With the growing popularity of two-wheeled commuting and the increasing number of cycleways popping up around the world, urban style bikes are becoming all the rage – and Polygon's Pave i7 'utility bike' is right on this global trend.
The Pave i7 is a sleek, stealthy “utility bike” ideally suited for the urban commando, featuring a carbon-belt drive with a seven-speed internal-hub gear system, and retailing at under AU$1,000 (UK prices TBC) through a direct-buy channel – it’s priced to go.
Weighing in at 12.34kg for the 50cm model delivered to BikeRadar’s Asia-Pacific office in Sydney, the Pave i7 features a sturdy 6061 alloy frame and fork. Its biggest attention grabber, though, is the Gates belt drive, paired with a Shimano Nexus seven-speed internal gearing system that keeps the mechanical shifting components hidden from sight and also out of the elements.
Pulling the Pave out of its box, we were met with a preset torque wrench and small pedal spanner. (Polygon's Australian online distributor, Bicycles Online, includes this – and it's everything needed to complete the mostly assembled bike.)
This reviewer has always been a big fan of internal drive systems, so we were eager to take the i7 for a spin. The first thing we noticed right from the start was the Shimano trigger shifters were in reverse, compared with a normal mountain bike setup. This took some getting used to, and to be completely honest we were still getting it backwards days later.
Seven gears are hidden inside this rear hub. The downsides? Internal geared hubs add weight, offer limited gear ranges and have additional resistance
Also blatantly apparent were the limitations of the seven-speed setup. While fine for commuting and leisure riding in Adelaide, Austin or East Anglia, riders living in Sydney, Sheffield or San Francisco may find it simply does not have enough range when you’ve lost your grunt when forced to take hilly routes. This is less than ideal when creeping up roads with gradients closing in on double-digit percentages. After all, there is nothing worse than arriving at the office after just a short pedal and feeling the need for a shower.
However, on flat roads and rolling hills, we found the Pave i7 to be an exceptional ride. The longer lasting, lower maintenance belt-drive and internal gear systems provide a silent, almost seamless ride void of rattles and clicks often associated with chain-driven, multi-speed external gearsets. The belt also requires no oil, so say goodbye to messy grease stains on the legs or worse – your trousers.
The belt is tensioned via turning the eccentric assembly within the frame. Unfortunately it's an extra component that can creak – as ours did
Unfortunately it wasn't all perfect, with the crankset/bottom bracket on our test sample making some groaning noise under stress. A little grease fixed it right up, but this requires specialty tools – something to consider, because the bike is often sold online and shipped to your door in a box.
The Pave i7 floats effortlessly over the tarmac, especially with the 700x35c Schwalbe Citizen tyres mounted on Rigida alloy double-wall wheels. The Citizens are bulletproof and possess enough grooved traction channels to keep you both puncture- and worry-free on your daily commute, even under damp conditions. The Pave i7 feels both stable and responsive and, fitted with an Entity road saddle, its ride is anything but harsh.
Standard V-brakes work just fine, but a little rain will cause a quick loss in performance. Disc brakes offer more consistent performance and greater durability
For stopping action, the i7 uses Tektro levers connected to alloy V-brakes, which are adequate, but not as precise as disc brakes, especially over rain-kissed roads.
With just two sizes available, the Pave gives up the precise fit offered by bikes available in a greater range. Even so, we were perfectly comfortable for shorter journeys – and the quick release adjustable seat post makes for a quick fitting process.
The final verdict is simple. At this price, with carbon belt-drive and Shimano Nexus hub gearing, Polygon’s Pave i7 is a fantastic buy if you live in flatter areas. If your home's in more mountainous urban territory, however, you might want to consider Polygon’s pricier (AU$2,199) sibling, the Zenith Di2, which features Shimano’s Alfine 11-speed internal drive hub system and has disc brakes to boot.