City Bike Smackdown! Linus versus Simcoe
Posted on 01 April 2015
Editors note: Due to rapid growth and the difficulty of capitalization, Simcoe was sold to Hawley-Lambert, the second largest bicycle wholesaler in North America who unfortunately did not tend the brand very well. However, today, thanks to the Canadian European Trade Agreement and a lot of research (and travel) we've found an even better solution with Germany's Fahrradmanufaktur, a bike that shares the same evolution in materials and geometry but capitalizes on access to top-notch German parts - something we were unable to do out of Taiwan. We'll miss Simcoe... it was one step forward in the path towards a global city bike.
Looking for a city bike isn't just about finding your favourite colour (although of course that's important!), it's about finding a fashionable mode of transportation that can suffer non-stop abuse. The mere act of locking your bike to a metal pole while at work (or overnight) means a whole different approach needs to be taken to materials and finishes. Enter Simcoe, borne in Toronto Ontario with an eye to weather, streetcar tracks, and day-in-day-out use. It's a sartorial product that is significantly better than its competition.
For instance, let's compare Simcoe with Linus - and lets start with price. In the USA Simcoe is a premium product, and sells for more money than Linus. In Canada, a Linus 3-speed retails for $819 compared to Simcoe's 3-speed at $749. Part of that is the crazy-high USA currency, part of this is a wholesaler taking their cut. Fair enough. But no one likes feeling like a sucker, especially when you can buy a Pure City bike (which is pretty much the same thing as a Linus with nicer colours) for almost $200 less.
We mentioned material and finishes. Like Linus, Simcoe is made of steel. Aluminum is lighter but most aluminum bikes have the wall-thickness of a beer can. The folks who designed your aluminum hybrid never dreamed you would lock it to metal poles all the time and if they did, they would redesign things pretty quick (the exception is Devinci, who, being from Quebec, know the habits of Montrealers and Torontonians and make their frames a bit thicker). Steel is strong, but steel also rusts. That's a huge problem. Finish is everything, that's why Simcoe has a thick chip-resistant polyurethane coat, and when things do finally chip, a rust-resistant phosphate base coat (with three more layers of paint between these).
Rust resistance is another reason why Simcoe's beautiful fluted fenders are made of alloy. Fenders are that one part of the bike that get sprayed with salty slush all day and they can rust pretty quick. Linus fenders are steel, and when they chip - which they will very quickly - they will rust. One look at any Linus parked around town reveals the truth pretty quickly.
Strong wheels are of utmost importance when buying a city bike, especially in Toronto with all those streetcar tracks. Simcoe uses thicker spokes and a very expensive double-walled rim with stainless steel eyelets, the kind of rim you would expect to see on a high-end mountain bike or fully-loaded touring bike. The tire is kevlar-belted and puncture proof and even has reflective sidewalls so that you're extra safe.
The strange assumption bicycle designers make is that people will throw on their sport clothes to ride a bike, the same way you change for a yoga class. Um, no. Copenhagen and Holland are full of Burberry-wearing citizens who arrive looking absolutely dashing on their bikes. That means a chain-guard is required, and not one that keeps your clothing halfway clean, but fully clean. Simcoe's chain-guard is alloy like the fenders and covers the whole chain, so you could put on that tux or gown and get riding!
Finally, the geometry. A city bike should be both agile and stable, without compromise. We find Dutch bikes to be stable without very much agility, and we find brands like Linus to be agile without stability. Simcoe features a very clever geometry they call Citysmart that features a total rethink of city bike geometry. The centre of gravity is low, the angles are assertive with a strong focus on acceleration, and the bike is stable like a Lincoln with the handling of an Austin Mini. It's awesome.
Finally, the colours. In an industry run by SoCal bike companies with their endless summer of citrus colours, Simcoe's palette is based on the fall colours of the rustbelt northeast. Deep respect. Because if it was made for Toronto, it was made for everywhere.