A New Addition

Civia Bryant

Here at the EcoVelo ranch, review bikes come and go on a regular basis, but it’s not so often that we add a personal bike to our stable. As I discussed in a recent thread, I’ve been feeling as if it’s time for a new project bike to replace my daily commuter. Like my Surly, the bike would be used as a test bed for parts and accessories as well as acting as a photographic model for documenting my commute experience. I asked our readers whether or not they think I should replace the LHT, and the poll results overwhelmingly favored keeping the bike, but after giving it considerable thought, I’m going to move forward with replacing it.

When considering what bike might act as a suitable replacement, the following criteria were taken into account:

  • It needs to be a clear departure from my current commuter. My Surly serves its intended purpose well and it’s still in excellent condition, so there’s no reason to replace it with a similar model.
  • It needs to include modern technologies in its design. Our readers have told us they’re curious about the use of developing technologies such as internal gear hubs, belt drives, and disc brakes on commuter bikes, so it makes sense that this bike has these parts in its spec (this is one of the main motivators for replacing my existing bike).
  • It needs to be versatile and flexible. Because it will be used as a test bed for parts and accessories, it needs to have good wheel clearance and a full complement of braze-ons for racks, fenders, and other accessories. Multiple brake and rear dropout options are a plus.
  • It needs to have a kickstand plate. Because I’ll be using this bike as my daily commuter and utility bike, I want it to have a robust kickstand plate for mounting a Pletscher double-legged centerstand.
  • It needs to be readily available. Because this is essentially a long-term road test, it needs to be a bike that can be purchased by our readers without too much effort or customization.
  • It needs to be manufactured by a company whose mission is in alignment with ours. It’s a priority of ours to support those companies who view and promote bicycles as alternatives to the automobile as opposed to promoting bicycles primarily as sporting goods.
  • It needs to be a bike that I enjoy. This will be a daily ride for at least the next few years, so it needs to be a bike that I like and enjoy riding.

After working up the above list, looking over the current model year’s selections, and looking back at the bikes I’ve ridden over the past year, I’ve decided to purchase a Civia Bryant Belt Alfine complete. The Civia is one of the few production bikes that meets all of my requirements, and I very much enjoyed riding the Bryant prototype we had on loan last year (see photo above). I’d originally considered building up the bike from a frame, but the complete is so close to how I’d build the bike anyway, I decided to go that route. Also, as mentioned above, I wanted to start with a bike that can be easily purchased by anyone.

I’m hoping to have the new bike within the next few weeks. Once I have it, I’ll spend some time comparing and contrasting it with the Surly, after which the Surly will go up for sale. Look for much more on this over the coming months.

33 Responses to “A New Addition”

  • Keith Moore says:

    Pity the Bryant w/ Alfine 11 won’t be available this year, but I look forward to your reports on this bike. It’s on the short list of bikes I’m considering for my long-ish commute.

  • John Lascurettes says:

    I’m going to be watching this so closely to see how it plays out. This is pretty much the bike I’ve been dreaming of trying out – the only stopper so far is that I’ve been holding out to see if I can get one with an Alfine 11 and belt drive. I don’t think it’s being offered that way yet.

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    A brave and exciting decision! I look forward to the comparison.

  • Jamin Cleveland says:

    Very courageous, Alan. Bravo!

  • Jaime Hall says:

    My choice also. I plan on building it up from a frame though. I prefer my Albatross bars and I plan on using 650b wheels. I look forward to following your posts.

  • Ken Connell says:

    Great choice! I’ve been riding my Bryant (Tiagra build) over the past 8 months and love it! I’m looking forward to your assessment of the Alfine and your setup modifications. I may consider a winter setup with Alfine belt and a bar swap some time in the future, but I haven’t had any problems this winter in the rain and occasional snow.

  • Waqas Bhatti says:

    This is so great! I got a Bryant back in July after finding EcoVelo’s preview of it, and it’s been awesome so far (just passed 1000 miles on it last week). Looking forward to reading about your adventures with it (not to mention the beautiful photography).

  • John Lloyd says:

    I look forward to reading your review(s) in the coming months. One issue I hope you can address, for those of us who live in hilly areas, is the range of gears, especially on the low end, on a bike such as the Civia with an IGH.

  • Pete Pesce says:

    Great choice. I was literally within days of buying a Bryant last year when I decided to go all-in and buy the Sam Hillborne. I probably would have built it up from a frame, I agree that the buit bikes are already a great spec, and would work for most people.
    Really looking forward to more nice pics of the Bryant on the site now!
    (sorry if this is a double post, I forgot to use my full name on the first one)

  • Alan Barnard says:

    You guys are correct – the 2011 Bryant is the same spec as the 2010 with an 8-speed Alfine IGH. I seriously considered building from a frame with an Alfine 11 drivetrain, but the overall cost would have been significantly higher due to the premium paid for piecemealing parts as well as the higher price for the 11-speed hub. Without wanting to alarm anyone, I’ve read a couple of reports of shifter adjustment issues with the new hub, so I was already in the mind to wait a year or two to give Shimano time to work out any bugs if they do, in fact, exist.

    Alan

  • Alan Barnard says:

    Hey Jaime,

    I may eventually swap out the cockpit for a Moustache bar with J-Tek bar-end shifter. I’m going to ride it stock for a while simply because it’s been some years since I’ve ridden drops on a daily basis and I’m curious to see how it works out.

    Alan

  • Alan Barnard says:

    Ken & Waqas,

    Awesome. I’m glad to hear you guys are enjoying your Bryants!

    Alan

  • Don Stevenson says:

    Baseball and new bikes: spring has officially arrived.

  • Alan Barnard says:

    “Baseball and new bikes: spring has officially arrived.”

    LOL! You called it, Don… :-)

  • Robin Hillier says:

    I too think this is a great choice and can’t wait to see how it pans out. I just went through the decision making process on a hub geared commuter. My ideal was an 11 speed Alfine Bryant, but as that wasn’t available I looked at other options. The only weakness I can see are the Avid BB5 brakes. I had these on our tandem and found them so awkward to adjust and change pads on that after a few weeks I ordered some BB7s. A quick change later operation was massively improved, both pads can be adjusted individually with a dial and pad change is a snap.

    As for the commuter, I was somewhat intimidated by the new technology of the belt and the lack of any support for it in my area. I picked up a 2010 Cube Hooper with an Alfine 8 and a standard chain which was heavily reduced seeing as the new model has the Alfine 11. The gear range has worked well for me on my commute, which contains a few hills. I’ve found that it becomes a challenge when I carry more than about 14kg in my panniers, but I have used the 7th and 8th gears on the flat with a large tail wind, so I’m happy not to change the overall gearing. The bike has Alfine hydraulic discs which are a step above even the BB7s in feel. It’s been fun moving into the 21st century of commuting, I hope you enjoy it too!

  • Alan Barnard says:

    Hi Robin,

    I’ve had all three brakes you mentioned, the Avid BB5, Avid BB7, and Alfine hydraulic. I totally agree; the BB7 is a worthwhile upgrade from the BB5, and it’s one part I may replace sooner rather than later. I love the feel of Alfine hydraulics, but I’m always a little nervous about set-up changes that require changing the length of the hydraulic lines. It’s certainly doable, but it’s more involved than working with cables.

    Alan

  • Garth Madison says:

    I too am in the market for a new bike in the next few months, with an eye toward retiring my old mountain bike to short distance grocery runs and such, since it seems to have survived a full winter of commuting in snow and road salt, and I do not mind locking it up outside stores. I am blessed with secure storage at my office for whatever I choose for my main commuter.

    I will be very interested to hear your take on the drive train in particular. I am considering going with a carbon belt and Alfine 11, on the theory that it will provide me with maintenance free year round commuting in the snowy north. Too bad you will be testing your new bike in California! Unlike John, I am not too worried about the gear range. I have some pretty steep, high hills in my commute, but like you, find that I generally stay in the middle 7 of the 21 gears on my current mtb. Though I must admit to dropping down to the lowest gear sometimes on the steepest hill! Of course, looking for the Alfine/carbon combo leads me to look at rather more expensive bikes than my wife thinks strictly necessary :)

    I usually avoid the first year of a new model, like the Alfine 11, and your comments about complaints bother me, but from what I have read, I feel like the 11′s design is vastly superior in terms of sealing and less maintenance, which is my primary reason for considering it.

    Garth-

  • Chris Warren says:

    I bought the Bryant Alfine in September, and overall it’s been a really good bike. I’ve had a few issues related to learning how to adjust the belt tension after working on the bike, plus learning how to set up the IGH was rough the first few times through. Add to that the BB5′s and there was a lot of stuff on this bike that I had never encountered before. I think I’m finally to a place where I know what I’m doing and am comfortable working on the bike.

    You won’t have a problem with it in California, but here in Minneapolis I’ve been using the bike for winter commuting and had several instances where enough snow has packed between the cog and the belt to mess up the tension and pop the belt off of the cog, leaving me in a tough spot on my trip in to work. I’ve managed to find routes that don’t have a lot of road junk after new snow fall so that I can make it in without incident, but there’ve been a handful of days where I’ve ended up walking the bike a couple miles and shown up late to work.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing what modifications you make to your bike. I’ve added a dynamo hub plus front and rear lights, a Topeak rack (carrying my laptop on there), a Selle Anatomica saddle that I love, and Velo Orange hammered fenders that look simply fantastic on it.

  • Constance Winters says:

    While this bicycle is not my cup of tea, I agree that it is a good choice for testing modern components and developing technologies. And of course the most important thing is that you enjoy it. Will be following its development with interest and no doubt will learn a thing or two in the process.

  • David Jolly says:

    Looking forward to your encounter on the Civia.
    I’ve been on my Bryant for two months. I Love it, the belt is so smooth. The bike as a whole handles with out fuss, no snow here…
    A new set of sprockets 20/55t will be fitted in coming weeks, I currently run 24/46t perfect for hilly terrain, not so fun freewheeling on the flat or downhill with tailwinds though.
    I have been told the Gates 60t front sprocket will not fit and the 55t will be very close….
    The surly tensioner is highly recommended after product, achieving the right tension isn’t so troublesome with one of these + its an opener!

  • Joel van Allen says:

    Why not the Renovo Pandurban, speaking of “clear departures”? http://www.renovobikes.com/pandurbancommuter

  • Alan Barnard says:

    Hi Joel,

    I’m interested in the Renovo, but I haven’t been able to get a test ride on one after trying for a couple of years. SInce I’ve ridden the Bryant and liked it so much, and it’s such a good match for my needs, it was the obvious choice.

    Alan

  • John Livingston says:

    I hope to see this bike superimposed into the frame comparison shot with the LHT and the SH. I just cannot get enough of that shot.

  • Mickey Patrick says:

    After researching my first new bike in a very long time, I bought the Bryant/Alfine/Gates in August ’10 partially due to your preview.

    It’s a fun bike to ride, and it gets interesting looks out on the road. The tuning from the local retailer I bought from left a lot to be desired. So, I took a day learning how to adjust the belt/brakes/IGH from scratch. Once dialed in, all’s good. My only complaints:

    The stock stem is a little too long; relatively long legged 6’1” on the 58cm frame,
    The width of the rear axle will not fit in my old mag trainer,
    It probably doesn’t need the chaingaurd,
    The tensioner is rather bland compared to the prototype’s Tuggnut bottle opener,
    The rear cog isn’t the Gates “mud ported” version.

    Can’t comment on the gear range because I am so out of shape to begin with.

    Look forward to your adventures with it,
    Mickey

  • Walter Enomoto says:

    Aloha Alan,

    Congrats on the new addition to the “family”. I am also looking at the Bryant as the basis for a commuter/lt tourer build up.

    I have already checked about the possibility of using a NuVinci CVT rear hub and this is something NuVinci is working with Gates on right now. Will have to make sure the Bryant rear frame spacing is 135mm (I had heard it was 132mm?) to fit the NuVinci. I’ll email you back if I hear more from NuVinci on this.

    I would also be interested in your review of the brakes and any changes you make in the future. Believe it or not, Hawaii has some “hills” (Old volcanoes) where good brakes with a large load would be comforting.

    Thanks again for all you (and others behind the scenes) do for intelligent bike transportation!

    Aloha,
    Walter

  • Marcy Kutok says:

    Alan,

    I can’t wait for your reviews. What a gorgeous machine. I want one! I have never had disc brakes and I’ve never had a Gates belt drive and I’m so looking forward to trying both. I don’t think I can part with my LHT though so I’d better start saving now.

  • Nicholas Beebe says:

    I have long been interested in the Bryant Alfine. My current concerns are the unusually heavy weight and the gear spacing of the Alfine hub. I look forward to hearing more about such a cool bike.

  • David Vo says:

    I could have sworn you owned (not a loaner) a Bryant and sold it last year. Anyway, congrats. I am looking at a Kingsfield.

  • Steve Park says:

    Speaking of replacing things, are you planning on replacing the stock front hub with a dynamo?

  • John says:

    I would like it if you could cover two things in your review:
    1) How easy is it to change a flat tire (removal or wheel, etc) as compared to a wheel with a cog set.
    2) What is it like to “mash” the pedals with a carbon drive?

    Regards, John

  • John Ferguson says:

    Yay! Great news for me, as I’m probably in the market for one of these next year. Alan, your experiences with the drivetrain (especially when you convert to the j-tek barcon shifter) will probably influence my buying decisions for two bikes – my next commuter and an upcoming longtail conversion.

    Looking forward to it!

  • Lawrence Chin says:

    Just my 2 cents but I think the current gates belt drive is not a wise purchase as their CenterTrack belt drive looks like it fixes several problems of the first incarnation.

    e.g. belt lines issues and belts coming off either due to too much torque or improper installation.

    I myself am waiting on the new version of the gate belt drive to pair with an IGH, probably gonna put it on a 29er with lock out fork for my dream commuter.

  • Alan says:

    Hi Lawrence,

    I agree. The CenterTrack looks to be a nice step up from the Carbon Drive. I’ve been told they won’t be available for retail sale until late this year or early next, but if a person isn’t in a rush, the wait is surely worth it. As for myself, I’m moving ahead now with the idea that I’ll replace the Carbon Drive at some point down the road, probably when my first belt needs replacing.

    Alan

 
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