As the United States celebrates Independence Day today, we're taking the opportunity to look at two bikes that aren't quite typical of our bike profiles, spotlights or reviews, but are appropriate for the July Fourth holiday. One is brand new, one we've spent a bit of time on.
These two bikes are made in America—Detroit, Michigan to be exact—but aren't bespoke dream bikes shown at NAHBS. Both eschew disc brakes and canti brakes, and instead opt for either long-pull road brakes or coaster brakes. Sizes? One model comes in just one frame size. There's no carbon to be found, but there's USA-handbuilt wheels and a made-in-USA rack, bottom bracket shell and chainguard as standard equipment. Up front there's a threaded headset and a quill stem.
Detroit Bikes' B-Type and C-Type bikes aren't your typical gravel or cyclocross bikes. Heck, the B-Type isn't even something we'd come near a race with. But both bikes might boast the highest percentage of dollars going back into the U.S. economy, and if you're looking for a commuter, a bike for a family member, or a fun errand bike, Detroit Bikes are hoping you'll give them a look, especially if supporting U.S. businesses, manufacturing and our country's economy is important to you.
C for Cyclocross? Detroit Bikes C-Type
It seems like an unlikely bike for us to be taking a look at, but the Detroit Bikes C-Type, which just went into production, is a bike that you might consider if looking for simple, reliable riding with a made-in-the-USA pedigree.
The Detroit C-Type singlespeed, which can fit 35c knobby tires thanks to long reach road calipers, is an interesting bike that could serve dual-duty as your commuter and singlespeed cyclocross bike on not-so-muddy days. The early pre-production version we got a peek at features Schwalbe's narrow CX PRO clinchers, signaling Detroit Bikes' ambition of getting you off the beaten path, and perhaps to the start line of this year's SSCXWC. With drop bars, a flip flop hub, made-in-Detroit frame and quill stem, the C-Type retails for $599 USD.
That may seem like quite a bit for a bike that features a steel frame and a singlespeed drivetrain, when compared to what your local bike store offers. But there's an easy explanation for the price.
"There is an added cost," Detroit Bikes told Cyclocross Magazine. "But there is quality and manufacturing story. Each frame is cut, bent, welded and painted in the Detroit Bike factory." The company, housed in a 50,000 foot factory in Detroit, makes use of American steel and builds the wheels, racks and chainguards in-house.
"One of the underlying goals of the company is to bring manufacturing back to Detroit. The reality is it simply costs more to build products in America."
Without delving into a course on economics and externalities, one could argue that Detroit Bikes' wares simply incorporate more of their true costs than something made abroad, but what the company simply hopes to attract is customers who value knowing their dollars are helping to grow an urban area that's been struggling mightily.
That might leaving you feeling warm and fuzzy, but what good is that feel-good story if the bike isn't practical or useful? The C-Type's singlespeed drivetrain features a flip-flop hub that can be converted from fixed-gear to singlespeed. The bike is built with a classic road bike frame, drop bars and knobby tires and is meant to be a utility bike. The idea behind the model said Detroit Bikes is it's "the bike you would use for errands, or going out for a night on the town, a good way to stay healthy while saving money on parking or cabs."
B for Back to Basics
Detroit also offers its $699 A-Type and B-Type bikes, which are variants built around a Shimano Nexus three-speed hub with a coaster rear brake and front caliper brake. The A-Type is a standard men's frame, while the B-Type is a step-through frame popular with women.
If you're looking through the spec list and trying to see why the bike costs $699, you're probably not the target customer. Frankly, it does feel a bit strange to spend this much on a bike and have to remember how to install and adjust a quill stem and threaded headset and loosen overtight cup-and-cone hub bearings, but the B-Type brings you back to the basics in more than one way.
Once you (or hopefully your local shop) get the bike assembled, riding the B-Type brings you back to the basics with its coaster brake, upright riding style, and classic style. Want to outsprint the roadie next to you when the light turns green? You better pre-plan your pedal position because there's no backpedaling with your coaster brake at the stop light. If that's a showstopper for you, you're probably missing the point of this bike.
Riding it around town, there's a lot to like, and not much to go wrong here. The chainguard protects your pants and socks, the internal gearing avoids bent dearailleur hangers and mucked-up pulleys, and the included fenders keep you going even when Mother Nature doesn't cooperate.
The included rack is a nice touch. It's made in Detroit, has plenty of style, and serves its purpose of light-duty commuter cargo carrying well. It's worth noting that our tester had some trouble removing panniers from the lower pannier hook hole on the rack, but found it sufficiently strong to carry a laptop, a farmers' market bounty, or change of clothes.
Each bike from Detroit Bikes features a chromoly frame from American steel and includes a lifetime warranty.
Nitpicks? Sure, our reviewers always have some. Even for $699, we'd strongly prefer a two-bolt seat post with infinite angle adjustment and security (for that late-to-a-meeting remount) over the stock notched one-bolt post. We'll always prefer Presta valves over Schrader. Hub bearings shouldn't feel like sandpaper out of the box and have you reaching for a cone wrench. And threaded headsets and quill stems don't bring back fond memories and shouldn't be a major cost savings at this point. (Admittedly, if Detroit Bikes were only sold in stores, some of the setup-related complaints would be moot, because a good shop should take care of them.)
The bottom line is that despite the quirks and nitpicks, the only adjustment the bike has needed over its month of use is a tightening of its seat post's saddle clamp bolt once. That's low-maintenance by any standard, and that reliability, time savings and peace of mind certainly adds to the value of the bike.
For the more mechanically-challenged cyclists, a low-maintenance ride equals a welcomed independence from shop mechanics or family member mechanics.
That's certainly an American independence we can get behind.
More info: detroitbikes.com
Detroit Bikes Photo Gallery and Specs:
Detroit Bikes B-Type / A-Type Bike Specs
|Frame: Detroit Bikes built 1-size-fits-all; 4130 True Temper chrome molybdenum (chromoly steel) tubing; TIG welded by hand; B-type: step-through frame, made in Detroit|
|Fork: Chromoly steel|
|Headset: 1 Threaded, black|
|Rims: 700x32c double walled alloy, wheels built in Detroit|
|Hub, Rear: Internal Shimano Nexus 3-speed|
|Tires: Kenda Kwest All Weather 700x32c|
|Spokes: Stainless Steel 36X36|
|Shifters: Shimano Nexus 3-speed grip shifter|
|Chain: Rust proof1/2x1/8|
|Chain Guard: Steel chain guard|
|Crankset: Alloy forged, 44T, 170mm|
|BB: Unitized sealed bottom bearing bracket set, shell built in Detroit|
|Cog: Shimano 19T|
|Pedals: Alloy pedals with non-slip tread and reflectors|
|Seatpost: Alloy Zoom seat post|
|Saddle: Comfortable, vintage-styled riveted saddle with extra padding and two coils|
|Handlebar: Steel with chrome finish|
|Stem: Alloy, black|
|Grips: Comfortable foam with end plugs|
|Brakes: Coaster brake; Front caliper brake|
|Color / Paint: A-Type: Matte black durable powder coat; B-Type: Glossy white powder coat|
|Frame Fit: Fits 53 to 63 comfortably|
|Rack: Custom designed rack with Detroit Bikes Logo, built in Detroit|
|Extras: Steel fenders; Mounts for kickstand and water bottle|