Commuting bikes for 2013 – Cycle Show 2012

Trend for low maintenance city bikes

Recent years have seen the rise of 700c hybrid bikes for commuting and getting about town, and offerings from the usual suspects took centre stage at this year’s Cycle Show. At the margins, though, were some interesting options that urban cyclists might want to consider.


Dutch design

The Bicycle Man’s sizable stand was seeking to persuade both trade visitors and everyday cyclists of the benefits of low-maintenance, European city-style machines with features such as built-in lights, hub dynamos, racks and mudguards.

Of course, there were the traditional Dutch bikes, complete with skirt guards and frame-mounted locks. But at the other end of the spectrum were the decidedly lightweight and futuristic-looking Vanmoof bikes.

Although these ‘love them or hate them frames’ have been around for a while, they’ve recently been upgraded, with frame-integrated Philips LED lighting and low-maintenance features such as coaster and hub roller brakes, hub gears and chainguards. 

The vanmoof 3.1 with front brake:

The unusual looking Vanmoof 3.1 

The seven bike Vanmoof range runs from the £559 3.1 singlespeed shown above, at a claimed 13.5kg (29.76lb), up to the 7-speed 5.7 at 19.5kg (42.99lb) and £769. 

Other Dutch brands on show included the very reasonably priced Achielle, the classy Schindelhauer (with several belt drives in the range), and Primarius with their high-end handbuilt bikes.

And offering as much retro chic as bicycle design were Bobbin Bicycles of London, with Dutch-inspired bikes mixed in with 1960s and 1970s style. The 20in-wheeled Shopper (£299 and 14.5kg/31.97lb) is aimed at shorter commutes, with a compact size and hub gears. 

The bobbin bicycles shopper is inspired by the 1960s and is meant for short zips around town. it comes in pale blue, olive green and burnt orange:
Bobbin Bicycles

The Bobbin Bicycles Shopper

The Madam, on the other hand, is a mixte frame, with two smaller-diameter top tubes (£550 and 16kg/35.27lb). It’s intended for longer commutes, with more stretched-out geometry than the Shopper, 700c wheels, a 5-speed hub, Sturmey cranks and double alloy rims. 

The mixte frame madam is a speedier city bike option from bobbin, and comes in lipstick red:
Bobbin Bicycles

The Bobbin Madam, for those who favour a mixte frame 

Choppers to city bikes

With commuting options from the US come Nirve. Although you might not see yourself cycling to work on one of their many cruiser style bikes, they also offer a small but nice-looking range of commuters, from the £660, 3-speed hub gear Wilshire to the £750, 7-speed hub gear Brookhurst, both in 4130 chromoly. 

The UK prices look a little steep compared to the US ones (US$649.99 to US$799.99) but they look worth a test ride if the traditional approach of a steel frame and hub gear appeals.

The bigger brands

Look around most UK cities outside of cycling hotspots such as London, Cambridge and York and you’re likely to find urban cyclists on light hybrids that marry road and MTB geometry, rather than the traditional or European-style bikes detailed above. But change might just be starting to creep in. 

While Trek’s FX and DS hybrids aren’t going for low maintenance features, Specialized’s highly unusual Source series marries racing geometry with features such as carbon belt drives, hub gears, racks and dynamo lighting. 

The specialized source:
Richard Peace/Future Publishing

Specialized’s Source series is pioneering new territory in the hybrid market

Folding and electric bikes

Continuing with the low maintenance theme, Momentum Electric were exhibiting their 2-speed, automatic-shifting hub-geared Model T and Upstart bikes at the Cycle Show. A brief test ride confirmed that the company’s crank motor setup works very well alongside the SRAM hubs. 

The two models weigh in at a claimed 19kg (41.89lb) and 23kg (50.71lb) respectively, including 324Wh batteries. They both cost £1,095 and have two-year battery guarantees. In electric bike terms, that’s impressive.

The momentum electric model t:
Momentum Electric

The Momentum Electric Model T – the Upstart has a horizontal top tube and no pannier rack

Elsewhere, the Sunstar S03 electric bike kit was officially launched in the UK. Batteries will use reassuringly branded Sony and Panasonic cells, and come in a range of sizes from 65Wh to 416Wh. 

With a motor weighing just over 3kg (6.62lb), the S03 seems an ideal addition to lightweight folders, and Sunstar are offering it with preset software settings for both 16in and 20in wheels. They also tell us that the kit will be available ready-mounted on Bigfish folding bikes. 

Sunstar’s s03 kit turns a conventional bike into an electric-assist pedelec:
Richard Peace/Future Publishing

The Sunstar S03 turns a conventional bike into an electric-assist pedelec

German company Riese and Müller were exhibiting their latest Birdy folders, one complete with a 14-speed Rohloff hub, and a new range of electric bikes under the brand name blueLABEL

The latter were mainly Bosch-powered machines, some capable of assisted riding at 45kmh (and so requiring plates, insurance, and so on) and others featuring the NuVinci hub gears increasingly found on bikes in continental Europe. 

The birdy rohloff: the birdy rohloff
Richard Peace/Future Publishing

The Birdy e-bike, complete with Rohloff hub