So I've been bike commuting in DC for a year and a half, four miles each way from Columbia Heights to Rosslyn. I've been doing it on a '70s Maruishi 3 speed step through roadster. It was built as a knock off of the Raleigh roadsters of the same time period. I love this bike, and I've been in possession of it for about 8 years now. But the shifter cable is disintegrating, the back wheel needs replacement, and everything is pretty rusted. Fixing it up would probably be doable but doesn't feel worth it.
So I've decided to get a new bike. And though I'd like to buy a new-used bike at some point and really put the time in to building it up, this time I want it to be a new bike.
What I'm looking for is a new bike that is built in the style of my old bike, with some changes.
-Weight: My old bike weighs about 50 pounds and I have to carry it up and down two flights of stairs to get to the front door of my row house every day. I want something significantly lighter for carrying purposes, though it doesn't need to be fancy roadbike light. This is a big reason why I don't want to just put the money into fixing up my old bike, it will still be super heavy. ~30 pounds would be fine.
- Step over/step through: I'm fine to swing my leg over, and I do usually change clothes when I get to work. However sometimes I commute in my work clothes, and when I'm riding around for errands or fund after work and on weekends, I wear my normal clothes. I like the versatility of not having to worry so much about a skirt, though I know that lots of ladiesdo manage to wear skirts on diamond frame bikes.
-8 speed, internal hub: I really appreciate not having to fuss with the maintenance of derailleur gearing. I also have tested out a couple of hybrid type bikes with derailleurs and just don't like the way it feels to shift while pedaling when compared with the smooth, clean, shifts on my 3 speed. While on the hills in my commute I sometimes wish for derailleur gearing, I think it's mostly just that my bike is geared quite high and only has three speeds. I've decided that I want to go up to 8 speeds, internal on the new bike.
-I'd like to be able to ride for fun sometimes: This is a bit less clearly defined than the other needs, but also relevant. While this is primarily an around-town, commuting bike, I love biking and want to be able to do more recreational rides. The parks and trails here have some hills, and I've been pretty constrained as to what is fun to do on my current bike. I'm hoping that the new bike will be good enough for going out on rides for the fun of it.
Since I've saved some money and this bike is partly a gift, my budget is around $1000 ideally including add-ons.
Given these criteria, I've mainly been focusing in on the Linus and Public 8 speed mixtes, and have had the chance to test ride both. They are the right weight, approximately 32 and 30 pounds respectively. The Linus felt somewhat heavier when I lifted it, but when I looked up the specs I realized the actual weight difference shouldn't be noticeable. Iím able to lift the seats of both of them up to my shoulder for carrying, which is something I havenít been able to do with my old bike.
In terms of stepoverability, it is possible to step over both of them, but definitely a lot more awkward than on my current bike. I think I'd either have to learn how to lean the bike to the side to step over, or would mainly need to swing my leg over the back. If I really needed to step over because of a skirt I think that I could, but I wasnít wearing a skirt when I tested either bike.
I was able to test the Public on one of the major hills of my commute, the Linus I rode only on flatter roads. On both, the gearing felt much easier than the gears on my current bike, with first gear too low for anything but steep hills (which is what Iím looking for).
They both felt pretty comfortable, though the test rides were short. The Linus comes with more swept back handlebars, and the seat and the grips are leather. The Public comes with flatter handlebars, and an ugly grey/black vinyl seat. I like the aesthetic of the Linus better, but realize that I could eventually change out the handlebars and seat on the Public, and might even need to do that on the Linus as well given that people say the saddle is uncomfortable.
These are the bikes:
My questions come down to two main ones:
1. Is there a noticeable quality difference between these bikes? Most reviews of Public and Linus by serious bike people are very disparaging, but I notice that they focus on their lowest end bikes. These are both chromoloy steel frames, and both have shimano nexus 8 internal hubs. They may not be as high quality as a Pashley, say, but they are not in the same category as the single speed hi-ten bikes at the lower end of each companyís range. Those reviews that do seem actually examine the mixtes seem to mention that the Public components are higher quality, but I am too ignorant about bikes to be able to tell much of a difference between their specs. I thought Iíd notice a difference in feel when I tested them, but really didnít. All the bike stores Iíve been to that carry one brand do not carry the other brand, so the staff at these stores either donít feel able to comment on the other brand, or want to push the one they are selling. Publicís Bike is listed at $1099, Linus at $879, though I may be able to get some sort of sale at the LBS as it is January. Is the Public bike $200 nicer in some way? Especially given that Iíll probably eventually want to replace the handlebars and saddle? I'm happy to be talked into it, I just can't really tell.
2. Will a mixte like this be able to do much recreational riding? I donít want to climb crazy hills or bike 100 miles, but Iíd like to be able to go out with friends for fun and not have to make sure ahead of time that there will be no hills. I know that vintage mixtes were built as alternatives to diamond frame road bikes, but those were derailleur bikes, not set up with internal gears. Does the added road-bike-ness still come through in this 8 speed internal gear format? Or will the weight of them make them ride more like a step through, upright bike? I understand that this bike will be better designed for commuting than for going on long rides for fun, but will it be decent? If not, Iíd feel like I should seriously reconsider a more step through, upright bike as I do appreciate the ease of mounting/dismounting that I have now. Iíve been focusing on mixteís because I like the idea of something faster and lighter than a classic city bike. But if I wonít really get that benefit from these kinds of mixtes, I might want to look at buying a perfect commuter and then eventually getting a used, light roadbike with derailleur gearing.
Sorry to write something so long, I hope youíve made it through to the end. I really appreciate your advice on these questions. And if people have recommendations on other ~$1000 mixtes with 8 speed hubs that Iíve missed, please let me know.