Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Simcoe Bicycles

From the top down: Simcoe Step-Through Classic; Simcoe Roadster Signature; Simcoe Roadster Classic; Simcoe Step-Through Signature. All photos courtesy

The Toronto-based Simcoe Bicycles makes European-style upright steel bikes that include fenders, chaincases, rear racks, and internal gear hubs. A 7-speed Classic goes for about $900; a 7-speed Signature for around $1100.

Simcoe calls itself "the renaissance of the everyday bike in North America."  Momentum Magazine included Simcoe in its gear guide as one of "21 City Bikes for 2015."  Lovely Bicycle tested the Signature Roadster in 2014 and observed that it had "that intangible 'vintage bike feel' in a modern machine."

There's so much to like about Simcoe.  The 7-speeds, whether Signature or Classic, come with a rack.  The Classic is also available as a singlespeed (MSRP $580)  or a 3-speed (MSRP $700), and in a 20 inch or 22 inch frame.  The major difference between Classic and Signature is the brakes. The Classic has caliper rim brakes; the Signature has Shimano roller brakes (which should please David Hembrow). The Signature also comes with a Brooks B68 saddle.

Here are the specs for the Roadster Classic:

Frame Mixed chromoly frame absorbs road vibration and reduces weight. Includes clever braze-ons for Dutch-style rear wheel lock to deter theft.
Paint A four-step paint process, including a phosphate base layer and ultra-durable polyurethane clearcoat, create a highly chip-resistant finish with a rust-resistant undercoat.
Fork High-tensile steel legs with a chromoly steerer tube that naturally absorbs road vibrations.
Headset FSA sealed bearing keeps steering smooth and protected from rain and snow.
Brakes Tektro dual pivot brakes give brand-name stopping power.
Brake Lever Tektro brake levers blend clean lines with excellent power.
Front Hub Bolt-On alloy front hub discourages theft.
Rear Hub One speed hub features a coaster brake while three and seven speeds feature low maintenance, weather resistant Shimano internally geared hubs.
Spokes 13 gauge (14 gauge for 7 speed) rear, 14 gauge front spokes provide lateral wheel stifness and superior stability.
Rims Extremely strong touring-grade rims with double wall construction, 36 spokes and stainless steel eyelets.
Tires Kenda EuroTrek tires have a puncture resistant lining and a reflective side wall for added safety.
Shifters Ergonomic Nexus rotary shifter on three speed and high-tech Rapidfire shifter on seven speeds.
Crankset Samox alloy cranks with fluted details.
Pedals Alloy with boron axle. Rubber top keeps shoes in good shape
Bottom Bracket FSA sealed bearings keeps things running smooth and protected from the elements.
Chain Tough KMC chain for durability.
Stem Kalloy 25 degree rise stem on the Step Through model puts you in an upright position for comfort and control. Zero rise on the Roadster model for a more powerful and agile position.
Handlebar Alloy with a 35 mm rise and Classic Japanese style 50 degree backsweep bend for perfect ergonomics.
Grips Velo grips offer great shock absorption.
Seatpost Kalloy 375 mm seatpost with elegant swan neck.
Seat Durable vinyl saddle with extra springs for added comfort.
Chainguard Alloy chainguard resists rust and provides total clothing protection.
Rack Features on seven speed models the 16 mm rack is extra strong (up to 55 pounds) and features a plate for permanent, theft-resistant light installation.
Fenders Fenders are made of a lightweight alloy and painted to match making them extremely rust and chip resistant. Added features include a fluted silver tip, single alloy stays, and leather washers.
Kickstand The Classic single arm design is both durable and handsome.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Kona Minute

Kona's compact cargo bike is ready to haul your stuff. Courtesy:
The Kona Minute is an aluminum cargo bike with disc brakes that goes for about $1400.

Do you remember when we told you about Yuba's Boda Boda?  Basically, Yuba took its full-size cargo bike, the Mundo, and made it more compact so apartment dwellers and people dealing with tight spaces could own a cargo bike. It was a really good idea.  And that's what Kona is doing here.

Kona took its full-size cargo bike, the Ute, and made it more compact.  So it's a mini-Ute, or a MinUte. Get it?

This is a solid design for a cargo bike: hydraulic disc brakes; wide 40c tires; long chainstays and "wood deck" rear carrier; upright riding position; and lots of gear options.  The Ute bags are included.

Here are the full specs:

Frame Material Kona 7005 Aluminum Butted
Sizes 18", 20"
Rear Shock n/a
Fork Kona Project Two Aluminum Disc
Crankarms FSA Alpha Drive
Chainrings 26/36/Guard
B/B FSA Powerdrive
Pedals Wellgo Platform
Chain KMC HG53
Freewheel Shimano HG200 11-32t 9spd
F/D Shimano Acera
R/D Shimano Alivio
Shifters Shimano Acera
Brake Calipers Tektro HDC-M290
Front Brake Rotor Tektro HDC-M290 160mm
Rear Brake Rotor Tektro HDC-M290 160mm
Brake Levers Tektro HDC-M290
Headset TH ZST No.10
Handlebar Kona Handplant
Stem Kona Commuter
Seatpost Kona Commuter
Seat Clamp Kona Clamp
Grips Velo Ergo
Saddle Velo Plush
Front Hub Formula
Rear Hub Shimano M475L
Spokes Stainless 14g
Rims Freedom Cruz Disc
Front Tire Freedom Trekking 700x40c
Rear Tire Freedom Trekking 700x40c
Paint Color Charcoal w/Off White & Silver
Extras Wood Deck, Fenders, Kickstand, Ute Bags, Steering Stabilizer

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Swobo Novak

Swobo Novaks are internally geared three-speeds. Photos courtesy:

The Swobo Novak is a steel 3-speed with an internal gear hub that costs around $650.

We haven't talked about Swobo since the days of Tim Parr and Sky Yaeger.  If you're unfamiliar with those names, I'll wait here while you get acquainted through google.

Back in 2008, we discussed Swobo's Sanchez, Folsom, and Otis models. Since then, Parr got bought out by Santa Cruz Bicycles, which is best known for making gnarly mountain bikes like the Tall Boy.  Santa Cruz was co-founded by a guy named Rich Novak, so it wouldn't surprise me if this model is named for him.  (By the way, Santa Cruz was just bought by Dutch cycling company Pon Holdings BV, which also owns Cervelo.) In any event, Swobo still offers updated versions of its Sanchez and Folsom.

And now they also have the Novak, the 3-speed models pictured above, as well as the 8-speed Fillmore models that go for about $900.  The Novaks and Fillmores come with Shimano Nexus internal gear hubs, hammered fenders, and a bell. They come in 5 sizes, ranging from a 48 cm seat tube to a 60 cm.  You can see the Novak in action in this youtube video.

Additional Novak specs:

  • Frame and fork: TIG welded Swobo Chromoly
  • Crankset: Samox outboard bearing with chainring bashguard
  • Hubs: Swobo branded (F)/Shimano Nexus 3spd (R)
  • Wheels: 700c/36 hole/Alex DA22 rims/14g Stainless spokes
  • Tires: Kenda Kwick Trax/700x32c/Puncture resistant with reflective sidewall
  • Brakes: Tektro forged dual pivot caliper
  • Seat/post/stem/bars/grips: Swobo branded
  • Extras:  Brake lever integrated bell, fenders.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Another Take On The Disc Brake

Shimano hydraulic disc brakes for road usage. Courtesy:
Back in 2012, after I noticed a surge in city and road bike models coming out with disc brakes, I offered A Short Take On The Disc Brake describing four situations where disc brakes might be preferable to rim brakes.

Over the last three years, Shimano, SRAM and others have continued to update and redesign brake levers and discs for road use.  For example, in August 2014, Shimano released its ST-RS685 compact hydraulic disc brake levers, which they promoted as providing "more stopping power with less effort."

Not everyone is enthralled by this technological shift toward hydraulic disc brakes.  In a recent exchange with David Hembrow about Trek's District bikes, I suggested that Trek had listened to him in designing the model. He responded:

Mr. Hembrow prefers drum brakes encased in the hub.  As he writes in his blog:

Enclosing the brake and gears leads to extremely high reliability. Neither the gears nor the brakes have required any maintenance, unlike my bike which has rim brakes and has required new brake pads. Not only rim brakes, but disc brakes also are not really low maintenance components. When used in winter, salt on the road causes the disc to rust, and brake pads need replacing fairly regularly. Drum brakes, or Shimano's roller brakes, are much more reliable than this. 

Drums brakes are not widely available in the U.S. bike market, although you frequently see Shimano roller brakes paired with Shimano Nexus hubs.  Still, Mr. Hembrow's point is well taken. Drum brakes work well, especially on flat terrain such as the streets of Amsterdam.  But what about his point about disc brakes? Should we avoid them because they require a higher degree of maintenance?

There are two categories of disc brakes: hydraulic and cable-actuated.  The latter category requires maintenance similar to rim brakes: replace the cables when they start to get stretchy.  My family owns several mountain brakes with disc brakes, and I haven't noticed any problem with rust despite riding on wet, muddy trails. 

Hydraulic brake systems, like those in an automobile, need to be flushed every so often.  John Allen, writing on, cautions that "disc brakes are more complicated, expensive and difficult to maintain than rim brakes or drum brakes."  But he lists a number of advantages of disc brakes as well, including the fact that they allow heat to dissipate without damaging the tire and they don't wear rims.

If disc brakes are a factor in your bike purchase, I highly recommend reading all of John Allen's article on the subject as well as the links at the bottom of his article.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Public Bikes at Kimpton Hotels

An elegant hotel loaner bike. Courtesy: Kimpton Hotels
Two years ago, Kimpton Hotels teamed up with Public Bikes to offer loaner bikes at their hotels.  From a marketing standpoint, this was a win-win for both Kimpton and Public.  But it also has turned out to be another victory for bikesharing.  The best way to see any city is by bicycle, and now Kimpton invites you to do that when you stay at their hotels.

As we've discussed before, Public produces colorful and classy mixtes and diamond frames that come with fenders, chainguards, and rear racks. They look nice lined up at any hotel, and they all but guarantee a memorable experience for any guest who takes them out for a spin.

Here's a youtube video promoting the bikes at the Hotel Monaco, a Kimpton hotel in Washington, D.C. And more marketing:

Borrow a bike while staying at a Kimpton Hotel. Courtesy:

Are any other hotel chains considering this? And if not, why not?