If you’ve ever had to haul a 45-pound steel bike up and down the subway stairs, banged your knee on the handlebars because of a slipping chain, or smeared chain grease all over your slacks, you know (as I do) that bike commuting, as great as it is, can sometimes be a real pain. A reborn bike mechanic wants to fix those hassles with his unique two-wheeler that brings cutting-edge low-maintenance bike technology at an accessible-to-everyone price.
The project, called Priority Bikes, belongs to Dave Weiner, a New York-based software exec who realized he could no longer ignore his yearning for the satisfaction of his younger days building and fixing bicycles. Trading spreadsheets for a shop apron, he hatched a plan to create a bike that would utilize the latest components — belt drive, hub-mounted gears and brakes, and an aluminum frame — in order to minimize upkeep needs. And he realized he could cut the price way down by selling them directly to customers.
After a lengthy period of development and testing, Dave launched a Kickstarter for the $350–$400, 25-pound commuter-focused bike this week, quickly surpassing his $30,000 target and continuing to over $250,000 in just two days.
“The biggest uniqueness to the bike is the belt drive,” he explains. “There are bikes in the $850+ range that come with a belt drive, however bringing this technology down market was not easy.” The belt replaces the common oily, rust-prone chain found on almost all current bikes, offering quiet operation and a greatly extended life span. The challenge he had to design around, though, is that belts can’t be pulled apart for installation, so he worked to design a frame with a dropout that opens to allow the belt to slot through.
Again with the maintenance-free angle in mind, the frame itself is made of aluminum, which generally comes at a high cost. “Most bikes in this category/price range are steel,” Dave says. “We knew we had to use aluminum as steel will rust, aluminum won’t. This also makes the bike significantly lighter weight.”
And instead of using a derailleur mounted to the frame to change gears, Dave’s bike changes speed through a modern 3-speed hub-mounted gear. “Derailleur style gears go out of tune, so we went with an internally geared hub, which while being much more expensive, is maintenance free, they can go thousands of miles without being serviced,” Dave says. “We also had to do this to use the belt drive which doesn’t work with a derailleur.”
The hub gear also provides an upgraded version of a retro pedal brake, promised to be more effective than anything we rode as kids while continuing the overall simplicity of the concept. (“Not sure if you’ve ridden a modern foot brake but they are really nice,” Dave assures.) He’s also including a tool kit and bike pump for initial assembly, a comfy seat, and pop-resistant tires.
It’s clear that Dave has made something he’s wanted for a long time. With relaxed upright geometry it won’t win any races, but instead will get him around town reliably and with minimal fuss. From the launch success, it looks like this is something many others have been waiting for too.