Beautiful Bicycles: Civia Twin City Step-Through

I recently tested the Civia Twin City Step-Through from J.C. Lind Bikes.  I picked up the Twin City on Friday, returned it on Monday afternoon, and had a lot of fun in between.


The Twin City is a steel frame mixte with a great commuting set up – fenders, chain guard, rack, 7-speed internal gear hub, roller brake, and albatross bars.  Unfortunately,  smaller necessities such as lights and a bell must be added after market.  (During my test ride, I kept reaching for a non-existent bell – bells are so important in the city!)

The attachment you see on the bottom tube is the Abus Bordo lock, which is sold separately.

 

Overall, the Twin City has an attractive and kinda ’70’s look (is it just me?).  A metal Civia headbadge decorates the front of the bike.  I really appreciate a well-designed metal headbadge, instead of a sticker.

This bike comes in only one color, a deep and almost pearlescent red.  My friend’s 12-year-old daughter loved this color and declared that she wanted her old Schwinn painted the exact same.

The top tube is split all the way down, like a traditional mixte, but curved to allow for an easier step through.  I think step through frames make the most sense for anyone looking for a commuter bike, regardless of gender.

The bike has front caliper brakes – the kind most commonly seen on modern bikes – which stop the bike by clamping on the tire rim.

The rear wheel has a Shimano roller brake, which helps with stopping power in the rain or snow, because the elements cannot reach the enclosed hub.  There is also a Shimano Nexis 7-speed internal gear hub – again, great for all weather.  This is an excellent hub, the same I have on my Oma.

The bike is built with steel fenders and a chain guard, all painted to match the frame.  Fenders and chain coverings are so necessary for a transportation bike and I like how these are integrated and blend well.

The pedals are metal with sharp teeth and side reflectors.  They are okay, but I would swap them out for rubber-padded pedals.  My feet slipped several times while wearing both my Keen cycling sandals and my rubber-soled sneakers.  I can imagine they would be even more slippery with dress shoes.  Plus, my history with spikey pedals tells me I would eventually scratch the crap out of my calves when walking the bike.  For the more sporty type, clip-in or strap pedals would work well with the bike, too.

There is a single-footed kickstand.  While I appreciate that a kickstand is included, I would swap this out for a double-footed stand because I like my bike not to fall over constantly.  (Single-footed kickstands offer only an illusion of security!)

The quill stem and handlebars are great, similar to the Nitto Albatross bars I have on my Rivendell Betty Foy.  The positioning is more leaned forward and down than my Betty, but not as much as drop bars.

I added my personal rearview mirror because I always like to know what’s coming up behind me.

I also added my personal Brooks B17 saddle because the plain black saddle that comes with the bike is uncomfortable as hell.  Atrocious.  I suffered through my five mile ride home from the bike shop, until I could swap in Betty’s saddle.  I highly recommend upgrading to a Brooks or a similar not-awful saddle.

In addition to the fenders and chain guard, there is an integrated and matching rear rack – another essential element of a good commuter bike.  The rack held a good size load in a big pannier with no problem, although it is not made to be super heavy duty.

I borrowed an Ortlieb pannier for the test period, because the Basil pannier I use on my Oma would not fit on the Twin City rack – the Basil connectors were too wide.  I will review the Ortlieb pannier soon.

 

The Twin City is much more than the sum of its parts.  The ride quality and versatility are both high, as is the quality to cost ratio.  Someone looking for a commuting bike that also works for longer recreational excursions and is fairly light (compared to a Dutch bike) would do very well with the Twin City.  She or he would also do excellently with a Rivendell Betty Foy, but the price would be at least 150% more.

I rode the bike home from work on Friday, to the neighborhood movie theatre on Saturday, on a long ride on Sunday, and to work on Monday.  I found the bike to be excellent for every type of ride.

At first, when biking home on Friday, I felt way bent over and down, but that extreme feeling went away once I got used to the bike. I realized that it only seemed extreme after riding super-upright Oma.  The geometry is somewhat leaned over, but no more so than most typical commuter bikes on the market.  The steel frame allows for a smooth ride, even over Chicago’s notoriously potholed streets.

I was a little worried about how the bike would feel during my long 31 mile ride on Sunday, but there was no need.  The bike performed beautifully and proved to be nimble, quick, and comfortable.  I never felt like I was weighed down, even with a strong headwind, and totally enjoyed my ride.  I did wish that I had some harder gears in the tailwind, though, as I could not really open up and use all my energy without spinning.

The Twin City would be great for hilly terrain.  Of the seven gears, I mostly stayed in 7th gear, shifting to 6th at stoplights.  If I were using this bike for daily riding in Chicago, I would prefer a more difficult set-up that allowed me to use the other gears more.  That said, I used 5th and sometimes 4th gear when hit by a strong headwind and the full range of gears would be essential for a hilly city.

Overall, this bike has a lot going for it.  I was impressed.  The base price is $850 for the 7-speed or $595 for the single speed, which probably seems like a lot for someone who is looking for a bike to get started – my first adult bike was $450 and I felt like I was spending a fortune! – but is a good and fair price for the quality and features.  I strongly suggest that someone buying this bike upgrade to a Brooks saddle ($80) and add a bell ($10-20) and lights (at least $30).  I would also recommend swapping out the kickstand and pedals.  However, please note that such extras would not necessarily be expected on a bike at this price point.  I know that bike companies cut where they can to present a product for mass market appeal under a certain cost.  Even with those extras, the Twin City is a good value for a steel frame bike with fenders, chain guard, rack, internal 7-speed hub, and roller brakes.

I made a short video about the Twin City.  Not the best ever (I swear, sometimes I sound like I’m talking gibberish – my mind gets ahead of my tongue), but hopefully it gives an idea of how the bike looks in motion.

The bikes that seem most comparable to the Civia Twin City are the Public and Linus.  I think those two are not as high quality, but I have not tried them yet, so I cannot compare. I’ll try to do so in the near future, since we get a lot of questions about them.

As always, I highly recommend that anyone considering this bike try to arrange a real test-ride, if possible.  Your opinion of a bike could be totally different from mine.

p.s. There is also a Twin City Step-Over.

{J.C. Lind Bikes is a sponsor and friend of LGRAB.  This is not a sponsored review, but my own honest opinion.}

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31 thoughts on “Beautiful Bicycles: Civia Twin City Step-Through

  1. Beth says:

    I LOVE the color! I think those particular shades of red and yellow are responsible for the 70’s look. Also love the curved & split top tube, it looks so cool. Thanks for another great review.

    If you used the folding Abus lock, do you have an opinion? Seems so convenient and compact.

    • Dottie says:

      Good point about the colors – I think that’s what does it!  :)

      Yup, I’ll have a review of the Bordo lock next week.  I liked it mostly because the holder is so convenient – I hate having to carry my u-lock in my basket.

    • Jax+Puzzle says:

       Totally agree about the colors! I actually think this looks a lot like my non-curvy stayed mixte, a Raleigh, from 1985, which is also a scarlet and gold combo.

    • Ash L says:

      I used the Bordo 6500 (the larger model of Abus folding link locks) on my every day cargo bike commuter and LOVE it. It’s variable shape allows me to easily lock my wheel and frame to a number of differently sized racks and poles. Security-wise, it’s right up there with the Kryponite NY or similar quality On Guard u-locks. 

  2. Jax+Puzzle says:

    I think this appears to be a quality and useful city bike, and I’m surprised at the pricepoint – isn’t the Loring around $1500? Interesting brake combo too, hub and caliper… I don’t like the unicrown fork., but I guess if the frame isn’t lugged it’s okay. I do think Civia should have included some necessary extras, like the bell and Brooks, although it’s fun to personalize your bike.

    Dottie, do you know what frame size you were on? It appears much smaller than Betty. Also, I wonder if you would be less leaned over if the stem was raised? I am pretty leaned over on my mixtes, and thought I would grow accustomed to it, but I eventually want something more upright… maybe a Retrovelo Paula! :-)

    • LGRAB says:

      Good question about the frame size – I should have mentioned that in the review. There are two sizes: small (5’0 – 5’4) and medium (5’4 – 5’11). So this would be a good choice for someone shorter, but wouldn’t work for someone really tall. I tested the medium frame, whch felt comfortable. I’m 5’7.

      My Betty Foy frame is bigger than the Civia frame. For my Betty, I chose a larger frame size that would allow me to put the seat post at the lowest possible level. I’m not a fan of exposed seat post, plus I like big bikes and I cannot lie. :)

      I actually went back to Jon after riding down the road a bit and asked him to raise the stem, but turned out the stem was already raised to the max level.

      • Jax+Puzzle says:

         I’m also just shy of 5’7″ and my Betty is 58 cm, and it’s made me prefer larger bikes, too. I don’t even really enjoy my other mixtes (52 and 54 cm), because they feel so small. I’m with you on the big bikes!! :-)

  3. Lapedalista says:

    Hi, Great review. I love getting your perspective on the gearing from an everyday commuter perspective that also does longer rides. I don’t want to do centuries, but the occasional 30-40 mile weekend/vacation kind of riding would be my max, and knowing what biked would fit the bill within reason is information I really appreciate from your blog. :)

    Also, I’d love a more detailed review of the Linus mixte… :) I believe that’s a steel frame too, so I’m curious why the “lesser quality” comment.

  4. a ct cyclist says:

    Hi,  The specs on Civia’s website list the stem as a 1″ quill so you could easily use the a Nitto Dirt Drop stem that has a +17 degree angle or Nitto Technomics stem that allow the handlebars to be raised a max 6.29″.   Also looking at the specs I noted the 700 x 35 mm tires which is a nice size for a 4 season commuter bike.

  5. Michael says:

    Great review!  I’m glad they removed the rear canti studs, which seem to have been on early production bikes.  They didn’t make sense with the rear roller brake, and really messed up the great lines of the bike.  Otherwise, I’m a huge Civia fan.  I love my Bryant.

    I can speak to the Linus Dutchi that my wife has.  It’s a quality bike – especially the Nexus 8 model that has a mostly cro-mo frame, Schalbe tires and good Tektro brakes.  She loves it and its pretty zippy.  I suspect the Twin City is between the Linus Dutchi and Mixte in terms of sportiness, but if it were my bike it’d switch out the stem for the Kalloy “dirt drop” style stem.

    • LGRAB says:

      Yeah, I looked up more about the Linus yesterday and saw that only the 3-speed is high-ten steel, so the quality is more comparable than I realized.

      My household has some loyalties to Civia; Greg likes his Bryant.

    • LGRAB says:

      Yeah, I looked up more about the Linus yesterday and saw that only the 3-speed is high-ten steel, so the quality is more comparable than I realized.

      My household has some loyalties to Civia; Greg likes his Bryant.

  6. Philippe_ram says:

    Nice review.
    Maybe I’m mistaken, but your seat seems pretty low.

    • LGRAB says:

      Yup, the seat post was not tightened quite enough when I swapped in my Brooks saddle and after about 20 miles of riding, the seat had slipped down a bit.

  7. TrekRiderMark says:

    I fully agree.  Having a step through frame is ideal for commuting.  If you ever put anything on the rear rack, hiking a leg over the seat can be a chore.  My step through is great.  I have not had a single person comment negatively about it, and I am a guy.

  8. Thanks for this review, I have been wondering about this bike. I like the look of it and glad to know it handles well. Great deal!

  9. Chrissy says:

    It’s interesting that you noted how a step through frame is a great commuter model for both genders. While that’s not normal in America and Europe, all the bikes in Japan are step through, and are ridden by men and women alike. I actually wrote a blog entry about this the other day, when I posted pictures from my spring break there.

    Also, I ride a public M8 and I can assure you that the quality is quite high, and the steel frame is even backed by a lifetime guarantee. As it should be- I paid a very quality over 1000 dollars for it. : ) You should definitely try one soon. I love my bike and I’m so proud of it!!

  10. frits.burghardt says:

    These prices are very reasonable. The bike compares directly to Achielle’s new Louise (website here, http://www.achielle.be/NL/louise.php, in Dutch only so far) which does have a Brooks saddle but lacks a hub dynamo (available at a modest surcharge). Lugged frame, chainguard, rear carrier, roller brakes fore and aft, choice of 3 and 8 speeds. Price is 730 euros for the 3 speed, 830 euros for the 8 speed; this translates to 955 and 1,055 dollars, on its home market! I couldn’t find its weight but Louise doesn’t seem obese. 

    • Threespeeder says:

      Just did some Googling on the Louise. Not sure if the two dealers in the U.S have it in yet. It is a beautiful bike and would definitely be an upgrade to my 73 Raleigh Sports! I am a guy who isn’t shy to ride a step through frame and I like my ride to look good and perform solidly. Will keep watching for more on the Louise
      Rob
      Wenatchee WA U.S.A

  11. travel says:

    travel…

    [...]Beautiful Bicycles: Civia Twin City Step-Through « Let's Go Ride a Bike – life on two wheels: simple. stylish. fun.[...]…

  12. Tom Mundahl says:

    I am –as a 65 year old bike riding guy who knows that ‘leg over’ is not working as well trying to decide between a Pilen Lyx 7-speed and the Twin Cities Step-thru by Civia. Since the Pilen Lyx has a coaster–hub brake combo, I am leaning a bit toward the lighter Civia.  Any thoughts?

    Twood

    • LGRAB says:

      The Civia felt substantially lighter and faster. They are both about equally easy to mount. The benefit of the Pilen is carrying capacity. I’d say for longer-distance and fast riding = Civia. For more transportation-based riding = Pilen. Both are excellent choices.

  13. cindy says:

     I wondered what frame sizes are available on the Civia. I am 5’11” and the guides say I need a 19 or 20 inch frame. Really hard to find in a women’s bike. This step through design seems like a unisex fix. I have a large step-over bike but find dismounting uncomfortable.

    • LGRAB says:

      I think there are two sizes and I rode the larger one. I am 5’7 and there was plenty of room to grow with the bike, although I’m not sure what the tallest recommended height is. A dealer or Civia directly could give you more guidance.

  14. City Stories says:

    Thanks for the review. This was really helpful in persuading me it would be worth the investment!

  15. Connie says:

    Any ideas how this brand Sampras to Kona?

  16. [...] the bike store I’ve purchased a bicycle and it’s on its way. I chose it after reading this review, and while I know that you should never, ever buy without testing, I couldn’t stand bicycle [...]

  17. Kb says:

    Best bike review I’ve seen. Love the ride video so we can see and the explanation of what’s good about certain parts. Thx I will continue to read this site for reliable, thorough information that’s not just specifications I can read in a bike’s spec sheet myself.

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