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.


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.


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.


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.


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.





  1. Tom

    Wow, shortest front fenders ever. They won’t be very useful in blocking spray.
    Also, the coaster brake should have some ability to modulate. If it doesn’t it must need to be broken in a little, or it could be lacking grease.
    I love the look of the bike! Thanks for the review.


    Nice catch, Tom. I didn’t really notice on my own, but that front fender stinks! I want my fender (and ideally mudflap) to keep stuff off me AND, almost more importantly, my drivetrain.

  3. Raiyn

    Four separate people commenting on short fenders – curious.

  4. elektrische fietsen

    I have read your blog post & it was very informative.

  5. Mike

    The basket looks far too close to the seat in the top picture, and it looks a little cramped if you’re really tall.

  6. Idaho Spud

    Wow! A bike frame made in USA! Who woulda thunk?

    I’m not sold on the notion of one-size-fits-all. And this second reviewer highlights some of those issues. At $700, it’s at a price point where you’d expect to dial in the best fit.

    The saddle, with the fake rivets, is obviously imitating the Brooks -style saddle. Too bad the “rivets” are on the sit-down part, instead of on the back.

    Q: As a cyclist who hasn’t owned an internally-geared hub for 50 years (think “3-speed English racer”), how strong are they? And how durable? Will they withstand a 250-pound guy standing on the pedals? (I’ve actually got my eye on the NuVinci N360 constantly-variable setup. One of those might be in my future, on my daily-transportation bike.)

  7. Emily (Post author)

    Re: Fenders – Curious indeed. Unfortunately (or fortunately for me), street conditions in San Francisco do not typically lend themselves to testing out fender protection. Though in Alex’s review, he did mention adequate protection after rolling through a puddle. Not sure if that counts.

  8. Raiyn

    @ Emily
    The fenders are too short for use in rainy conditions. Heck, they’re too short even to put mudflaps on to extend them as they’d ride on the backside of the tire. If they hit 9 o’clock they’d be extendable, but you’ll find that many of us (dare I say?)fenderophiles prefer them closer to the 8 o’clock position.

    For example:

  9. bigbenaugust

    SKS longboards, perhaps? 🙂

  10. Raiyn

    @ bigbenaugust
    Yup, those or one of Velo Orange’s offerings. Sadly, my Bontragers are no longer an option. I’m bouncing between VO and SKS for my next bike.

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