Civia was kind enough to loan me a prototype of their new Bryant commuter for a couple of weeks to put it through its paces and share my impressions with EcoVelo readers. I normally like to ride a bike for at least 4-6 weeks to get an in-depth picture of the bike before writing a review, but because of the excitement surrounding this bike I thought I’d go ahead and write a short-term review with the caveat that these are only my limited impressions based upon two weeks of riding.
Last week we took a first look at the Bryant, pointing out component details and going over the spec list. For this round I wanted to focus more on frame geometry, ride quality, and the overall package.
I’ve been looking at frame geometry charts and poring over component lists for so many years that I usually have a fairly good idea whether or not I’ll like a bike well before I ride it. I knew by looking at the charts that the Bryant would most likely be comfortable and easy to ride, with neutral-to-stable handling and no big surprises. To put the Bryant’s frame geometry in context, I created a table showing the Bryant’s numbers next to those of the popular Trek Pilot and Surly Long Haul Trucker.
|Bike (all 58cm)||Trek Pilot||Civia Bryant||Surly LHT|
|Head Tube Angle||73 degrees||72 degrees||72 degrees|
|Seat Tube Angle||72.8 degrees||73 degrees||72.5mm|
|Effective Top Tube Length||567mm||580mm||586mm|
|Fork Offset (rake)||45mm||45mm||45mm|
The Trek is a sport/performance bike that has a more forgiving geometry than their pure racing bikes. The Surly is the most popular loaded touring bike on the market. The Bryant falls in the middle between the two. The Trek has quicker steering than either the Surly or the Bryant, both of which have stable steering optimized for carrying rear loads. The main difference in geometry between these bikes lies in the top tube and chainstay lengths. The Trek is short in both regards which makes it lighter and stiffer, but not ideal for hauling loads of any sort. The Surly, with its long chainstays, has enough heel clearance for even expedition-size rear panniers. The Bryant’s mid-length chainstays provide the appropriate amount of clearance for commuting panniers while still keeping the wheelbase a little tighter and more compact than the LHT’s.
The ride quality of the Bryant holds true to its spec sheet. The steering is neutral-to-stable and optimized for a rear load. The frame is plenty stiff for carrying a commuting load, but not as rigid as many aluminum frames or the touring-oriented LHT. The frame has just a touch of vertical compliance under my 160 lb. frame, though not as much as my Rivendell Sam Hillborne. The top tube is longish and should work well for riders with average to longer-than-average torsos. I happen to have long legs and a short torso, so I’d opt for a shorter stem if I owned this bike.
The best chromoly frames coming out of Taiwan today rival those we used to see coming out of Japan, and the Bryant’s frame is right up there in quality. The TIG welds are crisp and clean, the finish is smooth with no obvious orange-peeling or bubbles, and the frame details around the dropouts are impressive. The overall fit-and-finish is excellent for a production bike in this price range.
I already covered the Bryant’s component details in a previous post. To briefly recap, the highlight of the group is the Alfine IGH/Gates Carbon Drive/Versa brifter drivetrain. As I’ve previously stated (to ad nauseam at this point), this is an incredible drivetrain for year-round commuting and general utility riding. Again, it truly is one of the smoothest drivetrains I’ve encountered, and the low maintenance aspects of the internal gear hub and belt drive are real benefits for those who ride year-round in inclement weather. Being a prototype, the wheels on this bike were mismatched and the disc brakes were down-spec’d to Avid BB5’s. The production models will, of course, have matched wheels and the brakes will be the higher quality Avid BB7’s. The remainder of the components are nice quality and about what you’d expect on a bike in this price range.
The Civia Bryant should serve extremely well as a car replacement, particularly for those who have been riding road bikes and prefer an open, drop bar cockpit. The drivetrain is state-of-the-art, and the thoughtfully detailed chromoly steel frame is attractive and well-constructed. The handling is neutral and easy and the layout is well-suited to carrying rear commuting loads. Overall, I’d say the Bryant is a successful design that meets the needs of serious commuters. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the final production version when it hits the streets in April.
Frame and Fork: Double Butted CroMoly Steel
Shifters: Versa Integrated shift / brake levers
Crankset: Civia Forged Alloy
Gearing: 50×24 w/ 8 speed internal
Brakes: Avid BB7 Road
Rear Hub: Shimano Alfine
Weight as Tested: Approximately 30.5 lbs.
Disclosure: Civia is a sponsor of this site and provided the bike for this review.