The Perfect City Bike

Once the artisanal-bicycle aficionados got randonnée bikes out of their systems, they turned their attention to the City Bike: the bike made for short commutes, shopping, bar crawls, visting friends, and so forth, all in a relaxed manner regardless of traffic, night, or weather.

Well, although the artisanoids got the randonneuse down pretty well, generally copying the excellent models made by Alex Singer, René Herse, and Goeland during the heyday of randonneuring in France just after World War Two, when they tried their hand at the city bike, all too many of them tried much too hard to improve upon a design that had already been refined, with variations in different countries, for over a hundred years.

After all, city bikes have to take the knocks of being jammed into the corners of trains and elevators, of being locked up anywhere and everywhere, and of being loaded down with anything from groceries to microwaves as they bounce along often-shattered urban avenues.

And they have to do it in all weathers, and very often in traffic. Not everyone can live in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, or Assen.

So the Dutch have their stately cruisers, the Brits the three-speed roadsters so beloved of filmmakers, the Japanese their mama-charis.

And the artisanoids have such bizarre concoctions as:

A fender-free, luggageless hipster whip that won the “Best City or Utility Bike” award at NNAHBS 2104, which, you may be amused to learn, asks the bare brake cables to double as levers, thereby raising the possibility of garroting your own fingers during a panic stop.

Or a strange effort that won the Oregon Manifest’s Bike Design Project’s “Ultimate Urban Utility Bike” award a few weeks ago; it uses shoe brushes for fenders and a snow shovel for a luggage rack.

Both bikes have only minimal lighting as well.

I say, no thanks. Look at the picture at the top of the page again: that is a Miyata “Commuter” model from about thirty years ago, one that could actually serve as a commuter, shopping, or general utility bike. It has fenders, to keep the rain and the much off you; it has a rack to carry things on, and it had lights, as you can see from the generator mount on the fork. In its original form, which you can view here on Flickr, it also sported a front rack for extra capacity, and a chaincase to keep your pantlegs free of grease. And it appears to be a three-speed as well, friendly to the less muscular—or simply more relaxed—amongst us.

This is more akin to an “Ultimate Urban Utility Bike” than either of the above overly-twee concepts, and millions of them are used in cities such as Tokyo and Osaka in Japan, with similar designs prevalent all over the globe, from India to Africa to Austria and beyond.

The US infatuation with making an impression rather than making an actual bicycle has resulted in such bikes being hard to find here, but companies including as Public, Linus, and Beater do provide very similar but gently modernized versions, and at reasonable prices. (Since the Beater Bikes factory is taking an extended vacation, the Pigeon might be your only chance to pick one up for a while.)

And Flying Pigeon stocks Linus and Beater bikes, as well as genuine Dutch and Danish city and cargo bikes, all of which will carry you, your shopping, and often a friend or a brace of kids all over town in any weather, day or night!

Stop by and check them out. You won’t even have to get on a five-year waiting list to buy one.

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