Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Go on the Bobbin Bramble

Bobbin Bramble Gold Green
Two years ago, I wrote about the Bobbin Birdie when they were first introduced in the US. These brightly coloured, reasonably priced classic loop frame bikes have since become quite popular. The London-based Bobbin now brings another model to the North American market - the step-through Bramble. As they put it, the Bramble is inspired by "the Coventry-made Triumphs beloved by Land Girls and English district nurses in the interwar years up until the 1950s." No doubt fans of Call the Midwife will rejoice.

Bobbin Bramble Gold Green
The Bramble differs from the Birdie in several ways. Its step-through frame features straight parallel tubes.

Bobbin Bramble Gold Green
Its construction is lugless, except for the fork crown. The frame is a mix of hi-ten and cro-moly steel, made in Taiwan. The complete bike weighs around 12kg and is available in 17”,19” and  21” frame sizes.

Bobbin Bramble Gold Green
Instead of the Birdie's internally geared hub, the Bramble features 6-speed derailleur gearing.

Bobbin Bramble Gold Green
And hand-activated caliper brakes, front in rear, rather than a coaster brake. 

Bobbin Bramble Gold Green
And handlebars that are less swept back, for a slightly sportier position. These aspects of the bike make the Bobbin Bramble more suitable for longer and hillier rides than the Birdie, while its commuter-oriented features make it just as transportation-ready.

Bobbin Bramble Gold Green
 Included with the bike are an integrated colour-matched rear rack,

Bobbin Bramble Gold Green
colour-matched fenders, kickstand, bell,

Bobbin Bramble Gold Green
and a chainguard providing plenty of coverage.

Bobbin Bramble Gold Green
The synthetic sprung padded saddle is wide, for an upright sitting position, its caramel-brown colour matching the grips.

Bobbin Bramble Gold Green
The 26" wheels with 1 3/8" city tires are the same as the Birdie's, and do well on battered surfaces.

Bobbin Bramble Gold Green
They also allow for plenty of toe clearance when turning.

Bobbin Bramble Gold Green
But the most noticeable thing about this Bramble is the colour. Bobbin calls this shade "golden-green," and it is the most successful recreation of that magical vintage English 3-speed shade of green I have yet come across. This nuanced green gives off a warm deep glow in the sunlight, with hints of yellow, orange and even crimson detectable in its flame-like shimmer. Needless to say, I am crazy about this colour - but for those less enamoured, the Bramble is also available in plum.

Bobbin Bramble Gold Green
I test rode the Bobbin Bramble at the Bicycle Belle in Boston, along a typical local commuter's route. Much like the Birdie, this is a straightforward, no fuss, "hop on and go" type of bike that did not call attention to itself as I cycled around the neighbourhood. The sitting position can range from bolt-upright to jauntily leaned-forward, and my own preference is for the bars and saddle to be level. However, most of those who buy these bikes seem to prefer the bars set higher, and the handling remains stable with this arrangement.

For whatever reason, I found the ride quality of the Bramble a little cushier than that of the Birdie. On the other hand, I found the handlebars uncomfortable: There is something about this particular bend that twists my wrists at an awkward angle. This could be a matter of personal taste of course. 

The Bramble does not come equipped with lighting, so adding it will be an extra expense. However, everything else needed for a comfortable commute is there. Priced at around $530 in the USA, the Bramble is another welcome option from Bobbin - this time for hillier, longer commutes. And the stunning colour does not hurt either. 

See complete specs and picture set, and many thanks to the Bicycle Belle for the test ride. 

44 comments:

  1. Love the look and color. Very affordable. A Soma torpedo light would look great on this bike - a LED light with built-in reflector. I just put one on my plum Raleigh Detour 2.5. Glad to see some cromo steel in the Birdie.

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  2. The design of this Bobbin bicycle and the color are absolutely gorgeous!!! And yes, as a "Call the Midwife" fan I say that this bicycle looks like a lot like the ones on the show!
    Maria

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  3. A bit pricey for what it offers (cheap components). Fot that price it should include the front dynamo hub and a light as well. Otherwise it should cost not more than $450.

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    1. I agree with your comments on price and component quality and would like to add: Why isn't the bike equipped with an internal-gear hub?

      Methinks the manufacturer is out to maximize profit. Unfortunately the decisions made on the configuration of this bike will prove the opposite.

      Wouldn't it be nice sales figures on the various makes and models were made known?

      Al

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    2. Personally I would prefer this bike as-is (ie with derailleur gearing) for the area I am living in now. The choice of derailleur gearing need not be tied to profit-related motives.

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    3. Though that particular derailleur and cluster are incredibly cheap!

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    4. Well yes, it's a $500 bike; can't have it all. Silver lining is that a bad derailleur is cheaper and easier to replace than a bad hub.

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    5. One can have much more than this for the same amount of money. Just saying. It's sad the ways manufactures skimp on components and go for some sort of overall look in order to seduce buyers. In the end these components will be replaced but if a better quality hub or drive train were initially installed there may be less worries down the road. I speak as someone who has had to replace many of these and explain to disgruntled customers they were crap to begin with....but, oh man, that color! Wheels are also included in my gripe, but I don't know enough about these to complain. I think it's much easier to make a bad derailleur than a bad IBH.

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    6. I prefer a derailleur to internal hub for my area. Anything I don't like on a bike, I can add later. I'm just glad to see such a bike made that is affordable.

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  4. It should be no surprise that the ride is cushier; those two parallel tubes give you the equivalent of a small front shock absorber. Think about what happens if you want to move the bottom bracket down relative to the head tube -- no compression or tension of frame tubes, just bending at the attachments as the parallelogram gets a little flatter. That same movement with a triangular set of tubes would require shrinking and stretching of tubes -- something they are very good at resisting.

    Hands sensitive to "sporty" handlebar position is also not that uncommon, especially as you get older.

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  5. Looks nice. I wish my LBS carried more bikes like this.

    I'm curious, since I'm still a cycling n00b, what is it about the shape of the handlebars that makes them better for hills, as opposed to other types?

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    1. Nothing about the shape of the bars, but the gripping areas being more forward. Personally I prefer to achieve this with swept-back bars coupled with a longer stem.

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    2. By the way, your blog has sparked an interest in learning more about the technical aspects of bikes.

      What is it about the gripping areas being more forward then, that helps on hills?

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    3. Imagine yourself on a bike. Assuming all else remains equal, as your hands move forward you are in an increasingly leaned-over position. This does a few things to help you go faster, including making you more aerodynamic (wind/air resistant).

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    4. Of course, grips further forward will also give you some more room for out-of-the-saddle efforts...

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  6. Looking at your photos on my screen the first thing I noticed was that color green. I haven't seen that exact shade in about 40 years on my dad's Superbe. The few Raleighs you find today, at least here in the South, have faded due to age and sun exposure and I have never seen a new paint job that captured the exact appearance of that original paint. If they could just white stripe the rear fender and place the reflector there it would be perfect. I always assumed that Triumphs were Raleigh built. Thanks for setting me straight. Its obviously common for some of the best bike blogs to go dormant and often never return. I had feared the worst and am very happy to be wrong this time. Missed you much over the past several weeks and the new posts are a like a feast for the starving.

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    1. After 1954, Triumphs were Raleigh-built. The ad-copy quoted above specifically refers to earlier Triumphs.

      This bike, of course, was built nowhere near Coventry, nor Nottingham.

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  7. 'These aspects of the bike make the Bobbin Bramble more suitable for longer and hillier rides than the Birdie, while its commuter-oriented features make it just as transportation-ready.'

    I'd take this thought with a grain of salt. If long or hilly rides are part of your hopes this bike will probably make you less happy than one which is both lighter and more efficiently designed. It looks fine for one who needs a bike for brief commutes or weekend, sunny excursions.

    It's not clear whether the rims are steel or alloy and is the shifter index or friction? No matter, the derailleur looks incredibly cheap....I hope it comes with some guarantees. Really, to think of all the effort to make and ship this bike around the world it seems so much wiser to find a refurbished and better quality used bike.

    I know, it's sad I'm so out of it when it comes to both the price and quality of these entry level bikes which, I think, if one really wants to commit to bicycling, will only last a season or so before an upgrade is deemed necessary.

    But, visually, it looks nice.

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    1. My thoughts on vintage bikes vs cheap new bikes are similar (see here). But FWIW with Bobbin Birdies at least, I've noticed that those who buy them do not tend to upgrade/regret the cheap purchase as much as some of the other bikes in the same price range.

      As far as hillier rides, it's a matter of degree. A 20 mile commute with regular 10%+ grade stretches? No. A commute that's somewhat longer and hillier than the typical urban one? Yes.

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    2. Velouria, the hill issue is a individual matter. In my midwest, relatively flat, town I've watched folks in similar bikes learning forward and working like crazy on a hill you or I would consider quite mild, if a hill at all. They look so miserable and uncomfortable. My neighbor quit riding to work altogether because her brand new bike was too hard to pedal up the slight incline at the beginning of her two mile commute. Even going into the wind in her upright position made her hate the ride. She bought into the 'romance of cycling' only to find the marriage with her bike too problematic. The point is, try the bikes first and don't blindly accept the advice of others.

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    3. I see a new generation of young people swanning about in the city in full romantic mode, but invariably, if they ride a lot, they scrunch.

      Midwest winds mean the ideal position is represented by a snail.

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  8. This review and similar bike reviews are very welcome as I've been sending them to Janine, my neighbor, who is looking for a new bike to ride with her husband. Your reviews always provide thoughtful guidance and points to consider that greatly enlarge one's shopping perspective. Thanks! This bike is beautiful! (I've still got a 1950's Raleigh Lady's Sport.) Jim Duncan

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  9. Wow, I find it hard to believe this bike is around 26 lbs. With steel frame/fork/fenders/crank/seatpost and what looks like a sturdy rack I'd think this would be over 30 lbs.

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  10. Looks like that Raleigh Sports colour.

    Generally not a fan of this kind of ergo - slack sta, semi-swept lean-y bars makes for an awkward riding position. Sat upright the bars may be too far away, depending on personal measures.

    This definitely reminds me of an adapted 80s mtb, particularly the tall stem, twenty sixes, plain just get it done straight tubes nothing fancy. Frankly without the paint it'd be very generic, not that that's bad.

    Really not a fan of these vestigial rear racks, but they'll do for a laptop.

    btw pls. note more bikes are coming with these bars for seating variance, not to mention preventing thing stabbing with swept backs. I much prefer the traditional bars with a long cockpit and long stem with lots of return.
    Whatever, I'd ride it.

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    1. Same here re bars.

      What don't you like about that rear rack design?

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    2. This style is becoming increasingly prevalent for aesthetics, bracing cross-members are omitted for a cleaner look. I think Giant or someone has this same shape but the horizontal stays are welded to the frame, making it much stronger. This one is like my Public rack - ok for up to maybe ten pounds but invariable easily twisted, as mine was. In fact it was pretty easy to bend it by hand to force fit it. The flimsier the rack the more weight shifts, resulting in a looser, squirellier handling feel.

      Mrs. GR is still running my 30 year old Blackburn daily with perma-basket and perma-pannier attached, rock solid at least 20lbs. worth of stuff.

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    3. Twenty sixes? That bike is rolling on 590s... a size that was never-ever common on mtbs... not even in the 80s.

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  11. Pretty colour, not quite bronze green, but lovely all the same, and a pretty bike. But in keeping with the simplicity and spirit of old british bicycles, I do not get why they have a rear derailleur and not an internally geared hub. I know they add a bit of weight, but 5 or 8 or more hubs are out there. What would be the range of the bike? I do have a vintage 5 speed raleigh with a rear derailleur of very limited range and just as heavy as my raleigh sports with internal geared hub. I for one love my internal hubbed bike which is my commuter. Not having to even think about rear derailleurs in bad weather and winter is so nice. But this bike is pretty, and if it's light, well all the better.

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    1. Did not check the range on the cluster, but a well-conceived 5 or 6 speed bike works fine. I tour and do long day rides here in the mid-west on a 1 x 5.

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    2. I think that the rationale was that Bobbin already made an IGH bike (the Birdie) and wanted a derailleur alternative in their line. I've mostly sold it to people who live up a big hill and needed a bit more range than the 3 speed Birdie offered.

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  12. I meant 5 or 8 or more speed hubs...

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  13. A lot of low end derailleurs shift just fine. Can't positively ID this one or vouch for it, do know a lot of similar that go the life of the bike.

    The 'cheap' and irredeemable feature on this bike is the toptube/seattube junction. There has to be some sort of reinforcement or load spreading device or the frame will fold right there. A lug, a sleeve, a plate, a flared end to the toptube, something. As is, I'd be afraid of this one.

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  14. I would have thought at the $500 mark it might at least merit 2300 series derailleurs, and derailleur hanger rather than a claw. That derailleur is so low end that shimano don't even have a product listing on their website. It is a pleasant colour though. For initial cost, reliability and replaceability the derailleur beats the IGH hands down.

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    1. This derailleur is a 'living fossil' (at least kind of ...), a direct derivative of Shimanos 1967 'Skylark', about which Mike Sweatman of Disraeligears says: "Shimano’s campaign of world domination began with this very model of derailleur. One of my ‘derailleurs that changed the world’." (http://www.disraeligears.co.uk/Site/Shimano_Sky_Lark_red_derailleur_%281st_style%29.html).
      So the derailleur on this bike certainly is a very low level offering by today's standards, but at least it may be reckoned as a traditional piece of bicycle equipment (in a way ...).

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  15. Apart from the paint it is not so different to this:
    http://www.reidcycles.com.au/bicycles/ladies-bikes/reid-vintage-ladies-bike-6-speed-special-edition.html#.UoiuimSH5Yh
    which I see everywhere in melbourne (at this price that is not surprising)

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    1. Unless you posted the wrong link, the bikes are pretty different IMO.

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  16. Pray-tell, why in this day and age is a bike offered with a steel crank? It get worse, the wheels/tires are 26x13/8 rather than, the more efficient and readily available in a wide selection of varieties, the 700c size.Then too as the spec sheet give no mention, perhaps the rims are steel as well as the crank.

    I think that as others have said, Bobbin could have made a better offering at this price-point.

    Al

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  17. The pedals seem to be ball-bearingless cheapies. One would expect better.

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  18. Could say each to their own an' all that...not my market afterall being male...

    Could also say, spend more money and buy the real thing - a Pashley Poppy...

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  19. Anybody know who makes that chainguard? (I've beaten around the web a few times looking for a manufacturer of Bobbin's chainguards.) It looks enough like one I'm trying to replace, that I'd love to buy one.

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  20. My old Land Rover Discovery was Woodcote green and looked just like that. It was a fantastic colr and blended right into the woods. Now I miss it.

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  21. I would suspect Bobbin's claims of 26 lb to be overly ambitious (any steel bike with fenders, rack, and lower end parts is going to weigh closer to 30 lb), but to the bike's credit the cranks and seat post don't appear to be steel. And the bike seems to strike a very nice balance between aesthetics, utilitarianism, and affordability. I would not argue with Bobbin's selection of parts at this price point. I think it's a decent bike for the price and if one wanted to upgrade to nicer components that's perfectly reasonable to do so.

    As for the many comments on the rear derailleur, yes it's a very old design, and it's Shimano's lowest model, but it's perfectly reliable, even bulletproof. It's the same one they put on kids' bikes, including the expensive (relatively speaking, for a kids' bike) Specialized Hotrock. My daughter has that bike and the derailleur shifts just fine and survives being bashed on the ground without needing straightening or cable readjustment. That's desirable, actually, in a city bike that may get knocked over when locked to a bike rack.

    I'd say the Bobbin Bramble most closely resembles the Raleigh Sprite, as that bike was essentially a Sports but with 5-speed derailleur.

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  22. A lot of older Finnish bikes used to have a same kind of a rear rack and at least those ones used to be very strong. Actually many of Finnish women's bikes from the 80's used be almost identical to this but they had one piece cranks, a lock welded to the rear fork and Shimano positron dérailleurs. I think that the rims are aluminium because steel rims are either chromed or painted and these are not either and also the cranks looks aluminium not steel but chainring is in most these kinds of cranks is steel. I would think that the bike would be reasonably dependable. By the way the that kind of chainguards are readily available in Finnish bike stores and they cost around 20-30 euros.

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