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Review: Torker T300 for my commute

Following the theft of my beloved commuter bike – Toro – last summer, I had the good fortune to test ride some bikes…. and at long last I’m letting you know my thoughts on this Torker bike that I previewed for you.

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Torker graciously sent me their T300 step thru model to ride for review. (After a bit of a snafu, I was finally up and running on this great new ride!) Quite a snazzy set-up. Almost reminds me of a Dutch-style bike.

I must admit that I was initially a bit skeptical of the sloping step through configuration. While I have always loved the look and comfortable feel of the bike, I never bought one of my own. Both the heft and the awkwardness of carrying such a steed up and down the rear steps to my apartment have led me to prefer a bike with a diamond frame so I could haul the bike up by the top tube.

Now for the specs:

• Stylish alloy twin top tube frame in 2 styles.
• Sturmey Archer 3 speed internal hub.
• Dependable rear coaster brake.
• Includes fenders, chainguard, & rear rack.

Available sizes: 15”, 17”, 19”,
15” step thru, 17 step thru”.

Torker sent me a 15″ step thru to fit my 5’4″ stature. This bike also comes in a more “unisex” style diamond/mixte style frame.

You’ll notice that this bike comes with a rear coaster brake and front hand brake. Since this is a Friday review, I’m including a Friday musing with this review….. “how did I ever ride a bike with a coaster brake?” After many years of riding free wheel bikes with hand brakes, I missed being able to reposition the pedal after I stop so that I can push off again (known as the power pedal position). And I think I’ve forgotten “how” to get started (without some awkward shove off) after I do stop when I ride with coaster brakes. Oops. Is there a trick I’m missing or have forgotten?
Note: I didn’t let this forgetfulness slow me down with my riding and I did adapt.

But this bike is fun and riding it around Chicago made me feel like a lady.

Riding in style (and value)


My friend rides the T300 around the parking lot; the 15″ frame bike accommodates a wide range of heights and even comes in a larger size.

Its upright riding position is suited for city navigating and being able to see around traffic.

the cockpit


View from the saddle (riding along Chicago’s first 2-way protected bike lane)

This bike already comes standard with fenders, rear rack and chain guard, so you could wear your suit or dress to the office without worry. Its plush saddle means you don’t have to worry about needing padded shorts; plus, the rear of the saddle is reflective, which is a great safety factor after dusk. The pedals also nicely work with any shoe – even dress shoes – as they are not made with sharp metal edges that could scuff or damage nice shoes. As an added bonus, the pedals also have reflectors built in, so they’re noticeable in headlights when out pedaling after dark.

plush saddle with reflective material facing rear and pedals with reflectors

The upright position maybe slowed me down from the speeds I’d grown accustomed to attaining on Toro which was more of a road bike. For my usual sub-5 mile bike commuting route there wasn’t a considerable time difference. I did notice the difference when I pedaled to a further work location and it took longer.

With 3 internal speeds this bike is suitable for most conditions, especially in the flatlands of Chicago. But the gearing gaps are sizeable and I sometimes struggled with finding the best gear. In most cases I stayed in the middle gear (the usually “just right” sweet spot).

Internal gearing and rear coaster brake


Front rim brake

For carrying my work necessities, the rear rack accommodated my panniers – and I tested out multiple brand panniers with this bike’s rear rack – without an issue.

The Detours Ballard Bag easily clips to the rear rack

Out of the box, it was such a convenience to not have to worry about equipping the T300 with the necessary commuting accessories of fenders, rack and chain guard, plus reflective accents on the saddle and pedals.

Ready for urban riding right out of the box – with fenders, chain guard and rear rack

At the pricepoint of $439 for this Torker T300, I recommend it to anyone seeking a comfortable entry level urban bike.

While it was challenging at times to haul this bike up and down to my apartment, I did find a manageable way to carry it. By simply grabbing the bottom of the sloping tube with one hand and the handlebars with the other to steady the bike, I could lift it just high enough to carry it down the steps.

Some evenings I was able to haul it back upstairs in the same manner. Other nights (maybe I was too tired) I had to implement the technique I used to use to haul my old Schwinn mixte frame upstairs — by turning the bike around and hauling it upstairs rear wheel first; in this case I would grab the seat tube and the sloping down tube and be lifting the heavier rear end up first.

Bottom line — I have enjoyed riding this Torker T300 bicycle around town, especially for its comfort and style. And that makes this bike a winner for me.

Preview: Torker for my commute

Look what arrived at my doorstep Friday morning!

Can you guess what I’ll be riding around town in the coming weeks… and what I’ll be assembling?

In the aftermath of the theft of my beloved Toro, I really have been without a good around-town bike – complete with fenders and rack – and one that is built for the rigors of getting around the urban jungle of Chicago on two wheels. So, to keep me rolling, I’m now on the job reviewing a bike for our friends at Torker. (Thank you, Torker!)

Stay tuned to see how she looks once unwrapped and in motion. Brownie points to readers who guesses which Torker model I’ll be riding.

2011 Bikecommuters.com Holiday Gift Guide

Before the clock ticks down on Christmas shopping, we thought we’d share some gift ideas for that favorite cyclist in your life. This was a group effort, with lots of good suggestions from Miriam, Noah, Vince, Elizabeth and RL. Some of the products listed below were reviewed here, and that will be noted in the descriptions. Other items are on our own wish lists or are items we’ve seen and think are worth sharing.

Don’t forget about yourselves as you shop…with all that gas and parking money you’re saving, you deserve some bikey treats, too!

Bikes:

— Redline 9-2-5…one of the staff favorites around here. Reviewed here. Get ’em while they’re hot, as Redline drops them from the lineup for 2012.

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— Jamis Commuter 4 — Vince’s favorite, and on special if you’re in the Portland area. Swing on over to River City Bicycles Outlet for a screaming deal on this machine.

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— Urbana Bikes — Reviewed here, and the electric version here.

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Torker Graduate. Or, if you prefer a sensible drop-bar bike, check out our review of the Interurban.

Lights:

Lots of lights to choose from…many that we have reviewed and others that simply caught our fancy.

— Portland Design Works Spaceship/Radbot light set. Reviewed here.

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— PDW Cosmic Dreadnought headlight.

Supernova Lighting Systems…both battery- and dynohub-powered.

Blackburn USB/Solar Flea Lights. Reviewed here.

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Niterider MiNewt 600.

Revolights wheel lights…one of the many Kickstarter projects.

MonkeyLectric M210. Review coming soon.

LED By LITE directional lights…shown here.

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Flashbak safety light. We reviewed this in 2009 but it is one of those products that’s worth a second look.

Clothing:

O2 Rainwear’s Calhoun jacket…review coming up soon now that the rainy season is in full swing.

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Chrome Vanya knickers. Reviewed here.

Pryme Trailhands gloves. Reviewed here.

Pryme V2 Helmet. Reviewed here.

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Nutcase Gen 2 helmets.

DZR shoes. Reviewed here.

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Accessories and Stocking Stuffers:

— Anything by Banjo Brothers…it’s no secret that we have an unabashed “bromance” going on with Eric and Mike of Banjo Brothers, and we’ve been extremely pleased by everything we’ve tried from the cargo-carrying offerings there. Rather than overwhelm you with a string of links, simply type in “banjo brothers” in the search box at the top right of our site and you’ll see just how much we love their products.

Planet Bike “Captain Safety” reflective stickers…so much fun!

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— Bags by Po Campo — made in Chicago. Yay! We reviewed their rack tote and Po Campo offers a ton of other choices.

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Onetwothreespeed’s Reflective Helmet Bows.

Planet Bike Superflash/Superflash Turbo…a perennial favorite here at Bikecommuters.com, and a perfect stocking stuffer. You can never have too many of these (disclosure: I have about ten of them).

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— Gift Certificates to your local bike shop. Yeah, you should support your local shops.

Chainspirations Bicycle Jewelry…. review coming soon, and here is a sneak peak at a necklace. chainspirations necklace

Resource Revival’s recycled bicycle picture frames, bottle openers, clocks and keychains. So cool!

— Cobra Tire Tool — reviewed here. Naysayers be damned; this is a useful tool and one that fits nicely in your sweetie’s stocking (or saddlebag)!

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Got a gift idea for the cyclists in YOUR life? We’d love to hear about them…drop them in the comments below.

Editors’ Choice Awards

Not too long ago, we gathered the staff of BikeCommuters.com for a meeting to discuss which products they had tested that deserved recognition. Once we tallied up the votes, we then presented the Editors’ Choice Award during Interbike.

Without further adieu, we present to you the award winners.

Urbana Bicycles
Urbana Bicycles
choice awards

Though they weren’t at the show, we still wanted to honor them with the award.
Soma Double Cross DC
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choice awards

Torker T-450
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choice awards

Congratulations to all the companies that received these awards.

Returning to Bike Commuting: My choice of bike

I was intrigued by the new so-called Electric Hybrid bicycles. These bikes are supposed to assist you pedaling, are supposed to be lighter than an electric moped and are supposed to look like regular bikes. We asked Torker Bicycles to let me test their T-450 E hybrid bicycle; this bike meets the claims mentioned above.


The Torker T-450, a very “regular” looking bike

The T-450 is a very nicely equipped bike with a rear rack, full fenders, a full chain guard, 700c tires and a Sturmey Archer 5sp Twist Grip drivetrain.


The rear rack houses the polymer lithium battery and it is ready to hold my panniers.


Protanium aluminum front motor


Sturmey Archer 5 speed internal hub.

Why an Electric Hybrid? Although my 7 mile commute can be considered short, I need to ride my commute in about 1/2 hour. Coming back from shoulder surgery, I’m in no shape to ride at a constant 15 mph and arrive sweaty to work. My plan is to ride with the electric motor on my way to work and turn the motor off on my way back so I can benefit from the exercise that bike commuting provides. I will put the T-450 through its paces and I will keep doing updates and a full review in about 2 months.

In my next post, I will “accessorize” the T-450 for my commuting needs and I will also list some of the stuff that I like to use to clean myself once I get to the office. Stay tuned!