From the get-go I was pretty sure I wanted a PUBLIC Bike (in British racing green, with matching fenders, front and rear racks, and a brown leather saddle). But after a test ride I was less sure. The angled handlebars felt wobbly, and I spent the whole time in the highest gear. Intellectually and aesthetically it resonated, but in practice, I had doubts.
Next I visited Huckleberry Bicycles, a new and highly-regarded bike shop near work. I told them that I’d ridden a mountain bike for many years, and was now looking for an urban commuter to get to and from the Mission and SOMA (which is a pretty flat commute by San Francisco standards). They suggested I try a Cannondale Quick 4. Riding it felt like putting on my favorite pair of jeans. I immediately knew how to operate it, how to shift. It felt powerful, light, responsive. I was surprised by the price—it was $650, compared to the starting price of $1000 for the PUBLIC D8. But it also felt a little overkill—like a flashy sports car when I was seeking something more…essential.
For some perspective, I stopped by Mission Bicycle Company. They predominantly sell single speed and fixed gear bikes that they build “one at a time”. Every component (and its color) is chosen by the customer. I spent an hour and a half on my first visit just getting educated. Their stripped-down, essence-of-a-bicycle approach really appealed to me. I also liked the challenge of branching out into unfamiliar territory. I went home that night with visions of seatposts and crankshafts dancing in my head. The next day I returned to the store and placed my order.
Four weeks later my new bike was ready to pick up. I’ll admit I had a spell of buyer’s remorse at first. I missed gears. But after riding daily over the last few weeks, I’ve started to identify with the zenlike simplicity of this bike. Sure, I do occasionally get passed by other cyclists (who seem to be… racing to work? Really?), but there are enough stoplights on my route that I usually catch them at the reds. The most surprising advantage I’ve discovered is its silence. Compared to the bikes with their jangly chain guards and fenders and derailleurs, my bike stealthily weaves through town with a whoosh.