After work today, I went over to the Shimano Coasting Bikes Tour tents at OSU and tried out the new technology. There were a couple of great folks helping folks try out these bikes and answering questions.
If you haven't heard about these bikes yet, they sport an automatic transition. Yeah, that's right. They shift by themselves.
So... how was the ride?
The bikes I tried were significantly different than my own Specialized Expedition Sport. I tried a Fuji Del Rey and a Phat Cycles Snap and gave them each a few minute ride to get a feel for them. I'd have liked to try a bike more like my own as a comparison but the event was pretty well attended, so I took out the ones I did.
The bikes sat back a bit more than my bike and were definitely more relaxed. And let me tell you, not having to worry about shifting certainly helped in that regard.
The bikes themselves are three-speeds. The front hub contains the generator that powers the servos and a microprocessor located on the post, located just above the crankset. And the servos and the microprocessor control the cable that shifts gears in the rear hub.
The hubs themselves are designed for the specific bikes that are being sold, so it's not possible to retrofit your existing bike to use the new technology, but the bikes (as real, non bike-shaped-objects bikes go) aren't horribly expensive. The Fuji I rode was $600, and the others ranged from $400 to $800. One of them even came with a front rack large enough to hold a six-pack, and the rack had a bottle opener in it. Sweet...
The shifting itself is triggered by speed, not tension. So I frequently found the bike upshifting as I accelerated up a hill. But other than that, it was a very pleasant experience. It was fun to spin around OSU's campus with no regard to shifting on my own.
One of the Shimano reps was telling me about how he rode the Phat Cycles Snap in the Ride of Silence the other night, and it was a perfect ride.
These bikes strike me as perfect for folks who just want to hop on a bike, go, and not worry too much about anything else. In other words, a nearly perfect commuter bike! So if you're looking for a nice new bike and don't want a lot of fuss, try out one of the models that feature the Coasting technology. It might be something you'd like!
People, not speed.