When I started researching bikes my eyes were opened to an entirely different kind of bike. I discovered ‘city bikes’ -those non-roadie, non-mountain or hybrid type of bikes, that your ride sitting more upright, often with a basket or rack, fenders, lights and other accouterments for pedaling around the city. Dutch bikes are one style of city bike – they have a very distinct look, often with a step-through “loop” or “swan” type of frame. More about those on my Dutch bike page.
City bikes aren’t always dramatically different from road bikes or mountain bikes:
- City bikes may be made of aluminum or steel, and I’ve even seen a carbon frame city bike, though that sorta seems overkill to me.
- City bikes can have any type of brake set up, caliper, coaster, drum or roller brakes, or even disc brakes.
- City bikes often only have 1 to 8 gears, though folks in hilly cities may have 3 chain rings with 21 gears.
- City bikes can have the same diamond-frame style as road or mountain bikes, but often you’ll see a loop-frame “step-through” or mixte frames. (See this handy page on Lovely Bicycle’s site for a quick breakdown of classic bicycle frame designs).
- Many city bikes have racks and/or baskets to handle carrying groceries or running other city errands. While not cargo bikes per say, they are often designed to be able to handle some load on their front and/or rear racks.
I try to snap photos, do a quick interview, or even doing a test ride when I see these bikes. The Bike Reviews section in the side navigation on this blog links to bikes I’ve had a chance to ride or scroll down this page some great city bikes I’ve encountered in Chicago.
Civia is a company based in Minnesota that shares a parent brand with Surly and Salsa. They make gorgeous bikes and the Loring has bamboo fenders, and a low-styled bamboo basket up front. You can read more up on Civia’s site here. One of the women at a Women Who Bike Brunch road her brand -new Loring to one of our picnics – there are a couple of photos here. I did a quick test ride on one at a bike shop in Omaha Nebraska and wrote about it here. UPDATE: The latest version of this bike does not come in green any more, nor with fenders and has a slightly different look. These run around $1300.
Electra makes a lot of amazingly cool cruiser bikes, the great upright Ticino line, as well as their own popular take on Dutch bikes, the Amsterdam series. They make them in both men’s and women’s (i.e. step-through) frames, 3 and 8 speeds, and one model – the Classic – is made with a steel frame. Price-wise they run from about $750-$1500. You can read the review I wrote after riding a couple of models here. You can see a few pictures of ones that I keep seeing downtown in this post as well.
It’s so great that I can add bikes made in Chicago to this page! The Rambler, from Legacy Frameworks here in Chicago is one of 3 styles of their Rambler bike – a step-through, diamond-frame, and disc-brake version. I’ve done some test-rides on the largest frame-size of the step-through, and even at 6ft tall it worked for me. These bikes come in some great colors and have many options beyond the standard ones listed below. the A Rambler with standard features runs about $1700.
Standard features includes:
- True Temper double butted chromolly steel tubing
- TIG welded construction combined with brass and silver brazing
- Gates Carbon Drive belt system
- Busch&Muller LED healight and taillight
- Standard 6 volt, 3 watt hub generator
- Full coverage fenders
- Alloy rear rack
- Single-speed or internally geared hub compatibility
Yes! More bikes makes in Chicago! Heritage Bikes & Coffee shop opened a couple of years ago in the Lincoln Square neighborhood, and they’ve only continued to sell more and more bikes. Great-looking city bikes in an inviting bike shop. They have 4 styles of bikes (along with their limited-edition “Signature Series) from a diamond-frame Chief, to a mixte (Daisy) and a step-through called Jane. Steel-frame bikes, usually available in 8 or 11 speeds, though the Goblin comes in 1, 2 or 3 speeds. There are options galore, and their bikes run from $800 – $1600.00 excluding the Signature Series. For a look at one of their Jane bikes that I came across one day on my bike commute home, read this post!
Biria has an entire line of what they call the “EZ Boarding Series” – basically step-through bikes with a very low step-through. They’re great for riders who cannot lift a leg over the bar on a traditional bike due to any sort of physical impairment, and they’re light-weight, lighter then they look anyway, and easy to ride. The don’t come in many sizes though, so tall riders are out. I test rode one during a summer road trip through Michigan and wrote about it here. Price-wise, ,most models are around $500., with one or two running around $900.
I saw these bikes (they have quite a few styles from various step-throughs to diamond-frames) all over Austin, Texas this past Spring when I was down there. Steel frames, Sturmey Archer internal hubs, drum brakes, great-looking bikes. I did not get a chance to test ride any, but I ran into a guy running the bike share program who told me his girlfriend had one, loved it, and that yeah, lots of folks in Austin rode them, and that he was going to buy one the following week. So you know, that’s gotta count for something. They list Ancien Cycles here in Chicago as a dealer, but the shop does not list them on their own website, so it’s hard to say. These bikes run around $300 – $900 as far as I can tell.
Manhattan is part of KHS, and they have a great city bike model call Green. It’s a very affordable steel-frame commuter bike, with a sturdy rear rack, one dynamo light, fenders, and coaster brakes. It looks a bit like a Dutch bike, but is much more affordable. You can read more about them in a post I wrote, here, as well as see one that Sarah from the Slow Bike Society adapted with a basket (similar to the ones on the Civia Loring) here. You can get one of these for $500 tops, probably a little less.
PUBLIC is a San Francisco-based company started just a few years ago by Ron Forbes who also founded Design Within Reach. Their vision is ” that more of our urban streets and sidewalks get reclaimed for walking and biking, and that our public spaces are developed for better human interaction and conversation.” In response they’ve built lovely steel-frame bikes based on European bikes but lighter in weight and even better, they even come in orange. Here’s a post I wrote about the first Public bike I encountered here in Chicago. They have a wide range of models price-wise, that go from $450 to $1200.
There are a couple of women that I’ve met in Chicago that own Trek Bellevilles and they love these bikes, though I believe they stopped producing them in 2012. Here’s a post I wrote about one of our “Women Who Bike” summer picnics in which I took a few pictures of two different Trek Bellevilles. They’re steel bikes with front and rear racks, 3-speeeds, generator lights, a partially-enclosed chain, and fenders. They also come in a slightly step-through frame style as well.
At one time Chicago was home to more than 80 different bicycle makers – the most well-known being of course, Schwinn. Consequently, I see a lot of old Schwinn bikes around the city, in a variety of conditions. There are other vintage bikes that you see from time to time as well, such as the Monark Silver-King, (which had multiple factories on the west side of Chicago and made bikes up through the 1950s), and the really interesting Sears bikes (pictured here) which were made in Austria. Read more about the vintage bikes I’ve come across in these posts.