Retrovelo Klara: Cushy, Zippy, Gorgeous
On a recent trip to New York City, I test rode a Retrovelo Klara, courtesy of Adeline Adeline. There are already test ride reports of other Retrovelo models posted here, but the last time I rode one was two years ago and I wanted to see how my impressions of the bike might have changed since. Also, while the Retrovelo I rode previously was the 7-speed Paula, I was curious how the 3-speed Klara would feel in comparison. Finally, my previous Retrovelo test rides took place in Austria and I wanted to compare how the bike handled in a North American city.
An interesting fact about Retrovelo, is that they were the first company to use the now very popular Schwalbe Fat Frank tires. In fact these were originally made for Retrovelo and named after its designer Frank Patitz. What made the Fat Franks special when they appeared on the market, is that they have the look and cushiness of vintage balloon tires but are impressively fast rolling - making them ideal for navigating pothole ridden city streets and unpaved trails alike.
Fully lugged, the most fetish-worthy aspect of the frame's construction is the triple-plate fork crown.
The components on the lady's 3-speed Klara model are pretty straightforward: Shimano Nexus drivetrain with front and rear roller-hub brakes and dynamo hub, wide swept-back handlebars, large Retrovelo-branded bell,
front and rear dynamo lights with standlight feature,
here. The bike I test rode is ivory.
Riding in a new city - and especially a city as hectic as NYC - I would not feel comfortable doing this on just any bike, but the Retrovelo's handling is confidence-inspiring. The front end is exceptionally stable: No twitchiness when starting from a stop or getting up to speed. The bicycle goes where you point it and insists on staying upright.
Comparing the Retrovelo Klara to other bikes I have ridden in its class, I would say the handling is most similar to the Scottish Paper Bike and the Swedish Pilen. For me the Retrovelo handles considerably faster than the Pilen but a bit slower than the Paper Bike, while behaving similarly to both as far as balance and maneuverability.
in Vienna has had her pigeon blue one for about two years as well. Retrovelo owners generally tend to have good things to say about these bikes.
As far as drawbacks, the Klara and Paula models are only available in one size - which happens to fit me perfectly but will not be suitable for everyone. At just under 40 lb, the bike is on the heavy side and could be challenging to deal with for those who plan to store it in a walk-up apartment. The missing dressguards and the lack of a full chaincase could be a deal-breaker for those who require these accessories. And some (myself included) would prefer narrower handlebars, though these can be swapped out.
Having ridden the Retrovelo around hectic NYC, my impression of the bike did not differ significantly from what it had been riding it through the Austrian countryside. Two additional years of cycling experience did not alter my impressions much either. I believe the stable handling makes the Retrovelo a good choice for beginners. The responsiveness and mountain-bikeyness make it a cool ride for more experienced cyclists. The beautiful construction makes it appealing to the vintage lovers and lugwork fetishists among us. For city riding, I felt that the 3-speed model was definitely sufficient, though others might opt for the 7/8-speed. The current retail price for a fully equipped Retrovelo Klara is $1,450 USD.
While personally I still prefer my cruddy vintage 3-speeds to anything modern I have tried in the same genre so far, when it comes to currently produced city bicycles the Retrovelo is firmly among my favourites. Many thanks to Adeline Adeline for the test ride.