Redline R530 — First Impressions

The other day, our friends at Redline Bicycles sent their R530 to me to test. This is Redline’s version of a European city bike, and it comes packed with lots of features, comfort and utility.

Redline R530

Here’s a quick rundown of the bike from Redline’s website:

-Lightweight 6061 aluminum frame that is specially designed for utilitarian use.
-Shock absorbing Suntour front fork with 50mm of travel.
-Quiet, “maintenance free,� easy shifting Shimano Nexus 7 speed drive train & highly efficient roller brakes.
-Easy fit handlebars & stem adjust for comfortable upright riding positions.
-Sturdy aluminum double wall rims with stainless steel spokes, with flat resistant tubes for trouble-free adventure.
-Comes fully dressed with fenders, rear cargo carrier, full chainguard, & shock-absorbing seatpost.
-MSRP $589.99

As mentioned in my first article about the bike, this machine comes with a couple of components not usually seen on commuter bikes…namely, the Shimano roller brakes. In addition, this bike comes stock with a rear rack, fenders and even a handlebar-mounted bell! Apparently, someone at Redline is listening to what folks want in a city bike. Styling-wise, the bike has a very European flavor, with full chainguard and a very upright and commanding rider position. I can hear it now, though: our European readers are probably thinking, “no, it just looks like a bike!”, but to our American eyes, it has a different attitude and aesthetic than a lot of similarly-equipped bikes on the U.S. market.

upright
Very upright riding position

Folks concerned about a harsh-riding aluminum frame need not be worried…this bike is packed with comfort features! In addition to the suspension fork and shock-absorbing seatpost, the saddle and grips are gel-filled and very cushy. The suspension fork may appear to be somewhat gimmicky (I can’t think of too many other city bikes that have one), but it does the job: taking the sting out of rough roads.

fork

About a mile of my commute is over cobblestones and the rest is on Tampa’s legendarily bad streets, and whatever roughness I encounter is pleasantly muted. One of my neighbors, upon returning from a round-the-block test ride, exclaimed, “it rides like a Barca-Lounger on wheels!

The Shimano Nexus seven-speed hub works exactly as expected: totally awesome. It’s relatively foolproof, smooth and provides plenty of gearing range for all but the very steepest hills. The roller brakes seem (for the most part) pretty spectacular, too. They have most of the benefits of disc brakes (good stopping power in sloppy conditions) but without the maintenance and setup hassles, and can be well-modulated from the brake levers. I found the rear brake to have tremendous stopping power, but I’d have to agree with the late Sheldon Brown’s assessment of the front roller brake…it isn’t all that great. Although it does help slow the bike down, it doesn’t feel particularly strong or confidence-inspiring.

front roller brake
the front roller brake

One potential drawback of using roller brakes and internal hubs on a commuter bike is the additional complexity of removing a wheel for a flat. In the front, a minimum of two tools are required to release the wheel from the fork: a 10mm wrench for the brake cable pinch bolt and a 15mm spanner for the axle nuts. In the back, add a screwdriver to the list in order to dismantle the chainguard and get the wheel out of the frame. Granted, many commuters carry a decent selection of tools, but this whole process can be kind of fiddly, especially if you’re running late to work. Perhaps this is why Redline specified tough tires and thorn-resistant tubes with the bike?

In any case, stay tuned for a complete review in the next few weeks. I’ll get some more saddle time on this bike and report in more depth. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this…so far, this bike is a blast to ride — ideal for short- to mid-distance rides where you want to arrive in style and comfort!

sweeet!

Check out the specs on Redine’s website.


7 Comments

  1. RL Policar April 1, 2008 5:23 pm 

    Wow flat resistant tubes…that’s pretty cool.

  2. Mike April 1, 2008 7:03 pm 

    I have a Novara Fusion commuter bike with the Shimano front generator hub and the Nexus 8-speed internal rear with a roller brake. It’s a good bike for short distances if you have a sag wagon within shouting distance, but I have had 2 flats when I was about 10 miles out and the frustration with removing the rear wheel when on the road has kept me from doing any real riding with it. It has remained hanging from the ceiling in my garage since the last flat.

  3. 2whls3spds April 2, 2008 4:30 am 

    Thanks for the update/review. I have started my search for a new utility bike (my 1972 Raleigh Sports is getting a bit tired) Redline is high on my list, but that suspension seat post has got to go! What sized frame is on the test bike? The largest they make appears to be a 23.5″ which is a bit on the short side for me, but I am willing to take my chances based on the geometry.

  4. Ghost Rider April 2, 2008 6:20 am 

    I’m riding a “large” frame size. Because the bike is so upright, though, I think it will fit a larger rider (there’s a ton of adjustment and quill length in the stem alone).

  5. Mike C April 2, 2008 6:37 am 

    I had a Van Dessell SuperFly with very similar spec. It had a rear roller brake with a front disk–great setup. Also the Nexus 7sp. I loved the bike and rode it as a commuter for about two months before it was stolen. Back to derailler beater bike for the next couple of years. Just built a bike with a Nexus Red Band 8sp hub, and for them wondering, yes, it is noticably better than the 7sp–crisper and more fluid shifts, just more solid and accurate feeling. Having said that, if the 7sp is your first IG hub, or you remember clunky SA 3-spds, you’ll be thrilled. The improvements on the 8sp premium hub are more incremental than revolutionary.

    Changing a tire on the SuperFly was a chore the first time I had to do it (at night, with a flashlight), but after figuring things out, it didn’t take too long… or too long to get tires with puncture protection, a notable omission from otherwise decent spec on the SF, which the Raliegh seems to have covered.

    Good to see a reasonably priced IG hub bike out there.

  6. Val April 2, 2008 9:58 am 

    Jack: Just so you know, the front brake binder bolt is actually able to be released from the brake without tools. If you look carefully at the brake arm, you will see that the cable binder bolt sits in a keyhole shaped slot. There is a spring which keeps the binder bolt in the narrow end of the slot, and if you shove the bolt hard past the spring, it will slip sideways out of the rounded end of the slot and allow you to disengage the cable. As for the power of the front brake, that is one of Shimano’s special design features; the brake is connected to the hub by a clutch, which is intended to keep it from locking up, thus preventing the dreaded head dab. The label on the hub that says “Power Regulator” is their way of advertising this safety feature. Glad you like it so far; have fun!

  7. Ghost Rider April 2, 2008 10:45 am 

    Val,
    thanks for the insight. I knew that the brake had some type of “quick release” feature, but for the life of me I wasn’t able to get enough slack in the cable to release the binder bolt from its slot (and it took me forever just to get it all set up in the first place…even with the directions from Shimano!).

    I also suspected that about the front brake — Shimano, in all it’s wisdom, stole almost all the “juice” from the most important brake on the bike! It does a decent job of slowing me down, but panic stops are no match for the “power regulator”. Thank God the rear brake is so powerful!!

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