I recently bought a new bike for our middle son for basic transport. The Trek Pilot 1.2 that he and I have shared for a few years is not suitable for him to ride around an urban area (Leicester). He needed flat bars, mudguards & rack. I needed him to have low maintenance (as that ends up being my job).
So to fit the trend I am trying to follow I looked for Hub gears and non rim brakes. Not a lot of choice in anything a teenager wants to ride. In the end we came across a Giant Escape N7, it is no longer made but we found one in stock at AJ Cycles in Higham Ferrers.
I have added Giant Mudguards (not really recommended as the stays are too long and need to be cut). Still they are reasonably effective.
I treated him to a Tubus Locc rack as it carries Abus U-Locks. Sadly though the new Abus lock came with a different fitting that is not compatible with the Tubus (fortunately we don’t use the Trek and Giant bikes at the same time too often so normally we can share the lock we already have that fits this rack).
His reactions have been good, finding it an easy and comfortable ride. Works well for someone who has no interest whatsoever in the technical details of a bike but just wants it to be available and work.
The only concerns I have with this bike relate to the roller brakes and Nexus 7 speed hub.
When I mentioned the Giant Escape N7 in 42: Best Upright Bike back in March 2006 I got a number of negative remarks about roller brakes. I have since test ridden a few other bikes with roller brakes and decided that they were worth trying. Tonight I went for a ride on the Giant Escape N7 from Carnon Downs Caravan Park in Cornwall. From here everything is down 🙂 So I went down to Restonguel Point, Loe Beach and back via Trelissck and Playing Place. That included 14% and 17% descents on wet roads in the rain. The roller brakes were excellent. I could lock the rear brake if I wanted but they gave good control and feedback, held the speed where I was happy and allowed me to stop where ever I wanted. They are not as powerful as disk brakes or well setup v-brakes but are perfectly adequate. I suspect that some people are so used to the outstanding performance of disk brakes that they find anything less powerful scary. These are not the brakes for races aiming to get to the bottom of a steep hill as quickly as possible and stop instantly with no notice. On the other hand they should work for years with little or no maintenance.
Nexus 7 Speed Hub
This seems to have a relatively poor reputation for reliability. My feeling is that for the use my son has it will probably be fine. If it fails then I’ll look at either a Nexus 8 or an Alfine (8 or 11) hub with roller brake. The bike frame and everything else were good enough value that it would make sense to put a better hub in it if this fails.
On my ride tonight I was able to ride up the 17% hill from Loe Beach with no problems – well other than a lot of heavy breathing 🙂 The hub changed gear reliably, although the changes are noticeably less well defined than those on my Alfine 8 speed hub on my Bullitt. Time will tell as to the reliability but the performance to date is perfectly acceptable.
I think it is a pretty good choice for general urban use in the UK. In countries with a better cycling infrastructure you would not need some of the mountain bike influences (26″ wheels with big tyres, heavy duty forks etc) but in the UK with a teenager they seem sensible. Now this is not available I am not sure what the best alternative would be.