Sunday, June 19, 2011

Public Bikes Review: Public J7 and Public V7

I mentioned recently that we are vacationing in Cali, and when we discovered over the past weekend that there is a Public Bikes dealer in close proximity, we couldn't help but pay the shop a visit. I've looked at these bicycles several times online, and at one point even considered purchasing one, but without being able to test ride, I was extremely hesitant. While I was aware that the company has a guarantee that would permit me to try and return should it not meet my expectations, it always seems like such a hassle to go through that sort of process.
Public J7
**Image from Public Bikes
Public V7
**Image from Public Bikes
When we first arrived on site at the dealer, both Sam and I were stunned at how nice the bikes looked in person.  When viewed on the website, it's difficult to pick up subtle details that are easier to see in person. The bicycles are plain looking, with no fancy welds or paint schemes really, but there is something about their simplicity that is striking. We opted to take out both the Public J7 and the Public V7 and then switch half way through the test ride to see what differences we noticed in the two rides.  I should mention that it appears that the J7 and C7 appear strikingly similar, and from what we learned, I think the J7 is being phased out (or at least the creamy white color we rode is being taken off the lot, so to speak). The stem on the J7 does seem to be a bit longer than that of the C7, so that could cause some difference in the way it rides. Initially, I rode the J7 and Sam rode the V7, and then we changed rides to see the differences and/or similarities.
On a ride with Public bicycles
The Public V7:
This model seems to fall somewhere between a leaned over road style bicycle and a bolt upright dutch bike in terms of sitting position. There wasn't a lot of pressure on the hands, but there is some. I have weak hands and wrists with some damage, and the ride was not bothersome in the least to me.  This particular style comes presently in either cream or green. It comes in two sizes: Standard (which suits those who are approximately 4'10-5'6) and Large (which is better suited for those 5'7-6'2). Specs per Public's website are:
Weight: 28.1 lbs (standard)
Frame: PUBLIC hi-tensile steel frame, with fender and rack braze-ons, integrated kickstand bracket
Fork: PUBLIC hi-tensile steel unicrown fork, with fender and rack braze-ons
Handlebar: Steel commuting bar, 15 deg back sweep, 580mm wide, 25mm rise, 25.4mm clamp
Stem: Forged alloy quill stem, 15 degree rise, 25.4mm clamp
Headset: 1" threaded steel
Grips: PUBLIC triangle grip, 125/90mm, closed end
Freewheel: Shimano 14-34 tooth Mega Range freewheel
Crankset: Alloy crank set 170mm, 39 tooth chainring with outer chainring guard, square taper
Bottom bracket: Square taper BSA English threaded cartridge bottom bracket
Chain: KMC Z510, 1/2" x 3/32" rustproof
Pedals: PUBLIC reinforced resin composite platform pedal, with rubber pads, 9/16" axle, ball bearings
Front & rear brake: Cold forged alloy dual pivot caliper, EN Standard brake pads
Shifter: Shimano 7-speed Revoshift twist shifter
Rear Derailleur:Shimano Acera 7-speed
Brake levers: Alloy 4 finger caliper brake lever
Saddle: PUBLIC seat, 165mm wide, steel polished rails
Seat post: Alloy micro-adjust 27.2mm x 350mm length
Seat post clamp: Alloy 1 bolt
Tires: 700x35c, 30TPI, tan skin wall
Inner tubes: Schrader valve
Rims: Alloy, 36 hole, 700c, machined brake surface
Front hub: Alloy low flange 36 hole, nutted bolt-on axle
Rear hub: Alloy low flange 36 hole, nutted bolt-on axle
Spokes: Stainless steel 14G
Chainguard: Alloy chainguard
Kickstand: Alloy center mount
Fenders: Alloy full fender
While I know that hi-tensile steel is lower end steel, I believe the price reflects this. The low price, however, doesn't mean the ride isn't decent, and even good. The bike "feels" light when riding, and 28 lbs seems light by comparison to our normal all steel bikes. The brakes did great, even on super steep downhill portions of the ride, and the hand position seems right for the bike's set up. It shifted well through all 7 gears, and gear 1 was phenomenal for the super steep uphill portions of the ride. Since it was designed in San Francisco, it makes sense that it would be well suited for hills though. I'm not sure how well the tires will hold up over time (they're the same on both models we rode). I have no knowledge of the specific tire brand or longevity, but I have a feeling it would be changed out if more puncture protection is needed by the rider. Overall, a pretty great ride, that has everything one would need (or at least, there are accessories which can be purchased, like lights, racks, etc to complete the ride). While it may not speak to those who desire fancier looks or welds, it really is quite lovely for its price tag. We both left the shop thinking, "I could ride this bike daily without issue." The price tag isn't bad either.

The Public J7:
This particular model was an interesting bike as well. It seems to have been created using the idea of the Dutch style bicycles, and its riding position is quite upright. There was no pressure on the hands at all. The J7 comes in a two sizes:  Medium, which is made for those approximately 5'2-5'7, and Large, made for those 5'7-6'0.  Currently, this color is available only in orange, but we rode a creamy white color which has been discontinued. This particular model came equipped with a rear rack (at an extra cost of $40), which would obviously make carrying items much easier. Here are the specs for this particular model:
Weight: 30 lbs (medium)
Frame: 4130 chromoly steel frame, with fender and rack braze-ons, integrated kickstand bracket
Fork: PUBLIC 4130 chromoly steel fork, with fender and rack braze-ons
Handlebar: Steel commuting bar, 25 deg back sweep, 590mm wide, 25mm rise, 25.4mm clamp
Stem: Forged alloy quill stem, 25 degree rise, 25.4mm clamp
Headset: 1" threaded steel
Grips: PUBLIC triangle grip, 125/90mm, closed end
Freewheel: Shimano 14-34 tooth Mega Range 7-speed freewheel
Crankset: Alloy crank set, 39 tooth chainring w/alloy outer chainring guard
Bottom bracket: Square taper BSA English threaded cartridge bottom bracket
Chain: KMC Z50, 1/2" x 3/32" rustproof
Pedals: PUBLIC Butterfly alloy platform pedal, with rubber pads, 9/16" axle, ball bearings
Front & rear brake: Alloy caliper brake, long reach (55-73mm), EN Standard brake pads
Shifter: Shimano 7-speed Revo Shift twist shifter
Brake levers: Alloy 4 finger caliper brake lever
Saddle: PUBLIC seat, 165mm wide, steel polished rails
Seat post: Alloy 27.2mm
Seat post clamp: Alloy 1 bolt
Tires: 700x35c, 30TPI, tan skin wall
Inner tubes: Schrader valve
Rims: Alloy, 32 hole, 700c, machined brake surface
Front hub: Alloy low flange 32 hole, nutted bolt-on axle
Rear hub: Alloy low flange 32 hole, nutted bolt-on axle
Spokes: Stainless steel 14G
Chainguard: Alloy chainguard
Kickstand: Alloy center mount
Fenders: Alloy full fender
The ride was different, yet similar to the V7 model. It felt light and pretty easily got up some tough hills, but the position isn't well suited for leaning forward to "help" get up the hill. That said, it seemed easier to stand and pedal than other bikes similar to this style that I've ridden in the past. My two least favorite things about this model are the saddle and the handlebars. Public appears to put the same saddle and handlebar on every bicycle model they sell, but for a pretty bolt upright ride, I would need a wider saddle to support my sit bones (of course, this would be different for every rider, I'm sure). The saddle wasn't painfully uncomfortable by any means, but for the mileage I cover, the saddle just wouldn't do. As for the handlebars, I felt as though they should have more of a swept back look, rather than the same look of the other Public models. Something just seems "off" for lack of a better way of stating it. The ride is excellent, however, and this could easily be a daily rider for me. On a 6.5 mile ride, she did just great and went up and down hills, and through all the gears with ease. A truly excellent option, in my opinion, for those looking for a sub-$600 bicycle, with that semi-Dutch/upright/loop frame style look. 
If one takes into consideration the potential cost involved in fully outfitting one of these bikes, I can see how it could get a bit pricey. However, the nice thing is that these are ready to ride and substitutions can be made on an as-needed basis. After all, riding a bike for some time is the best way to know what is truly necessary. We were both pleased with each of these bicycles, and think they could certainly be models to check out for those who are looking for a daily rider at a decent price point. The accessories available can certainly complete the ride, and the nice thing is that instead of jacking up the price with all kinds of items that a rider may or may not need, a purchaser can buy the bike alone and add on accessories as needed, or as money is saved up. A smart thing for Public to do, we thought. 

1 comment:

  1. I have found that with 2 rides in on the V7 (In multiple states), that it's quite nicely setup, even the saddle is not bad for the style of riding on this bike. It's got a good combination of snappy quickness, and city riding style. I probably would not go on a 50 mile trip, but i think it could take someone easily within a metro area. Totally perfect for our city stuff, and trumps a single speed any day, while still being very simple.

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