At their Open House last weekend, I had a chance to briefly examine and test-ride two ANT bicycles. This is my first time seeing these bicycles up close and personal, and I hope the reports will be useful to those considering an ANT.
TEST RIDE No.1: The Boston Lady Roadster
The Boston Lady Roadster is a classic loop frame bicycle, available custom built from ANT. This fact in itself is remarkable. If you are wondering why, I invite you to find other framebuilders willing and able to build a loop frame, or even capable of discussing such a thing without laughing. Until recently, most framebuilders' idea of a "women's bicycle" was a diamond frame roadbike painted pink, or with pink handlebar wraps. Now mixtes have began to pop up as well, but for city riding they are not quite as comfortable as the classic curved step-through. The fact that ANT has chosen the loop frame as one of their flagship models carries significant implications for the recognition of women in urban cycling. It also says something about the framebuilder's skill. It is difficult to make that curved top tube, to get the form just right both structurally and aesthetically. So I feel that this frame is one of the most specialised and special things ANT has to offer.
The Lady Roadster is available in many colours, with the option of matching rims and a choice of black or cream tires. The bicycle I tried was in a colour I would describe as "Vermilion" or "Cadmium Red Light" in painters' pigment terms. I must say, ANT knows how to put together colours. The combination of the vermilion frame, matching rims, cream tires and steel fenders is timelessly classic and elegant. At the Open House, someone asked me what I think of putting matching fenders on this bike, and my thought on that was "no". With a bright colour like this, I think it is easy to overdo it and make the bicycle look like a toy. To my eye, the clean steel fenders are a good counterweight to the extravagant frame and rim colour; it's all done just right. If it were my bicycle, I would ask for brown leather accessories and a steel quill stem for a more classic look, but that this is a matter of personal choice.
One of my favourite features of the Boston Roadster is the mount for the dynamo-powered headlight. Welded to the fork, it looks like a little tree branch. Having a low-mounted light like this is better for illuminating the road than having the light on top of the fork or on the handlebars, so this feature serves a practical purpose as well.
This shot may not speak to you immediately, but I wanted to point out the kickstand plate. Not all bicycles are made with one. Also note how neatly all the joints are welded: clean and pretty.
The "full suit" chainring and steel chainguard.
A prototype full chaincase is in the works - to be coated to match the frame colour. I am excited about this development. I have also been discussing dress guards with Mr. Flanigan, and I think you might be seeing something on that end as well pretty soon.
Other than adding a chaincase and dress guards, the only thing I would change about this bicycle if I had a magic designer's wand, would be the style of the fork. I like the straight forkblades here and think that their clean, utilitarian aesthetic is fitting with the overall design. But I wish that the "unicrown" fork (rounded top) could have a flat or "segmented" top instead. This is really a personal preference.
As you can tell by my ridiculous facial expression and firm grip, I liked this bicycle quite a lot and was excited to try it. The owner and I are similar in height, so the frame was just right for me.
The ride felt smooth, stable and effortless, and I love the 8-speed coaster brake hub. The ANT handled similarly to my Pashley once it got going, but was somewhat faster to accelerate and more maneuverable. At least in part this is probably due to the 10lb difference in weight (the ANT being the lighter of the two). Of course this was a very short ride, so I really cannot make far-reching conclusions based on this experience alone. What does it feel like loaded? on hills? in the rain? on a 30-mile ride? That I can't say. But riding it for that short time period made me want to find out. The ANT Boston Roadster is a classic, but with a twist that I would describe as "utilitarian chic".
TEST RIDE No.2: The Mixte
I am not certain whether ANT plans to offer the Mixte as a standard model, but they certainly can build it as a custom order. This turquoise mixte belongs to Betsy, Mike Flanigan's parter, and it is fairly unusual. As you can see, it is built with the classic twin lateral stays - but it lacks the rear stays that typically connect the seat tube to the rear drop-outs.
The frame was a size too small for me, but with the saddle raised it was fine. The bicycle does not feel like a mixte to ride - at least if you are accustomed to vintage mixtes, which were designed with road bike and sometimes touring frame geometry. It is much more stable, sturdy, and easier to operate than the typical mixte I am used to, with a relaxed sitting position, wide tires and an 8-speed hub. The bike was geared low and as a result was able to fly up the hill in a fashion I had not experienced before with hub gears. It was not a road bike, that's for certain. But I wouldn't describe it as a city bike or a "cruiser" either. Town and country? Yes, that seems about right. And with the wide tires, it is probably suitable for a variety of on and off road terrain.
A close-up of the twin lateral stays and a gratuitous shot of my face in the rear view mirror. As on the Boston Roadster, you can see the nice clean welds.
View from the saddle.
Custom rear rack with a wooden base; hammered Honjo fenders. Shimano 8-speed hub.
Retro bicycle horn on the handlebars. It cannot be denied that ANT has an eye for beautiful eccentricity - a definite plus in my view.
As a self-professed lug fanatic, it is funny that I like ANT's TIG-welded bikes so much. The clean welds are an integral part of ANT's "utilitarian chic" aesthetic, and as such they seem perfect just the way they are. It simply looks right. Does this change my obsession with lugs? Well, no. But let's just say that ANT is the exception to the rule.
I hope these descriptions were helpful to those curious about ladies' frame bicycles from ANT. I know that Mike Flanigan is working on some updates to the Boston Roadster models, and I am looking forward to the results.