The way I see it, smart city men see the bicycle like other men might see a hot little convertible coupe. It gets you where you need to go with style, ease, open air and flair. And like the convertible, the smart city bike is a serious investment when you consider the essential components of craftsmanship and style. And unlike the car, the bike doesn’t require continual lifetime expenses like insurance, gas and parking*. That important difference can justify spending more on a fabulous bike since it’s a one-time investment with minimal subsequent expenses for maintenance. Aside from blown tires, cable adjustments and other minor touch-ups over the years, the only real required accessory is a good lock. (Go Kryptonite on that one.)
Below are five bikes available as of this writing that offer a lifetime of timeless, classic and stylish city bicycling. They come in a range of prices, from just under $600 to over $3,500. The higher-ticket bikes may seem over-the-top, but when you consider that the bike is a one-time investment and that some specialized racing bikes cost much more for very limited usability, a $3,500 bicycle that you will have forever and can ride virtually anytime might seem more reasonable.
Here’s the rundown…
The Driggs 3 by Brooklyn Cruiser
This bad boy from Brooklyn Cruiser is my current ride. With the signature double-top steel frame, front and rear fenders, a chain guard, rear rack, three speeds and leather saddle and grips, it comes packed with all the features I need.
- Custom steel frame with Brooklyn Cruiser’s signature double top tube, rear carrier & down tube braze-ons
- Custom steel fork
- Heavy gauge chainguard, full front & rear fenders, rear carrier color matched to frame
- Shimano NEXUS internal 3-speed hub with integrated coaster brake
- Shimano NEXUS Revo 3-speed shifter
- Alloy city pedals
- Front hand brake and integrated coaster brake
- Pre-conditioned genuine leather grips
- Leather touring saddle with dual coil springs
- Kenda West Cream tires
- Double-walled alloy rims with stainless steel spokes
- Frame in 52cm or 58cm
- 32 lbs.
Available in black (pictured), ivory or tangerine. $579
The Classic by Papillionaire
I met one of these handsome bastards in person at Bike Expo New York in 2013. Papillionaire hails from Australia and presents a classic lugged steel frame with all the trimmings I appreciate in a well-appointed city bicycle.
- Lugged chromoly (CRMO) steel frame (52cm or 57cm)
- Nexus Shimano 3 speed internal hub
- Tektro dual-pivot front and rear caliper brakes
- Mudguards (“fenders) & half chaincase (“chain guard”)
- 31 lbs.
- 3-speed (1-speed available)
- Kenda West cream tires
- Crafted leather saddle (+ $50)
- Chrome-capped leather washer grips (+ $30)
- Rear carrier, in the frame color
Available in black (pictured), cream or olive. $629 (including the optional add-ons listed above)
The Chief by Heritage Bicycles
Heritage Bicycles is one of my favorite bike shop ideas ever created. Not only are their bikes custom made in Chicago, but their actual shop also houses a café with pastries, baked goods and killer coffee. I would put out for something like that in my neighborhood. (To watch a great video feature on the bike shop/coffee shop, click here.)
My favorite model from Heritage Bicycles is The Chief. Of all the bicycle makers I’ve featured here, Heritage offers by far the most customization options, like frame size, color, saddle, gears and more. Aside from the custom options, they have three out-of-the-box editions of The Chief, ranging from the basic ($799) to the fully-loaded, handmade “Legacy Edition” ($1,850).
Legacy Edition features:
- Handmade steel frame
- Ox Blood Red powder coat paint with “Heritage Chicago” details
- 700c high polish silver deep alloy rims with machined sidewall
- Spokes: Front: radial lace stainless; Rear:double cross laced stainless, black nipples
- Sturmey Archer 2 speed kick shift
- Wenge and walnut wood fenders
- Polished cantilever road brakes
- High polish “mustache” bars
- Brooks Flyer, black steel rails and springs, aged finish
- Brooks slender grips with aged finish
- Painted to match, front and rear racks
Personally, I would customize further by adding a chain guard. And I might go for chrome fenders instead of the wood ones. There are many more options with Heritage for a less-expensive but super-sharp bicycle. $1,850 (or much less).
The Runwell by Shinola
Detroit’s own Shinola – the same company that makes some damn fine wristwatches – makes one of my favorite bicycles on the planet. The classic diamond-frame Runwell is a real head-turner. True, it is quite a bit pricier than other bicycles. But here’s the thing with that: it’s a beautifully-crafted machine with a fully-lugged frame, made in Motor City, a town that couldn’t hurt to become the bicycle capital of America. For that, and for the lifetime investment reasons I described earlier, this bike and its price tag has my full support.
- Lugged, TrueTemper double-butted CroMo frame
- TrueTemper CroMo, custom cast fork crown
- Civia Aldrich, alloy, 50º backsweep handlebar
- Shinola leather grips w/alloy grip clamps
- Shimano mechanical disc brakes w/160mm rotors
- Shimano Alfine 11-sp RapidFire Plus shifters
- Shimano disc front hub, Shimano Alfine 11-sp disc rear hub
- Sun CR-18, 32º, one-eyelet, P/V, polished silver rims with DT Swiss Champion, 14g, stainless spokes
- Continental Contact Reflex, 700x32C, tires w/reflective strip
- MKS Sylvan Touring pedals, aluminum
- Shinola leather saddle with silver rails and rivets
- Front rack, fenders, bell and Shinola chain guard
The Runwell comes in a dark orange (pictured), a dark baby blue or a rich yellow. $2,950.
The English Roadster by Vickers
There are a lot of British things that turn me on: tailoring, trifle, Bond films, a certain television executive who shall remain nameless, that accent… Well, I will add this stunning city bike to that list of British turn-ons.
The English Roadster by Vickers Bicycles is simple, elegant, masculine, stylish, timeless and beautifully made with exquisitely considered details. It is made-to-order by hand, one at a time, and is the ultimate fuck-off modern city bike for discerning gents. In fact, this bike might even have a dress code. I’d think of it as the Aston Martin DB5 of bicycles. If you have the means (and a secure place to park it at the office), pull the trigger.
- Lightweight, lugged steel frame, handmade in Coventry, England
- Brush-polished, stainless-steel lugs
- High performance Tange Seiki headset & bottom bracket
- Nitto bars wrapped in Brooks leather
- Brooks saddle
- Bullet-proof Continental tires
- SRAM Automatix two-speed rear hub with automatic shift
- Integrated back pedal coaster brake
- Schmidt SON Edelux dynamo-powered front lamp
- Flat “strip” fenders and chain guard
The Roadster comes in three separately-priced models: Roadster S ($3,560); Roadster L ($4,860); Roadster SL ($6,500).
As I’ve said, a smart bike is a smart investment for the modern urban man. I treat my own like a Porsche: I keep it clean, well-maintained and parked in a safe place. When my envy monster rears its ugly head nowadays, it often happens when I see a smart-looking guy on a gorgeous bicycle like one of these. Then I quickly reclaim my equilibrium and say to myself, “Well played, sir.”
So if you’re a modern man living in a city, consider a smart city bike as your preferred mode. Aside from the obvious health and environmental benefits, it gets you where you need to go and keeps you connected to the fabric of your surroundings unlike any other means of getting around. And you’ll look fantastic riding it, too.
* FULL DISCLOSURE: I actually pay for bike parking in the garage in my building. It costs me $200/year, which is less than $17/month. In terms of the space it saves in my humble studio, it’s totally worth it.