Bike Review: The Papillionaire Is A Good Buy
After gazing at the lovely glamor shots of the Papillionaire Bicycles, I was excited to see one in person. Lucky for me, the bike manufacturer invited me to take one for a spin.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been test-riding the Sommer 3 Speed all around San Francisco. I put over 30 miles on the bike before sitting down to write my review.
This bike is awesome for cruising around a city (or suburb) without big hills. I really, really loved it on the flat and gently rolling roads of San Francisco. (Yes, those actually exist.)
The Sommer is a ridiculously pretty bike. As photogenic as it is, the bike is even better looking in person. I just about fell in love with the gentle curve of the handlebars. They seemed the perfect width for my girlish shoulders.
After years of riding road bikes, I loved the upright posture of the step-through. Due to the nature of the frame, I was riding nice and high. I found that I had a great view of my surroundings, especially as I biked down busy Market Street in the middle of the day.
I had no trouble maintaining my balance on this bike, even at low speeds. The steering was responsive, but not “twitchy”. Meaning that I squeezed past cars and swerved around potholes with ease, but I never felt out of control.
Speaking of potholes, I didn’t need to try so hard to avoid them. The bike seemed to absorb the road bumps.
The Sommer 3 Speed was ideal for running errands downtown. Because there are so many stoplights, the slow speed and heavy weight of the bike were not issues.
I just strapped my messenger bag to the built-in rear rack and enjoyed sitting up straight. My friend Tonya said that I looked quite elegant as we rolled out of the Tenderloin and towards the Mission.
This is a great bike if you want to get noticed. Or if you can tolerate a little attention. From the businessmen in their suits, to the homeless dudes hanging out under the freeway, this bike brought a smile to everyone’s face.
I had to get used to hearing “nice bike” everywhere I went. It’s practically a conversation piece. (And this is coming from someone who regularly rides a bamboo bike!) I even got hit on by a teenager while out and about. Fortunately, the light changed before I could explain that I was–technically–old enough to be his mother.
The Sommer is heavy. That's not an issue if you have ground-level bike parking (or an elevator). While I did manage to carry it up five flights of stairs to my rooftop photo studio, I wouldn’t want to carry it up to my second-floor apartment every day.
Of course that same heaviness is what makes it so comfy on rough city streets. My test bike came with the upgraded leather saddle, with springs. However, I found it to be a bit too firm.
If you ride a bike infrequently, don’t get the upgraded saddle. Even though I didn’t try it, I advise getting the the standard, padded leather saddle that is included with the basic model. You can always get a cushier crotch pillow saddle if you really need it.
I was impressed with the value of the frame. Crafted from lugged steel, it is built to last. The finish is also nice and glossy. For the money, it’s a much better deal than those famous city bikes with a similar look.
As for the rest of the components, the tires, wheels, and internally geared hub are all decent, but nothing special. That being said, an internally geared hub is really low-maintenance, making it perfect for a casual, city bike.
I recommend the Papillionaire if you’re interested in doing short, easy trips around town. It’s especially great if you feel a little bit anxious about riding in traffic. This bike gives you the full benefit of the Mary Poppins effect.On the Sommer I seemed to bring out the protective instinct in motorists and bus drivers.
Outfit notes: Hat is vintage. Since I'm cleaning out my closet, you can now buy the dress here. I picked up the tights a few years ago. These thigh-high stockings are pretty close. I bought my boots when I was a poor student in Milan. The bright red ipstick was a very generous gift from Bare Escentuals: Marvelous Moxie in Live It Up.
Thanks to Huckleberry Bicycles, Papillionaire Bicycles, and Greensmith Consulting for all the help with this post.