I live in Toronto a city roads that are not only pretty damn congested but riddled with potholes. Naturally when I am getting around in weather that is better than appalling and going a reasonable distance, I like to get around on a bicycle.
I have noticed that my 12 year old bike is rather different than what I see many other commuters using. I ride an old Giant Cypress with no suspension and a chromoly steel frame. The steel is soft enough that shock absorbers would be superfluous on the road. All they would do is as add weight, making me have to pedal harder, and add flex, which would slow me down.
Noted hipster bike manufacturer, SURLY, makes their bikes out of the same material because it offers a great compromise at a very good price. This is the Keep It Simple, Stupid method for bicycle design. Something that achieves a balance of comfort and speed through careful engineering choices.My bike is perfect for crashing around town because it is a homogeneous design with one very specific goal.
Mazda seems to be doing the same thing with their SKYACTIV system(and the reason they have been crowned most fuel-efficient automaker in America. )
Rather than over-complicating their products with electric motors, and heavy batteries Mazda’s stayed lean and mean by going for strength and lightness. They use clever materials in every aspect of the designs on the new SKYACTIV cars and it shows. If my bike is designed like a Mazda3, then I would have to say a lot of city bikes are closer to the Toyota PriusC.
Instead of a lean taught design created with one goal in mind, we have a poorly adapted, outdated platform with a gutless, overweight drivetrain stuffed in.
Some less-cleverly designed city bikes involve a cheap, heavy steel frames, that absorb shocks but weighs an absurd amount, and combines it with an aluminum fork that is supposed to save weight. Then to prevent the shock of every bump being sent straight up the rider’s arms, the manufacturer adds heavy suspension.
These are the bikes that the Toronto Police ride, and I weep for them. I see these officers riding around town with their legs spinning at a ludicrous speed but the bike moving slowly as they have to use a stupidly low gear to keep from exhausting themselves. Maybe they would be better off with a PriusC