As I blogged about previously, I have been commuting on my Schwinn GSD (review). I called it my “go to” guy and it is a very good commuter. However, my recent experience with my Brompton has introduced me to Internally Geared Hubs (IGH). I had heard that IGHs were good for city/urban commutes, but personal experience with the Brompton has shown me that they are outstanding. I encounter frequent stops on my commute which is where IGHs shine. Being able to shift at a stop is a great benefit for urban commuters. You can shift down to an easy gear then up shift to the higher gear when you get rolling.
Because of this, I began to explore full sized bikes with IGHs. Bikes with IGHs are not readily available at local bike shops (LBSs). Many times you have to special order a bike with an IGH. I’ve seen some very nice built up from scratch bikes with IGHs on the bike forums site. These are beautiful machines with fancy accessories like leather wrapped handlebars, leather saddles, beveled fenders etc. Unfortunately, these can run up to a $1000+ dollars. Nice, but if you just want a reliable ride to get you back and forth to work, these kinds of bikes may be overkill. Even more, I’d be worried if someone would steal a bike like this and I’d be out all that money.
Luckily, I found an LBS that carried 2 bike models that have an IGH. One was a Giant TranSend EX and the Kyoto 2.0. The TranSend EX was similar to the Kyoto except it had a more advanced IGH Shimano Alfine 8 (one more gear) and it had disc brakes. The Alfine hub and the disc brakes cause the price of the Giant bike to be about $200 more than the Kyoto. Price was the primary reason I went with the Kyoto BTW.
I’ve been riding this bike for just over 70 miles and here are my impressions:
IGH: (As I mentioned above) Being able to shift at a stop. This is a necessity when encountering the number of stops most urban riders encounter. Believe me, your knees will thank you for it when taking off in a low gear.
Dynamo powered lights: This bike comes stock with a front headlight and a rear red tail light that is powered by a dynamo front hub. No batteries required! Both lights turn on when you start moving. And, there is no (or at least minimal) drag from the front hub that slows you down. In addition, the wires running to both lights are out of the way and unobtrusive. The wires to the rear light run through the fenders. Ingenious! My only worry about these nice lights is that some idiot will come by and rip them off thinking he can install them on his bike or sell them. Or, he can decide to smash them after unsuccessfully attempting to take them off. After all, I do park my bike out in the open. A slight negative, the rear light is a constant red, not a blinky red type light. And, after a long ride the red light remains on for 2-3 minutes then dies. The front light turns off when you finish pedaling regardless. Finally, the light given off by the front light is not that strong so it won’t illuminate you 1 block down. However, it is meant for cars to see YOU primarily.
Accessories: The bike also comes with custom-fit fenders (a commuting necessity) and a custom fit chainguard. Manufacturer provided fenders fit a bike like a glove and this bike is no exception. I commute in “regular” clothes so the chainguard is a requirement for me.
Rim Brakes: In my previous review of the Schwinn GSD I raved about the disc brakes. Disc brakes work great in wet weather and they don’t wear out your rims. I was prepared to be less enthusiastic with this Kyoto because of the rim brakes, but I’m not. I am pleasantly surprised. These brakes are quiet, stop on a dime and don’t wobble and hit one side of the rim over another. They are perfectly centered.
Bolt-on wheels: IGHs are usually secured with bolt-on wheels rather than Quick Release hubs. Bolt-on wheels are better theft deterrents. I can use a simple cable lock to secure this bike to a tree or lamppost via the frame triangle. This would be good in a pinch, but I will use a U lock when I leave my bike locked up outside just to be safe.
Weight: This bike is heavy. It weighs about 32 lbs. This is heavier than the Schwinn GSD. I don’t understand why these IGH equipped bikes are so heavy. This bike does have a front fork, which contributes to the weight. And, the IGH adds a pound or two. Maybe they use heavy aluminum and strong sturdy parts on these bikes because they are supposed to last forever and be indestructible. Here, the option of building your own IGH bike looks attractive. Get a lightweight frame , IGH it, go bare bones and you can have a 25lb or lower weight bike. Even though the bike is heavy, riding it feels really light. Maybe it’s the tires (Continental) that have little surface contact with the ground, but it feels very agile. It is only when you lift the bike that you notice the heftiness.
One last improvement: I've rigged a bottle holder on the rack so I can hang my workbag. See pix below: