Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Bobbin Birdie Lands in America!

Bobbin Birdie
It was back in September at Interbike that I first saw Bobbin bicycles in person and learned that they would soon be available in the USA. Excited by these news, I talked to the distributor and they've now sent a demo model to Harris Cyclery, inviting my feedback. This week I finally had a chance to ride and photograph the bicycle.

Bobbin Birdie
Bobbin Bicycles started out as a traditional bike shop in London (humbly advertised as "the most beautiful bicycle shop in Britain"), then developed a house brand of its own, eventually evolving into a full fledged bike manufacturer offering a range of models and accessories. I have followed these developments with interest, and it isn't difficult to see why the brand appeals to me: In their own words, "Bobbin reinvents romantic notions of traditional upright bicycles and makes them relevant to modern life." They are also quite budget-conscious, aiming to be affordable for the student and young professional. Oh and the loop frame models are lugged. I was very much looking forward to trying a Bobbin.

Bobbin Birdie
The model I received is the Birdie, in red. It's a lugged steel 3-speed with 26" wheels, rim brakes, fenders, a partially enclosed chain, a kickstand, and a rear rack. While Bobbin does offer bicycles equipped with a fully enclosed chaincase and hub brakes, the Birdie is presented as a more paired down, "jaunty" model. The frame is described as a combination of hi-ten and cro-moly tubing, made in Taiwan. The weight is 37lb as shown. The paint is liquid coat, applied via a multi-stage dipping and curing process that includes rust-proofing.

Bobbin Birdie
To my relief and delight, the Birdie frame is indeed fully lugged.

Bobbin Birdie
Head tube lugs.

Bobbin Birdie
Seat cluster.

Bobbin Birdie
Bottom bracket.

Bobbin Birdie
Loop to seat tube connection.

Bobbin Birdie
Fork crown. Bobbin are not trying to reinvent the wheel with this bicycle: It is basically a remake of a vintage 3-speed circa the 1950s-70s, made somewhat lighter with the help of modern tubing and components.

Bobbin Birdie
The classically-shaped rear rack is nicely integrated with the rest of the bicycle, painted body colour. The rack's tubing is not oversized and will accommodate a variety of modern pannier systems. 

Bobbin Birdie
There are tiny plastic mudflaps on the front and rear fenders. 

Bobbin Birdie
The partial chaincase encloses the chainring and the upper portion of the chain. 

Bobbin Birdie
The rubber-footed kickstand is sufficiently sturdy.

Bobbin Birdie
The handlebars are a contemporary version of North Roads, set up with classic city brake levers, a Sturmey Archer 3-speed shifter, and not at all unattractive pleather(?) grips.

Bobbin Birdie
The sprung padded vinyl saddle matches the grips in colour. 

Bobbin Birdie
Sturmey Archer 3-speed (non-coasterbrake) hub powers the gearing.

Test Riding a Bobbin Birdie
This bicycle photographs extremely well, with the glossy red paint and the classic lines lending a "glamour shot" vibe to the images. In person it comes across as more subdued. My first impressions were of its relatively light weight and subjective "smallishness." The 26" wheels, thin frame tubing and bright paintjob made it look almost like a children's bike and I felt as if I were handling a toy, which was actually kind of fun. But the size (19" frame) felt like a good fit.

I tested for toe overlap and was glad to discover that there was no chance of it. Then I rode the Birdie for about 5 miles on mildly hilly suburban roads with car traffic. This has become my standard distance and terrain for test riding upright city bicycles, and I think it is representative of how such bikes tend to be ridden in real-life circumstances in the US.

Test Riding a Bobbin Birdie
Riding the Bobbin Birdie, I found the manufacturer's term "jaunty" to be apt. This is not a sluggish bike; it feels light and zippy. It accelerates and retains momentum nicely. Mild hills were not a problem. The gearing felt just right: not too high and not too low. The bike felt stable and tame enough for a beginner; not twitchy at all. Compared to a Dutch bike, the ride quality was on the harsh side, but I say the same about most city bikes that aren't fitted with balloon tires. 

Speaking of tires, I do not care for the ones on the Birdie. I have no good explanation for this, other than that they felt a bit "cheap" and narrower than the described 35mm. Replacing them with nicer tires should be easy enough. I have a feeling that a pair of Schwalbe Delta Cruisers would improve the ride quality as well. 

Bobbin Birdie
Overall, the Birde was a fun and very "normal" ride; nothing about the bike's handling frustrated me or struck me as being off. Speaking more generally, I think for the price ($650 retail at the moment), this is a good deal. For all those who have been pining for an affordable fully lugged bicycle, here it is. It looks to be decently made, uses solid components, handles well, has no toe overlap, includes a sizeable rear rack, and is not bad looking to boot. The absence of integrated lighting should be noted. And the rim brakes could be a concern if you live in an area where it snows in winter and plan to ride the bike year-round. But as far as the basic character of the bike and its ability to transport the cyclist's belongings, the Bobbin Birdie works for me.

Bobbin's full line of city bicycles will soon be available in shops across the US and Canada, and those interested should check with the distributor for stock lists. If you are local to the Boston area, the specific bicycle pictured here is available for test rides at Harris Cyclery in West Newton, MA. I plan to ride it at least once again - when it starts snowing - and will post an update on how it handles in winter conditions. If you happen to already own a Bobbin, please do share your impressions.

54 comments:

  1. Looks like a great bike. Needs a proper headbadge though.

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  2. How can you speak so positively about a bike with no lights? Surprised this is okay with you.

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  3. They do look lovely, but in the UK you can pick up secondhand bikes like this from the 50s - 80s in good condition for a fraction of the price of a new Bobbin.

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  4. Pete - In New England also. But many worry that vintage bikes are not reliable and prefer a new bike.

    Anon 2:40 - I think that lights are very, very important. And obviously my personal preference is to have dynamo lighting on a transportation bike. However, lights can be added aftermarket, whereas a bicycle's ride quality, or frame-specific issues such as TCO, cannot be altered. Therefore I will review a bike that I feel rides well but has no lights more positively than a bike I feel rides badly but is fully equipped.

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  5. I have mixed feelings about this one. Looks like an average, cheap, steel bike, like most of those Chinese-made bikes. Is it lovely just because it is lugged?

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  6. Really? Which Chinese bikes does it remind you of? The looks remind me of a repainted vintage Raleigh Cameo.

    To me, it is "lovely" due to (in equal measure) its handling, (what I perceive to be) its solid construction and its aesthetic appeal (including the lugs and the loop frame). This bicycle is basically in the same price/quality/weight bracket as Linus and Public. Of the 3, I prefer the Bobbin.

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  7. Great review! I love your photos.

    Bobbin also make a bike called the Vintage that has a 5 speed internal gear hub and comes with drum brakes for all-season riders (they go for $850).

    It's quite easy to pop a removable lighting system onto these, but SOMA makes a great looking retro-styled bullet light (for both front and rear) that be easily added and that mounts a little more permanently.

    It's worth noting that the Birdie also comes in other colours (yellow and light blue!).

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  8. Gah! And just the day after I bought my Public! :( Oh well...maybe someday a Bobbin will join the Public to keep her company. These are lovely, and actually an *affordable* lugged bike for a student like me :) Thank you for reviewing! But now I want one :( lol

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  9. Don't they have a 5 speed for sale also?

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  10. Oh my, this is almost (lighting exception as noted) the ideal new bike for the Mrs: loop frame, lugged, proper upright position with nice proportions, decent steel/weight with modern components, available in YELLOW! and well south of $1000!

    Her current red Takara loop frame from the 80s is servicable, but I've been searching for something that would be a nice upgrade...hello Birdie!

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  11. PS bostonbybike - For reference, here is a Raleigh Cameo. The lines are very similar. Notice the Cameo's lack of braze-ons for the shifter cable, which the Birdie frame has. I also find the Birdie's rack an improvement; the old Raleigh racks were rather uncomfortable.

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  12. This bike is more aesthetically pleasing than the Linus Dutchi or Public Standard... and it's small with no toe overlap! What size is the demo model?

    On the Bobbin website the "Firefly" model, which is only available in the UK, is the only bike pictured with a skirt guard. The "Vintage" model appears to be the US version, but doesn't have one. Boo.

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  13. Yup, the Vintage/Firefly is the fully equipped model I mentioned in the post. Not sure what the difference between those two is actually, other than that one is for the US market and the other is for the UK. The dressguards are easy enough to attach to either model. Here is a shot of the Vintage at Interbike and it includes dressguards.Note that the frame is not the same as the Birdie frame; the construction is different.

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  14. I'm somewhat with bostonbybike on this one, although possibly less-severely.

    While I really do like the Bobbin Birdie quite a lot, I do have some minor personal philosophical reservations about the spec choices that seem to have been made just to get lugs on the frame. Steel seatpost, headset, cranks, stem if I recall correctly, single-pivot rear brake, I believe single-wall rims, and cheap tires.

    The Birdie sells at a price-point that is about the same as a Linus 3 speed, which comes with nicer tires, double-wall wheelset, F/R Tektro dual pivots, and aluminum finishing parts. But no lugs on the frame. I'm not sure, personally, if I like the idea of trading those things off just to get a lugged frame, but at the end of the day both bikes will work out nicely for day-to-day city riding so it comes down to more of a personal preference thing than anything else. I just don't personally see the must-have importance of a frame being lugged, even though lugged steel is my favourite variety of frame. The Birdie would be just as good a bike if it were TIG welded.

    Full disclosure: I work at a shop that sells both Linus and Bobbin, and I have no problem recommending either bike (and I absolutely won't recommend something if I genuinely do not like it). The Birdie rides quite nicely, is really very nice to look at, and is still a great value at $650. It is nice having the two options, because they do ride fairly differently due to the differing rider position, and the Linus' 622 wheels versus the Bobbin's 590s. More choice is more good, and it is certainly a good thing to have more city bike options in the more affordable price brackets.

    The Bobbin has that "in the bike" kind ride to it similar to a 590-wheeled Pashley Princess, while, IMO, the Linus leans a bit closer to the "on the bike" feel of a 635-wheeled Dutch monster. Both are good rides.

    Personally, I'm really excited for the Bobbin Shopper to make it into the shop. Those look like a really cool little runabout, but I'm also in love with Twentys, so of course I think that.

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  15. The bike looks fine, average. Better than the Cameo if only b/c of the improved braking system and wheels. The price also suggests nothing special. I doubt anyone buying these would be serious winter/snow cyclists or commuters but, rather, lovers of a simple bike in an a easily ridable position, with attention grabbing colors, for pleasant weather riding.

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  16. Mark - Several female readers have written to me complaining of toe overlap on their Linus, so one advantage of the Bobbin Birdie would be the lack of it. I also find the components on the Birdie (including seat post, stem, handlebars, gearing, etc) nicer than on the Linus. Having said that, I have nothing against Linus and it's ultimately about personal preferences. I understand that the two bikes ride differently, so lugs aside, it's about what sort of ride quality one prefers. Test rides are a must.

    Oh and I had a Pashley Princess for over a year. The Bobbin Birdie rides nothing like it IMO, and weighs 10lb less. The Birdie rides more like a vintage English bike, such as a Raleigh Lady's Sport or a Phillips equivalent.

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  17. My wife has this bike branded as a Bronx Metropole. I replaced the awful saddle, rear brake and lowered the gearing. She absolutely loves it. I agree that is somewhat cheap looking but my wife still likes it better than any tig welded or aluminium framed bike on the market for similar price.

    Marcin

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  18. Velouria - I didn't mean "Chinese bikes", I meant "bikes made in China", i.e. most inexpensive bicycles.

    I completely agree that ride quality is most important and this can't be judged from pictures. If this is what makes Birdie lovely, that's great. I just hope it is not the lugs...

    Mark put it very well. My question - if Birdie was not lugged at all, would it be equally lovely?

    Some relatively inexpensive but lovely-looking (No idea if they are lovely-riding) bikes I found are (IMHO):

    Felt Verza Regency $700
    http://www.feltbicycles.com/USA/2012/Verza/Verza-Regency/Verza-Regency-Mens.aspx

    Bianchi Viaggio Smeraldo $900
    http://www.bianchi.com/It/Bikes/Bikes_Detail.aspx?ProductIDMaster=60147

    Linus Roadster Sport $580
    http://www.linusbike.com/models/roadster-sport/

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  19. " if Birdie was not lugged at all, would it be equally lovely"

    I think that depends on whom you ask, and on whether you are asking about aesthetics or other factors. It is no secret that from the very start this website has focused on steel frames with lugged construction, so yes those are my favourite kinds of bicycles and aesthetically I find the Birdie "lovely" because of the lugs and the loop frame curvature. This is not a universal judgment on my part, just a personal preference.

    Since you are local, why don't you stop by at Harris one of these days and have a look at the Bobbin Birdie next to the Breezer Uptown and other similar bikes they've got, then we can compare impressions?

    Of the bikes you mention, I've already stated that I perceive the Bobbin as being higher quality than the Linus. I do not believe the Bianchi you've linked to is available in the US, but would love to see it in person and ride it. Would love to test ride the Felt Verza Regency as well.

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  20. is "normal" code for boring ride quality? :)

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  21. I'm both relieved and disappointed that they're only just now physically arriving to the Boston area, as I wanted one badly when I was bike shopping in the fall but was too scared to buy sight-unseen.
    I ended up with a '68 Raleigh Sports instead who is delightful and perfect, but oh man a yellow Birdie would have been a beautiful thing...

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  22. Anon 5:00 - Ha. "Normal" is code for normal. Many transportation bicycles I try do not feel normal (overly twitchy or unusually sluggish or requiring the use of all 8 gears in an 8-speed hub over relatively flat terrain), and I consider that sort of thing a minus in what is meant to be a simple, low-hassle city bike. Normal is good in this context.

    And to bostonbybike again : )

    ...On mulling it over some more, I think the "if it was not lugged, would it be equally lovely?" question is one than cannot really be asked in the first place. It is like asking "If the bicycle were not steel..." or "if the bicycle were not a loop frame..." and so on. The lugged construction is an inherent part of its design. For me it is impossible to simply reimagine the bike as something other than what it was meant to be.

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  23. I get where you're going with lugged construction/loop frame construction, and see where you're coming from, but have to disagree with the example. A loop frame is a basic design characteristic that categorizes the bike, while a lug is a method of joining two tubes. If you show an "average person" two loop frames, one lugged and one TIG welded, they will likely see more similarity there than between two lugged frames, one a triangle frame and one a loop frame. This is coming from someone that loves lugged steel bikes.

    As for the quality issue, I'm going to have to agree to disagree and cheerily sit that one out. I did notice, though, that the bike pictured has an aluminum post rather than the steel post-and-guts type that our bobbins came with. This is good!

    On the toe overlap - I haven't noticed it, but I rarely notice toe overlap. That is a plus in the column of smaller wheels, though, for sure.

    Bobbin/pashley, I knew as soon as I posted that I shouldn't have mentioned the pashley, as it's a tenuous link at best. I just find the smaller wheels give a certain ride characteristic that differs from the bigger Linus, and even bigger 635 wheels. It is only one of many characteristics that make up the ride as a whole, though, but seems to be something that customers often talk about after back-to-back rides.

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  24. The 26 x 1 3/8" wheels help with lack of TCO, where the Linus has 700c

    I like the bike and glad these bikes are being offered, but I would not call any company a "Manufacturer" unless they actually make their own stuff ;)

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  25. Nice review and photos. Sweet mudflaps.

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  26. Mike - Agreed, but by that definition I don't think most contemporary manufacturers are manufacturers!

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  27. Oh, I love it and am thrilled that it is affordable. I can't wait to see what the "Vintage" bike will be like, hopefully you will be able to test drive that one.

    The Birdie seems like it is more sturdier and a better ride than the Trek Cocoa. I love the look of the Cocoa, but it just didn't feel right on a test ride.

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    1. I tested a few of the Bobbins and, although really nice to look at, they don't compare to the Trek Cocoa I just bought. The Trek Cocoa weighs less, the seat is much more comfortable, and the tires are bigger at 700x32c. I prefer a faster more comfortable ride over looks (althought I love the look of my Cocoa) but it is all about personal preference!

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  28. Tanya - Thanks for sharing your impressions of the Trek Cocoa. I had a good look at it at Interbike, but didn't get to ride it.

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  29. Velouria, I've been quite curious as to what your reviews would be on this once I saw that you checked Bobbin out at Interbike (actually, not too long after I ordered mine) and glad to see this now!

    This being the first bicycle I've owned in some ten or so years since grade school, I didn't want to purchase anything too expensive in case I realized that I've been a driver and pedestrian for way too long and city cycling isn't for me.

    Thankfully, I realized that I do enjoy biking in DC, so the Birdie for me was cute enough to ride as is, but something that I could add a few pieces to here and there (only lights and a basket so far, but looking at a different saddle and maybe some Schwalbes now...) to upgrade it if I so wish.

    Back to that price though, $650? Hm. While I am all for supporting local shops, I ordered my Birdie for a bit less than that from Evans Cycles online a few months ago, and that included shipment to Washington, DC... Granted, I'd have loved to buy it in person since it was quite a leap of faith to order on a few reviews online.

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  30. Mark - I am not a fan of 26" wheels either, unless they come with balloon tires. But I think for me it's a psychological/aesthetic bias more than anything and I cannot honestly say that I detect a 26"-specific ride quality. The Raleigh Sports, Pashley Princess, Bobbin Birdie and Velorbis I've ridden with those wheel sizes (and 35mm tires) have all ridden differently. As Mike points out, 26" does make it easier to avoid TCO. But on this particular bike (the Birdie) there was so much toe-fender clearance that I am pretty sure 700C would have been fine as well. Ultimately I guess wheel size is a personal preference.

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  31. I'd guess that the tyres (I'm English!) are a triumph of form over function, since they add so much to the look. Imagine this bike with straight black tyres and it would look a LOT like the hacks (?? Pashley mostly!) that our Post Office use. Likewise the saddle and grips, which merely state that they know about Brooks but weren't going for that price point. No, the most disappointing ancillary choice wasn't even mentioned in the review - the pedals. I actually own a bike that came with these beknighted devices which must literally cost the same as a bag of peanuts. You can feel both ball bearings on every revolution, your feet slide off the solid plastic and worse, much worse, they squeak like guinea pigs and grind like Starbucks. That's the price you're paying for those lugs! So lets see - tyres, seat, grips, pedals... that should see you into 4 figures. But just look at it. It's STILL worth it :)

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  32. Krystina - Oh that's neat that you have one! So what do you think so far, positive/negative?

    Steve - well they could have used cream tires : )

    The pedals I did not find problematic, but this is where the difference between test riding a bike for 5 miles vs owning it for at least several months comes into play. Also, I'm a little confused: Do you actually own this bike or are you guessing based on the photos?

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  33. Looks cute to me. Reminds me of my Raleigh, but newer. In the 1970's, a Raleigh Sports came with a pleather mattress saddle, and never came standard with lighting, as far as I know. I think there's a lot of romanticizing of the old 3-speeds, but they were very much like this bike in terms of what they came with, and frankly, this one looks like it was better-constructed than my old Sports. Raleigh wasn't known for making the Sports with gorgeous lugs. Mine are sloppy and ugly, and I have a '69 Sports, which was before the "lost years" in the late 70's. The rack on the Birdie is nicer than my Pletscher, and the brakes no doubt work better on those rims than on the old steel ones. I love how often folks complain that they "just don't make bikes like those old 3-speeds," then when someone does, folks think it looks too cheap or doesn't have high-end enough components. As if the Sports was gilded by anything but our nostalgia.

    If the Bobbin shows up in shops here in Seattle, I'm sure it will sell. It's adorable and looks quite practical, though a 5-speed version is nice around here, given our hills.

    And having test-ridden both the Linus Dutchie and the Mixte, I hope it rides better than either bike. I thought they were incredibly bland bicycles. The Linuses are also ridiculously tiny, and only come in one size. The Birdie at least acknowledges that taller women do exist in the universe. Keeping in mind that I'm only 5'6" and both Linus women's models were too small for my longer inseam.

    Go Birdie, I say! It looks like a great new alternative to what are becoming very expensive old bikes. Around here, a good condition Raleigh Sports would run you at least $250, and then once you tune it up, and when you put on aluminum rims, better brakes, new grips... you're looking at close to the retail for this bike. Throw on a Brooks, and you're well over. Ask me how I know... :)

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  34. Oh rideblog! I think you nailed it in your 1st par. I was not able to articulate this myself, but it's how I feel exactly.

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  35. Thanks, V. I would put a white tail on that Birdie, though. Seriously: all city bikes should have adorable white rear fender sections, mandatory. And front fender bobbles in chrome. Otherwise, lookin' good.

    I see they do not have a Seattle distributor, yet. Clever Cycles in Portland has found yet another reason to lure me down there, I think. It's all part of their plan, I'm sure.

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  36. "Really? Which Chinese bikes does it remind you of? The looks remind me of a repainted vintage Raleigh Cameo. "



    That was the first thing I thought when seeing your pictures. Not a bad look, really.
    In comparison to more recent models, it's a bit like a Pashley Poppy, too.

    One ride question- did it have twitchy low-speed handling? This was something that had to be adjusted out of the Cameo.

    Snarkypup, I agree. The main reason the Sports models are so gilded in our memories is because it is so hard to kill them with mere age and neglect. So we find one in the garage, and it's just as reliably ill-adjusted as it was when Grandma last put it away during the Ford Administration!

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  37. I for one love that Linus, and now Bobbin, are making bikes that are good quality for the money while appealing to normal people. Or at least people who want a nice looking bike. They are both good deals, each with understandable trade-offs in componetry and frame details.

    My wife saw the Bobbin earlier this fall in DC. I was impressed that it was made in Taiwan (perhaps meaningless, but I associate that with very nice QBP bikes) and, of course, lugged. She thought it was gorgeous, and was immediately interested. Ultimately she was concerned about the weight and "limitation" of three speeds, and she ended up with a cream Linus Dutchi 8-speed that she adores. Of course, I made some improvements to the Dutchi, which is a fantastic platform for a city bike. She still looks wistfully at the Bobbin, especially when I pointed out this post!

    On the lighting note, I'm not sure what the precise cross-section shape of the Bobbin rims are but I can attest that the polished Sun CR18 is a near spot on match for the polished rims of the Linus bikes. I say this because I had Anthony at Longleaf Bicycles build a new dynamo wheel with the Sun rim in the front, and she now has full front and back dynamo lights (thank you Velouria for your post on clean wiring tips!) that look like they came from the factory. I have to say, it's not really fair to criticize one company because they don't include dynamo lighting, since hardly any do. I do hope that changes, because in my view a bike isn't complete without dynamo lighting and fenders. If not exact, I imagine the CR18's would still look good for front dynamo wheels on the Bobbin.

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  38. I've ordered a Bobbin Madam, which is their 5-speed mixte. It should be here in a few days and I am even more excited now. :) It comes with fancier fittings than the other Bobbins, like a Brooks seat and leather handlebar grips. I bought it online after looking at many, many bikes in person and online - it just leapt out at me as a combination of all the things I wanted in a bike. Hopefully it lives up to that but your review gives me more confidence that it will.

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  39. Great to see new manufactured products from Blighty - where I was born and grew up. We live in Scottsdale, AZ (we both work and do not like golf) and have Pashleys. What's great with these bikes and other city bikes such as the Bobbin is that you dont need to drink Gatorade and wear Spandex to enjoy a good ride.

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  40. That the standard of comparison is a bicycle manufactured more than forty years ago (1970s Raleigh Sports don't count) says rather a lot on behalf of those great machines. For that matter the collective memory of those bikes includes machines made 50 and 60 years ago, many of which are in service.

    Someone above said something about lack of integrated lighting. If you want that, get a Superbe.

    Yes, it becomes harder year by year to find a Sports that remains in good condition, one that does not need a massive refit to ride as it should. I do wonder how many of those slagging the Sports have ever been on one with a straight frame and straight wheels, tires that in any way stood in for the Dunlops, proper Dare or Var or Constrictor grips. If you had ridden that bike you would wish to ride it again.

    Yes there are not enough Sports to be had. So the Birdie becomes interesting.

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  41. That bike reminds me of my favorite English three-speed: a red "Robin Hood" brand bike that was probably from the fifties or sixties. I know that, save for the color, it was practically a clone of Raleigh or any number of other English three-speeds from that time. But there was something about that red Robin Hood...

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  42. The bobbins have been available at a bike shop in Vancouver for awhile and the colours are so cheerful and they look fun. 3 speeds are just not an option for my terrain. Glad you got to have a test ride....i was curious how they would ride!

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  43. Oo la la, what a beautiful cheery, cherry, red color.

    I reminds me of recent happenings at PerformanceBike.com. The store has a line of city bikes named Charge, complete with 3 and 5-speed versions and in a mixte or diamond frame style. I guess everyone is realizing the demand for zippy, pretty, and practical bicycles. Yay!

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  44. A lovely bike indeed! I'll definately be looking at their website (and saving it to favs). I'd still prefer to find a bit of classic Brittish steel to refurbish next year,but if unable to find a suitible candidate,this looks like a good alternative...I don't NEED one (x + y = n!),but I've lusted after the classic 3 speed for about town since before actually living in town. Good read,V,looking forward to the follow-up on it :)

    Disabled Cyclist

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  45. Hello from Bobbin!

    Firstly a HUGE thank you for taking the time to review and comment on our Bobbin Birdie model. You've warmed our cockles on this cold and bright London morning.

    Already in production and coming stateside this Spring:

    A 5 speed Birdie!

    A 5 speed deluxe Vintage with Brooks saddle, kevlar tires and dynamo lighting!

    Sian & Tom x
    Bobbin

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  46. how would you compare the ride to your Bella Ciao? You said the Bobbin is "light and zippy, and maintains momentum well", and your review of the Bella Ciao seems to be along the same lines.

    For folks who want a zippier city bike, could the Bobbin be a cheaper alternative to the Bella Ciao?

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  47. cloudsofviolet - In a way the handling is not dissimilar, though the Birdie has a harsher ride quality over bumps (could be the wheels and tires, but can't be sure).

    As far as construction goes, Bella Ciao frames are handmade in Italy and use higher end tubing. Bella Ciao comes standard with higher end wheels, handlebars, tires and saddle. Bella Ciao frames are powdercoated. Mine also has a hub brake in the rear, so I can ride it in winter. Considering these differences, they are both good values at their respective price points.

    But on a separate note, aesthetically the two bikes are completely different - some may simply prefer one type of frame curvature over the other regardless of price.

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  48. It doesn't make me sigh with longing like the Bella Ciao. I know they are different price brackets! I think the primary colours of the Bobbin Birdie are a bit off-putting. Perhaps it's a small thing, but they are just too bright for me.

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  49. I have had my Bobbin Madam mixte for a few weeks now and it is a very, very nice ride. Well, I don't really have a lot to compare it to, but it just feels like quality. The Madam is fairly zippy compared to the step-throughs I've previously ridden, while remaining stable and cruisy. I had some problems setting up the gears (I bought it from the UK and it came with the frame and wheels in separate boxes) but now everything's working, and that problem is obviously not Bobbin's problem.

    I ride it the 5km or so to work on bike paths that have small to moderate inclines. The 5 speed Sturmey-Archer wide range (X-RF5-W) is interesting - it feels like gears 2-3-4 are evenly spaced, and these are the gears in which I mostly ride, and gear 1 is a very low 'granny' gear and gear 5 is pretty high. I think I prefer gears with more steps on between but it's very nice as is. It works well with the bike and it's comfortable to ride at all speeds.

    Depending on how you set up the seat height and handlebars, you can ride in a slightly-leant-over way like on a hybrid bike (etc) or in a more upright position, but not quite as upright as a Dutch bike. I swapped the Brooks B68 saddle that came with the bike for a B67S for a bit more comfort as I sit upright, and it made a noticeable difference immediately.

    I could have gotten a loop frame type step-though, but I wanted just one bike that I could use for not only riding to work and the shops, but on longer rides around Canberra's extensive bike path network, which can have some moderately difficult hills (for me anyway). The Madam is lighter than other step-through frames I investigated, but is strong enough to handle my heavier weight.

    The main drawback is that it's been difficult to fit a rack on the back because of the long wheelbase + mixte frame. There are no built-in anchor points on the seat stays. I've had to get some p-clamps to attach a standard rack - though I think I might get a custom rack made and powder coated in red just to keep the aesthetic of the bike consistent. Also on aesthetics, while it's not fully lugged, the welding is kept unobtrusive, nothing like the ugly welds on department store bikes.

    Overall I'm really pleased with it and am having so much fun riding it. I consider it good value. You can see my pictures of it if you click on 'harpy' above.

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  50. I have been on the hunt for a cherry red bicycle and found this review very helpful. I was wondering if you have also tested or ridden the Pashley Britannia bicycle as well, if so how does it compare to the Bobbin? I really would like to test ride a bike before I purchase anything, but all bike dealers that I’m interested in aren’t anywhere close to where I live. Fortunately I’m a seasonal rider and live in a flat area with few hills. Still, any opinions and information I can gather on how a bike rides would be helpful.

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  51. Just bought a Bobbin Birdie. I tried a number of more "conventional" North American bikes. But when I got behind the wheel of the Birdie the bike just took off with a beautiful cruising and free wheeling feeling.

    I had had some reservations about it only having 3 speeds but tried a couple of fairly stiff hills and it handled them beautifully. They are lovely looking bikes (I bought the Robin egg blue colour). I know these bikes are ideally suited for women, but what's wrong with a guy having a "pretty" bike. Also this bike goes up to a 21" frame which makes it ideal for my 6' height. I also needed a step through as I'm no spring chicken and have some difficulty getting my leg over a cross bar.

    I have also ridden a Pashley (Princess Sovereign). The Pashley is a great bike and comes complete with all the options including drum brakes and dynamo front light. However I found the Pashley somewhat heavy, and not as light and nimble as the Birdie (makes sense with the Pashley being all steel and having so many options loaded on to it). It's also twice the money of a birdie if like me you are budget conscious.

    All in all, initial impressions are that this is a very good bike for the price ($650 CDN).

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