The Uptown Infinity is Breezer’s flagship commuter and Bicycling’s 2011 Commuter Bike of the Year. It builds upon the Uptown 8 (which took the same honors in ’09 and ’10) with the addition of the NuVinci N360 continuously variable transmission. The Infinity is commute-ready with fenders, rack, robust wheels, dynamo lighting system, kickstand, wheel lock, bell, full chaincase, and of course, the bullet-proof NuVinci hub. Michael dubbed the Uptown the “Honda Civic Bike”, which I think is an appropriate moniker; Breezer worked the bugs out of the Uptown series a long time ago.
This new bike rides a lot like the Uptown 8. We’ve had a couple of Uptown 8′s here on extended loan over the past few years, and everyone who rode them commented on how comfortable and easy they are. They may lack the panache of some of the fancier bikes we sometimes ride, but they’re solid workhorses that make excellent car replacements, particularly for those who don’t like tinkering with aftermarket upgrades.
The N360 drivetrain is a major upgrade from the original NuVinci CVP. I tested the original and found it heavy and somewhat difficult to use due to the extremely long throw on the shifter. This new design solves both of those problems. Like the original, the infinitely variable gear ratios on the N360 are a revelation. For those who are unfamiliar with the NuVinci, it doesn’t shift from one gear to another in the conventional manner. Instead, the twist shifter changes the drive ratios in a seamless arc from low to high, not unlike turning the volume knob on an old analog radio. It’s a different experience that I think will be a boon, especially to beginners. An added plus is that from all reports, this hub is 100% bomb-proof.
We’ve only had the Infinity a short while so far, but we plan to ride it a bunch over the next couple of months. Look for an in-depth, long-term review later this fall.
NuVinci N360 →
[Disclosure: Breezer is a sponsor of this website and provided the loaner for this article.]
The days are getting shorter and the roads are getting darker. With fall just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about lights again. I made the switch from battery lights to a dynamo system this summer and it’s been wonderful so far. I’ll have a full report within the next week or so.
Soma has introduced a smart new drop bar called the Hwy One. It’s a compact, commuter-friendly design with a 130mm drop and 75mm reach. They’re making it in both 26.0mm and 31.8mm clamp diameters so you don’t have to swap out your stem, regardless of what you’re running now. Available in black or silver, 38cm to 44cm widths. Retail is around $40.
Studies have shown that the number one reason people don’t ride their bikes more frequently is the fear of cars. Considering this, the most obvious way to help newcomers feel more comfortable is to provide high-quality, separated bikeways. While it’s unrealistic to hope for a 1-to-1 ratio of bikeways to roads, even short stretches of bikeways that connect adjacent neighborhoods and road networks may encourage newcomers to give bicycling a try.
Consider the above beautiful piece of bicycle-specific infrastructure in my hometown. It’s part of a relatively short trail network that connects four neighborhoods with a shopping area and a school. I often take this route when I run an errand to the market. The direct route takes me along a two lane, 50 mph road. I’ve ridden the road many times, and though I find it relatively benign, I can imagine it would be intimidating to an inexperienced rider. By instead taking a longer back route through a neighborhood that leads to the bikeway, I reduce my exposure to high speed traffic by approximately 75% while only adding about 5 minutes to my travel time. I suspect that for many people, just having the option could mean the difference between taking the bike or driving the car.
For the foreseeable future, bicyclists here in the U.S. will need to depend upon existing motor vehicle roadways, but strategically placed separated bikeways can serve as safe havens for novices in the process of developing the confidence and skills they need to share the road with cars, while also providing a pleasant respite for those already out there mixing it up with traffic on a regular basis.