Monday, May 21, 2012

Adventures in test rides

I had an urban cycling adventure in DC on Saturday. It wasn't just about exploration, though. The main reason for the trip was to test ride bicycles that aren't available -- or don't appear to be available -- in the bike shops near me.

The first shop I chose to visit was District Hardware - The Bike Shop near Foggy Bottom and GW University. I called Friday about testing a Public Bikes step-through bicycle. I've been eyeing the C7 model, but the M8 was the bike in stock.
 Public Bikes M8
I tested the M8 on busy and potholed streets and it rode like a dream. The wide tires and steel frame handled uneven street surfaces with ease and surprising comfort, and the eight speed hub was sporty enough for playing in traffic. I also enjoyed the combination of upright posture mixed with the ability to comfortably move into a more aggressive posture. (I find myself leaning in to the bars when I'm on my cruiser; if I ever get an upright city bike, it'll take some time to train myself out of doing that.) I returned the bike to the shop with a huge grin on my face. I wasn't tempted to purchase the bike, though. While the Mixte-ish frame is lovely, I couldn't comfortably step over the top bar and had to throw my leg over the seat.

My next stop was BicycleSPACE near Mount Vernon Square and across from the Convention Center. I planned to test ride a Linus Dutchi 8, but what was on the floor was a Dutchi 3. Eh, it should handle the same as the 8, just minus five extra gears, I supposed. The ride itself was pleasant enough, but not as smooth as the Public. I was surprised by how high up I was on this bike. I could see over the tops of vans and SUVs. I think I was seated higher than I am in the Highlander!

Linus Bikes Dutchi 3
The Linus wasn't for me, though. Happily, I got to chat with shop co-owner Eric for a bit. He had noted how handy my Po Campo Pilsen Handbag was when I attached it to the Dutchi's rack and I suggested the shop should become a dealer. We chatted about Pashleys and he explained the differences between Brooks B67 and B17 models of saddles. I'm now very tempted to get a B17 for my Ariel... I thanked Eric for his time and the test ride and returned to my Lily where I was horrified to discover that I had forgotten to lock her to the rack! I suppose, though, that if there was anyplace in the city to be so careless, out front of BicycleSPACE was the best place.

The last stop on my bike shop tour was City Bikes in Adams Morgan. I've wanted to test a Globe Daily 3 Step-Through for ages. While Spokes, Etc could order one for me, since they're a Specialized dealer, none of the stores have had a model on the floor. But this store had eight of them! Choirs of angels sang. Well, at least until I got to the shop. There was a medium Daily 2 step-through and a small Daily 1 step-through. The guy "helping" me decided that the Daily 2 was too big for me (without adjusting the seat down for me and despite my Ariel being a large. Instead he set me up on the single speed, small Daily 1 and told me to follow the bike lane down the street, turn right, turn right again, and ride back up a hill that I'd just pushed my 21-speed Ariel up.

"You want me ride up that hill on a single speed bike?" I asked, incredulous. "It'll handle it," he replied. "Watch out for traffic and don't fall."

Globe Daily 1
I should've handed the bike back right then and there, but I've been dying to test one of these. Plus, I knew that I didn't have to purchase from the shop and could instead use my beloved Spokes. So, with a raised eyebrow, I chose my own test route using the suggested bike lane and then turning left and eventually getting onto the brick sidewalk lining Columbia Road. Aside from the bike being WAY too small and feeling like my knees were bumping my earlobes, I was willing to give the bike a fair shot. It failed me in just able every way. Okay, so the basket held my purse and the bike didn't fall apart, but those were pretty much the only positives. The ride was a teeth- and bone-rattling experience. I returned the bike and was ready to leave. But no. Salesguy wanted to know what was wrong. I told him the ride was bumpy and uncomfortable. He explained that was because of the aluminum frame and then dragged me over to some other bikes to show me how the welds will show you what kind of metal a bike is made of. Or... I could read the spec sheet. He then tried to talk me into a another hybrid. I pointed out my bike chained up to a rack outside and told him I already have a hybrid. But this one has shocks. Yeah, so does mine. Undeterred, he made me go upstairs to look at their show room and told me how great the road bikes are. Yes, I have a Dolce. And then he showed me the mountain bikes and said that I would already know all about them. The hell?

Okay. Now, I recognize that letting this go on so long is partially my fault because I was being too polite instead of telling him to stuff it and demanding he retrieve my license and credit card from the register. In fact, I should have demanded those the moment I asked him if we could go back into the shop while he was explaining "metal welds" because my skin was burning and he said that I should have put on sunscreen (I don't ride without at least SPF 45, by the way)... But again, too polite. He then rang up another customer before giving back my ID and card. So. Not only can I NOT recommend a Globe Daily, I DO NOT recommend the Adams Morgan City Bikes.

So. I didn't get to ride the bikes I've been looking at online, but I got to ride what I think are fairly decent analogs. I resumed lusting over the Public Bikes C7 until I realized that the handlebar backsweep is a different angle from the M8 and the C7 has a rear derailleur unlike the M8's internal hub. Now I just need to find a Civia dealer so I can test a Twin City Step-Through. There's supposed to be a dealer near the French Quarter and I'm going to New Orleans this weekend...

(Impression of the Civia Twin City is here.)


  1. One of my biggest pet peeves is bike shop workers who don't listen. Definitely NOT the way to get repeat business. I'm glad you were finally able to escape the madness, and hopefully you'll find better experiences in the future.

    On another note, I really like Public Bikes. I find them to be super enjoyable and easy to ride. Obviously, there is a difference between the internal hub and having a derailleur, but I think all of their bikes are pretty awesome - so it would be tough to go wrong. It's one of the few bikes I've had that I 1) regret messing with, and 2) kind of wish I still had.

    Hopefully, your next round of test rides will be awesome. Merely curious - are you looking for more of a city bike to replace your hybrid, or are you looking for another bike?

    1. I'm chalking the experience up to a rite of cyclehood. And I'm tempted to compose a Yelp/Google review. >;-)

      Your review of the J7 spurred on my desire to test a Public Bike, and I'm so glad that I did. I'm not sure why I'm so turned off by the derailleur on the C7; it's totally a gut feeling kind of thing. I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that I didn't even notice the derailleur until after the test ride when I did an side-by-side comparison of the M8 and C7 online.

      Why do the 3-speed loop and the Mixtes get internal gear hubs while the 7-speed loop has a derailleur? ~whine~whine~whine~

      Ultimately, yes, the city bike would replace the hybrid. That's why I'm being so picky about the frame and gears and riding posture. I want something that appeals aesthetically, allows me to power up hills as necessary, can handle the tiny bit of off-roading between my neighborhood and the bike trail, and scoffs at road debris.

      I'm so grateful for yours, Velouria's, Dottie's, and Trisha's bicycle reviews. They are helping me narrow down which bikes I should fixate upon. ;)

    2. Based on what you describe as your goal above, I really think the Civia Twin City would be an excellent choice. Hopefully, you can find one to test ride in your area.

      The Public and Linus are two that I want to test ride soon, so it was interesting to hear your take on them.

      I got annoyed at the bike shop guy simply reading your account. I swear I've been treated the exact same way by bike shop guys. Whatever, they will not get our business.

    3. Dottie: Your video and review of the Twin City were the first I'd heard of that bike and it looks GORGEOUS. I hope that the shop in New Orleans pans out and I'm able to test it. My friends and family might stage an intervention if I start making trips out of town specifically to test ride bicycles. :)

    4. "Why do the 3-speed loop and the Mixtes get internal gear hubs while the 7-speed loop has a derailleur?" I think this is one flaw in the Public Bikes design, and I agree with you. I know that they did a 7-speed derailleur to keep the costs down to provide an option so that everyone would have something affordable... however, it would be nice to offer it both as an internal hub and as a derailleur set up. For what it's worth, I do think that the Shimano Nexus hub has a descent range of gearing, but I also know that getting up the hills in less than flat areas can be challenging when we don't have that extra range. As Dottie mentioned, the Civia might be one to try out. I have yet to ride one, but I see people taking them all over the place here, so there must be something there. It's on my list to try out too... has been for awhile (the Loring drew me in a couple of years ago, actually)... though the last thing I need is another bike! :O)

    5. I'll definitely post a review if I'm able to find a Civia. Did you get to test the Loring? If so, what'd you think of it?

      ...though the last thing I need is another bike!

      How many are you down to now? :)

    6. No, I eye-balled it several times at a shop in Denver, pulled it out, looked at it closely, but was obsessing with the Pashley's at the time, and then I was after a more road-type bike, so I never took it for a spin. I still think I should try it out though - one of these days.

      I think I've done a decent job paring things down in the bike fold. Technically, I have 3 bikes at the present, though I honestly don't ride the mountain bike. I just can't seem to find a good home for it. Some day, the right person will come along. I suppose I still actually have the Surly frame too, but that will be on its way out in the near future... just waiting for the future owner to return from a trip to Italy next month. I'm fairly certain we've given up caring how many we have though. As long as they get used, that's all that really matters.

  2. I enjoyed the reviews and the bikes all have eye appeal for me as I tend to like classical looks and lines and bikes that are as attractive as efficient. Reading this makes me want to go out and test ride a few bikes. I was sorry to read about your frustrating experience with the bike shop that would not listen at all to what you were saying, pity. Speaking of a hub versus derailleur, I am unsure where the cut of is with internal hubs, do they only handle up to a certain number of gears and then you must use a derailleur?

    1. I don't know if there's a cut-off for the number of gears an internal hub can handle. That'll be something to research. The Public Bike M8 had an internal hub with 8 gears while the C7 has a rear derailleur with 7 gears, so an internal hub can handle the number of gears I personally want on a bike.

    2. There are 14-speed internally geared hubs (you can read a bit here:, but I think cost is what prevents many companies from manufacturing bikes with these, or so I have assumed. Even an 8-speed is fairly pricey, so I (again) assume that the 14 is just beyond what the average consumer is willing to pay.

    3. G.E. good point - ahhh that cost factor thing.

    4. Melanie Suzanne - ask, and you shall receive: It's almost as though they're mind readers! :O)

    5. OMG OMG OMG.

      I am now SO HAPPY that I did not buy the Civia yesterday. (Review coming shortly...)


  3. An interesting read! I work near and sometimes shop at District Hardware, want to check out Bicycle Space and have been in the Chevy Chase but not the Adams Morgan City Bikes.
    I am in the midst of checking out the Linus Mixte. I have test ridden the Mixte 3 and am awaiting the arrival of the Mixte 8, which should be here soon. I was impressed with it's comfort, smooth shifting and good looks. Even the 3 speed took the hills I test rode on with ease. However, the hill I would really have to ride it on is longer and much steeper from those I tested. I think, though am not sure, that the 8 speed will help in handling the extra weight of commuting gear and long and steep hill that makes up about 1/3 or so of the route home. If I do get the bike it would be one for the home-MARC station stretch of my multimodal commute. I have other bikes that could serve the purpose but none that I'd want to leave parked all day at the train station. This one is not cheap, but would be much less of a blow if something bad happened that it would be to lose my beloved custom built touring bike. Replacing it now would cost more than 2x what I paid for it a couple of years ago!

    1. I cannot recommend Bicycle Space enough. Despite not having the right bike for me, the sales staff have been a delight to talk with and the store's inventory is fun to browse. The Capitol Hill City Bikes clerk I spoke with on the phone seemed to have a clue; I hope that the Chevy Chase branch is good.

      The idea of leaving a bike parked at the train station gives me the willies. More power to you, and here's to your bike staying safe. :)

  4. Leaving the bike at a train station all day does most certainly give pause. However I have done it, with the vintage bike that I ultimately brought to DC and keep at BikeStation for that end of my commute. No one bothered it when I parked it at the MARC station, and I loved the convenience of the bike parking being so close to the train stop. Others lock their bikes up there too. So far as I know, bikes do not get messed with or stolen there for whatever reason. Car parking is free but by the time I arrive (around 6:45a.m.) I have to park about 1/4 mile from the stop, or it seems that far. Now, that convenience is tempered by one hell of a long steep hill that is part of the ride home!

    One of these days, I will make a point of visiting Bicycle Space!

  5. However I have done it, with the vintage bike that I ultimately brought to DC and keep at BikeStation for that end of my commute. No one bothered it when I parked it at the MARC station, and I loved the convenience of the bike parking being so close to the train stop.

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