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The death of fixies, the unending rise of sensible bikes - pity they're not sold in the UK

What a lot of sensible bikes there are at Eurobike. Sensible, well-equipped city bikes with mudguards and racks and dynamo lights and chain guards and hub gears and… and… and…

They’re round every corner. Made by a plethora of different people, the majority of them from Northern Europe, for the transit minded cyclist, who lives predominantly in Northern Europe. The UK, for the purposes of this paragraph, isn’t in Northern Europe. It’s allied to Australia, the US and anywhere else where cycling is seen as a great leisure activity (so long as you stay out of the way of the important business of driving to an out-of-town shopping centre) but not taken seriously as a form of transport. I’ll miss all these sensible bikes when I get home.

You can’t buy them in the UK, because shops, for the most part, don’t stock them. All the same it’s great to have a look at what you could have won, whilst the theme to Bullseye plays in the background in a minor key.

If you buy a bike on Cyclescheme (other cycle-to-work schemes are available) then the likelihood is you’ll spend around £700. For that you’ll probably be nudged towards a flat-bar road bike or a commu-crosser or something. When in fact, what you need if you’re actually cycling to work is something like this: the €699 VSF Fahrradmanufaktur S100. Catchy name.

This is a women’s bike with a step-through frame. It’s got an eight-speed hub gear with a fully enclosed chain case and full mudguards, so you can ride to work in the rain without getting your trews mucky. 37mm Schwalbe tyres mean you’ll be very unlucky if you suffer a puncture. There’s a hub dynamo running front and rear lights for whenever you need them. You even get a pump included, hiding under the rack, just in case.

The logic in the UK is that you’d buy a cheap bike for commuting, then you’d get into cycling as a sport and do sportives and buy more expensive bikes, or whatever. The logic in Germany is that if you want a bike to go to work, then it’s best to buy a bike that’s really good at doing that: going to work. Come on UK, catch up.

Anyway, rant over. Let’s have a look at some trends.

The first immediately noticeable trend is that if you’re after a fixie then you’re out of luck. That’s not to say that there aren’t any, of course, but a couple of years ago you couldn’t turn a corner without catching your bag on some narrow riser bars. It’s not like that any more: urban trends have moved on.

“And where have they moved on to, Big Dave?”, I hear you ask? Well, to quirky geared bikes, mostly, and traditional shoppers. Although those bikes were about anyway. So maybe the fixies have just gone, and not been replaced. Or they’ve been replaced by fat bikes, which are beyond the remit of this urban round-up.

The Viva Papa is a good example of the former trend. It’s a steel-framed gent’s bike that’s not far removed from brands like VSF Fahrradmanufaktur in terms of utility – you get a full chain guard, mudguards, a rack and hub gears – but put together in a much more quirky and retro package.

There was a lot of leather and faux leather on bikes like these, and the full gamut of colours. And prices.

This is Schindelhauer’s take on the urban drop-frame bike, the Lotte. As with everything Schindelhauer the attention to detail is very high. Both the seatpost and the stem secure with hidden bolts and it uses a Gates Carbon belt drive, like all their bikes.

You get a porteur rack at the front, and full mudguards, along with a Shimano Alfine 8-speed hub and an all-in weight of 11kg. What you don’t get is much change out of €1,700.

The Danish Hey Cycle is a Eurobike award winner this year. The black and orange bike on the award stand was built up as a singlespeed and looked very stealthy. The tube shaping gives it flowing lines that not everyone was convinced by, but it’s certainly striking.

If you don’t like black, you can have it in a range of other colours, including this rather striking – is that the right word? – blue number with a derailleur transmission.

Not all the sensible German manufacturers’ bikes were completely sensible. This Rabeneick Niagra trades hub gears for a two-speed kickshift and it looks quite trick with yellow anodised highlights.

You still get mudguards, a dynohub and lights as standard, even if the grips are faux snakeskin. Looks like a nice ride for €700.

Cruisers still abound, although they weren’t as numerous as last year. We were pretty taken by this Medano cruiser tandem which would be just the ticket for, erm, something. The price ticket said it costs a mere €349 but we couldn’t confirm that as there was no-one to ask. We’d have nicked it but it looked quite heavy.

Did gearbox bottom brackets gain any traction this year? Well, a bit. But Pinion are still the only chaps making them so far as we can see, and since they hand-assemble them in Germany it’s never going to be a mainstream product.

That’s not to say that mainstream manufacturers aren’t trying them out. Stevens had this bike, the P18 Lite, on their stand retailing for a savings-emptying €3,599. Obviously Shimano XT and a Gates Carbon Drive add to the bike’s cost but a lot of the overhead is in that gearbox.

The Stevens uses the 18-speed version of the gearbox which is the original, and most expensive, of the four now on offer. There are two nine-speed options (narrow and wide range) and a 12-speed too. No bike we saw with a Pinion gearbox was below €3,000.

Most of them were smaller brands, too. This is Poison’s Pinion Tour Chrom which cuts a dash with its green detailing and polished finish. It uses a dynamo system with Supernova’s E3 Pro light which is the current light of choice for pretty much every expensive touring/urban/ebike at the show. And for good reason: it’s excellent.

Top of the gearbox-equipped urban bike price list (probably) is Schindelhauer’s Willhelm XVIII. That’ll cost you €5,000, but it is a very beautiful thing indeed.

On to the weird and wonderful now. This is the Sandwich bike. It’s made from two sheets of laminated wood with all the head tube, seat tube and bottom bracket sandwiched within. You couldn’t say it’s not an interesting looking thing.

We found this outside too. We’re not entirely sure what it’s for but the front wheels are connected via a linkage so that they stay upright when you lean over. It’s a lot like those three-wheeler moepds that are all the rage around Europe right now, but re-imagined as a bike with an Ortlieb bag on the front.

We don’t have much to say about these Kenzel shoppers, apart from to note that they appear to have their own wine.

There it is, in the wicker basket with the cheese.

And now you’ve found your dream urban bike, you’re probably thinking: “But where will I get my saddle and accessories custom-printed with pictures of a lady in a red dress?” Don’t worry. Selle Monte Grappa have you covered:


Click here to read all of our stories from Eurobike 2014 - the world's biggest bike show.

Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.