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.