Monday, February 27, 2012

Revisiting the KHS Green

KHS Green
If anybody out there has been reading this blog from the beginning, you know my fondness for the KHS Manhattan Green. A simple, inexpensive steel 3-speed, the KHS Green is the bike that got me back into cycling after a 12 year hiatus. For months I had been visiting local bike shops, but in 2008/2009 there was not much choice out there. The KHS Green was the first bike that I felt comfortable riding. I rented it from Cambridge Bicycle, rode around Boston, and experienced the born-again moment that led to this blog. Ultimately I did not buy this particular bike, because I wanted something with more features and fell in love with lugs. But the happy memories of its simple ridability remained with me, and it is the bike I suggest to anyone who tells me they have a tiny budget. At the moment the KHS Green retails at $365. For that price you get:

KHS Green
a welded steel loop frame, made in China, size 14" or 17" in subdued black or silver colour schemes,

KHS Green
set up with 700C wheels, city tires, fenders,

KHS Green
upright handlebars, sprung vinyl saddle,

KHS Green
partial chaincase,

KHS Green
3-speed coaster brake hub,

KHS Green
front v-brake, ergo grips, bell,

KHS Green
large rear rack, platform pedals, kickstand,

KHS Green
and a "cafe" lock.

KHS Green
It is my understanding that Cambridge Bicycle contributed to the design of the KHS Green, and that the New England based distributor was instrumental in these bicycles coming to exist as well. Maybe that is why there are so many of them in the Boston area (though this begs the question why it has "Manhattan" in the name...). 

Gazelle & KHS Green
KHS Green bikes are so ubiquitous in my neighborhood in fact, that I have made a game of snapping pictures of them. They are usually black, and are left parked overnight on the streets with abandon. Here is one locked up next to my Gazelle. And here's another. And another. A friend of mine has one. A neighbor has one. I've even seen two seemingly unrelated ones locked up to the same rack at the grocery store. The ones from a few years back are a bit rusty, sure. But they appear to be fully functional and well-used. 

KHS Green
It's been nearly 3 years since I rode a KHS Green, so I thought it would be useful to refresh my memory and see what I think of the bike now. After all, I've gained considerably more cycling experience and have tried many different bicycles in all price ranges.

I rode my own bike to Cambridge Bicycles, left it with them, and then took the Green around town on some of my typical urban routes. Clipping my pannier to the rear rack was easy, and I carried all my stuff just like when riding my own bike.

Test Riding a KHS Green
The bike I rode was quite small, because they only had the 14" size in stock, but it was ridable with the saddle all the way up. There was no toe overlap for me on the 14" frame - but it was very close and whether you experience it may depend on your shoe size and how you hold your foot on the pedal. My positioning on the bike was bolt-upright, with a short reach from handlebars to saddle - though of course on a larger frame it would be somewhat different. The seat tube angle felt fairly steep, with the sensation of the pedals being directly below the saddle. I started riding in the bike lane along the very busy Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, rode home to Somerville, circled around and returned via the MIT campus where I snapped these pictures. All in all it was about a 4 mile ride on busy roads and side streets.

The bike felt fairly easy to ride, with the 3-speed hub being more than sufficient for the urban environment. It does not have the luxurious ride quality of a Dutch bike, but it is not terrible over bumps either. It is not a fast bike, but fast enough for local commutes and errands. The brakes and gears worked without problems. Nothing rattled or came loose during my test ride. The bike rides as it looks: simply and with no frills.

KHS Green
The KHS Green is missing lights, but otherwise it is fully equipped for transportation cycling. While I cannot personally comment on its durability, the dozens of exemplars I have seen parked around Boston don't look too shabby and I have not heard any feedback about component failure tendencies. Having test ridden the bike 3 years after I last tried it, my impression has not changed much. It is not a gorgeous or an especially fast bike, but it is perfectly decent and functional. With a price tag in the mid-$300s, it is a great deal if you are in the market for a step-through city bike on a tiny budget. Many thanks to Cambridge Bicycle for the test ride! 

51 comments:

  1. Looks like a good bike. And your saddle is a little higher now, methinks!

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  2. Aside from the looks, how would you compare this bike to the Bobbin Birdie? Functionally they seem very similar.

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    1. Hm. Yes and no. They are fitted with similar types of components (3 speed hub, rear rack, partial chaincase), but they are not the same. The Bobbin Birdie handled a little faster for me, and I found its proportions to be more like a classic English 3-speed. Also, the Birdie has hand-operated rim brakes, no coasterbrake. Finally, the Birdie is fitted with 26" wheels, whereas the KHS Green is 700C.

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  3. The price is unbeatable and the bike is pretty well equipped. It is not pretty but seems functional. The only problem with it that I have is its step-through frame. In general, I don't like these. I know they are more functional but I don't like how they look. But this is probably my male side speaking.

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    1. I think the black one is rather pretty, in a utilitarian sort of way. And I like it that the tubing is not thick, from a distance it almost looks like a vintage loop frame.

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    2. There is a men's version, but the mens & ladies frame bikes often handle differently so I made the review specific to the one I actually tried. Also, I don't like the men's version because the top tube slopes quite a bit.

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  4. How heavy is it? I don't see the weight in the specs.

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    1. Not sure, but I would say mid-30s lb.

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  5. My friend has one of these and loves it. She has to keep her bike outside in a high theft area and this one is both replaceable and anonymous. I see a lot of them in New York, too.

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  6. I think it would be great if there were a bike like this with dynamo hub powering front and rear lights. With mass production, KHS could do that for $500, I think, if this goes for $365. That would be neat.

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    1. You could almost get to that price point using one of Clever Cycle's $99 dynamo hub wheels and a Lumotec Lyte. A powered rear light will push you to $550. Still not to bad.

      RJD

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    2. You could also clip on a modern bottle dynamo, would be even less costly and would not require changing the wheel. They work absolutely fine.

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    3. Except they are a lot less efficient, have noticeable drag and are not as maintenance-free.
      I do like dynamo-driven lights, but the difference between a hub dynamo or a bottle dynamo is noticeable.

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  7. i like the army bag with the silver bike, though the black looks best to me, stealthy and hip. nice review, you can't beat this on a budget.

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    1. The "army bag" is a Carradice pannier : )

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  8. Thanks for reviewing a low end bike. As you say it's nice to have a bike that is fully functional and easy on the budget. Gosh, it's a perfect starter bike and costs less than car insurance.

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  9. I bought the KHS Green two years ago. Quite happy with it, even though I replaced the saddle and put a Marathon plus on the back wheel (which then required changing the chain). I commute 7.5 miles to work on that bike. I am a big fan of coaster brakes, and remember having a hard time finding one.The bike is quite heavy, 39 pounds with the changes I made. I am in 100% agreement with the philosophy of this fine blog's view of ideal bicycle, with the only addition that a bicycle shouldn't be too expensive.
    Best
    Jens

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    1. If the weight is 39lb with all the changes, looks like I was right in my mid-30s guess. Glad you like the bike!

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  10. KHS is jumping into the 650B size for MTBs, it would be awesome if they would build these up with that sized wheel. It just begs for it.

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  11. "Enjoyable review; whilst not being in the market for a bike of this type I never the less enjoy your thoughts and opinions.
    Must admit to relishing your reviews of the less performance based steeds - and this was a refreshing read over my morning coffee and toast.
    As a rural Brit' I tend to regard you as a bit of an "Urban sophisticate", and your initial innocence and wonder at rediscovering these simple and elegant engineering solutions, used to make me smile warmly. I have you grounded within "Modernism" and your appreciation of most styling cues "Deco-esque" usually had me nodding in agreement too.

    In short I thoroughly enjoy those blogs which feature stylish and insightful views - both cerebral and visual.

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  12. If you like this bike, you might like the Kona Africa. Got one for my ex and she loved it.

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    1. I would love to review it, but cannot find any place that sells it.

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    2. Brian McInnis at JRA (up the road from you)has at least one according to his iphone a few minutes ago.

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    3. Interesting. Never been to that part of town before, will check it out - thanks!

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    4. Got one for your ex ? my, that was a bargain !

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  13. I've had a Green for about 2.5 years and it's been a perfect workhorse. I ride it year round in all types of weather and it hasn't let me down yet. I live in Lowell and it's different enough that people know it's mine and keep their eyes on it, but it was also cheap enough that I wouldn't be devastated if something were to happen to it.

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  14. The Green is great value for people just needed the most basic city bike available. At this pricepoint there is not much out there to choose from.

    I am looking forward to a new player entering the market - Beater Bikes. Pricing looks great - $399 for 3-sp Sturmey Archer and lights - and the bike looks far more robust than the Green

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  15. Could you talk a little about the handlebar position? I'm interested in how ergodynamic your wrist position is on this bike. From the pictures it looks more like a straight bar than one that curves back so you can hold the grips in a natural, low stress position.

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    1. The bars curve back slightly, so the position is not totally MTB style. I would prefer for them to be more swept back, but for rides under 10 miles they should be fine.

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  16. After reading this I got curious and checked the KHS web site: the Green now specs with double wall rims. They are not the greatest double wall rims, but probably better than the single wall rims when the bike first came out.

    Anyway, I'd consider one, men's 21", for short hauling if it came with a decent 7 sp rear der rather than the 3 spd Nexus.

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    1. If you live in Canada check out the Brodie Metier, good value in something more traditionally called a hybrid.

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  17. I test-rode the KHS green a few years ago, and generally liked it. I DID experience toe overlap, however. I don't remember the frame size, but it was probably the larger men's frame. Even the largest size was probably too small for me.

    The KHS green is an incredible value, and if cared for, should last a long time. But I have seen them rusting prematurely, at least the ones left out regularly (I work across the street from Cambridge Bicycle, so I see these bikes dominating the neighborhood). I'm guessing that the platings used on the steel parts are thin and don't last long. Same with the paint.

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    1. Interesting and goes to show how different the men's and women's designs can be. Though I suspect the size of your vs my feet has to do with it as well.

      My neighbour 2 doors down bought a loop frame model in black at the end of summer 2010. She's left it outside overnight pretty much every day since then and I've been tracking its progress. The chain is rusty and so are the bolts. Otherwise, bike looks fine. She continues to ride it to work and back more or less every day, so must be functional too.

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  18. The loop frame looks great, but I think the men's model looks too much like a step-through MTB frame.

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  19. Not in the market for another bike, but I would love a review of that pannier!!

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  20. I've had my Green for three years. Still like it. It's not very fast, but I am in my early 50s so that's more a reflection on the rider. I have inexpensive saddle bags that are good for a trip for a few items at the grocery store, or to the library. I live in Chatham, Ontario, which is flat, so three gears are no problem.

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  21. I've had my Green for two years, straight through winter, and I still love it. The only problem I've had is with rust on the brake line, which let in some water that froze. But that's really a result of me storing it outdoors in all weather and not greasing it often enough.

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  22. This is a cheap bike, but I suppose it does the job if you're riding is limited to the city and you don't mind frequent flats. Rides a little harsh to me, no lights, tires have no pucture protection, and the saddle is damned uncomfortable. Ironically adding good lighting, swapping out the tires and upgrading the saddle would cost more than the bike itself. Mine mostly stands in the hallway as a just in case beater bike.

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  23. I was really surprised to see this bike reviewed here, but then I read the back story and it makes more sense. All the same, I suggest you look past the affection you feel toward the KHS Green, and try Linus and Public. They are better bikes by far if you ask me. I'd love to know what you think of them.

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    1. Readers sometimes ask me about bikes that cost under $500, and the KHS Green is one I feel comfortable suggesting in that price bracket.

      Remember that the KHS Green costs $365 retail including 3 speeds, fenders, a rear rack, a kickstand and a city lock. A Linus Dutchie 3 (the model with the equivalent specs) costs $640. A Public C3 (equivalent but no rear rack) costs $690. So we are simply talking about different price brackets here; you cannot compare apples to oranges.

      I have ridden both Linus and Public bikes and they are fine. But if we're exploring the $600 range, I'd rather have a Bobbin Birdie.

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  24. Buy a black "Windsor Oxford" [cough] 3 speed $300 s&h inc. from bikesdirect, have stock grips and bell destroyed, slap on a new Suzu bell and black B17, and then spend the next few months hunting for better grips in black.

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  25. Any thoughts on the 2013 KHS Green now that the MSRP has increased by over 20%, and has undergone some big changes?

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    1. Thanks for pointing this out, I was not aware. I'd like to see the bike in person, but my first thought is that it is a shame. The KHS Green was fine as it was. At the new price point, I think many will opt for a Bobbin Birdie.

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  26. Hi there, I'm thinking about getting one as they are on the sale at a local store for $200, but they only have the 14" left and I am 5'4. Would that be too small for me? Do you have any sense? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

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    1. Jennie, can't you test ride the bike since it's at a local shop? If it feels right, that's really all that matters.

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    2. Jennie, can't you test ride the bike since it's at a local shop? If it feels right, that's really all that matters.

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  27. Has anybody seen a 2013 Green? Do they actually exist? I've been looking for one and no one in my area stocks them. Washington DC area here. Willing to travel to see/ride/buy one.

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  28. how tall are you? Im looking at this green bike and it is 14". Im 5'5" tall and dont want to buy to small. everything im reading is telling me im in the middle or leaning to about 17" but its hard to tell because they all measure the inseam and there is no inseam to go by on a ladies bike really. With a mans bike its a given though. do tell. I dont want to drive to get it if it wont fit! :)

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  29. I'm wondering the same thing. I'm holding my breath waiting for my lbs call me back and tell me if they can get me one of these in red this spring: http://www.manhattancruisers.com/13_green_5_m_green.htm. I'm only 5' tall and this bike would totally blow my budget (public school teacher here). But I'm also tempted to order one of these: http://www.commuterbikestore.com/biria-citi-ez6-ladiesbike.html because they're cheaper and already come with extras but the smallest size frame is 17" and I can't test drive it. Any thoughts? I'm not commuting but looking for a solid town bike I can ride all summer, load with groceries and tackle moderate hills.

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  30. Please, oh please, review a Vanmoof!

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