The Best $1,500 Utility Bike: Spot Dualie

Oct 23, 2012
Outside Magazine

The Spot Dualie.    Photo: Spot

With the Dualie ($1,200), Spot has built a bike that’s hip enough for the fixie crowd but practical enough to serve as an everyday commuter. The secret is the Sturmy Archer two-speed kick hub, which packs two gears into a package that looks like only one. Add a smooth CroMoly steel frame that eats up rough pavement, the latest CenterTrack design of the Gates Carbon Belt drive, and that happy-go-lucky Scooter Blue color, and you’ve got a recipe for one fun bike.

Oohing and aahing over steel bicycles is popular to the point of becoming a cliché, and for good reason. Steel blends the smoothness of carbon and the snappiness of aluminum into a solid, buttery ride that costs a fraction of composites. Beyond the road feel, we like the Dualie because it’s heavy-duty enough to mix it up with the chunkiest utility bikes on the front end of a bus. The CroMo frame is long in the top tube, which makes it great for stretching out and ticking off the miles. But it’s still crisp enough to outsprint cars at lights, courtesy in part to the short chainstays, and the handling is pleasantly chipper.

What sets the Dualie apart from almost every other bike on the market is the two-speed kick hub, which shifts between an easy and hard gear when you backpedal a quarter of a revolution. It’s a clever system that works flawlessly, keeps the internals sealed away from the elements within the rear hub, and maintains the bike’s simple, clean aesthetic by nixing bar-top shifters and cables. The kick hub perfectly complements the Gates Carbon Belt drive, which is equally quiet, straightforward, and tidy. And Spot’s proprietary sliding rear dropouts mean that not only is there no fuss with re-tensioning the belt should you need to remove the rear wheel, but you can also run the bike with gears if you ever get the urge.

The Dualie felt as comfy as a handcrafted pair of shoes the first time we settled into the saddle, and it just got cozier the more miles we logged. The thin tires and more aggressive geometry make it perfect for blasting through in-town errands or knocking out long commutes, and it can even stand in well enough for a group ride with the roadies, provided you're good at spinning. Unlike many utility bikes, which are stolid cycles made for commuting, the Dualie is a lively ride that’s made for riding hard, fast, and without abandon.