First Impression: Electra Moto

Electra likely isn’t the kind of brand you’d expect to equate with a swoopy, sporty ride like this here Moto. Known for it’s relaxed, Flat Foot design that caters heavily toward the cruiser crowd, this klunker-slash-motorcycle inspired bike is decidedly more hip.

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The swooping tube shapes recall the klunkers of yore while the three-piece crankset, unicrown fork and chunky stem add a bit of a BMX cruiser vibe. In lieu of a coaster brake is a pair of modern, mechanical disc brakes, which greatly increases your ability to throw massive skids all over the multi-use path.

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The Moto 1 pictured here is available in both black or this lovely matte blue, and there’s a three-speed internal hub version too.

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There are few frills or fluff adorning the sleek aluminum frame, save for a single bottle cage mount on the downtube.

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Unlike the bikes that inspired it, the Moto 1 rolls on huge 29-inch hoops with wide, double wall rims and 2.125 inch wide tires. The block tread reminds me of an old school scrambler motorcycle.

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I’ve been riding the Moto back to back with the Kona Humuhumu, so look for my long term review of both these old-school steeds in the next issue of Bicycle Times. Subscribe today and you won’t miss it.

Correction

The Moto’s frame is indeed aluminum, while the fork is chromoly steel.

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First Impression: Kona Humuhumu

I was stopped on the side of the bike path, topping off a slightly underinflated tire.

“Hey nice bike. What’s that extra tube for? Must be heavy duty or somethin’. Is it for extra weight?”

The tube in question is the twin top tube on this here Kona Humuhumu. A retro/cruiser/mountainous/classic/singlespeed/bar-hopping/klunkish/commuter. Why is the extra tube there? Because it can. Why does this bike exist? Because fun. #becausebikes

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Note: Leopard print saddlebag and pink Klean Kanteen not included.

The Humu has been in Kona’s line since 1992 and was loosely inspired by the legendary Lawwill Pro Cruiser and Koski Trailmaster. More of a giant BMX bike than an upgraded klunker, the original Humu wasn’t meant to be a hard-edged trail tamer, but rather a less expensive way for fans to fly the Kona flag while getting to class, cruising the neighborhood or generally causing a ruckus wherever they went.

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The current iteration was inspired by a custom build and sports the same classic layout, 4130 steel tubing, moto-style handlebars and let’s-go attitude of the original, but updates it with disc brakes, 29-inch wheels and sliding dropouts.

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Unlike a lot of cruisers, the Humu is available in three sizes so everyone can join in the fun. The Schwalbe Big Apple tires measure a massive 2 inches wide so the ride is magic carpet smooth. The rear hub is nearly silent too, letting you roll in stealthy silence. It’s available in orange or lime for $899.

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So far I’ve had a blast hopping curbs, blasting through alleys and riding like a hooligan. I’m guessing that’s exactly what Kona was going for.

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Watch for my long-term review of the Humuhumu in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Times. Subscribe today and help support your independent voice for cycling.

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Review: Shinola Detroit Arrow

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Shinola—of the famous “You don’t know shit from Shinola” catchphrase—was a shoe polish brand founded in New York in 1907, gained fame in World War II, then went out of business in 1960. Relaunched in Detroit in 2011 by a Texas investment company that bought the name rights, the new Shinola began its second life as a fine watchmaking company, then expanded to bicycles in late 2012. It now employs more than 400 people in a city still struggling to find its footing following the crumbling of the auto industry, a mass population exodus and a recent bankruptcy.

That old saying still applies: Shinola product is anything but crap. Its three bicycle models are meticulously designed, American-made and have price tags befitting the finer things in life. If you’re more inclined to bust your knuckles fixing up a Craigslist find, this is not the bike for you. If you’re willing to pay for subtle, classy, lasting quality, read on.

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Bike industry veteran Sky Yaeger—formerly of Swobo, Spot, Bianchi and Suntour—leads the design of Shinola’s bicycles. Yaeger is the real deal, a true pioneer with more than 30 years of experience in the bicycle industry. At Shinola, she is proudly focused on things like weld integrity, custom dropouts, proprietary cast fork crowns and stamped chainstay plates.

Shinola’s frames are handmade at Waterford Precision Cycles in Waterford, Wisconsin, from U.S.-made True Temper double-butted 4130 chromoly, and assembled at the Shinola flagship retail store in Detroit. That is a big part of what you’re paying for. It’s easy to balk at the $1,000 price tag of the singlespeed Detroit Arrow, but you also can’t find too many off-the-rack, American-made bikes at that price. Shinola is arguably helping to put a little spirit back into an industry that readily offshored itself and no longer gives much love to the “Made in USA” sticker.

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On the road, the 26-pound Arrow feels much lighter than I expected for a sturdy, steel townie. It is markedly smooth-rolling and quiet—I would describe the ride feel as “gliding.” The upright position lends an air of casualness to cruising about town. With only one gear, riding this bike involved plenty of climbing out of the saddle. The swept-back bars aided those efforts, as did the bike’s well-mannered stability.

While the Arrow’s intent is to be a throw-your-leg-over-it-and-go bike—reminiscent of whatever simple, two-wheeled transport you had as a kid—it is practically designed for those who want a singlespeed even in a hilly, urban environment. The Arrow not only climbs well, but is also fun and maneuverable when it picks up speed on the return descent.

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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. It comes in either black or white, and the frame features rack mounts for extended practicality. You can choose a step-through model or a traditional, straight top tube frame.

I did question the use of bolt-on axles (a nemesis of mine) rather than quick releases. Yaeger responded this way: “On city bikes, I have always used nutted axles on the rear and a lockable quick release on the front as one more deterrent if you just leave your bike for a few minutes and [don’t] lock the front wheel. Also, there is no learning curve to a bolt, compared to a quick release, which poses a challenge to beginning cyclists.”

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Is it worth spending this kind of money for a bicycle with only one gear? Only you can decide that. My mom’s sister-in-law likes to say that there should be a few items in life you’re willing to spend good money for lasting quality because you will use them daily. For her, it’s eyeglasses, shoes and coats. For you, it might be your bike. The Arrow doesn’t give you the most bang-for-your-buck, but statement pieces rarely do.

  • Sizes: Traditional: 53, 55, 57, 61 cm. step-through: 47 (tested), 51 cm
  • Weight: 26 pounds
  • Price: $1,000
  • More info: Shinola Detroit Arrow

 

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Gallery: What you missed at SSCXWC15

By Jason Britton

Around this time every year, a few hundred dirtbags gather together to heckle each other, drink cheap beer, and compete for the coveted title of Single Speed Cyclocross World Champion. For the ninth iteration we traveled to Victoria, Canada and soaked in the beauty all around us. My companions and I chose to spectate rather than race this year and had a blast cruising around town, catching up with old friends, and spending time goofing off on bikes.

Our plan was simple: The four of us chose to rely solely on public transportation and our own two wheels for the journey. We took the Amtrak Cascades from Portland, Oregon, to Vancouver, Canada, and then a series of light rail, bus, ferries, and bikes to finally arrive in Victoria. The fun we had along the way made it a trip I won’t soon forget.

Next year the event comes back to Portland, Oregon for the 10th running. Come join in the fun!

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To see full-size photos, click the magnifying glass in the corner.

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Shinola introduces the Detroit Arrow, a $1,000 American-made singlespeed

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Shinola continues to expand its line of American-made city bikes with a new singlespeed model that is significantly less expensive than its previous multi-speed bikes. However, the Detroit Arrow will feature a tig-welded True Temper steel frame that is still made by Waterford Cycles in Wisconsin.

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It will also be assembled by hand in the United States with an all-black component spec, which includes Shinola leather saddle, grips, fenders and chain guard. It will also feature the signature, laser-cut “S” found in the dropouts and fork crown common on all Shinola models.

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The Detroit Arrow will be available in just black or white, in three men’s sizes and one step-thru size for $1,000.

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Shinola offers two other models, the Bixby and Runwell, also made by Waterford Cycles. It makes a lot more than bicycles too, it produces high-end watches and leather goods made right here in the U.S. of A. The watch factory occupies 30,000 square feet of the historic Argonaut building in Detroit, the former home of the General Motors Research Laboratory.

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