Friday, November 4, 2011

Seat Stays, Who Needs Them?

Paper Bicycle, Minuteman Trail
Meet my latest long-term review visitor: the Paper Bicycle! Hailing from Scotland, this unusual city bike has recently become available in the US via Adeline Adeline in New York City.

Paper Bicycle, Minuteman Trail
TIG-welded in cro-moly steel, the Paper Bicycle has a number of unusual features - the most striking of which is perhaps the seat stay-free construction.

Paper Bicycle, No Seatstays!
When I first saw pictures of this, I found it visually unsettling and intriguing in equal measure. How can such a frame design be stable?

Paper Bicycle, 'Ghost' Chaincase
Apparently, by reinforcing the seat tube with a hardy "ghost chaincase" structure on the non-drivetrain side. This is certainly one of the more unique frame designs I have seen. I daresay it officially beats the Urbana?

RSC, Andrea, Paper Bike
The Ride Studio Cafe received and prepared the bike for me, and I took the bus to Lexington, intending to cycle the 10 miles home on what I thought would be a geared, albeit clunky bike. Upon arrival I was alarmed to discover that the bike was a single speed. I braced myself for a tedious trip home.

Paper Bicycle, Minuteman Trail
But contrary to my expectations, the ride was terrific. Though hard to believe judging by the pictures, this thing really "flies" for me. It is also not as heavy as it looks - well under 40lb. Of the bikes I've tried so far, the handling reminds me of the Pilen and the Urbana in terms of stability (does this mean mountain bike geometry?), while also possessing an unexpected lightness and swiftness. 

paperbike2
As usual, I will be riding this bicycle for a few weeks, then posting a review - after which it will be returned to Adeline Adeline. I will refrain from saying much more until I gain some additional experience with the Paper Bicycle, but I confess that I really like it so far, both the looks and the performance. 

Paper Bicycle, Chaincase
What do you think? I am too far gone into design appreciation la-la-land to tell whether my readers will find a given bicycle attractive or not, but to me this one looks downright beautiful. And now I leave you with a picture of Danny MacAskill... "jumping" a Paper Bicycle. Can you do that on your city bike?

51 comments:

  1. So what's the advantage of not having seatstays, other than a Q-factor wide enough to rival shaft drive bikes? I mean, this could be a shaft drive, there is enough space I imagine.

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  2. The Q-factor did not feel especially wider than on some other city bikes I've ridden. What is the benefit of a narrow Q-factor on an upright bike anyway? Some complain that their heels hit the chainstays if it's too narrow.

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  3. I like that bike! I'll have one in moss grey, please.

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  4. Very interesting design\bicycle! Looking forward to the review :)

    BTW,the answer to the last question...HE probably could on two out of 3 I ride in the city-but they stretch the term "city bike" to incluse mountain bikes I ride in the city. AWESOME pic linked there! At 38 and nursing (fairly serious) 10+ year old spinal injuries,I wouldn't try it,LOL! Thanks for the "Wow!" the pic gave me :)

    Steve

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  5. I agree with MDI, I fail to see how the odd design of the stays offers any advantage, why not make a mixte with a very, very low seattube? Same aesthetic quality and ride with less tubing, making the bike lighter and less expensive to produce.

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  6. This bike would probably be perfect for my mother. She wants to ride on the bike path near her house, but due to some flexibility issues, she can't get on a typical bike (the kind with the slanted bar on top). I even worry that some step-through style frames are too high for her to clear. Combine that with the fact that she's really tall for a woman, and it's been difficult finding a bike that she is able to get on and also that fits her.

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  7. I like it -- but would not describe it as "lovely", "elegant" or "beautiful". Its looks are definitely more "quirky" and "wow". It's the fun bike, the happy bike. And I will be very interested to read your full review!

    Tangent question -- would you say the Pilen and the Urbana fill the same role in a stable of bikes? Or do they differ in some significant way that I haven't picked up on? (I already own one and am considering purchasing the other. :-)

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  8. It seems like that design, with a long stretch of unsupported seat tube, could be less than ideal for tall, heavy riders (speaking as a tall, heavy rider myself), do you know if they have a posted weight limit for their bikes?

    Otherwise, I haven't decided whether I like it as a clever-looking design or just think it falls under "novelty for its own sake."

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  9. I love it! Keen to see how you lock it up though...?

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  11. My initial reaction was "ick." But it grows on you...

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  12. I rather like this: it has an elegant simplicity. Proud that it's from Scotland, too.

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  13. Add a rack, basket and quick release seat post and you would have a perfect model for a city bike share program.

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    Replies
    1. Here is the city bike share version:

      http://www.velobility.net/technical/05/public-bicycles-in-germany.html/attachment/mvg-011

      I am already subscribed to use them in my home town.

      Thorsten

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  14. 40lbs? How was carrying this thing over fallen trees on Minuteman Bikeway? Or did they finally clean up most of them?

    The bike looks nice: a modern and original design.

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  15. @V - I dunno, riding around on a trash-rescue Raleigh was how I discovered that I like a narrow Q better. Nice to ride, is nice to ride, upright or leaned over, cleated or on platforms.

    Seems like that structural chainguard might interfere with curb-hopping. It's that much larger than a chainring, plus if you ride the edge of the curb on your chainring, you've learned a lesson, and you buy a new ring. Denting that tubing is not so easy to fix.

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  16. I have been following Nick's blog for years, reading all the trials and obstacles he's had bringing this concept to fruition. So pleased it's finally available!

    By the way, he's also part of the team behind the incredibly successful Carry Freedom range of bicycle trailers: http://www.carryfreedom.com/index.html.

    Rebecca

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  17. I love it.

    But not very practical. I like seeing cool looking "Design" bike bikes like this and thinking "This will fail, from lack of triangulation", but then see that it does not fail.

    I do not see any real use for the bike, but I love the look.

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  18. Regarding weight: By "well under 40lb" I am guessing it is 36-37lb. I would say even less, but MDI (the Co-Habitant) disagrees. Also, the bike currently has a monstrous sprung saddle on it and what we think is an unnecessarily heavy seatpost. Replace those with a lighter seatpost and a Brooks, and the bike loses another 3lb. And yes, I think a weight range in the mid-30s is excellent for a tank-like city bike with fat tires, fat steel tubing, a full chaincase and fenders. For comparison, the Urbana weighed 45lb and the Pilen 47lb.

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  19. Regarding "why": I don't know whether it is a factor of the unusual design or not, but the ride quality of this bike is fantastic, at least for me. I liked the Urbana for short rides, but it would begin to feel tiring to me after 5 miles and I wrote that much in my review. The Pilen, despite liking its stability and craftsmanship, I found "hard to push" even for short rides (though oddly it would begin to feel better on longer ones). By contrast, the Paper Bicycle feels fast and easy to ride all around, long distances and short. No problems with acceleration, fatigue, "pushing," nothing. No theorising whether it is "overbuilt" for me. It feels just right, at least for someone of my size, weight and riding style.

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  20. @AntBikeMike as to a real use for this bike. Nick's idea was that companies interested in a liveried fleet of bikes would be interested, hence the large flat front to the chaincase, where adverts/text/slogans/graphics/logos whatever can be applied. Lots of small businesses are turning to bike fleets here in London, though so far it's mostly delivery services (office supplies, sandwich caterers, etc). Because they need cargo space, they've been putting their identity/adverts all over the trailers being towed by the bikes, rather than the bikes themselves. I'm not sure what type of companies might find the Paper Bicycle appealing, assuming they don't need to haul much stuff...

    Rebecca

    Rebecca

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  21. Re: Using these for bike share, they are in Switzerland: https://www.publibike.ch/

    Alexander

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  22. yeah, I was going to say that the biggest flaw that I see is the lack structural support for cargo. I mean, suppose one does add brazeons to the chainstays and attaches a rear rack that clamps or attaches to the seatpost I imagine that without seatstays, that's going to put a lot of load on the seat tube. I suppose a front basket could still work (and if the intent is to market these to boutique hotels as runabouts then a front basket would be preferable) ... but if the intention is to design a bike that can be used for deliveries, then why not just focus the design on a fancy chaincase and allow customers to utilize rear cargo options as well.

    I do like the rear-facing red dots. Are they reflective?

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  23. The kickstand is interesting. I noticed you placed a rock by the front wheel. Wondering if that was because you thought the stand would not hold the bike securely. One thing for sure, if Danny rides this bike you know it can take a beating.

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  24. I like it. It looks sort of cartoon-ish, like what a child would draw, with the big chaincase and the missing seat stays.

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  25. It looks cool, but I'm curious about the height & weight limit as well. It looke like it would be IGH compatible, yes? Maybe belt drive compatible too.
    Is the chainguard plate on yours wood like this one?
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/simple-city/5998316979/in/photostream/

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  26. When I saw the title, I initially thought it was a bike MADE of paper, and thought "Isn't this going a little far on the green route??" :) #tooliteralminded

    It's interesting to look at, though.

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  27. DFD - The height/weight specs and much more can be found here.

    "The bicycle will fit most riders from 5' to 6'4" tall... up to 242lb"

    The bike is built for internally geared hubs, yes. There is an 8-speed version available, though personally I really like the single speed.

    The chaincase on mine is not wood. It is some sort of laminate/plastic, I think, terra cotta in colour.

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  28. Sue, a friend of mine has a bike with a kickstand mounted close to the rear wheel hub. It seemed to be a lot more stable than a single kickstand near the bottom bracket, especially when dealing with panniers; though it did make removal and reinstallation of a wheel a little trickier since it's just 'one more thing' that gets in the way.

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  29. Any ideas how/if a rack will fit on it? The bike looks kinda cool,funky, and fun but it's practicality diminishes, for me, if it does not accommodate racks or loads.

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  30. The bike will fit a Burley rack and there are some pictures of this if you look through the Paper Bicycle website. However, I don't think it looks quite right, and it seems clear to me that a bike like this needs a custom designed rack. Until then, the impossibility of transporting my belongings on this bike is the one major drawback for me.

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  31. This thing looks amazing and should win some design awards, if it hasn't already. Not only for the way it looks, but apparently it actually rides well, unlike a lot of designery bikes.

    Super clean lines, one block color on an otherwise clean background, bullet rear reflectors, slack geo, fat tires w/fat fenders.

    I can see the chain stays acting like a leaf spring for suspension, obviating seat stays.

    Did the route include hills? Wonder how it climbs.

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  32. I agree and surprised you like it.

    My route did include some mild hills and I did extra hills just to see how it would ride. According to the website, the gearing on the single speed is 38x17t, so it makes sense that uphill is okay. But how was it that I could often pedal downhill? Need to figure that one out.

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  33. I ain't no philistine. Not saying it's a good design if caned out of the saddle, but for what it is it has the potential to be very good. And very appealing.

    Proof that you can meld an aesthetic and strength into a functional rack: http://www.flickr.com/photos/simple-city/5998309537/in/photostream

    How did I miss the DannyMac thing? No picture of the landing, in which the bike is in pieces. Joke.

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  34. Most unusual design for a bicycle. Must unusual indeed..........

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  35. wonderful bike.
    odd in many ways.
    the kick stand is a beauty. (integrated reflector?)
    the chaincase is unbelievably ugly, so i naturally like it a lot.
    this van-moofish thing in the front - which echos the ugly-ass chaincase - this red oval with a piece cut out for the brake cable... - this is british design oddity in its purest form. cut the corners for practicability in this case equals perfection. think the origial mini car. it is full of quirky items like this. so were all classic british cars before german marketresearchers got their hands on them - not to mention the unspeakable crimes the americans did to jaguar.
    -
    my favourite oddity - you ve guessed it - is the name.

    i cannot get over this. paper bike.

    even if i would ride it for years i would probably still once in a while think - well, isn't it ... why isn't it ... is it... made of steel?
    ...

    lovely bicycle it is.

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  36. Jennifer in ScotlandNovember 4, 2011 at 4:26 PM

    So happy to see this bike featured here! I see it in my future one day. Looking forward to your review.

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  37. that chaincase side plate, would I paint it to match the frame, or take it off and put it in the bin, or replace it with a piece of clear plexiglass? i just can't decide.

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  38. I really like the lights and the way they are integrated into the frame. I assume that the front light is at the junction of the head tube and the down tube. It is very neat looking.
    Vicki

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  39. Vicki - sadly, those are not lights (though I thought so too at first). But they should be!

    Don - The chaincase and body paint can be anything you want, as I understand it. I love this combination and specifically asked for it.

    Jens - One difference between this frame and Vanmoof is the finishing. I've tried to appreciate VM, but their oversized bubbly welds turn me off. On the Paper Bike the welds are cleanly finished, for an almost seamless look. To me this makes a huge difference.

    When I think Paper Bicycle, I think "steel origami." And it somehow makes sense.

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  40. I found the weight limit on the web site, I'm at the upper end of the height spectrum and well over the weight limit, but I'm an outlier (same with folding bikes, long seat mast + sasquatch = bending and quick metal fatigue), this could work well as a fun for a lot of fleet/commercial applications.
    The rear rack installation, though, did look awkward to me based on what I saw from the web site. It seemed to require a special bracket of some sort. I'm sure this could and probably will be worked out a bit more elegantly. I could see some sort of custom wooden deck which attaches to the chainstay loops rather than the seat tube working well.

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  41. Saw the prototype Paper Bike on Velovisions stand at Yorks bike show a few years ago.

    I love it, but have a burning question. How do you attach a rack?

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  42. I like it. Why not try every possible permutation of tubing arrangement? I wish someone would make a rear hub that mounts to a single stay like on a Cannondale "Lefty" fork. That way, you could just have a big ol' fat tube going from the headtube to the rear axle with a seat tube crossing it in the middle. Add a "Lefty" and it would be pretty cool.

    Ground Round, You're right about the jumping being the easy part. Landing being the interesting part... My Mothers old DL1 is a bit swaybacked because I jumped it a little too much when I was a kid. It was tough to get it very high but you really felt like you had accomplished something when you did. It sailed through the air with a calm and dignified nonchalance and landed (alighted?) as though it was just part of it's normal paces. Our BMX bikes were just the opposite, easy to get airborne but life threateningly squirrely to land.

    I didn't realize I'd bent it until years later when I used it as a jig to make a rear rack for someone Else's DL1, that rack was nice and level on my Mom's old bike but slopes just enough on my friends bike that I probably should offer to fix the rack stays to level it...

    I suppose if one were going to jump an old Raleigh in a serious way(for transportation), one should try to dress appropriately. Harris Tweed Jacket and Waistcoat, porkpie cap or maybe a Trilby. Some sensible Brogans of course. That way no one would be alarmed when they saw you drop out of the sky into the grocers parking lot. I imagine one would simply be assumed to be an eccentric English ex-pat or possibly a Warlock. Either way I don't think a person would really need to carry a lock since most people would likely just leave your bike the hell alone...

    Spindizzy

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  43. "Apparently, by reinforcing the seat tube with a hardy "ghost chaincase" structure on the non-drivetrain side."

    Not just the seat tube but dt as well. Stops the frame from twisting a bunch.

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  44. "I am guessing it is 36-37lb. I would say even less, but MDI (the Co-Habitant) disagrees."

    There is a super easy way to end the disagreement, Velouria :^)

    Here's a link to a convenient and highly rated $20 hand held scale. It would be great to have real weights instead of guesses in your reviews. (Checks your bags too, perfect for making sure your luggage is under 50 pounds before flying to Vienna).

    http://www.amazon.com/EatSmart-Precision-Voyager-Capacity-SmartGrip/dp/B004EZG9X4/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

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  45. This screams of the classic "solution looking for a problem". So far I'm not convinced of any practical benefits of this design, but I look forward to the full review.

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  46. I like it, and if I had one around, I'd surely ride it. It's a really iconic visual shorthand for a bike, and it has enough details to keep you interested.

    I get the feeling that the rear stays contribute to a rather nice road feel.

    (Kind of like my little Pony, without the clownish proportions.
    http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6025/5949503648_aa1c245450_b.jpg )



    I wonder if some Creme Schwalbe Fat Franks would fit under those fenders?

    I already possess a King of Roadsters, but if I did not...

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  47. This is my absolute favorite phenomenon.

    Bike maker decides to be different and eliminate some essential part of the standard diamond frame bike that has worked perfectly for over 100 years. Then, to make the monstrosity function, they end up sacrificing in some other key way.

    This time, the sacrifice is weight. A 37-pound single speed? Ouch. And there's the beauty of seat stays: they are the only frame components that receive nearly zero torsional stresses--only compressive force. Which means they can be made super skinny. They are the lightest, most efficient part of a bike frame.

    Who needs seat stays? Only anybody who understands bike frames and wants a well-built, lightish bicycle.

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  48. Oh. And. A "city bike" on which a rear rack cannot be easily mounted?

    Wait. I have a solution: weld some narrow steel tubes at a diagonal between the rear dropouts and the top of the seat tube, one on either side of the wheel. Then you could even cut off two of the four chain stays to save weight. Problem solved. Where's my check, Paper Bicycle?

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  49. I'd just like to say that it looks a great deal more handsome "in the flesh" than it does in photographs. I am seriously tempted by one of these

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