Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Springing to Life: the Simcoe Roadster

Simcoe Roadster
At one point, many of the European city bicycles available in North America were distributed by a company called Fourth Floor in Toronto. Through test riding the bikes they carried, I got to know the guys who ran Fourth Floor and eventually learned they were working on their own line of products. At Interbike 2012 the newly launched Simcoe was unveiled, with a display of prototype bicycles and bags. The idea behind the brand was to make a quality, yet no-frills classic city bicycle, at a reasonable pricepoint. The prototypes looked good, but the final product was not yet ready. By the time Simcoe bikes did become available it was Spring 2014, with a number of other companies promoting a similar concept. Would Simcoe stand out? In the final days of my last visit to Boston, I got a chance to find out, as the Bicycle Belle received a sample of the Simcoe Signature Roadster. We were actually expecting the step-through model, but there must have been a mix-up. No matter. No sooner was the diamond frame assembled that I took it out for a spin.

Simcoe Roadster
When I do a test ride for the blog, I will normally spend some time examining and photographing the bicycle before riding it. But the way this day worked out, I hopped on the Simcoe first, and only after the test ride did I even get a good look at it. So my first impressions were based purely on feel. And these impressions were two-fold. First, this bike felt like a vintage roadster. That mysterious ride quality particular to old English 3-speeds that modern manufacturers can't seem to recreate was there. It was not a cushiness attributable to obvious things like tire width or even frame flex, but to something different, something only those who've ridden bikes like the Raleigh DL-1 and the Humber and the Royal Enfield will understand, while others might be skeptical about (and perhaps rightly so!). Bike construction is not magic and every sensation can be explained if you look hard enough. Probably Simcoe tapped into the right combination of tubing, geometry, wheel rims, et cetera, to achieve this feel - either deliberately or due to sheer luck. Still - subjectively, that intangible "vintage bike feel" was there.

The second thing I noticed while riding the Simcoe, was that it fit me in a way that worked very well for stop-and-go city cycling. It is a long bike with a fairly low bottom bracket. This combination accomplishes several things that I like in a city bike. The low bottom bracket makes it possible to adjust saddle height so as to get full leg extension when pedaling, and also put a toe down at a stop without dismounting. The long top tube combined with the swept back handlebars gives the cockpit a nice roomy feel while allowing for an upright position. The length also prevents toe overlap with the front wheel, as well as "handlebar poke" on turns (the latter doesn't bother me, but some riders complain of it). While I much prefer to ride a step-through for transportation to a diamond frame, I could forgive this bike because it otherwise felt so nice. 

As far as speed, Simcoe describes the Roadster as being "upright yet agile …perfect for short rides through the city, and long rolls through the park." This is pretty much spot on. The bike maneuvers, accelerates and progresses uphill nicely, especially considering its relaxed feel and length. But it is a city bike, so any comments on speed and climbing have to be taken in that context. Compared to other upright city bikes I've tried, it is on the faster end of the spectrum. The 3 speeds on the model I rode felt more than sufficient for the relatively benign hills of Cambridge I tackled. 

Simcoe Roadster
Getting back to the bicycle itself, the Simcoe Roadster is a fairly straightforward English 3-speed inspired city bike. Relaxed angles, upright position, hub gearing, fenders, chaincase, rear rack, kickstand. Front and rear caliper brakes. The Roadster bikes are available in 20" and 22" frame sizes, both with 700C wheels and 35mm Delta Cruiser tires. The weight is not stated, but I would estimate it to be between 30 and 35lb.

Simcoe Roadster
The Taiwan-made frames (described as combination hi-ten steel and cromoly) are welded, with a couple of faux-lug flourishes on the headtube. 

Simcoe Roadster
The cromoly fork features a nice twin plated crown with a 4-cornered star emblem. 

Simcoe Roadster
The headbadge is a sort of stylised leaf. I could be reading too much into this, but maybe an homage to its Canadian provenance? The word Simcoe itself - which at first I thought might be a combination of the founders' initials followed by "Co" as in "company," is in fact the name of a town in Ontario. 

Simcoe Roadster
The Roadster's chaincase is one-sided and open at the rear. While not fully enclosed, it allows for easier wheel removal and still keeps most of the chain covered. The rear rack is extra long,

Simcoe Roadster
with built-in bungee cord attachment points.

Simcoe Roadster
Eyelets at the fork dropouts allow for an optional front rack as well. 

Simcoe Roadster
A Brooks B68 saddle comes standard with this bike. The cost for the 3-speed Signature Roadster model as shown is $899. At that price it comes fully equipped for utility cycling, with the notable exception of lighting. 

Simcoe Roadster
As far as the Simcoe Roadster's looks, I am neutral. Abstracting my dislike of this almost neon shade of kelly green (it's also available in blue and slate gray), the bike comes across to me as rather ordinary, perhaps even made a little awkward by the extra-long rear rack. Were I to see it in a line-up next to a Linus, Papillionnaire, and the like, I don't think it would stand out as a "nicer" bike, despite the stock Brooks saddle. Yet it is priced a step above these. To me, the price difference would be worth it for the feel and ride quality of the Simcoe. But I wonder whether the lack of aesthetic differentiation might be an issue for potential customers. 

Simcoe Roadster
If you are considering Simcoe's Step-Through model, please note that I did not ride that version of the bike. Judging by the pictures, the step-throughs are constructed differently from the diamond frames. I am curious to try one and perhaps some day I will, but for now my feedback applies only to the Roadster. 

For a company brand new to bicycle manufacturing, the Simcoe Roadster is an impressive start. As distributors, the guys behind it have had a great deal of experience with both European city bikes and North American customers, and it shows. And it probably didn't hurt that one of the designers learned frame building from Mike Flanigan. If you're in the market for a sub-$1,000 city bike and are chasing that intangible "vintage bike feel" in a modern machine, the Simcoe Signature Roadster is worth a look - but more so, a test ride. 

71 comments:

  1. Cool that it feels like a roadster!

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  2. At first when I saw the top picture quickly I thought you dug up a cool old bike in time capsule condition somewhere. I think due entirely to the chrome fender trim on the front "mudguard".

    The rack in the same color, while big, will be appreciated for carrying abilities if it is sufficiently strong. Hard to tell from the pictures. I love the twin plate fork crown. I did a double take at the faux lugs wondering why the tubes were so far from them!

    In NYC, out of the corner of my eye, the cool vintage looking bikes in nice shape tend to be the Linus bikes.

    This has a nice form as well and would be good to see in the other colors.

    vsk

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    1. Velouria, am I correct that you have not yet ridden/reviewed a Linus? I scoured your reviews when I considered (and ultimately purchased) a Dutchi 3-speed, and other than contemplating swapping 3- for 8-speed, I find it quite lovely for the price point, and a very comfortable and beautiful bicycle. I'd be curious to see what you think of it (in all its welded glory) if you ever decide to do a full review. It may well be the "meh" experience for you that you anticipate (you've ridden many lovely bicycles at significantly higher price points), but I'd recommend my bike to a prospective buyer. I have the small frame, which I find quite nicely proportioned (I'm 5'2 with a long torso).

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    2. Yes, the Linus can be had in all cro-mo steel and has that classic look. Very nice looking bikes.

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    3. I've ridden Linuses every year since they came out and consistently don't like the feel of them (nothing to do with the frames being welded - just the fit and the feel of the ride). Haven't posted a review, because I wasn't sure how to separate personal preferences from presenting the bike in a fair way. That, plus in the first couple of years they were out, we would see practically new Ls rusted all over Boston, so that put me off. I am told they solved that problem last year. I think I could do a fair test ride report of the bikes now, and will once I get a chance to take some pictures.

      That said, I do suggest Linus bikes to those looking for a budget priced off the shelf city bike for all the reasons you give, Rebecca. I know many cyclists are quite pleased with them.

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    4. You dislike bikes all the time while presenting them in a fair way. This is no different.

      Linuses are noodles. You have to ride them in a certain way.

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  3. Not a fan of that green either, but it looks nice with the purple background!

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  4. That "magic roadster feel" means underbuilt noodle in other words, not that there's anything wrong with that.

    I don't get these subjective feel reviews when your strength and bike riding competence has changed immensely. I mean of course you're going to experience the same big differently now.

    Anyway all those things you mentioned add to that feel, not just one. Of course you knew that.

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    1. I've ridden bikes that felt noodly, but this old roadster feel is a different thing.

      The concept of bicycle reviews is on the whole problematic. Best to think of them as subjective descriptions with some opinions thrown in.

      I try to keep up to date on various bikes by occasionally re-trying them. For the most part, my impressions of bikes I've ridden in the past don't really change, as much as the way I would contextualise and articulate those impressions.

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    2. The Raleigh DL-1 I use to have was very twitchy up front. I finally sold it because of that - and the rod brakes.

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    3. Well, it's the re-contextualization that I'm referring to.

      Furthermore, you have to define noodly, where it occurs, why it does what it does. Not all noodles noddle in the same noodly fashion. That's what being a bike reviewer is, subjective opinion or not.

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  5. Good looking bike. With a price point that toes the line between budget and high end, they will need a strategy to compete with Linus, Public and the others you mention. We will see how they get on 1-2 years from now.

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  6. The leaf headbadge is not maple leafy. Simcoe likely refers to a street in Toronto in the U of T area with many trees, old buildings etc..
    I have a vintage 3 speed and love the ride quality, so interesting that these guys figured it out.

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  7. Well...
    Nice bike and all.
    But that rack is way too high. A custom rack should hug the rear fender, not sit, what, 3 inches above it?!

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  8. Modern iterations of the Raleigh Sport are very good additions to the urban bike marketplace. I've owned at least four Sportses and, while I'd love to love them, I always hate the way the ride -- heavy, excessively narrow tread, over geared, but mostly just heavy. And, moreover, heavy. OTOH, a few years ago a LBS had on display a Specialized modernization of the same theme, tout alumimium, that must have weighed half of what the Sports weighs. Heck, even my daughter's Electra Townie 3i with mattress saddle weighed considerably less than a Sports. For cheap urban bikes, I think aluminum (or aluminium if you like) is the best material for frame, fork and components.

    Wonder what a DL-1 would be like in aluminium ....

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    1. I wonder what a Hershey bar would be like, if they made it out of pickles instead of chocolate.

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  9. I look forward to comparing a linus to a simcoe after a winter of riding. Linus bikes are rendered useless after a month of slush and salt ... curious how southern ontario designs will stand up next Feb :)

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  10. A shame that it doesn't roll on 28"s....

    I'm thinking the headbadge is a impressionist rendition of a hops cone. Simcoe was a popular variety of hops back when this project's creator's were scheming, and it's still used a lot today. Here's some pictures of a Simcoe hops cone.

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-f5UFlWFDqFY/TnAO_uPFOmI/AAAAAAAAAHY/fjq6eNgiazI/s1600/large_hops_cone.jpg

    While it's true that Simcoe is a Canadian town, and that Simcoe hops are grown in Washington state (likely named for Fort Simcoe), most North American crop varieties come from the Pacific NW... And that headbadge looks more like hops than it does Ontario.

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  11. Some Ontario history, the town Simcoe was named after John Graves Simcoe the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Graves_Simcoe

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  12. Interesting that more and more of these "city" bikes are hitting the market with chromoly downtubes and hi-ten steel for the remainder of the frame. It seems like just 5 years ago or so, many people would have bulked at the idea of any frame containing hi-ten, and now it's a pretty common feature in this type of bicycle even at a close to $1000 range.

    I think the Linus models near that price point are straight chomoly. Could be wrong, though.

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    1. Yes, I believe Linus bikes are cromoly.

      At least to some extent it is an image and marketing issue. Putting aside the fact that cro-moly is a very broad category and is not particularly informative without further info (wall thickness? butting?), the cromoly designation in the context of city bike marketing literature is interpreted to designate "better" - as in lighter, more sporty - tubing than hi-ten steel. And it is certainly better in some ways, for some types of bikes. But maybe not so much in all ways, for all bikes. Even high end custom builders are realising that and making the deliberate choice to use hi-ten when they believe it would be beneficial to the build.

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    2. Hm. Not sure what you just said there.

      Hi ten absorbs energy more so than a comparable cro-mo ime. That makes CrMo better suited for energy transfer points, like the dt, and hi ten for absorptive places, for ride quality.

      Sometimes you can't tell what a bike is made from ride quality-wise. But you sure can once you jam on it.

      Hi ten maximizes profit as well. Let's not be naive on this folks.

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    3. Occasionally I'll see a super crappy frame decked out with modern components, probably done more for the engineering challenge rather than some misguided notion of hipsterism. Or not.

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    4. I'd be interested to know to what degree you think a company like Simcoe is incorporating hi-ten into the frame to create a certain feel to the ride, and to what degree they're doing it because it lowers production costs.

      As I said, you're seeing more and more companies (like Civia and Public, for example) work hi-ten into their designs where prior models were straight cromoly, but I've never seen a great source (and I'm willing to read if you know of any) that discusses in detail the advantages of adding hi-ten to the tubing mix.

      Like I said, for years the standard line was that hi-ten was inferior to almost every commonly-use cromoly tubing. The cynic in me has always viewed it as a way to just drive down the cost of producing the frames/bicycle in a way that most consumers won't notice or complain about--as opposed to cheaping out on component spec.

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    5. My take is the vast majority of city bikers either don't put out enough power or ride fast enough to know the dif., but they *want* cromo because they're told it's better.

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    6. I've ridden hi-ten frames that were fine and ones that were the worst bikes ever. I suspect that tubing design can have as much impact as material. Probably safe to assume that cromo tubing will at least have better manufacturing and design (thinner walls, etc.) In that, "Cromo" may be a "marker" of quality rather than inherently better due solely to the material.

      I've no doubt that companies like to introduce some hi-ten tubes to save cost while still being able to make the "cromoly frame" claim. But I don't see that as completely nefarious. Hitting a particular price point is part of the design process. Bikes are not high margin items. Most of the little cost cutting decisions they make at this price point probably come right off the retail price. $10K carbon bikes, maybe not so much...

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    7. My take is that chromo fans like it b/c it's stronger.... the folks who want lightweight steel bikes appreciate that the tubing can be drawn to thinner wall thickness for weight savings without the frame becoming significantly weaker as a result. BMXicans and fat guys like chromoly in thick-walled iterations because it's incredibly stiff and resistant to dings, bends, and other failures due to trauma. It can still happen, but...

      I recently bought a GBP Article 1, mostly for S&G, but the guys running that show are really psyched to use small diameter, thick-walled 4130 throughout. The thing is heavy, stiff, and primitive... just my style. And under $600 for a frame hand-made in Cali....

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    8. It's counter intuitive, but true, that any of the zillion steel alloys, in any configuration or shape, only exhibit different characteristics when extended to their limits.

      A Hi-Ten alloy (anyone care to try to define that term?) tube and a Chrome-Molybdenum tube(only a little easier to define) of the same diameter and wall thickness have, for all practical purposes, identical behavior until you reach the limits of the weaker tube. If you didn't ride it hard enough to bend it you didn't feel anything different that you can ascribe to the material.

      Chrome-Moly and the other high yielding alloys allow lighter tubing to be used due to it's greater strength but if you expect to change the ride of a bike just by substituting a different steel alloy without changing the design to take advantage of the characteristics of that material, than you simply made it stronger, not different to ride.

      I build lots of stuff, but the only things I use Chrome-Moly for are things that have to be very light and very strong. Everything else gets made out of mild steel(Hi-Ten) which is what most of the things in the world are made of, including most of the really neat stuff. People who insist I make the roll-bar for their Miata, or the control arms for their Jeep out of Chro-mo don't understand everything they know or just can't spend their money fast enough. Anyone who want's me to build them a Bike rack out of mild steel gets chrome-moly anyway and I just hide the extra cost in the labor or give it to them free because mild steel racks have to be heavy and ugly.

      Even the worst steel is good enough for damn near anything.

      Spindizzy.

      I gotta' go sit down... ranting is getting so much harder now that I'm so freakin' old.

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    9. There is no difference at all in the ride of hi-ten vesus CrMo given equal tube dimensions. Steel is steel. CrMo will have greater longevity. Matters only if you are keeping the bike a lifetime or you are buying an old one that's been around a lifetime. CrMo is more likely to be built into high quality frames. The tubing sticker is a good enough marker if you aren't into the arcana of discerning fine metalwork.

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    10. I have no problem with hi-ten being used in a frame, and my wife has a Linus Mixte that has a frame/fork made mostly out of that material. And I agree that for many/most people riding this type of bike, the difference between cromoly and hi-ten would likely be imperceptible to the rider.

      That said, at this price point, I'm sticking to my story that I'm surprised to see a frame using hi-ten. Other manufactures at this price point using taiwan-made frames are using all cromoly tubes. At a minimum, using all cromoly is likely to create a lighter ride (my wife's Linus is ungodly heavy, and it is an issue in relation to her getting the bike up from the basement by herself). My wife's hi-ten Linus was also hundreds less than the Simcoe, and, absent the Brooks upgrade, fairly similar in spec.

      I look at it this way. Copper and PVC pipe both get the job done of running water to your faucet equally well. That doesn't mean you would be happy with a plummer charging you prices in line with installing copper pipes, when in reality your getting PVC.

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    11. "There is no difference at all in the ride of hi-ten vesus CrMo given equal tube dimensions. Steel is steel."

      This is a patently false urban myth, promulgated by those who can't feel the difference. People who say this insist on it being true at the cost of others' tactile abilities, relying on theory instead. The theory is wrong. Cromo has spring you can feel.

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    12. Hi Jim,

      The problem is that you can never really find bikes to test that are identical in all particulars except for the alloy used. If the tubes are the same diameter, wall thickness, butting profile, mitered the same, welded or lugged identically etc then we would be able to test by riding and see where the chips fall. I don't know of any examples we could use and I'm not going to build them.

      I maintain that well built chrom-mo bikes ride better because the builders exploit the possibilities of the material to use less. A lighter tube will deflect a bit more at the same load than a heavier tube giving a livelier ride. As long as it's properly designed you wont overstress it by using it for what it's intended. You can't build a light bike out of tubing you need to use more of.

      I take a bit of issue with the Urban Myth comment, the properties we're discussing are all well defined and quantified by standard engineering practice and are in no way theoretical. I've got all sorts of bikes made from everything from strait gauge mild and chromo-mo to aluminum, butted, strait and hydroformed, to Columbus and Reynolds 531-631-753. I can tell differences between all of them but none of them are constructed alike. What conclusions should I draw?

      I think I would defer to you on lot's of subjects, you seem to have your brain engaged pretty much all the time but I think we'd probably ride far and often before we could ever talk this one out.

      Spindizzy

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    13. I pretty much agree about like vs. like construction techniques and the impossibility of comparing two examples due to many factors.

      I'll just leave you with this: I've ridden many, many hi-ten bikes, they are all functional but none have any snap. Some were light, some heavy, none popped.

      Cromo has that pop, for me and a lot of others. Heavy, light, it firms up after a point, as you confirmed above, that feels lively and allows me to get on top of the next stroke quicker. Now this could translate into speed, and probably does due to less rider fatigue, but I'm talking mostly about feel.

      As far as weight goes here's an example: a Workcycles fr8 is a great bike, hi-ten, completely overbuilt and...impossible to go fast or climb on. Maybe about 50 lbs. with the doodads. My xtracycle starts at 85 lbs. and is infinitely less leg-sapping on hills or the flat and, believe it or not, much more lively. That has to do with an oversized, overbuilt donor frame.

      I remain open to the possibility of hi-ten bikes being somewhat fast-worthy, but of the kajillion cheap examples I've ridden (less than $800), none have near the feeling of a decent cromo. By feel I mean keeping that bike at 16mph over distance; it's pretty hard to do on a hi-ten bike, even with half-decent components.

      Just thought of something - though you can't ride the identical bike made from two materials, you could ride an older Public with a hi-ten dt and one with a cromo. I've ridden all the previous but not the cromo dt one. Due to much higher mass production quality than even 10 years ago, that should give one and idea. Plus you could ride a few examples of the same bike/same material to get a baseline. P.S. I know someone who used to work there who let me microanalyze those feels.

      Anyway this is a beer, ride a fleet 'o' bikes discussion the interweb doesn't lend itself to, tho after the requisite 12 any conclusion is possible.

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    14. for clarity the fr8 vs xtra comparo was done with identical tires, schwlabe fat franks.

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    15. Spin dude, sign your name or get a blogger acct. so I know not to be rude to you. Jeez old people. Oops.

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    16. Jim

      I picked up the urban myth from Oscar Wastyn. Maybe that's not a household name chez GRJ. The guy that taught Albert Eisentraut how to build. The old shop on Milwaukee Ave. was in a fantastically urban setting. Everything connected with Oscar or Emil was kinda mythological. So you're part right. We were looking at a Wastyn Custom ready to go to paint. The tubes looked different. Oscar told me that was because the DT and TT were plain carbon steel. I was a tyke already starry-eyed over 531. I'd already had some rides on an Emil (probably Accles & Pollock tube) and knew how great that was and could not get why this kind of frame would be built from cheap tube. Oscar explained to me. I thought Mr. Wastyn was a very nice man but my young brain was not processing this. So I went home and asked my Dad. Dad was a chemist, not a metallurgist. He was however responsible for the safe operation of the entire Commonwealth Edison nuclear fleet and he'd needed to pick up some metallurgy along the way. Dad told me Mr. Wastyn had told me exactly right. So it's been settled for me since 1966. Since then I've heard the same confirmed many times, many ways.

      I remember Richard Sachs as this fairly annoying young man trying to hawk Brit-looking frames for $250. He's done well. He's an online guy where Oscar or Albert are not. He's online voluminously and prodigiously and has addressed this 'issue' often. He's a super enjoyable read the first time and could even grow on you.

      I'm anon because I'm an old people and these intertoobs makes my hand shake. Give me a steel handlebar wrapped in Gaslo and I'll be fine.

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    17. Spin, don't read the following, this is for anon...give yourself too a pseudonym at least, a pen name.

      I've heard it for years, those "in the know" make fun of me...yet when I get on the bikes, without pre-knowledge, I can guess pretty accurately.

      I'm no metallurgist either, engineer dna runs in my fam going back generations, not that that has anything to do with anything. What I know is the more densely-packed a material, given same manufacturing, the more uniform a fiber is oriented, then cross-hatched, the better bonded the structure is to itself, the more efficient it is, which translates to speed. That's just my feel. Years ago I read up a little on hi ten - its structure contains much more "empty space" than cromo per volume. There really is something to that I think. Go make fun of me, but my brain, legs, hands and butt tell me I'm having more fun on the cromo bike when trying to go fast.

      It'd be an interesting poll to quiz metallurgists (do they even exist anymore) that believed one thing due to training, yet another due to riding experience.

      Bear in mind the power of oral history - it can lead to mythology and confirmed bias. Just look in any office setting or the Balkans.

      btw my 531 Bob Jackson has a far, far superior ride quality, and is faster, than many modern mass-produced cromo machines I've ridden, not to mention hi-ten. The difference is striking, same wheels.

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    18. When John Howard was racing for Turin he was supposed to ride Bob Jacksons but refused after a while because he wore them out in six weeks. Do you maybe have one of the Ohio-built Bob Jacksons by Jack Trumbull? Now those are fine bikes. Same tubes.

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    19. Hey Jim, I'm at jon.redbarn@gmail.com.

      I kinda' regret getting all pedantic about this because it's not something worth getting excited about. Good light bikes ride better and you and I prefer steel ones because we know aluminum is for cans and plastic is for trashbags.

      Too bad we can't ride together, you'd help me get faster and I'd help you...uh,... help me get faster?

      Spindizzy

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    20. Spin - you could teach me to weld a roll cage.

      Old anon - mine's from the UK. Ah another controversial subject: do metal frames wear out under race conditions. But that's a discussion for another era - Howard rides carbon now, just like every other fast guy out there.

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    21. Jim

      An example from bikes that are not obscure. Everyone is familiar with Raleigh/Carlton Super Course/Gran Sport/ Competition/International bikes. The ride quality and build quality of those frames is all over the map. Most are good, some are wonderful, too many are short of brass in the lugs. I've seen an International pull the DT right out of the BB shell while being raced. I have personally been on a Competition that had seen parade service for decades and I broke the dropout first time I rode it. No brass. Then I owned a Comp for years that was just a great bike. I owned a Super Course that was humdrum. I've ridden a Super Course that was as nice as my Comp. Only 3 tubes 531 on most SC's and it makes little difference.


      If it were all tig-welded, all robotically precise mitres, all beauty welds, you might begin to compare tube influence on ride quality. If we are on brazed or silver-soldered frames they come out every which way. You find out by riding them. If your Jackson is good for you then it's good.

      One of the most consistently wonderful frames out there is the old Raleigh Prestige. They were built by Toyo. I've never seen a a Rivendell/Toyo as nice as a Prestige. They drip with chrome and the metalwork is out front. They had a fatal flaw. They came with a tube sticker claiming it was made of some kind of Reynolds no one had heard of. In fact beneath the R sticker was seamed butted Tange. The seam was meaningless by the time the tube was re-drawn a few times to make butts. The funky tube sticker made all the difference in the world. They were orphans from day one. Short upright racy frames from the early 80s. The chrome is topnotch and lasts. Go find one for $100 and see how it rides.

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  13. Very nice! I know what you mean about the vintage feel, it's indefinable. I see similar bikes to this with derailleurs here in Australia and it always looks incongruous to me!

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  14. I like the long rear rack. Too often I test bikes with racks and I can't strap my milk crate onto the rack without an uncomfortable amount hanging off the back. This looks much better.

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  15. 'Getting back to the bicycle itself, the Simcoe Roadster is a fairly straightforward English 3-speed inspired city bike. Relaxed angles, upright position, hub gearing, fenders, chaincase,'

    It is English in a 1930s to 1960s way.

    It is now 2014.

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    1. Sure it is like a 30s-60s bike, except for the functional brakes, puncture proof tires, modern components and lighter weight.

      It is 2014 and we live in an age of postmodernism.

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    2. Doubtful the human body has evolved all that much the past 50 years.

      My preferred urban bike is built for front loads. Still good to see a variety of good, useful bikes available for getting around.

      Definitely making a difference. Many more people getting around by bike at least some of the time.

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    3. Is this Postmodern 3spd. bike Shimano or Sturmey Archer equipped? I'm too lazy to go find their website but just cuious enough to ask...

      Spindizzy

      BTW, I agree with you about the colour, looks like farm implement greento me.

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    4. Functional brakes? I just got off my bike with 60s brakes and they work quite well thank you. The Rivetts currently mounts 70s Mafac brakes, I am looking for 60s or 50s Mafacs because they are much better. Brakes that are 50 to 80 years old that have never been well-serviced, are corroded, that are forced into service when they are not ready for it can be way too exciting. Good brakes from the 1930s still work. Ordinary people rode bikes down mountains in the 1930s and lived to tell about it.

      I recently handled a 1910 steel fork that weighed 500 grams complete with a very long steerer. Race proven.

      I know one collector who seeks, finds, and uses antique tires for his antique bikes. No one else has to. Put any tires you like on your old bike.

      Sturmey (or BSA) hubs from the 30s are infinitely better than current production.

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    5. Postmodern Blues:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wv60d0KH2Y

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    6. I've ridden vintage bikes with good brakes and I've ridden vintage bikes with brakes that were essentially non-functional. But my own experiences aside, poor braking is hands down the most common complaint I hear from those who try to adapt vintage bikes for commuting. How did they ride them down mountains in the olden days? How indeed.

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    7. An additional problem with "vintage" 3-speeds, at least in Chicago where old Schwinn 3-speeds are pretty common, is that old steel rims and wet weather make a pretty scary braking combination at times--especially if the brakes still have old stock pads on them.

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    8. all of that (the poor brakes etc) is true, but a vintage bike for is an experience - not so much a practical solution. My problem would be paying that much for something that is a reproduction: my girlfriend bought a kalkhoff electric bike a few months ago for not much more - and if practicality is what your looking for it is so, so, so much more than this

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    9. People like to complain. Sometimes complaining is useful. Mechanics, service managers, shopowners field complaints all day every day and that's how it goes. Many things would not get done if someone did not speak up and complain.

      Bicycles do not respond to complaints. If the brakes on a vintage bike don't stop the owner is the one who has to do something. If swapping calipers, rims, pads is past the imagination or ability of the owner, that person had best not ride vintage. It's a vehicle, on public roads. Safe operation of a vehicle is a responsibility that can't be passed off on anyone else.

      Bicycles would have died a-borning 120 years ago if basic issues like braking were not relatively tractable and within the reach of ordinary users.

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    10. "If swapping calipers, rims, pads is past the imagination or ability of the owner, that person had best not ride vintage."

      Well, that's the exact point of why people like Simcoe are making a modern bike that gives off a very vintage feel--right??

      You get the look (and perhaps feel) of a vintage 3-speed, without having the headache of updating a vintage ride to modern standards.

      I know a lot of people who purchased a vintage 3-speed Raleigh or Schwinn because of looks, and then pretty quickly got rid of it in favor of a more modern ride when they found out things like steel rims, burned out internal gear hubs and old cottered cranksets need to be replaced at some point, and may cost a lot of money to change--especially if you don't know how to do the work yourself.

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    11. Well, yes. Some people should stick with new bikes. If riding vintage does not work for some there is no point in trying to force the marriage. Doesn't make either type of bike or either type of person bad or wrong.

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  16. The Simcoe kickstand is clearly inspired by the Schwinn kickstand. It's not going to work like a Schwinn stand and it's not going to last like the Schwinn stand.

    It just happens I have seen the original Frank Schwinn design of the Schwinn stand. From the personal collection of Mark Mattei. The design is in the Boca Raton notebooks. All in pencil, one handwritten draft, no corrections or revisions necessary. Hand-drawn sketches of every relevant detail, every necessary dimension. Together with fully annotated drawings of the fixtures and machines needed to fabricate the stand. The pencil drawings are exactly the stand we all know. Designed in '42 or '43 and parked all up and down the street in 2014.

    I really wish the Frank Schwinn Boca notebooks would get published in a facsimile edition. Each page has more actual design work than current "designers" will commit in a lifetime. Each and every drawing was built. And it all works and has worked brilliantly for 70 years.

    I went over to the Simcoe site and saw their boast that they have spent two whole years researching and designing this thing. Presumably that is two years since the notion "bicycle" first entered their brains. Sad.

    The Simcoe rack sits tall and long so it can be kicked every time anyone tries to mount it. Loads are carried good and high so the weight can steer the bike. So the weight can bend that cantilevered strut. The rack better be built very heavy or it will collapse quickly.

    The Simcoe fenders are too short.

    What does "low bottom bracket" mean? Dimensions? What does "long top tube" mean? Dimensions? Like in numerical dimension. Without a number on it just vague subjectivity.

    The suggestion the Simcoe has handling anything like a DL-1 is odd.

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    1. I swear I did not ghost write this.

      tt looks longer than the st, so undesquare.

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    2. I take that back about undersquare. Slack sta plays visual tricks.

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    3. I didn't write that the handling of the Simcoe was like that of the DL-1. I wrote that the Simcoe's soft ride feel resembled that of an entire class of vintage bikes. Handling and ride feel are not the same thing.

      Many city bike manufacturers don't provide geometry charts and details about the bikes' s construction. Some even view it as against the spirit of their brand to focus on these technicalities.

      Were this an in-depth technical review, it would indeed be useful to provide figures. But this is a casual test ride report.

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    4. You could sprint city bikes. That would further differentiate all the bikes you review. As it is they fall into "smooth" "not smooth" "vintagey". Very limited context. Not everyone rides a city bike at less than 11 mph b/c it's called a city bike.

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  17. So, I live in a large metro area and see NONE of these kinds of bikes and am wondering if it's because bike shops don't carry them or because they are ultimately unpractical for everyday use where distances must be travelled, loads carried, and efficiency becomes more important. It looks like a nice little bike to have around for leisurely and short rides or quick and nearby errands.

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    1. You probably do not have a critical mass of people who want to feel pretty on a bike.

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    2. Definitely see a significant and still growing number of Linus and similar bicycles along with the big Dutch bikes in and around the Chicago area. Big as Chicago is, I expect most people who live and work in the city have commutes from a low of 1 mile round trip to high in the 14 mile range. These seem an excellent choice for that sort of riding.

      If your local bicycle shops are not carrying them it could well be the case Trek or Pacific are paying them not to.

      In Chicago you have to go to the independent bike stores for bikes from smaller concerns that can not fund tied shops.

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  18. As usual your text with balanced feeling is very interesting.
    I notice like you the lack of lighting: this is a small glitch , it can be easily fixed by battery stuff.

    L.

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  19. I don't recall if you discussed this or if you address this much at all but other than ride and looks I'd like to hear a bit about components and potential issues with regard to maintenance. Sealed bearings? Steel headset? Is the bike meant to handle the harsh weather of the northeast or more temperate climates. Any bike used for transportation should have the ability to be overhauled easily by any bike shop and sometimes that's not the case.

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  20. The thing I like about this bike that you touched on is the full chain cover. The problem I have with many of the vintage inspired bikes is they are aimed at the "hipster" market and tend to have either no or minimal chain cover. That's just annoying because if forces you to wear a pant leg restraint, yet another distraction to just hopping on the bike. This looks well covered and as long as the bike is not a dirty mess, will not get chain muck on your pants. Interesting, looking at their web site, they have a 7 speed, which would be nicer for areas that have some hills and has disc brakes, a huge plus since transportation bikes are often ridden in the rain where caliper brakes don't work well or make a mess, or in the case of vintage bikes like my Schwinn Collegiate with chrome steel rims, force you to do the Fred Flintstone routine.

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    1. You're telling me. Every time I look at the trunk of my car I'm reminded of the girl who crashed into it on steel rims. Broke, uninsured, clueless. Sigh.

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  21. So, I read this blog and think about how to make the biking experience available and meaningful to those who have yet to experience it all. It's been part of my life for so long that I fear I've lost touch with what matters to the uninitiated. When I look at your bikes they all seem to be in the 3-6 K range and lovely as they are on the high end. How does one with a budget connect? A fondness for the old also seems to be a them here. I don't really care one way or the other, lot's of older bikes are available as reconditioned bikes and provide a nice starting point. New bikes that hint towards the old are sprouting up a lot. Don't know if they'll stick around, it seems an uphill battle. This bike seems like a lot of money for what one is getting and that's sad. I was just at my LBS and couldn't believe the number of bikes under $1,000 and most stunning were the bikes for $300. Major manufacturer, lifetime guarantees, free adjustments for as long as you own the bike. Nice components, especially where it matters. All that's missing is fenders and a rack which can be easily added. Really, I was shocked. I get it that some want a more boutique bike and are willing to spend the extra, but I think there are lots of ways to get on the road with a light, modern, and safe bike.

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  22. If it's a Chicago Collegiate it's a minimum of 32 years old. Those rims have dents, dings, and hops in them. If they were ever true or centred they aren't now. The brake track on those rims was weak when new and now there is no brake track. Things have a service life. Collegiates are great bikes and that's proved by the large number of them still active after 30 and 40 years. They don't roll forever if you don't work on them. Show me an aluminum rim 32 years old and I'll show you a rim that's never been used or a rim that is unsafe to ride.

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    1. Old English all steel three speeds are still among the best and you can easily find them in perfectly good condition. They are sturdy, well built and continue to pass the test of time, regardless of age . Somebody is always trying to make a cheap copy and alluding to making it better and re-inventing the wheel so to speak. The Great Pyramid in Egypt was supposedly built without the wheel. If they had been able to use Raleigh`s, can you just imagine what they could have built!

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