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Review: Detroit Bikes’ A-Type Commuter Bicycle, Part 2

Yesterday, I posted my review of Detroit Bikes’ steel frame commuter bicycle, the A-Type. One of the main selling points of the bike is its versatility—the frame comfortably fits riders from 5’3″ to 6’3″. I decided to test this out by asking my bike enthusiast friend, Alex to borrow the bike for a few days and give me a full report on his experience. He was more than happy to oblige. Read on for Alex’s review of the A-Type.

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Alex’s Review of Detroit Bikes’ A-Type commuter bicycle:

A bike built for urban use…

The A-Type’s outstanding quality is the frame. It looks great, sleek, without being too flashy and standing out to potential bike thieves. The steel absorbs the bumps and shocks of urban cycling with brio. It never feels like it might fold in half when you run over that pothole you just can’t avoid, and it doesn’t leave your arms feeling like they’ve been through the wringer. It’s a frame that inspires confidence.

The bike is built to adjust to a wide range of rider sizes and I have to say it did so pretty well for me. Although the seat was a bit of a pain to adjust (and thus way harder to steal), it went high enough to allow for a comfortable riding position. If I had to guess though, anybody over 6’ might have some issues with the short cockpit and high riding stance that flows from the adaptable design.

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It’s tricked out with nifty little features that make it great for putting around town. The fenders are nice (having gone through a puddle of what was suspiciously probably not water) and the rear basket-carrier-thing fits a standard size milk crate just great with the help of a couple bungee cords. The springs on the seat are superfluous in my opinion—I tried to move them as hard as I could, but no dice—but do offer a nice big area to sneak a cable lock in there to secure the seat.

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Finally, the gearing on the bike is superb. All thanks to the Shimano Nexus 3-speed internally hubbed gear set. Just perfect for urban use, it shifts effortlessly and smoothly, even going up hills. Although I didn’t play with it, there’s enough tweaking to be done within the confines of these gears to suit everybody’s riding style. And there’s no external parts to steal, bang up, or get caught in your pants. As far as everybody (a.k.a. potential bike thieves) knows, it’s a single speed, and that’s such a nice solution for urban use.

… just maybe not San Francisco.

All of these nice attributes tend to fall apart when you hit a hill though, except for the gearing. The stance suddenly feels high and exposed. And while the curved handle bars maximize adaptability, I would have preferred straight bars to help optimize cockpit length. This issue is particularly evident on hills, especially for someone taller like me. The shorter length forces you to sit down—losing serious power—and that’s when you notice that the metal studs on the seat (they don’t have to be there, seriously) are really, really, really uncomfortable. Bummer.

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And to cap that off, the braking systems on the bike are not the best. The coaster brake reminds me of the bike I had when I was four and learning to pedal for the first time. It’s rough, abrupt and an old school complement to such a nice gearing set. The single front side-pull caliper brake doesn’t do much. It’s inadequate for effective braking—if you use it for fine tuning, you end up mashing on the coaster, which is all around startling and not slick. It’s understandable that the coaster brake presents a nice, compact solution for urban use, but only if it actually works well. It doesn’t. It offers two braking modes: not and full on. Which is only great if you’re into flying off your bike. Or maybe I just suck at using coaster brakes, let’s not discount that. Either way, a single, front mounted disk brake would be more than enough braking for this bike in urban situations and wouldn’t break the bank (no pun intended) any more than the current setup. Less sleek yes, but I like stopping.

– Alex

Thanks for that, Alex. Personally, I think you might just suck at using coaster brakes. However, I also found the coaster brake to be tricky at first, but once I got the hang of it, the breaking system was adequate for my needs.

Alex and I both agree that the A-Type is well designed, beautiful bike equipped with fantastic gearing and a frame that’s built to last—but it may not be the best choice for hilly locales. You may purchase Detroit Bikes’ A-Type Commuter Bicycle for $699 directly from Detroit Bikes online or through a local retailer.

Our FTC Review Disclaimer.

 

 

 

Review: Detroit Bikes’ A-Type Commuter Bicycle, Part One

As promised, I’ve been diligently testing out the stylish and versatile commuter bike, the A-Type by Detroit Bikes, which is designed and fabricated in their west Detroit factory.

Bike-Slider

This bike is designed to meet the demands of a rider’s daily commute—whether it’s two miles or twenty. With simplicity in mind, the bike is fashioned with a Shimano Nexus internal gear hub boasting three gears and a coaster brake paired with a front caliper brake. Plus, the A-Type comes with a sturdy rear rack for your panniers or other hauling needs, a stylish riveted saddle, and narrow all-weather Kenda Kwest tires.

My commute certainly put the A-Type to the test—I tackled hills, cruised down descents, lugged my bike up and down stairs, and, more often than not, pedaled like mad to catch the train. I put this bike through its paces, but there was one aspect for which I had to outsource: Detroit Bikes claims that their frame will serve anyone from 5’3” to 6’3” tall. I’m an average 5’ 7”, so to better test out this claim, I coerced my 6’ friend, Alex to ride the bike for a couple days and report back. Stay tuned for his feedback, which I’ll post tomorrow in Detroit Bikes Review, Part Two.

Aesthetics

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My first impression fixated on aesthetics. It’s one hip bike: all matte black from the frame to the chain guard with a silver-riveted seat and die-cut logo in the back rack. (Am I cool enough to ride this bike?) Truth be told, I love the look of the A-Type. The simple, unadulterated and unadorned design can appeal to a variety of tastes.

Brakes
I knew what I was getting into, but the coaster brake still threw me for a loop. I think the last time I rode a bike with a coaster brake I was, oh, about five years old (see picture in my commuter profile). At first, I found it difficult to position the pedals for a proper takeoff after stopping, which lead to an awkward scoot-n-shuffle push to get the myself going. The learning curve was a bit steep, but eventually I got the hang of it.  I experienced some fatigue engaging the coaster brake while on particularly steep descents, but the backup front caliper handbrake helped me feel secure while dropping down the hills of San Francisco.

Frame

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The chromoly steel frame does a fantastic job of absorbing the bumps in the road and the upright design provides a stable, yet comfortable seating position for cruising about. Compared to the hunched position on my road bike, the upright posture felt downright leisurely, like I could be coasting around the streets of Amsterdam rather than racing Strava-junkies to the next stoplight. With this in mind, the posture may not be the most efficient position for pedal power.

I found the bike to be fairly light for a steel framed bike. I had little difficulty hauling it up and down stairs (onto the train and into my apartment), though it’s no featherlight road bike. As I mentioned, the frame is designed to comfortably fit anyone from 5’3” to 6’3”, and to this purpose, the crossbar curves down toward the seat post. At 5’7” tall, I don’t have particularly long legs and I found myself standing as close to the seat as possible so as not to high center myself. I could see this being uncomfortable for someone with even shorter legs.

Gears

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The A-Type features a Shimano Nexus 3-speed grip shifter for the internal gear hub. Prior to this trial, I had never used an internal gear hub. I was impressed by the smooth shifting and the simplicity of it—though I was wary of having only three gears to tackle the hills of San Francisco. For the most part, I pedaled in gear two dropping down into one for the hills and up to three for descents; however, I found myself wishing for an additional gear in each direction. This desire is probably specific to my commute in San Francisco. If I lived in the Mission neighborhood (relatively flat), or anywhere not quite as hill-riddled, three gears would have been enough. Plus, I liked that there was no need to clang through a surplus of gears before coming to a stop or ramp up while shifting madly as you pedal away. (You’ve only got three choices after all!)

Chain

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I only had one quibble with my experience. On my third trip with the A-Type, I was cycling down the home stretch to the train station, and the chain broke! Yikes. Luckily, I still caught the train and my favorite Redwood City bike shop fixed it up with a new chain lickity-split. The bike mechanic identified the issue as a “poor quality” chain. I brought this up with Detroit Bikes and they were already on top of the issue and had ordered new, high-quality chains. As a representative told me, “all bikes that are currently being manufactured and assembled will have the new chains.”

Overall

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The Detroit Bikes’ A-Type is a great, no-fuss commuter bike best suited to relatively flat commutes. So, if you’re looking for a stylish, easy-yet-durable commuter, I would definitely recommend checking out this bike. Plus, you’ll be supporting domestic bike production.

Don’t forget to stay tuned for Alex’s review tomorrow.

Find the A-Type’s full spec sheet here.

You can purchase Detroit Bikes’ A-Type Commuter Bicycle for $699 directly from Detroit Bikes online or through a local retailer.

Our FTC Review Disclaimer.

Sneak Peek: A bike made in Motor City, USA. Happy 4th of July!

Today is the perfect day for a sneak peek of an upcoming bike review.

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Manufactured in Detroit, MI from American chromoly steel, this Motor City creation has two wheels instead of four, handlebars instead of a steering wheel, two pedals instead of . . . I think you know where I’m heading with this. Not only is the bike frame manufactured (from US steel) in Detroit, the bike’s wheels, rack, and chain guard are also built in the Motor City. Do you feel that? It’s American pride.

Detroit Bikes, LLC has created an American-made beauty. Stay tuned for the upcoming review.

And have a great 4th of July!

Review: Detours all-weather bags for your bike

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I almost felt bad testing out these bags in San Francisco. Detours bags are made to handle the constant drizzle, mud and muck of a Pacific Northwest commute—which makes sense, since the company hails from delightfully drizzly Seattle, WA—the misty fog of the Bay just doesn’t seem like enough of a challenge for the tough, all-weather gear. I said “almost,” because the truth is, these bags are awesome regardless of the weather.

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Fair warning, there are going to be a lot of photos in this post. The Detours gear is just too stylie to not show off. I had a chance to try a small selection of bags of various styles, sizes and uses. I’ll start from smallest bag and work my way up to the magical three-in-one pannier bag.

Roadie Stem Bag

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I have been on the hunt for a contraption to hold my phone so I don’t have to dig into my backpack to consult the route before getting hopelessly lost. The Roadie definitely does the trick. A simple ratcheted attachment allows you to securely affix the bag to the stem of your bike (my bike, Stallion, who finally gets to be featured in a post, does not have room for Roadie on the stem, but plenty of other spots work great as well).

The clear, water-repellant phone pocket is touchscreen friendly making it easy to access information or refer to your phone as needed. The phone pocket is really more of a flap with a magnetized closure to the main utility pocket. The zip pocket has plenty of room for minor necessities. I fit my patch kit, allen wrench, levers, keys, and ID in there, no problem. The Roadie also comes in gray with a bright green interior (pictured here) and in red with a grey interior. The Roadie retails for $32.

Coffee Dry Bag

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Yes, you can definitely put your coffee grounds in here and keep them safe and dry. But that’s not the only use for the super versatile Coffee dry bag. Throw in your mid-ride snacks, any electronics you want to keep safe (besides your phone since it’ll be in the Roadie), or maybe protect your other belongings from damp, sweaty bike spandex? The adjustable straps make it easy to secure the Coffee dry bag wherever needed. However, while the top strap is a quick release buckle, the bottom strap must be undone completely, which can be a bit of a hassle.

Detours offers the Coffee dry bag in several different state designs:

• The Evergreen Blend: ride through the forests and around Mount Rainier in our home state of Washington.
• The Mile High Blend: ride through the alpine wonderland of Colorado.
• The Highway 1 Blend: ride down the Pacific Coast Highway in California (pictured here).
• The 10,000 Lakes Blend: ride through the 10,000 lakes and Twin Cities in Minnesota.
• The Lighthouse Blend: ride along the rocky coast in Maine.

The Coffee Bag retails for $20. Or $80 for the set of five. 

Rainier Handlebar Duffel

Rainier Handlebar Duffel Collage

The Rainier Duffel has two adjustable straps to secure the bag to your handlebars and, when you reach your destination, it can transition seamlessly into a cross-body bag thanks to a built in shoulder strap. Plus, the clever folks at Detours designed the duffel with a little side pocket just to hold the shoulder strap so it doesn’t flop around when attached to the handlebars. Attention to detail—I love that. Speaking of detail, the flap of the duffel, which like the Roadie has a magnetic closure, features a sparkly banana design (you can see a better photo here). I think this is a great touch. The zipped interior compartment also contains a smaller zip pouch and two slip-in pockets. The Rainier Handlebar Duffel also comes in black and “Golden Gardens,” a cheery floral pattern. Retail price is $50.

The Ballard Market Pannier

Stallion Kitted Out

Ok, I might have saved the best for last. The Ballard Market Pannier is the most versatile bag of the bunch with three different carrying options (Elizabeth reviewed and loved this pannier back in 2012). First and foremost, it is a pannier bag, which attaches with two simple, yet secure rack clips. The bottom is a heavy-duty waterproof material to reduce wear-and-tear and keep belongings safe. The interior space has a small zip pocket, key hook, and a laptop compartment, making it an ideal commuter bag.

Ballard Panier

As promised, the Ballard Market Pannier is not just a pannier! The bag also has padded straps to carry as a shoulder tote. And the tote straps convert into backpack straps for heavy loads! So clever.

bag to backpack

Overall, the Ballard Market Pannier is a large enough (11”W x 15”H x 5.5”D) to easily accommodate commuter gear—for me, that includes my 15″ laptop, running shoes & clothes, notebook, wallet, and a few other essentials. Plus, this nifty 3-in-1 setup comes in black (pictured here) and two colorful patterns. The Ballard Market Pannier retails for $80.

The bags I review here are only a small portion of the overall variety that Detours offers—from ultra-tough touring rack trunks to playful, more petite seat post bags. I’m confident that riders will find a bag to suit his or her need whether for trips to the farmer’s market, daily commute or more rigorous rides.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Review: Dorcy Hawkeye Bike Lights

I thought I was doing just fine with my current bike light setup—yes, my front light is secured with electrical tape and it needs to be encouraged to turn on with a good smack or two. And yes, rear lights mysteriously disappear en route between my apartment and the office on a regular basis. Ok, who am I kidding, I need a new bike light system. Luckily for me, I’ve been tasked with testing out a couple different options. First up, Dorcy Hawkeye lights.

1-Dorcy Hawkeye Light

Dorcy doesn’t mess around with lights. The company’s products range from personal flashlights and headlamps to heavy duty spotlights and signal wands (for directing traffic). The Dorcy Hawkeye LED bike lights promise to pack a punch with the front light boasting 200 lumens, guaranteeing to light the path 200 meters down the road and to be seen from even further away—same goes for the rear light.

2-Dorcy lights in package

The Dorcy LED bike light  is not a dainty addition at nearly half a pound including three AA batteries. Even with the option of using rechargeable batteries, I’m not a big fan of battery powered devices, if only because I never seem to have extra batteries when I need them most.

3-Dorcy light out of the package

The battery cartridge has a satisfying barrel-like design, reminiscent of a revolver’s bullet chamber. Not sure why I like that so much, but I do. Though it doesn’t help the overall weight, which seems a bit hefty to me.

5. Dorcy light size

The light itself is much larger than most, nearly five inches long. But this is no ordinary bicycle light, my friends. Thanks to a patented quick release feature, the “durable aerospace-grade aluminum alloy, corrosion resistant” light chamber pops out of the bike clamp, transforming into a handheld flashlight. Snazzy.

With the rubber-padded bracket attachment, the light stayed secured to my handle bars with no obnoxious rattling (which is just the worst) or movement up and down. Dorcy claims that the bracket will fit any bike on the North American market, so I’m guessing this light will fit just as securely on nearly any bike.

4-Dorcy light on roy

The Dorcy Hawkeye features a wide-angle, rectangular light beam rather than a traditional focused beam, which helps to illuminate the entire road ahead while limiting (unnecessary) spread of light upwards. They also claim that this feature “will not blind pedestrians.” I tested this assertion by making my friend, Sarah stand still while I rode toward her, light blaring. Sarah still seemed to cringe way from the light, but once I rode closer, the beam did indeed remain below her eyes.

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On to the rear light: the Dorcy Hawkeye Tail Light features three super high brightness LEDs that can be seen from 200 meters away. Like the front light, the rear light’s mounting clamp is tool-free and adjusts easily to fit snuggly on any 24 – 32 mm diameter seat post. Plus, the patented bracket adjusts for a horizontal or vertical orientation.

6-Dorcy rear light

Personally, I appreciated how the adjustable pin and padded clamp allowed me to really crank the bracket on for maximum security. No more losing a rear light on a packed train car or bumpy road! (Notice the velcro remains of a previous light still clinging to my seat post?)

7-Dorcy rear light mounted

For my first ride with these lights, I ventured out through Golden Gate Park to catch the sunset and make sure that it was good and dark for my return ride.

8-Dorcy Light Sunset

Both the rear and front lights have just two setting: steady beam and flashing. As promised, I felt like my lights could be seen from blocks and blocks away. Seriously, I was lighting up reflective street signs as far as I could see (maybe five or six blocks). Also, the front light has two slits on either side, allowing light to filter out and illuminate the area right and left of the rider. While this is a bonus for visibility, I found it to be distracting with the light shining in my eyes.

10-Dorcy light at the beach

For everyday commuting, the front light is a bit large and hefty for my tastes; on the other hand, I would definitely choose the Dorcy Hawkeye for my pre-sunrise rides through poorly lit backroads. Not only would I be well visible to traffic, but my path would also be lit clear as day.

The Dorcy Hawkeye LED Personal Light front bike light retails for $55.00 and can be purchased directly from Dorcy.com—same goes for the LED Bicycle Tail Light, which retails for about $13.99.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.