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Priority Continuum Onyx - Review

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Priority Continuum Onyx - Review

Old 02-06-20, 02:50 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2020
Location: Portland (PDX), OR
Posts: 38

Bikes: Priority Continuum Onyx, Brompton, Specialized Crossroads

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Priority Continuum Onyx - Review

There don't seem to be a lot of these around so I thought I would contribute a review and add to it over time as the "new" wears off. I've had this bike for less than a week and have put about 50 miles on it. I'll try to come back to this after intervals and add comments pertaining to maintenance. Maybe other Continuum owners will contribute advice along the way. Speaking of maintenance, my primary motivation to buy this bike is the hope of having the most reliable and lowest-maintenance commuter/city bike possible. I commute year-round in anything but ice and won't be touring, trail-riding or racing it. Weight is far down my priority list.

When I started shopping around, my priority list included hydraulic disc brakes, internal hub transmission, dynamo lighting, bullet-proof tires and the ability to carry a heavy laptop, multiple locks, clothes, lunch and a 175 lb human. I didn't know belt drives or CVT shifting existed on a bike until well into my online research.

The only way to get this bike is to directly order it through the Priority website. I've never bought a bike without a test drive so this gave me pause. All the reviews of the company and the process are glowing and there's a return policy. There's a chat app on their site which took my phone # and I communicated with a rep over text for quite a few nit-picky questions. I always received a response withing 10 minutes. You can have it shipped to your home for $30 but you'll have to assemble it yourself. There's a video on youtube showing that this isn't that difficult to do. However, having never had a belt drive, I opted to go with their other option of paying $100 to have it shipped to a mobile bike mechanic, Velofix, and delivered to my door fully assembled. I'm glad I went this route as it turned out my local Velofix mechanic lives about a mile from me and has assembled plenty of this exact model. This has also gotten me in contact with a nearby mechanic, and super nice guy, that has loads of experience with belt drives and this eccentric Nuvinci hub. I ordered on a Friday and the bike was delivered on Saturday (8 days later).

On to the bike....

My previous commuter was a Specialized Crossroads hybrid from 2001 or so. It has grip shifters and a typical 3 x 8 derailleur setup. Despite the Nuvinci having grip shifters, it has taken me several days to really get used to "shifting", if you can call it that. On the Specialized, you would roll the grip backwards to shift down and forwards to shift up. It's the opposite on the Nuvinci. Down = downhill, up = uphill. The cables can be reversed, but I decided to stick with it and get used to it, which I mostly have. Also, reversing the cables would mean the little visual indicator of a guy going up a hill would not make sense, not that I ever take my eyes off the road to look at indicators.

It's also taken me a while to get used how far to "jump". On the first day, I thought I had gotten a much slower bike. Now, on the fourth day of commuting, I am positive that I just wasn't shifting efficiently. Small adjustments are more effective than the large and inaccurate adjustments I was making. Now, the only time I make a big jump is when I shift all the way down while at a dead stop. This ability to start from any "gear" is a big deal to me as my commute through the Portland city core involves many, many complete stops and near-stop cautious moments. When at a complete stop, you don't have access to the full range. Once I start pedaling, I can shift a little bit lower. However, the range I'm able to access is already lower than I what need to easily get started. In summary, my feel for the intervals has improved over a few days and my commute hasn't gained or lost any minutes when compared to my previous bike. I've read about the Nuvinci being inefficient but my commute time doesn't reflect that. If it's less efficient, maybe I'm burning more calories which would register as a plus.

Now, the most immediate and dramatic different between this bike and any other bike I've ridden.......silence. No shifting sounds, no missed or skipping gears, no sound at all. Of course, the belt drive is also silent. Once, I thought I heard noise on my quiet early morning start but it was a another bike coming up behind me. I can hear the usual soft free-wheel click when walking the bike, but I haven't noticed it while coasting. If this hub holds up over time, I reckon I'm done experiencing gears skipping or chains slipping. The sum of the silence and the CVT "shifting" results in a very smooth experience.

The only thing that I can say bad about this transmission is that you may never feel the "boost" of jumping to a higher gear at just the right moment. It's much like what you might miss when driving an automatic transmission in a car.

This is my first set of hydraulic disc brakes so my review of them isn't worth much. They work well and are silent. No issues.

The tires are "WTB Slick". Priority's site describes the tire as "puncture resistant" but neither the WTB site nor Amazon mention that. Therefore, I have to assume they won't hold up compared to the Schwalbe Marathons or equivalent that I have on my other bikes. They are noticeably softer and probably grip the road better. They seem like quality tires to me but If I get a puncture, I'm upgrading to bullet-proof.

The dynamo hub powers the head and tail light. They seem bright enough to be visible to others which is all I needed and expected. I have a very strong light mounted to my helmet to illuminate the road in front of me. The lights stay on for a while after the bike is parked/stopped. There's a micro-usb connection on the rear of the headlight protected by a rubber flap. I wrote Priority about this as and they replied that it should be used to charge a power supply when the headlight is switched to off. The power supply can then be used to charge a phone. Apparently, the unsteady power source means that charging a phone direction from the dynamo can make the phone frequently switch in and out of charging mode and actually drain it's battery. Fair enough. As it currently costs less than 1$ per year to charge an iPhone every night, and I charge at my office as well, I can't see this being much benefit unless I want to take the bike on a long tour and charge a power brick along the way.

Now to the bad stuff: Not much. After adding heavy panniers, the included kickstand is risky. I've caught the bike falling several times. It's not that the kickstand is low quality, it just isn't a double-kickstand. I'll be adding one of those soon.

Last edited by PDXCarless; 02-13-20 at 11:12 AM.
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