The bike chain is a reliable, efficient, cheap, and longstanding invention of the Industrial Revolution. Almost everyone who has ridden a bicycle, from a Sears Huffy to a multi-thousand-dollar eBike, knows the risks of this ubiquitous essential. Irritations come in the form of grimy hands, uneasy shifting, disconcerting sounds, and stained pants upon arriving at one’s destination.
When Priority Bicycles launched on Kickstarter eight years ago, their brand stood out for its chainless bike innovation. Their first model, and all subsequent ones, replaced the chain with a longer-lasting, quieter, maintenance-free solution: the carbon belt drive. Problem solved, time to deploy the bikes to dealers.
Only that was never the plan. Priority Bicycles could have sold an expensive wholesale product but instead went a step further. They offered their bikes direct-to-consumer at affordable prices while also incorporating a rust-resistant, lightweight aluminum frame and puncture-resistant tires meant to solve a slew of would-be and even veteran cyclist concerns.
Priority’s founder, Dave Weiner, who is based in New York, was the CEO of a software company. However, as a teenager, he worked in sales and purchasing at a bike shop. As an avid city cyclist, he decided to tackle the challenges of commuting in New York and bike ownership generally. He convinced his college friend, Connor Swegle, to join him as a co-founder, and in July 2014, they launched the Kickstarter campaign that would evolve into Priority Bicycles today.
During an interview with Forbes about the history and future of the company, Swegle described their initial target audience. “We were thinking about people who thought the bike shop was a little intimidating and…those who didn’t necessarily feel they needed to wear spandex to ride a bike” he said.
He and Weiner wanted to address the three big threats to becoming an everyday rider: flat tires, tune-ups, and chains. For example, the amount of maintenance for a casual rider, from cleaning then lubing a greasy chain, to you-tubing rust solutions requiring an alchemy of baking soda, vinegar, and lime, becomes an impediment to bothering to cycle at all. Suddenly a Citi Bike membership looks good.
Over the last two decades, New York City has experienced a cycling explosion. Bike lanes have more than quadrupled in mileage to over 1,300 miles and counting. This movement has both driven and accommodated a corresponding increase in bike volume on the street, equivalent to half a million daily bicycle trips and a growth in regular bicyclists to nearly 800,000 regular riders. The Citi Bike program accounts for a sizeable portion of those daily rides, often peaking at 100,000. Despite Citi Bike’s expansion, the ride share model has its limitations. For example, bikes can be hard to find or park during rush hour, plus they are significantly slower and weigh an unwieldy 45 pounds.
Enter Priority Bicycles for the city commuter. The company managed to jettison all these problems with new technology at a remarkable price.
Logically, several bike designs and their corresponding names include nods to New Yorkers. The Classic Plus Gotham Edition ($599), painted matte black of course, weighs a mere 26 pounds. The Brilliant L Train ($750) references the NYC subway line that threatened to shut down for 18 months, potentially putting nearly half a million daily subway riders into a commuter’s quandary.
Priority Bicycles provided two models at a discount for me and my husband to test ride. Based on our lifestyle needs, we picked The Priority Continuum Onyx and the Priority Turi, which we’ve now cycled on for several months.
The Priority Continuum Onyx ($1299), an all-weather, four-season commuter bike, lives up to its name. The “onyx” speaks to the sleek matte black paint finish. The “continuum” refers to the continuous variable transmission (CVT), a replacement for a chain derailleur system, which shifts so effortlessly and quietly that I was confused on the first ride when expecting to hear and feel the gear change click. The shifter grip on the right handlebar uses a clever schematic of a rising and falling hill to indicate expected resistance. Given that CVTs weigh more than derailleurs, Priority Bicycles has managed an engineering feat by delivering a bike at approximately 30 pounds.
Additional bells and whistles include front and rear dynamo powered lights which don’t require batteries or recharging plus 360-degree reflective logos and tire beading for increased visibility, especially for urban rides or a spin after dark.
The Priority Turi ($949), painted a handsome blue hue, is geared towards the “lifestyle” rider with its vegan-friendly and weather-resistant leather padded seat, upright stance, and mid-step frame. The Enviolo hub shifts with the frictionless seamlessness of 5-star services at a luxury hotel. Like the Continuum, the rising and flattening hill schematic informs your resistance without potential confusion over gear selection. Dual piston hydraulic disc brakes stop on a dime, even downhill.
To the front of the bike, I affixed a black aluminum basket with a wooden base and cotton liner purchased from Priority’s design-forward accessories collection. All in, the Turi is an easy, joyful ride that makes me wish I lived in a small breezy village by the sea where I could cruise from coffee shops to bakeries to florists filling my basket along the way. Oh wait, I live in Charleston. Life goals, check.
Priority Bicycles’ product offerings continue to proliferate for the eBike, casual, urban, commuter, and now adventure cyclist categories. They even have a children’s bike plus a rust-resistant beach cruiser which will debut this fall. A folding bike is also in the prototype stage, rounding out nearly every cyclist’s need save for the competition-level athlete. If you’re eager to try one, you might get a chance if you’re staying at one of hundreds of hotels which have partnered with Priority on Fleet bikes. Hotel partners include Viceroy Hotels, Le Meridien, Element Hotels, among others.
Priority Bicycles has transformed the bike of yore from an afterthought, gathering rust and dust in your garage or apartment corner, to an integral part of your maintenance-free cycling lifestyle.