Introducing the Simcoe Commuter
Posted on 11 April 2017
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.
Five years ago a bunch of us here at Curbside started Simcoe bikes. Simcoe was built on a desire to cut through a lot of the confusion we were seeing; young California start-ups that played the fashion card over quality, and Dutch bikes - which are still the quality benchmark, but too heavy and expensive. The result was the Simcoe line of city bikes, all designed for a high-proximity lifestyle with short-burst errands, lots of lefts-and-rights, and lots of starts-and-stops. To this day, it's still the best quality city bike we've laid on.
Today Simcoe is owned by Cycles Lambert and Hawley Distribution (basically the third largest bicycle wholesaler in North America). While a brand like Simcoe has certainly challenged the masculine/athletic ethos of a company like Lambert and Hawley, we believe mainstream bike companies need to compete against the plethora of low quality start-ups that are currently dominating the city bike market (mostly online). And, while we've seen Lambert and Hawley make a mistake or two (there's some dumbed-down product for Sunbelt markets that we hope won't become their main focus), the new Commuter bike pushes things forward with a bike that takes research and design seriously.
Classic double-crown fork keeps things pretty
Like the rest of the Simcoe line, the Commuter is made of steel. Partly because this bike will be locked up to metal poles and needs to be strong, and partly because this bike is meant to be ridden at distance, and steel is much more comfortable than alloy. However, the Commuter is made of lighter-weight Cro-moly steel that naturally absorbs high-frequency vibration on longer rides. Nice touches include the double-crown fork (also found on Simcoe Signature models), beautifully bent seat-stays, and the very clever fender/rack mounts that shows an engineering eye to detail.
Clean, architectural bend in the seatstays. Looks amazing.
So much of the Simcoe story is about engineering, experience and mathematics, and the Commuter is no exception. Unlike the short-burst city bikes that SImcoe make, the Commuter is designed for longer rides and hills. That means it doesn't have the same geometry as other Simcoe models. The position is forward so that hips are tilted over the pedals for more power, but unlike more athletic bikes the longer head tube keeps the rider upright in traffic. In sharp contrast to other Simcoe models, the rear-centre (crank to rear axle) is short and the front-centre (crank to front axle) long. This puts the rear axle right under your butt for traction on hills while the torso lays out longer over the frame. Now, a longer front-centre usually means a longer turning radius, but Simcoe solves this by shortening the stem and lengthening the top-tube of the frame. This maintains the cockpit length but shortens steering arc, delivering snappy steering in tight urban situations. Finally, like the city bikes in the Simcoe like, the bottom bracket sits remarkably close to the ground, keeping the centre of gravity safe and low. It's a purpose-built commuter bike in a market full of half-assed solutions.
Eccentric bottom bracket threads and bolts in, allow creak-free drivetrain versatility
But, what we love about this bike is the eccentric bottom bracket. A bottom bracket is the bearing assembly that keeps your cranks turning. An eccentric bottom bracket is a bit different. It's inserted into a large non-centrical rotating shell that allows perfect chain tension. What that means is that the Commuter bike can be set up as a single speed, an internally geared bike or derailleur bike without having to change the frame. And, while companies like Raleigh have done the same with their "Landlord" series (which they foolishly discontinued this year), the Raleighs used a press-fit bottom bracket that tended to creak over time. The Simcoe solves this with a time-honoured solution. All tandem bikes feature eccentric bottom brackets and always have. However, the eccentric on a tandem is first threaded-in and then tightened with two external machine bolts. Once again, very clever.
But, no conversation is complete without spec. The Simcoe is spec'd with our favourite TRP hydraulic brakes (amazing power that won't freeze up in the winter), a Shimano Nexus 8 speed hub and a great set of eyeleted double-wall wheels made for the streetcar-tracks and potholes of Toronto. The crankset is nice on the eye, as are the pedals, and we like the black spoke nipples as much as we like the stainless steel fenders. All in all, a very balanced bike on the eye with no shortcuts on quality.
Beautiful fluted alloy cranks with a rust-resistant galvanized chain. The attention to detail is amazing.