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Why No Love For Utility Bikes?

Old 08-01-06, 01:48 AM
  #51  
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Like a lot of you on these forums, I admire a good utility bike. That said, there just isn't much demand for them in the U.S. Most of the country is pretty spread out, and everyone owns a car. Bicycles are bought for recreation almost exclusively. No, this isn't a terribly insightul response to the question, but it's true nonetheless.

Those who really want a good bike to perform utilitarian tasks are few are far between, and a large fraction of them probably read these forums...

I have to say, though, that one drawback to utility bikes like the Dutch imports or the Breezers is that they are not set up to carry a lot of additional cargo, apart from a rider. One would need to augment the bikes somehow, and not so easily, to replace a lot of car trips that Americans make to big grocery stores and the like.

For my money, the best utilitarian bike for most American conditions is a touring bike. It's got road geometry, and so it can make good time on the pavement. On the road, it's faster than a Breezer or an upright Dutch-style bike. It's designed to carry heavy loads. Not only is the frame strong, but it is set up for a front rack, and has long rear stays for large rear panniers or bags. A rider can carry a lot of groceries or other items on such a bike, not just a newspaper and a few frozen dinners. It's got strong enough wheels to stand up to bad roads, too.

It is expensive to get a good tourer and kit it out for carrying lots of stuff, though. Racks, fenders, good bags, lights, a kickstand, etc., are all sold separately. Furthermore, one problem that is very hard to solve is to find a chainguard in the U.S. that will work with a front derailler. Despite the compromises, a tourer is still the most practical utility bike, in my view--- once you have one set up, anyway.
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Old 08-01-06, 02:33 AM
  #52  
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IMHO, MTBs and road racing influences are what have held back development of newer utility bikes by the major companies. You can get comfort bikes, but they don't have any standard equipment like racks or other means of carrying things. They also usually have lousy seats. Touring bikes are good, but they usually lack fenders and things like racks are often expensive extras. Cyclocross bikes like my Lemond have clearance for larger tires, but again you have to buy lots of extras. I wonder how Joe Breeze is doing with his Breezer sales? In my mind, that's the closest thing to a utility and commuter bike now being made today.

I'd like to think that this high dollar gasoline would get more people on bikes, but I'm afraid it won't happen. This country has an addiction to the automobile and a lot of people wouldn't think of riding a bike for a couple of miles when they can get in their air conditioned gas guzzler and drive there. I live way out in the country and have to use my pickup for a lot of things, but I still bike whenever I can. Not only does it save gas, it keeps the mileage lower so my truck will last longer and have better resale. Around here people kind of consider me a weirdo for riding my bike as much as I do. It will take a big change in attitudes before we get more citizens riding bikes and using them instead of their autos or SUVs.

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Old 08-01-06, 04:13 AM
  #53  
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Originally Posted by slowandsteady
First of all its a MIATA, not a Miyata. It is a car. They have sold close to 1 million. It is the best selling roadster of all time according to the Guiness book of world records. There are 132 Miata owners clubs in America alone. So when I say we, I mean we, as in the other one million owners.
its a MIATA, not a Miyata = BFD. Of course its a car, and that is what I assumed you did most of your utility cycling on, i.e. none.

I didn't assume that anyone would speak as the representative of the million MIATA car owners and give THEIR opinion of what are the important priorities for cyclists. Thanks for clarifying who "We" is.
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Old 08-01-06, 12:27 PM
  #54  
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Originally Posted by smokeystrodtman
I wonder how Joe Breeze is doing with his Breezer sales? In my mind, that's the closest thing to a utility and commuter bike now being made today.
I hope well! I just bought a Villager and it is absolutely awesome! I wish I'd gotten it months ago So now I have my Fuji Tourer for longer trips and recreational club rides and my Breezer for cruising around town. I may never drive again Unless there is a darn good reason to anyway.
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Old 08-01-06, 12:31 PM
  #55  
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I consider my frankenstein Mtn bike commuter to be a utility bike. when I was growing up, a ten-speed racing style bike was THE bike to have. OR a stingray. I even put stingray handle bars and a banana seat on my old cruiser-style bike to make it "cooler". and a lot of perople have it in their heads that that racing style or Mtn bike is what a bike is supposed to be.
I was at target yesterday and I saw a heavy cruiser-style bike with fat tires and fenders but it had 8 speeds. that would work for utility cycling. wonder if they actually sell any...
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Old 08-01-06, 12:37 PM
  #56  
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Originally Posted by PaulH
Back in the late 1960s and eary 1970s, the English three speed was the standard adult bicycle. The modern high-end utility bikes descend from it. Before that, the balloon tire, coaster brake single speed bike was the standard. These bikes are equivalent to the Dutch bikes. In those days, mountain bikes did not yet exist and road bikes were very rare.
Road bikes were hardly 'rare' back in those days. What was rare was keeping one from being stolen!
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Old 08-01-06, 12:39 PM
  #57  
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I was at target yesterday and I saw a heavy cruiser-style bike with fat tires and fenders but it had 8 speeds. that would work for utility cycling. wonder if they actually sell any...
That sounds like my Electra. I've packed it down with racks and baskets. It makes a good platform, though the frame leans the rider back too much for long hauls.
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Old 08-01-06, 02:24 PM
  #58  
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I think its hard to find people who are hard core bike lovers who like utility grade bikes. They just aren't as fun to ride. By the way Cosmoline, do you go by the same username on any number of other forums I frequent?
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Old 08-01-06, 02:29 PM
  #59  
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OK, so I shopped around and found two (new) that met my criteria:

http://www.sycip.com/bikes_cruiser.html and

http://www.jamisbikes.com/usa/bikes/06_bcc.html

The first one is more my taste, but the second is more my budget.
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Old 08-01-06, 03:44 PM
  #60  
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Originally Posted by CrimsonEclipse
I get testy when people preach that you HAVE to spend $1000 on a bike....which is crap.
I don't care what you drive, more power to you.

But WE Americans don't need a special vehicle or bike to get the job done.
No, one does not have to spend a grand+ on a bike. But I also get testy when when I'm told that my bike is portrayed as unethical because it did not come out of a yard sale.
And we don't need special vehicles to get the job done? Wow that's flippant. But so is this: ever try to get a sheet of plywood home on a bike, or carry an automobile up a flight of stairs?

BTW, I think rat rodding is a high art. My best friend builds some beautiful vehicles out of rust, it's just not my cup of tea. I've had my fill with junkers, I prefer warranties, and scaring up new paint jobs all on my own. No one has a bike a cool as mine (well, to me), but that is because I built up exactly what I wanted, and for my own reasons, spending what I thought was appropriate.

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{edit} I walked away from my computer to get something to eat, and a voice in my head was saying "Yo--moron, the man has a sense of humor. He was rattling cages and got you to throw your own poo at the innocent school children". And the voice was right, mouthy and overly sensitive too. Sorry about that, dude.

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Old 08-01-06, 05:10 PM
  #61  
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I didn't assume that anyone would speak as the representative of the million MIATA car owners and give THEIR opinion of what are the important priorities for cyclists. Thanks for clarifying who "We" is.
Ever been in a Miata? They are not a practical or a utility vehicle. They are designed solely for fun. It is pretty easy to speak for Miata owners as it is clear what the vehicle is intended for. I also have an MBA, and no I don't know what every human on the planet wants, but I do know a thing or two about marketing.
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Old 08-01-06, 05:24 PM
  #62  
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Originally Posted by slowandsteady
Ever been in a Miata? They are not a practical or a utility vehicle. They are designed solely for fun. It is pretty easy to speak for Miata owners as it is clear what the vehicle is intended for. I also have an MBA, and no I don't know what every human on the planet wants, but I do know a thing or two about marketing.
If I ever have a sex change, feel free to offer me a miata.
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Old 08-01-06, 06:54 PM
  #63  
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Originally Posted by MERTON
they're heavy and slow.
So am I!
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Old 08-01-06, 07:25 PM
  #64  
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If I ever have a sex change, feel free to offer me a miata.
What do you need a sex change for? I thought a Volkswagen Cabriolet was the most feminine car.
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Old 08-01-06, 07:54 PM
  #65  
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The euro style utility bikes are all pretty much low end with one piece cranksets, cheap frames, and cheap parts. The good side is that they're EVERYWHERE and the parts are CHEAP. I rode an Amsterdam bike pretty hard once and I was afraid it was going to fall apart.
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Old 08-01-06, 10:44 PM
  #66  
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Originally Posted by Falkon
The euro style utility bikes are all pretty much low end with one piece cranksets, cheap frames, and cheap parts. The good side is that they're EVERYWHERE and the parts are CHEAP. I rode an Amsterdam bike pretty hard once and I was afraid it was going to fall apart.
The components aren't top of the line but I think you're mostly wrong. I've never seen a one-piece crank on a Breezer, Trek L-300 or L-400, Specialized Globe, Birria or other stateside utility bike. The converse is that Schwinn used one piece cranks on their Chicago-built bikes and they were like tanks. If the bike you rode felt like it was going to fall apart, that's 'cause it wasn't maintained properly. Even a high-end bike will perform like that if it isn't maintained properly, maybe even more so.
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Old 08-02-06, 04:06 AM
  #67  
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Originally Posted by slowandsteady
I also have an MBA, and no I don't know what every human on the planet wants, but I do know a thing or two about marketing.
And don't know dung about bicyclists who use bikes for frequent utility/commuting/non competitive recreation.
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Old 08-02-06, 11:57 AM
  #68  
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And don't know dung about bicyclists who use bikes for frequent utility/commuting/non competitive recreation.
That's because there are only six of you.
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Old 08-03-06, 07:29 AM
  #69  
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Originally Posted by Falkon
The euro style utility bikes are all pretty much low end with one piece cranksets, cheap frames, and cheap parts. The good side is that they're EVERYWHERE and the parts are CHEAP. I rode an Amsterdam bike pretty hard once and I was afraid it was going to fall apart.
The type you would typically find in Amsterdam would be cheap (since they pretty much all get stolen at some point in their life). But that is not the typical Dutch Bicycle.
Something like a Gazelle or Batavus is very high end and very well put together. Take a look at http://www.gazelle.nl/
And they won't fall apart. It is not uncommon to see 30 year old Gazelle frames still in use.
People in the "big" dutch cities pretty much all ride crap bicycles, it is a form of theft prevention.

The Dutchbicycle site posted earlier in this thread is a ripoff. I'd expect to pay no more than $300 for those bicycles from no name brands. $1000 could buy you a top of the line Gazelle or even a pretty decent Koga-Miyata.

The great thing is the equipment they come with compared to more sporty bicycles. Completely closed drive trains with 7 speed hub gearing, hub alternators, automatic lights standard, cargo carriers, front suspension (not too soft like on mountain bikes), shock absorbing seat post and many other small details.

And i regulary make 30 mile trips on my bicycle, sure i may not be as fast as someone on their carbon fibre road bicycle but a utility (or city) bicycle is cheap and low maitenance.

I wouldn't want to ride one in a hilly area though, they ARE heavy (~20kg or ~45lbs typically).
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Old 08-03-06, 07:54 PM
  #70  
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Originally Posted by slowandsteady
That's because there are only six of you.
Spoken as an insult, but one of the most factually incorrect statements ever typed on these boards.

The truth is that utility cyclists probably far outnumber recreational riders in this country. You aren't likely to notice most of them. Most of them live in the city. They work long hours for pay that would make most Americans laugh in the face of their employers. Most of them probably don't speak your language, and most of them are riding bicycles simply because it's all they can afford.

These invisible utility cyclists are everywhere, and they don't really care much about how their bikes work, or how fast they are, or even how they look. They're just looking to get around. These are the folks that would be well-served by the reappearance of solid, reliable utility bikes. If folks are going to ride X-Mart bikes (and believe me, that's all they can afford), it would be better that they ride X-Mart bikes with three-speed coaster brake hubs and fenders than a crappy full-suspension MTB with a rubbing derailer that only works on three cogs anyway. Unfortunately, sport cycling has managed to work its way even into the low-end market, and so crappy full-suspension MTBs are what they get. Too bad. You could probably put together a decent 3-speed commuter with fenders and a basic rack for the same price to sell at Target or Wal-Mart.

I'd like to see everyone, of all classes, make use of practical bikes more often in everyday life. I'd like to see a bigger market for utility bikes on all price levels, from basic, bare-bones X-mart bikes to fancy, custom-built works of art from the likes of A.N.T. (although calling his work "utility bicycles" seems borderline oxymoronic). But at least the middle and upper-class native born or naturalized citizens can afford to put together a workable utility bike if they desire. The people who are really getting screwed out of quality utility transport are the ones who can't afford anything else, and who want a bike for nothing more than basic transportation. For them, it really is about getting from point A to point B, and there are better ways to do it than on a $50 FS MTB. They're not buying those bikes because they're stupid, they're buying them because they're what's available.
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Old 08-03-06, 08:52 PM
  #71  
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Originally Posted by Old Dirt Hill
Agreed...someone care to explain the difference between my touring bike and a utility bike? I can't think of something I don't use my touring bike for that one wouldn't use a "utility" bike for...then again, maybe I'm just getting hung up on definitions.
Hate to quote myself, but can someone clarify this for me? Is a touring bike essentially a utility bike that one rides for a tour? Would it be safe to say that most touring bikes qualify as utility bikes, but most utility bikes aren't touring bikes?
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Old 08-03-06, 10:36 PM
  #72  
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Originally Posted by grolby
Spoken as an insult, but one of the most factually incorrect statements ever typed on these boards.

The truth is that utility cyclists probably far outnumber recreational riders in this country. You aren't likely to notice most of them. Most of them live in the city. They work long hours for pay that would make most Americans laugh in the face of their employers. Most of them probably don't speak your language, and most of them are riding bicycles simply because it's all they can afford.

These invisible utility cyclists are everywhere, and they don't really care much about how their bikes work, or how fast they are, or even how they look. They're just looking to get around. These are the folks that would be well-served by the reappearance of solid, reliable utility bikes. If folks are going to ride X-Mart bikes (and believe me, that's all they can afford), it would be better that they ride X-Mart bikes with three-speed coaster brake hubs and fenders than a crappy full-suspension MTB with a rubbing derailer that only works on three cogs anyway. Unfortunately, sport cycling has managed to work its way even into the low-end market, and so crappy full-suspension MTBs are what they get. Too bad. You could probably put together a decent 3-speed commuter with fenders and a basic rack for the same price to sell at Target or Wal-Mart.

I'd like to see everyone, of all classes, make use of practical bikes more often in everyday life. I'd like to see a bigger market for utility bikes on all price levels, from basic, bare-bones X-mart bikes to fancy, custom-built works of art from the likes of A.N.T. (although calling his work "utility bicycles" seems borderline oxymoronic). But at least the middle and upper-class native born or naturalized citizens can afford to put together a workable utility bike if they desire. The people who are really getting screwed out of quality utility transport are the ones who can't afford anything else, and who want a bike for nothing more than basic transportation. For them, it really is about getting from point A to point B, and there are better ways to do it than on a $50 FS MTB. They're not buying those bikes because they're stupid, they're buying them because they're what's available.
Amen, brother.
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Old 08-04-06, 04:13 AM
  #73  
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Originally Posted by grolby
Spoken as an insult, but one of the most factually incorrect statements ever typed on these boards.

The truth is that utility cyclists probably far outnumber recreational riders in this country. You aren't likely to notice most of them. Most of them live in the city. They work long hours for pay that would make most Americans laugh in the face of their employers. Most of them probably don't speak your language, and most of them are riding bicycles simply because it's all they can afford.
The cycling world is not just 2 camps, poor immigrants getting around as best they can and middle/upper income recreationalist roadies (i.e the Miata types who represent "we" cyclists.).
Don't forget the other large slices of the utility cycling population - youth and college students. These groups would also be well served by the availabilty of more practical bikes.
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Old 08-04-06, 04:18 AM
  #74  
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Originally Posted by donnamb
Amen, brother.
Ditto...good post grolby! My sentiments exactly...whatever happened to the Schwinn's of this world? MARKETING!

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Old 08-04-06, 08:48 AM
  #75  
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Again, it is about demand. If there was sufficient demand for these utility bikes they would be selling them. I do see people riding utility bikes. I live in a rural community and many of the migrant workers are riding used bikes to get around. I couldn't even generalize the type of bike. I see everything from X-mart full suspension junk to road bikes that are 20 years old and everything in between. In fact, many of the bikes seem to be piecemeal parts from numerous bikes.

So, yes, there are people who want and need utility bikes. Unfortunately, these same people TEND to be in lower income groups. And, as a company, it just doesn't make sense to try and build a whole market for those that can barely afford to feed themselves.

The general rule of thumb is that it is okay to target a small market, but the competition needs to be low as well as having high profit margins. In fact sometimes it is better to dominate a small market than to have a small share of a big market. But, I just don't see this as being a reality in the utility bike market.

Many of you in this thread that are pro-utility bike also abhor the prices of road bikes. It seems that you think it is almost immoral to spend big cash on a bicycle. No company in its right mind would try to target people like this. Additionally, with the bike boom of the 80's, there are thousands upon thousands of $50 used bikes. A new utility bike would have to compete with this market that is already favored by the utility types. It is just to high a hurdle with little possiblity of rewarding profits.

But, if you disagree, I encourage you to start your own utility bike business. Good luck.
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