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Tag Archive: San Francisco Hills

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.

 

 

 

Commuter Profile: Emily Shellabarger

Hey Bike Commuters! Mir.I.Am here to share a super commuter profile with you for your after-turkey-afterglow enjoyment. Say “hello” to Emily Shellabarger, a Bay Area train and bike commuting gal on the go.  Although the Bike Commuter staff guys may argue that we indiscriminately love ALL commuter profiles, I’ve gotta say: I personally love when Cycle Ladies rep the commute because women on bikes are just plain hot!   Alright, enough hype-man shiz, introducing… Miss Emily Shellabarger!

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Emily S., posing as a hipster!

Name: Emily Shellabarger

How long have you been a bike commuter?

I’ve been bike commuting since I was a wee lass in the jump seat on the back of my dad’s 1983 silver Peugeot. He pedaled me all over the streets of Eugene, Oregon–including the hilly commute to daycare. And, even though I have to do all the work these days, my love for biking and two-wheeled commuting endures. I’ve been regularly bike commuting for the last five years––two years in Sacramento and three years in San Francisco.

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The wee lass in her bike commuter beginnings in Eugene, Oregon.

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And the grown-up Emily, bike commuting in Norcal!

Why did you start riding your bike to work and how long is your commute?

I started riding my bike to work in Sacramento because it was faster than driving. I lived less than two-miles from the office. And let me tell you, that was an easy bike commute. Downtown Sacramento has all of one hill––actually, calling it a “hill” is generous, I’ll go with “incline”––and it was not on my route. Just the right kind of ride for me and my creaky old Schwinn, Stallion.

Boy, was I spoiled. After the company I work for relocated from the sunny flats of Sacramento to the Bay Area, I moved to San Francisco. My current commute includes 4-miles of biking + 30-miles of train riding + 2 more miles of biking. All told, it takes me just under an hour each way and beats the pants off of sitting in traffic on Highway 101.

 

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Beating the pants off sitting in craptastic traffic on Highway 101.

How does Bike Commuting help you with your lifestyle (economics, health, relationships)?

Bike commuting in the Bay Area keeps me sane. Nothing puts me in a bad mood like sitting in stop-and-go traffic. I’d much rather start the day whooshing down hills as the sun rises and pedaling my way to the train station. Plus, thanks to those San Francisco hills, I don’t have to invest in a gym membership and my money can be saved for more important things like happy hour.

 

What do you do for a living and in what city do you bike commute?

I manage consumer marketing and social media for a renewable fuel company in Redwood City, California. I live in San Francisco, so my bike commute spans the Peninsula of Silicon Valley. When feeling ambitious, I’ve been known to bike the entire 34-mile route, especially on Bike-to-Work Day (and not just because six-miles from my office, Oracle hosts the most amazing free breakfast buffet for cyclists).

Emily & Roy on the way to RWC

Whoa! Catch that sunset on the long way home from Redwood City. Emily on Roy the Road Bike.

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Oracle free breakfast reward – from 2012 Bike to Work Week

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More Bike to Work Week 2012

What kinds of bikes do you have?

My trusty steed, Stallion, a big Schwinn cruiser from the 80’s. And my daily commuter, a 2007 Raleigh Cadent affectionately dubbed, Roy the Road Bike.

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Emily and “Stallion” cruising in Sacramento, CA.

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“Roy” the Raleigh roadie, hiding in the back of the rack at work.

 

Any funny or interesting commuting story that you may want to share?

After moving to San Francisco I was anxious to dial in my bike route. I hunted online for the safest, flattest route and poured over my handy San Francisco Bike Routes map. I wrote out a turn-by-turn directions list. I had screenshots of the street route on my phone. I clicked through all the turns on Google street view, so I’d be fully prepared for visual queues. And I was still a bit nervous to venture out on the rowdy city streets, so I ended up bribing my roommate with coffee to accompany me on my first ride to the train station. Sometimes all you really  need is a bike buddy to help get you out on the streets!

 

What do people (coworkers, friends) say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?

When folks find out I bike/train commute from San Francisco to Redwood City, most people are impressed that I make the effort––or are slightly horrified.

 

How about bicycling advocacy? Are you active in any local or regional advocacy groups?

I’d love to be more active in bike advocacy, especially since there is such a strong cycling community in San Francisco. Currently, I’m most active with Commute.org, participating in their San Mateo County Bike-to-Work activities and clean commute challenges.

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Bike Buddy Advocacy – Emily on a ride in Calistoga

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Or moonlighting as a bike mechanic – just in time for Movember Moustaches!

Emily Shellabarger (oh man – such a good “two-name” name, who can resist holding back that Shellabarger?!), thanks for sharing your commuter profile and a little bit of west coast sunshine with Bike Commuters!  I am personally jealous of your sweet commute with that killer sunset.   Want to show us your ride and plaster your fantastic commute all over the internet?  Then send an email and we’ll hook you up with a Commuter Profile questionnaire. Email Mir.I.Am for details.