We tested a simple machine from Batch, simply called The Comfort Bicycle. Aimed at keeping a low price with high function and serviceability, it uses a 3-speed internal gear hub, along with rim brakes – and even fenders as original equipment. Is this the perfect bike for bar hopping, heading to the pool, and getting across campus?
Review: The Comfort Bicycle from Batch Bicycles
Batch Bicycles is an interesting test case for the industry. Owned by United Wheels (who also owns Huffy), they’re trying to re-think what an inexpensive bike can be, and what retail prices (and margins) are possible for IBDs. In short, they’re only selling to brick-and-mortar bike shops, and looking to sell bikes at prices that can compete with big-box stores – with complete bikes starting at $270.
The bikes themselves are interesting, too. While the parts spec isn’t perfect, they’re trying to put real, serviceable parts on to the bikes rather than disposable junk. When it comes time to service that bike, they want you to be able to visit a bike shop for help – who often won’t work on department store bikes (which are usually not serviceable anyway). It’s a lofty goal to rebuild the bike shop ecosystem, but I give them credit for trying something different.
To show me their integration with dealers, Batch arranged for me to pick up my best bike from my local dealer, Citrus Park Bikes in Tampa, FL. It’s a small store that only sells a few brands, and Batch was their newest line.
The shop staff was very gracious with their time, as I was curious how the new brand was doing. They were up-front that the biggest hurdle was name recognition, when customers come in asking for something more popular. However, they said the bikes themselves are good, and start at prices that might otherwise have people shopping on the used market.
The Comfort model keeps things simple for the drivetrain, with a Shimano Nexus 3-speed hub. Florida is almost entirely flat, so three gears are plenty to keep me happy for tooling around the neighborhood.
650b x 2.0″ tires are fat enough to provide comfort, without feeling like boat anchors.
While some of the more expensive models use disc brakes, the Comfort model uses rim brakes to keep cost down. I have no issue with this, and high quality rim brakes do a fantastic job with essentially zero maintenance (a big plus for the average person).
Batch specs no-name V-brakes, which stop the bike well enough, but there is some perceptible play in the brake arms and levers. This is the one area that I’d consider an upgrade, to something like Shimano Deore (which are outstanding for the price).
The rear brake cable and IGH cable are routed internally. The pragmatist in me would prefer externally-routed full-length housing, but manufacturers today fear that as a catastrophic fashion faux pas.
See that? A real, actual 31.8mm bar and stem on a sub-$500 bike! While this might not mean much to the average person, it shows that Batch is prioritizing modern standards, and not relying on junk parts to save every last penny.
The geometry is sure to be a source of controversy among cycling purists, with only two sizes available, “Mens” and “Ladies”. At 6’1″, I thought the bike might feel too small or awkward. I was sure I’d need to change the stem length at a minimum.
As it turns out, the bike fit me just fine. The seat tube angle is quite slack, meaning that you get quite a bit of fore-aft saddle adjustment as you raise and lower the seat. I have the longer post option from Batch and it’s almost maxed out on height, but it works. No, it’s not “correct” from a performance standpoint to adjust the effective top tube length by moving the saddle fore and aft great distances, but this is a budget bike for the real world – where sizing perfection is not on the priority list for most people. It also keeps dealer inventory low, in-line with their business model.
Riding the Comfort Bicycle was a treat. For me, it’s the perfect bar bike or neighborhood bike. I’ve taken it to the pool, or for quick trips that just don’t need a car. I’m not worried about the aluminum frame rusting, nor do I have to fuss with the internal gear hub. In a perfect world the bike would have a belt drive system so I wouldn’t even have to lube the chain, but that would substantially increase the cost beyond its very reasonable $430 price point.