Review: Viva Kilo

viva-kilo

By Karen Brooks

Dutch-style bikes have become popular as accoutrements in certain U.S. cities, allowing urban dwellers to glide along the streets with European sophistication, suits and skirts unruffled. However the history of these bikes, from English roadster to opafiets, is more about daily transportation than fashion. This style is just as popular with the Danes as with the Dutch, and Viva Bike Design represents the Danes, hailing from Copenhagen and headed by a former member of the Danish national cycling team.

The Danish version of these daily drivers is a bit lighter and sportier than the Dutch “grandpa” bike (“opafiets” in English). The Kilo model is a slight variation, with 26 inch wheels and fat tires rather than 700c and thinner rubber, basically adding pneumatic suspension to the package. Although this could never be mistaken for a lightweight, the Kilo’s chromoly steel frame is less hefty than the typical high-tensile steel of many of its tank-like counterparts.

Its frame geometry is a tad less relaxed than others as well, giving it quicker handling. Of course, its riding position is bolt upright, good for seeing and being seen in traffic and easy on the spine, if a little awkward for steeper, standing climbs. The bottom bracket is positioned high enough that the pedals were a bit far from the pavement, so that stopping required getting off the saddle to put a foot down, something I’d expect from a more performance-oriented bike. Otherwise, the bike’s overall impression is one of sturdiness and capability without being sluggish.

Brakes and shifting choices on this bike are meant to be durable in all kinds of weather: a Shimano Nexus 7-speed internal hub with roller brake out back, and a Sturmey-Archer drum brake hub in front. The brakes worked quite nicely even in nasty weather once I got used to their different feel—they have so much modulation it can be mistaken for lack of power, but they grip just fine, you just have to keep pulling that lever. Civilized, gradual stopping power goes right along with the Kilo’s vibe. Cables are routed through the down tube for a clean look.

The stock gearing was a little tall even for my relatively flat neighborhood, and I spent most of my time in the bottom three gears; I’d swap the cog on the rear hub if this were my permanent ride. The elegant, paint-matched rear rack is strong enough for grocery loads. (Matching front baskets are available, too.) Viva bikes sold in Europe naturally also include a generator hub and lights, but for now, they’ve left them off to shave the price for the U.S. market.

The parts designed by Viva, from the matching leather grips and saddle to the metal fenders with a nifty rear reflector, fit perfectly and have functioned well. I love the two-tone bell. My only complaint is with the shape of the leather saddle—it has oddly exaggerated humps at the sit-bone areas that caused me to slip too far forward. However, being leather, it is beginning to break in and feel better

The huge Schwalbe Fat Frank tires made the ride Cadillac-smooth and encouraged riding over not-so-civilized terrain. I’ve been pretty hard on this bike, riding on dirt and gravel and through plenty of rain (and a bit of snow), but it hasn’t complained one bit—no rattling of fenders or rubbing of the substantial chain guard. Everything has remained solid and quiet. The Danish way with these bikes is to ride them every day through rainy summers and snowy winters, leaving them outside all the time, so they have to stand up to abuse.

At $1,300, the Kilo is a fairly expensive simple city bike, but one that beckons you to use it as its forebears were used: as daily transportation. Comfort and durability go along nicely with style. There’s nothing wrong with bringing some flair to your daily bike travels.

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