Monday, July 4, 2011

Part 2 - Public Bikes Review: A More "Real World" Opinion

I recently posted a review of Sam's and my experience test riding two different Public Bikes models while we were in California. It was exciting to have the opportunity to test ride something from a company that I've pretty well followed since their inception; but let's face it, nothing can compare to using a bike in every day life. The experience of a relatively short-term "test" ride just doesn't quite feel the same as, say, riding a bike for commuting to work, or fetching groceries from the market, or any other of a number of activities that take place via bike. Because we ended up loving the bicycles so much during our test rides, we decided to make other sacrifices (such as this) in order to afford purchasing these.
*Image from Public Bikes
After riding the bicycles nearly daily since our test ride, I thought it was important to point out that I still feel the same way about this bike, and if anything, my enjoyment has grown since the initial test ride. Because I don't ride the V7 model, I can only comment on my J7 (though perhaps Sam will offer his opinion on the V7 in comments at some juncture). To date, the only item I've switched out on this bicycle is one that I said I would change even while test riding it: the saddle. In my opinion, the seated position is simply too upright to support sit bones properly. The Brooks B-67S was my saddle of choice. I found a sale online and decided it was worth a little money to actually find full comfort on this bike.
If you have some patience, waiting for retailer demo/floor models is a great way
 to save some $$ on Brooks products.
Winter time purchases, CL, or E-bay finds are sometimes less expensive as well,
particularly if you don't mind a slightly used model.
I've now gone on joy rides, visited friends, and hauled stuff with the bicycle. I've gone up and down fairly steep hills, traveled on varying terrain (cement, asphalt, dirt, gravel), and tested the brakes and shifting thoroughly. It seems to do quite well regardless of the situation or length of ride. My longest jaunt was about 12 miles, and I felt as though I could've continued to ride quite easily. Despite the longest ride being one that found me hauling groceries home on a very hot day, I still found it quite a joy to ride. It's almost surprisingly easy to get around on, thanks, at least in part, to the lightweight steel used on these bikes.
I haven't quite been able to put my finger on what it is that works so well for me on this bicycle. I've owned both some pretty inexpensive and fairly costly upright style bicycles over the past few years, and they were all comfortable to ride and use regularly, but there is definitely something that seems easy (for lack of a better word) about these Public Bikes. I will say that with the exception of my cruiser bicycles, this is the first bike I've felt comfortable riding in flip-flop type sandals though. Generally, I am a klutzy individual and I find that if I'm not wearing shoes that are well-attached to my feet, I have the potential, and even propensity to fall (or do something else incredibly stupid or embarrassing). However, the set up on this bike makes it perfect for my not-so-graceful self to ride in literally anything (I dare say I would even ride in bare feet should the need arise).
Public Bikes removable basket (note: bungee strap sold separately)
*Image from Public Bikes
My one and only issue thus far with this bicycle is the removable rear rack basket. It's difficult to tell in the above picture, but basically there are springs with rubber ends under the basket that easily attach/remove from a rear rack. While the basket makes shopping and transportation a lot easier, I find that when riding, it tends to slip toward the saddle, and I end up with it under my bum. Then, I start feeling for it to push it back to the outside of the rear rack. Whether empty or full, this is a constant nuisance while riding with it on. When I recently visited Public Bikes website, I couldn't locate the basket for sale any longer, so perhaps they're working on another model (or maybe they've just sold out for now). My solution will likely be a bungee to help keep it in place while in use.
My opinion on the bicycles is overall quite positive. My only real objection to the Public Bikes' looks is the website advertisement that is now placed on the chain guard of new models. I'm not sure I like the idea of their website being a constant advertisement on my bike. Wasn't the Public name emblazoned there enough? I have no issue sharing with others where I purchased my bicycle, but it seems a bit forced upon the owner in this instance.
Public Bikes website sticker on the bicycles - it doesn't seem so noticeable here,
but it's definitely visible in person
**Image from Public Bikes
For comparison purposes, I have tried to think of something I've owned that is equivalent or close to the same kind of bicycle. Since that hasn't been an easy task, I will compare it to the Pashley Poppy/Princess. I would say that it is difficult to compare the two because they are fairly different (other than both being upright/loop frame bicycles made of steel). I could go on about the differences (internal hub vs derailleur, 3/5 speed vs 7 speed, standard Brooks saddle vs average cushioned, synthetic fabric saddle), but those are easily discovered in any quick search. As for riding style, the Poppy provides a slightly more forward leaning riding position (though still upright), less room in the "cockpit" so to speak (though this may be entirely in my head as there is plenty of room available, even for a larger rider), and I feel as though I'm using slightly different leg muscles on each of the bikes. In regard to looks, they are quite different. The Pashley's are hand built, lugged frames, and made from a different kind of steel. The Pashley bicycles are obviously elegant and beautiful, and there isn't any comparison in my opinion. This is not to say that the Public J7 is not beautiful in its own way, but it's definitely a more simplified, understated, functional kind of beauty (which certainly isn't a bad thing).  Oddly though, I've actually had more questions and comments from passers-by about the Public J7 than I've ever had about either of the Pashley bicycles I've owned. I've found this strange, but it also means that there must be something attracting attention in regard to the Public bicycles as well.

Though opinions can change over time when utilizing a bicycle, or even modify as strengths, likes and dislikes change, this seems to be a good all-around city bike option. Having ridden it nearly daily for just under a month now, I know I would make the same decision and purchase it all over again, which I think says a lot. Often I have regretted bicycle purchases almost immediately, and wished I'd opted for another avenue. It's nice to know that this is a solid and reasonable way to get around town, and still have something that you enjoy riding.

***UPDATE***
I've edited this post to say that I took the comments of the poster regarding the rear rack and we adjusted the way it sits to help level it out. Happily, it now seems to keep the removable rear basket pretty steadily in place. So, I say thank you to the anonymous respondent! I appreciate the tip and it seems to have resolved the issue. It was a simple fix and it did the trick.

12 comments:

  1. Here's my feedback on the V7. After nearly a month of riding (as you said, nearly every day), my initial opinion of the bike is the same. It's smooth, light, snappy, but comfortable. 7 speeds is just enough to get around the city with ease. I have seen myself in shop windows on it also, and i don't look retarded, so that's a plus. I don't feel that anything needs to be changed on this model, i had contemplated changing out for my brooks saddle, but the seating position is not quite right for it, and the stock saddle seems to work better (maybe i will look for one of those Origin 8 saddles that "looks" like a brooks, but is gel). I think i had commented yesterday that it feels "light". It's the perfect city bike for me, and the sizing is nearly spot-on. I don't think i have any regrets, and would buy this bike again!

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  2. Can you adjust your rack so its level, therefore stopping the basket from moving forward?

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  3. You know, I honestly haven't tried to move it, but perhaps that would be an option if it will move at all to help level it. I'll have to give that a try to see if it's a possibility. :o)

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  4. Looks like there is a bolt that is attached at the front of the rack that attaches to the bracket that connects to the brake bolt. Loosen that bolt, slide the rack back, bend the bracket to accommodate, tighten the bolt back up and you should be set.

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  5. I will definitely give that a go. Many thanks for the suggestion. I'm sure if it will adjust it will definitely make a difference.

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  6. Oh, I really want to test ride a Public M8 and the C7 (which you seem to call the J7; I'm just going by their web site). I have some friends out in the Bay Area, so if I go visit this winter or spring I'll visit the Public shop. How tall are you, and what size did you get?

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  7. Iris, This model actually is a J7. Public no longer makes it, as it's been replaced by the C7, but they're virtually the same bike with very minor differences.

    I am just shy of 5'4 and got the medium size in the J7 (which was meant for someone 5'2-5'7). I know that the C7 is sized a bit differently though, so you'll probably want to see what they recommend when you're there. I believe the C7 standard size (which I'm guessing would be the same as a medium) is now for someone 4'8-5'5.

    I hope you'll share how it goes when you get to visit in person. :O)

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  8. After reading your posts about the Public bikes I'm going to check out a D3 (older sure but weighs less) and a D8i tomorrow. Hope I like it as much as you do.

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  9. I'm a 71-yr-young woman and I need to get out and exercise! The C7 is probably the right model for me (just disappointed that it doesn't come in Turquoise, haha). Here's my question: Some bike brands have models with a cushioning feature on the post right under the seat, or on the post that goes from the handlebar to the front wheel. It does not appear that the Public C7 has this feature. Is this something Public bike owners miss for any reason? Or is it unimportant...even for an older rider like myself?

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    1. Hi Rivergull,
      It sounds like what you're describing are what are often referred to as 'shocks' on mountain bikes - suspension forks (from the handlebar to the front wheel) and a suspension seatpost.

      Suspension forks are usually not seen on city bikes and road bikes because they're heavy, an extra cost, and often unnecessary if you're not going 'off road' or dealing with really poor surfaces. They also eat up a bit of efficiency in pedaling, making them a bit slower (or requiring more effort to go faster). Still, it's all about what works for you! I wouldn't expect many bikes of this style to have them. If you're concerned about a smoother ride, an easier or more common option for bikes of this style is to equip them with fatter/wider tires. These are also slower but offer a cushier ride.

      As to the seat posts - that's easier to throw on if you really prefer it, but I can't speak to their efficacy as I've never used them myself!

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    2. Rivergull... I will agree with what the anonymous poster has stated above. Additionally, another way to get a bit more of the cushy affect is to purchase a saddle with springs (it will make the ride feel just a bit softer). If you're not a fan of leather saddles (I'm thinking specifically of Brooks B67, Flyer, etc), there are others on the market but they tend to be much wider, cruiser-type saddles (which may be exactly what you're looking for, depending on your needs).

      I have to say, I did not notice or feel the need to have extra cushioning - but everyone is different. Other than a sprung saddle, there are also shock absorbing seatposts that might help if you think this might be something you'd prefer.

      As an aside, I think that beautiful turquoise color out right now in the loop-frame Public models is absolutely gorgeous too! If you're dead-set on that color, you might see if a local bike shop would be willing to convert it for you to a multi-speed bicycle. It would come at an extra cost, but you'd be getting the color you want with the functionality it seems you're looking to find in a bicycle.

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