As the year winds up and 2018 stock filters onto the shop floor, we’re having a look back at the best bikes of 2017. In this post, our staff members share their favourite bikes that we’ve sold over the last last twelve months, and why. At the end we will collate the the results and come up with an overall best bike of 2017.
While our core commuter range continued to please the crowds, gravel bikes have been the flavour of the times, with many staff picking bikes from this category. This is also reflected in sales figures, as more customers opt for bikes that will not only take them to work and back, but can take them off (sometimes far off) the beaten track come the weekend.
Wider tyres, endurance geometry, disc brakes and lower gears – all these trends have established themselves in 2017, as the industry continues to evolve. Rather than pushing super-fast, super-light racing bikes onto the general public, bike companies are focusing on the kind of machines that will be more useful in people’s lives. We welcome these changes, and the recognition that bikes can play an increasing role in our day-to-day existence – for practicality, for health, and for fun.
Cargo bikes have also seen a rise in popularity, with the Kona Ute moving quickly, plus a few Surly Big Dummys. Our heavy-duty touring bikes continue to tick along, while the kid’s range sells like crazy as usual. But enough preamble – here are the best bikes of 2017!
Israel – mechanic and jocular human – Kona Roadhouse
I like the shiny gloss finish and the exposed brazing. That thing is gorgeous. It’s a lovely lovely bike. Steel is real. It’s a classic looking frame with a lot of modern stuff on there that looks good and works well. Just because something is an old design or old-school it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily better. There’s some really nice new technology on there – they’ve incorporated new technology with an old-school style. That thing was hot.
Stu – General Manager and angry ginger – Jamis Renegade Exploit
Definitely the Renegade Exploit. Why? Because I own one. But also because I’ve ridden and ridden and ridden it, and It’s stood up to everything I’ve thrown at it. I commute in from Eltham every day, and clock up 270km a week and I’ve had it since March. That’s on sealed and gravel surfaces. I’ve gone through chains, cassettes, brake pads, all that stuff that you expect with any sort of bike, but the rest of it has been fine. It’s so much fun to ride. I smash it over all the bumps and the jumps, anything. It handles much better than anything I’ve owned before. I also like the colour. I like it more than the Renegade Expat. It has to look good.
Nick – Sales Assistant and man beyond his years – Jamis Renegade Exploit
It’s an all-round bike that can do a lot of things. It’s a good spec for the price; it’s running Shimano 105, hydraulic brakes and Reynolds 631 tubing. It’s also got a good colour scheme, carbon fork and through-axles. There’s good tread on the tyres but it still rolls quickly on the road. It comes in a range of good sizes. It’s great for bikepacking, touring, and general commute riding.
Coralie – e-Bike Mechanic and direct communicator – Gazelle Cityzen electric bike.
It’s a very comfortable bike to ride. It’s electric. It’s perfect for Melbourne. It takes me everywhere without sweat. It’s very reliable. It’s the best for carrying everything, carrying the shopping. It takes me from St Kilda to Preston, and it helps me not be late to work.
In amongst the amazing bikes we’ve had in stock*, the thing that has continually impressed me the most was something you’d tow behind it. For far too long, kid’s trailers haven’t progressed much past something designed in the 80s: heavy, with difficult pins and latches to attach and/or fold.
Mid-year, Thule blew this out of the water with a suite of updated trailers which look and drive like you’d expect of something from today. Everything in blue on the trailer is a touch-point: the two buttons for a simple fold, the two buttons to adjust the push handle, the lever to remove the tow bar. It’s all just so simple. And when unfolding, there are little tell-tales which stay red until you snap
Cross with a reclining seat, or the top-of-the-line Thule Sport. All are available in one and two seat models. It’s the best!
*Yes, I did think long and hard about picking my go-to ride, the updated 2017 Brompton. But the changes to that were an evolution, compared to the complete and much required reboot of kid’s trailers.
Matt – Velo Cycles Store Manager and fat-tyre evangelist – Kona Sutra LTD
The Kona Sutra LTD, definitely, is my favourite bike of the year. It’s beasty – fat tyres, drop handlebars, one-by drivetrain, hydraulic disc brakes – what’s not to love? I love safety orange paint job – very high-vis. It has clearance for pretty wide tyres, though they should have stocked it with even wider tyres, like 50c, and in tanwall. Other than the Sutra, I like all the custom bike we did this year – what I like to call ‘deep custom.’
Tom – Workshop Manager and technical sage – Kona Unit
My favourite is the Kona Unit, just because it’s a whole lot of fun, and a little bit different. It’s got wide tyres and requires minimal servicing…I’m a little tempted to get one. How would I set one up? It depends on what you want to do with it. If you wanted to make it a proper mountain bike you would put suspension on the front and add some gears. But I think I would have it as a run-around-town, fun bike. It would be great if you weren’t too worried about getting from A to B super fast but you wanted to be able to jump curbs, take side-tracks and do all that kind of stuff.
Jackie – Sales Assistant and unenthusiastic face of media representation – Surly Straggler 650B
The 650B Surly Straggler is my pick for best bike of the year. Speaking from my (not even that) diminutive height of 5’5, I can report that there is a definite lack of bikes specifically suited to the shorter riders out there. Bikes built around the smaller 650B wheel size are better suited to shorter riders, as frames don’t have to be adapted to squeeze in more standard (and larger) 700C wheels.
Prior to this year Surly made it’s ultra-versatile Straggler with only 700C wheels, and my 50cm frame comes with some fairly significant toe-overlap – that is, when cornering sharply, your foot hits the front tyre. By changing the 42,46 and 50cm frames to only come with 650B, surly has effectively eliminated this problem, as well as making the bike tighter and more agile.
Dan – Lead Mechanic and music philosopher – Soma Wolverine
It’s real mean, ay? It’s real good; it goes up the hills, it goes down the hills, it goes on road, it goes off-road, it climbs, it carries…it does all the things. It does all of the things in comfort and style. It’s a good bike. I recommend it.
Ed – Sales Assistant and token roadie – Soma Wolverine
My best bike this year would be the Soma Wolverine. I got one myself (above) – click here to read more about my build. It’s available as a frameset only, and we’ve done all sorts of builds with them this year: versions with ZIPP Components and 1x drivetrains, to the lovely modern touring setups that Ollie and Dan have ridden across the Middle East and Japan respectively. Personally my favourite things about the Soma Wolverine is the versatility (sliders & replaceable plates for thru-axle or rohloff ) & the tyre clearance. I was able to run 27.5 x 2.1 Crossmarks with mudguards. Yewwwwww!
Peter – Sales Assistant, blog guy and wannabe Hemingway – Jamis Renegade Expat
My favourite bike would have to be the Jamis Renegade Expat – basically because I bought one. I wasn’t looking for a new bike but, out of curiosity, I took one for a spin around the block and there was no going back. The thing that impressed me straight away was how agile and accurate the handling was compared to the Surly Crosscheck that I owned at the time. It was quicker off the mark, and cornered with a real sense of poise. It also had a couple of key upgrades to the Surly – namely STI levers and disc brakes. And it’s fantastic value, a really solid build for the price. The Surly is a great bike, and is better for heavy load-carrying, but the Renegade could do everything that I wanted, and was more exciting to ride. A month after I had taken it around the block I put some dough down.
I’ve commuted on it with panniers, I’ve done market shopping on it with a trailer, I’ve ridden cross-country mountain bike trails on it, I’ve fitted it with skinny tyres and I’ve fitted it with fat tyres. But where it really shines is bikepacking. The comfort-oriented geometry, its sturdy-but-nimble nature, the handling – I feel like I can just ride that thing all day, and cover some distance while I’m at it. It’s a blast. It makes me want to get out there.
Kyle the Mountain Man – Mechanic and mountain man – Soma Tradesman
It’s functional. It’s good. You know what they say: good things are good.
And the best bike of 2017 is……..(drum roll please)………………….
OK, it wasn’t anyone’s actual favourite, but who cares! It has the biggest place, collectively, in our hearts. After almost ten years being open for business, the Jamis Coda Sport is still our best-selling bike. Sure, it’s not the most glamorous bike in the shop, but it’s probably done the most miles, got the most people to work, to the pub, to the shops, to childcare, to uni, and home again. It’s done Around the Bay. It’s done the Great Victorian Bike Ride. It’s value, it’s reliable, it rides smoothly, it will take luggage racks and mudguards and child seats and trailers. It’s the bike that greases the cogs of the Melbourne commuter-cycling community. And it comes in black. (And other colours). It’s the best.