The 3 Best Utility Bikes of Spring 2012
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Best For: Serious commuters and the cyclocross curious.
The Test: The chromoly-steel Furley is as likable as the Three’s Company character that inspired it. The 39×18 single-speed setup and multiple eyelets for fenders and racks suggest that this is a ride for the bike-commuting crowd. And while it stood up to every urban obstacle we threw at it (potholes, curbs, car bumpers), this is more than just a city cruiser. While hardcore cyclocrossers will want something lighter to race, the Furley’s powerful disc brakes, dual braking positions (drops and bar tops), and grippy Kenda Happy Medium tires can handle hard riding on fire roads and mellow trails. Bonus: because Raleigh snuck in an eccentric bottom bracket, you can easily switch from single-speed to gears.
The Verdict: Up for just about any adventure. 24.6 lbs
Civia Loring 8-speed
Best For: Casual urban outings.
The Test: Though it looks stylishly laid-back on first glance, the Dutch-style Loring is no clunky beachcomber. This 8-speed was smooth and sturdy and has a wide enough range of gears to get you around the hilliest of cities. Even with the upright position, handling was quick enough to negotiate traffic-clogged streets, and the spring-dampened pleather saddle adds a touch of comfort and class often missing on pure utility rides. Same goes for the bamboo fenders (a $90 upgrade) and standard-issue racks, though the latter are more than just eye candy, as they easily carried a week’s worth of food (when lashed down) and a bouquet of flowers.
The Verdict: As practical as it is good-looking. 39.6 lbs
Trek Transport+ Electric
Best For: True utility.
The Test: Before you slag off this electric-assist bike as a bastion of the lazy, consider hauling 250 pounds (the cargo capacity of the Transport+) without a little help. Assistance comes from the bar-controlled rear-hub motor: choose from four settings—25, 50, 100, or 200 percent—and the device supplements your efforts up to 350 watts. We found the lowest two settings ample for most around-town use, though with large loads (boxes to ship; two sandbags to return to Home Depot) and on steep hills (like the 14 percent grade leading to one of our testers’ homes) the high setting was a godsend. Unloaded, claimed range is around 30 miles, but we charged every couple of days and never got below half power. Built-in lights are a commuting boon.
The Verdict: The Penske truck of bicycles. 63 lbs