In 42: Great City Bikes I looked at two options if you want bikes to carry lots and lots of stuff.
Now for three options for general purpose city bikes that combine
- Clean easy cycling in ordinary clothes
- Very low maintenance
- Good load carrying capacity
In other words for fast, hassle free transport around a city these are great.
Techno geeks will be interested that these three share a fairly recent innovation. None of them use a chain, instead they use a Gates Carbon Belt Drive. This has two key advantages for city bikes as it has no oil or grease to get on clothes and it will not rust or become less efficient if left out in the rain.
All these bikes will offer better performance than a typical Dutch style bike which is usually of interest in less cycle friendly cities or in hillier areas. On the other hand they may also be more desirable to thieves in cities where there is a lot of cycle theft.
In order of price they are
Trek Bikes: Soho.
As the cheapest of these options, the most obvious cost saving is the brakes. Roller brakes one of the lowest maintenance brakes available (rear coaster brake being the only lower maintenance option).
It comes complete with mudguards but no rack (it does have full mounting points for a rear rack and also for a rack for front panniers).
I have ridden one for a while around Cambridge thanks to Ben Hayward Cycles. In that ride it was very pleasant and easy to ride. I was unable to subject the brakes to any severe testing, in that simple ride they were absolutely fine.
If you look for reviews on the internet you will find a number of complaints that the brakes are poor and not very ineffective. My suggestion would be that if you live in a hilly area or are going to carry heavy loads that you test the bike carefully. My suspicion is that they will take a bit of bedding in so will not be at their best on a brand new bike, also they will need the brake levers to be squeezed harder than either rim or disc brakes and they will not provide very precise feel.
I like this a lot, sadly no step through frame available. For all but enthusiastic cyclists wanting to hammer along and be able to stop in an instant it seems like a good modern city bike that is somewhat higher performance than a typical city bike (more rigid, lower handlebars, more gears, lighter) while still being very low maintenance.
UK Cost around £800
Globe Bicycles: Live 3.
This is a very interesting bike (from a spin off company from Specialized) that is sadly not yet available in the UK, but might be during autumn 2010. I have ridden the single speed version at the cycle show last year.
Compared to the Trek Soho the most obvious difference is the front basket which can carry 25kg. It still has all the mountings for a rear rack to balance the load (or simply carry more).
It also has Hydraulic disc brakes providing far greater stopping power for slightly more maintenance (changing the pads every few 1,000 miles, occasional cleaning and/or adjustment to avoid rubbing/squealing).
Unlike the Trek it is also available with a mixte frame style, a so called women's frame. Actually such frames are very practical for anyone who does not wish to swing a leg over the saddle to get on. Makes it so much easier to get on and off, particularly if heavily loaded (at a cost in rigidity).
As with the Trek there is a minimalist chain guard (but no chain, this is protecting the belt). This is not to stop the chain going rusty nor to stop you getting oil on your clothes (the belt does not rust and does not have any oil or grease on it). Instead it simply stops trousers/laces getting caught in the drive and if the belt picks up dirt should keep that away from you.
The mudguards wrap around much more than the Trek which is better for keeping you dry but you will need to be more careful of branches getting caught in them. A two leg stand is included.
The seating position is more upright with more swept back handlebars so it will be more relaxed to ride but a little slower. A test ride is recommended as a number of reviews on the internet mention that the steering is quite sharp/sensitive.
Current USA price converted to UK is approx £1,000
Tout Terrain: Metropolitan.
In this mini comparison the Tout Terrain Metropolitan stands out in many ways, not just the price.
First, the rear rack is an integrated part of the main frame, not bolted on. This is a standard feature of all the bikes from Tout Terrain. It means the load can be carried lower and the weight capacity is greater (40kg in this case).
Second, there are a number of super practical details such as the handlebar stop which prevents the handlebars from turning more than 90 degrees (less impact on actual cycling than the spring on the Globe Live 3).
The Metropolitan comes with 50mm tyres compared to the 32mm of the Trek and Globe that is going to be better on poor surfaces providing a more comfy ride and being more robust (more protection to the wheel and will also be less prone to punctures especially pinch flats). Thus a better choice for any off road riding (or cobbles for that matter).
There is support for front panniers and so this has the greatest potential load capacity (although still less than half that of either the bikes I mentioned in 42: Great City Bikes).
Like the Globe Live the Metropolitan comes with Hydraulic disc brakes (although these are Shimano rather than Tektro) so great braking performance with little maintenance.
Sadly no chain guard (well belt guard given that this is also a Gates Carbon Belt Drive bike), pity that as it will mean you will want to use cycle clips or tuck your trousers in which is a hassle on a city bike.
This is available both with the same hub gear as the others (Shimano Alfine 8 speed) but also with the ultimate hub gear which is a Rohloff 14 speed. That will last you for ever and has a much better gear range but at a high price.
There are many other options for the Metropolitan including dynamo lights with concealed cables. Also a choice of handlebars (swept back or more "sporty") and front suspension.
There are other models in the range from Tout Terrain such as the Boulevard which is essentially a chain version of the Metropolitan.
Priced in Euros which is approximately £1,300