Review: All-City Pony Express

Trends come and trends go, but the venerable steel bicycle always remains in style. All-City is one bike company that’s keeping the torches burning for chromoly creations. Those would be welding torches, and the creations include bicycles for road, track, cyclocross and even a singlespeed mountain bike.

The brand’s latest model, the Pony Express flat bar road bike, shares the exact same frame as its drop-bar Space Horse. When All-City realized that a number of customers were purchasing the versatile Space Horse framesets and building them up with flat bars, the company decided to offer a flat-bar build. Boom—the Pony Express!

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THE BIKE

Let’s take a closer look at that frame. The “612 Select” sticker refers to a chromoly tubeset built to All-City’s specifications. The blend includes double-butted main tubes, tapered seatstays and ovalized chainstays. The frame is strong and stiff enough to haul a maximum rear load of 30 pounds, but it’s not drastically overbuilt like a true touring bike. According to All-City, the goal was to produce a frameset with light-duty hauling capability without harshing out the unloaded ride.

The frame features rack/fender mounts, and the fork has two eyelets on each drop- out and one mid-fork eyelet on each blade. The fork is rated for a maximum 20 pound load. Features like these reinforce the practical and versatile nature of this steed. At any moment this city scoot could duck into a nearby phone booth and emerge as an adventurous bikepacking rig—or a grocery-getting workhorse. Good luck finding a phone booth these days, so perhaps a dark alley will have to do.

All-City’s investment cast stainless steel dropouts are more than eye candy. The semi-horizontal rear dropouts have an adjustable set screw that maintains your desired wheel position before/after wheel changes. They’re singlespeed compatible, should you get the urge, and you can get the rear wheel in/out with full-coverage fenders in place.

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Looking even closer at the frame reveals useful and practical details such as reinforced bottle bosses and a pump peg. The internally routed rear brake cable is an aesthetic win in my book. One of my favorite frame (and fork) details is a rather mundane one: an electrophoretic deposition coating that acts as both a rust preventative and a primer for the final paint. Because rust never sleeps—but it can kill a frame.

The 1×10 drivetrain features a SRAM Apex rear derailleur and an 11-32 cassette mated to a 42 tooth FSA Vero crank- set that’s protected by All-City’s Cross Wizard chain guard. Inside the 68 mm threaded bottom bracket shell spins a square-taper BB. There’s nothing fancy nor cutting edge here—just plenty of tried and true to go around.

This iron horse gallops on Kenda Kwest 700×35 mm tires. The 31.8 handlebars rise 15 mm, sweep 5 degrees and measure 620 mm wide. When it’s time to say whoa, the Avid Single Digit 3 linear pull brakes and Avid FR-5 levers reign in the stampede.

All-City offers the Pony Express in six frame sizes, all the way down to 46 cm. Hooray. That’s good news for shorter riders, or anybody that understands the importance of proper bike fit.

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THE RIDE

When it comes to “the ride,” the Pony Express delivers. This is a lively feeling bike that showcases the sweet ride of steel done right. Not too stiff. Not too flexy. Just right. The resilient frame felt smooth and took the edge off minor vibrations. Despite its supple ride, the bike accelerated energetically and never felt flexy or imprecise. All-City nailed it.

The lugged-crown fork has curved blades made from tapered 4130 chromoly tubing. Not only is the entire package visually appealing, but the fork did a good job of eating up vibration and chatter caused by rough surfaces. In my experience, most straight-bladed forks feel harsh in comparison to a curved steel fork like this one. It’s the perfect partner for the fine feeling frame.

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The bike’s geometry put me in a comfortable, upright riding position. Head-up is the way to go when navigating city traffic or taking in the scenery during a pleasant trot through the countryside. I felt well-centered over the bike, which, combined with its quick steering, made the Pony very responsive to subtle weight shifts. Its snappy handling felt appropriate for a bike slotted as an around-towner or daily commuter. This peppy pony is plain fun to ride.

I found the gearing well-suited for flat or rolling roads, but challenging on steep terrain. The setup worked fine for commuting, city cruising and recreational rides on back roads—even if I found myself climbing out of the saddle on a few hills that I was used to spinning up. While the ample braze-ons and quoted 50 pound carrying capacity tempted me to turn the Pony into a pack horse, I’d want to swap to some lower gearing before doing so. Along those lines, the frame has braze-ons for front derailleur cable stops, so a multiple-chainring conversion is an option for those so inclined.

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All-City went with linear pull brakes, partly because of their light weight and simplicity. They also help keep the price in check. Disc brakes continue to gain spec on road bikes of this ilk, and I’ll admit to being enamored with the concept, but I never felt the need for more braking power than the linear-pull Avids delivered. Excellent modulation at the lever sealed the deal and me a fan of these stoppers. Had my testing been in wet, wintry conditions my opinion might have been different. Or maybe not.

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The 35 mm Kenda Kwest tires rolled comfortably and efficiently on pavement. They’re more rugged than supple, making them a good choice for a bike that’s designed for the mean streets. And they didn’t blink when I detoured onto gravel roads and other unpaved surfaces. If you want to maximize the bike’s off-piste potential, All-City says that the frame has clearance for up to 42 mm tires. That could come in handy for aggressive gravel or dirt road adventuring.

I found the All-City Gonzo saddle comfortable. At the opposite end of the cockpit, the 620 mm handlebar felt appropriately sized for a city-oriented bike, though I’d have preferred something wider. Perhaps that’s my mountain biking background leaking through.

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CONCLUSIONS

I’m a big fan of flat bar road bikes. Years ago I converted a cyclocross bike to flat bars and never looked back. Nowadays it makes me smile to see well-executed flat bar road bikes like the Pony Express adding to this growing category. The classic silhouette and lively ride of this fine chromoly frame combined with well-chosen components is a winning formula in my book.

Price: $1,150
Weight: 23.8 lbs without pedals
Sizes: 46, 49, 52, 55 (tested), 58, 61 cm


This review originally appeared in Bicycle Times #44.

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Frostbike Report: New and updated bikes from All City, Civia, Surly

Frostbike is one of the annual dealer gatherings hosted by Quality Bicycle Products (QBP), the parent brand behind All City, Foundry, Salsa, Surly and others. The event takes place at QBP headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in late February and allows shop owners and media types to gather and drink beer and talk shop. 

With the Taipei International Cycle Show and Sea Otter looming, not to mention the countless company-specific product launch events now usurping big trade shows, there was not a glut of new product to be explored. Here are the few new and noteworthy bicycles we stumbled upon. 

All City Pony Express – $1,149

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All City’s new rigid singlespeed mountain bike—the Log Lady—soaked up the media attention prior to Frostbike, allowing another new offering to quietly sneak into the lineup. To create the Pony Express, All City started with its highly popular Space Horse frame, doused it in bright red paint, hung it with simple 1×10 road gearing and loaded it up with a straightforward parts kit including flat bars and V-brakes. The Pony Express is fender- and rack-friendly, can accept up to 700×42 tires (38 mm with fenders), features internal cable routing on the top tube and sports a bottom bracket lower than the usual road bike.

Pony Express trio

Since the Space Horse is All City’s light touring bike, the frame’s load capacity is a combined 50 pounds of gear and is designed to handle well under that load. On the Pony Express, All City maintains its use of beautiful lugged crown forks, signature dropouts and the company’s proprietary blend of smooth-riding steel tubing. This bike doesn’t so much answer “Why?” as it answers “Why not?”

More info: allcitycycles.com

All City Macho King Limited – $3,400

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Behold the newest edition of All City’s short-run Macho King Limited. The cyclocross racer’s frame is made from Reynolds 853 steel and features a tapered, thru-axle Whisky carbon fork, SRAM 1×11 setup and extra-classy green fade paint job. If you want one, go talk to your local bike shop now before they’re available since few are produced and they sell out fast.

More info: allcitycycles.com

Civia Lowry – $399 (singlespeed), $469 (7-speed)

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After going quiet for a few years to re-tool and conduct extensive body geometry studies, Civia is back with an all-new aluminum model (no more steel) designed to be carried by your local bike shop and to compete with direct-sale online dealers of sub-$500 neighborhood bikes.

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To begin its rebirth, Civia launched the Lowry in two styles of top tubes and with either one or seven gears. The aluminum tubing was kept narrower to mimic the look of steel tubing but was used to lighten the weight of the bikes. The frames feature rack and fender mounts as well as integrated chain guards and kickstands.

Each Lowry is available in five sizes to accommodate riders from 5’0” to 6’4”. The smallest two sizes use 26-inch wheels (with 1.5-inch tires) for better fit and handling, while the rest get standard 700c road wheels with 38 mm tires. More models are slated to roll out in the future.

More info: civiacycles.com

Surly Big Dummy – $2,100

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The venerable cargo hauler from Surly got a refresh for Frostbike. New this year is a bright green paint job with matching cargo deck, Surly’s Extra Terrestrial tires and a new SRAM drivetrain. The updated model will be available in July or August.

More info: surlybikes.com

Fuji Custom – Priceless

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We saw this in the QBP parking lot—locked up, no less. We unfortunately couldn’t find the owner, and are therefore unable to bring you a test ride report.

Foundry Cycles also showcased its new titanium cyclocross racer and updated titanium gravel road bike, which we reported on earlier. See photos and details, here.

 

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All City unleashes a Junk Yard Dog

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Technically it’s the JYD, but the name is a nod to the brand’s fondness for pro wresting. The JYD is a new monstercross/cruiser/mountainous/urban assault vehicle that is designed to be low-tech and big fun. Like most of All City’s bikes, it’s made from steel with some nice touches that set it apart, including the track-end style dropouts and the segmented “New England” style fork.

It’s built beefy with extra gussets for years of thrashing. The bottom bracket is a standard threaded affair and the rear spacing is 135mm. It even has fender eyelets to keep your keister dry. Yes it will fit a 29×2.25 tire, and no, it isn’t suspension corrected. Nor does it have disc brakes. It seems to make use of some sort of rubberized pad that slides along the rim…

It’s available in a frameset only. Want one? Better hurry. There are only plans for 150 to be built this year, dropping in September, and no promises on a second production run. Bring $550 to your nearest All City dealer to get in line.

See more photos here.

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