Bike Show Bikes by Rivendell Bikes:
There are bikes I think of as “doily” bikes that bring out the worst in me and lead to thoughts of self-criticism for feeling that way, because it’s just a bike, which is true, but the accolades heaped on crazily designed and nearly dysfunctional bikes at bike shows bum me out anyway. Not all show bikes are like this; only most. When you see city bikes with skinny tires that skim the frame and fork and the same bike has a long, low stem and handlebars, and it all costs so much for what?, it’s hard to be mellow. Maybe it comes down to the question of whether bikes are metal-art, shock-art, or functional art or some other kind of art or avenues of personal expression, and when you say they can be all of those things, then there’s really no foundation for scoffing.
Some bike designs seem to be driven by a need to be different and to get votes for originality, rather than to be good. Originality isn’t inherently good, and when comes about after intentionally avoiding existing designs that a lot of thought went into originally and a lot of refinement went into subsequently, then original can be construed as disrespectful, egomaniacle, or even foolish. “Original” usually means “hidden influences,” or “never combined just that way before.” Every seemingly original or at least exclusive design here comes from somewhere. The Noodle handlebar was inspired by a Modolo with a slight retrieve and flattish ramp. Ours is better because I have better taste, but it’s basically a copy. The Moustache H’bar came from Japanese schoolkids bikes, and those bars were first seen as early as 1907, or at least a variation of them. I got my affinity for lowish bottom brackets from Richard Sachs and Marc Muller. I learned to like steel from Ritchey, who still likes it, no doubt, but the segment of the market his company operates in dictates other materials. I learned to like lugs from seeing Bridgestone’s tests, and then (again) Richard Sachs was influential. Fattish tires I came to from riding, and I think anybody would do the same. The list could continue but I’ve made the point, at least in RIV’s case/my case.
When industrial design students go about designing bikes—and they seem to do it every year in some part of the world, usually northern Europe—they go after the city bikes, since they’re more accessible in some ways than are racing or mountain bikes. The presumed buyer —- it seems to me—-must be a harried executive parent shopper multi-tasker with a tiny apartment, and yet rich and avant guard, who wants the kind of bike nobody has ever exactly seen before, and ideally it will be the only one in town. That is my impression, anyway.
I’ll tell you what a good city bike is, but my description won’t be revelatory.
A good city bike has these qualities
• High handlebars for an upright position, because guess what? The busy streets are not your raceway, and you need to be comfortable and to see what’s up ahead. No high bars, not comfy, and you can’t see.
• Wide tires, at least 38mm wide—-minimum. So you can inflate them hard or soft, as you like and as the street surface warrants. Even if you ride 38s, it should fit 40s at least, and with a fender.
• Tough tires that are hard to puncture and stand up to no to low maintenance and inspection. Of course we always recommend daily pre-and-post ride tire inspections. Right.
• A city bike without fenders works only if you ride only on dry streets and dry weather.
• Ways to carry stuff front and back. Might as well have carrying capabilities in front and behind you, because city riding means shopping or carrying stuff to and from someplace, and the room is good. If you fill up a bag or basket in back and you have an empty bag and basket up front, no harm done—but at least you’re riding within the cushion, should something else come up. It’s better than being maxed out.
• Easy mounting and dismounting. This doesn’t mean it must be a mixte, because that depends on how your hips and flexibility are. Boys bikes do well for boys and girls; girls bikes do well for girls and boys. Bikes are gender-neutral, but everybody carries some imagery baggage with them, and that’s something I can’t address.
• Kickstandable. These trackbikelike city bikes with no kickstands…ohmy. Here’s a kickstand tip: When your option is a pole or air, use the kickstand. When you have a wall to lean the bike against, wall trumps kickstand. Anyway, city bikes that are made for the city and not for the auditorium will have kickstands.
Bike categories are so weird, anyway. I’ve told the story before so will make it short: When Bstone introduced the XO-1 in the Fall of 1990, it didn’t have a category, and eighty percent of the bike dealers who saw it wanted to know what KIND of bike it was. Mountain? No. Road? No. City? Not exactly. You could point out the inherent versatility and even the expandability with the help of racks or different tires, but what they wanted was a category, and it had none. Everything in the world has categories, but you use a thing, not the category it falls in.
Read the Rivendell blog here: BLUG Obviously, a knock on NAHBS last week in Denver, CO. Regardless of what you think of this, I like that Grant is so bold in his writing.