Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Fluttering About: the Papillionaire Sommer

Papillionaire Sommer
One of the newer members of the upright city bike club, the Australian Papillionaire (a sponsor of this blog) has recently opened its doors in the USA and sent me a bicycle to try - their step-through Sommer model in the aptly named "Boston" colour scheme. Based on a traditional European loop-frame design and available in a range of candy colours, the lugged steel Sommer also comes with an attractive price tag - starting at $429 for a basic single speed bicycle, including fenders, chainguard and rear rack.

Papillionaire Sommer
Founded in 2009 by a brother and sister team in Melbourne, the Papillionaire name is based on the Latin word for butterfly (papillio) - reflecting their philosophy that "riding should be easy and fun and of course look good at the same time." 

Papillionaire Sommer
The bicycle frames are designed at Papillionaire's Australian office and manufactured in Taiwan to their specs, along with the rear racks, and custom leather grips and saddles. The finish is powdercoat. The stated weight of the complete bike is 29lb. 

Papillionaire Sommer
The cro-moly frames are lugged and the fork features an attractive crown with cutout detail.

Papillionaire Sommer
Here is a look at the seat cluster.

Papillionaire Sommer
And the junction of the curved top tube with the seat tube. 

Papillionaire Sommer
The bottom bracket is the only lugless joint on the frame, and it is done smoothly.

Papillionaire Sommer
The horizontal dropouts in the rear accommodate hub gearing and incorporate braze-ons for rack mounts, fender mounts and chainguard bracket. 

Papillionaire Sommer
Braze-ons for both fenders and front rack on the fork dropouts as well.

Papillionaire Sommer
The Sommer comes in two sizes: standard and small. Aside from the curved top tube, a main distinguishing feature of this model is its handlebars: Somewhere between North Roads and Apehanger on the upright spectrum, the bars have quite a rise to them. This has the interesting visual effect of making the rest of the bike appear miniature, almost toy-like in comparison. In fact the bike is normal sized, with 700C wheels to boot - it's just that the handlebars are quite massive - intended, in combination with a short top tube, to achieve a super-upright riding position. 

Papillionaire Sommer
View of the bars from the rider's perspective. 

Papillionaire Sommer
And a side view of the rise. Note that the stem here is shown lowered to maximum capacity. 

Papillionaire Sommer
The test bike I received was set up as a 3-speed, with a Shimano Nexus hub and twist shifter, front and rear caliper brakes, 

Papillionaire Sommer
Papillionaire's leather grips (a copy of the Brooks version, it seems), a silver bell,

Papillionaire Sommer
a Peterboro front basket (big enough to fit a handbag or similar),

Papillionaire Sommer
and a sprung leather saddle (looks to be Gyes-made), embossed with Papillionaire's logo. Note that the saddle here is shown sitting pretty far forward, with the clamp not allowing further backward movement. A setback seatpost is now available to get the saddle a bit further back.

Papillionaire Sommer
The Sommer's rear rack is rated for 18kg (40lb) of weight. No lighting is included with the bike, but the rear fender is drilled for a tail light, and a rear reflector is included. The fenders, rack and chainguard are all powder-coated to match the bicycle's frame.

Papillionaire Sommer
The alloy touring-stlye pedals come with reflectors.

Papillionaire Sommer
The 700Cx35mm Kenda West city tires are available in gumwall or cream. 

Papillionaire Sommer
The Papillionaire was delivered to a nearby shop, the Bicycle Belle (read about it here), where I test rode it on a 4 mile urban loop simulating some of my usual local commutes.

Nothing about Papillionaire's branding suggests a focus on performance and speed, and so the bicycle's tame handling was consistent with my expectations. The Sommer is a bike for fluttering about town, not for "super commuting" 10 miles up hilly country roads. At the same time, the gearing is set quite low - so reasonable urban inclines are not difficult to tackle. And the roomy, integrated rear rack is a convenient standard feature, making it immediately possible to attach panniers, as well as rack-top bags and baskets to the bike.

On the whole, my impression of the Sommer was dominated by its bolt-upright positioning and tight "cockpit." Seated upon the saddle, my back was as straight as if I'd been sitting in a chair, and my hands gripped the handlebars just forward of my ribcage. The new setback seatpost alters these proportions, but only slightly: The Sommer was deliberately designed to be extremely upright. Those looking for that sort of fit will appreciate that, while those seeking a more leaned-forward, active position, may find the proportions limiting.

Papillionaire Sommer
Another notable feature of the Sommer is its very high bottom bracket. Those who enjoy being perched as high as possible on a city bike so as to "see above traffic" will appreciate this. Those who like to stop with a toe on the ground without getting off the saddle, may not: The high bottom bracket will make it difficult to set the saddle height to make this possible whilst achieving full leg extension on the downstroke when pedaling. 

While Papillionaire refers to their bicycles as "Dutch-style," the Sommer is not a typical Dutch Omafiets. They do have the upright positioning in common. But the Sommer's frame angles are not as relaxed and the fork is not as raked-out - giving it a more compact, less boat-like - and also less cushy - feel than that of a traditional Dutch bike. The Sommer's combination of tight frame, 700C wheels and wide tires also leaves very little toe clearance with the front wheel; some riders may experience toe overlap. 

The 29lb stated weight figure feels pretty accurate; for a bike of its kind the Sommer is on the lightweight side. But note, that (to be fair, like most bikes in its price category) the Sommer does not come with lighting options - something I hope Papillionaire (and other manufacturers) will consider remedying, since the bike is intended for regular commuting. 

Papillionaire Sommer
Since Papillionaire expanded its market to the US, I've received regular emails from readers asking how it compares to the popular Bobbin Birdie (see review here). As far as apples-to-apples comparisons with other city bikes, I think this is a fair one: Like the Sommer, the Birdie is a Taiwan-made lugged cro-moly loop frame with hub gears, fenders, chainguard and rear rack, at a similar price point. As far as quality, I find the bikes equivalent - from the finish, to the components, to bike shop mechanics' feedback on the quality of the from-the-factory assembly. As far as frame design and ride feel, there are notable differences: The Sommer is a considerably more upright bike, and it is fitted with 700C wheels, whereas the Birdie is a 26" wheel bike with a position that (while still firmly in the upright category) is more aggressive, and to me feels more responsive. So the choice between the two will likely rest on the type of fit and ride quality a cyclist prefers. Go with Papillionaire if you want to be more upright and higher off the ground; with Bobbin if the reverse. Price-wise both are pretty good deals. I get so many inquiries from readers looking for new, but "vintage-style" upright bicycles at reasonable prices. It's great to have multiple options in the sub-$700 price range.

The Papillionaire Sommer as shown here (the 3-speed version, with leather accessories and basket) is priced at $629, and is available to test ride at the Bicycle Belle in Somerville, MA. Aside from the Sommer model, Papillionaire also offers a diamond frame and, most recently, a mixte. You can check out the specs and colours of all their models here and see the complete Sommer picture set here. Many thanks to Papilllionaire and Bicycle Belle for the opportunity to try this bike!

69 comments:

  1. Nice bike, nice review.
    Are you back from Ireland? Love the "Foreign Posts".
    Haven't seen that style saddle clamp in a while, but as i recall,
    if the post is rotated 180 degree, the saddle can be remounted allowing
    an extra 1-2" setback, no?
    Cheers!

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    1. I understood that something about this specific saddle prevents that. I will let the manufacturer or retailer correct me if this is not the case.

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    2. ?If so that saddle/seat post combo is wrong for the bike, skewing any perceptions you have of its ride. I.e. the fit is entirely wrong.

      The bars are bizarre, possibly vestigial of bmx, which was popular in Oz. May still be.



      The bars are similar to some kind of Schwinn Suburban with perhaps more rise.

      A properly set up seating position and simple bar change you'll have an entirely different assessment of the bike.

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    3. It's true that the positioning will be somewhat different with the setback seatpost. Not hugely though - I've seen pics and it's one of those minimal setback ones.

      But as I understand it, both seat posts are available now as options for the bike; it is up to the retailer or customer which to choose - so the way I rode it is not wrong per se, just one of the options now available. Anyway... I rode the bike the way they sent it to me. When I get a chance I'll try it with the setback seatpost as well.

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    4. The difference btwn the two clamps is at least 2cm which, in terms of fit/feel, is huge on any bike. You know this from hating hybrid geo with upright seating.

      This is the kind of thing that's fine going to the store, but is a big deal killer if a person wants to actually use it as transport over distance. During that upright on that steep a virtual sta will sap the joy out of riding for anyone.

      BTW the lights at this price point I would only recommend to my worst enemy. Modern component LEDs are infinitely brighter.

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    5. A couple of issues with the seatpost. The saddle rails fit the "setback" style post much better, allowing more adjustability. I think we reversed the bracket trying to get the saddle to slide further back- it was an issue of the bracket compatibility with the angle of the rails.
      I don't believe that you really have an "option" for either type. I have only received the setback style after that initial bike arrived. I think that Papillionaire may be phasing out the straight seatpost w/ bracket and going to all "setback" posts.

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    6. BTW this thing with your toe on ground - simple geo: the virtual sta is very steep, putting you higher vs. clamp the other way.

      As said, that very simple thing can mess up perception of the bike. Is really not about the bike, it's about proper set up.

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  2. Gorgeous bike. Me want it!

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  3. Interesting bike and excellent review! I've seen pictures of the Papillionaire here and there, but this is the first in-depth review I've seen. I'm not sure how I feel about this class of bike (Dutch-style but with rim brakes, no lights, harsher ride) but like you mentioned, there is a market by people who want an attractive, upright bike at a low price point, and the Papillionaire fills that need. I'm sure I'll be sending this link to pople who ask about such a bike.

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    1. "this class of bike (Dutch-style but with rim brakes, no lights, harsher ride)"

      I get a lot of feedback from people who prefer rim brakes b/c they add less weight. And I've learned that perceptions of harshness are quite subjective. What I mean is, price aside I know there are those who would actually prefer this bicycle to true Dutch.

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    2. There are no hills in Chicago = Work cycles are fine.

      Dottie may want to lug her OMA up a 17% hill repeatedly before assessing harshness.

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    3. Long winters + salt crazed road crews - hills - convenient indoor storage options = Good reason to go with drums or discs on a Chicago commuter

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  4. Oh my gosh, I am so glad to see this review. I have been trying to find out more about the Sommer -- my main concern is that I live in a hilly neighborhood, and have heard that it may be too upright for that. I will not be commuting in it, nor will I have a need for speed... I like a more upright position (considering the Linus Dutchi vs Public for that reason). But, the mail-order-ness of Papillionaire makes it tough to take the leap. Thank you for the review.

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    1. I don't know where you are located, but they have retailers in NYC and now Boston, possibly other cities as well.

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    2. I'm in Oakland (hilly!) -- closest retailer is San Diego or LA, unfort. I am reading all the comments with interest. Have been stewing about what bike to get for a while now, and eager to get riding. Since I don't have any history of riding as an adult, I hesitate to spend for say, a Retrovelo Paula (love) or a Bella Ciao (love). I feel like I need to start out with something a little more economical and prove to myself that I will used it regularly for fun, errands, etc. Also do need to be able to tow a kid or too, so happy for this discussion of the Sommer.

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    3. This bike will not work for you, nor any Dutch-style bike, of you intend to ride hilly parts and/or tow a kid.

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    4. If you're in Oakland I wonder if you've checked out Public bikes. They're based in S.F. and also make excellent accessories for urban riding. I especially like that their prices are reasonable and you can test anything you want.

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  5. Interesting review. Like others mentioned, I'd prefer to see hub brakes and lighting, but otoh, the frame has some nice details for the pricepoint. Aside from wheelsize, I'd say this bike seems to be more of a fake/updated Raleigh Sports than a fake/updated Dutch-style bike. It's probably got some things in common with both, plus some idiosyncracies of its own.

    I checked out Papillionaire's site; I was disappointed that each model is listed as being available in only one size. (The review above suggests that the Sommer comes in two sizes...) I was also completely embarassed that these johnny-come-lately machines are being promoted as "vintage bikes", with the Oz-"designed", Taiwan-made mixte being described as a "classic European bike". Shameless.

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    1. "I'd say this bike seems to be more of a fake/updated Raleigh Sports than a fake/updated Dutch-style bike..."

      Not a fake Raleigh Sports or any other vintage Raleigh I know of; those have different proportions (the Bobbin would be a better fit there). As far as European bikes, the Sommer is most like some of the Danish ones I've seen.

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    2. The Papillionaire website may not be completely updated, they just got new sizes in mid July. The Sommer is available in 43cm (approx 17") and 48cm (approx 19") and the classic is available in 52cm and 58cm (approx 21" and 23")

      One issue that I've run into trying to fit very petite women to the 17", the rack height is the same on both the 17" and the 19", which on the 17" means that the springs of the premium sprung saddle hit the rack while there are still 3 or 4 inches of seatpost showing. If you are 5' or less, you might consider the "standard" leather saddle, which without springs can go much much lower. You could also remove the rack or go with a different style of rack.

      I've spoken to Papillionaire, and the 43cm is a new model, and they didn't realize the problem until they'd done the first production run. They will lower the braze-ons and change the angle of the rack attachment for the next version.

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  6. I agree with many of the above comments. Regarding the seatclamp, even the photo on the Papillionaire website shows it reversed. I too found only one size listed for each model. For the classic it's listed at 52cm but the photo appears to be a much larger frame size than that so not sure how they mueasured it. I thought the Sommer would be nice if they offered it with a different style handlebar option - perhaps something similar to the Mixte. Finally, the description of the Classic, and the Mixte, seems a little odd like something got lost in translation. What is a "deep" frame? For the Mixte are they referring to a "virtual" top tube or to something else, perhaps the head tube?

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  7. It's nice to see another alternative for the upright transportation crowd and at a nice price point too. The more red bicycles the better, for visibility, for classic rides with dress fluttering, for picnics via bicycle, for riding to the office. For those swooning over the Birdie, this provides another option.

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  8. Do you happen to know how easily a child carrier can mount to the rack?

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    1. It's a standard rack so I am guessing easily... but I am not sure the bike is rated for it, weight-wise. I will ask Carice of Bicycle Belle.

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    2. It's not- it's rated for 18kg, and the Yepp seats I carry require 25 kg (55 lbs) I don't know what the requirements are for other brands of child seat.

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    3. Some child seats, like the Topeak, require they're own proprietary racks.

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    4. Also, most child seats don't attach to a non-proprietary rack. They either are designed to work without a rack (Kettler brand seats, el cheapo Bell brand seats) or mount to their own rack (Topeak), so the weight rating for the Papp rack is probably irrelevant.

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    5. Or the Co-Pilot seat, which fits on a specific Blackburn rack.

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  9. I, too, wish they wouldn't use the word 'vintage' when describing the bike. Seems to limit it's appeal.

    Yes, that seat clamp looks backwards. It should be able to be reversed.

    It looks like these are not really commuter bikes but rather a simple bike to have around the house for enjoyment and maybe warm weather errands....no need for lighting systems. A serious commuter would probably pass over these or else make the mistake of making a purchase only to discover serious limitations and then having to upgrade. I dunno, maybe for Boston it'd work.

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    1. I'm not sure if the term "vintage" limits the appeal; I'd wager that they're trying to increase the appeal. I take exception to the BS factor. The things ain't vintage; they're brand-new. They're also in no way "European", whatsoever. I don't know why so many marketers try to use these appeals to the imagination in order to sell bikes. Further, trying to fake it like something is European rubs me the wrong way. It's flagrantly dishonest, and I wonder about the social implications.

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  10. Is there toe clip overlap? The photos make it look tight.

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    1. This is mentioned in 4th paragraph before last. TCO will vary somewhat rider to rider. For me personally it's very close, with size 7US/UK4.5/Eur38 feet.

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    2. You can absolutely take the seatpost clamp loose, flip it around, and re-secure the seat to it. That will give probably 1 1/2" additional set back. How I have described it is the correct way to install a straight seatpost with the sheet metal clamp. I have done this for 35+ years. It is very strange if the promo pictures showed the clamp on backwards; perhaps the bike was assembled by a "non-vintage" person who was not familiar with the type of clamp. If, by chance, there is something screwy about the particular clamp, a replacement can be found at any well-stocked shop for about $10.

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    3. TCO is not a problem on this bike. If you're actually trying to run toe-clips on a bike like this, then the rider is the problem. Bikes like this don't require any kind of foot retention. Seriously.

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    4. I think TCO is being used as a catchall term here for "my feets hits the front tire".

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    5. Corey, you may be correct, but that don't make it right... =D

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    6. You know, Toe Clip Overlap isn't much of a danger if you don't actually have toe clips... It's annoying to rub the toe of your new Sambas on the tire but it just shoves your foot out of the way with about zero chance of flinging yourself off the bike.

      With honest to Fausto steel clips it gets absolutely riveting, what with the shrieking, the falling and the banging the head on the ground and all. Though you can hit your head a lot and not have it affect you much...

      Spindizzy

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  11. Oh my God! I am on my way to try this bike. I hope I am not too tall!

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  12. Cute. I wonder how the Bobbins and Papillionaires hold up over time? The linus bikes were a huge hit, but people were finding they did not hold up well and started rusting out. With modern bikes I am very wary of low price point bikes anymore. The geometry of this bike is interesting. The shorter tope tube distance may intended for women, or small people with short torsos and arms in general. I like being upright on my raleigh sports, but I'm nowhere near that upright. It can become a problem when riding in the wind.
    As this bike comes with a rack, braise ons for front racks etc, how do you think this bike would handle when loaded? I had a loop frame hybrid that could have front and rear racks, I commuted on it with fully loaded panniers but the bike was not designed for such loads. Also, even with 3 speeds, is this bike designed for hills? I say this because this bike looks like it would be hard to ride up hills. The handlebars look odd. I have a 5 speed internal geared hub on my raleigh sports and the gearing is not low enough in real world use to get up big hills. I tried and maybe got a hernia out of it!!! So, be careful about recommending a bike like this to people in hilly areas like SF, pacific northwest, or mountainy areas. I thought my 5 speed hub could handle at least the hills to the nearest town, but again in reality it is too hard.
    Drum brakes are ideal for bikes like this. Anyone nervous about getting back into cycling and choosing a bike because it is cute may not think about what happens in foul weather to rim brakes. The drum brakes on my raleigh sports are awesome, never fail, never worry, but yes they are heavy.
    For a short commute or pretty fun bike it looks great, otherwise I'd stay away from it even though it is cute as a button.

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    1. The Linus 3 speeds are made with hi-tensile steel. Their 8 speeds are made with CroMo steel. I'd expect the hi-tensile to rust much faster, particularly if left in the elements a lot. Do you recall if these were 3 speed Linus bikes or 8 or both?

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  13. It would be interesting to test ride this bike along with its mens counterpart.

    Judging by the advert on the side of your blog, the loop frame looks much more upright than the diamond frame. And that difference seems built in the frame, because of the length of the head tube.

    So will these two be well matched like the Raleigh Sports you once tried or more mismatched like your two Pashleys ?

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    1. I haven't tried the diamond frame, but will post an update if I do - will try to, this Fall.

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  14. The seat clamp is the right way round on the website images, so I imagine it is a set-up peculiarity. I find rim brakes on aluminium rims are ok enough in the rain, while drum brakes are a bit too heavy and ineffective for my taste.

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    1. Drum brakes are absolutely heavy, but ineffective? Get the wrench. Set 'em up right.

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  15. I've been reading this blog for a while, but I this is my first comment!

    I own this bike and have had it for about five months. I live in NYC and regularly commute with ths bike (about fourteen miles round-trip), as well as go grocery shopping. New York is not particularly hilly, but I do regularly ride over the bridges with it (and the Brooklyn Bridge can be quite steep--side note to Brooklyn-Bridge haters, it's perfectly fine in the mornings). I've also ridden this bike on longer rides around the city (maybe 45 miles max).

    I was looking for a bike that was not too heavy and yet had an upright ride, and this seemed like a good compromise. I looked at some of the more expensive European bikes, and I liked the Bella Ciao, but it was too big for me (I'm 5'4", but have short legs).

    Overall, I've been very happy with the bike. I've found the gearing to be fine with most of the inclines I've tried, and it's not super slow. I experience toe overlap, but that doesn't bother me. I notice a difference when the lack is fully laden with groceries compared to the cruiser I had before, but it's doable, and I just bike a little more cautiously.

    I have found some of the finishing to be a little disappointing. Even though the bike is supposed to be powdercoated, the coat has chipped like crazy. The pedals were way too slick for a lot of my everyday shoes that are not super bike-inappropriate(rubber-soled ballet flats, Birkenstocks, etc.), and I had to swap them out. And the kickstand was essentially not functional.

    That said, I'm overall quite pleased with my bike. And one of the major advantages this bike has over a European bike is the peace of mind that comes with the lower cost. I tell myself that if my bike gets stolen once per year, it's not so bad to spend $50/month on the expense of bike (let's not get into bike accessories). So far my bike has never been stolen in NYC, but a lower cost bike frees me to bike to a restaurant, leave the bike on the street, and not spend the whole meal fretting about whether it will be there when I get back. This bike does arguably involve some compromises, but I don't regret my decision. Mostly. But I don't think anything could cure me of bike-related wandering eye.

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    1. This is very helpful I am sure for those considering this bike, thanks so much for sharing your experience!

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  16. That seat post clamp is reminiscent a backward-fork on a Magna. Without more, it's a solid indication that people involved don't know much about bicycles.

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    1. Hogwash. Many ppl reverse the clamp to shorten up the cockpit. I consider this to be a design benefit of the oft-loathed pipe-n-guts style seatpost. My wife, for instance, insists on running the post on her mixte this way; she refuses to flip it b/c she likes the ergos as they are.

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  17. A different anon here....the fact that it's possible to reverse a seat post clamp is different from getting a bike from a shop with it reversed. True, it's a nice feature of the 'pipe-n-guts' old style but they've always been set up with the 'guts' sitting behind the post rather than in front. It seems that has always been the design intention. I really don't know why it can't be done with this version and I don't understand cycler's explanation. I think a bike shop should have extra posts around to switch out. If, in fact, the only way this combo will work is in the reversed position, it seems a poor design choice and would give me pause about other possible issues with the overall design and production decisions.

    Other than that it looks like a reasonable, affordable, option for those who want to 'buy new' but stay under $1,000. Mostly, just find a bike which makes you smile, ride it to new places, make it part of your life, find a shop willing and knowledgable enough to make it fit properly who can also service it, and enjoy!

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    1. (I presume that Cycler is the proprietor of Bicycle Belle.) If I understood Cycler's explanation, then s/he is saying that the rails won't allow the guts to be run in the traditional manner. This could be that the space between the rails is too tight, or some sort of bottoming-out interference from the springs. If Velouria's hunch is correct, and that saddle is a rebranded Gyes, then it would have to be the GS-07. I checked out some detailed pics of the GS-07, and photos of the undercarriage look like the saddle could be run without problems with the guts in either position. See for yourself: http://www.crowcycleco.com/featured-products/all-leather-saddle-560-001.html -there's a pic or two of the undercarriage among the other ones.
      Hard to say, however, til you have the components in hand, and you're trying to put 'em together.

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  18. I'm interested in testing out this bike but my two concerns are--as you noted--the handlebars, which I find out of keeping with the rest of the bike and the geometry in general. I am a huge fan of upright bikes, but this looks to me very like the PUBLIC loop frame that I rode recently--the top of the seat tube is well below the bottom of the stem, unlike, say, a DL-1 or most dutch bikes. For me it makes for uncomfortable riding, unless you hitch the seat all the way to its maximum possible height, which damages the aesthetics a bit. Curious as to the rationale behind such a short seat tube.

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    1. Today in Melbourne, home of Papillionaire; I saw a fairly short girl on the bike pictured, and she had the seatpost right down, so I guess she and her short compatriots are the rationale.

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  19. I won't speculate on the seat clamp issue except to say that if you can assemble a bakfiets (as the owner of the shop has done), I have enough faith in your mechanical aptitude to figure out if/how a seatclamp should fit.

    I am glad that they went with metal fenders, a failing of the Bobbin Birdie, IMO, though I wish the chainguard provided a little more coverage (like the Bobbin).

    Re: Drum brakes. I am using 70mm Sturmey-Archer drum brakes in Washington DC and find them to have reasonable stopping power with myself and a toddler on board, not as good as caliper brakes, but a lot less hassle. I have fried the rear with poor braking technique on a long downhill (1/2 mile, relatively steep). I had to remove the pads, sand off the overheated surface layer and they were fine. For any wheels larger than 20", I would use the 90mm drums or a shimano hub where it is easy to switch to a larger brake.

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  20. ScottUK(Eirelover)August 10, 2013 at 5:53 AM

    off topic but saw this and thought you might like to see it http://www.tredz.co.uk/.Crank-Brothers-Speedier-Lever_60118.htm

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  21. Papillionaire. In French this would be something like "butterfly person", I think, if there is such a word or thing.

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  22. This bike looks nice, but like many, I would change the handlebars to some north-road style, like the Nitto, Sunlite or VO and use a seatpost with a little set-back. Problem fixed pretty cheaply.

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  23. By the way, since the conversation is also about price, I think a brand to consider is the italian manufacturer Taurus http://www.taurusbiciclette.it/ They have many models at different prices and even make a super vintage one with rod brakes (Corinto) both diamond and loop frame, and also offer more affordable models like the Viaggio. Why nobody imports these bikes in the US is weird, while they import so many "vintage European" style bike made in Taiwan.

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  24. This bike is listed at 29 pounds, and the Bobbin Birdie at 37 pounds. That seems to be a significant difference for bikes that to my untrained eye are set up more or less the same. Any explanation?

    I'm no weight weenie, but the difference between 29 and 37 is noticeable when you're hauling the bike up stairs, or putting it in a car.

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  25. There are two types of classic seat post clamp. Zooming in on the Flickr picture indicates that it's the type with a tab on the top end of the collar that sits on the top rim of the seatpost (the other type has no tab and instead rests on the spot where the seatpost tip transitions to its full width). The tab must go on top, and is not reversible as assembled, however if you remove the clamp bolt you can easily flip the collar around and reassemble so the clamp and bolt are *behind* the seatpost, affording the intended setback. That 1.5" will make a significant difference in the geometry related observations in this review.

    Jamie Magee, co-Founder
    www.NewarkBikeProject.org

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  26. I was considering this bike but ended up going with the bobbin vintage deluxe. Havent seen many reviews of the bobbin vintage but the deluxe version does come with a brooks and a dynamo hub. Ive had it for about 7 months and so far it's great. Changed the front light, tires and grips but thats about it. Just another option for those looking for a dutch-style bike but with lighting options.

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  27. Hello,

    Wondering how this bike compares to the Public C7i? Trying to decide between the two for my wife. While she would use it for rec and maybe the odd grocery run, I don't see her converting to an urban cycle warrior anytime soon. It is pretty darn flat in our city.

    Thanks.

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  28. Hello,

    I just received my Papillionaire Sommer 8-speed yesterday. I had it assembled at a local bike shop and I've only had time to ride it a few miles, but I'm very excited about it so far. After reading through all the comments, I thought I would share how I came to purchase this bike. I'll also post more on how I like the bike after I've had more time to ride it.

    About me: petite female, lives in San Fran, recreational rider who is slightly scared to ride on the streets of SF, due to traffic. I also have an Electra Amsterdam Balloon, but it is so heavy that I rarely ride it.

    Why I want a new bike: I will be apprenticing in a studio 3-4 days per week and the parking lot nearby just doubled in price and shrank in size. I don't get paid, and wanted to save money and time when it comes to parking. I'm also well aware, I should walk or ride when possible to be kind to earth.

    My bike must haves: light weight, easy/fun to ride, 8-speed, upright bike, roughly $800 or under, and must be beautiful. Color choice was key for me.

    My commute:about 3.5 miles each direction, Dogpatch neighborhood to the Mission. Path is not too hilly, maybe just a little if I take the short cut.

    Other bikes I considered:
    Linus Dutchi : I didn't feel comfortable riding this one, I felt as though i might fall off easily, I read that it rusts fast, muted colors weren't exciting enough for me. Price was decent.
    Public C7I and C7: I wasn't excited riding these bikes, it was just an ok ride, the handlebars felt more mountain bike-like than the Sommer does. Price was great though, they had a sale the weekend I test rode. A lot of folks in SF have one.
    Civia, Twin City: a beautiful bike, but the shop did not have my size and wouldn't have more for months. Couldn't even ride the one they had. Good price.
    Handsome, She Devil: a gorgeous bike in a deep purple color, not in my price range at all (shop guy talked me into riding it, so I could feel the nice ride). Stiffer ride, less up right than the Sommer. I'd hate to bang it up. So pretty.
    Pashley: The only shop I could find with Pashley, only had larger bikes so my husband test rode. He lusts after a Pashley, but each time he tests one he says the ride is just not for him. Not comfy enough.Too heavy for me most likely. Not in my price range, I just had to see it in person.

    Bobbin Birdie: I read about it, and thought about it, lusted after it, but couldn't find a store nearby to test ride it, so I forgot about it.

    Why did I choose the Papillionaire? I came across the Lovely Bike site. I read about it here and on a few other sites and it had decent specs and looked good. I then went to Papillionaire's site and saw how easy it was to order and was most likely fatigued by all the research I had been doing, so I just ordered it, untested. Bottom line, I'm not a serious biker, I just wanted a bike that was pretty and easy to ride, and not one that I see on every corner. I didn't feel like over thinking it any further. So, I think I got what I wanted. It sure is beautiful. Let's just see how well it goes.

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    Replies
    1. Hi, Lalatour. Thanks for your review!

      I'm seeing on the site that the 8-speed Sommer comes only in in the "regular" size frame, not a small. How did you feel about the 3-speed and hills?

      How petite are you? I'm 5'3" and like to be able to stop with one toe on the ground while still seated.

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  29. Hi Rosie

    I'm also 5'3" and I've adjusted the seat so I can put my toes on the ground, but there is room to lower the seat more if needed. I feel very comfortable and upright on the bike so far.

    I have the Sommer 8-speed, which I love for the small hills I have to go up and down. There is no local bike shop here that carries Papillionaire, so I didn't test out any of the bikes prior to purchasing online. I'm not sure how the 3-speed would do here.

    I have to say I haven't spent much time on the bicycle yet, but I will share more feedback after I've had more time to ride this weekend.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! Hope the Sommer works out well for you! I ended up buying a Public C7 on the weekend and did my commute with it today.

      At least judging from the photos and the reviews on this blog, I was tempted by the lower price, included rear rack and more attractive leather seat and leather grips on the Papillionaire. However, only the Public was available for a test ride from my local bike shops.

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  30. Hello from Melbourne, Australia! I've been following your blog on and off since mid last year when I was looking around for a cheap, practical bike for my short commute to university. I ended up picking up a Papillionaire Mixte which I've been riding for the past year, so it's interesting to see your write-up on the bike. The price in Australia is a bit lower than what you pay in America - I got mine for $450, including the luggage rack but no basket or lights. At that price, I reckon it's excellent value.

    Since Papillionaire are based just down the road from me, I had the chance to test-ride all three of their bikes before I bought one. The components are identical, but the frame geometry is different. The Sommer is bolt upright, as you described. The Mixte has a slight forward lean, maybe 15 degrees or so for me. The Classic has a noticeable forward lean, similar to a flat bar roadbike. I found the Mixte to have the most comfortable riding position (for me, and considering I'm only doing short 5-10km trips on mostly flat terrain).

    Thoughts after riding it for a year: the only available size is a bit too small for me. There is a noticeable amount of toe overlap, which I notice on one particularly tight corner in my commute. It's survived a year sitting outside in the Melbourne rain with no noticeable rust. The three-speed gearing is pretty much ideal for the mostly-flat inner northern suburbs of Melbourne. It looks nice but is cheap enough that I'm not constantly fretting about it getting stolen.

    I recently did a short overnight trip with it, riding about 45km each day at a very relaxed pace. It's not really the right bike for that—there was one hill where I ran out of gears/muscles and had to walk it up, and the upright posture sucks if you're riding into a headwind. On the dirt path sections the fat tyres did very well, and I reckon I was having more fun than the two guys with me on skinny-tyred roadbikes. So if I want to do more trips like that, I might end up getting a second bike ...

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  31. I bought the Papillionaire 8 speed with a step through frame for $779 +tax in Los Angeles on Melrose Ave last June. I use it to commute to my job at a museum. It is about a 9-10 mile ride. I usually put the bike on the bus and then ride coming back home. There are many hills on the way near UCLA but all down hill going home. It's a great ride to commute to work, for grocery shopping, or for beach rides. I noticed when changing gears it takes a while as I experience clicking noises and feel it stall as it switches gears. I also wish it came with vintage style lighting set. I plan to buy a retro headlamp from Linus bikes. It will look great on the Papillionaire.

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