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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.

15 comments

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Some Fella [890 posts] 1 year ago
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There must surely be an enterprising young thing who can arrange to import such bikes and sell them in a major city?
Im currently in an n+1 situation where i want a single speed basic bike to go to ALDI on - that is compact, not too heavy but sturdy enough to cope with the mean streets.
Not too much to ask is it?

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quiff [21 posts] 1 year ago
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Some Fella wrote:

There must surely be an enterprising young thing who can arrange to import such bikes and sell them in a major city?

Or an enterprising direct distributor who will add something similar to their line up? Canyon's 2015 'Urban' range seems to fit the bill - belt drive, hub gears, integrated lights and guards, and a good looking frame. God I'm getting old.

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dave atkinson [6223 posts] 1 year ago
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quiff wrote:

Canyon's 2015 'Urban' range seems to fit the bill - belt drive, hub gears, integrated lights and guards, and a good looking frame. God I'm getting old.

canyon's bike is certainly interesting, we're hoping to get one in when they're ready.

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bigdanbro [11 posts] 1 year ago
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Re. practical bike rant - couldn't agree more. I've managed to acquire two small boys and would love to get them around on a bike and reduce car usage. Currently have a child seat on the back of my audax bike, but it doesn't always feel the most stable of arrangements and also misses out on the minor details of other child and any shopping or luggage that needs to be shifted. Could quite happily go bonkers on continental family bikes if I had the pennies. http://www.kidsandfamilycycles.co.uk

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banzicyclist2 [299 posts] 1 year ago
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I bought a CUBE Hooper on cycle to work a few years ago. I fitted it with mud guards and a rack. It's still going strong as my commuter/utility bike. The 8_speed hub gears have proved very reliable. Schauble Durano tyres make a huge difference too

It's my sensible bike, and I like ridding it a lot more than I thought I would.

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banzicyclist2 [299 posts] 1 year ago
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The only thing wrong with the CUBE Hooper is the chain, belt drive would make it perfect.

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s_smith [24 posts] 1 year ago
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Love the Hey bikes but they aren't available in the UK and the manufacturer doesn't do mail order.  2 Here's hoping that a cyclescheme partner shop decides to take the plunge.  105

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babybat [27 posts] 1 year ago
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I got the VSF T100 a couple of months ago as my commuter bike, and I'm really enjoying it. It's not the lightest bike, but I'm commuting to work, not doing time trials, so it doesn't matter. It carries all my stuff in comfort, it's got a nice upright position which is great in traffic, the hub dynamo is really effective and means I never worry about the batteries dying or my lights getting nicked, and the tyres are fat enough that the crappy state of our roads doesn't worry me.

I know that Euro-style trekking bikes don't set most people's hearts on fire, but for utility cycling, they're exactly what you need!

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Paul M [360 posts] 1 year ago
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You can actually buy the Fahhrad Manufaktur in the UK. I know, because I bought one, the S100 like you feature. (I wanted a step-through frame because I am not as young as I was, and lifting my leg over two Basil basket panniers and the saddle at the same time is simply too much for me now).

You have to go to a proper independent bike shop of course, but then I would always recommend that you do that. Instead of getting some spotty youth who knows nothing about bikes, as you do at the chains, you get a spotty Australian with a ponytail who has forgotten more about bikes than I ever knew, and who can give advice, do repairs, and source components and parts, all for much the same price as Halfords.

I went to Bikefix in Lambs Conduit Street, Near Gt Ormond St Hospital, although I am sure there are other places which sell them too.

Another way of buying a practical bike, if you don't mind buying mail order and doing a little of the set-up yourself, is to go to the website http://www.kettler.co.uk/bikes/city-bikes/ These are a little heavier than the Fahhrad Manufaktur, and they don't do the same range of frame sizes, but they have everything else ie hub dyno lights, 8 speed hub gears etc

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sidesaddle [89 posts] 1 year ago
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Hey thanks for that link. £300 for an 8-speed Nexus with all the goodies. Don't mind if I do!

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Ush [693 posts] 1 year ago
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The Nomad three-wheeler is interesting. One of the problems with tadpole tricycles is that on roads with extreme camber you end up fighting with the steering. Being able to pivot the wheels like that makes it easier.

There was an interesting design from Onyacycles http://cargocycling.org/2010/12/onyacycles-leaning-tricycle.html which sadly seems to have gone into hibernation. They had a good video explaining why their combination of electric motor plus pivoting front tricycle would be a winner: http://youtu.be/6NXeGMVce2c

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drfabulous0 [409 posts] 1 year ago
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The Noomad looks like they've just added a fairly standard bike to their existing Utility Trike Conversion Kit. These can be fitted to most ordinary bikes and used to carry cargo or even kids.

http://practicalcycles.com/products/67309--noomad-trike-conversion.aspx

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blinddrew [44 posts] 1 year ago
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Was thinking about this a while back, still not sure there's anything there that quite meets all my requirements: http://yamdac.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/a-better-city-bike.html

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Dezzie [4 posts] 1 year ago
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Wonder if any mini velo's were shown or folders? I am yet to see anything regarding these!

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vadido [24 posts] 1 year ago
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Grenoble based Magnat Debon made bottom bracket geared bikes back at the turn of the 19/20th centuries

http://www.sterba-bike.cz/produkt/magnat-debon-3-speed-1908-13?lang=EN

There is probably a reason they died out.