Ruminations on the Ubiquitous Transpo Bike

I do a lot of bus riding as part of my commute. To stave off boredom, I scout bicycles and keep a rough tally in my head of how many and what type of bikes I see during my trip. Around where I live, the #1 type of bike being used for transportation is the generic sub-$500, hard-tail, suspension-fork mountain bike. The Trek 820 shown above is a typical example, though I see similar bikes from all the major brands. These may not be ideal bikes for how they’re being used, and they’re certainly not glamorous, but they’re pretty tough, they’re reasonably comfortable, and the price is right. Most that I see still have knobby tires installed, and a good number seem to be ill-fitting. I suspect a simple tire swap, along with some assistance from a local bike shop to dial in the fit, would dramatically improve the ride experience for many of the people on these bikes.

While I’m always happy to see anyone on a bike, and these mountain-bikes-being-used-as-commuters seem to be working fairly well for a surprising number of people, it would sure be great if there was a more road-worthy alternative that was widely available in this price range. I’m imagining a simple TIG-welded steel bike with a rigid fork, upright geometry, roadster bars, cushy tires, single chainring up front, 7-speed cassette in back, wide saddle, metal fenders, and folding wire panniers. If they can build a 21-speed, suspended mountain bike for under $500, it seems like someone should be able to build my fantasy city bike and sell it for under $500 as well. Linus is doing something along these lines (see below), though they’ve chosen to go with a 3-speed IGH which might be a tough sell to non-bikies who have come to expect at least 21 gears. The $64 question is whether a bike like my 7-speed could go up against a 21-speed mountain bike on the sales floor of the typical neighborhood bike shop or big box store (I’m somewhat doubtful).

I’ve argued many times for adjusting our thinking regarding bike pricing, and I still feel that as a society we undervalue bicycles. I don’t know how many times I’ve talked to people who balked at the price of a $1000 bicycle while not even blinking an eye at the price of a $20,000 automobile. And while we can argue for a change in perspective on bike pricing until we’re blue in the face, that’s not going to change the fact that for the foreseeable future, an overwhelming majority of the bikes on the road will continue to be from the low end of the price range. It would be great to see more bikes in this price range designed specifically for the commuter/transport bicyclist.

77 Responses to “Ruminations on the Ubiquitous Transpo Bike”

  • kanishka says:

    there is some part of me that craves a linus for exactly the situation you describe. but i have no practical need for one, since my swift is capable of more than the linus models and fills all of my needs at present.

    in terms of marketing, linus just culturally fits in with city 20 something middle class or upper middle class. mountain transportation (especially with seatpost cut from main frame, suspended) culturally fits in with poor city working poor style. i think a linus would be seen as too “white”, and cheesy. no street style in the back of walmart or kmart.

    we have a ton of poor, can’t afford car, nexus transportation bikes around hartford.

  • Beginner Cycling says:

    Perhaps your fantasy bike should be the Electra Townie 7D with some Planet Bike fenders — should cost around $450. I rode one last weekend (will be reviewing on my blog) and enjoyed it a lot.

    Best,
    Rob

  • townmouse says:

    What super looking bikes. I’m sure there are people who would quibble but given the price, they’re grand. I’d definitely have been interested back when I was looking for a bike (in the end I went for a rebuild to get the looks I wanted and it cost almost a third more than those new).

    On the price thing, once you’re a committed cyclist, spending a grand on a bike is sensible but when you’re just starting out it’s not so easy to make the case. Think how many bikes spend their lives in sheds and garages because someone thought they’d ride it more than, in the end, they did. Some of that might be because really cheap bikes can be nasty to ride, but I don’t blame someone for wanting to start on a modest bike. When you’re learning to drive, you don’t go straight out and buy a ferrari, do you? Your first car is usually a bit of a junker. No reason why your first bike shouldn’t be the same… then when the bug has bitten, you can justify shelling out for something really nice

  • Jim in Niagara Falls says:

    Bikes, like cars and trucks are designed to serve a specific purpose. A truck made for off road use can certainly be for daily road use, but it wouldn’t be the most comfortable or efficient ride. I believe a reason so many mountain bikes are on the road is because that’s what retail dealers have available, which is where the majority of folks go for their first bike since childhood. And, let’s face it, folks are reluctant do drop a lot of money on a bike that they may not even like . Until the inexpensive commuter bikes start showing up in the retail stores, giving people a choice, I believe we will continue to see the mountain bike commuters out there. I would love to see bikes priced like the Linus line in the retail stores and offer an option to the mountain bikes. Then maybe the demand for true commuters will rise.

  • Tali says:

    I agree, at the moment there just aren’t good transport bikes in low end of the price range, and I fear, not enough educated potential bicycle buyers to make their production a safe bet for manufacturers. At the moment, most people who know that a mountain bike isn’t perhaps the best choice for utility cycling on pavement, also would believe that buying a sub-$500 new bicycle is likely to be a false economy, hence the lack of more practical bikes below this price point.

    At the moment, the situation is analagus to someone seeking to buy a small car, walking into the dealer and being offered a wide selection of dune buggies and 1-2 seat sports cars. So, they end up driving away with something that while useable, isn’t optimal.

    And don’t get me started on knobby tyres on pavement.

  • Jeff says:

    Alan,
    While not at all like the bike you described, I bought a KHS Flite 220 in March. It’s a tig welded 4130 steel frame with rack and fender eyelets, eight speed double with Shimano 2200 brifters. It also comes with an uncut steering tube so it has a very upright position for a “road” bike. I got it at a LBS for $450.00. Is it a GREAT bike? Well, no, but it’s a lot of bike for the money and I couldn’t be happier with it. BTW, the steering tube is left long enough that I mounted an additional stem with a tube just long enough for a light and battery leaving my bars clean. Looks very cool! Thanks for the sight! Love it!

  • Supp Suppinger says:

    Maybe that´s because people associate Your mentioned mountain bike with the “most modern bike available” and progress. I made the same “mistake”, and bought myself a 2200 USD full suspended mountain bike for mountainbiking, touring, commuting, etc. I just thought, that this would be the perfect overall allrounder, comfortable, and so on. Well, overall it´s satisfying, but now I know, that I am going to buy additionally some other bikes: one touring bike with 26″ tires and made of steel for touring, a cheaper retro citybike like a Pashley for cruising around in the city. Buying bikes is a learning curve, You start with what You think is best for You, but then learn, that there were other options …

  • Frits B says:

    Bikes like this do exist, they even have lights, but not as yet in the US as apparently manufacturers do not foresee they can sell enough of them. Import from Europe or even China and Japan makes them pricey. What you need is demand; as long as everybody goes for a mountain bike the industry will make them.
    Spread the word and educate, sir!

  • Tom says:

    Alan, at our blog http://bikesfortherestofus.blogspot.com/ we focus on exactly this topic. We scout reasonably priced transportation bikes that are for sale in the US. Another good example is the Nirve Euro Sport Series which are more widely available than the Linus:
    http://bikesfortherestofus.blogspot.com/2010/05/nirve-euro-sport-commuter-series.html
    The good news is that here in the DC area we’re seeing more and more transportation bikes. It’s a beautiful thing.

  • George Hart says:

    I am using a 20+ year old Specialized mountain bike for my ride to the train station–2 miles, partly on an old rail bed–and want to replace the knobby tires I have been using. Looking at the Marathon tires you feature, and the Big Apple tires as well. Is any tire in the 26″ size especially good for riding around town? Is the largest balloon size good for a bike without suspension, in your readers’ experience?

    George Hart
    Concord MA

  • Brian Cunnane says:

    I think the problem with trying to sell a bike like the Linus Roadster to the general public is that it’s not very “cool” looking. While the Roadster is probably a solid bike it is almost a polar opposite to what sells today. We need to educate the public that a bike doesn’t need full suspension, knobby tyres and 21+ gears to function as a commuter bike. That said, one more person on a bike is one car fewer on the road.

  • Erich Zechar says:

    The Jamis Coda is probably pretty close to what you want. Throw on some plastic fenders, a rear rack, some baskets and you have a durable little steel commuter. They are regularly available for less than $400, so the customization won’t hurt a bunch. They seem to sell pretty well, and the 24 speed drivetrain, like it or not, is appealing to most new riders.

  • Rich says:

    Two thoughts. Neither of them are original.

    The average US or UK person, even the typical bicycle buyer, still sees bicycles as a piece of recreational equipment and not a practical and essential part of daily life. This is the market big bicycle makers serve, by selling mostly bikes with no mud guards, chain cases, etc. Things like internal hub gears, with their reliability are almost unheard of for most people in the US.

    Regarding the spending norms for bicycles compared to autos, its important to remember that its a lot easier to lose a bike than a car to thieves. In big cities where you find more cycle commuters and practical cyclists, you also find more thieves. Here in London, people buy bikes with the expectation of keeping it for a year or so, before it disappears and winds up on ebay or brick lane. The best advice with regards to cycle theft in these places is to have a crappy bike.

  • Fenway says:

    The KHS Green is probably the cheapest city bike that fits your description. It retails for $325-375. It’s heavy and not the most elegantly designed bicycle (the geometry and graphics could use refinement aesthetically), but it has fairly solid components and all the basic features & accessories (3speed, chain-guard, fenders, roadster bars, rear rack, rear wheel lock, bell) one would want on a city bike. The Schwinn Coffee, KHS Cidi, Trek Belleville, and the Linus above fit the similar bill in increasing cost. I think most whom are interesting in bicycle commuting are apprehensive on making a large investment in something which isn’t a sure thing, so that they try it first with the mountain bike which has been spoiling away in the garage. The downside is that their initial experience of commuting isn’t going to be as enjoyable on that type of bike in a urban environment, compared to a bicycle which is purpose built or equipped for it.

  • Archergal says:

    I think I’d buy a bike like you describe, already fitted out, in a heartbeat. I’m using an 18 year old Trek hybrid for most of my utility riding. I keep looking for a bike like that in local shops, but not finding one.

    If I’m honest with myself, part of it is aesthetics. I just like the LOOK of this style bike. I may be having an attack of retrogrouchiness, though. :)

    But I need more than 3 gears, because it’s hilly where I am, and I’m older. I rarely use more than 7 on my Trek, though.

  • ontario bacon says:

    This post is so true. The majority of bikes in my area are squat mountain bikes with flat black paint. They also seem to be the transportation of choice ( or necessity ) for shady characters in bad parts of town to do their rounds.

    One nice thing about having these bikes around with their knobby 26 inch tires is that they are so slow. Anyone on a reasonable bicycle with 700X35 or so tires, even a single speed, can smoke anyone on one of those mountain bikes, even if the mountain bike rider is younger and should be in better shape. Which is a treat.

    And on the subject of ill fitting bikes…why do older gentlemen always seem to ride with their knees sticking out on either side? It looks so uncomfortable. Raise your saddles a bit gents, you will feel so much better, and the rest of us will have one less eyesore to deal with.

  • Bob B says:

    Alan, now you’re talking – a basic, affordable and simple people’s commuter bike. We own a 2010 Raleigh Roadster derailleur 8-speed that has been a good bike so far. It has a steel frame, double wall rims, dual pivot sidepulls and metal fenders, though does not have a chain guard. http://bit.ly/bXtpk9 . Breezer builds one: http://bit.ly/9YcNZI . Schwinn also makes one: http://bit.ly/cxCTfr that shares a similar geometry to my favorite bike, a 1972 Schwinn Collegiate 5-speed.

  • Billy says:

    After owning many commuter bikes, I sought after and purchased an old Trek 820 (rigid fork) to commute on. I swapped out the tires. A semi-aggressive riding posture (not upright) is more comfortable/less frustrating for me. Metal fenders get crushed on light rail, so I use plastic. I have owned folding panniers and they are handy, but I haven’t found any that are as durable and convenient as my Ortiebs.

    I think that for people who know a lot about bikes, the differences between the pictured bikes are enormous; however, most people don’t see or care about the differences. If it has 2 wheels, it will get you from point A to point B. Customize/upgrade as you wish…

  • Erich Zechar says:

    Actually i totally forgot, somebody DOES build your fantasy commuter bike, and it’s $400, in both a men’s and women’s frame. The Schwinn Jenny and Willy are 7 speed, steel frame bikes with sprung saddles, 700c wider tires, chainguard, fenders, and a rear rack.
    I don’t think they sell too well either – I just saw my first one yesterday after living on a busy college campus and working in the local bike shop for quite some time.

  • Barbara Kilts says:

    One of my co-workers finally up-graded from a crappy big box mountain bike w/ non functioning brakes and gearing (scary!) to a rather nice looking, nearly fully equipped city bike that he got at – gulp – Wally World! It has 7 speed derailleur gearing, chain guard, fenders, rack, smooth tread 700c wheels, upright bars. He added a set of LED lights and is good to go. Although it may not last as long as a higher priced alternative, with normal care it should serve well. At least the transport bike idea is migrating to the masses.

    This week, he was riding home and got forced into the ditch by a large truck. He went over a pipe or something and got the front wheel over, but the rear wheel took the hit and got bent… Would a better bike survived? – hard to say…

    Barbara

  • Bob B says:

    Schwinn’s ability to attract stocking dealers seems to be related to their selling (cheaper?) bikes thru big box stores. All three of our Chicago built Schwinns (two 1972s and one 1964) have their original Ashtabula 1 pc cranks and steel chainrings. These are super easy to rebuild and last a long time. I have considered replacing one of my Ashtabulas with a 3 pc conversion, new BB & new crank to get lower gears, but it is costly. I don’t know if modern 1 pc cranks are as good as these vintage ones. It would be great if this “people’s bike” could be built with more durable and serviceable parts.

  • steve says:

    A friend has a Trek Atwood and is very happy with it as a commuter. She did have to spend another $50 on racks. Sticking with Trek the Belleville is also a possibility, although it is somewhat order the limit. It does have lights, fenders, and two racks. Unfortunately it has 3 speeds too .. if they could do an 8 speed internal hub for this price it would be very attractive

  • Erich Zechar says:

    I would be willing to bet that the modern Schwinn Billy is dramatically superior to the older Chicago Schwinns in a couple areas: better braking due to much better brake design and aluminum rims, quite a few pounds lighter due to lighter steel being used. I doubt the new 1-piece crankset is as robust as a vintage one, nor will that plastic Tourney derailer hold up to much abuse.

  • Beginner Cycling says:

    In addition to the Electra Townie 7D I mentioned above, for under $1,000 there are really a lot of decent transport/commuter bikes out there. This post has inspired me to add a post to my blog on this topic. Here’s the link: http://www.cyclingforbeginners.com/affordable-commuter-bikes-for-under-1000/

    IMHO there are several reasons that we don’t see more people on these types of bikes. (1) As with the SUV craze, many folks buy a mountain bike thinking they will do off-road riding, when they mostly don’t; (2) Cheap mountain bikes are ubiquitous — so people can pick them up at the local big-box-retailer while buying groceries, underwear, etc.; and (3) on most cycling websites and forums, when a newbie shows up wanting cheap commuter information, the other folks immediately start saying “well if you’d only up your budget to $1500 you could get a really great bike” etc. Let’s face it, for those who aren’t already cycling enthusiasts, when you start saying $1,000 they start thinking “I could get a motorscooter or a used motorcycle for that” or something similar. Plus, if you’re married you might be multiplying that number by two. Like it or not, most folks can’t quite face spending over $1,000 on a bicycle.

  • Moopheus says:

    I started commuting on the Trek 830 (rigid fork) I already had. It had been sold to me some years ago. At the time I knew nothing about bikes and didn’t have a lot of money to spend on one. Later, I did swap out the knobbies for street tires, which does improve the ride. Also went clipless. Like many in that situation, I did end up being sold a bike that was a little too small for me, and when I started spending a lot more time on the bike, that became a real problem. So I got a new bike. I ended up with a Jamis Aurora Elite, which has been far better in every way, but of course cost more. One thing about the old Trek, though: it’s tough. I never worried about potholes, or anything.

    Probably 40-50 percent of all the bikes I see around here are some sort of vintage bike. Older Schwinns, Raleighs, whatever. Univegas.

    The relative price of cars and bikes is irrelevant to the value of bikes. Yes, they’re both forms of transport, but they’s obviously completely different in terms of materials, components, and labor needed to build one. One could in fact wonder the opposite. Why does a frame with a few pounds of steel tubing cost hundreds of dollars, or even more? And not even for custom, hand-built. Sure, if some guy spends a week building you a custom-fit frame, you’d expect to pay for that. But should it really be necessary for a production, factory frame to cost so much?

  • voyage says:

    Various observations and speculation —

    1) I think part of the appeal of mountain bikes as commuters to the novice/advanced beginner is the downward sloping top tube. They probably look safer and less intimidating in a commuting/utility scenario. And they might very well be so (complex empirical issue; a dearth of data).

    2) Person walks into local bike shop. They want to try out commuting by bike. The LBS has an inventory bulge of mountain bikes, so they push the mountain bike saying “You can also use it as a mtb if you to try that out, too.” (or vice versa, person walks into bike shop wanting to try out mountain biking, “You can also use it as a commuter…”)

    3) Some (many?) of the mountain bikes being used as commuters were sold off cheap by people who lost interest in mountain biking or upgraded.

    4) I doubt the stratosphere executives at the massive makers of quality bikes (Specialized, TREK, etc) have not considered the bike Alan describes. These guys have to turn in minimum ROI and market creation metrics to keep their jobs and I have to assume that they figure they just can’t get the volume needed under the circumstances. They’re not wrong, Alan’s not wrong.

    5) Possibly the closest to what Alan has in mind is Specialized’s Globe Vienna line (Vienna 1 MSRP $400, Vienna 3 MSRP $610) except that they have aluminum frames and three chain rings; in other words over-engineered. I wouldn’t buy one without considering the cost of upgrading the rims, possibly the hubs. I would also be concerned about the longevity of the rear derailleur. But one has to credit Specialized for the effort.

  • CHenry says:

    An 8 or 9-speed internal hub, single chainring, bullhorn or barends rather than northroads/priests and plastic fenders would be better. I like metal fenders, but not because of their toughness; they are brittle and prone to dents or they are heavy. Plastifens make far more sense for a practical commuter, looks aside. As for a 7-speed, not. There aren’t any good 7-speed products made anymore. You would be better off with a 9-speed Deore or Tiagra and be done with it.

  • Molnar says:

    I agree with Alan that 7 speeds is a good choice, but an internally-geared hub probably wouldn’t fit the price range. I think a 7-speed freewheel would be better than a cassette: as far as I can tell, the only advantage to a cassette is to go beyond 7 cogs, but a freewheel works fine with 7 cogs, and appears to be less costly for a given level of quality. Contrary to what CHenry says, there are some excellent 7-speed products being made; try a Phil Wood 7-speed freewheel hub with an IRD freewheel, for example. Maybe the point was that there is nothing in the range between truly awful and very expensive, which, alas, may be true.

  • Jennifer S. says:

    I recently bought a Globe Live 2 Mixte, with a Nexus 8 IGH, chainguard, metal fenders, and a front rack that carries 50 lbs. Since I work at home, I use it to run errands around town and it’s great for that. I added LED lights. I also considered a Trek Belleville and a Breezer Uptown 8, but neither of these were stocked in any bike stores around town. At $900 it wasn’t cheap, and in fact is worth more than my car. But I plan to use it for many years.

  • Androo says:

    There are actually an awful lot of bikes on the market that fit the bill for around $500, though I think most of them have appeared in the past few years.

    Trek/Gary Fisher makes about 5. Jamis makes 3. Giant makes a couple. Likewise with Specialized, KHS, Schwinn, Raleigh, etc… already mentioned.

    There are probably about 20 solid budget commuter bikes from major manufacturers available these days.

  • randomray says:

    I see lots of good comments but I guess most people live where it is flat because a three speed or even a 7 speed without a granny gear is useless alot of places . If you can’t down shift on that hill you’re going to get really hot and sweaty . If you end up working your ass off to get to work most people are only going to do it once , not realizing it will get easier . Another factor is you can’t show off your ego machine that you don’t need ” SUV “.

  • ontario bacon says:

    A 1X7 drivetrain is a really good idea. It is easy to shift and the chainline is adequate even at the extremes. An 11-34 7-speed cassette can give you a gear range of 27-84 gear inches. You don’t need a higher gear than that on a commuting bike.

    If you have really severe hills to deal with,you could even easily get by with a 22-69 gear inch range…the high gear is as high as a lot of people ride on a single speed bike, you can go quite fast with that gear in a city situation, where you are going to be doing a lot of stopping and going anyway. The only problem is that is going to require a 28 tooth chainring.

    A low gear of 22-27 will get you up almost any hill. On really steep hills, you are going to have to pay a price no matter how low a gear you have. Spinning an extreme low gear up a steep hill for a long time will make you sweat too.

    ( The common 48/38/28 with an 11-34 cassette has a high gear of around 112 gear inches. That is a bit ridiculous, most track bikes aren’t even geared that high. )

  • Alistair Williamson says:

    PAKE URBAN SIX-SPEED BICYCLE – $350
    I think this is what you were looking for
    http://www.pakebikes.com/product/A070D7/Urban+Six-Speed+Bicycle

    – Men’s 18″ or Ladies 16″ step-thru
    – Steel frame, Alloy wheels
    – Shimano rear derailleur and 6-speed freewheel
    – Sugino crank Shimano rear derailleur and 6-speed freewheel
    – Twist shifters & Alloy V-brakes
    – Spring saddle, 700x35c tires
    – metal fenders
    – chain guard & Bell

    Throw in rack and wire panniers ($60?) and a cheap light set ($40) and you still have decent change from your $500

    Cheers, Alistair

  • Janice in GA says:

    @randomray: Even when I shift to my granny gear on some of the local hills, I still get hot & sweaty. Of course, it’s in the mid 90s F, with over 50% humidity.

    If anyone can tell me how not to get hot & sweaty in those conditions, I’d welcome the info! I’m just resigned to sweating like a field hand when I go out in the summer. Luckily, I don’t work in an office.

  • Doug R. says:

    Alan, I have a trek 4300, with dart three rock shox forks(with handlebar lock out), and it has a “Hybrid” tires (bald centers and chucks on the side walls). I have used it as a commuter and weekend trail bike for a number of years! I augmented the steering stem with a Kalloy brand adjustable 100 mm stem, and mid level rise bars. It fits well and the bars are truly above the seat for commuter work. Tough little bike! I recently moved to a pure roadie bike in a Giant brand “Rapid” as my main go to work and bike trail bike. I do like that it is a 2×9 for hills. I do not always like the solid front forks as my ride is sometimes off paved surfaces. It is really light aluminum and the 700 C road tires are fast. Your dream bike sounds like my Giant less a few gears. I did change the handlebars, and stem in the same manner as the Trek. Great little bike! Cost of used Trek $280.00 plus a few bucks to upgrade, Cost of Giant Rapid, Oh, around a $1000.00 plus upgrades. I think your dream bike is a job for Swobo man and his side kick Soma boy? Dougman.

  • Alan says:

    @Androo

    I may be missing something, but I’m not seeing bikes from the manufacturers you mention that meet the requirements I listed: fenders, racks/panniers, upright seating position, at least 7 speeds, and under $500. If you don’t mind, can you list some of the specific models you’re referring to?

    Thanks,
    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Bob B

    Those are all very nice options. I like the Breezer with its chainguard and 3-piece crank. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen any of these bikes in our local bike shops.

    Alan

  • Will says:

    Here in NYC we have a LOT of hardtail mountain bikes, but rarely does one see knobby tires. Perhaps you see more knobbies due to the great XC trail riding that’s also available in CA. I’m also suddenly seeing a LOT of Linus bikes here in NYC too. Saw three last week in the Chelsea/Flatiron part of the city.

  • Al says:

    I second the need for a Cheap and Good transport bike. My search for one led me to a Japanese Mamachari. They are used as transport for the family esp moms taking their kdis to school. Used Mamacharis can be found used quite easily as they are exported out. I got my at US$68 and it comes with a centre stand, build in rear lock, basket, front dynamo lighting, chain guard, full fenders, rear rack. Some come with a 3 speed IGH. Although mine is just one speed, it rides decently and best of all, I dont think anyone wants to steal it so safe to park at train stations etc.

    More here: http://lovethefold.blogspot.com/2010/07/quest-for-rpk-ride-park-forget-bike.html

  • konrad gannon says:

    Check the Torker Graduate as reviewed in Bicycle Times. Looks like a great ride and just what you were describing.

  • Roger says:

    I have a Trek Allant and it seems to fit what you described. It is under $500 and does the job quite well for my 8 mi commute or loading onto to bus. It’s 21 speed which I like for I have a few large hills on the way home.

  • Lovely Bicycle! says:

    In Boston, within the past 2 years I have witnessed the “ubiquitous mountain bike” being replaced by the vintage 3-speed, the vintage 10-speed, the imported Dutch bike, and the budget version city bike. The trend is undeniable if you just look around the city, and I must say it has made a huge aesthetic difference : )

    I am all for budget city bikes in principle, but…

    1. Almost everybody I know who got one, has been dissatisfied with their quality and comfort. The “upright city bike” is a new genre for many manufacturers, and I feel that they do not always get the geometry right, resulting in comfort and efficiency issues. On the other hand, those who buy vintage 3-speeds are usually very happy with them.

    2. Many of these budget bikes are priced in the $500-800 range, and for the difference in quality that exists between these are the bikes in the $1000-1500 range, I feel that the savings are not worth it.

    Just my opinion, based on *many* emails from readers that ask me for advice on what bike to get after their $700 budget city bike either brakes or “sucks”….

  • Pete says:

    Alan-
    Provocative post as always!
    Many comments have noted that the popularity of these bikes is probably related less to what the user requires than the fact that there are literally millions of these lying around in garages allover the country. In most cases, the choice was automatic because these folks probably already had the bike lying around.
    I can appreciate that. I my commuter bike is an old 1989 GT hard-tail/hard-nose mountain bike. I swapped to street tires, upright bars, added lights, fenders, a rack, new-fangled cartridge BB (The old cup and cone one was shot) and pulled off two chainrings to make it a 1×7- the outer got replaced by a chainring guard and the inner went when I had to remove front derailleur because the cable interfered with the kickstand clamp (kickstand was a higher priority!). It also got the “NYC powder coat” treatment – a liberal wrapping in silver duct tape to make it look as crappy as possible to thieves!
    After all that, NOT counting the original cost of the bike or any labor, I’m probably into close to $400 already. In my case, the bike sits locked outside for 12 hours each day at the train station, so even if I could buy a cheap commuter bike I wouldn’t – a shiny new bike would just attract unwanted attention.
    I think these bikes serve a purpose. The fact is, many people are never in the market to buy a “new” bike for commuting, for one reason or another. The $500 commuter you mention is for a different group of people, and I think that market is slowly being served by a lot of the bikes you and the commenters mentioned.

  • Bob says:

    I believe that there is a market for a bike like the Linus. I am concerned, though, after noticing that the specs show the frame to be hi-ten steel and the bike’s weight to be 29#. I believe that the small premium for chrome moly would be well worth it, particularly in the weight savings (probably 3-5#). I’m not a weight weenie, but the commuter knowledgeable enough to want the “style” of the Linus will be sophisticated enough to demand a chrome-moly frame. And while the ride quality of steel versus aluminum is certainly up for debate, I also notice that the Electra Ticino 7D (with aluminum frame) is about the same price as the Linus 3sp.

    Would any knowledgeable commuter pay over $500 for a 3 speed bike with a hi-ten steel frame?

  • Pete says:

    @Bob
    I like Linus, but I think that they are more in the “bike as fashion accessory” market and less in the “real” functional bike market (the good thing is that fashion accessory bikes are pretty well made these days and not TOTALLY non-functional!)
    The truth is, a parallel trend to the current “bikes as transportation” boom is a “bikes as fashion” boom. They are in every trendy clothing shop window in Manhattan. The trendier-than-thou folks in Williamsburg are snapping up old Raleighs and fixie-ing anything they can get their hands on.
    Linus makes their bikes for these folks, I think, and if your commute is 20 blocks of city streets then that’s OK. But I think it was probably more important to them to get the “$399″ price tag which will allow people to buy them as fashion accessories, than to save a few pounds.
    I don’t mean this to sound harsh – I think it’s great that somebody who wants a stylish bike can get one for very little money, and companies like Linus and Republic fill a specific market niche very well.

  • Bob B says:

    I also love vintage bikes and wonder why new traditional geometry 3-speeds are so rare. Or 70s sport tourers with side-pull brakes for that matter.

    I would buy a > $500 hiten 3-speed like a Pashley, Batavus, Gazelle or Workcycles. We could probably learn a few things about commuter bikes from the Dutch. My old hiten bikes are some of the toughest bikes I’ve ever owned. And my 4 year old cromo MTB style commuter has a dent in the top tube and requires more frequent and more costly maintenance than any of my old bikes.

    Has anyone tried a Worksman or Bowery Lane?

  • Joseph E says:

    Alan, if you consider a 5-speed Sturmey Archer hub equivalent to a 7-speed cassette (it has a 2.4 to 1 range, better than some 7-speed cassettes), then the Torker Graduate is a great choice. It even has drum brakes front and rear! My LBS sells it for $450, including 9% tax, so you can add an alloy rack for $25 more (or a steel wire rack for $15) without breaking the budget. You also need to spend $10 on a bigger rear cog, because the factory gearing is too high. But there you have a practical, stylish bike with cro-moly frame, complete under $500, with tax included. Torker is available in many local shops; same company as Redline, which makes many popular BMX bikes it appears.

    I considered buying that bike, or the Torker t-530, which adds a chaincase (!), more upright seating, the option of a step-thru frame, rollerbrakes front and back, and a 7-speed nexus hub, for only $600, but eventually decided to pay a couple hundred more to get the Breezer Uptown 8, mainly due to the built-in lights (it also has wider tires and fenders, and a rear wheel lock.

    The Breezer is hard to find, but available online from http://commuterbikestore.com
    There, the Uptown EX has a 7-speed rear cassette, fenders, etc, for only $460. The Uptown 3 (IGH 3-speed) with built-in dynamo lights, is less than $600.

    There are many, many useful 3-speed bikes for under $500, including the Torker t-300 http://www.torkerusa.com/bikes/commuter-life/2010-t300 ($350 here w/ tax) and Electra Townie 3i ($450, but I saw one on sale for $350), along with many beach-cruiser style bikes.

    The really problem is the lack of used bike of this sort. In Europe, if you want a sub-$300 bike, you can get one with these features on the used market. Just try to find a used Breezer or Torker for sale; not easy.

    That’s why everyone gets a used MTB for $100. I’m suggesting this option to my brother; for $250 he should be able to upgrade to good tires (slick Marathons, perhaps), Kool-stop brake pads, new cables, new tubes, and still have money for lights and a rack. But certainly, getting a used Torker Graduate or Breezer Uptown EX for $200 would be awesome.

  • ZA says:

    The Linus is very pretty, but Giant has been in that market for a while. Here’s one of their offers in the right price range: http://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-us/bikes/model/via.1.2011/7243/43943/

    From an economic standpoint, the real bargain is often with a used bike. What makes me sad about the situation in the US is that 15-20 years of supply became dominated with either very high-end bikes or disposable ‘mountain/BMX’ style bikes – so the poorer worker looking for inexpensive wheels today often has to choose the BMX option, even from secondhand dealers. So apart from 20-something hipsters drooling over a 1979 steel road frame, there just aren’t enough of those circulating in the market.

  • scc says:

    The first thing I thought of was the Kona Smoke http://www.konaworld.com/bike.cfm?content=smoke

  • Bob B says:

    The Torker Graduate is a nice riding bike, I loved the drum brakes and also thought the stock gearing was too high. It is important to find a good IGH mechanic who knows how to take the hubs apart and service them. It is also good to know about replacement parts availability (some hubs seem disposable). I believe dealers can order Nexus 8 grease, rebuild kits and new guts for your wheel if you need it.
    My first generation Kona Smoke was a nice riding bike, but the rear wheel and bottom bracket didn’t last. I believe the Torker T300 has single wall rims. The Giant Via 1 looks very nice.

  • Evan says:

    I think a useful thing to keep in mind is that like it or not, there is still a difference between a bike commuter and someone who rides to work on a bike because that’s all they can afford. An old mountain bike beater is something you can easily find lying around, and chances are part of the appeal about the bike is that it’s cheap, and you don’t need to think about it too much or worry about spending a lot of money on repairs, like with a car.

    “I’ve argued many times for adjusting our thinking regarding bike pricing, and I still feel that as a society we undervalue bicycles. I don’t know how many times I’ve talked to people who balked at the price of a $1000 bicycle while not even blinking an eye at the price of a $20,000 automobile. And while we can argue for a change in perspective on bike pricing until we’re blue in the face, that’s not going to change the fact that for the foreseeable future, an overwhelming majority of the bikes on the road will continue to be from the low end of the price range.”

    That’s all well and good, but for the people I’m thinking of–and where I live, even with a recent increase in people on the road, they are still a very big percentage of people riding bikes–are riding bikes because they have no other choice, or they can’t afford a car. What kind of bikes people are riding aren’t as important as making sure we’re all treated with decency and we have our rights on the road.

  • Tom / Bikejuju says:

    This is a great post , and a great comment stream. The post, and Lovely Bicycle’s comment in particular, got me thinking about my recent experiences in Africa, where just the opposite is happening – after half a century of riding very solid Raleigh-type roadster bikes, typically one-speeds with rod brakes, the Chinese manufacturers (Phoenix, etc) and to some degree the Indians (Neelam) are now flooding the market with “mountain bikes.” They have a certain “modern” appeal sitting outside the store, with 27 speeds, bar ends, knobby tires, etc. But the truth is that they are complete and utter crap, at about a $100 price point they fall apart immediately, and I have ridden several that had broken brakes, wrecked derailleurs, and were accidents waiting to happen. Click on my name to see a few photos.

  • Phil Barns says:

    Hmm “…rigid fork, … roadster bars, cushy tires, single chainring up front, 7-speed cassette in back, wide saddle, metal fenders “: this pretty much describes the conversion process I’m putting my Marin MTB through at the moment, with the exception that I’m going for an eight speed IGH.

  • Ryan says:

    Haven’t had time to go through the comments, but Trek makes several bikes aimed at the commuter/transportation bike category. When we went out looking for a bike for my wife, she picked the Allant which is a dandy commuting bike with fenders, cushy tires and racks.

  • Jack says:

    I am riding a mid 90s Specialized Rockhopper for my commute. It has a steel frame and rigid fork. I have used Town & Country and City tires on it. I added a rear rack and a couple of waterproof panniers as well as some plastic fenders. My route is fairly twisty and hilly. For the twisty and quick up and down parts the 26″ frame works well. My feet do not have clearance problems with the panniers. For the hills I always use the middle and large chain rings but rarely the small one anymore. The large one I use to get a good chain line with the smallest cogs. So if a 1×7 gave me a good chain line, I suspect a single chain ring would work fine.

  • beth h says:

    Evan wrote: “I think a useful thing to keep in mind is that like it or not, there is still a difference between a bike commuter and someone who rides to work on a bike because that’s all they can afford.”

    And that’s it exactly.

    Let’s extend the equation further and suggest that those who ride a bike because they can’t afford other options are the same folks who, if they COULD afford a car, would probably spend $3,000 on something old and used that they can fix at home, rather than $20,000 on a new car with a computer under the dashboard that has to be taken to a shop for repairs.

    The question of “commuter bikes” versus “bicycles” is not only an issue of perception, but of class, privilege, and the ability to be a squeaky wheel when it comes to advocating for our rights on the road. Spend $2,000 on your bike and you’re more likely to advocate for your right to ride it on the roads. Spend $200 on a bike because it’s all you have, and you’re more likely to keep your head down and dream of the day when you can ditch the bike and drive a car, because it’s so obvious that cars enjoy more freedom and rights-of-way than any bicycle ever will in our present landscape.

    If you want to see this equation in action, head to outer SE Portland, the no-mans-land between 122nd Ave and the city line between Portland and Gresham, where there are far fewer bike lanes (or low-traffic, wide streets) and when a bike lane goes in residents howl in protest that bikes do not belong on those streets. In neighborhoods populated by cheap wooden 60’s and 70’s apartment complexes, crumbling or boarded-up strip malls, drug houses and decaying schools, bike advocacy is not high on the list of things to worry about. Those of us fortunate enough to live close-in, in dense urban areas where bicycle infrstructure is hip and has community support, cannot understand what it’s like to live Out There, where riding a bicycle is still a crapshoot and where discussions of $2,000 bikes are met with the rolling eyes and shrugs of hourly-wage service workers who don’t get why anyone would be so stupid as to blow that much money on a bicycle.

    You want those nice, well-made “commuter bicycles” to become ubiquitous? Good luck. It will require a LOT of socio-economic change — a lot of trust-building and community-building and infrastructure developments and job creation — before that can happen.

  • Evan says:

    Thanks, Beth. I think these are issues that people that consider themselves part of a bike community need to think about–that a lot of riders out there don’t think of themselves as cyclists, and might not be riding a bike if they could choose not to. Even if that’s the case, they have as much rights and as much need for improved traffic laws and protection as dedicated, active cyclists do.

  • Patrick from Astoria says:

    A quick note from one of those lower-class wage slaves:

    In comparing $20,000 car vs. $1,000 bicycle, realize that the average person is going to intuitively look at what is being purchased in terms of materials and capability.

    Twenty thousand dollars buys a very large, very technically sophisticated product built to very high standards. Take an average Honda Civic: engine, transmission, anti-lock brakes and stability control, electric windows and remote locking, climate control, stereo/CD/iPod connector. A person could conceivably pack a bag in Brooklyn, toss it in the trunk, and within a few hours be in Boston or DC.

    That same person looks at a $1,000 bicycle – a Civia or a Surly – and cannot comprehend why it is so expensive. That registers as a tremendous amount to pay for a few feet of metal tubing, two wheels, a seat, and a few pieces in between. By nature it’s going to be a slowish, short-range device. What makes that small amount of matter so expensive?

    Yes, it starts making sense after a bit of research: high-quality components, low production numbers, the necessity of overhead in a system where bike shops have to keep the lights on while moving a very discrete amount of product to a small marketplace.

    Sill, three hundred dollars is more reasonable. Again, though, how many decent reasonable three hundred dollar bikes exist? Even a track bike, by nature the simplest and purest expression of the breed, tends to be a $600-$800 creature.

    I want to say it can be fixed, but part of it has to do with cultural shifts and part with manufacturer shifts. Can Trek or Specialized produce a simple $300 city bike that can be sold in the thousands of units per year? How many people would be enticed into trying this out, and in the process breaking the limits on what is – almost proudly – something of a cult?

  • Pete says:

    I’m glad this discussion has come ’round to what I think is the crucial point. Beth, Evan and Patrick got it right- there are “cyclists” and there are “people who ride bikes,” or PWRB’s for short. In the US, the distinction between these groups is sadly still largely, but not wholly, socio-economic. We “cyclists” are a self-selecting group who enjoy the minutae of bicycles and their technology. PWRB’s, on the other hand, don’t care much about that stuff. They may ride whatever bike they can find because it’s all they can afford, but they may also be a typical family of 4 who bought their bikes at Walmart and ride along the local bike trail 3 or 4 times a year. We “cyclists” have an annoying tendency to project our interests and desires on these other groups. The $50 used MTB or $250 Walmart bike may not be up to OUR standards, but they meet the needs of those who buy them.
    Ironically, the world we are advocating for, where bikes are normal, everyday transportation, is a world where PWRB’s dominate.
    We tend to admire the bike cultures of Europe, but, ironically, those are not cultures of “cyclists.” There, the bike is so universal it’s like the car in the US – and most American drivers are not “car nuts’ or “gear heads.” Likewise, I bet 90% of the bike riders in Amsterdam or Copenhagen couldn’t tell you what kind of tires they have, or whether their frame is hi-ten or cro-mo. It doesn’t matter to them.
    Let’s not lament the fact that somebody is riding a cheap, ill-fitting, MTB, or the fact that people just don’t understand why bikes should cost $1000, but rather celebrate the fact that they are on a bike at all.

  • Evan says:

    (applause)

  • Marcus says:

    I just purchased one of these for a friend to try biking – he’s 6’3″ – so finding a cheap bike the right size is difficult. But we tried this: A 2009 Extra-Large Mongoose Kaldi at Nashbar. Currently listed at 219 – aluminum frame, full fenders and a cupholder…and with coupon codes, my cost dropped to $175 delivered.

    Yes – I know I could go to my LBS and get a $350 hybrid – but that’s double the cost, for an item that might not get used much. If he takes to it, we can always upgrade, if not, we can resell on CL at not too much a loss.

    So…it’s a step up from a Wallyworld bike, and a step down from a LBS bike (although I’ve seen the Kaldis at an LBS near me – marked at about $400 – Perf. Bike has this year’s model for $250 here) Mongoose seems to be like Schwinn – they’ve got their box store bikes, and their bike store bikes.

  • steve says:

    Getting people into different sized bikes is a challenge at the low end of the price scale as there is usually very little choice – and fit is important on any bike. A friend is over 6’6 and Trek built a special bike for her based on the Atwood. She has very long legs, but is mostly leg so the frame geometry needs to be different. I think the frame works out to 28″

    The point is that if people are encouraged into bikes like this, they should still should have something that fits.

  • steve says:

    here is the link for the tall Trek http://www.6footsix.com/my_weblog/2010/02/trek-is-here.html

  • Patrick from Astoria says:

    Pete: Thank you, and very true. The Cycle Chic brigade makes much the same point, although they can be more than a little snooty about things that don’t fit their rather rigid dogma. (Why all the bad blood? Cycle Chic types openly disdain sport riders, mountain bikers loathe roadies, roadies sneer at anyone who doesn’t aspire to top-shelf gear, and everyone hates the TT/tri folks. It’s worse than high school.)

    Side point: Maybe a pure Euro-city/Flying Pigeon-style transportation bike shouldn’t be the mandatory answer at the low end of the market, either. Compare the two pictures in the original posting: Yes, the Linus is very graceful and traditional, but the Trek hits a lot of “excitement” buttons. Track bikes are popular to the point where the hipness factor is fading, despite their deep inherent limitations. Especially here in spoiled-for-choice America, a transportation bike is going to have to be appealing in and of itself instead of just dully providing a service.

  • Pete says:

    @ Patrick
    You make a good point that I hadn’t considered in these terms before. One does, in fact, have to “sell” biking as an everyday activity to Americans, who don’t have a cultural precedent to refer to (well, at least not in the past 100 years). How do you sell something to Americans? Make it cool, and make a shiny thing that they can buy!
    I keep coming at it from the point of view that you shouldn’t HAVE to spend a lot of money to start using bikes as everyday transportation. A “low barrier to entry” approach. But the truth is, the opportunity for buying shiny new toys is how a lot of people measure the value of something!

  • Patrick from Astoria says:

    Pete: um, hold on. Methinks you’re being a bit harsh on my fellow citizens here.

    Selling, in this case, is a bit more than dangling something and waiting for the purchasing public to think “Oooo, shiny” and get out the credit card. Selling, in this case, means overcoming a number of deep-rooted prejudices and concerns.

    Go back to my Civic driver from earlier. S/he probably had a bike while growing up or in college, maybe really enjoyed riding, but tucked it away in Mom’s basement during a move and forgot about it. Who does this person see riding today? Kids in the neighborhood. The delivery guy on the Wal-Mart mountain bike who speaks six words of English and hopefully didn’t grab the bag with someone else’s triple-spicy kung pao chicken this time. The dentist, who smugly discusses dropping ten large on a Serotta with full 11-speed Campy for his charity runs. The pious crank four cubicles down who’s a vegan and scolds people about recycling. All in all, not an aspirational pursuit. THIS is what has to change, these are the cases that sales and marketing has to get beyond.

    I see the same problem with slightly different pre/misconceptions in my other two-wheeled fascination, motorcycling. Who rides bikes, according to the general public? Potbellied would-be tough guys on overweight overpowered cruisers that are too loud, or speed freak would-be Power Rangers on oversensitive overpowered sportbikes that are too loud. The manufacturers have basically allowed good useful everyday motorcycles to fade into extinction, and it’s a complete shame.

    Thats what we need in bicycling: good useful everyday bikes, presented in an appealing and safely accessible manner, with a minimum of cultural baggage. I know it’s been tried: Shimano’s Ccoasting program a few years ago was supposed to be the perfect bike for non-bike people, but that faded; I’m not sure the non-bike people ever had enough of a chance to learn about it, and I think that the designers tried too hard to make an iPod with wheels instead of a bicycle.

    I’m not claiming to have all the answers; I can’t even settle on what my next ride is going to be, whether I want to go slow-and-elegant on a Linus or a KHS Green or something from Craigslist, or if one of the budget singlespeed street racers from BikesDirect will win the debate. I do know that there will take time. It is underway, though; we just have to make it stick and grow.

  • steve says:

    BIke infrastructure in most of the country is rotten. Until we get to the point where a newcomer can feel safe straightway and have a safe place to park the bike at the destination – be it work or shopping – we won’t get very far. There is a group who may try biking and who would be better served by the type of bike we’re talking about.

    I think we’re talking about a better mapping of bike to rider, rather than anything that is going to cause a wholesale increase in biking itself.

    i realize there is a chicken and an egg problem – how can you build infrastructure if biking is at low levels, but i think the safety and parking issues are gating factors that are critical to address.

  • Sarah says:

    What Pete said. See, most of you are bike geeks, which is all well and good, but the improvements/ modifications you talk about aren’t even on most people’s radar. For those of us who are not bike geeks (*cough* snobs), cheap bikes get the job done, and a $1000 bike won’t give us double the pleasure of a $500 bike. For three years, I’ve been commuting five miles each way on a Trek 850 I got in ’97. I’m not going long enough distances to need to optimize my performance and it’s required minimal maintenance. What would a $1000 bike do for me? Maybe it would get me to work five minutes faster. I’d definitely be more stressed out at the thought of it being stolen.

  • Pete says:

    @Patrick-
    I’m with you on the demise of the UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycle) but we’ll need to move that discussion to another blog!
    As for your Civic driver – who, I agree, is PRECISELY the kind of person we are talking about – what exactly is keeping her off that bike in her mom’s basement? It’s not the lack of a bike, she has a bike. Is it the inability to identify with one of the limited selection of cyclist subcultures she encounters? Seems to be. What I proposed, not as harshly as you read it, perhaps, is that consumer culture dictates that she BUY something that identifies her as part of a group she wants to identify with. Why can’t she be in the someone-who-commutes-to-work-or-runs-errands-on-the-old-MTB-she-had-in-college group? Heck, I’M in that group, and I want company…
    So, I guess what I’m saying is I’d rather we get all those bikes out of basements and get folks riding again, rather than propose that everyone has to go out and buy a “commuter bike” so they can be “commuters” and not racers, fixie hipsters or whatever. Once they start riding again, and know what they want and need, there will be plenty of customers for all those great bikes out there.

  • Patrick from Astoria says:

    Pete – Aha! Faith in comment-board humanity restored.

    Sarah (above, and hi!) is in that group too, and so was I (until the frame on my beloved Fuji Palisade rusted through and snapped – RIP, dear friend).

    Actually, this sort of exhumation and restoration has happened to a degree. Anecdotal evidence: Supposedly after the oil price spike two years ago, there was something of a run on old 27″ tubes for all those basement dwellers, to the point of near-total sellout. Would that we’d see them a bit more, but it also seems like the bike du jour here this summer is a Seventies-era Peugeot mixte. So they’re out there.

    What’s keeping people off bikes? Maybe sterotypes, although I’m reconsidering on just how much of an issue that is. Anxieties as well, maybe better read as misconceptions. Consider: My wonderful significant other steadfastly refuses to consider riding to work because she doesn’t want to get smelly, thinks it’s dangerous to be in traffic, and won’t buy something that is easily stolen. Enter Steve’s points about infrastructure, although I maintain that riding in city traffic is not the death-defying stunt that most people think it is. A simple shirt change and some deodorant safely take care of the BO issue. Secure parking still needs work, but that is slowly starting to come around.

    That could be a huge part of this too: it’s slowly, gradually, but really working. We ARE seeing this happen, it is starting to be more normal, but like most things it’s a drawn-out process. We need patience, discreet persistence, a bit of polite evangelism, the understanding that not everyone is going to shift on this quickly or at all in some cases. But awareness develops, and the Enlightenment continues apace.

    PS: Photos like “Best Seat In The House” ( http://www.ecovelo.info/2010/08/05/the-best-seat-in-the-house-is-a-saddle/ ) can’t hurt, either. That is beautiful.

  • Janice in GA says:

    @Pete on bicycle subcultures and identifying with a group:

    I think you may be onto something here. I’m kind of an odd duck that doesn’t mind riding alone, or not fitting into a specific group. But I see/hear (mostly online) lots of folks who want to have groups to ride with and identify with.

    Having a role that you can step into seems to help a lot of people. No criticism expressed or implied for this attitude, it’s just the way people are.

    I want to be part of the group that looks good on a bike, and rides to nice places and takes interesting pictures. :D

  • steve says:

    In the early 60s Honda imported a small motorbike into the US – it did horribly. People associated motorbikes with Harley’s and Harley riders had a less than enviable reputation at the time. Honda’s ad agency came up with a campaign called “you meet the nicest people on a honda” that showed normal people doing normal things on the little motor bike. They were presented as enablers and Honda had an explosive hit on their hands. It is generally consider a brilliant ad campaign.

    I’m not suggesting an ad campaign, but most people see weekend racers in spandex and other serious types and it is difficult for them to make the mental leap that they could be enjoying a nice ride to the park or the store. Maybe it will be easier as some of the infrastructure improves.

    One good thing I’ve noticed here is a lot of kids seem to be using bikes for the first time in a long time. Maybe I wasn’t watching carefully before, but this is the 10 to 15 yr old group. Some girls who are regularly biking seem to be bringing out the teenage boys.

  • CedarWood says:

    “…most people see weekend racers in spandex and other serious types and it is difficult for them to make the mental leap…”

    Which is why I ride around most days on an old (recently rebuilt) steel city bike, and I wear a hat and nice street clothes if it’s not raining. It’s an image people can relate too, and I get plenty of smiles and compliments. Sort of my personal ad campaign.

  • Pete says:

    “You meet the nicest people on a bike”
    Has a good ring to it!
    I think the “normal people” approach is what sites like Copenhagenize try to convey. Normal people, in normal clothes, doing normal things.
    I feel like the “tweed” crowd goes a bit too far sometimes and just ends up creating another alienating sub-culture. I can appreciate that they are reacting to the spandex tribe, but still.

    Never forget – Pee Wee Herman rode in street clothes, too!

  • Evan says:

    “I feel like the “tweed” crowd goes a bit too far sometimes and just ends up creating another alienating sub-culture.”

    THANK YOU–I’m glad I’m not the only one. I know it’s just a bit of fun, but I cringe a lot when I see tweed rides.

  • steve says:

    Here are some notes on the honda campaign ..

    http://world.honda.com/history/challenge/1959establishingamericanhonda/text08/

    here are some of the images – remember this was about 50years ago

    http://i270.photobucket.com/albums/jj109/fbuis/bikes/ad-honda-cub.jpg
    ___

    As CedarWoods and Pete say there is a lot all of us can do at an individual level to set the right tone ..

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