What is up with all of the Electra haters out in the bicycling world? I am entirely perplexed by this. I feel as though every time I start looking for something (usually completely un-Electra related), I come upon a series of blogs, posts, and so on that are bashing Electra. Is it the affordable cost? Is it the fun choices? Really, I would love to know what the issue is for these folks who just seem to be hell bent on ripping the company apart. I truly would like to know any information that someone can provide. All I keep hearing (reading) is that Electra's are just of such poor, poor quality, but no one wants to lay down any specifics or facts. I know that the Townie's got a bad reputation because of some recalls, but quite honestly, owning three of them - Electra's, not specifically Townie's (and overall we've actually had four at one point in the flock), I don't quite get it. I understand that they don't have the hundred year reputation of some of the Dutch/German/Italian/Japanese/etc companies out there, but does that automatically mean that they make an inferior product?
So, as a service to anyone who's thinking about purchasing an Electra, I felt it is my duty to provide another side to the glaringly one sided information that seems to permeate the internet blogs and bicycle resources. You can get company information easily by typing Electra Bicycles into any search engine, so I figure that much is a given base of knowledge for someone doing research, but what is it actually like to ride their bicycles?
First on the list of reviews is one of Electra's cruiser bicycles: The Daisy.
My Electra Daisy is named Stuart. Yes, I gave the bicycle a boy's name. It's a long story, that I shan't go into here, but Stuart is my fabulously wonderful cruiser bicycle. I have taken Stuart on a variety of rides from short couple mile trips, to longer rides up to 20 miles round trip. Some people claim that you can't ride a cruiser bike these sort of distances, but believe me, I'm no athlete, and certainly don't have a svelte shape by any means. Yet, I have taken Stuart up and down the hills here on the front range of Colorado without issue. Sure, the steeper hills are an issue with the three speeds and weight of the bicycle, but honestly, there aren't THAT many super steep hills that I have to worry about. And hey, I just make it one of my goals to get up to the top without having to stop and walk him up the hill. Yes, he is a heavier bicycle (about 40 lbs before all his add ons like a front basket, rear rack - and now he actually has panniers as well for grocery store trips), but it just makes for a nice smooth ride. He's no speed demon, certainly, but if you're on a cruiser, are you really looking to ride in a hurry? There are other bicycles for quick moving trips. One of the best features (besides the gentle ride) is the fun color scheme. Sure, there are lots of bicycles out there that have different solid colors, but Stuart is a sight for sore eyes when I see that fun floral pattern. People always want to stop and talk to you when you're on this kind of fun bicycle, and people always want to stop and ask where you found such a bike, or just to say, "cool bike." For me, Stuart is also the bicycle that got me really "into" riding again. I started bicycling again in adulthood a few years ago to work, but hands always went numb and I was miserable. After getting Stuart, my whole world seemed to open up. I realized that I didn't have to be in pain to ride, and so I rode. Simple enough.
Next on the list is Electra's Amsterdam model, the Classic 3i. My particular model is in the green sunflower.
This picture shows the Amsterdam the way she came to me: beautiful, fun and full of life. I have a weird problem with naming my bicycles, and because I just fell in love with the fun spirit of this particular bicycle, she needed a fun name: Phoebe. Phoebe is AWESOME! Once again, she's equipped with a three speed internal hub that manages to get me wherever I need to go. She is a bit lighter than Stuart (running about 35 pounds as pictured above), and she definitely has a different feel to her. The first time I rode her after being so used to Stuart's smooth ride, I thought I wasn't going to enjoy her. I was so tense on my short initial ride that I had sore neck and shoulders for days afterward. When I realized it was my body tensing, I just relaxed and allowed Phoebe to do what she does. I guess the best way to describe it is a more loose steering, rather than the tighter feel of Stuart's steering. After the second ride though, I just loved everything about Phoebe. She was easier to peddle up the hills, I felt as though I could ride her longer distances, and soon I decided to add a Wald front basket so I could throw my purse in front, instead of on the back. I also tried out a Brooks B67S saddle for a time.
While the Brooks saddle seemed to be doing well, after a couple of rides, I realized that it just didn't work well for me. I have nothing bad to say about Brooks, but for me, this saddle wasn't the answer on this particular bicycle, so back on went the original saddle. This bicycle also garners quite a bit of attention from just about everyone passing by. It's hard to miss a bright green bicycle with pink and blue accessories. People often comment on the bicycle, and others just stare and smile as I ride by. This is definitely not a model for someone who doesn't want to speak to strangers. For example, one day Sam and I were riding in town and while crossing at an intersection, a guy rolled down his truck window to say, "Nice bike." As I said, she's difficult not to notice. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this bicycle. Once again, you won't win any speed challenges, but I'm not looking to do so. However, she definitely moves faster than Stuart, so I felt as though I was indeed a speed racer when I first started riding this particular bicycle.
My third model of Electra bicycle is the women's Ticino 7D.
Ahh, the Electra Ticino. This one doesn't have a name yet, as I haven't landed on the 'perfect' name yet, but I assure you, it is not for lack of charm or ride-ability. The picture I have here also shows a Wald front basket and a rear rack (after all, I've become accustomed to being able to just go and throw my stuff as needed) that were added after market, as well as a silver Electra mirror and a fabulous peachy-yellow colored handlebar rose. This particular model is an interesting fit in the line up. First, the frame is aluminum (not hi-ten steel like the cruiser and Amsterdam above), so it is incredibly light. I don't have the weight on this particular model, but I can easily lift it up quite high without issue, so it is quite different in that sense. It's sort of like a road bike in that regard, but the geometry and gearing isn't really like a road bike. The geometry is kind of similar to the Amsterdam, but you do lean a bit more forward, but it is still upright riding. This model also has a derailleur, rather than the internal hub like the above models. It also has 7 speeds, rather than just three. It obviously then provides more mid-range gears for hills, so it can be beneficial. Quite honestly though, after riding the heavier bikes up and down the hills around the area, I find I don't need them because the Ticino is so much lighter. Initially, I really wanted the Ticino 8D, but this was simply because I fell in love with the wintermint color. I just felt I couldn't justify the extra cost, especially considering the herd of bicycles already sitting in the garage. The oyster color on the 7D is quite lovely though, and I'm actually quite happy that I ended up with this particular model. If you can't tell from the picture above, it is a mixte frame, which was another reason I fell in love with the bike.
It's not the best picture of the frame itself, but is far more lovely than I was able to capture with the camera. One of the benefits of the mixte frame is the strength, and despite the fact that we here in the states like to call them a "women's" bicycle, I really think this needs to change to be called a step-through style of bicycle. I see nothing wrong with a man riding this bike (well, perhaps I'd remove the flower - but hey, lots of guys like flowers too, right?). The ride is a bit quicker than the Amsterdam, and significantly faster than the cruiser, but because it has an aluminum frame, you also feel more of the road. This really doesn't bother me in the least, but it is definitely a difference in ride going from one bicycle to the next.
Honestly, I just can't sing high enough praises for the Electra line up of bikes, particularly as it allows those with a sub-$1500-2500 budget to buy a great bike that's fun to ride. After all, isn't that the point: to get out on your bicycle? I'm not knocking any other brands of bicycles, and believe me, if I had extra thousands lying around, I'd likely purchase some of those as well, but I just felt that I had to say that I really love my Electra's and I am so grateful to enjoy each one of them for their individual qualities.