[We only had the D3 on loan for a little over a week, hence this "mini-reivew" instead of our usual "mega-reviews"... ;-) —ed.]
PUBLIC bikes are designed in San Francisco, CA and manufactured in Taiwan (not China). Their D3 is a diamond frame 3-speed that, among the bikes in their line-up, most resembles a classic 3-speed roadster. Unlike European roadsters—most of which are made from hi-ten steel—the PUBLIC’s frame is chromoly. Along with other differences in design and construction, this brings it in at approximately 10-15 lbs. under many of its European counterparts (28 lbs. compared to over 40 lbs.). This not insignificant difference in weight makes it more practical for carrying up flights of stairs or loading onto bus and train racks.
Even though it looks like a roadster, the D3 rides more like an American sport touring bike or hybrid. The steering is light and quick and the overall ride quality is lively. The frame is nicely compliant without being overly flexible. I was expecting more of a solid, cruiser-like ride similar to my old Pashley, but I found the D3 to be surprisingly nimble and responsive.
The D3′s cockpit is more stretched out than usual for this type of bike. Some will like it, others won’t. For how I’d use it, I’d want the D3′s cockpit to be more upright. This could easily be remedied by swapping the stock handlebar for an Albatross or North Road bar (I’d replace the stock saddle with a Brooks B67 while I was at it).
The Shimano Nexus 3-speed internal gear hub supplied on the D3 is snappy and quick. The gear range is appropriate for flat to rolling terrain; beyond that I’d suggest the 8-speed model. The supplied twist shifter works fine, but it would sure be nice if Shimano offered a thumbshifter for this hub (this would also allow the use of cork grips).
The long reach caliper brakes perform well, though their surface finish is a bit rough. The 36-spoke wheels, oversized platform pedals, stout kickstand, metal chainguard and fenders, and rear dropout adjusters are nice touches. The remainder of the components are on par for a bike in this price range.
The D3 would benefit from mid-fork braze-ons for mounting a rack and wire basket low over the front wheel. It is also (conspicuously) missing braze-ons for water bottles. A wire basket is a natural for this bike and it’s too bad the proper mounts aren’t in place. The lack of bottle braze-ons is simply baffling; I know this is a city bike, but it’s important to carry fluids while running errands around town in the summer. Roadsters don’t traditionally have braze-ons for water bottles or front racks, but they’d certainly not be out of place on this modern bike.
I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised by the PUBLIC D3. It’s much lighter (28 lbs. on my scale) and more nimble than expected. The bars are a bit of a mystery, and the missing braze-ons are a bit of a disappointment, but those certainly aren’t deal killers. For the most part, the details are well thought out and the overall package is clean and well-executed. Most importantly, the D3 is a fun ride at a good price ($690) that fills an important niche: a modern, good-looking, reasonably-priced 3-speed roadster designed specifically for an American audience.
The PUBLIC D3 featured in this review was supplied by the Hot Italian PUBLIC Pop-Up Shop, in Sacramento, CA. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The shop’s official Launch Party is scheduled for Saturday, March 12, 6:00pm – 9:00pm, at Hot Italian in Sacramento. Rob Forbes, founder of Design Within Reach and creator of PUBLIC Bikes, will be on-hand for the event.