Review in 3 parts: what I like, what I don't like, what would be nice. Sorry for the length but it is a complete review based on what is presented. Hopefully my only bias is based on years of long distance riding.
What I like:
a. I guess the GPS and cell phone charger are nice. I would never use but almost all the people I know would value it, especially the cell phone chargers. That might even be a reason to purchase the bike for them. The GPS would need to by default prioritize for bike paths and areas with slower traffic, possibly with ability to switch default modes for different legs in trip planning. It would need to hold and store the portion of a trip already planned.
b. The quick release system for the EVO, I believe would be very useful. It allows for light shopping, as well as just running around the neighborhood. Excellent marks from me.
c. The brushes on the Denny if they can actually keep water and mud from being thrown up when riding on roads after a recent rain might be nice versus a fender, but only if the fender adds a significant aerodynamic resistance. I do like that it extends lower than the normal front fender.
d. I like the lower front fender of the Solid.
e. The handlebars for the Denny are a very novel idea. They look thick enough such that a thief would have to use a hacksaw to remove or a pipe cutter. Still easy but not what you would expect the normal thief to be carrying all the time, so maybe more secure. If they can swing around to where handlebars are facing to the operator I might consider using them.
f. I like the electrical assists. I expect they help a lot going up the steep or very long hills. I trust the battery system is large enough to last at least 10 minutes and is very very light.
g. I like the belt drive of the Blackline. I strongly suspect if the gearing system runs well with belts it will require less maintenance than chains.
h. I like the sealed gear system of the Blackline.
i. I am not sure on the electronic shifters but assuming they are fairly basic in the wiring with little if any chance of breaking and not powered by a battery, they could definitely be a plus.
What I do not like:
a. All the bikes are using those skinny long seats. Yes after a couple of hundred miles of regular riding, you do get used to them. But you have to get used to them every year unless you ride year round. Not many places allow you to ride year round. Get something wide, something that supports both sides of your buttocks. As Greg Eshelman said COMFORT very important in a commuter bicycle. The first thing I replace on every one of my bikes is the seat with a wide 16x12 contour seat with gel pad. I used to dread the first couple of weeks of riding after a winter break each year, not anymore.
b. I do not like most of the handlebars. Again as Greg Eshelman said, COMFORT. Only one bike, the Merge possibly has a set of handle bars that do not require the rider to be hunched forward. And that is the second thing I replace on my bikes. I would recommend an option for different handle bars that let the operator sit up straight.
c. Built in wire cable locks?? Why? This is just something to make the purchaser think the bike will have less chance of being stolen. Maybe 90 seconds to steal with wire cutters that fit in pants pockets. No if you want to secure your bike, get your name and/or social security number AND contact information for your local police etched prominently onto the top of the frame. I would also suggest a tracker. Currently there is the Helios ($200) and Spybike ($155), and soon Bikespike ($129). All three have monthly costs after installation for the cell service. If you want a lock go with either the OnGuard 8020 Mastiff ($90) or the Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit Mini ($110). The Mastiff I think has the highest overall rating because it also resists cutting with a metal grinder best.
a. I have always suspected recumbent bikes are more comfortable for riding but when I have looked they are always way out of my price range and I ride Cannondales. So a good inexpensive recumbent bike might be nice.
b. As to electric assist, being totally serious this is more a problem, I suspect for Americans though (I am one). We tend to want instant gratification, this includes wanting to immediately for little or no effort to be able to ride up any hills. In countries where biking is very common, people just enjoy the trip. The long uphills are not viewed as a problem and if you must stop for a break on one, you enjoy the scenery. Gearing down to lowest gear to make the climb is not undesirable, that is why they have the low gears and they do not mind that you might be able to walk faster that you are riding.
c. I truly doubt every Solid would be printed if in full production. I fully grant a frame 3d printed would be much stronger if designed right than a rolled metal frame allowing it to also be much lighter. HOWEVER, the costs would be prohibitive, even allowing for a single assembler. Printing a bike frame would probably take over a week and based on the size of the object printed, I am guessing the printer would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per printer, if not millions. 3d printer costs go up with size of area allowed for printing and material that can be used, those capable of metal printing being the most expensive. I do not know of anyone that would be interested in paying at least $10,000 for a commuter bicycle. To cover the costs of the metal and printer, allowing 1 bike to be made a week, that is probably a introductory price. Assuming equipment payoff and depreciation for tax purposes over 5 years. In truth I would expect the price probably to be several times that.
d. Some people call some of the designs ugly. Aesthetics is a function of what a person just happens to find pleasing and what they are used to. The Edsel was called hideous. 6 years later most American cars made and sold actually looked a lot like the Edsel and people called them beautiful. So don't bother calling the bikes ugly, that is just your CURRENT taste.
e. I would suggest using some of the gearing and drive chain devices like the Nuseti (http://www.gizmag.com/nuseti-inner-drive-system-mountain-bike/32914/) and Pinion (http://www.gizmag.com/pinion-p118-sealed-gearbox/26640/).
f. Fenders do help keep the operator clean and dry but being honest before I retired, when I commuted by bicyle 3-4 times a week, I kept a locker at the gym near where I worked (.5 miles) with fresh clothes. I would ride in (13 miles), shower, and dress for work. Anyone that uses a commuter bicycle for any real distance to work will clean up or people will not want to be in the same office. They can also expect their boss to talk to them about hygiene and maybe get fired.
g. The bicycle should have enough width allowed for using street, hybrid, or mountain tires without any modifications except brake adjustment. The bicycle should allow for all three sets of tires to be purchased at time of purchase of the bicycle.
h. Lastly I do not know the weight or ease of fixing a tire of these bikes, but they must be a major consideration for a commuter bicycle. There is nothing so hard as being 1/2 way to work and getting a flat and having to CARRY your bike on into work. At the minimum the frame should be aluminum if not a lighter material. Run-Flats (yes I know they cost up to $1200 for a set) would also be a good idea especially if the operator is using the commuter bike as regular transportation to work. The number 1 reason people are fired is not showing up for work on time. If I was still working and I was using a bicycle for transportation, I would definitely consider the price of run-flats a valid expense if possible loss of job was the other choice.
31st July, 2014 @ 9:41 a.m. (California Time)