I had the Paper Bicycle on loan from Adeline Adeline in NYC for several months, and have so many things to say about it that it is hard to organise my thoughts. While the unique look is what drew me to this bike initially, it is the handling that left the biggest impression. I will try to cover all the bases.
The Paper Bicycle is Scottish, designed by Nick Lobnitz originally for use by the Royal Mail. Over time, the design moved toward something that could be used by everyone, as an "everyday bicycle." The designer describes it as "relaxed and nimble... a machine that just works every time you need it to, and a journey that leaves you comfortable, clean and refreshed." While it is difficult to glean where the name "Paper Bicycle" came from exactly, to me it makes sense because the bike resembles an elaborate origami creation.
The structure is an inherent and multifunctional part of the frame that simultaneously gives it sufficient stiffness, contributes to the low center of gravity, creates a number of convenient spots for locking up the bike, acts as a lifting handle, and of course houses the full chaincase.
The Paper Bicycle is available in one size only and will fit riders 5' - 6'4". It is designed for 26" wheels with fat Schwalbe Big Apple tires. It comes equipped with front and rear Sturmey Archer (roller) hub brakes, fenders, optional dynamo lighting, and it is available as either a single speed or an 8-speed. A number of powdercoat and chaincase panel options are available and the bike is easily customisable with company logos. For detailed specifications, see here.
The handlebars have just enough sweep to them for the hands and wrists to rest naturally, while remaining aggressive and allowing for a great deal of steering control. The diminutive teapot bell works via a trigger mechanism.
I received the bicycle with a sprung vinyl saddle, though I believe other options are available. In environments where the bike is to be shared, the seatpost is quick release.
The large platform city pedals incorporate non-slip rubber strips and side reflectors.
here in detail. The rack plugs into the rear of the chaincase structure, takes less than 5 minutes to install, and is strong enough to support a passenger.
For some of the time during which the bike was in my possession, I left it outdoors for weeks at a time and observed no adverse effects. The bicycle is intended for all-weather conditions and for outdoor storage.
As I adjusted the saddle for my height, the first thing I noticed about this bicycle was the very low bottom bracket. This allows the rider to get full leg extension on the downstroke when pedaling, while also being able to reach the ground while remaining seated - useful in traffic.
The bicycle I test rode was a single speed, and I was skeptical about how such a massive upright bike would handle without gears in the greater Boston area. It was not a problem, and I am still trying to understand how the 38x17t gearing can feel so versatile. It was low enough for uphill stretches and high enough for downhill stretches - for me at least, it was the perfect fast and easy gear. It is not for proper hills in mountainous terrain, but it is certainly adequate for the types of short hills one is likely to encounter in urban areas, as well as for long but gentle uphill stretches in the countryside. It also does fine in the headwind: The positioning makes it easy to lean low over the handlebars if so desired.
Overall, I did not expect a bicycle this stately and stable to feel so fast on the road and so maneuverable in traffic. And with the 2" balloon tires, the ride quality over potholes was fantastic. Of all the upright city bicycles I've ridden so far, the Paper Bicycle's handling is possibly my favourite.
Of the bikes I've ridden previously, the ride quality of the Paper Bicycle is most comparable to the Urbana and the Pilen. I found it more comfortable over long distances than the former, and faster than the latter.
If I try to summarise my thoughts about the Paper Bicycle into pros and cons, they would be as follows: Positives include its ergonomic comfort, speed, stability, durability, low maintenance, transportation-readiness (full chaincase, fenders, rear rack), and aesthetics. And yes, I do love the aesthetics. The lack of lugs and the unicrown fork don't bother me on this particular bicycle, because they work with the overall design; I honestly find it gorgeous. The biggest potential negative for others is probably the weight (35lb as a single speed with no rack or lighting; more as you add stuff), though personally I do not care as long as the bike moves well for me, which it certainly does.
The Paper Bicycle is a cool and practical transportation bike, suitable for beginners and experienced cyclists alike. It is certainly different. But it is worth taking note of for reasons well beyond its visual eccentricities.