Street Bikes

Street bikes, City bikes, Town bikes - whatever you like to call them - are purpose built for urban tarmac. Any old road racer or mountain bike bike may be ridden to work, to school or the local shops but a Street Bike will have some identifiable features: Mudguards, luggage racks, lights. Perhaps a wicker basket. The emphasis is on comfort and everyday reliability, useful rather than flashy.

Cities are probably cycling's home territory. The vast majority of all journeys are less than eight kilometres (5 miles) In the USA 40% of car trips are less than two miles(!) so the bicycle has to be the most efficient, cheap, flexible and sociable method of transport we have.

In many countries the narrowly competitive nature of the mainstream cycle industry has led to many people being sold bikes which are simply not good enough for the job. Often they are barely capable of being maintained and kept on the road, and essential all-season commuting components such as mudguards and lights are presented as being 'optional extras'.

For those just interested in getting to work on time, who don't need 24, 27 or 30 gears and who have no interest in getting their hands anywhere near a dirty cycle chain a new generation of robust components, including fully enclosed hub gears and brakes are now available offering weather-proof, low maintenance reliability.

These are not particularly new ideas, nor are they ‘high performance' parts, but they are good ones, and are at the heart of the latest wave of excellent city bikes. City cyclists need to be able to arrive at their destination in the same condition as if they had come by car, which means, in many climates, mudguards and chain-guards and even skirt-guards.

Lighting must be straightforward to use, bright and totally reliable. Thankfully dynamo-hubs and the latest LED technology have moved cycle lighting on in leaps and bounds.

City bikes need to be as robust and durable as possible, and designed for stability and comfort without sacrificing performance. At the point of purchase the ‘cost option' of lighter weight and better components is always worth considering, after all, it is good acceleration, fast gear changes and predictable braking which help a cyclist integrate with urban traffic and so remain safe.

Cycling is inexpensive but that doesn't mean your City Bike should be cheap - The higher the quality of the bike the more likely it is that the rider will want to cycle further afield on it, at weekends and on holiday but that's not to say that an old bike cannot do the job perfectly well. Sporty modern 'hybrid' or vintage cruiser, a bike is a bike. An old bike can give a lifetime of service if well maintained. The accumulated patina which comes from age and regular use can transform it from a mere bike into an object of beauty. However, it's important that we get away from the widely held notion that everyday bikes must be no more expensive than a tank of petrol. A $£1,000 child lugging cargo bike might reasonably be considered a bargain when it has the functionality to replace a $£10,000 or $£20,000 car.

A City Bike is a very quiet tremor, presaging the earthquake which may revolutionise how we live, move and order our societies. More people on bikes in cities means fewer deaths on the road, a decline in heart-attack fatalities, and every cyclist means one less car doing a short, wasteful, polluting journey.

The growth in the market for city bikes puts inexpensive, practical, door-to-door, green, healthy and enjoyable transport at everyone's disposal.

The human race is an increasingly urban animal, the city bicycle its salvation.

Further reading - Other Bike Culture articles which you might find of interest:

A Beginners Guide to Cycle Commuting pt1-Choosing the Right Bike

Cycle Commuting

Cycling for Women

Buying a Used Bike pt1- Types of bike

Cycle Shops