The new Swobo Baxter strips away all distractions, making it one of the best grab-and-go bikes I've ridden in a while, comparable to the 2008 Trek Soho 4.0, also based on the eight-speed Shimano Alfine internal gearing.
The US$1,099 Baxter, named after fictional TV anchorman Ted Baxter from the 1970s sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show, is a refined ride for many reasons, first among them being the comfortable position and ultra-smooth Shimano Alfine gearing.
The 60-degree swept-back Swobo Hoopty alloy bars make it easy to rest your arms and not fight the bike, allowing me to pay attention to my surroundings during the maiden voyage around Sausalito, California with designer Sky Yaeger.
Click play below for a video of the bike and a first impression:
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The bike felt stable both sitting in the saddle and standing, and despite the smaller tester, I felt comfortable with the reach to the bars.
Yaeger chose butted 7005 aluminium for the frame, which she had ovalised and squared for extra rigidity where needed, something commuters will appreciate when they load the bike with panniers or baskets.
We rode around town, then took the bike path to Mill Valley, where we visited the Wilderness Trail Bicycles (WTB) office. Several folks took the Baxter for a spin, and the unanimous feedback was "smooth", "fun" and "makes me feel like a kid". The stock platform pedals allowed several people to give the Baxter a try.
Yaeger chose mechanical disc brakes, 700c wheels, custom horizontal slider dropouts with vertical hangers for easy wheel removal, internal rear brake cable routing on the top tube for a clean line, and a painted-to-match chain guard to keep the pants or bare legs clean.
Not one to pander to trends or model-year changes for change's sake, Yaeger wanted to create a modern-day interpretation of the Raleigh, but with additional gearing.
I asked her if the Baxter could handle a longer commute, something like the 20-mile round-trip she takes each day from her home. After a long pause, and a few extra turns of the pedals, she thought she could.
Like most longtime cyclists, Yaeger uses a drop-bar bike on her commute, and is warming to the idea of riding something with just as much performance, but with the appearance of a city bike.
The custom carbon fork has eyelets for mudguards, as do the rear dropouts. Braze-ons dot the frame for a rear rack as well, and there's room for a kickstand.
All the necessary accessories are available from Swobo, under its Hard Parts category. There's room for much bigger tyres than the stock 700 x 32c Vittoria Randonneurs.
And the weight? About 24lb. Not bad, considering the heft of the 1,590g Alfine hub. Six frame sizes, one colour: Gang Green. Complete bike only. For more information, visit www.swobo.com.