While test riding the Civia Twin City, I also tested the Ortlieb Bike Shopper rear pannier. My Basil pannier, designed to fit my large Dutch rack, did not fit the Civia’s smaller rack, so Jon gave me the Ortlieb to go with the bike. The hooks on this pannier can be adjusted to fit any size rack.
The pannier is waterproof. This is the main attribute, as most of the panniers on the market are only water-resistent. Personally, water-resistence has been adequate for my needs, as my cargo has never gotten wet, even in thunderstorms, and I always keep a plastic bag handy for extra emergency protection.
The second stand-out attribute of the pannier is the mounting system, which Ortlieb calls the “QL2″ system. This allows you to attach and remove the pannier with barely any effort and with only one hand by pulling on a small strap handle, while the pannier remains securely attached otherwise.
The system is hard to describe, but it totally works wonders, so I made a quick video to demonstrate. Note that I was able to detach and reattach the pannier all while holding a camera with my other hand.
Unfortunately, this ease of use does not extend to the plastic zipper, which is ridiculously hard to open and close. I had to use both hands and pull hard just to get the zipper to slowly move. Perhaps this gets easier over time, but over the course of three days and at least 10 tries, it did not. Another awkward thing about the pannier is the way the shoulder straps simply dangle when the bag is mounted. They are not long enough to get caught in the wheel, but the design should have been improved to provide the straps with a home.
The inside is large and holds about as much stuff as my Basil Design Shopper. There are a few interior pockets to hold your keys, cellphone, and other objects you need to access easily. I do not like how the bag narrows at the bottom, but I guess that is to prevent heel strike, although I’ve never had a heel strike problem with other panniers.
The pannier comes in several different colors. I had the ice blue-gray color, which is the prettiest by far. (Other options include neon green and black.) I would like to see Ortlieb apply their awesome mounting system to panniers that are more attractive. I am not interested in carrying into the office or the store a bag that looks like athletic equipment. I consider a commuting pannier successful when the design allows for an easy transition from the bike to the rest of my life.
I must point out that all the photos on Ortlieb’s website are of men, making the company look out of touch with the current sea change in bicycle commuting. As in – women do it, too! Of course, Ortlieb is entitled to focus their market narrowly, but that does not mean I have to like it.
Overall, the Ortlieb Bike Shopper pannier is a high-quality and functional bag with an excellent mounting system that makes attaching and detaching the bag a breeze, even one-handed. Unfortunately, this ease disappears when dealing with the zipper and arranging the awkwardly dangling straps. For someone who absolutely needs a waterproof bag and is willing to invest $100 (a fair investment for years of bike commuting), the Bike Shopper is a good choice. But if a water-resistant bag is good enough for your purposes, there are many other options that I would recommend, especially if you desire a bag that transitions from the bike to the office with more aplomb.
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.
I have big weekend plans for me and the Twin City, including a trip to the farmer’s market. Stay tuned for a full review next week.
Also, check back on Monday morning for an exciting announcement about the evolution of Let’s Go Ride a Bike! You may have noticed our brand spanking new look (still working out the kinks!) – that’s only the beginning. ;)
Chances are good that you’ve already heard of Civia Cycles, the relatively new company in Minnesota making beautiful utilitarian bikes. Civia’s motto is: Life’s better by bike. We agree!
I recently test rode the Civia Loring. The Loring is the most relaxed of the company’s five models. Civia markets the Loring for “tooling around town, cruising campus, or pedaling to the grocer.” This seems to limit the Loring more than necessary, as it is a sturdy utility bike and they make it sound like a cruiser.
The steel frame and sprung Brooks saddle make for a smooth ride, almost like my Dutch bike, but not quite as smooth. The pace of the ride is also similar to my Dutch bike. I had expected the Loring to be a little more peppy, but the bike demands smooth, steady and slower pedaling action. The swept-back handlebars are comfortable and allow for a somewhat upright riding position. The position is similar to that of my Rivendell Betty Foy.
Civia Loring in all her glory
The Loring has the unique combination (at least unique for city bikes) of an internally geared hub and disc brakes. Both of these components are excellent for riding in rain and snow. I rode the 3-speed version (there is also a 9-speed version). The first gear was useless during my test ride in flat Chicago, but could come in handy for people with hills or carrying heavy loads. Second and third gears felt good. Braking at normal speeds and in normal conditions felt no different than braking with the roller brakes on my Dutch bike.
Rear wheel with disc brakes
Front view of Civia Loring
Carrying capacity is outstanding, with integrated front and rear aluminum racks with bamboo slats. A spring prevents the front from swinging around when loaded. The fenders are also bamboo and work to keep you clean and dry in the wet weather. Other stand-outs are the chain guard to keep your pants and long skirts from getting greasy and mangled, and the two-footed kickstand to keep your bike sturdy and upright. Minus a couple of points for the lack of an integrated lighting system.
Integrated front rack with wood slats
Integrated rear rack with wood slat
Wood fenders and 26" wheels
The Civia Loring is a high-quality and well-thought-out bike. If you are interested in a beautiful and dependable bike to get you and your stuff around town, you may want to add the Loring to your list of bikes to consider. As always, I recommend trying to test-ride as many different bikes as possible, before deciding which bike is best for you.