Bicycle Roots is proud to announce that we’re a dealer of All-City Cycles. This small manufacturer of high-performance city bicycles is only four years old, but their commitment to excellence and concentration on serving the needs of urban riders makes them stand out among other small bicycle-manufacturing concerns. We’ll fill you in on their background and tell you all about what makes a bicycle from All-City so special.

Founded just four years ago in Minneapolis, Minnesota, All-City Cycles is a relative newcomer to the industry. However, in this short time, they have established themselves as an often irreverent manufacturer of high-quality steel bikes. As much fun as they might have naming their bicycles (all of which bear very colorful monikers) or sponsoring beer-soaked events such as their Bandit Cross cyclocross events, they take designing and manufacturing bicycles, components, and gear for urban riders very seriously.

The first bikes produced by All-City were track bikes, characterized by their short, flat handlebars and brakeless fixed-gear build. These bikes were introduced in 2007, but All-City has since expanded their line to include several different models. From the single-speed cyclocross bike Nature Boy to the geared road bike Space Horse, All-City bicycles are characterized by their high-quality steel construction, heavy-duty components, and overall great craftsmanship and attention to detail. We’re happy to announce both the Nature Boy and Space Horse have arrived; both are available now at Bicycle Roots!

Our editor testing the All-City Nature Boy. Check out that spiffy pink & gold helmet–we’re taking steps to ensure all our models wear their helmets when posing for the blog (and encouraging them to wear their helmet at all other times).

ALL-CITY: THE BRAND

All-City is the brainchild of Jeff Frane, a self-described “a-hole, skeptic, true believer, wastoid, best friend, nitpicker and derelict”. After spending a few years living out of his van, doing little beside hiking and snowboarding, Jeff moved to Minneapolis where he got a job as a mechanic in a local bike shop. Over the years, he mastered the art of building and repairing bicycles, which led to a job with distributor Quality Bicycle Parts (QBP to those in the industry). Although Jeff was hired as a warehouse worker, his passion for bicycles was soon recognized by QBP, who promoted him to bike builder.

In 2007/2008, Jeff was bitten by the track-cycling bug. Although QBP had long been a major distributor of bikes and gear in North America, they did not carry many track-specific products, such as double clips and straps. Meanwhile, Jeff’s promotion company Bike Jerks  had established a relationship with track and fixie enthusiasts by organizing alleycat race events. When Bike Jerks jokingly introduced their “Save the Track Bike” campaign, QBP listened, giving Jeff the opportunity to design the bikes and gear Jeff and his cohorts wanted.

Although All-City’s first offerings were track and fixie specific, the high quality and understated design of their bicycles soon attracted attention from all kinds of riders. In time, the line has expanded to include geared and single-speed cyclocross, road, and touring bikes, all fabricated from high-quality steel and treated with an electrophoretic disposition (E.D) finish protecting the steel from rust. How does the E.D. finish work? It’s a highly technical process. Firstly, all frames and forks produced by All-City are dipped in phosphorus to ensure the steel is clean. After the phosphorus bath, the components are dipped in paint. An electric charge is then applied to the paint-coated components. The electric charge fuses a uniform, satin-black coating to the steel inside and out. The process protects the steel and provides an excellent base coat for paint and graphics. Since the E.D. coating is also on the interior of the frame and fork, you can be confident that your All-City bike is also an all-condition bike: water trapped inside the frame from riding in rain and snow will not cause rust on the inside.

The components included on All-City’s stock builds are generally very high quality, as All-City bikes are intended to satisfy customers who demand a lot from their ride. Another distinguishing characteristic of All-City bikes are their lugged forks. This detail is indicative of the high level of craftsmanship involved in the All-City fabrication process.

True to the company’s freewheeling, fun-loving origins, All-City designs these bicycles to be easily customizable and encourages riders to put a personal touch on their frames. All-City even features their favorite “custys” on their website and blog. If you’re interested in a custom build starting from the frameset or just adding your own accents to a stock build, let our mechanics know. They’ll walk you through the process and suggest the appropriate components for your needs.

ALL-CITY: THE BIKES

The All-City Space Horse, ready for its close-up.

SAVE $140 ON THE SPACE HORSE, WAS $1,375, NOW $1,235:

The All-City Space Horse is a road bike that can take on rides both short and long. Want a reliable commuter that’s just as comfortable on long tours as it is on city roads? Let the All-City Space Horse be your steed of choice. With clearance for wide tires and fenders, as well as rack mounts that will accommodate loads up to 20lbs. in front and 30lbs. in the rear, the Space Horse will get you and your gear to your destination.

A close-up of the Shimano Tiagra integrated shifters.

The Space Horse has a full Shimano Tiagra group, allowing you to shift smoothly and with ease. The hubs will let you spin smoothly, allowing them to gain and hold momentum. These babies just want to roll. We love the integrated shifters, which are easy to use from a variety of hand positions and ensure that you can easily gear down when you need to brake. However, the Space Horse can be built as a single-speed if you would prefer; the frameset (fork included) costs $575.

These hubs definitely hold their roll!

Although the stock tires are plenty wide at 700X37, the frame has a super-wide clearance and will accommodate tires up to 42mm wide. The Space Horse has eyelets for fenders as well; however, our mechanics recommend a tire no wider than 38mm if you would like fenders installed. These wide, cushy tires help to dampen the feedback when you encounter bumpy terrain, although the double-butted 4130 Chromoly steel definitely contributes to the incredibly smooth ride. Seriously—we rode this on some rough road during our test, and this ride is smoooooth from saddle to handlebar. Even the stock All-City Gonzo saddle was very comfortable without needing to be broken in by the editor’s muscular glutes.

A close-up of the cantilever brakes. All-City bicycles have caliper brakes, which perform well even in wet and muddy road and trail conditions.

A FAST AND FUN FIXED GEAR

The All-City Nature Boy: well crafted with the urban rider in mind, photographed in its natural urban environment.

NATURE BOY, NOW MARKED DOWN TO $850 FROM $950:

The Nature Boy is a lot of bike for the money. A single-speed cross bike, it comes stock with a versatile 42/16 gear ratio (stock). The frame is designed with a wide clearance, allowing for 700×32 tires to give you a firm grip on road, grass, or dirt. The frame itself is well-balanced and fabricated from 4130 chromoly steel, which has a nice, smooth ride quality. Treated with All-City’s distinctive E.D. coating inside and out, the steel will resist rust even if you’re riding in wet and muddy conditions. The All-City stock saddles are surprisingly comfortable, although the ladies will probably want to switch out the stock seatpost for something that will accommodate a wider range of saddle angles.

The All-City designed Gonzo saddle doesn’t need to be broken in for a comfortable ride.

The Nature Boy, by its nature (Ed. Note: Ha!), easily lends itself to customization. The frameset (including fork) costs $550. If you buy the frameset alone, you can select the components that fit your ride style as well as your personality. All-City encourages riders to send them pictures of their customization projects, which are then often featured on their blog. Let our ace mechanics guide you through the customization project and you may even see your ride featured on their site!

The All-City Nature Boy… so swift it’s racing out of the frame! Special thanks to Bicycle Roots employee Mikki for her assistance with the action shots. Incidentally, these may be the most flattering photos ever taken of our editor.

Special thanks to Bike Rumor, whose in-depth interview with Jeff Frane was invaluable to this article. You can find the full-length interview here.

Also, thanks to Road Bike Review, whose explanation of the electrophoretic disposition finishing technique employed by All-City was crystal clear. Click here for more details about the E.D. process and their reviews of All-City bicycles.

UPDATE 8/22/2011: Our editor originally identified the brakes used on the Space Horse and Nature Boy as “caliper brakes”. This is incorrect; this style brake is a “cantilever”. All changes have been made–a big shout out to Joe #2 who originally identified the error.

 

 

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