Test Ride: the Bobbin Shopper

Test Ride: the Bobbin Shopper

Yesterday I was lucky to be able to try the new Bobbin Shopper, thanks to my favorite LBS RedBike. I rode it around for about 20 minutes in the neighborhood around the U of A, and stopped on the path on Saskatchewan Drive for some quick iPhonography. You should also check out the more detailed review by Lovely Bicycle! – but I thought I’d share my observations.

Bobbin Bicycles' Shopper
Bobbin Bicycles’ Shopper

It’s fun to ride! A comparison with a Raleigh Twenty is inescapable, because its’ design is so similar. Like an R20, it feels like riding a full-size 3-speed, but the smaller wheels make the steering a bit more responsive and the whole bike more maneuverable. Unlike an R20, it has a front caliper brake and a 3-speed coaster brake. The small wheels do mean you can feel every bump – not so good on a pothole-ridden stretch of construction-abused 110th Street, but perfectly fine for most sidewalks.

It is adorable, too. I had three different people I passed during my ride give me big smiles and say “nice bike!” – including an elderly woman who had looked apprehensive when she saw me coming up the sidewalk, before I hopped off the bike, pulled onto the grass, and gave her a friendly smile. Mary Poppins Effect in full effect!

A nice big front basket, front caliper brakes, and Sturmey-Archer 3-speed.
A unicrown fork, 20 x 1.75 whitewall tires, a sturdy little kickstand, and fenders. I love the British racing green paint, but it also comes in burnt orange and robins’ egg blue.
A short rack marked “max 25 kg” with a Pletscher-style clamp. This would work well for panniers, a small crate, or those pretty Po Campo bags.

I’m strongly considering this bike as a fun-but-practical summertime ride that could become my winter bike with the addition of studded tires (Update: I’d have to DIY these with EBC’s help, because I just looked it up and the Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded tires are 20 x 1.6 not 20 x 1.75, darnit!). In my neighborhood, the MUPs and sidewalks are (mostly) cleared, but only the major roads get plowed, so a bike designed for sidewalks is preferable for winter use. Yes, I could pick up a Raleigh Twenty for cheaper, but by the time I upgraded the wheels and brakes to improve the braking and make it winter-worthy, I’m not sure I’d be saving any money. Yes, a Twenty’s frame might be a higher-quality build, but it’s also a bit heavier. I’m also not sure I’d feel comfortable desecrating a pristine R20 with modern upgrades so that I could subject it to winter abuse.

(PS: What the heck has 20 x 1.6 tires? A Dahon folder? Who are Schwalbe making those studded tires for?)

(Update: Read the comments for tire info!)

(2014 Update: This year’s model has a very nice looking porteur rack in place of the front basket, so has upgraded cargo capacity, and teal or ivory paint. I am still strongly considering it, but haven’t pulled the trigger because I need to sell part of my stable of bikes first. I’m also tempted by the Tern Swoop and Dahon Vitesse folders, but haven’t yet found a local LBS where I can try them out.)


6 thoughts on “Test Ride: the Bobbin Shopper

    1. Really?!? Aaron, thank you so much for commenting. This means all the vintage folders with 20×1.75 summer tires should also be able to use the studded Schwalbes for winter use!

  1. Yes. The 20″ wheels come in two basic ERTO sizes 451 and 406 (there is another older odd French size that is listed as 20″). The Bobbin uses the more common 406 which is the same as most US BMX bikes. Raleigh Twentys are a mixed bag, they used both the 406 and 451 size. The 451 is typically lists as a 20×1-3/8″.


  2. I love my Raleigh 20 and I think it’s fantastic that someone is making somewhat modernized version. However, that bike seems so pretty that I’d be afraid to use it in winter. The old R20s out there are often pretty scruffy to begin with.

    1. I know! So pretty. But my thinking is, if I got an R20, I’d then feel compelled to upgrade the brakes a bit – and I know I won’t have the time to do it myself this summer. So starting with the modern version might actually be a cost savings too.

  3. I just discovered this site while searching the Bobbin Shopper..looks like I have much reading to catch up on!

    I agree about getting involved in an R20: They’re neat little old bikes, but I think the need/desire to dump a bunch of money into one to upgrade it for your riding conditions would quickly shoot your budget past the Bobbin’s price. I love the British Racing Green, too..I think I’m gonna get me one!

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