Friday, July 6, 2012

Retrovelo Klara: Cushy, Zippy, Gorgeous

Retrovelo Klara
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. 

Retrovelo Klara
Founded in 2003, Retrovelo is a German manufacturer based in the town of Leipzig. True to the company's name, their classic line of lugged, balloon-tire city bikes in muted colours looks almost overwhelmingly nostalgic. But the "retro" reference is more nuanced than what meets the eye: Behind the facade of an elegant European city bicycle, the Retrovelo is actually a remake of an early mountain bike design. I have described an entire category of such bicycles in an earlier post about city bikes with mountain bike heritage.

Retrovelo Klara
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 In fact these were originally made for Retrovelo and named after its designer Frank Patitz.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.

Retrovelo Klara
The frame is cro-moly steel, hand-built in Taiwan and finished and assembled in Leipzig (The very first batches of Retrovelo bikes were made in Germany from scratch, but production has since been reorganised).

Retrovelo Klara
Fully lugged, the most fetish-worthy aspect of the frame's construction is the triple-plate fork crown. 

Retrovelo Klara
Here is what the seat cluster looks like.

Retrovelo Klara
Headtube lug.

Retrovelo Klara
Loop and seat tube junction.

Retrovelo Klara
The stem and rear rack are custom made for the bike and powdercoated body colour, as are the chainguard and fenders.

Retrovelo Klara
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,

Retrovelo Klara
front and rear dynamo lights with standlight feature,

Retrovelo Klara
Brooks B67S saddle,

Retrovelo Klara
city pedals,

Retrovelo Klara
and textured rubber grips.

Retrovelo Klara
As a complete package, the Retrovelo Klara comes together nicely, equipped with everything necessary for transportation, other than a full chaincase and dressguards. The men's equivalent of this model is named Klaus and is basically the same except a diamond frame. The Paula and Paul models are the same as well, only built up with either a 7 or 8-speed hub instead of the 3-speed. The weight of the Klara model is listed as 38.5lb. It is available in size 52cm only and in a number of colour options. You can view all the stock colours here. The bike I test rode is ivory.

Retrovelo Test Ride, NYC
I rode the Retrovelo Klara around lower Manhattan for a total of about 5 miles. This was my first time cycling in New York City. I started out on the quiet side street where Adeline Adeline is located, then rode along the West Side Highway bicycle path for a while, then got off the path and explored the streets, making my way back to the bike shop. Probably half of my route involved riding with traffic on streets that either had no bike lane, or had the bike lane obstructed by so many vehicles that I took the car lane anyway.

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.

Retrovelo Klara
I would describe the Retrovelo as an intuitive bike that does not require getting used to the way a Dutch bike, or a low-trail bike, or an aggressive roadish bike might. To the typical person of my generation who grew up in North America, I think "mountain bike-ish" handling generally feels pretty intuitive: Many of us rode mountain bikes as teenagers and it's what we are used to. While I was a terrible cyclist back then, I nonetheless used my beater mountain bike to get around and probably on some level that type of handling is still engrained into my procedural memory. Of course the Retrovelo is considerably faster and more responsive than my old mountain bike ever was, as well as far more beautiful. Win/win.

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.

K's Retrovelo, NYC
As far as load capacity, the bike is equipped to carry considerable weight in front and rear, including children. Retrovelo owner K., whom I met in NYC, routinely rides with her toddler and a full load of groceries and finds it quite comfortable. She has had her stone gray Retrovelo for a couple of years now and loves it. My friend 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.

Retrovelo Klara
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.

52 comments:

  1. it's beautiful, one snag is that even if one didn't "prefer cruddy vintage 3-speeds", $1450 can buy the most exotic pre war sunbeam or pedigree rocket ship (or $60 a decent raleigh twenty)

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    1. Of course the problem is riding that exotic Sunbeam in the rain, or trusting it to a 5 mile commute without fear of it breaking down and requiring exotic parts with your LBS won't have.

      We can't compare apples to oranges. The Retrovelo and bikes like it include many features that vintage bike do not. Considering that the market price for pre-1980s 3-speeds in decent condition seems to be in the $300s+ range now, by the time you add the same dynamo rollerbrake wheels, lighting, a rack, a new saddle, new tires, etc the price could be $1000 for the average buyer.

      I like some of the older bikes for their intangibly amazing ride quality, but bringing them up to par to modern standards is not easy. And as far as modern bikes, Retrovelo's price is competitive in its category.

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    2. Of course one does not need to add all those features. Lights can be added cheaply, saddles don't need to be new Brooks, brakes are problematic depending on the wheels, and racks are cheap.....You're right, it's not necessarily easy, but it's not necessarily hard either. Not everyone who buys these bikes do so for commuting purposes.

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    3. I agree anon. My wife picked up a really nice 1967 DL-1 loop frame bike for $200 and put another $200 in accoutrements into it. Rides it about 10 blocks to work, loves it. At some point soon it will need tires, but still... it's a long way from $1000, or $1400.

      But I live in the rust belt. I imagine in Boston a DL-1 in good shape probably costs an arm and a leg.

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    4. it's tricky - honestly: i think cycling has become too bourgeoisie/niche/hobbiest (there is a damaged ecology out there and cycling should be more accessible), and i think bicycles are too expensive (not much, but for this money you could buy two bottom of the range bromptons). we are all different and i enjoy tinkering and upgrading old stuff as well, so i may well be biased

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    5. Real Sunbeams (not Raleigh Sunbeams) are extraordinarily durable. In the unlikely event of a real problem you'll need a machinist. But it's very unlikely.

      Took me 30 seconds to find a never used well stored early 70s Raleigh 3spd on CL for $150. Anyone who does their own wrenching could not even figure out how to spend $1000 fixing up a 3spd. Doing your own work will also quickly divert you from non-solutions to non-problems like building wheels around new rollerbrake hubs. Those who can't wrench probably can't spot the old ones that are just trouble either. If you can't wrench buy new, I'll inherit it down the road apiece.

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    6. You are all correct, and are rather preaching to the choir here : )

      But again this is where the apples and oranges come in. Most of my readers who'd be interested in a bike like the Retrovelo cannot build wheels, refurbish vintage bikes, or even install aftermarket dynamo lighting - and neither do they have spouses who will do this for them. They are in the market for a transportation bike, and their commute is typically longer than 10 blocks.

      While I stand by my "vintage vs modern" post (where I suggest that getting a vintage bike refurbished might provide a better ride than buying a low quality new bike), I get many emails from female readers describing the obstacles they face when trying to execute such a plan. Those of us who are into vintage bikes, and I include myself in this, are prone to underestimating this factor.

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    7. but the joy of perching one's butt on a light tourist and gliding down a road as if by magic..i realize it was preaching to the converted (and felt a bit guilty about the preachy tone of my previous msg), but also feel, biased and all, it's comparing supermarket apples to red Valencias. However, a sunbeam wasn't my first bike so i do see your point

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    8. Suggestion. Learn to build wheels. Comparable to knitting. Does not require strong hands. Can be done with limited mechanical insight. Requires only a wheelstand, a dishing tool, spoke wrenches.

      Once you get in and do it bikes will look different. And you can ride on good straight wheels all the time.

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    9. I have a nice vintage Raleigh Sports, and I have sunk that much money into it. Like Veloria, I have problems with my hands and cannot wrench. My BF has no interest in bikes, and frankly, is not "handy" in that way. I have added new wheels, new saddle, new lights, new grips, and done many tune-ups to The Raleigh. I did $1000 easy. Don't assume everyone can just fix up a bike themselves. But yes, vintage is better.

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  2. And $1450 is entry level pricing for a Brompton...

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    1. A very basic Brompton can be had for closer to $1,000, but with lights and gears the price increases dramatically. Either way, it is a different category of bike.

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    2. well, it is a commuter, which isnt all that different, functionally, and £600 buys you an entry level brompton in london..of course a brompton is rather special, i guess a £300 Dahon would be a more appropriate comparison..but this beginning to feel as if its becoming about selling bikes as opposed to the issue of cycling

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  3. This is the review I've been waiting for! Thanks!

    I will have to make the trip to Adeline Adeline for this after all. As soon as I decide on the number of gears...

    ohkay

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  4. The weight probably will be an issue for many in NYC and other densely populated cities where lugging the bike into your flat is often the only safe storage option. Otherwise, probably contributes to the plush ride.

    After many years commuting I've determined my preference is for a porteur style set up. It is easier for me to load and unload from a front rack. I save the panniers for touring. Old style MTB or even a classic Schwinn with a large basket up front work well for me also.

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  5. Noteworthy today: the lack of quotation marks around "beater" = more cred.

    Lug fetishism acknowledged.

    Early mtb geo is basically bad road geo -- it works when done right.

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  6. How does the Retrovelo compare to Bella Ciao?

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    1. The Bella Ciao is about 8lb lighter, and it's a faster bike. On the downside it is considerably less cushy over bad roads. The handling is also pretty different; not good or bad different, just different.

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  7. its a beautiful bike, but the white is spooky

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  8. Cheers, Velouria - it's so pretty! Maybe next year they'll come out with a pink version for me...

    The good thing about riding a heavy city bike day after day is that when you hop on a road bike, you can really move!

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  9. It's nice to read about the Retrovelo Klara again. I'm not surprised to read that your view of the bike hasn't changed much since you first rode it, despite of your development as a cyclist and, supposedly, as a human being. There's a certain quality in those Retrovelo bikes that is difficult to put into words, but becomes apparent once you take one for a ride.

    I picked up my stone gray Retrovelo Klaus in Leipzig in June 2007, and immediately pressed it into service by taking part in the "Cyclera" bike paperchase organized by Retrovelo. The route of this rally included most of Leipzig's many historic cobblestone roads, and turned out to be a serious challenge for most participants and their bikes. Needless to say I barely noticed the rough road surface, and made it to the finish without any mechanicals. Having ridden my Klaus on an almost daily basis for five years (and 32000 kilometers/20000 miles) now, I have no serious complaints – on the contrary, I still look forward to riding it. There are a few niggles, though:

    First of all, the original lighting system's efficiency was not up to the standard I was used to; even worse, its bottle dynamo was prone to failure in bad weather. My daily commute includes long stretches without street lights, mostly on bendy gravel paths along the river Spree, so I decided to upgrade the lighting with a dynamo hub and LED headlight. Fortunately a friend who was working at Retrovelo at the time informed me that Retrovelo were testing prototype frames and forks with disk mounts (which were to become their "Modern" product line), and that they might give one of the forks to me. A few days later I received a stone-gray fork with a brazed-on disk tab, and a new front wheel sporting an Alfine dynamo hub. I installed the fork, wired the dynamo to a Lumotec Cyo LED headlight, and mounted a BB-7 Road disk brake (and Shimano Centerlock disk). I couldn't be happier with the performance and reliability of the new lighting system, and of course the braking was improved as well. Fortunately, a Shimano dynamo hub comes standard on all Retrovelo models now, and an LED upgrade is available for a reasonable upcharge (see below).

    Secondly, I encountered some problems related to the Shimano Nexus Inter-3 3-speed coaster brake hub, which, of course, is nothing to blame Retrovelo for. About two years ago, the hub, while still working correctly, started to emit strange noises which ranged from out-of-sync clicks to a very annoying kind of creaking that appeared under heavy pedaling. I took the hub apart, expecting to find loads of cuttings and broken parts, but the inner workings looked perfectly normal. Although a lack of lubricants clearly wasn't the source of the problem, I greased and oiled everything appropriately, then reassembled the hub. It was almost trouble-free for two more years, but recently the creaking has reoccurred, and is now worse than ever. I guess it's time for a replacement, considering that the mileage I've put on the hub already exceeds the average life expectancy Shimano claims for this hub. I probably won't go with a Shimano Nexus again, but will rather check out the SRAM hub Matthias of Retrovelo recommended to me. Building a new rear wheel is a good opportunity to get rid of the heavy steel rim that was standard on all Retrovelos back in 2007. They changed to aluminum rims in 2008, I think, and my front wheel already has one of those.

    Read more in part 2 of this monster comment…

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  10. Part 2

    Thirdly, the Retrovelo rear rack looks nice, but is clearly underbuilt for serious loads. Because it of its "open" design, with only two struts supporting the load and the sections that bolt to the frame being swaged tubes, it obviously lacks lateral stiffness. Therefore it tends to wobble when loaded, causing the bike to fishtail. This makes riding home from the food coop with two Ortlieb Back Roller bags worth of food a shaky experience. Admittedly, most people don't carry +20kgs on their bike on a daily basis, but if they do, good bike handling skills are definitely recommended. Furthermore, the rack's oversized tubing requires owners of older Ortlieb bags to replace the top hooks of their bags with the extra-large version. I'm contemplating upgrading to a Tubus Cargo rack.

    A few improvements could be made to some of the Retrovelo's components: Longer and wider fenders would keep road spray off of the rider's clothes and shoes when riding in the rain or on wet roads. They would also help to keep the bike clean; Klaus' frame and drivetrain are mud-covered after just one rainy commute, while my 26" all-road/randonneur bike (that uses extra-long Velo-Orange fenders) only shows minor traces of dirt even. Attaching mudflaps to the Retrovelo's fenders helps, but they have to be lightweight because heavy rubber mudflaps will make the bike shimmy – I know because I've tried. Lastly, it would have been nice if the OEM manufacturer that builds the frames had chosen to use a seat tube with an inner diameter more common than 26.0mm. I had to replace the seatpost on my Klaus mid-ride because the screw in the seat clamp broke. Finding a seatpost that fit turned out to be quite challenging even in Berlin.

    Last year, my wife has taken delivery of her Klara. So far, she has been enjoying the bike a lot, except that the brakes are rather reluctant to do what they were made for. Her bike is equipped with Shimano roller brakes, which are among the worst brakes I've tried. Even when slowing down from very moderate speed, it's impossible to quickly come to a stop, let alone block the wheels. Things get worse with our son on the kid's seat or in the trailer, or a person bigger than my (very slender) wife riding the bike. I tried to improve brake performance, but as there are virtually no adjustments that could be made, the result was disappointing. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of options for replacing those brakes, other than a coaster brake in the rear and a drum brake in front. Did the brakes on the Klara you tried perform well?

    Some 'added value' information: Frank Patitz, the Fat Frank's designer, is a rather skinny guy, and a strong cyclist who finished a full brevet series last year. If I remember correctly, he used a Retrovelo mixte prototype with upright handlebars and disk brakes for the 400k brevet.

    Sorry for the lengthy comment!

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    1. This info is really helpful - thanks!

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    2. So here are some photos of the Retrovelo Mixed prototype I mentioned in the post:

      http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5026/5722583413_424b953cb1_b.jpg

      http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5213/5722607299_9bd673f680_b.jpg

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    3. Hi Sherlock,
      I was wondering if the braking power of your wife's bike was a deal breaker? (no pun intended) I am looking into getting a Klara or Paula - but the roller brakes gave me 2nd thoughts since I have disc brakes on my everyday bike. Aesthetically, I love the loop frames and fear the Anna Mixte may be too sporty looking. Anyone else can chime in on the braking power of your Retrovelos / shimano roller brakes? The paula or Karla really is my dream...

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  11. How would you compare comfort/ride quality of the Klara vs. Pilen vs. Gazelle?

    FYI, from my perspective, I find the PIlen less comfy than the Gazelle. The Gazelle is like an ocean liner. It just glides along.

    Thanks!

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    1. As far as comfort over bad roads, these three feel about the same. Though I have to say, I don't find the newer production Gazelles as nice as the older bikes.

      As far as positioning, the Retrovelo works best for me of the three. The stock Pilen size does not fit me well and the combination of the large size and the shallow sweep of the handlebars feels awkward. The Gazelle is, you know, a Dutch bike, so it is extremely laid back. While I appreciate this, personally I prefer a slightly more active positioning.

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    2. Thanks so much for responding. I'm trying to pare down the bikes to just the one "best" example of each type. (Yes, I know, that's incredibly subjective.) I currently have two loops -- the Pilen and the Toer Populair -- and would like to own just one. I find the Gazelle to have the absolute cushiest ride, but as you say, it's that stick straight posture that isn't perfect. The Pilen is more relaxed, but also not as comfortable as far as ride quality.

      So I guess I'm looking for that one special loop frame that has the "mountain bike heritage" (aka more aggressive positioning) but with that amazing ride quality of a Gazelle.

      Guess I need to get myself to Adeline Adeline to see if the Klara is it. :-)

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  12. Wow, what a handsome bike. Looks fun too.

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  13. Lovely photos! I test rode a Retrovelo last year, also on a visit to New York. It is such a beautiful bike, but the price drove me away. The 8-speed model is crazy expensive. I think you are right that the 3-speed is enough for the city, but I was not told that option existed. Instead I bought a Pashley Princess, but I think the Retrovelo would have been a better choice for me.

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  14. If you ever get the chance, I'd like to hear your opinion of the Rolf Retrovelo. With disc brakes, SON hub dynamo, and those 14 gears, it sounds like my dream bike. Expensive but should last a long time. Only in diamond frame though. I hope that Mixte prototype mentioned by Sherlock reaches production.
    Although you have veered me off onto the Brompton path at the moment, I have one ordered.

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  15. While reading this, I kept thinking this seems right out of a J. Perterman ad from Sienfeld. A nice bike, no doubt, big on looks and limitations.

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  16. I really like the aesthetic of these bikes, which is no surprise, as I love old mountain bikes, and the diamond-frame versions of the Retrovelos look like early-to-mid 80s mountain bikes, without canti posts or derailer cable bosses.

    My main issue with these bikes is that, at this price point and coming from Taiwan, there is no excuse for the one-size-fits-most approach. I reckon I might fit the 22.5" diamond frame rather well, but I think that by buying this bike, I'd be sending the message that building a $1500+ bike that excludes ppl tall and short ppl is somehow "ok".

    I'm seeing that a lot of manufacturers are offering just one size or a much reduced run of sizes, and I feel that customers needs to discourage this, at least on the mid- to high-end of the market.

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  17. I am frowning. I am disappointed. The bike looks Schwinnish not particularly 1K worth. Frankly, it reminds me of the Schwinn Coffee.

    Love the pictures on your blog and your commentary--truly gives or takes away from the bicycles. Love your writing style--you have a distinct way of providing "elegant negativity." So often, critical review blogs are harsh, angry and downright cruel or suffocatingly advertising fluff. True, bicycle manufacturers are capitalists clearly wanting to make money. Please know, I appreciate your ability to describe reality without breaking spirits. It is refreshing. Your blog makes me smile. So I read religiously and reread and salivate--and avoid the daily news.


    Blogs like yours help with increasing my discernment.

    Can't apologize for stating--the bike does not scream beauty. Most people would be shocked to learn what $1400 could purchase from a custom bicycle boutique.

    I began by fad purchasing an overpriced $1400 Trek Alpha 2.1, fast, fun but quite uncomfortable and now the Trek advertisement is invitational in a quite scary sort of way ( I live in Florida).

    I desire the Mary Poppins steed, picture me riding upright to my teaching and librarian gig.
    So excited! Forty miles a day. :)

    So now, my desire is for a steel lug COMFY nondescript classic, roadster style. Don't like step thru style or mixte pish pash but the Betty Foy is lovely.

    Anywhoo again heart your blog, heart your photography.

    Books+Bikes=Bliss
    Kenia

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    1. "Frankly, it reminds me of the Schwinn Coffee. "

      Having seen and ridden the Schwinn Coffee in person, I'd say the only similarities are the colour and the fact that both are in the general category of upright bikes. The construction, quality, and handling are worlds apart.

      The Betty Foy is an excellent bike though and will take you further than a Retrovelo if you live in a hilly area.

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    2. Worlds apart is kinda dramatic....They're different, but both 3 speeds that will get the job done. Schwinn's aren't bad especially for a reliable three speed whose only demands are to safely move someone from point A to point B on reasonable flat and short distances. And for slightly more than a quarter of the price it's a bargain. Though they ain't pretty :)

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  18. What's the dynamo light setup like? The headlight looks like the one used on Pashley's (which I don't consider all that bright).

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    1. All bikes of this kind tend to use the same headlight, and yes it is the same one as on the Pashley. My view is that this headlight is sufficiently bright for city riding, but not for darker suburban/countryside roads. The tail light on the Retrovelo is LED dynamo with standlight. On the Pashley the tail light is battery operated.

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    2. I agree with you about the light being sufficient for city riding. I'll be moving to a more rural county area next month, though, so the current setup just doesn't seem like it'll cut it. I saw in an older post that the co-habitant changed out the light on the Pashley Roadster for the Supernova E3 and I was wondering how you guys liked it for year round commuting (especially winter).

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    3. The standard headlight on the Retrovelo Klara and Klaus is a Busch & Müller Lumotec Retro that uses a halogen light bulb. I agree it is sufficiently bright for urban cycling, but seems a bit dated when compared to modern LED-based lighting systems. The Lumotec Retro sure looks nicer than the Cyo and most other LED headlights.

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  19. Thank you for the very straightforward and very helpful assessment of the Retrovelo. I have admired pictures of these beautiful bikes before I even knew they were called Retrovelo. When I inquired to the company about availability in the DC area, Frank Patitz himself wrote back. Pretty cool, huh? Guess I'm not used to hearing directly from the bike designer. Anyway, I was impressed, and a Retrovelo is on my list as soon as I sort out some financial priorities. Thanks again for the review.

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  20. I recently bought a Pashley Penny which is basically Pashley's Provence model with different colours and a metal chainguard and I have to say, I absolutely adore it.
    Before trying the Pashley Penny, I had tried a Retrovelo, Pashley Sonnet and lots of aluminium "comfort" bikes. I have also owned one of these so-called "comfort" bikes, and a beautiful, but very uncomfortable Trek WS MTB.
    The Penny is great for those of us who transport their bikes via car etc to a local trail to ride with the kids on the weekend. It is much lighter than most of the other Pashleys - weighing in at about 12kg - and reasonably zippy on paved trails. It is not a mountain bike but somehow reminds me of my MTB in handling.
    Re: the Retrovelo, I too fell in love with the look of this bike and had a very brief test-ride in London. Unfortunately the bike shop assistant couldn't move the saddle down for me and being a complete newbie I didn't feel safe.
    The downside to the Pashley is that it too only comes in one size (there is a review of it with similar comments on Momentum mag's site)and can feel harsh over rough surfaces so maybe trying Fat Franks would be a good idea?
    Anyway, it's really good to see the Retrovelo again, the photos are beautiful and having seen it up close, for the right rider, I reckon it's worth the money - just not my money!

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  21. "Unfortunately the bike shop assistant couldn't move the saddle down for me and being a complete newbie I didn't feel safe. "

    It's unfortunate how often the bike a person buys depends on things like this!

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  22. Does it have something to do with Fat Frank tire in term of riding quality?

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    1. The cushy feeling, yes. But you cannot fit these tires on just any bike.

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    2. Franks help hugely in improving ride quality. You can fit them in pretty much any generic clist 80s/90s mountain bike, paint it and get out the door for a fraction of the cost of this bike.

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    3. I would love to get a generic moutain bike (so plentiful in my neck of the woods) but my hip issues are directing me to something with a low step through. If that changed, I'd probably be more than willing to kludge a craigslist find into shape.

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    4. [Lynne - I've removed a part of your comment which violates the moderating rules; the rest I post here.]

      Lynne March 3, 2013 wrote

      I looked -- for months -- for a frame that would fit Fat Franks. Try finding a loop frame that will. Old Murrays or Schwinns will, but they can be hard to come by. Electras fit them but -- ugh, have you ever RIDDEN an Electra? And that old Murray or Schwinn, if you find it, will have a longer wheelbase. They just don't ride the same -- I know, I've ridden both. What is the likelihood that that old MTB (if you give in and give up on the loop frame) will have any lighting? OK, so now you need a new front hub and lights. I live in a small apartment and don't have the tools or space to paint a bike or rebuild a wheel.

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  23. I bought a Paula in October 2010. I decided that I would need the 8-speed Nexus for the hillier territory in Seattle, where I planned to move. I still have the bicycle. It really is in a class by itself. "Zippy" is the word I would use to describe it. It is actually a fast bike. I rode support for a marathon on it back in 2011 and not only beat my fit and road-bike riding friend up the toughest hill, I left them so far behind that I could not see them when I got to the top. This is a heavy bike, but it is not slow.

    I can't tell you how much I hate the rear rack. It's pretty, but it's too short and too open. I got some beautiful Detours trunk racks and had to return them. I bungee my U-lock to it. I actually tried to get the bike shop (My Dutch Bike in SF) to leave it off, but they said it "came with the bike." I recently had Dutch Bike Company in Seattle (I live AROUND THE CORNER from them now!) add an Azor frame-mounted front rack, move the headlight to the fork, and upgrade the headlight from the lovely but dim halogen bullet light. The front rack is much more useful.

    I love this bike. I feel exactly like a kid in a 50s ad zipping around the corner on it. That said, I got a Brompton last week. If I could keep only one bike, it would be the Brompton. That bike is the most practical, pleasant total package I can imagine. The frame mounted front luggage that will hold anything you want. Folding it in 20 seconds and plopping it in the shopping cart -- much quicker than locking up my full-sized bike and I don't spend the whole shopping trip worried about my bike. And who knew that Bromptons were so agile and comfortable to ride?

    DH and I went for a ride yesterday. He rode the Brompton (his is special ordered and not here yet). I rode my pink early 80s Raleigh SuperCourse mixte with NuVinci hub. I can't believe this -- I wanted to be on the Brompton! Ride-quality-wise, I wanted to be on the Brompton! I wanted to ride a lowered 3-speed rather than a 700c NuVinci in SEATTLE. I'm actually going to sell the mixte now.

    Paula's future is not as certain as it once was. Now that I own both, I can say that if you want the most practical bike that you will love to ride, get a Brompton. I have never regretted the Retrovelo purchase. I was unable to test ride bikes because no one anywhere near where I lived at the time sold any similar bikes. I was torn between the WorkCycles Oma or FR8 and the Retrovelo Paula. Now that I have ridden Gazelles and WorkCycles (and many others) I know that I made the right choice.

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    1. Lynne I remember your Paula! So gad to hear you are still riding it and liking it over 2 years later.

      As for the Brompton, I feel the same way about mine. Go figure, I would never have predicted that I would like it so much as a daily bike.

      In your shoes, I would probably keep the Paula as a backup full sized bike, simply because there are times I wish I could quickly lock up my Brompt, but don't feel comfortable leaving it outside. Also in the winter a bike like the Paula would be less maintenance.

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  24. Hi! I found you great blog when I googled for reviews on the Retrovelo Klara. I am trying to decide between a Klara and the Viva Juliett. Any advice here you might give is greatly appreciated.

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