I’ve been through quite a few bikes over the past few years. I wore out the drive train on my Trek 7.2. I wrecked my Raleigh Clubman (and wound up spending 3 days in intensive care). I currently have an entry-level road bike, an aluminum Specialized Allez, and a cheap city bike, a Jamis Commuter 1.
Neither the Specialized nor the Jamis is suitable for light touring, the 200 and 300 mile rides I want to do this spring. You can’t mount a rack on a Specialized Allez. The Jamis is made of high-tensile steel. It only has 7 gears, and it weighs a ton.
Last month, I bought a Giant Escape City.
My requirements were the following.
- Cheap. As much as I would like to buy a Trek Madone with full Dura Ace, it’s out of my price range.
- My tires of choice are 700 x 28s or 700 x 32s. I don’t like 700 x 23s or 700 x 25s. At 6 feet and 190 pounds, I’m not exactly Chris Christie. But I’m not a waif. 700 x 23s flat too easily.
- A rack. A rack adds weight. It guarantees you’ll break spokes. But I never get on my bike without my laptop and a change of clothes, and I loath backpacks.
- Fenders. I live in the Northeast. It rains.
- Decently fast. I’ll take 30 miles rides on my Dreadnought-like Jamis Commuter 1. But teenage kids on skateboards laugh at me. And if I get caught in heavy traffic, I can’t get enough speed to take an intersection without using the crosswalk.
- A good bike mechanic. Where you buy a bike is almost as important as which bike you buy. Assembly is probably more important than the individual components. The closest bike store, Hilltop Bicycles in Cranford, NJ, sells mainly Giant and Cannondale. Cannondale seems overprice.
Over the past week, the snow finally melted. Wednesdays rain storm washed away most of the salt. So I decided to take the Escape City for a test run. I chose my most difficult ride, 25 miles through the Watchung Hills, a course I regularly take on my Specialized Allez, a series of moderately to severely steep hills that will challenge even a good rider on a fast road bike.
The view from beautiful Summit, New Jersey. It’s a town full of Ivy League Republican dads and entitled soccer moms with kids destined for Harvard and Wall Street. In other words, if the SUVs don’t get you the BMWs will.
Some day I’ll be rich and hip enough to live in New York.
How did the Escape City do?
- I was worried about steep hills. I shouldn’t have. The SRAM VIA drive train has 24 gears, and is, perhaps, best in the lower gears.
- The Escape City is much slower than my Allez going down hill. There’s no way a flat bar hybrid is going to be as fast as a drop bar road bike. But I’m not the type who takes downhills at 40mph anyway.
- It’s not as much fun as a road bike. The extra low gears actually make it easier to take steep hills than it is on the Allez. But you don’t feel as cool doing it.
- The brakes are excellent, and have plenty of stopping power.
- The internally routed cables have a bit of a rattle. This is a well-known issue on the Escape City and really nothing to worry about.
- The SRAM VIAs shift smoothly enough, but, once again, this isn’t Dura Ace or Ultegra. The front derailleur takes a bit of getting used to. Shift too quickly onto the second sprocket and the chain occasionally has a bit of trouble catching. But I think this was probably more due to my lack of familiarity with the SRAM shifters than to any need of adjustment.
- The aluminum fork doesn’t bother me. They cut corners here and put it into the drive train.
- The bike is surprisingly light, much lighter than my old Trek 7.2fx. As such, it’s quite fast. It accelerates well. It corners easily. It’s not as fast as my Allez on flat roads, but it’s fast enough.
In other words, so far so good. This bike will be serviceable for light touring and 50-100 mile day rides. Who knows. Next month I may hate it. But right now I don’t feel as if I missed out on anything paying 585 dollars for the Escape City instead of 1200 dollars for a Trek 720 or a Surly Long Haul Trucker. In fact, the bike feels so solid that over the summer (when I plan to buy a new drop bar road bike) I may look at the Defy 3 instead of another Specialized.
Note: I’m not a bike mechanic or an expert on bikes. I’m simply a guy who likes to ride. So don’t mistake this for a professional review.