[NOTE: The following is a guest post. The writer, who sells bikes and therefore has some expertise, included a couple of plugs for his own company which is fine with me. After all, he wrote this for free and it seems informative.]
By Dave Gelling
When you think of City bikes or City cyclists what comes to mind? Is it couriers darting from office block to office block with a package to deliver against the clock? Or is it a rebellious urbanite weaving dangerously between traffic on a BMX? What image does the phrase City Bike conjure? Is it anything like these:
Image Source: Cult of Mac
Image Source: Kootation
Image Source: Berfrois
Lots of cyclists pedal about the city on bikes like these, therefore you’d be forgiven for considering them to be City Bikes, but these are not the most ideal cycle for the city. These bikes are better suited to road racing.
It all comes down to the design and engineering of the bike. All 3 bikes above have low handle bars and high saddle position. This places the cyclist in a racing position; head down, more aerodynamic and let’s be honest, not terribly comfortable. The thin wheels are better suited to long stretches of straight road, rather than the stop/start of city pace. There’s a type of cycle better suited to the city, designed specifically with urban terrain in mind… And it’s name? Well, believe it or not, it’s called a City Bike.
Image Source: Hub and Bespoke
There are some significant design differences with a City Bike, the main 2 being high handlebars and low saddle position, which keeps the cyclist in an upright position. This is almost the exact opposite of other road bikes, and for good reason.
Firstly, it’s more comfortable, which means the cyclist can enjoy a more leisurely ride. Secondly though, and more importantly, this posture gives the cyclist better visibility; they are able to see more of the cityscape, stay aware and keep an eye out for potential danger and, most importantly of all, it makes them more visible to others. It’s altogether a better designed bike for a busy area.
There are 2 very different types of City Bike. Those pictured above are what might be referred to as Amsterdam style. You will find these at any good bike store. A modern/retro adaptation of this design can be found from the brand Electra and you can check out their range at the author’s website Global Bike.
For cyclists coming from a tradition road cycling background but looking for a city equivalent, something like the Ghost Speedline range would be worth checking out. They share the same characteristics, but the look and feel is much more familiar to the seasoned road cyclist.
The Ghost Speedline 7500 (pictured above) is very similar to a Road bike but with straight handlebars to promote upright posture, so the cyclist can remain aware of his surroundings and be seen by others. This bike has road biased tires like a road bike, but they are more ballooned for comfort. This bike is not built for speed necessarily but for stability. You’ll notice the forks bend forward, giving a more stable ride.
It’s a matter of personal preference whether you decide on the former or latter of these 2 types of City Bike, but hopefully this article highlights what distinguishes a City Bike from its contemporaries and will help you identify what’s best for you when your test riding your next purchase.
If you have any City Bike experiences you’d like to share, please get involved in the comments below or contact the author directly at firstname.lastname@example.org