6 December 2007

8 reasons to love
the Breezer Uptown 8

Posted by todd under: Breezer Uptown 8; My bikes .

Breezer full view
My favorite bike expert, Sheldon Brown, says the Breezer Uptown 8 is the best commuter bike available in the United States. I believe it, based on a year of commuting on mine, and what I’ve seen of the competition.

Here are 8 reasons I love my Breezer Uptown 8:

1. The Shimano Nexus 8-speed internal hub makes life simpler. This hub puts all the gearing inside the hub of the rear wheel, rather than relying on a derailer to move the chain back and forth on a stack of chainrings.

Shimano Nexus 8-speed hubSince the derailer hangs off the bike frame by the back wheel, it can bend, or clog with ice or dirt. The internal hub eliminates these problems. Also, the internal hub lets you shift when you are stopped. (You can appreciate this if you’ve tried to start riding in a high gear after a stoplight turns green with a line of cars behind you.)

There are two grades of Shimano Nexus 8-speed hubs, and Breezer uses the best model, which is lighter and uses better bearings than its cheaper cousin. You can tell them apart because the top-grade hub has a red band around it. (If you want technical info, Sheldon has the service manual.)

2. A great lighting system lets me be seen. If you don’t want battery-powered lights, you have two basic options: a hub generator (contained in the hub of the front wheel), or a bottle generator or dynamo (which rubs against the tire).

A few years ago, I got a bottle generator. I spent a lot of time tweaking and fiddling with it. I even switched out its rubber roller for an all-weather metal roller. But I never could get it to work right.

Breezer headlightI have found the hub generator to be practically idiot-proof, as long as the shop wires it correctly. Whenever the wheel is turning, power is available for the lights.

The Breezer’s front hub powers both a headlight and a taillight. The headlight has an on-off switch, and a “sensor” setting that lets the light turn on or shut off depending on the level of natural light at the time. (Others have written that they feel a drag in the front wheel when from the generator hub when they turn the headlight on. I don’t.)

Every time I’m ready to ride, the lights are ready to go. No batteries. No fuss. Hop on and go.

3. When I stop, the lights stay on. This is thanks to a standlight feature in the headlight and taillight. The generator stores power so that even when the wheel stops turning, there is still enough juice to power the lights while you are stopped. This means increased visibility at a stoplight.
Uptown 8 internal wiringBreezer Uptown 8’s rack

4. Internal wiring prevents snags. There are holes in the frame through which the wires run from the headlight to the taillight. This gives the bike a cleaner look, and makes it less likely that a wire will catch on something.

5. I can carry stuff easily on the spring-loaded rear rack. The top part of the rack has a spring on the back, so it will clamp down like alligator jaws. I had seen these but didn’t like the concept; it seemed like unnecessary complication.

I was wrong: The jaws have come in handy many times for holding my cable lock, rain jackets and empty Rubbermaid containers. It’s nice to be able to put something on the rack without having to strap it on with bungee cords.

6. The chainguard and fenders keep road gunk off me. This is crucial when you’re riding in work clothes like I do. Practical-bicyclists preach the virtues of fenders, and I am a believer — not because fenders keep me dry (if you’re riding in the rain, you’re going to get wet whether you have fenders or not), but because they keep grime off my back — and off the bike. The Breezer’s fenders are durable and wide. (I wish the front one were a little longer, because it leaves just enough space for the water to flip back toward my shoes.) The chainguard keeps the chain away from your pants — no grease marks, and no need to roll up your pantleg.

7. The saddle keeps my tuckus happy. It finds the balance between ass-hatchet and barcalounger. There are some pretty ridiculous entries in the “comfortable saddle” market. Some of those things could pass for helicopter landing pads. My dad had one on his Iron Horse comfort bike, and it made me ride bowlegged — that’s hard on groin muscles and bad for the knees. The Breezer’s saddle has just the right amount of give without the excessive width.

8. Fat tires eat up the bumps. Initially, I didn’t like the Breezer’s big tires. I thought I might be subbing them out for something narrower, but now I wouldn’t trade them — they absorb most of the shock from a rutted road.

Few things in life are all sweetness and light. I have had a few problems with my Uptown 8 as well, which I will address in a future post.

[[Find more information about the Breezer Uptown 8, including a ride report and more about the bike’s features and benefits.]]

5 Comments so far...

Samuel Says:

6 December 2007 at 11:35 am.

It’s been a long time since I’ve commuted to work. Houston traffic doesn’t lend itself to a safe ride with 2 skinny lanes on the feed roads but you’ve convinced me of it’s virtue.

The fat tires rang true with me. Being over 250 lbs, there’s another reason to get fat tires. The smaller tires do not protect the wheels enough when hitting bumps. I bent two rims before I finally admitted my extra baggage was ruining my ‘ride’. Great blog Todd!

doc Says:

6 December 2007 at 4:14 pm.

How satisfied are you with the Dlumotec Oval beam? Does it light up the road enough?

I will hedge and say it does a fine job — on this bike, for its purpose (commuting). If I were mashing the pedals, or maybe even if I rode a whole lot in a very poorly lit area with bad pavement, I might consider another light to supplement. It takes a little adjusting to get the beam hitting the road just the right distance in front of the bike. Once it’s dialed in, it throws a pretty bright triangle-shaped beam. I have had a few technical difficulties that I plan to post about later, but nothing too serious. (I am digging the ponies, btw, and thanks for the link!) — 6

Joe M Says:

11 December 2007 at 12:56 am.

Couldn’t agree more. I’ve been riding road and mountain bikes for years. My brother – a teacher in Breezer’s home of Marin County, California, picked up an Uptown 8 last year and has been riding it everyday to school. Nearly every bike shop in Marin carrys the Breezer models, perhaps they know something the rest of us are learning.

This summer, I got a chance to ride the Uptown while visiting my brother (he has the diamond frame, his wife has a U-frame model), and was incredibly impressed with the combination of utility, thoughtful design, and outright fun. I ordered a Breezer Uptown 8 (be sure to spec the “new” model, with the fully-enclosed chainguard) from my local bike shop in New Mexico, and echo all the positive comments in the initial review. Other things I like about the Breezer are the incredibly-solid kickstand, the best of any bike I’ve seen, ever. The looks are retro-cool, I get tons of compliments. The built-in lock will never prevent a determined thief, but at least it helps with a quickie joy-ride deterrent. The wiring system on the rear light is ingenious – the fender is a combination metal/plastic design, and along with “snap” attachments, current is conducted through the fender itself, eliminating wires to the rear light.

For all this, the far-and-away best feature of the Uptown is ride quality and position. I’m 5′ 10″ tall, and the medium frame fits me perfect (170# rider). I don’t know a good way to describe this, but the Breezer is just plain fun to ride. Simple-intuitive, and it really brings back the thrill when I was 9 years old on my banana-seat Schwinn. I’ve got a nice stable of bikes and ride everyday I can, from a high-zoot carbon Colnago to a tricked out Mountain frame. And as capable and thrilling as it is to take those bikes out for specialized duty (60 mile weekend jaunts to summer days down the local ski hill with a lift-ride back up), the Breezer is the bike I return to my my daily chores.

It’s really true, the Breezer Uptown 8 is the best commuter bike you can buy in the USA. As far as I know, the combination of unique features below can’t be found on any other model. I’d consider these a minimum set for a daily-use commuter bike. Add the style and fun of the Uptown, and you have the perfect answer for an Inconvenient Guilt.

– fully enclosed chain
– internal, 8 speed hub well-geared for hills with twist-grip shifters
– solid frame, rims, and tires to handle the potholes and curbs of the daily commute
– hub-powered lighting with standlight feature that really works
– full fenders, rack, and ability to handle fully loaded bags and paniers
– functional, solid stand
– upright, comfortable riding position that gives you visibility to see and be-seen
– backup lock/security system

If your location and schedule allows safe bike-commuting, this is one of the most-important things you can do to make a real difference in reducing our energy dependency and mitigating global warming. I’m certain if more folks road an Uptown, they’d be hooked.

Great review, thanks.

Joe M.
Los Alamos, NM

Brian B. Says:

21 May 2008 at 8:44 pm.

I ride on a bike path that is not well-illuminated. In the winter, it gets dark early. Will the hib generator of the Uptown 8 cut it? Also, I am looking at the Novarra Fusion. You mentioned Joe Breeze gave a point-by-point comparison. Could you post that or pass that on privately? What about the “hub brakes” on the Fusion. Do you think they are superior to the V-brakes of the Breezer Uptown 8?

Tuck Says:

15 July 2015 at 5:16 pm.

I recently had my 2008 uptown stolen. Just got a 2014. But cannot figure out why my lights aren’t burning. Any suggestions. Can you post a pic of how you have them plugged in? Thanks ps nice write up.

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Yes, that's me, Todd Van Campen. No, I'm not wearing a helmet. Yes, I usually wear one, so please don't scold! Seriously, I endorse wearing a helmet! Pinky swear! In fact, I almost ALWAYS wear one (while riding a bike anyway). (On the other hand, if YOU don't want to wear a helmet, I have no problem with it.) I don't remember what happened on this particular day. Fortunately for all of us it makes for a less-nerdly picture. My exceptionally talented professional photographer friend Charles Bertram took this photo.

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