Worst Bike Video Ever?

Aug 25 2009

This has got to be a troll post. It strains my rural-bred credulity to think that a legitimate news source like Slate could produce a video so rife with misconceptions, and yet so utterly devoid of the information that people buying “Urban Euro Bikes” really ought to know.


Let’s start with equating weight and durability. In the timeless words of Keith Bontrager, “Strong, light, cheap. Choose two.” For the nearly $1200+ price tag of each of these bikes, I can build up an old hardtail that will take the Pepsi Challenge against these machines in any urban environment, and tip the scales at roughly half the weight.

When you’re schlepping your bike up stairs, over curbs, and down sidewalks as America’s woefully inadequate infrastructure forces law-abiding cyclists to do, weight becomes far more critical than this feature suggests. The concern is double if your commute involves any sort of uphill—a geographical feature notoriously absent in the Netherlands.

While Seth Stevenson does note that the bikes are designed to be, and indeed are, quite comfortable, he neglects to mention how difficult they are to maneuver on a shared urban roadway. Maybe if he’d ridden somewhere other than a quiet side street—in the wrong direction, I might add—he might have learned threading those “beautiful little handlebars” between rear-view mirrors is a near-impossibility for all but the most agile bike handler.

Then there’s the absence of any real technical discussion. Yes, it’s mentioned that the Biomega is a chainless bike, and yes, anyone willing to drop $1200 on a frilly commuter is going to take it to the shop when it breaks and pay whatever they’re charged. But for the rest of us, the varying costs of maintenance and repair between different drivetrains and braking systems are deal-breaking considerations.

I’m sure by now some tight-pants, Converse-wearing intern has indignantly informed you that “fixed-gear” and “coaster brake” are not synonymous, so I’ll just skip to saying that when factors like wheel quality, tire suppleness, flat protection, and overall fit have a massive impact on satisfaction for even the most amateur rider, it’s inane to mention the lack of a three-dollar bell.

The simple fact is that cycling in America is different than cycling in Amsterdam Utrecht, and to expect a bike designed for one to perform well at the other is kinda like entering your BMW in a tractor pull. That’s not to say that urban Euro bikes are useless in the US, but the considerations resulting from the gap in infrastructure are critically important.

The inadequacy of this video would almost be forgivable if Slate hadn’t made it clear that they were already aware of the transcontinental divergence in urban cycling conditions.

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12 Responses to “Worst Bike Video Ever?”

  1. tourpro 25 August 2009 at 2:26 pm #

    No helmet, flip-flop footwear – 2 rules I enforce w/ my kids to not do.

    Plus, they were all “girl’s” frames. Nuff said.

  2. Nate C. 25 August 2009 at 2:45 pm #

    Oh boy, the Bratavus has inertia! Here I was thinking that inertia made it harder to start and harder to stop. Stupid Isaac Newton – should never have listened to him while building up my new cyclocross bike. What am I doing with a 21lb bike?? It has no inertia!

  3. Ted 25 August 2009 at 2:49 pm #

    Nice embedded video on that “cycling in Amsterdam” link, but it’s in Utrecht! I regularly ride there to get to my LBS or for taking the non-scenic route to Amsterdam.

  4. cosmo 25 August 2009 at 2:52 pm #

    @Nate C, Yes, the trick is not to lift your bike before the barriers, but to simply deflect its momentum, causing it to fly onto your shoulder. If you do it right, the momentum carries you over, as well.

    @Ted: Thanks for the local knowledge. I was confused by the “Amsterdamsestraatweg” sign. I suppose I could have spent more time reading the caption…

  5. BSP 25 August 2009 at 3:52 pm #

    He said the Italian bike was fixed fear, then they show him coasting on it!

    What a load of crap.

  6. Scott 26 August 2009 at 3:21 pm #

    I rented a bike like this in Amsterdam earlier this summer. The thing was a tank, but the internal gearing and coaster brakes were not very good. I asked for a helmet, and they only had kids sizes. It was fun to cruise around and go on a guided tour, but, I would rather have a lighter, better functioning bike.

  7. Dave 26 August 2009 at 4:55 pm #

    just goes to show, people know what they want, but have no idea what they need.

  8. Mo in SF 27 August 2009 at 4:00 pm #

    Dear god! For $1100, I could buy a pretty darn nice cyclocross bike. Then I’d be cool AND fast. Huh, imagine that. Then I could replace the flip flops with any left over money, not to mention a helmet in case I get hit by a car while travelling at fast speeds due to my “inertia.”

  9. Bob 27 August 2009 at 4:03 pm #

    As an American living in Belgium, the sheer variety of city bikes available is very broad and diverse….Although Batavus gets press in the US, I rarely see them here in Belgium. Because we actually have hills here, the Flemish prefer Oxford, Thompson and Granville. And, surprising enough, a fair share of the Trek city bikes.

  10. Anonymous 28 August 2009 at 12:27 am #

    hey cosmo
    plus abici is not a italian company….its american company owned by roy knickman (former pro and all around asshole in his own right).

  11. Anonymous 28 August 2009 at 12:45 am #

    my bad…guess there are 2 companies that make bikes called abici. the one that makes these stupid overpriced pieces of crap. and roy knickmans company that failed…probably because he is a worthless asshole…RELLY!
    what dumb-ass would start a bike or any company for that matter and not research that there is a competitor with the same name.

  12. Bike Cycling 23 September 2009 at 6:51 am #

    Therefore you need to know your rules before you make up your mind for cycling.

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