This review of the Breezer Villager originally appeared in print in Bicycle Times issue #1.
Tester: Amanda Zimmerman
Country of Origin: Taiwan
Sizes Available: Diamond Frame – 17” (S), 19.5” (M), 21.5” (L) and 23.5” (XL)
U-Frame – 15” (XS), 17” (S), 19” (M), and 21” (L)
Joe Breeze of Breezer Bikes has his roots in mountain bike history, being an original member of the Velo Club Tam that rode balloon-tired bikes down the mountain trails for the heck of it back in the ’70s. His first frames were built in response to those rides and the need for a stronger bike to take the impact of off-roading, but his first love has always been utilizing the bike as an everyday people-mover. In 2002, after years of successful mountain bike framebuilding, Joe shifted his attention back to this passion and started focusing on making bikes that are fun and comfortable.
The Breezer Villager was specifically designed for “relaxed rides and errands” or “sprints to the office,” and its components were thought out to provide a bike that would be “truly useful in everyday life.” It comes complete with accessories that every commuter needs right off the bat: fenders, rack, a lock system, kickstand, a plush seat, chainguard, and front and back lights. This allows a person to walk out of the shop, bike in hand, ready to hit the road.
The Villager, and the rest of Breezer’s Town series of bikes, are available with the U-frame (which I decided to test) or more traditional diamond frame. Based on European design, this step-through frame makes mounting and dismounting the bike, while loaded with groceries, or wearing dress pants, a bit easier. This design is also nice for less flexible or older riders.
There are a few elements worthy of mention to the Villager’s design that make it more than a standard town bike. The Nexus internal gear hub, featured on various Breezer city bike models, sidesteps the issue of a cassette set-up on the back wheel that would require additional maintenance. On the other end of the shifter system is the Shimano Revo-Shift twist shifter to select between seven very useful gears. A big benefit is that I can shift while pedaling, coasting or stopping.
For visibility, a Busch and Müller tire-driven generator system sends electricity through the wires (which are internally routed through the frame) to the front Senso light and wide taillight as you pedal, and a capacitor-derived Standlight feature keeps the lights on when you stop. The Europa 26”x1.5” tires also add visibility with reflective sidewalls. And what bike would be complete without a bell to alert people and cars of your presence?
For security, Breezer provides a simple but functional ring lock system for the rear wheel, with a spare key for those of us who like to lose these types of things. It’s a lock meant for low-risk situations when you just want to prevent someone from riding off—it wouldn’t prevent someone from stuffing the bike in the back of a van. Breezer also opted to forgo quick release levers on the wheels and seatpost for their town bikes. Instead they use straightforward nuts and bolts for wheel retention, and a bolted clamp to hold the seatpost in place; another measure against opportunistic thieves.
The aluminum-frame Villager is on the lighter side for a fully-equipped commuter, but structurally this bike is solid. I’m not one for avoiding potholes and there were plenty to target during my commute. The Villager just didn’t miss a beat. The suspension seat post took the bumps and jarring conditions like a pro. The steering was responsive and I never felt like the bike was getting out of control. I rode in a few blinding downpours this fall and the Europa tires handled the slicker situations well.
With adjustable height on the stem, adjustable seatpost and range in saddle position it was easy to tweak to the rider’s exact comfort. I tend to float somewhere between upright and slightly more forward over the handlebars.
Having seven gears in a hilly city is a definite bonus, and I ripped through every single one of them on some gnarly inclines included in my commute. The smooth shifting action between gears with just a flick of the wrist made the transitions second nature. The linear-pull brake system, though not elegant, is efficient for the job and easy to work with for those not mechanically inclined.
The provided light system is a nice extra feature. I did have issues with the front light not remaining on when I stopped pedaling, but the folks at Breezer promptly sent me a new light, which fixed the problem. During night rides the light generated for the front light is bright enough to navigate on dark roads, but a word of caution—the Breezer owner’s manual recommends using additional lights. Safety is important. Around the office we believe one can never have too many blinky lights.
I did encounter the reality of a rear flat while testing this bike. Although the Nexus internal hub is a great design choice, it does require learning a trick or two to reinstall the gear selector cable in the hub while re-mounting the wheel. The owner’s manual recommends experimenting with this in your garage before hitting the road. Good advice, as trying to do this operation in a downpour or in the dark would be problematic without a trial run. A handy bike shop trick that Eric showed me for removing and reinstalling the cable: use a 2mm hex wrench to snag the gear change mechanism and maneuver it into place.
With the Villager, Breezer set out to make a bike that is beginner-friendly and stress free, but enjoyable to every level rider, and it has the potential to make every rider smile. Well done, guys.