Friday, November 12, 2010

Heavyweights, Middleweights, and Lightweights: a Loop Frame Taxonomy

The "Manufacturer Profiles" page linked in the upper left corner lists popular manufacturers that produce quality ladies' bicycles which I believe to meet the urban commuting criteria described here. Fairly often, I am asked about the differences between the bicycles featured on this page - particularly in terms of weight, speed, and their ability to handle hills. Happily, I have now ridden almost all of these bikes, and am able to provide this type of feedback. If I had to classify the higher-end loop-frame bicycles currently available on the market, I would say there are three main categories: the heavyweights, the middleweights, and the lightweights. Each category has its strengths and weaknesses, its benefits and its drawbacks. I will try to describe my experience of them here.

The Heavyweights

In this category I place the traditional Dutch bikes: the classic models produced by Gazelle, Azor/Workcycles, Achielle, and Batavus. They have long, super-relaxed frames, high handlebars and 28" wheels. They are very heavy. They have heavy-duty racks and are designed to haul serious weight. They place the cyclist in a bolt-upright position. And their basic design has remained unaltered for nearly a century.

The benefit of the "heavyweights" is that they are supremely comfortable and stable.  On a proper Dutch bicycle, you can expect to glide along even the most treacherous urban surfaces: You will not feel potholes, bumps, or cobblestones to nearly the same extent as you do on other bikes. You can load your rear or front rack with as much weight as you like without feeling the difference. You can give your friends rides on the rear rack while transporting your toddler on a handlebar-mounted childseat if you like - these bicycles were designed to handle that.

The drawbacks that come with these wonders are the weight (over 50lb - with the Workcycles/Azor being heavier than Gazelle and Batavus) and the wide turning radius. The weight of bicycles is not a problem for the Dutch, because they keep them parked outdoors. If you are not willing to do that and live in a 2nd floor apartment, consider whether you will be able to drag that much weight up and down the stairs every day. As for the handling, it is natural to expect that a long, relaxed bike will make fairly wide turns and will not want to weave aggressively though traffic. To some, this means that Dutch bikes are not sufficiently "maneuverable." Some also complain that because of their weight and relaxed position, it is difficult to cycle uphill on a Dutch bike - especially a prolonged hill.

Conclusion:  These bicycles will give you unparalleled comfort and stability at the expense of weight and maneuverability.

The Lightweights

At the moment, the only loop frame bicycles in this category are the Italians: Abici and Bella Ciao. They are more nimble and sporty than their heftier cousins, with smaller frames and large-ish 700C wheels (a size typical of roadbikes). With their distinct curvature and clean lines, these bicycles are elegant, coltish and fast.

The benefit of the Italian lightweights, is that they are as light and zippy as you can possibly get on this type of city bicycle. Typical weight is 30-35 lb depending on gearing and lights. They do well on hills, they are easy to lift and carry, they are maneuverable.

On the downside, the ride quality is not quite as smooth as on the Dutch bikes. You will feel the road to a greater extent and you will not be as oblivious to the potholes and bumps. Because of their light weight and sportier geometry, these bicycles also have a limited load-carrying capacity. You can carry your bag and panniers, but you probably won't be able to wheel around your boyfriend and your toddler as you would on a Dutch bike.  I am not even sure about the toddler alone.

Conclusion: These bicycles will give you lightweight speed and agility, at the expense of extra cushioning and hauling capacity.

The Middleweights

As you may have guessed, bicycles in this category are somewhere in between. They include the English Pashley, the Danish Velorbis, the Swedish Skeppshult and the German Retrovelo.  Their frames are not as relaxed as the Dutch bicycles, but not as sporty as the Italians. They are typically fitted with 26" wheels. Sometimes these bicycles are specifically marketed as lighter-weight "improvements" compared to Dutch bikes or classic Roadsters.

I am going to combine the benefits and drawbacks of this category into one narrative, because they are not quite so clear-cut.  In a very general sense, the benefit of these bicycles is that they are somewhat lighter than the Dutch bikes (40-45lb+), while also being somewhat sturdier than the Italian bikes. As for smoothness and cushiness of the ride, there is variability. I have found the Pashley and the (non-balloon tire) Velorbis to be about the same in terms of cushioning as Bella Ciao, while also being nearly as heavy and just as difficult on uphills as some of the Dutch bikes. So in the case of these two, I do not feel as if the decrease in cushiness (in comparison to Dutch bikes) is adequately balanced by an equally significant decrease in weight. On the other hand, in the Retrovelo this problem seems to have been solved with the Fat Frank balloon tires  - the ride is almost as cushy as on a Dutch bike, with some of the weight shaved off and some maneuverability added.  I have not tried the Velorbis balloon-tire bikes and cannot say how they compare. And I have not tried the Skeppshult at all.

Conclusion: Overall I am not sure what to make of these bicycles. Having ridden the Pashley, the Velorbis, and the Retrovelo, I would say that Retrovelo has the nicest ride quality of the three and Pashley the second nicest. But to me the bikes in this category do not feel that much lighter than Gazelle or Batavus.

While this method of classification cannot begin to compete with the benefit of firsthand experience, I hope that it at least very generally suggests what to expect. The Dutch bicycles are obscenely comfortable, but cumbersome. The Italian bicycles are light and nimble, but do not offer the same sprawling sense of luxury. And the bicycles in between are a mixed bag. When considering which bicycle is right for you, the closest to "advice" I can give is to take very seriously your priorities and your limitations. It's not just about the weight and handling of the bicycle - but about what you need those factors to be like. We all need something different, and each of these bicycles is perfect for the right owner.

42 comments:

  1. "The weight of bicycles is not a problem for the Dutch, because they keep them parked outdoors. "

    not to mention that holland is mostly flat and they don't have to climb steep hills!

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  2. oops. i see you mentioned that further on!

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  3. I did not mention this popular criticism, because I do not think that weight is in itself the problem when it comes to climbing hills. For example, I rode my Rivendell Sam Hillborne loaded with so much weight in the handlebar bag and saddlebag (heavy books, camera equipment, food, water, other stuff) that it weighed the same as my Gazelle! Yet I had zero trouble on hills - steep and prolonged hills. That is because I was able to adopt a leaned over posture and had wide gearing. All the bicycles described here have the same limited gearing and a pretty much upright posture. Weight alone, in my view and based on my experiences, plays a fairly limited role and it is more about the balance of the bicycle and its ability to carry momentum.

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  4. As with many things, differences provide the excuse (as if I needed any) for me to buy another bike! I have the Workcycles and am now having Bryan at RoyalH build me something a bit sportier with a stainless steel frame. Both will be wonderful bikes although having a bike made for me makes it very special. Very nice review!

    best,

    JimP

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  5. The Dutch also don't usually ride far. It is hard for me to see a bike called a "lightweight" at 30lb. My road bike is 19 and even my cyclocrossbike is only 25 when loaded with fenders, tools, lights, and spares, and with the trunk bag on.

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  6. This is a great and helpful guide for people considering one of these bikes who's worried about weight. I think someone who lives with hills would do well with something like an Abici, one of your lightweights, but not so well with an Oma, the heavyweight. Oma is definitely a heavyweight!

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  7. Steve - In the context of loop-frames, 30lb is definitely a lightweight! : )

    As for distance... The Dutch sometimes tour, across the EU, on those bikes! I see them on the Danube trail when I am in Austria - enormous upright bikes, loaded with panniers. On a route that is relatively flat, those bikes can accelerate like crazy.

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  8. I agree about the limited role of weight. I have one of the heavyweights (8-speed) as well as a single-speed lightweight that I use for a somewhat hilly commute - and I count bridges over the East River as significant hills for a city bike. On hills, the gears of the heavyweight offset the zippiness of the lightweight making the two bikes about the same, though on flat ground the lightweight is faster and more fun to ride.

    Still, even though I ride the lightweight 80% of the time, if I could only have one bike it would be the heavyweight since it carries all the groceries I could ever want on the front and rear cargo racks and in the pannier baskets. It's kind of a mule. The flat front cargo rack (frame-mounted) is far more flexible than a basket for carrying bulky or oddly shaped items (or supports an over-sized milk crate for farmers' market trips), and the rear rack has carried a drunken friend or two. I don't know if there are any benefits to a middleweight since they are neither zippy nor heavy shopping bikes, but they seem to be the prettiest of the bunch!

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  9. In case anyone is wondering how the ANT Roadsters compare, I think I would say that it is most like the lightweights, but it's able to carry a heavier load than it sounds like the Italians can. This is partially owing to it's excellent ability to carry a load on the front as well as the rear (the other night I carried back a case of soda in the basket and some other goodies in there without even causing the cans to fizz over after!).

    I think that my ANT is 35lbs or so, and I do feel the road somewhat more than on the Pashley I rode previously. BUT I believe I would have no trouble carrying a toddler or a few grocery bags (and I am SO seriously tempted to ride my soon-to-be born niece around on it with a bobike come spring...)

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  10. I still remember one time, when I was in France with my ANT, a Dutch lady pointed at my cassette with its 11-34 gears and asked with genuine curiosity, "oh, why ever would you need such large gears? Is the wind very bad where you come from?"

    I agree with you that weight alone will not determine a bike's ability to climb hills (and to Steve, I would also add that weight does not make a big difference when travelling riding on flats -- aerodynamics and the ability to handle rough road conditions will play a bigger role in fatiguing a rider over flats distance); but the gap in climbing performance between a diamond frame and loop frame would also make it a bit of stretch to say that weight's role is limited; especially when you're comparing bikes of significantly different design. A loaded Hillborne vs. a Gazelle may render weight moot, but a Gazelle with racks and panniers vs a loaded Abici might be an interesting comparison.

    Obviously your next step is to take each on a nice little tour of WellFleet and Chatham and report back with a sequel! ;)

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  11. Carine - Really, it's only 35lb? Including the lights, chaincase, racks, etc? I am beyond amazed - is it a light roadster then? I briefly test rode a regular lady's Boston Roadster last year that I would put at just around 40lb, including all the accessories it was fitted with. And I would have classified that bike as a "successful middleweight".

    Nina - I agree about the midweights being the prettiest, and also about choosing the heavyweight if only one bike.

    Re hills again - On my Gazelle and also on the heavy Austrian bike I rode in Vienna, I developed a forward leaning posture that involved both leaning into the handlebars and tilting on the saddle, that was great for speed and for cycling uphill. I wouldn't know how to describe it so that others can replicate it, but it really works!

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  12. cris - I can just imagine this encounter : )

    Yes, I am eager to put a rack and lights on the Bella Ciao and test it against the Gazelle. Naturally, it would be in Wellfleet. And ideally in the winter.

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  13. Thanks for the very interesting summary of new bicycles! Where do the vintage Raleigh Roadster (28" wheel) and Sports (26" wheel)models fall in this catergorization? My 1953 Raleigh Sports is 40lbs with the dyno lights and full chaincase...middleweight?

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  14. The range of sizes available is another issue to consider, for many of us short people. I'm being delightfully corrupted by Velouria (and by saying goodbye to the car) into acquiring a fleet/stable of bikes. But one reason I've ruled out many options (retrovelo, Bella Ciao, e.g.) is because I'm 5'2, and like to ride bikes that fit well. So the Pashley and Abici Granturismo are nice choices. I love the Abici, but wanted the single speed, though I'm still too much of a wuss to get it up the fairly steep hill to my local grocery stores. So I haven't tested it with a full load yet (the Pashley is challenging on that hill, but the gears make it just about doable, as it's empty on the way up to the shops). I did end up succumbing to temptation, and Orco Cicli is building me a 3-speed Ariel, which I'm SO excited about.

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  15. My Gazelle Primeur dutchbike weighs in at 50lb - not much heavier than my Wifes Pashley Britannia which tips in at 46 (although its hub dynamo must add a bit).

    The biggest problem I see with your comparison is that wheelsize can play a more important role for many people not of an 'average' height - more so than weight.

    Wendy is 5'3" and the smaller Pashley fits her perfectly with 26" wheels. 28" wheels would be out of proportion.

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  16. Our experience with Pashley and Batavus is sigificantly more nuanced than the differences you mentioned.

    Batavus has a wide range of bikes available with many models equipped with 7-speed systems (Breukelen) and 8-speed systems (Intermezzo, Staccatto) with aluminum frames to compliment the steel-framed 3-speed classic "oma" bikes. Our #1 Batavus model is the Breukelen which has a wide enough gear range for the average customer to tackle most of the hills/wind we have here in Calgary. Although the weight of the 7 & 8 speed bikes is equal to the classic steel bikes, the additional gear options make these bikes infinitely more useful than the 3-speed models. Also, Batavus bikes are much more modern looking than anything from Pashley which many customers appreciated.

    As far as the weight of these types of bikes goes, we do not feel that it is a significant issue, especially when thinking about bikes with 7 or 8 speeds. I'll use my partner's experience as an example. She is not a "cyclist" but loves cycling. She currently rides a Batavus Intermezzo Supreme 8-speed and although it is the heaviest bike she has ever had, she is able to ride up hills she couldn't before and can ride further, more comfortably, than ever before. Basically, her experience proves that weight is not as big a factor as some "cyclists" like to think it is.

    We also sell Pashley and our experience is that these bikes are so very slightly lighter it's not worth mentioning. On top of that the highest number of gears you can get is a 5-speed which has slightly less range than the 7-speeds from Batavus. More importantly, they have a much more nimble handling characteristic which some people love and many others hated. Funny enough, the classic look of Pashley's bikes, their handling, and the customer's desire for a bike with more handmade details is why most customers chose Pashley over other options we offer. Weight was never mentioned.

    One line of bikes that is worth mentioning is LINUS. These bikes are similar to Abici in style, but significantly less money. We are excited to have these bikes for the simple reason that they will offer a civilized cycling experience, with nimble handling and lightweight. Next year's line-up includes 3-speeds, 8-speeds, and a new "Guv'nor" looking 5-speed model complete with a downtube mounted shifter. Cool!

    Thanks for your post and all the great comments!

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  17. Nice write-up!

    When comparing bike weights, I've found that it's important to use your own scale and not depend upon the manufacturers' claimed weights, which can be dramatically understated. Also, in my experience, the perceived weight of a bike may be quite different than the actual weight; due to the effect of spinning mass, heavy wheels can make a relatively lightweight bike feel much heavier than it is in reality.

    It's my opinion that tires are by far the biggest contributor to comfort and stability on poor surfaces. A light, stiff bike set-up with wide cross-section, supple tires, will still have a very smooth road feel. Of course, it's not easy to find a lightweight bike with clearance for 40mm tires (our Sam Hillbornes qualify... :-) ).

    I'm not surprised by the weight of the Carine's A.N.T. Most of the bikes described above are using hi-ten steel in their frames, whereas the A.N.T. is constructed from modern chromoly. My Surly, for example, is stiff as a board, yet when outfitted with a Pass & Stow porteur rack, Tubus Cargo, fenders, lights, and Pletscher Double, it weighs in at around 32 lbs. My old Pashley with its hi-ten frame, on the other hand, rode like a wet noodle and weighed a good 10-15 pounds more (I can't recall the exact weight now).

    Regards,
    Alan

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  18. One thing most people don't mention when talking about a heavy bicycle is that, unless you're going uphill, the effort to get the bike moving initially may be greater, but after that, it's actually easier to keep it moving, because you have more inertia. It may also have a lower sort of "terminal velocity", but the object of riding such a bike is not great speed anyway.

    One of the reasons the "but it's flat there" argument doesn't work with the Netherlands, is that they often have sustained 30-40mph (or greater) winds. That makes it easily as difficult to ride as a decent hill, and it doesn't just stop when you get to the top, it keeps blowing, no matter how far you're going. I hear stories of people buying earplugs for riding because occasionally the wind blows so hard it actually can hurt your ears. There's a reason they thought windmills would be a good idea for pumping all the water out of the reclaimed land.

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  19. Oh, so many things to consider! Thanks for the overview. How lovely to be able to test ride so many bikes!

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  20. Velouria - I believe that my bike is sort of a hybrid between the "Light" and the "Boston", but I guess I would have to defer to Mike on that (are you reading this, Mike?). I do also know that he's made some changes to the roadsters since the bike you test rode, but I'm not sure how that factors in.
    It is MUCH lighter than the Pashley, even though it has a larger hub and the Wald woody basket instead of the super lightweight wicker and is a larger frame. So there's some kind of magic going on there. I do lean forward to ride it much more than on the Pashley or other "Midweight" bikes I've tried, so it gives a sportier but still upright posture.

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  21. This is a very helpful guide. For some reason I find it much easier to deal with hills on my Workcycles Oma than I do on my Pashley, despite Oma being a heavy-weight. I prefer the gearing on Oma but I'm not even sure it's down to that alone. Oma is just one magical bike. I would love to get a lighter bike though, for that zippy feeling now and again. If Pashley weren't so pretty and I could break the emotional attachment, I would sell her and put my winnings towards a zippy bike fund.

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  22. Weight does not make a big difference riding along on the flat at a steady speed. Weight makes a lot of difference accelerating away from a traffic light to cross a major highway on a short signal on the flat. It also wears over long distances.

    If the distances are short and the speed slow and the load heavy, Velouria has flagged things exactly right. If the distance is long and the load light, even the lightweight may not be the right bike for the job.

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  23. As a daily "heavy-weight" rider, I think Velouria's 9:05 am comment is worth repeating: I always find myself leaning into the bicycle as I climb the Brooklyn bridge, or leaning into a headwind, or late for work and trying to make up time on the Hudson river bikepath. It's pretty intuitive; you just sort of crouch over the handlebars, elbows slightly bent. On flat stretches, weight is not a factor and in fact, it helps with momentum and maintaining speed. In the city, acceleration is secondary to stability - I'm as fast as most, and the faster ones tend to be waiting for me at the next light anyway. The damn thing is just very heavy when maneuvering it into a small elevator or, heaven forbid, if I had to carry it up a flight of stairs. As always, as Velouria points out, you have to choose your trade-offs. I really love the sense of invincibility of my "heavyweight"; even Ikea runs are not a problem!

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  24. BikeBike - Just imagine how long this post would have been if I made it more nuanced : ) Plus keep in mind that I am talking about the classic lugged steel models, which I believe limits it to only 2 Batavus models.

    Jeanette - The interesting is that some upright bikes allow for this better than others. I wish I could determine what governs it.

    Steve - Hard to say about long distance. If the trip has serious hills, then I agree with you. But on flat terrain I still think one of these bikes could be more comfortable. I regularly rode 15 miles to a neighbouring town on my 50lb Austrian clunker in Vienna. It was along the Danube River on mostly flat terrain, but still - 30 miles total. I remember doing this and thinking "Gee, if I lived in the outskirts and worked in the town center, I could make do with this bike". I also recently rode my Bella Ciao to Harris Cyclery and back (a hilly 18-mile round trip from my house) and it was a piece of cake. Now that I know how easy it was, I would rather do that than cycle there on a roadbike - it's more comfortable.

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  25. alan said, "It's my opinion that tires are by far the biggest contributor to comfort and stability on poor surfaces."

    agreed on tires! i've been saying this for a long time when reading about comparisons between bikes and trying to pinpoint nuanced difference in ride quality-- something that is impossible to do without comparing bikes with identical tire setups.

    "A light, stiff bike set-up with wide cross-section, supple tires, will still have a very smooth road feel. Of course, it's not easy to find a lightweight bike with clearance for 40mm tires (our Sam Hillbornes qualify... :-) )."

    this $20 bike qualifies (how does clearance for 50mm tires with fenders sound?), as do many vintage mtn bikes which nobody seem to want anymore:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/5090530941/

    among the stiffest production frames made, yet *so* supple with those 50mm wide schwalbes!

    "whereas the A.N.T. is constructed from modern chromoly"

    chromoly is chromoly, and has been used for over a half century in bike frames. there's really nothing modern about it, but it costs more, which it typically why cheaper bikes use hi-ten, and more expensive steel bikes use chromoly.

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  26. Thanks for stating the shocking truth that heavy isn't always bad, or at least not nearly as bad as is commonly supposed, not even for climbing. Body position usually matters far more than +/-20lbs on the bike, given identical gearing! The thing people don't consider when comparing weights is to add their own weight plus that of any passengers, cargo, or water they're carrying. Compare gross weights and the difference between a light bike and one weighing twice as much might be... 5%? Yet the heavy one will remain stiff and reassuringly stable under load while the light one can be frightening.

    I think light bikes tend, paradoxically, to tire their riders more than heavy ones for a given journey. Lighter bikes do tend to feel best when ridden at a higher speed than heavy ones, when air resistance damps the leaping of every pedal stroke and progress feels smooth. Heavier bikes reach this smoothness at lower speeds. But the power requirement to maintain the higher speed of the light bike is still higher than the heavy. The light bike hare will arrive at its destination 90 seconds early, sweaty and panting, while the tortoise heavy bike will catch up cool as cucumber and beat the hare to the desk in office attire.

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  27. todd:

    let's assume a rider of 175 lb, clothed, and a 25 lb bike. that's a typical figure for a "lightweight" bike (like any one of my road bikes). if that same rider rides a 50 lb bike (like my raleigh DL1), a typical "heavyweight" bike, that difference is 12.5%, not 5%! and, the average female cyclist weighs less than that, which only exacerbates that difference: the same two bikes, ridden by a 120 lb rider. now that spread is not 12.5% but 17.2%. that's pretty significant.

    mass requires energy to be moved. more mass to move = more energy to move it. i test this daily on my commute, on road bikes and on city bikes, with different riding positions and different weights. there's a section of my commute that has a 6% grade for 1/3 mile. i can totally feel the difference *on the same bike* if am loaded with 15-20 lbs of cargo, and it's a big difference. that's a pretty controlled experiment, so i stand by my argument that heavy bikes are more difficult on hills.

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  28. somervillain/todd - Out of interest, how would you explain that my Gazelle is better at cycling uphill than my Pashley was, despite the Gazelle being 10lb heavier and more upright? To me, it *feels* like a matter of how the weight is distributed, in combination (or possibly related to) the bicycles' ability to retain momentum. But this puzzles the heck out of me.

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  29. velouria, i'm not saying that riding position doesn't play a large role in this... it certainly does. but the only way to make an appropriate claim about the effect of weight is to test different weights on the same bike. there could be a dozen reasons why the gazelle is better than the pashley at going uphill (does the gazelle have the same tires that the pashley had? i find certain schwalbe models to have rather high rolling resistance, and i would point to the tires before anything else, as alan mentioned). however, weight is a very real factor in how much effort is needed to cycle, *especially* when you have to overcome gravity in addition to rolling resistance and wind resistance. it's simple physics. so, one day you should do the test of loading up your hillborne with 25 lb of stuff, and ride it up lowell street from somerville ave to highland. then back home, unload, repeat the route. i can't speak for you, but i can say for certainty that when i do similar experiments, the difference is clear. i have to climb this hill every day, sometimes 3-4 times if i've been running errands all day. sometimes i come up that hill empty handed; other times i'm carrying 20 lb of groceries. i feel a very real difference, and it makes me appreciate having a bike as lightweight as possible while being able to do all else i want it to do. sure, i love my heavyweight bikes, and there's a place for them, but not as everyday bikes, and just because you'll find dutch people touring on old omafiets, that doesn't make them the right machines for the job.

    i think if i had to have *one* bike to do everything, i'd choose a medium-weight: something made from chomoly tubing but probably not the thinnest, or double-butted, with heavy duty rims and tires. it would be strong enough to hold 50 lb of cargo with aplumb, but would weigh no more than 35 lb and would have wide gearing to do reasonably fast road riding as well. it would have a partially leaned over riding position, probably something like my jeunet porteur.

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  30. somervillain, i'll cop to lowballing with 5% difference. but i'll not retreat from my point that the significance of weight is widely overestimated even allowing your 17% figure. my point wasn't that weight doesn't matter, but that it matters not nearly as much as most people seem to think.

    i'm with you on the physics. there are calculators for this: http://www.mne.psu.edu/lamancusa/ProdDiss/Bicycle/bikecalc1.htm . taking your 6% hill for example, it takes only about 30 extra watts to haul an extra 20lbs up that slope at 10mph. by dropping to just 9mph from 10, your power requirement drops more than by shedding 20lbs. of course, these figures are hugely significant in a racing context.

    more fun with the calculator: on level ground, the difference between slow and fast tires is more significant even than *200* extra pounds of bike.

    velouria: i can't say why your gazelle seems to climb more easily than did your pashley, especially after you switched to delta cruiser (tires) from the original leaden marathon pluses. not saying this is the case for you, but for me i notice that it is nearly impossible to assess performance objectively in a short comparative trial at least. if i like or dislike something strongly about a bike, however irrelevant it may be to a given performance category, these feelings interfere!

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  31. The Pashley Princess has to be weighted heavily toward the front of the frame based on how it rides compared with other classic bicycles I've ridden. My friend's Oma, which I recently borrowed for a day, and my Retrovelo both fly up steep hills in comparison. Lifting it = basically impossible, not because of weight, but because of the way it's front end flies around. Velouria, I think you maybe wrote about this somewhere at one time?

    I would love this explained to me, too. I don't think it's about tires or cargo, in this case, but rather geometry and weighting. Mystery!

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  32. In theory, using the example given by somervillain: a 175lb rider climbing a 6% hill on a 25lb bicycle. If we add 25 pounds of load to that bicycle and reduce the speed (through gearing) by 1mph, there would be no difference in the rider's effort to climb that hill. Therefore the 25lbs would slow you down by 1mph (this being valid for any slope and not only the 6% as well as a rider of any weight). For derailleur gearing, it would mean changing to a rear sprocket that is about 4 teeth bigger and pedalling at the same cadence.
    The momentum that a bicycle carries is countered by the weight, rolling resistance and air resistance. Therefore, if we don't pedal in order to maintain it, it will be lost in the very few yards going uphill,so it is only helpful to overcome small hills (even if considerably sloped).
    In the case of Gazelle vs Pashley going uphill, I think the differences could be the result of a smaller rolling resistance of Gazelle's tires, as somervillain suggested, or, to a lesser extent, the position of the seat relative to the pedals and a crank size that is better suited for your physical structure, allowing you to be closer to your optimal position when riding the Gazelle. And even though the Gazelle has only 3 speeds, it is possible that one of those 3 speeds would match a certain hill better than any of the Pashley's 7 speeds.

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  33. I forgot to mention somehting that could have some impact as well on how the Gazelle seems to climb easier than the Pashley: the position of the handlebars.
    Before I bought my Pashley Roadster Sovereign, I had a bicycle with a more upright riding position and in which the handlebars were placed higher and closer to my body, allowing me to pull more when going uphill than with the Pashley. When going uphill, the speeds are low and the upright riding position won't make a significant diference unless there are strong winds, therefore this may help to explain it.
    The Pashley, on the other hand, makes it easy to stand on the pedals and use the body weight to help me pedal, and even weighting 10lbs more than my previous bicycle, I could conquer some hills that I wasn't able before, also as a result of a slightly lower 1st speed.

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  34. Somervillian wrote: "mass requires energy to be moved. more mass to move = more energy to move it."

    I just want to correct this. The energy needed to accelerate a bike is proportional to mass, but especially the rotating mass of the tire and rim. And when going up a steep hill, the energy it takes is proportional to the total mass of the rider, bike and luggage.

    But for every uphill there is a downhill, and lots of riding is flat. In these situations, the two things that require energy to keep the bike at a constant speed are 1) rolling resistance (mainly due to tire characteristics and pressure), especially at low speeds, and 2) wind resistance, which is totally unrelated to mass. That's why triatheletes and time-trialists ride weirdly-shaped, aerodynamic bikes, even though they are heavier than regular racing bikes; aerodynamics is more important to them.

    Sure, on hill climbs the weight matters, but even in the example of a 110 lb rider with 10 lbs of clothing and luggage, the difference between the 25 lb and 50 lb bikes was only 12.5%. At constant power, that would be the difference between going 7 mph instead of 8 mph uphill (or 14 mph versus 16 mph if you are racing uphill).

    Weight should really come into play if you need to be able to pick up the bike, say to put it on a bus rack, or to get it upstairs to your apartment. Otherwise, it should not be a huge consideration.

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  35. jazzboy said, "For derailleur gearing, it would mean changing to a rear sprocket that is about 4 teeth bigger and pedalling at the same cadence."

    that's more significant than it may seem. that would mean me shifting down two cogs, and taking longer to get up the hill that i do sometimes several times a day. eh, i'll stick to the lightweights :-).

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  36. Somervillain, the 0.45 climb on lowell st that you referred would be delayed by 16 seconds if dropping from 10mph to 9mph or 38 seconds if dropping from 7mph to 6mph.
    If a lower gear wasn't available there would still be the option of a slight reduction in cadence (ex: form 60rpm to 54rpm) in order to reduce speed, but in this case one would still need to apply a bigger force on the pedals even though there wouldn't be any difference in the power output.
    My 20 mile round trip takes me the same time with my 50lb Pashley as with my 40lb previous bike, as, going downhill, the extra weight actually helps going faster.

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  37. I've seen the Dutch, Germans and Swiss ride bikes like the Batavus laden with panniers and camping equipment through the Loire Valley and Vosgienne passes. And I thought I was such a hot young cyclist!

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  38. these are so delicious, if I lived on flatter heights, I would probably already own one :D
    ♥xxomeli

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  39. Here is a french lightweight, and it is an interesting loop/mixte frame. Classic Rendezvous has a write of the brand "Paris Sport" You need a new bike, you know you do!


    http://cgi.ebay.com/Paris-Sport-Ladies-Mixte-5-speed-European-urban-cruiser-/200538381882

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  40. Anonymous (12 Nov 2010): would love to know whether your Orco Cicli Ariel 3 speed has been completed/received and if so, what you think. Am also considering buying one. Any information would be fabulous. Thanks, Lindy

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  41. With Dutch bicycles there are actually a number of categories of such bicycles. You got city bicycles, that are good for the city and not for long distances. These have thin frames. They are the "everypersons bike". Then you move up to what I call "mid-range" category. These have thicker frames and will take you in comfort throughout the city and far out into the countryside, like 50 kms easy. The next category is a luxury bicycles. These are usually owned by older, little more wealthier people who go for the absolute comfort these bicycles provide. They are thick and as sturdy as a tank and as comfortable ride as the most comfortable car. These bicycles can do serious long-range distances in supreme comfort. But they come at a cost. Expect a new one to be about 900 Euros (2013).

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  42. This is remarkably helpful as I try to sort through the benefits of different sorts of bicycles, especially in terms of weight. Higher weight may not be such a bad thing if it means a pleasant ride--I remember riding a friends Italian ($$$$) lightweight sport cycle and was miserable sitting down for days afterward. Thanks for writing this. :)

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