Road Test: Civia Hyland

Background

Civia focuses solely on building bicycles for transportation:

“Civia is passionate about bicycle transportation and improving the rider’s experience. We bring experience, design, engineering and attention to detail to each project with the intent to create the perfect user experience. We define bicycle transportation as getting you and your things where you need to go. By focusing our attention on this one thing, we are able to provide the best bicycle, component or accessory for its intended use.”

The Civia line is comprised of two models, each available in multiple component specs. The Hyland is their top-of-the-line commuting model that incorporates a number of innovations and makes few compromises for cost. The Loring is a more affordable bike that’s specifically designed for short-distance urban/suburban utility riding.

The Hyland is available in three builds: the Rohloff Build at $3,500; the Alfine Build at $2,160; and coming this spring, the SRAM i-Motion 3 Build at $1,590.

The Loring is also available in three builds: the i-Motion 9 Build at $1,730; the i-Motion 3 Build at $1,490; and the new i-Motion 3 Base Build sans fenders and racks at $1080.

In the fall of 2008, Civia, in conjunction with Gold Country Cyclery, supplied me with a 54cm Hyland Alfine Build for a long-term road test. I’ve been riding the Hyland on a regular basis since then, using it for commuting, errand runs, and photographic outings.

Construction

The first thing you’ll notice about the Hyland is its refined appearance; the bike has a cohesive look that’s not typical for a fully outfitted commuter bike. The understated, satin blue powder coat is quite attractive and is used throughout the bike to visually pull together the frame, fenders, and chainguard.

The Hyland’s aluminum frame has a number of unique features including sliding dropouts with built-in disc brake mounts, a “cable tunnel” formed into the downtube and chainstays for clean routing of control cables, and stainless steel hardware throughout.

The fork is carbon fiber, and like the frame, it’s a unique and interesting piece. It too has a “tunnel”, this one for the wire running from the generator to the headlight. It also has a disc brake mount and built-in guides for the hydraulic brake cable. As attractive as it is, some people will question the choice of a carbon fiber fork on a commuter bike. Civia assures me they’ve yet to have a failure with this fork, and that doesn’t surprise me considering how beefy it is. Even so, they offer a chromoly fork of similar design if carbon fiber makes you nervous.

Civia points out that the aluminum frame combined with the stainless hardware and carbon fork make a corrosion-resistant package, a benefit to commuters in wet climes.

Components

The Hyland Alfine Build is outfitted with the full Shimano Alfine component group. The Alfine group is targeted at the upper end of the commuter/comfort market. It includes a single crank, front and rear disc brakes with levers, front dynamo hub, and an 8-speed internal gear hub (IGH) with shifter. As can be seen in the photos, the components are anodized in an attractive high gloss black finish.

The heart of the Alfine group is the 8-speed internal gear hub and matching RapidFire shifter. I can’t say enough about this shifting system. It performed flawlessly throughout the test period with no maintenance whatsoever. I was able to effortlessly shift while sitting still, coasting, pedaling, and even while under power. Missed shifts are non-existent with this hub and every shift is precise, quick, and quiet. For city riding, the only hub that outperforms the Alfine is the Rohloff Speedhub, but it’s not a fair comparison if you take into account the exorbitant price of the Rohloff (~$1400). I like the Alfine IGH so much that my next bike will have one (assuming I don’t upgrade the drivetrain on my current bike to an Alfine hub before then). Did I say I love this hub?

The rest of the Alfine group is nice, if not as outstanding as the rear hub:

  • The front dynamo hub is sufficiently efficient, though it does introduce more drag than its main competitor, the SON hub from Germany. Still, the amount of drag was small enough to be unnoticeable while riding.
  • The hydraulic disc brakes are powerful—arguably to the point of overkill—and are strong enough to lock either wheel with 2-3 fingers. Hydraulic discs make me a little nervous in that they’re harder to repair than cable actuated brakes if you have a problem on the road. That said, the brakes performed flawlessly and required no maintenance over a 4-month period of fairly heavy use.
  • The Alfine single crank is attractive and functional.
  • The stiff, mountain-style brake levers are comfortable and provide substantial leverage.

The Civia branded rear rack is solidly built and quite stiff. I carried full loads of groceries and heavy commute loads with no issues. It compares favorably to the best-in-class Tubus Cargo.

One area of disappointment on the Hyland is the lighting system. The Shimano headlight falls short of being sufficient as a commuter light, and the lack of a tail light is puzzling on a bike that comes outfitted with cable channels in the frame and a high quality dynamo hub. A bike of this caliber deserves nothing less than a current-generation 3-watt LED headlight with matching, dynamo-powered tail light.

The Hyland’s DT Swiss disc-specific rims are sufficiently tough while still being reasonably light, providing a nice compromise between durability and performance. The factory wheels appear to be well-built; they stayed true during heavy use over the 4-month test period.

The remainder of the components are what you’d expect on a bike in this price range, with a micro-adjust Thomson seat post and Thomson stem, Salsa seat post clamp, Cane Creek headset, Fi’zi:k saddle, and ODI Lock-on grips.

Ride Quality

All the fancy components and matching paint schemes in the world don’t amount to much unless a bike is well-designed and handles appropriately for its intended purpose. I’m happy to say Civia nailed it with this bike. The Hyland has what I’d classify as “moderately quick” handling, perfect for dodging city traffic and pedestrians on multi-use trails, but not so quick as to feel unstable or twitchy. The steering is precise and light in the hand, more reminiscent of a lightweight road bike than an old school touring bike or roadster.

Even though it feels sporty, the Hyland is perfectly capable of carrying a load. Even with heavily loaded panniers, I found the rear triangle to be more than adequately stiff, with little to no lateral sway. The bike does transmit a fair amount of road shock compared to the steel touring bikes I’m accustomed to, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it harsh. For the commuting distances and load carrying uses the bike is designed for, it’s plenty comfortable and the stiffness is much more of a benefit than a detriment.

Conclusion

The Civia Hyland fits a unique niche. It’s a no-compromise, high performance commuting bike, purpose-designed from the ground up with many innovative features. This isn’t a bike that you’ll chain to a post and leave all day on the street; it’s far too expensive and attractive to thieves to be flaunted in that way. But if you’re a committed rider who is accustomed to lightweight, high performance bikes, and you have a point-to-point commute that includes secure storage as part of the mix, the Hyland is a beautiful, refined bike with very few flaws. It combines the precise handling and high performance of a modern road bike with the convenience, reliability, and load carrying capacity of an urban grocery getter; it truly offers the best of both worlds while making very few compromises.

Specifications (Alfine Build)

MSRP: $2,160
Frame: Civia Aluminum
Fork: Civia Carbon
Headset: Cane Creek S-8
Crank: Shimano Alfine
Chain: Shimano
Brakes: Shimano Alfine Hydraulic Disc
Seatpost: Thomson Elite
Saddle: Fi’zi:k Aliante Delta
Stem: Thomson X2 (31.8)
Handlebar: Civia 17 degree bend (31.8)
Grips: ODI Rogue Lock-on
Tires: Panaracer T-serv 700×28, with reflective sidewall
Fenders: Civia Aluminum Fenders
Rear Rack: Civia Aluminum
Chainguard: Civia Aluminum
Headlight: Shimano LP R600
Shifter: Shimano Alfine Rapid-Fire
Wheel (Rear): Shimano Alfine Internal 8-speed, DT Swiss x470 disc specific rim
Wheel (Front): Shimano Alfine Dynamo, DT Swiss x470 disc specific rim
Sliding Dropouts: Alfine/Singlespeed specific

Please note: The saddle in the review photos is my personal saddle, not the Fi’zi:k Aliante Delta supplied with the bike.

Credits

Many thanks to Civia and Gold Country Cyclery for supplying the Civia Hyland used for this long-term road test. —Alan

Civia
Gold Country Cyclery

32 Responses to “Road Test: Civia Hyland”

  • Michael King says:

    Great review!

    Thew Civia’s are incredible bikes that sadly are without a market. Selling a $2000+ bike for commuting is sort of like building a ferrari for buying groceries: way overbuilt/overpriced for its intended use.

    Few shops are going to take the risk of stocking such a pricey commuter line, and without a retail presence, consumers are not going to know that they exist. Civia needs to produce a few more sub $1500 and sub $1000 models to build brand awareness and get their bikes into more than a handful of shops nationwide.

    Alphine hubs are nice, but it is questionable as to whether or not the benefits of an internal hub warrant the tremendous cost increase.

  • brad says:

    That is one gorgeous bike. I totally agree about the price issues, but I think there’s a market for high-end commuter bikes and I think the market will find the bikes even if it involves special-ordering if dealers don’t want to stock them.

  • Eddie says:

    I may not be able to afford this Civia but I’m glad someone cares enough about their craft to produce a jewel like this for others who may. I applaud the effort.

  • Roland Smith says:

    [@Michael: In countries where bicycle commuting is common and where it's not always sunny, you'll find a lot of commuter bikes with internal gear hubs and completely enclosed chains. It just makes sense.]

    And this hyland sure looks good. Both the paint job and the workmanship. Since a quality bike can last you for decades, one should take that into account when evaluating the price.

    I don’t know how many bicycles civia makes, but it doesn’t look like huge quantities. Bikes made in relatively low volumes will always cost more than bikes that are made in sufficient quantities to enable substantial automatization of the production. This is only a bad thing if you think that price is the most important property of a bike. Cheap bikes suffer from “race to the bottom” syndrome, where quality can suffer in favor of quantity. There is a Dutch saying that translates to “buying cheap can be very expensive”.

    @Alan: I wouldn’t have mentioned it if I hadn’t heard from several people that shimano 7/8 speed hubs are somewhat fragile. One person (a mechanic) who fitted one to his ‘bent strips, lubes and reassembles it every six months. There are also several negative comments regarding shimano hubs on the hubstripping blog. Having heard all that I decided to invest in a Rohloff hub.

  • Stephen says:

    Hmmm. Yes, the average non-American bicycle commuter will likely never spend that much to buy a bicycle, but they’ll spend big bucks on leather boots and vacations. The “average” American bicycle commuter may or may not buy such a bicycle, but the average U.S. automobile commuter will spend many times that amount to buy a POS car that will cost thousands in fuel, insurance, tires, maintenance, etc. I think that if I didn’t have the stable of nice bicycles I already have, I’d seriously look at one of these. I like the way Civia does the details (God is truly in the details), the SS fasteners, the integral design, the supple tautness of the frame, and the Brutalist paint job. This attention to detail and the integral wholeness of the design is a major advance in American commuting bicycles. Yes, there are European manufacturers who do the same thing, at least in terms of the design, but I really think Civia has really targeted a growing American market. There will always be those who are happy with piecing together this and that, but this is a lifetime investment in bicycle commuting, and in a conveyance that not only works great, but is inspiring.

    Just my two cents…

  • siouxgeonz says:

    I havent’ scrutinized it closely, but I have to say it may be the first time I’ve seen a “designer commuter bike” that actually looked like it was designed for commuting, with chainguard and fenders, etc. Were I into luxury, I’d be into it.

  • Surly John says:

    Regarding the initial cost of the Civia. It is pretty big bucks for a commuter bicycle. I know people who spend 10 times that on a motorcycle and rack up fewer miles per year than I do on my bicycle. I will side with those that argue it is a long term investment. I am happy to stick with my Rohloffed Cross Check but if I was looking to buy a great commuter “out of the box” I would go whole hog and get the Rohloff build. (no surprise there, huh?)

    Thanks for the review Alan. I enjoy your thoughtful presentation of a bike I’m not likely to see in person any time soon. This is a great contrast to the Walmart commuter that raised so many eyebrows.

    John

  • Scott Wayland says:

    Lust, desire, drool. That says it.

    Scott

  • doc says:

    I’m with you on the headlamp/tail-lamp comment. What is up with Shimano offering rather good dynamo hubs, but still bundling it with that poor excuse of a light?

  • David says:

    Ditto the lighting comment.

    I wrote to the folks at Civia/QBP about my dislike of the Shimano headlight, and they said they were working on another headlight manufacturer/option, maybe coming mid-season, and an upgrade option. Planet Bike? Edelux? Dunno. No info yea or nay about a taillight.

  • Dolan Halbrook says:

    Were the frameset available when I built up my Rohloff’d Kona Sutra, I surely would have gone with it. Not that the Sutra’s all that bad, but for my current needs the Hyland frame would be about perfect.

    Agreed about the light. Maybe they can offer the IQ Cyo or IQ Fly as an upgrade option? I did see an interesting “Basta” halogen/LED combo light on my colleague’s ’09 Novara Fusion (uses a Nexus dynohub), so maybe that’s the way they’re going.

  • Alan says:

    Civia is working on a new light, but no details yet on what it will be. Look for a change mid-season.

  • martian1 says:

    Alan:
    Very nice ride.
    Does it have room for 35/37 mm W106 or Schwalbe winter snow tires ?

  • Dottie says:

    I’ve had my eye on this bike for several months. I think Civia did an amazing job and is a cool company in general. As a someone in the market with $2,000 to spend on a commuting and light touring bike, it seems I would be the target market. My local bike shop in Chicago carries these bikes and I’ve considered taking one for a test ride. However, the bike feels a bit too masculine and tech-y to entice me completely. I wonder how much female consumers played into Civia’s design and marketing. I suppose it’s a matter of aesthetics – compared to the similarly-priced new Rivendell mixte, the Rivendell wins me over hands down.

  • PJ Ramstack says:

    Dottie, I agree the Rivendell mixte is a beautiful bike, but I believe the $2100 price is for the frame set not the bike not entirely sure. The Hyland is a very technical bike and targeted toward a particular customer and aesthetic. I don’t know how soon you are looking to buy but the Loring may be more of what you are looking for and we will be sending those to the shops in your area around May 1st. Just a thought and perhaps you have seen it already.
    Thanks to everyone for the kind words and great feedback and thanks to Alan for the great work on this review and all the hard work he puts into this forum.
    We are working on a new light solution and hope to have something to announce soon. We have much more to come in the way of bikes and accessories so please check in with us from time to time.
    Take care, and please feel free to let us know what you want to see or not see going forward from Civia.
    PJ Ramstack
    Civia Cycles
    pj@civiacycles.com

  • Alan says:

    Hi PJ,

    Thanks for joining in the conversation – it’s great to have you!

    Regarding the Riv mixte, Dottie may be referring to the new “Betty Foy” which has a $1000 price tag on the frameset, and an estimated $2000 price for a full bike (depending on specific components choices).

    The Betty Foy

    Best regards,
    Alan

  • Ken Pendergrass says:

    Alan,
    Great review on a great bike. I ride the trek Soho ’08 with the Alfine hub. These 2 bikes are so similar that Hyland could be bying their frames from Trek. I love the Alfine! I have some what more than 1400 miles on mine. It is always silent and always shifts no matter what. Alfine is unlike any other hub in that it shifts differently and silently. Cable tension and chain tension are the only adjustments. It doesn’t need to break in. Much is made of having 14 gears over 8 but a strong rider on a commute will actually use as few as 4 gears. The gaps are not even but in use I find Shimano knows how to select gears. They have picked the gears commuters want to use. The Trek is quite fast and easy to use, great geometry. I intend to never go back to derailliers. The Alfine with speed drive or mtn. drive would cost what a little more than half the price of Rohloff?

    How did you like the Alfine dynamo hub? Is it improved from the previous Shimano hubs? How does it compare to the Son?
    Ken

  • Alan says:

    Hi Ken,

    Great to hear another report on the Alfine 8 – thanks for the info. I’ll end up with one soon, whether it’s on my current bike or some other.

    The ratios worked perfectly fine for me, and 8 gears were plenty. It’s funny that at a time when so many people are going to fixed gear and single speed bikes, folks are still arguing for 14 speed IGHs. I think it depends upon your circumstances and needs. Obviously, a loaded tour in mountainous country is going to require wide ranging and many gears. On the other hand, a suburban/urban commute is far less demanding. On my relatively flat commute I rarely use more than 2-3 gears. I haven’t shifted into my granny ring in months.

    The Alfine dynamo was fine. It has a bit more drag than the SON, and only time will tell how they’ll hold up, but it seems perfectly fine for commuting and I’d purchase one in a minute.

    Regards,
    Alan

  • Randall Best says:

    I bought a Civia Hyland last fall while recovering from an accident that totaled my Specialized Globe IG8 on my commute home from work. I new what I wanted: 700 wheels, disk brakes, internal gears and quality components. Shopping on the internet, I often found what I wanted in a custom bike – but I wanted to start riding again as soon as possible. I found that the Hyland had what I wanted off-the-shelf. I wanted to get something that would be low maintenance, reliable and ready for immediate use. I ordered a Rohloff build.

    The Hyland exceeded my expectations and makes commuting a joy – even in cold rainy weather.

    As a regular commuter, I do not consider it to be “pricy” and consider it an alternative to buying another car.

    I did replace the light with a Supernova E3 front and rear set that looks great and really lights up the road.

    I can’t say enough about how great the Hyland is. For me it has become a twice daily pleasure.

    Loving the Ride,
    Randall

  • Alan says:

    Hi Randall,

    Sorry to hear about your accident but I’m glad to hear you’re back on the road. :-) I’m also glad to hear you’re loving your Hyland. Now that I own one (as opposed to only having one on loan for review) I feel I can more enthusiastically endorse it. It really is a fantastic bike with very few details overlooked. The one weak spot, as you mentioned, is the lighting system. I have plans to upgrade to either a Supernova or an Edelux sometime before next winter. The good news is that Civia is planning on upgrading from the Shimano headlight in future production runs.

    If you have any photos, I’d love to include them in the Bicycle Gallery here. We also have a Flickr group for Civia at the following address:

    http://www.flickr.com/groups/civia/

    Regards,
    Alan

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  • Jim says:

    I’m in the midst of deciding between the Civia Hyland, the Breezer Finesse, or building something based on a Cannondale Touring or a Surly LHT frame. If I go the build route, it will be with IGH and discs, so the end result would look very much like one of the two out-of-the-box fast commuters. Tough decision! I knew nothing when I started commuting 6 months ago, and have been trying hard to get myself ‘edjucated’, so I don’t repeat the mistake I made when getting the bike I commute on now, which doesn’t fit and hasn’t held up to the 16 mi/day hard ride. From the various reviews I’ve read, the knock on the Breezer is its lack of a full chain guard, while the knock on the Civia is its lights. Not much wet weather here in Arizona, and the lights issue is solvable, so neither is the deal maker/breaker.

    I’m a big guy (6’6″ – 220#). You aren’t going to see many of these bikes in the neighborhood shops, and if you do, I gurantee it won’t be the 24″ model!

    Alan – you’ve ridden and reviewed both. You bought the Civia. Any specific reason you favored it over the Breezer? Any thoughts on how each would be for a big guy who rides fairly hard to work each day? Any advantage you see to a custom buildout over one of these (very similar) out of the box commuters?

    Thanks in advance…
    –Jim

  • JohnnyC says:

    @ Jim

    I couldn’t decide either and at the end of the day, I went with the Finesse because I enjoyed the ride much better. Try both and then make an informed decision.

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  • kevin says:

    Alan -
    What do you think of the Hyland as a potential light touring bike? I’m looking for a commuter bike that I can also use for occasional trips of 100 miles or less, but I keep seeing that the Hyland is designed for 15-30 mile commutes. Not sure exactly what this means, but I’m concerned that it might somehow be unsuitable for non-commute purposes.
    Any thoughts?
    Kevin

  • Alan says:

    Hi Kevin,

    There’s no reason a Hyland can’t be ridden longer distances other than the flat handlebar. Most people prefer the multiple hand positions of a drop bar for rides over 30-40 miles. That said, there are some people who have toured the world on bikes with flat bars. If you’re a person who can ride long distances on a flat bar, the Hyland will perform very well as a light touring bike.

    Alan

 
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