Riding the Pilen: a Multitude of Impressions

Since the Pilen give-away contest is happening before a final review will be published, I wanted to write up a separate post about its ride quality. It's funny that even though I should know better, I am still fooled into thinking that I "know" a bike based on the way it looks, and this was the case here. "A swan frame," I thought, "this will be just like my Austrian bike." But the Pilen is a completely different bicycle. Moreover, my impression of its ride quality differs from others' impressions, which apparently may be a factor of my size. But let me start from the beginning.

As described before, the bicycle is a 56/58cm frame with 700Cx50mm tires, which makes it a pretty large bicycle for a person my size. Since I am barely tall enough to ride it, I have the saddle almost all the way down. I also lowered the handlebars as much as I could. The bars are flared out quite a bit - almost placing the hands in a mountain bike style position - and having them set high felt unnatural. In the position shown, the saddle and handlebars feel more or less fine, though personally I prefer bars that are more swept back.

What I like best about the Pilen is its remarkable stability. Traditional Dutch bikes tend to have a light front end, which can make the steering feel difficult to control for those who are not used to it. Though I love the ride quality of Dutch bikes, I too remember being taken aback by the light steering when I first tried them. In comparison, the Pilen is extremely well balanced. It is a very easy bike to control and it handles predictably. I keep switching between the Pilen and my vintage Gazelle, and the Gazelle always feels shaky after the Pilen.

The wide, cushy Schwalbe Big Apple tires offer another advantage. Potholes or road shock of any kind are a non-issue; the bike just rolls over uneven terrain and I don't feel a thing.

The surprising downside for me when riding the Pilen, is my experience with speed and acceleration. I am finding this hard to put into words, but let me try: When I attempt to ride the bike at the speed I am accustomed to, it is as if I feel a resistance. I have to push harder in order to keep it going fast, and this puts a strain on my legs. My first thought was that the gearing must be too high, because it feels better to start it in 1st gear, whereas on my other 3-speeds I am fine starting in 2nd. However, as soon as I accelerate, not only do I quickly find it necessary to switch into 2nd, then 3rd gear, but I also soon begin to max out the 3rd gear. This makes no sense, because the Shimano hub used on the Pilen is not spaced any closer than the 3-speed hubs I use on my other bikes; I should not be running out of gears. Even more odd is that I feel the strain in my legs regardless of what gear I am in and how fast I am going. According to the Co-Habitant's computer, I did manage to get the Pilen up to 17mph. But this was more effortful than on my other upright 3-speed bikes.

I shared these impressions with Todd of Clever Cycles - who is one of the North American retailers stocking these bikes and therefore has experience with them. Todd suggested it was possible that the bike is "overbuilt" for me - meaning that the tubing and the wheels are specced with a rider larger and heavier than me in mind. Though I have heard the "overbuilt" theory before (mainly when it comes to Surly bikes - which also seem to be best enjoyed by heavier riders), to be honest I found the idea improbable. I thought it was more likely that I needed to keep playing with the saddle and handlebar positions, or change the rear cog after all.

Then something happened to suggest that Todd may be on to something: A woman who is taller and heavier than me was over for a visit, and she wanted to try the Pilen. She did, and she absolutely loved it. She called it zippy and fast. She asked me what I thought of the bike, and I told her my honest impressions, but her impressions were totally different. She is not a stronger cyclist than I am. But the Pilens's size seemed just right for her and she looked a lot more natural on the bike than I do. She has tried a lot of other bikes at this point, including several Dutch bikes and the Rivendell Betty Foy, so she does have a solid basis for comparison. She preferred the Pilen's ride quality to all of these.

Now I was seriously intrigued. I asked the Co-Habitant to ride the Pilen. He is just over 6' tall and weighs over 200lb. He raised the saddle and took the bike for a spin. He loved it and wanted to keep riding it. He thought it was nimble and a bit faster than his Pashley Roadster. He loved the cushy tires. He could not relate to my feedback at all and did not sense anything odd about the gearing.

Next I took the Pilen over to "cycler," of Biking in Heels. She and I are roughly the same height and weight. She loved the looks of the bike (as do I), but found the ride quality odd. Without my having said anything in advance, she had similar things to say about the gearing feeling too closely spaced as I have expressed above. She also found the "cockpit" configuration to feel unnatural compared to her own upright bikes (a Raleigh Sports and several DL-1s).

At this point, I am not sure what to conclude, or whether it is even appropriate to make any conclusions. I've tried to describe things as they are. It seems likely that the bike is indeed built with taller and heavier riders in mind, and that it handles differently for those riders. I cannot say via direct experience, as I can't magically enlarge myself and try it both ways. The two heavier persons who have test-ridden the Pilen in my presence were enthusiastic with their feedback, and witnessing this makes it clear that sometimes it is a matter of matching up the right bike with the right owner. Your thoughts on this are welcome. Have you felt that some bikes were overbuilt or underbuilt for your body type?


  1. I can't speak to the Pilen, but those comments about the Surly always make me sad. The Long Haul Trucker with those little 26" wheels is just so darned cute. I know it's made for loaded touring, and that it wouldn't ride well unloaded for a person my size, but . . .

  2. Trina is kind of having similar issues with the WorkCycles Secret Service, though the frame is notably smaller (49cm), and definitely doesn't seem too big for her (there is about 6 inches of seatpost exposed). We are still fiddling around with the seat adjustment a bit, both due to this issue and the aforementioned being able to touch the ground issue.

    Part of it is that this bike was a rental at Clever Cycles, which they have said means it almost certainly had the cog on the rear wheel replaced to lower the gearing, and Trina is starting in 5th (on an 8-speed) and immediately shifting up to 6th or 7th. She will occasionally use 4th going up a hill, but pretty much never uses anything below 5th. I've had this same experience as well - on flat ground, I'm immediately in 8th gear after starting, and on any kind of a decline, I'm pedaling really fast just to be able to pedal at all.

    We've noticed that due to the frame geometry, she's working different muscles than on the Raleigh (I've noticed this too from riding the WorkCycles myself), and I think that plays into it to some extent.

    She did notice yesterday that when she had some weight in the pannier bags after a shopping trip, that she was able to keep speed a little bit better, so maybe certain bikes were just designed to do better with more weight, I'm not sure. We're really wanting to get the cog on the rear hub put back to default, so we can try it out with more "normal" gearing to see if that changes anything.

  3. Way too many factors to consider, like: the larger woman may not be a faster cyclist but probably can produce more power than you on a short-term basis due to muscle mass, same with MDI. What is larger woman's normal bike? You've said your Pash is slowish, so the Pil is going to seem faster than MDI's. Are wheels same size/weight? Pilen's Big Apples are heavy-ish, making for slower accel. Bigger-muscled rider overcomes resistance easier. What tire pressure did you use? Fatties slow down a lot when below optimum pressure. What's the frame made out of? Size-specific tubing will make the frame more rigid to you, hence dead.

    Gearing: you need 1st due to above, but IMO from 2nd through the top of 3rd you're using leg speed and pedal efficiency honed through extensive road cycling. At this point you're stronger than the others.

    Yeah, basically right bike for right rider.

  4. I've found that seat height/fore and aft positioning and handlebar position/height/bend can make a huge difference in how sluggish or lively a bike feels to ride.

    I've just finished fixing up an old bike and had to try numerous stem/bar combinations before finding something that felt right.

    Have you thought about trying a set of DL1-type handlebars on the Pilen ? Swapping bars doesn't take long and it migtht make a big difference. Ditto the stem.

  5. portlandize: find out which gear is direct drive on your hub (probably 5 if 7sp) and set hub with cog such that your cadence will be 60 (or whatever you like) when going say your avg cruising speed of 13 (or whatever you like).

  6. GR Jim -

    Tubing is cro-moly. Beyond that it is not stated.

    I have ridden other bikes with Big Apples and Fat Franks; did not have this feeling of resistance.

    Have tried the tires with different amount of pressure at this point; overall the feeling is the same.

    My Pash was slowish, but his is faster and has different sized wheels. The male & female Pashleys are constructed differently and aren't really the same bike.

    The woman's normal bike is, I believe, a hybrid of some sort and she is looking for a new bike to replace it.

    3-speed gearing: I have ridden and enjoyed at least three large, heavy-duty bikes set up as 3-speeds. I am almost always in 2nd gear in those bikes - can start from 2nd gear, and can accelerate to 17mph while still in 2nd gear. 1st gear used only uphill, and 3rd gear used when downhill and want to go super-fast. On this bike, this is not possible - am constantly switching between all 3 gears

  7. MDI: well, it's my wife's bike actually - it's an 8-Speed Shimano. I have no idea about cadence though, I've never paid attention to mine or my wife's :) Also have very little idea about speed, as the only way I've ever kept track is to note approx mileage I've ridden and how long it took and make an average :) My guess is that *I* usually ride around 10-12mph on flat ground. My wife probably hangs more in the 8-10mph range.

    Going to have the bike shop do the cog replacement though, so hopefully they can offer some advice based on the experience we're having with the bike currently.

  8. Hmmm....
    As I started to read the first half of the post, my immediate thought was - 'Damn, I set the front brake too tight and it is causing some sort of resistance' - because I have never felt the Pilen to be sluggish at all. In fact, it is definitely the peppiest city bike I've ever ridden.
    But then, in reading the other riders' impressions, it would seem the improper brake calibrating couldn't be the issue - otherwise they would certainly have felt it, as well.
    Not sure, however, the 'overbuilt' theory is it either. I'm 5'11" and 155 lbs. - probably on the smaller end of guys riding these bikes - and I find it to be super smooth, quick off the line, and very responsive.
    Anyways, I look forward to what others have to say and am loving the first entries in the give away contest - keep them coming...
    Tusind tak for alt...

  9. What is the real-world weight of this thing?

    Not sure same model hub has same gear inches built in across the different bikes. Maybe generational differences, whatever.

    Could be you like starting in 1st because of the sub-optimal ergos and that it's a huge bike.

    I got to switching gears a lot with the Civia Halsted on flat ground, challked that up to not good seat position and non-standard everything.

    I'm gonna go with more powerful riders overcome inefficiencies easier and don't need to shift as much. This is not a comment about your cycling fitness, just outright power output.

  10. My first thought after reading your post was to suggest trying skinnier tires. I was amazed at how much speed and acceleration I picked up when I installed a pair of Ritchey Tom Slicks on a commuter.
    But as you said, taller, heavier riders seem to appreciate the ride. Hmmm...I wonder how you would fare with a smaller frame.

  11. Thought of something else: I've never ridden a bike that was too big that I felt was efficient.

  12. My Worksman Cruiser is a heavy bike like Pilen which makes it a lot like a locomotive to get moving. You start slow to build momentum then , once momentum is built, sail along with ease.

    There are times that I curse the bike's weight but the limo like silkiness of the ride make it all worthwhile :^)

  13. "Have you ever felt that some bikes were overbuilt or underbuilt for your body type?"

    Oh, dear God yes, most bikes are underbuilt for me, or I'm overbuilt for most bikes. I'm 6'3" with a build that says "football" more than "cycling," so I'm used to stuff flexing, creaking and occasionally just breaking when I push it too much.

    Portlandize, Shimano usually recommends an approximate 2:1 front-rear ratio for it's IG hubs, often a 42-tooth chainring to a 20-tooth cog (that's what came stock with my Jamis, for example), they really do seem to work best when set up that way.

  14. I love reading your reviews. I always learn something.

  15. And now for more unsolicited advice...

    People thinking about getting this bike: I didn't have the saddle as high as I needed in these pictures, but this is approx. where the saddle would be if you're around 6' and have the same inseam as I do.

    I did not find that the gear range was narrow. In fact, I thought it was geared quite high (perhaps a small cog?) and I would definitely start in 1st and perhaps consider getting a bigger cog. I am also not sure how my impression that it's overgeared can exist together with V's impression that the high gear isn't high enough. I thought it was plenty high.

    The bike felt very lively and would accelerate nicely for a ~50lb bike in first gear and go quite fast in third. When I am not tired I cruise around 15mph on my Pashley and I could easily go that speed on this bike. Unfortunately I have nothing to say about its hill climbing ability--my Pashley is sensitive to hills and even more so to headwind.

    The coaster brake on this particular hub is insane. I know coaster brake power varies from hub to hub but this one is crazy. I remember Brian (the owner of the Bullit) borrowed this bike for a moment and said "ok the coaster brake is strong, but I guess it's supposed to be." I generally fail at coaster brakes and hate them, so of course I almost flew out of the saddle when I accidentally engaged it mid coast. I bet a few days on this thing would teach me not to turn cranks backwards.

    Anyway, very very fun bike to ride. Loves potholes and curbs. Big Apples felt different from my Fat Franks, I think Fat Franks offer more cush (and roll easier), but I would need a longer trial to determine that.

  16. I've been wondering what, if anything, is the technical difference between the Big Apples and Fat Franks other than colour? The Big Apples are (sometimes) described as 2mm narrower, but there seems more to it.

  17. I think V can turn the big gear fast when up to speed, topping it out.

    +1 on Frank cush > Apple; the casing feels more supple, there's a raised tread, but also maybe because...

    FFs are way bigger than the same sized Apples, both listed @ 2.35. I can fit a 2.35 tube into the App, but the same tube in the FF is way small, stretches too much and doesn't seat well at all. FFs now have 2.9 downhill tubes in them and fit perfectly.

    I like Frank's small raised tread; firm enough for good wear, soft enough and low enough for some traction in loose conditions.

    And I think it's a better tire.

  18. Yeah she can spin fast, but it's not like the actual Pilen hub 3rd gear is lower than on her Gazelle hub 3rd which I've also borrowed during set-up time.

  19. Yes, one important point is that my Gazelle frame is the same size as the Pilen and is also a 3-speed. It is possible that the Pilen has heftier tubing.

    The Gazelle is definitely geared a tad lower, but the gears feel spaced fairly far apart. In actuality, I am pretty sure that the Gazelle's older Sachs hub is probably narrower than the Pilen's modern Shimano.

  20. My wife is the other woman who tried out the Pilen. She found it to glide up the hills and felt it to be quick and comfortable.

    She's a new bike rider, we got an ex-rental hybrid just to get her on a bike. She's outgrown it and we're looking at getting her something that fits better, is more fun to ride and is reliable. She's about 5'9" or so and a bit heavier. We've been trying many different bikes to give her experience of what she'd like for a city bike.

    I think the idea of underbuilt/overbuilt as well as weighting on the bike come into play. She didn't like riding bikes that had the weight too far back and felt that the steering was too light. She much preferred bikes that fit like older mountain bikes.

    The bikes she tried were:
    Novara Transfer: Ok, but not enough different from the current bike.
    The Linus Mixte was too noodly.
    She liked the Breezer infinity and felt that the workcycles had quite a bit of drag and poor handling. The Betty Foy felt unstable and mushy. There were fit issues with the LHT and the she was too uncomfortable with drop bars to try the cross check but the fit looks good.

    I've felt similar things (I'm 6'2" and shaped like a bear.) Skinny tires feel uncomfortable and thin frames feel noodly. Surly bikes fit well and the Big dummy is extremely comfortable for me. I think part of that is because the weighting is 50/50 between the wheels.

    The best that I can articulate it is that a thin frame seems to flex so much that it robs energy, a the right tubing, moves with you and aids motion; the too heavy and the bike feels sluggish.

  21. Fascinating. I'd love to hear from Pilen on why their bikes are so huge, and the women's models don't seem to come any smaller. I realize that Swedish women are tall, but even a tall woman can have a shorter inseam. You are relatively tall, V, and that bike looks enormous. How many Swedish women do they leave out at that height? Seems like one size down (at least) would be a good idea if they are trying to market it anywhere outside of tall Nordic places.

  22. GR Jim - We both deleted duplicates of your last comment, please re-post.

    snarkypup - N European women are, on average taller than American and Pilen is a small company that (as far as I understand it) had no plans to expand until very recently. My guess is that they will see how the sales go and then consider offering a smaller size. But as Todd of Clevercycles pointed out to me, the smaller sized bike will have to also use different tubing. It may or not be practicable for their business model.

  23. Can you remind me what I said? Oh yeah:

    Pilen heavier than Gazelle? = more momentum? Stiff frame translates to better efficiency at speed?

    My cargo bike maintains momentum much better than my others and wants to stay at that speed. Getting it to go much faster requires more "strain".

  24. The swan frame kind of a does a little trompe l'oeil thing and makes the bike look smaller than it really is.

    This whole notion of "overbuilt" is interesting to me as a smaller person. I've never thought about it.

    I was initially so delighted by my (since departed) Pashley. I always attributed my change of heart to the fact that the frame was too small as I became more experienced with utility cycling and the bike was weighted so oddly toward the front (for me). But now I wonder if I wasn't happier with it initially because I hadn't lost all of my pregnancy weight when I bought it. As I got thinner, it seemed heavier and heavier until finally I sold it and bought another heavy bike, but this one doesn't seem "heavy" at all.

    Bikes are mysterious.

  25. A resounding yes to your question Have you felt that some bikes were overbuilt or underbuilt for your body type'. I experienced this on Workcycles bikes. It was hard for me to climb with them and get them up to speed. Riding with any distance or up hills bothered my knees. I have no such problems with 'old faithful' - a sub 30 lb bike.

  26. Jessica,

    Do not be afraid of the Long Haul Trucker. I'm all of 5'2" and ride a 46 cm LHT with 26" wheels, and I absolutely adore my bike. It's rock solid, and I ride in a fairly hilly area and while it's certainly heavy by the standards of aluminum bikes, mine is tricked out and comes in at about 35 lbs unloaded, which isn't bad for a touring bike. In terms of the ride quality, I don't feel like there's any fat on the bike - nothing unnecessary but the weight is there for a reason.

  27. These are some of the exact reasons I got rid of my Sparta. It was great once it was up to speed, but she always seemed too big, too bulky, too overmade. I found out later that the Amazone Trendy is also used as a moederfiets and can handle two or three baby seats on it- the smooth ride and sturdiness was great for that but it was soooo sluggish. Felt like I was pedalling through pudding all the time.

  28. OK, maybe this is just me, but does anyone else see the resemblence between the Pilan and the Urbana in the profile shot? Perhaps it is the heavy duty look that frame has or the long wheelbase or the rear rack or something, but I think they look almost startlingly similar.

    That said, this bike would never fit me. At 5'5ish, I think I could *maybe* reach the pedals with the seat all the way down, but still! That's one HUGE bike. Then again, I've heard that taller women have a hard time finding well-fitting bicycles, so this is good news perhaps? Although, (in my biased opinion), it seems like women's road bikes are often geared towards the taller types as well, but maybe I just have a complex about being short. ;)

  29. Going back to the 60's and 70's of the last century, there was a time when anything and everything cyling was made for slight and skinny riders. Large size Americans were best off on Schwinn ballooners. Customers the size of CoHabitant would walk into the bike shop and there was just nothing you could do for them. At 200# anything sporty would quickly fall apart.

    Some gear is still built that way. Some is not. New wheels of most any type are far more durable than the old stuff. OTOH if a small rider wants something as seriously quick as Schereen Weltmeister rims shod w/ Seta Extras it can't be done except with the most extreme and expensive exotica.

    It is and will be a confusing situation. The Ksyrium wheels on your Seven are built for heavy riders and it's fine to have them in the sport. The 700x23 tires are narrowly for lightweight pros. Good matches happen or they don't. Few riders have the knowledge or the resources or the luck to be absolutely in synch.

  30. Anon - Very true. It's good that heavier riders have options now with oversized tubing.

    I am still trying to understand what makes wheels overbuilt. The Ksyrium wheels on the Seven are built mostly to be aerodynamic, as I understand it, but they are also super strong. I was told that in of themselves they would be a harsh ride, if it were not for the frame and fork. Given that the bike feels fine (not harsh at all and certainly not sluggish), I like the strong wheels. Accidentally plunged into a ditch at full speed last week and thought for sure the wheel would crack in half, but there is no mark on it. I have a hard time trusting all this super light racing stuff and keep expecting the Seven to break if I breathe on it wrong : )

  31. Argh. Kysriums aren't clydesdale wheels per se, they're just very strong due to design. The aero benefits of the design, however, are debatable.

    A little ditch that doesn't send you to the hospital is nothing for these wheels.

    The saying goes: light, cheap, strong. Pick two.

  32. you just described the exact problem I'm experiencing with my pashley princess which I've been riding daily for over a year and I have not been able to articulate the problem to mechanics. When I first got her I found I only used gears 1, 2, and rarely, 3. I never used 4 and 5 ever. Then, after her first tune up 6-8 mos. in, I found I could ride in 3rd gear all the time and I figured maybe the mechanic adjusted the gearing for me when he heard me complaining about how hard she was on my knees despite seat and handlbar adjustments (I now believe gearing wasn't set up properly out of the box and he noticed during the first tune up.)
    Things go swimmingly from there until about a month ago when I noticed that 3 gear now seems to easy for me and I'm now riding in 4 and 5 and it still seems like the bike is riding slower than I would like. So I took it in to a shop, not my usual one, and they told me the gearing was fine and that perhaps I was just a stronger rider now. But I don't think so because it was fine til a month ago. I am wondering if all the potholes I ride over has put something out of alignment. So now I'm going to take it back to where I got it from to see if their mechanics has any ideas.

  33. dagmara - Yes, my Pashley Princess felt somewhat similar, though in addition it had a harsher ride quality due to the smaller wheels and narrower tires.

    The gearing issue though - do you have the older or newer style shifter? The newer ones have been reported to have slipping problems. This has nothing to do with Pashley though, but with Sturmey Archer.

  34. Aside from slipping issues, adjustment does not make gears easier or harder. A hub is either in a gear or between gears in which case it will grind and generally not work.

    The only cost-effective way to influence these hubs is to enlarge or decrease the rear cog, which will make the entire hub gear range lower or higher respectively.

    I have a Pashley with the 5 speed hub too, and 3rd gear is direct drive. You should set it up such that you spend most of your time in 3rd gear, reserving 1 and 2 for climbing and 4 for cruising slightly downhill. 5 is about useless unless you have a seriously long downhill or get strong(er).

    If your hub is set up such that 3rd (direct drive) is too low, perhaps you're losing some pedaling efficiency by staying in 4th gear most of the time.

    In a sense you have to think more about setting up IGH drivetrains than derailers. And they are much more difficult to adjust, too. Poorly adjusted hub or a shifter that slips will be constant trouble. In some cases, the bike company has to warranty replace your shifter and cables or even the entire wheel.

    Do not accept less than perfect mechanical performance from your IGH Pashley. When the dust settles and all parts are adjusted there should be zero problems. Zero.

    But it will still be hard to pedal and suck uphill/against the wind. Sorry. :)

  35. Regarding the additional effort required to pedal, possible causes could be:

    A dragging brake (perhaps the front hub is not releasing fully)
    An overly tight wheel bearing adjustment or possibly the pedal crank bearing (if not permanently sealed)
    Lack of lubrication in one of the hubs
    Shorter-than-normal pedal cranks (most are around 170 mm)
    Rear sprocket not properly aligned with front sprocket

    One assumes these areas to be ok on a new bike, but oversights do occur

  36. My surly lht is absolutely overbuilt for me. Sorry Jessica, you'd probably have the same problems I do. I'm 5'2 and have the 46cm like Amega, but obviously a different experience. Many on the surly forum complain of their lht's being sluggish, slow etc. above and beyond being a touring bike. I could NOT figure out what was wrong. The bike has a few stability issues but riding it has been such a struggle. I can rarely get momentum, I can't keep going, it's slow, I certainly do not want to take it on a road trip! Granted, it is well built, solid and smooth. Would the 50cm have been better? I was reading BQP's blog recently about frame tubing, stiffness et al and wrote to Jan Heine about my quandry and was the lht just too much for me? He confirmed that the lht and many modern production bicycles are just too overbuilt and stiff for smaller riders-especially in the small sizes. They do not accommodate the frame design or use lighter tubing. I have found this to be the case with a few bikes, but the surly lht is especially so. Heine recommended I go custom in order to get a bike with lighter tubing.... I am looking for a better quality mixte road bike with columbus or reynolds 531 tubing or better.

  37. Heather - I was hoping you'd comment on this post.

    Yes, I noticed at some point a dichotomy between those who loved the Surly LHT and those who felt it was unmovable, and I noticed that the latter tend to be lighter-weight people.

    Re mixtes: If you're talking about vintage, the common complaint there is that they are too roadish, too aggressive, and with too harsh a ride quality. I know someone who's managed to accumulate two Reynolds 531 vintage mixtes, and she is not happy with either for those reasons. Custom is good, but can be expensive. There is also Soma, and the Riv Betty Foy, and I know someone selling a small VO mixte frame as well.

  38. I have a sturmey archer shifter. I presume it is newer only because the bike is a 2010 model.

  39. I know someone who's managed to accumulate two Reynolds 531 vintage mixtes, and she is not happy with either for those reasons.

    If she wants to sell either of these, I am always looking for more 531 mixtes. (I have one 531 frame set up as a light touring bike, but eventually want to upgrade my commuter and my fixed gear frames as well.) (Yes, I am mixte obsessed.) The more aggressive geometries agree with me, and what others describe as 'harsh' I tend to think of as springy.


  40. I’ve been riding a Pilen round London for just over a month now and absolutely love it, I’m taller 5’9 and also quite a bit heavier which maybe helps.

    I previously had a 57cm Gazelle Toer Populair which a car driver inconsiderately mangled but I have to admit I was starting to find that a bit small (seat was at its highest and I’d have liked to put it up more). My Pilen and my Gazelle are 5 speed but I do find the gears are different – can’t really articulate why I’m afraid.

    I find with the amount you can raise both the saddle and the handle bars the Pilen seems more comparable to the 61cm Azor I tried.

    Overall despite the thicker tyres I do find the Pilen slightly quicker than my Gazelle and I agree about the dampening of pot holes uneven surfaces etc. I’m not sure if it’s just tyres or something in the frame as well. I’m not saying it’s perfect I definitely miss the swept back bars on the Gazelle

  41. I am 5'10" and not a lightweight, but I have felt that while some bikes are skimpy, others indeed felt "overbuilt."

    Every aluminum bike I've ever ridden falls into one of those two categories. As an example, the one and only Cannondale I ever owned felt like a jackhammer: Yes, it was stiff, but it didn't accelerate well (at least not for me), although it did keep its momentum. I found that very odd for what was, up to that time, the lightest bike I'd owned or ridden. On the other hand, the Vitus and Alan aluminum frames I rode felt "noodly" to me.

  42. I ride a Torker Cargo T and feel the way you describe, about riding it. I should note that I am not at all a small guy, 6' 325 lbs, yes, I am shorter legged than most people my height, and longer through the upper body. I intended to change out the rear cog, to improve the gearing, but you imply it will not help? (I start up in 1 of 3, and go to 2 of 3 in the first 30 feet and max out 3rd by another 50 ft.

    The Torker weighs upward of 50 pounds, as built by the factory. I suspect it has short gearing for load carrying (front and rear racks, fenders, 2" inch wide tires, all the usual commuter with a load to carry bits).

    I live in an apartment complex, and the mail boxes are at the bottom of a steep hill by the offices. As we have electric gates, I am forced to stop. So I get the mail, stow it, and climb on my Torker. Pedal a couple of strokes, upshift, pedal a couple more, upshift, and by then I am up the hill, and maxxed out in third gear. So, this is overbuilt? Or just a gearing problem?

    Yes, I live on the edge of the Texas Hill Country, so I need to be able to get up a hill, and I need to carry a load of groceries too. I suspect that *I* am overbuilt, not the bike!

    Any (useful) advice? Comments on the gearing?

  43. huh @ 3:19pm--so it seems your Torker is a 3-speed and you climb your particular hill in 1st then 2nd and then 3rd all whilst climbing? It sounds like the gears are fine.

    I am not sure what the problem is, maybe you can come back and say what you'd rather be different?

    If you get a smaller cog, your gears will all get higher, so your 3rd will not max out as easily, but your 1st won't be as useful for steep hills anymore.

  44. What I was expecting was that the max rpm would drop, and I could hold the lower gears longer, and it wouldn't be so frantic. And I was expecting it to be a bit more comfortable to ride at top speed in third, more relaxed, and all that. And if this is as good as it gets, UNLOADED, it may be that with a load, of the size/weight of the sort this bike was built for, it would not be comfortable if I altered the gearing.

  45. huh--Your top speed at max RPM would drop if you went with a bigger cog. Your first speed would be lower, which can help on hills (or with load) but your third speed would be lower, too. If you max out third already, you would max it out sooner.

    Typically these 3 speeds can go up to 17mph or so in third gear before you're pedaling uncomfortably fast. How fast (how many times per minute) would you say you are turning your cranks when you feel that you hit your max RPM in third, i.e. your top speed?

  46. You can confirm or eliminate different gearing as a cause of the different riding dynamics. Simply count the teeth on the front chainring and rear sprocket. If the "number of teeth on the front" divided by "the number of teeth on the rear" gives you the same number on different bikes, your gearing is the same (assuming the hub gear ratios are also comparable). If one of the bikes gives you a higher number than another when you do this calculation, it is geared higher. You would get such a result from a larger front and/or a smaller rear.

    How do you count the teeth without getting lost? Put a small dab of toothpaste or correction fluid on the gearwheel where you start counting ... that way you can identify it when it comes around again. I'm sure you will wipe it off again afterwards!

  47. Hi V, so if the shifter is to blame what do you suggest I do? My boyfriend took it apart this wknd but his tinkering did not change anything (meaning I didn't notice a difference and am still riding in higher gears and finding them to be too easy). He said the sturmey archer shifter is just plastic parts and will eventually need replacing but he has no idea what to replace it with or what is compatible w the Pashley. Got any advice?

  48. I have 2 Raleigh Sports bikes, one set up conventionally, but with a 5-speed hub, the other stripped down with flipped bars, a longer stem. I average 2-3 mph faster on the fixie than I do in direct drive only (same gearing) on the 5-spd. Amazing how much small changes can change a ride.

  49. well, i'm a really small girl (5'2) with really short legs (i always have to shorten my pants with at least 2") living in sweden and i recently bought a 7-gear pilen. i have the saddle down as far as possible, but i don't experience any problems mounting or dismounting. however, it is extremely heavy, so i won't be able to carry it up or down stairs (which i don't think might happen often, and i won't transport the bike by train because on most trains you're not allowed to take the bike anyways), and maneuvering it into bike-parking-stands can be a real hassle. on the other hand it is the most stable bike i have ever had, and i love it for that reason.

    i can relate to your experience of strain in the legs, which happens especially during and after riding up a hill, and as well as to the gearing feeling too close at times. until now i have only rode it on shorter trips within the city, but the few times i took it on a ride without having to stop for longer stretches it felt nice and fast.

    considering my budget and the options around here i am truly happy with the pilen. i bought it as a year-round bike for transportation and occasional recreational trips (around 50km on a day) in a flat (but windy) area in scandinavia, and i think it will suit me very well. it also feels like it will last a lifetime, so i hope to be able to have my own vintage pilen in 20 years or so...

  50. Just purchased a Pilen Lynx 57 frame from Houndstooth Road in Atlanta; went there to pick up a Pashley Sovereign Roadster ......BUT the Pilen was in my opinion a superior bike; soooo drove away with the Pilen; to me it was a no brainer!; only drawbacks!?...the chain is not completely enclosed and I don't care for the side stand; have ordered a standup stand through the VERY helpful dealer; Jae knows his bikes!

  51. I'm 5'7.5" and am quite busty as well as heavy. I tried the gazelle and found the handlebars too close and very uncomfortable. Any suggestions about a wider handlebar and a strong bike? Is the pilen a large bike?


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