared that the Lime was "rotten" and that "[i]t's not a bike for the rest of us."  I totally agree. 

The Cocoa is a different story.  It has potential to be a fun, practical bike.  But I think it should come with custom racks, or at least some kind of basket, so that it can, you know, carry stuff.  That's a basic thing that a bike should be able to do.

Here are a couple other reviews of the Trek Cocoa:

Lovely Bike

Bicycle Times interbike review

Here are the specs, as reported by Trek:

Colors: Gloss Black

Frame: Alpha Silver Aluminum

Fork: Steel w/curved blades

Sizes: 15, 19"

Wheels: Alloy front hub, Shimano Nexus 3-speed rear hub; 36-hole double-wall alloy rims

Tires:  Bontrager H2, 700x32c

Shifters: Shimano Nexus, 3-speed twist

Crank: Forged alloy, 42T chainring

Cassette: 20T cog

Pedals:  Steel, city type

Saddle: Cocoa comfort saddle

Seatpost: Alloy seatpost w/clamp

Handlebar:  Alloy, swept-back

Stem:  Forged alloy

Headset: Threaded, 1"

Brakeset:  Long reach alloy caliper brakes w/alloy 4-finger levers

Grips: Kraton

Extras: Fenders, kickstand, skirt guard, full-coverage chainguard