Posted on 28 February 2018
If you're walking into Curbside you'll see a ton of steel bikes. Why? Steel is strong, lasts forever, and tends to do well when locked to metal poles. The problem with aluminum is not the material itself but the assumptions designers have when forming it. The bike industry in North America is largely based in Los Angeles, and if they knew people were riding in the city and not just recreational paths - and locking these bikes all day to galvanized metal poles - they would go back to the drawing board pretty quick. Most frames as thin as a beer can, designed to be light for the sake of lightweight only.
Luckily Devinci isn't from Los Angeles. No, they are from Chicoutimi, Quebec, of all places! Already, they are beginning to sound like a bit of an outlier - which is why we like em'. Devinci makes a bike that may be 2% heavier than its competition, but that 2% is adding 90% more longevity to the frame. We see very few frame warranties with Devinci, and our team has experience carrying Specialized, Trek, Rocky Mountain, Marin, and Cannondale (whose inside joke in the bike industry is "crack and fail").
R&D FOR EVERYONE
Designed in Canada means made for everyone
Who do you trust? California or Chicoutimi?
We live in a world where very few companies have R&D departments, instead they go to the big Tapei show in Taiwan and find something they can slap their decal onto. Not Devinci. Theirs is a story of relentless R&D. We remember they once visited a tradeshow with a bicycle and human rider covered in electrodes so they could measure stress, weight, and comfort points. And this was not a racing bike, this was a hybrid. Devinci's target customer is not someone who lives in LA, it's someone who lives in Montreal, who rides over potholed streets in frigid weather, locks their bikes to a pole all day, and wants a bike that can tour on Le Route Verte and can tear down the Lachine Canal at mach speed. In other words, its not just a recreational bike, it's also made for the city.
This R&D work applies to all Devinci bikes, whether its made in their Canadian factory or overseas. And, that's another thing that makes Devinci special. They are truly "the last man standing" when it comes to North American production. No other company - and we say it again, no other company - produces their bikes in North America. Everyone has moved overseas. The only companies still producing bikes in North America are custom framebuilders, and they only produce bespoke one-offs. Devinci makes all of their bikes over $1000 (which is a lot) in Chicoutimi, Quebec - made with Canadian aluminum and Canadian hands. Everything else is made overseas at a hand-selected factory.
Bixi bikes being made in the Devinci factory
So, how does a company from Chicoutimi produce frames in Quebec? The answer lies in Chicoutimi's location. Chicoutimi is nestled in Canada's "aluminum valley." Made from Bauxite, the real raw-material aluminum requires for production is electricity, and Chicoutimi is smack dab in the middle of a whole lot of hydro-electric dams. The cost of shipping Canadian aluminum to Taiwan to become a bike and get shipped right back is pretty high. The cost of labour in Canada is high, but Devinci can basically walk across to street to Alcan and pallet-jack over all the aluminum they need. That ends up coming out to the same cost (we wish all Devinci bikes could be made in Canada but apparently that would require financing a very big factory). Their Chicoutimi factory produces some leading-edge product as well as all of the BIXI bikes used from London, England to New York City. Amazing stuff.
It also means that the huge R&D department is constantly tweaking the bikes they make overseas - and that's important. Devinci doesn't have to wait for the Tapei tradeshow to see what someone else made for them. They can produce their prototypes in their own factory and with their own people. That gives them an element of control rarely seen these days in the bike industry. This is especially seen on their made-in-Canada gravel bikes, the Hatchet series, which we discuss here.
RETHINKING THE HYBRID BIKE
Bettering the breed.
Bikes that clear your head
Devinci can also lay claim to having invented the performance hybrid bike. The hybrid bike was designed as a response to 1990's mountain bikes and 1980's road-racing bike, an in-between position that wasn't either/or. However, most hybrids either leaned too much towards a mountain bike or too much towards a road bike - and none ever considered city riding in the design. The Devinci hybrids fit right in between and were perfect in the city. That's because the average Montreal cyclist needed a city bike for the potholes of Montreal, a bike for the network of gravel trails that encircle the province, and something fast for the weekend. It wasn't one or the other, it was all of the above.
In 2018, Devinci decided take a fresh look at their hybrids. They knew there were customers who were just as much about commutes in the bike lane as they were about toodling about on gravel roads while camping or recreational bike paths in the city. They knew there were customers who commuted in the bike lane but wanted a fast fitness bike that leaned towards paved country roads on the weekend. And, they knew there were customers who wanted something that was more tweaked towards the city side of things but still wanted the option of recreational riding.
DO-IT-ALL RECREATIONAL HYBRIDS
Great in the city too!
The Milano and St Tropez. Recreational multitaskers that take potholes seriously
Bikes like the Milano and St Tropez represent the recreational line. These are terrific bikes for people who want something that can do a bit of everything. You can see this in the wider tires that can easily switch fromm street to trails, and the triple chainring that offers a gear for every terrain. These bikes are a bit more upright than the competition because they assume the rider isn't trying to set any speed or distance records.
In short, these are great do-everything bikes. At the price we find they make great city bikes although they lack the low maintenance gearing and clothing protection found on higher-priced internally geared bikes. If you want something that favours the climbing side of the gear range go for the Milano. If you want more speed and distance capability, the St Tropez builds-out more gears on the speedy side.
CITY + SPEED & DISTANCE
A swiss army knife for the commuter and fitness rider
The Hex: speed when you want it, strength all the time
The Hex series is the new fitness series tuned for those who want a single platform that can handle the city and longer distance (mostly asphalt) rides when you have spare time. These bikes are lighter than the recreational series and are a little more purpose-oriented in the narrower tires and double chainring up front. You don't get the same range of gears as the recreational series but instead you get the gears your actually need, lowering weight and reducing complication. These bikes also come equipped with disc-brakes, since faster speeds in the city require more braking power.
These Hex series are terrific bikes for longer rides, especially light touring. All Hex bikes use a carbon fiber fork that lightens up the front end but also makes a long ride far more comfortable, since carbon fibre is a remarkably compliant material (it's also very strong). As you move up the series the parts get lighter and better. You move from mushier cable-activated brakes to hydraulic brakes, and the gears become more fine-tuned so they can adjust perfectly to your pedalling RPM's. But the frames are strong and so are the wheels, these are fast hybrid bikes still made for the city.
CITY BIKES THAT MULTI-TASK
Serious transportation that still know how to have a good time.
The Cartier, one of the most intelligent commuter bikes we've seen
Then there's the Cartier series, the first time Devinci has really made a bike that really tweaks towards the city cyclist without minimizing recreational fun. Unlike riding on a path or a country road, the city is made of constant starts-and-stops, lefts-and-rights, and potholes. This makes the wheels the most important aspect of the bike. The Cartier borrows the new industry standard 27.5" wheels used on mountain bikes. These wheels have better acceleration than the larger wheels found on the Hex and Recreational series but still maintain a good top speed for the city. These bikes also feature new tire technology that gives you a wider tire without any loss of speed, basically a high volume (wide) but also high pressure (low drag), so you get stability and efficiency without compromise.
Like the Hex series these bikes feature disc brakes, largely because these bikes might be ridden through the winter (disc brakes keep their performance when things get wet). As another nod to city cycling and recent advancements in gear technology, these bikes use only one chainring up front and build the range in the back by using massively wide cog-sets. This lowers maintenance by 50% in the gears while still providing you with all the gears you'll actually need.
Are these bikes good for recreation? Of course! While they may lack the same sort of speed-and-distance discipline that the Hex rider may desire, they can go far, and with their wider tires they can be ridden off-road, like the Recreational series. As you move up the range you move from cable activated disc brakes to hydraulic, and the gears move from wide range to even wider range until finally you get to the top-end Nexus bike which uses an internal gear hub, lowering maintenance while increasing year-round commuting capability. The Nexus model is one of the finest city bikes we've ever seen (we confess: we helped consult on the design!)
Cause in a world of similar bikes, these stand out.
Choose your own adventure
But, back to the bikes. The Devinci you buy will not only have a better frame than its competition, it will also have better wheels - and ride-quality. Again, most companies are only concerned with weight, and this is because they're from LA and would never ride a bike in the city. The whole bike industry right now is trying to save a lot of weight in the wheels by reducing the number of spokes or lacing them in questionable ways. Again, this is great if you only ride on paths, but terrible if you ride over potholes or streetcar tracks to get to those paths. Devinci makes their wheels strong, and if they're 1% heavier than the competition, then fine - they last. In a market where many companies have simply missed the mark, Devinci has their priorities straight.
In sum, you could say Devinci is a Canadian company. They don't build their bikes for some person in LA for whom a bike ride means using a car rack first, they're built for the path and the city. And not just any city, but a Northeastern city: salt, snow, steel poles. They're one of the few products out there actually designed for Canada. And, that's probably why the Americans love Devinci too (they're a cult product down there), because they're known to be remarkably durable. And that's why we carry them. They're not just another aluminum bike with a decal on it, no that decal actually means something.