Quick Impressions of the Bella Ciao Superba & Pilen

Saturday, October 29, 2011 |

I stopped by Flying Pigeon Bike Shop today to test ride the Bella Ciao Superba (the Lovely Bicycle edition) & a Pilen Lyx. Though I'm in no place to purchase either at the moment, I do enjoy test riding different bikes to get a feel for the range of what's out there (plus I like to dream). I'll try to give a short review of both here.

Bella Ciao Superba

First I tested the Bella Ciao. It sure is a beautiful bike. The first thing that stood out to me when I was handed over the bike for the test ride was the soft cork grips (unshellacked -- almost seems a shame to shellac a material that feels like velvet, though I know it helps the cork last longer). Once I hopped on, I couldn't believe how extremely comfortable the B72 saddle was -- like butter! I guess I've only tried the B66/7 with it's textured surface (or my own Velo Orange saddle), but my goodness I can see the appeal of Brooks with that saddle.

The ride was extremely comfortable. It reminded me a lot of my 1970 Raleigh Ladies Sport (in it's slightly sporty positioning & handling), just an extremely comfortable version. The Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tires absorbed most bumps I went over and added to the creamy feeling the bike had (both in handling and looks). I also loved the constant click-click-click of the Sturmey Archer hub (similar to my Raleigh, though a little louder), reminding me of when I put baseball cards in the spokes of my bike when I was younger. The bike was easy to accelerate and the handling wasn't overly responsive. I enjoyed the three speeds, finding them well spaced (though I wasn't able to test it on any hills). Overall, I would compare the bike to a delicious cup of rich, creamy espresso -- smooth, peppy, and well worth the cost.
Source: Pilen

Next I test rode the Pilen. The larger frame felt more my size, though the handlebars immediately felt like they should have swept back more towards me (as I thought they would before I test rode it). The ride felt extremely smooth, though I have to echo Veloria's observation: acceleration was initially difficult no matter what gear I was in. This is apparently a problem of weight, and I thought I would be heavy enough to be exempt from this (around 140) but unfortunately I am not. The only other problem I had with the Pilen was a slight vibration I felt constantly through the pedals, both when pedaling and braking. My thought was it was the hub, though the lady at the store didn't find any vibration -- maybe it was again a question of weight?

Other than that, I found the Pilen to be an extremely stable and sturdy bike. I found it to be especially sturdy starting from a stop, something that I find I don't have in my Raleigh. I love the twin rat-trap rear rack and the spinning bell. I feel like it is a bike that would be very versatile -- a great city bike you could easily take on unpaved roads. Its well-made frame and sturdiness might be good for someone looking for a bike to survive the zombie apocalypse with.

I walked away from the bike shop surprised with what I found: I expected to love the Pilen and only like the Bella Ciao, though the inverse seems to be true. I'm disappointed that the Pilen seemed to have so many problems with me but know that it would be a great bike for many people. Of course, now I'm adding the Bella Ciao to my list of Ideal World Bikes (i.e. in my ideal world I would own a Dutch bike for relaxed but sturdy city rides where I need to carry things, a Bella Ciao for fast and fun rides when I want to still ride an upright bike, and a touring bike with drop bars to go on long rides with my boyfriend).


G.E. said...

How interesting that you didn't enjoy the Pilen as much as you thought you would, and that Bella Ciao was more than what you expected. I really will have to test ride a Pilen one of these days just to feel the difference. Sounds like you had a fun day of test riding - and I think that keeping a list of "ideal world" bicycles is a great idea.

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