When I started researching bikes my eyes were opened to an entirely different kind of bike. I discovered what are often referred to as ‘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, some differences are slight:
- 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 simply 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.
- Upright city bikes often sport porteur or North Road-style handlebars, or other more upright handle bars, generally not drop bars.
- 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.
These kind of bikes are more and more popular, and I try to get pictures, or even doing a test ride when I have time. Check out the Bike Reviews section in the side navigation on this blog for a combined list of all the various bikes that I’ve had a chance to ride. Scroll down this page for links to posts on the various city bikes I’ve come across 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.
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.
Globe bikes are a stand-alone brand created by Specialized. They created these bikes with the city dweller in mind. They used to have, an upright Live model featured here, a Haul model with a sturdy cargo rack, and even a fixie and a mixte. One summer Friday afternoon, I was running into Globe bikes everywhere I looked! Of course, it made it into a blog post that you can read here. UPDATE: These days they carry Work, Daily, and Roll models of bikes, which aren’t as stylist as the previous Haul and Live models.
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.
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.
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.
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.