The latest "Ultimate Commuter" comes from Volata Cycles of San Francisco. Like previous "Ultimate Commuters" their bike is billed as the "first of its kind," and is equipped with an app-based computer embedded "seamlessly" into its handlebar stem for performance data, weather forecasts, turn-by-turn navigation, heart rate monitoring, and smartphone connectivity. The bike also has a built-in horn, built-in lights, and a GPS-based anti-theft tracking system. It's all battery powered, but there is a front hub dynamo to keep the bike's internal batteries charged -- so users have "the luxury of never worrying about recharging."
|Aluminum frame, carbon fork, belt drive, internal hub|
gearing, and disc brakes - and lots of electronic geegaws.
From the press release:
"The bicycle is the most efficient means of human transport ever invented . . . The problem is, the bicycle industry didn't evolve on the tech side, and did not improve the bicycle with native digital features whose goal is improving the riding experience and safety . . . As cars have evolved, also bikes need to evolve."
Regular readers already know how I feel about most claims that digital features "improve the riding experience." I'll admit that having built-in lights could be a nice thing, particularly if the lights are of high quality. However, if they are just of the variety that help the rider to be seen, but don't provide enough light to ride by on dark, unlit roads, then they don't exactly eliminate the need to have more "add-on" lights attached to the bike. In this particular case, the Volata's built-in taillight (consisting of 6 LEDs) is probably sufficient for most people. The unique twin headlights which are built into the fork are listed at 150 lumens. Having not ridden the bike, I couldn't say if they are sufficient for lighting the road ahead - but with headlights, it's often not just a question of light power, but also the quality and focus of the beam provided. Let's just say, I wouldn't be shocked if a lot of users found the need to mount some extra lighting for serious night-time or pre-dawn riding.
The Volata has an aluminum frame with a carbon fiber fork, belt drive, Shimano Alfine Di2 electronic internal-hub gearing, and disc brakes. Styling-wise, it has that modern look with its steeply sloping top tube, with a stem that seems to blend right into the unusually notched head-tube/top-tube junction. The bike is offered in four frame sizes, S, M, L, XL.
BSNYC would describe as a "filth prophylactic" - which is a far cry from full-coverage fenders.
Before I move on, let's take a look back at some previous "Ultimate Commuters" that I've mentioned here on the Retrogrouch Blog:
|The Vanhawks Valour featured lots of smartphone connectivity - but no accommodation for racks or fenders. No brakes either.|
|The Vanmoof S-series had fenders, brakes, and built-in lights. BBC Autos called it one of the "10 most beautiful bicycles." Errr . . . ahh . . . um . . . ?|
|The B'Twin had a super-racy aero position, integrated lights, and could carry a Macbook laptop, but not much else. No room for fenders, either. To be fair to the Volata, the B'Twin is really just a concept - not likely to see production within the next year.|
Obviously I'm skeptical, and maybe even a bit cynical. But it seems to me that the ultimate commuter shouldn't cost thousands of dollars, or have anything on it that would make a person weep uncontrollably if it were stolen by someone with a set of allen keys and a cable cutter. Unless a person can count on having a safe, secure place indoors to keep their bike, that often means going the low profile route, which is why a lot of hard-core commuters go with some kind of "beater" bike for commuting. Keep it simple. Keep it cheap. Ugly is OK since it provides a certain element of stealth. Splurge on good tires. Keep the cables, chain and sprockets clean and lubed. Slap some fenders and a rack on there so you can stay reasonably clean and carry stuff easily. For urban commuters, this can all be had for a few hundred bucks.
|I saw this on the Chicago Magazine site: Anatomy of a $162 Beater Bike.|
What really is the Ultimate Commuter? The bike that gets a person to and from work swiftly, cheaply, and reliably. Bikes with built-in digital gimmicks and a $3000+ price tag are for meeting people at coffee shops - not for serious commuters.