A Nurse with a Gun

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Redline R530

Redline has introduced what they call a European styled bike, the R530. The Bike Geek has written a review on it. He was kind.

What I see is a compact aluminum framed hybrid bike with crappy brakes, fenders and a full chain case slapped on it to capitalize on the Stateside Euro-bike fascination. There is indeed a place for an upright riding posture, and a bicycle of style and sophistication in the United states. Presently, the Electra Amsterdam is the closest approximation from a US bicycle company, but even the Amsterdam has a compact frame.

Compare the Redline product with the esteemed Batavus Favoriet. The Favoriet frame has a horizontal top bar. It has a seat tube that places the feet forward. It has a leather sprung seat, and no pneumatic suspension front fork. The frame is steel, and so is the chain case. On the aluminum Redline, the seat is a gel filled pillow, and the chain case is brittle plastic. The Favoriet comes with lights, a skirt guard jassenbeschermer (coat protector), and a tire pump. The Redline R530 comes with puncture resistant tubes instead. The Favoriet uses a SRAM 5 speed with a coaster brake. The Redline bike uses a Nexus hub with a Shimano roller brake. The Shimano front roller brake on the R530 is weak.

Hopefully, at some time in the future, an affordable American bike with an authentic Dutch geometry and flavor will become available. There is a ready market for such a velocipede. The Redline R530 is not it. The R530 is like a pair of Chuck Taylors trying to masquerade as Chanel.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Eric R. Shelton said...

Ok, you'll have to pardon my ignorance, but I've got a lot of questions after this this post.
1. What defines a compact frame, and what's wrong with it?
2. What's wrong with aluminum instead of steel? Wouldn't the aluminum be lighter, and more efficient to pedal?
3. While a leather wrapped seat is a nice touch, in the arid Arizona climate it may not last long. What's wrong with gel?

I don't mean to sound snarky, just asking potentially "noob" questions. (Right now, I ride my Giant mountain bike to and from work daily.)

11:28 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Nothing wrong with questions!

1. What defines a compact frame, and what's wrong with it?
The top bar on a compact frame is slanted down in the rear. Some say this increases the rigidity of the frame's front triangle, but it forces the rider to extend the seat post higher. It was marketed as a way to decrease weight, but any weight savings is offset by the longer seat post necessary. According to Sheldon Brown, "Manufacturers like them because they are more versatile in terms of fit. Usually 3 or 4 sizes are enough to fit 98% of customers. This saves a lot of money for a manufacturer who doesn't need to deal with so many SKUs." If a manufacturer is going to try to approximate a dutch style bike, the right style frame is where they should start.

2. What's wrong with aluminum instead of steel? Wouldn't the aluminum be lighter, and more efficient to pedal?
Steel is just as light. More aluminum must be used to reach the same level of strength. The walls of the tubing must be thicker, and the tubes themselves must be of greater diameter. Aluminum alloy also tends to crack at the welds when stressed. Lugged steel does not. Aluminum is more corrosion resistant though.

3. While a leather wrapped seat is a nice touch, in the arid Arizona climate it may not last long. What's wrong with gel?
I'm not talking about a leather wrapped seat. I'm talking about a Brooks suspended leather seat. It will last as long or longer than a horse saddle or a pair of leather boots in the Arizona heat. I prefer suspended leather to gel personally, because they are more comfortable, they last much much longer. The choice of seat is a very personal one. If you prefer gel, then ride on gel. If you are going to try to approximate a Dutch style bike though, a gel seat is not the way to go.

Don't get me wrong, the R530 is likely a good to great hybrid bike. Slapping crappy brakes and a plastic chain case on it does not make it the equivalent of a Batavus Favoriet though. Doing so only shows the manufacturer is trying the cheapest way possible to cash in on the latest trend. Of course, that's business......

2:29 PM  
Anonymous sid biker said...

Leather Saddles

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

"Hopefully, at some time in the future, an affordable American bike with an authentic Dutch geometry and flavor will become available. There is a ready market for such a velocipede."

Amen!

That brought back some memories from growing up in Holland. My first "real" bike was a Batavus. My dad's Gazelle Speciaal had a Brooks saddle just like that.

It's not a dress or skirt guard, though. The proper term is "jassenbeschermer," which means "coat protector." If they were dress guards, they would only be fitted to the lady's model bikes which can be recognized by their lowered top bar to allow for the use of dresses while biking. Instead, coat protectors are fistandard equipment on all Dutch bikes, and not only protect your coat tails, but also protect your legs from mud and water. Unfortunately, they tend to be rather fragile and are easily damaged in the tough environment most bikes live in. I replaced mine with the thick plastic kind meant for use with a child's seat on the luggage rack. They are thicker to prevent the child being carried in the seat from kicking a hole in them.

5:04 PM  
Anonymous homebru said...

Batavus Favoriet = $1050.

Yikes! I am so out of touch with the world.

10:02 AM  

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