An Upgrader’s Guide to City Bikes

We worked with, the online home of Details & GQ, on the City Bike section of their Upgrader. The Upgrader is the “latest and greatest in cars, clothes, watches, whiskies, and all the other important issues confronting today’s man,” including bikes.

Editor’s picks from the Upgrader include

Note that two of the picks – Otis and Milano – were designed by Sky Yaeger.


About the Milano I wrote

… a bike that was 7 years ahead of its time and led to the urban bikes we ride today. Refined over those seven years, the Milano, is “a cafe racer.” Still a top seller and finally getting the respect it deserves. It’s good for mostly everything you’d want an urban bike to do. Being the pure heart and soul of urban cycling, the bike offers no frills, excess, or fashion, and Nexus.

Also good to see the Novara Transfer getting due props. That’s a bike you can start commuting on today and not stop. Check how it’s spec’d and you’ll realize it was built for and by commuters.



Sky designed the San Jose for Bianchi, and it’s one of my all time favorite bikes.  Too bad I had to leave it up north in San Francisco.  I go to college in LA and can’t bring the bike inside or give it the love it deserves, so for 2 years it gets only love during winter and summer breaks.

That’s neither here nor there, she knows what she’s doing.  I like the langsters, I just don’t like the lack of steel!  Aluminum is a bummer sometimes.  The seattle version has hott fenders though.

Alu bites!  What are they thinking making a single-speed out of alu? (Why is anyone making any but competition bikes out of anything but steel?  Really.)  Sad fact is that people buy alu and won’t know any better.  That is the fault of bike shops, mags and blogs which do not teach them.

The San Jose is a much better bike than the Langster, because of the frame.  Although, I don’t get why people put on track ends, instead of horizontal drop-outs: fashion it may be, but the San Jose is no track bike.

What about the Salsa Casseroll, Batavus Lightning or Masi Specials (Track, Commuter and Soulville)?  So I like steel…

I love steel for city.  That was my first criteria for building up my SS/Fixed (flip flop hub to swap the mode).

Looking into internal gear options to complete the mix!

I’m not down with Alum either, but its not a conspiracy, it’s price points. The flood of alum happened to get cheap bikes out to the consumer (and we know what they did to margins, nearly killing the industry). With big tires on mtn bikes, most cyclists probably never feel the harsh, jarring ride. Same thing with a commuter.

And bigger dudes loved the Kleins and Cannodales cause it’s a frame that’s stiff enough for them. There’s an old shop joke that the boxes alum bikes ship in cost more then the frames themselves. Now with cheap carbon, that’s what you’re seeing and the cheap carbon rear on a cheap alum front; just imagine how harshness matched with stiffness rides!

For a time, before they ran themselves out of business doing it, Mongoose marketed a very nice “1K” price point titanium frame made by Sandvik Sports in Mexico. You’ll still see some of them around and Pam rides a prototype. Nice frames and I wish that would’ve worked.

The Langster is controversial, but I know that it’s entire run is sold out.

It’s “not a conspiracy, it’s price points” indeed.  Ain’t that always the way.  The best thing about the fixie crowd is that they made steel back in fashion.  Everyday I ride my 2006 Lemond Croix de Fer I am thankful.  Without the fashion it would not have been made, and I would not have known to buy it.

Mind you, Lemond now makes only one steel road frame, and one cyclocross.  I give up.

My first bikes were steel—a Specialzed S works (Tange) a Lemond (853) I loved and a Colnago (Columbus) I also loved. When I asked Bill Davidson to make me a custom bike, I said, “I want a bike that rides like this Colnago, but is lighter, no paint, and will last a lifetime.” That’s what he built and I was sold on Ti ever since for what I call the “love” bike. The next iteration of that is [the Modal](/tag/modal), a bike I tour, travel, and ride a lot.

I also have a Ti rain bike, which is really a touring bike with bolt-on fenders and room with for big tires with long-pull brakes.

For racing, I’m on carbon, but that’ll change in 08 with another *Hugger project bike* I’ll post on later.

If I had to choose a city bike by specialized I’d go for the “centrum”. Haven’t seen it other than digital yet, but it looks great!
Regarding the steel vs alu stiffness issue:
My commuting/shopping bike is made out of (a lot of, in fact way too much) steel and probably stiffer than an aluminium version could ever be. Which means the chosen material is only one parameter. And not ecessarily the decisive one. Example: I prefer big tires at low pressure (low quality cycle paths, pot holes and the occasional heavy grocery run…), so whatever the frame is made of will not have a major influence.
The extra rolling resistance only bothers after extensive weekend rides and provides, alongside with the extra weight, some decent training. My mtb feels so light and responsive in comparison.

Good points. I’m sold on Ti, but Ti also is out of budget for cyclists. And with Ti, it’s not the material costs, it’s the skilled welders that are expensive.

It’s good to see a Men’s style site select a 40-year-old-vvirgin commuter bike like that Novara as a “real Man’s Bike.” :-)

Or even You, Me, and Dupree which features a Lance Amstrong subplot, cameo, and a schwinn varsity.

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