priority bikes sketch

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.

Find Priority Bikes on Kickstarter.

Mike Senese

Mike Senese

Mike Senese is the Executive Editor of Make: magazine. He is also a TV host, starring in various engineering and science shows for Discovery Channel, including Punkin Chunkin, How Stuff Works, and Catch It Keep It.

An avid maker, Mike spends his spare time tinkering with remote-control aircraft, doing amateur woodworking, and attempting to cook the perfect pizza.

Follow @msenese

  • jbond

    Needs proper brakes, mudguards, a rack and a basket. And an integrated lock. Because it’s guaranteed somebody will try and steal it.

    • Avatar1337

      it has proper brakes

      • jbond

        Nope. If you’re commuting in city traffic, you need proper V or disk brakes. If only for when the pedestrian walks out in front of you, or the car cust you up by overtaking and then immediately turning. A single coaster brake doesn’t cut it.

        • Björn

          Well, judging from 24yrs of bike riding experience in a country were out of 16 million, 13.5 million people have and ride bikes, of wich a lot , if not most do this on a daily basis, I can tell you a coaster brake works fine. Yes, your cities are more crowded, yes we have bikelanes and yes these brakes are in fact inferior, but remember they are not on racing bikes, nor are they as dangerous as you make it seem.

          Price-wise and seen the setup, these low maintenance bikes really seem perfect to me.

  • Guest

    If Dave Weiner is involved, count on it being done exactly his way and then dropped halfway through when other participants piss him off enough that it triggers his usual ‘grab my ball and go home’ response.

    • Jake Spurlock

      Wrong Dave.

  • Eric Scoles

    people in the software industry, please note: It’s Dave WEINER, not Dave WINER. Big and very important difference.

    Dave WEINER (featured here) does NOT have a history of taking his ball and going straight home.

    So, this could work.

    Mind you, I’d love a 5 or 7 speed option on the hub, but of course that would jack up the price (7 speed internal hubs ain’t cheap).

    • Jake Spurlock

      Man, some people just can’t let go of things…

  • JW

    Definitely needs more than 3 speeds for pretty much anyplace besides downtown Chicago. Other places have hills…

  • Johannes Smits

    this is a good concept. i can know becasue except for the belt it is exactly the same bike i have been using the last 25 years. lightweight frame, same gearbox, same break system etc. the only difference with my bike is that mine also has a lock, mudgards (very nice when it rains, and it rains a lot here) and a rack to carry stuff over the rear wheel, an in-wheel dynamo and lights (handy when dark) and oh yeah, a cover over the chaindrive ( plastic, lightweigt and excellent protection against oil stains). i think he visited the Netherlands, bought a 2nd hand bike and copied it.

  • Guest

    3 speeds is plenty for a commuter bike and the Shimano Nexus 3 speed hubs are awesome. Thing is….There’s plenty of competition in this market Public Bicycles, State Bicycles, Bikesdirect….are all in this same market. The only thing that sets them apart is they have a belt drive. I’m an avid cyclist and I could care less about belt drives as could every cyclist in this year’s Tour De France or trails riders, downhillers, BMXers whoever. Belt drives are cool, but more of a gimmick. The other thing that gets me is the no brakes, no I’m not counting the coaster brake because it’s depending on that rubber chain being there. If that belt brakes or comes loose you have no brakes, that sucks trust me been there on beach cruisers and my track bike it can be dangerous. Finally I think these bikes are ugly and cheap looking which is what really got them a NO stamp when my brother asked for my thumbs up for his maybe purchasing his wife one. I mean go to State Bicycles or Public or bikesdirect city/urban bikes they all look allot nicer and less Walmarty as this aluminum contraption. Oh yeah and all those other bikes are made of steel which means they ride like silk and weight about the same. Aluminum is the worst riding material known to man, the only advantage to aluminum is it’s super cheap…it will chatter the teeth out of your head.

  • AnthLC

    Overall pretty good choices on the equipment side. But also make an electric assist version. Electric assist makes commuting to work more fun and flattens the hills so you don’t get all sweaty. It sometimes frowned on by more traditional bikers. But at the end of the day you want a bike that gets used.

    I find an electric assist bike will get more use over a traditional bicycle and if you want a workout turn it off. Since the bike is heavy it will give a good workout. Overall fitness is improved with regular exercise. So the more times your on the bike the better.

    Electric assist bikes have a battery, a motor and some switch to have the motor kick in. The idea is to help the rider on hills and switched off once bike reaches 25 km/h for safety. Usual a range 50-70 km depending on battery size.

    It would not take much to include an electric assist model.

    Nice bike. Cheers

  • Johnny Gnash

    I would certainly consider this bike if I were looking for a new ride. This is basically the bike I’ve put together for myself bit by bit. But compared to my bike, the geometry of this frame looks more accessible. The aluminum and the belt-drive are probably lighter. I’ll be following this story.

  • Yomismo

    what is a pound???

  • wen jiangshi

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