Brilliant Bicycle Co's "L Train" Commuter Bike
Ride over NYC bridges with ease on this minimal machine
Roughly a quarter of a million people ride the L train from Brooklyn into Manhattan every day. So when the MTA announced that service into Manhattan by train would be suspended for 15 months beginning in April of 2019 to fix tunnels damaged by Hurricane Sandy, there was some concern—to say the least. While alternatives to getting to and from the city ranging from the conceivable (a car-free 14th Street with ample shuttle buses) to the whimsical (a gondola dubbed the East River Skyway) are up for discussion, NYC-based bike builder Brilliant Bicycle Co devised a solution that’s already prepared to beat the subway blues: the L Train City Bike.
At first glance, Brilliant’s take on the city commuter doesn’t appear different from the hordes of single-speeds that zip around most cities. It bears a sleek profile, monochromatic coloring, and minimal bells and whistles (though both come in handy during rush hour, especially in peak tourist season). It’s in the details that Brilliant CEO David Weiner packed the features that make this bike one reason to skip the monthly unlimited MetroCard.
“The frame geometry was designed in Brooklyn and it’s the same shape we use in our Astor, but for this new model we upgraded to a double butted chromoly steel,” says Weiner, a former software CEO who switched back to the bike industry after working in shops and a major bike brand in his younger days. The upgraded frame material means the bike is both light and offers a smooth ride. Bumps are smoothly absorbed and at high speeds it handles confidently.
Meanwhile, the internally geared Shimano Nexus hub houses seven speeds that shift seamlessly. By using an internal gearing system—coupled with the premium frame material—Brilliant keeps the bike’s weight down to a NYC fourth floor walkup-friendly 27 pounds. The range afforded by the gearing system makes for comfortable riding even on the city’s sweat-inducing bridge ascents. Cycling through the gears from Brooklyn to Manhattan.
Along with the internal gearing system, Brilliant powered the bike with an ultra-durable and grease-free carbon Gates belt drive. Not only is the system void of grease, it’s built not to stretch over time meaning chain-slippage isn’t an option. Weiner suggests that the belt drive coupled with the internal gearing system means this bike can roll for over a thousand miles before maintenance is required.
We wanted to answer the call for a daily commuter bike that riders could really beat the crap out of
“Ultimately with the L Train bike, we wanted to answer the call for a daily commuter bike that riders could really beat the crap out of and then come asking for more,” Weiner adds noting the knobby puncture resistant 32C tires. Riding the bike through busy city streets, one’s first reaction is to protect this beautifully minimal two-wheeler. However, as the needs of riding in the city arise, one quickly finds that this isn’t a stylish accessory, it’s a fully capable urban riding machine. And like all well-designed purpose-built items, the more badges of use it racks up, the better it looks.
The L Train City Bike is available from Brilliant Bicycle Co in Subway Grey or Hudson Blue for $650.
Images by Cool Hunting