First Impression: Shinola Arrow

Shinola (pronounced shy-nola) Detroit is a company doing something increasingly rare in this country: manufacturing consumer goods using the hands of skilled craftspeople. Shinola started as a watchmaker in 2011 and, having survived Motor City’s 2013 bankruptcy, expanded to leather goods, pet items and bicycles—the latter of which hit the market in December 2012. The company is part of a wave of downtown creative enterprise trying to spread across a city better known for other things, such as that 75 percent of liquor supplied to the U.S. during Prohibition reportedly passed through the Detroit area.

Shinola Arrow FI-1

Industry veteran Sky Yaeger—formerly of Swobo, Spot and Bianchi—leads the design work of Shinola’s bicycles. The frames are welded at Waterford Precision Cycles in Waterford, Wisconsin, from U.S.-made True Temper double-butted 4130 ChroMo, and assembled at the Shinola flagship retail store in Detroit.

Shinola Arrow FI-2

The above is what you’re paying for. It’s easy to balk at the $1,000 price tag of the Arrow, but it’s also difficult to find off-the-rack, American-made frames. While my personal temperament is not to heartily defend the practicality of a singlespeed costing a grand, there are people out there for whom this classic, creating-American-jobs bicycle is exactly what they’re looking for. The Arrow is also the most accessible Shinola offering, coming in well below the $1,950 Bixby (3-speed) and $2,950 Runwell (11-speed).

Shinola Arrow FI-4

The Arrow (available with a step-through or traditional, straight top tube frame) is Shinola’s newest model and intended to be a simple, quiet, low-maintenance, throw-your-leg-over-it-and-go kind of ride that you keep and enjoy for a long time. It lacks screaming logos common on bigger brands and instead opts for a more subdued, laser-cut S on the rear dropouts and a real metal head badge. The fork crown is cast and is Shinola’s proprietary design.

Shinola Arrow FI-5

The Arrow runs 38×18 gearing and is equipped with a basic all-black build kit, leather Shinola saddle, custom chain guard, Tektro caliper brakes, cork grips, silver bell, steel fenders and 700×32 Continental Contact Reflex puncture-resistant tires (I added the green tool roll). It comes in either black or white. The step-through “women’s” model is offered in just two sizes: 47 and 51 cm, so pay attention to the bike’s geometry chart if you’re thinking of ordering one.

Shinola Arrow FI-3

The traditional frame 55cm Arrow officially comes in it at 26 pounds with all the bells and whistles attached. On the road, that feels much lighter than I expected for a sturdy, steel townie. This is the first step-through bicycle I have spent significant time with and it is definitely a product classy enough to ride in your business suit and park next to your professional office desk without anyone batting an eye.

Shinola Arrow FI-6

So far, the Arrow has surprised me with how comfortable it is. It is markedly well mannered and smooth on the road. The upright riding position helps abate any toe overlap on my 47cm frame and lends an air of casualness to cruising around (while still being plenty fun at speed). The swept-back bars aid off-the-saddle climbing efforts. Speaking of that saddle, it’s quite comfortable out of the box—not rock hard, as many leather saddles can be. I tilted mine slightly upward and am plenty happy on short jaunts in jeans.

Shinola Arrow FI-7

Rack mounts front and rear mean the Arrow can do commute and shopping duty, which I will try out of the full review, due out in Issue #39. Make sure you’re subscribed so that you don’t miss it! Read more about the Arrow from Shinola and watch the video, below.

Introducing our single-speed, The Detroit Arrow from Shinola on Vimeo.

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