BikeCommuters.com

Tag Archive: steel frame

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

detroit-bikes_a-type

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

detroit-bikes_warrantied-for-life

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

detroit-bikes_internal-hub

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

detroit-bikes_chain

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

detroit-bikes_emily-a-type

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.

Detroit-Bikes_rack-sm

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!

Interbike 2012 Salsa Fargo Mini-Review

“Got any commuter bikes?”

“No.”

This is what my interaction was like when I walked up to the Salsa Bicycles booth to test-ride one of their bikes. Awkward, kind of, but I can see why the booth employee said no. The company labels their bikes to be “Adventure Bikes” and not before long, I found out why. I chose the “Fargo” bike as it looked cool and reminded me of a cross between a Randonneur bike and a Cyclocross bike.

Salsa Fargo Sram Apex

Another reason why I chose the Fargo was because it had a really cool-looking handlebar. I ride mostly road bike or singlespeeds so I wasn’t quite used to the “rad” styling of the handlebar at first. I rode on the top. I rode on the drops and even tried to ride with my hands on the brake hoods. All three positions were uncomfortable at first but as I kept on riding, it became more comfortable–I no longer noticed my discomfort.

Salsa Woodchipper 2/Salsa Gel Tape

Perhaps I stopped noticing because of the heavy foot traffic at Interbike that I had to feverishly avoid or perhaps it was because I became more focused on finding hydration booths to keep myself from getting dehydrated. Either way, I eventually fell in love with the handlebar. I know it’s impractical to swap out my road handlebar with the obviously less aerodynamic handlebar on the Fargo because I can’t go as fast. But I know that most of the time when I’m riding, I just cruise and this handlebar was perfect for it! This is something I know most commuters can appreciate.

I love steel frames. It’s technology that hasn’t really needed to be advanced and can most of the time combine the stiffness of an aluminum frame but has damping qualities closer to a carbon frame. I ride a Reynolds Steel-framed road bike and this Cro-Moly frame rode very comfortably.

Salsa Fargo Main Triangle

I know that I’ve got to factor in the “Thudbuster” seat post that naturally damps the vibrations of the road/path and the thicker tires but I gotta be honest…the Fargo rides very smoothly compared to my road bike with 700×23 slicks installed.

Thudbuster

Another plus about the frame is that it had plenty of eyelets, as demonstrated by the front fork, to use for front racks. (The rear also has eyelets for a rear rack but not as many as the front)

Four!

While I was riding the bike on different terrains like gravel, dirt, pavement and mud, I found the gearing to be very wide and sufficient for all applications.

Wide Range of Gears

I didn’t get to go on a steep dirt climb but when I did take it up a steep street, it rode more like a hybrid and a lot less like a mountain bike. I even took it down a long and windy bike path where I’m sure I easily hit 20 mph. When I did go off-road, the bike maintained its smooth ride–I went over rocks, potholes in the dirt and it was not a shocking, vibrating experience. In other words, no matter what terrain I put the bike in, the ride was very smooth.

Lastly, I didn’t really get to test the brakes all that well. I mean, they were disc brakes so they stopped on a dime but I mainly focused on the ride quality and whether it would be a bike that commuters should consider. As I said before, I mainly commute on road bikes but I would definitely recommend this to anybody looking for a commuting bike, especially those that commute over a combination of dirt and street.

Company Link: Salsa Fargo

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