Dynamic Bicycles part 2 – first impressions

Dynamic Bicycles Runabout 8 review, part 2.

In part 1, we discussed ordering and assembling a Dynamic Bicycles chainless bike. This time, we share more information on the bikes and some initial impressions from our first rides.

The main bicycle categories from the Dynamic Bicycles website.
The main bicycle categories from the Dynamic Bicycles website.

Although the website lists three models, there appears to be four (or five?) distinct models of bikes offered by Dynamic Bicycles:

  1. Runabout 8 – An 8-speed “comfort hybrid” available in a 16″ Easy Step model or an 18″ or 21″ normal frame, in standard or Premium configuration. ($979-$999 list price, on sale for $589-$699.)
  2. Comfort 7  – A 7-speed “comfort cruising” bike with an 18″ unisex frame. ($999 list price, on sale for $699.)
  3. Sussex 8 – An 8-speed “city bike” with a 16″ step-thru frame. ($899 list price, on sale for $629.)
  4. Sidekick 8 – An 8-speed folding bike, available in normal model ($999 list price, on sale for $699) and Sidekick Elite ($1099 list price, on sale for $879) model with a different frame.

As you can see, pricing can vary depending on special sales. Over the past two years, we have never seen the bikes actually selling for the full list price. Instead, there has always been a discount offer such as percentage off, free shipping (normally $59), or half price accessories. At the time of this writing, bikes were 30% or 40% off (depending on model), and free shipping was available if you ordered two bikes (saving $118).

Choosing a Bike

We asked Dynamic Bicycles to recommend a bike after we described where and how we would be riding. They suggested the Runabout 8 model.

Runabout 8

The Runabout 8 is available in normal and premium versions. According to the description, the premium version comes with a Shimano Nexus Premium 8-speed Gearing and Shaft Drive System rather than the normal Shimano Nexus. We weren’t sure if that would be worth an extra $110.

Since there was no explanation on the website, we wrote in to ask what made a premium model premium. One of the owners, Patrick Perugini, responded:

“The Premium hub is what makes it the Premium model.”

An accurate answer, but unhelpful. We requested an explanation that even a blogger could understand:

“The premium hub runs a bit more efficiently, and is about 1/2 lb lighter. It makes longer rides and hills a bit easier. If you live in a flatter area, you likely would never notice the difference.”

It was refreshing to hear such honesty about an upsell. We chose to go with the premium version since, in spite of Iowa’s reputation, there certainly are plenty of hills here.

Our two test models are the Runabout Easy Step 8 Premium – 16″ Frame Size (aka, “girl’s bike”) and the Runabout 8 Premium – 18″ Frame Size (aka, “boy’s bike”). A simple sizing guide on the website (and e-mail inquiries) assisted in picking the proper frame size. The presales support of Dynamic Bicycles has been great.

Test Ride

After assembly (as detailed in the previous article), we were eager to take our first test ride. We took a short ride around a residential neighborhood (probably no more than a mile) and were amazed by how silent and easy the bikes shifted. With a traditional chain bike, shifting can only be done while the bike is in motion, and usually takes a moment for the gears to spin and the chain to jump to the next position. With the internal gear hub on these chainless bikes, you can shift to any gear even while the bike is standing still, and the shifting happens the moment the twist-grip shifter clicks in to place.

It was a strange feeling to click to a higher or lower gear and feel the resistance on the pedals instantly change. It is the bicycle equivalent to what power steering and brakes feels like in a car.

One of our riders was used to riding a 1998 21″ Trek 6000 mountain bike with 26″ wheels. He found that on the smaller 18″ Runabout frame, its larger 700×35 wheels and more vertical seating position made it feel like a larger bike. As expected, the thin street tires did provide a noticeably rougher ride over bumps than the mountain bike. Though both old bike and new provided front shocks, the Runabout added a seat post shock which the old Trek did not have. Without it, the Runabout might have even felt rougher. One other difference was going from speed shifters (operated by index finger and thumb) to twist shifters (operated by twisting). He much preferred a speed shifter over twist, and Dynamic (sometimes) does offer that as an optional upgrade.

Our other rider, who was used to a 2004 Trek 7300 hybrid bike (official Trek archives page) with 700x35c tires, did not think the Runabout ride was that much different. She was already used to having front shocks and seat post shock on her Trek and the same size street tires, as well as the twist shifter.

Gearing

Both of our riders were used to having a much wider range of gearing, so a major concern was that going down to 8 speeds would be a problem. However, even with only 8 speeds versus 21, the range felt great. Dynamic Bicycles explains on their website that most 21 and 24 speed bikes have redundant coverage of the gears, so you never really get that many distinct speeds anyway:

Our chainless bicycles use the Shimano 8-speed internal gear hubs. So you get a surprisingly wide range of gearing, while eliminating the number one complaint people have always had about their bikes – the chains and derailleurs. In fact, the Shimano 8-speed hub has 80%-90% of the gear range of a traditional 21-speed or 24-speed chain bike.

In preparing for this review, we submitted information on the gearing of the 1998 Trek 6500 mountain bike, and Dynamic Bicycles sent us back a spreadsheet showing where the 8-speed fit in with the 21-speed.

Trek 21-speed versus Dynamic 8-speed.
Trek 21-speed versus Dynamic 8-speed.

They also have a downloadable Gear Ratio Chart you can use to compare with your existing bicycle.

As you can see, while a 21-speed bike may have two lower gears and one higher gear than the Runabout 8, the overall range was very similar. The 21-speed only had 18 distinct gears, and many were very close to each other. The 8-speed had more of a gap between each speed, allowing it to cover most of the same range with no redundancy. Also, our test riders generally stayed in the center gear (speeds 8-14) on their old bikes, and thus the range of the Runabout was actually greater than what they normally used.

Our conclusion is that for casual bikers who do not routinely use all 21 or 24 gears of their bike, the 8-speed of the Runabout is more than sufficient. In fact, we expect it would be sufficient for all but the most extreme shifters.

In the next installment, we will share a gallery of photos covering practically every inch of these bikes, and share some of the downsides of going chainless.

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