derailleur hanger should you ever wish to change away from hub gears. Horizontal dropouts cater for chain tension adjustment. And as well as proper mounting points for rear rack and full mudguards, there are front low rider rack mounts on the forks and a mounting plate for the side stand. The drivetrain is fully enclosed within the Chainglider chaincase, which simply ‘floats’ loosely around the chain. The various plastic sections simply snap together, so it’s easy enough to remove if that’s ever necessary. At the front is a single steel 38T chainring, with a smooth cover on the drive-side cranks to keep trousers extra-clean. It drives a 16T sprocket on the Shimano Nexus Premium 8-speed hub gear, giving ratios of around 34" to 104" with the 700c wheels: perhaps a little higher than necessary for this type of bike. A larger sprocket would be a cheap way to drop the gears (for hilly terrain, for example) and anything up to 22T should fit with the Chainglider.
The 700c wheels are built with nice black-coloured rims, with smooth machined braking surfaces. They’re fitted with 42 mm wide Continental Townride tyres, with wide reflective sidewalls. The front hub is the Shimano DH3 N30 hub dynamo, a relatively recent model with low rolling resistance – like all I’ve tried, too low for my legs to detect! It’s wired neatly to a Lumotec halogen front light, and from there twin wires run unobtrusively to the Busch&Muller rear light, which includes a standlight for continued light once you’ve stopped. An obvious possible upgrade is a newer LED headlight with higher light output, but for riding on lit city streets the halogen one provided is perfectly adequate. The rear light is mounted beneath the load bed of the rear carrier, which is an interesting design from Pletscher. It has an elaborate top plate, with recesses designed to attach accessories from their ‘Mercur system’ range, including baskets, bags and childseats. There’s also a built-in spring clip, useful
for attaching small loads, and a lower attachment rail for panniers. Hidden under the rack are pegs to mount the small minipump which comes with the bike. It’s rated to 25 kg capacity, which is quite respectable, but I did find it a rather strange design. It’s hardly triangulated at all, so it’s not very stiff sideways. The fairly thin legs don’t help, and also the way that the rack parts are bolted together, presumably so it flat-packs for more cost-effective shipping. The ‘V’ legs give little support for the backs of your panniers, and the thin sheet metal plates at the bottom of the legs don’t look exceptionally solid either. None of this is a problem unless you’re in the habit of carrying really heavy panniers – and it would again be an easy upgrade to another model of rear rack if you wish. Braking is via Shimano V-brakes, operated by good quality metal levers. The cable routing is as good as it gets on an open-frame bike, with the back brake run having a generous curve up to the brake itself.
Mudguards are proper SKS models, with safety quick-releases for the front stays. The side-stand is also a neat and effective unit, bolted to the purpose-made plate behind the bottom bracket. Finally, to the contact points, and the S-300 is equipped with a nice wide Selle Royal saddle on a decent alloy seatpost. The handlebars are comfortably swept back, and the grips have a lovely ergonomic shape, which really supports the hand well. The handlebar height can be quickly altered thanks to the NVO stem system, a surprising inclusion perhaps. It lets the stem slide up and down the steerer tube without losing alignment, and then an angle adjustment on the stem itself gives further adjustment of height and reach, both adjusted by Allen key. Nice to have, anyway. And a final finishing touch is the bright red bell, offering a happy flash of colour on the otherwise sober bike. Weight as reviewed was around 15.91 kg.
The Pletscher rear rack comes complete with low-level pannier rails, spring clip and 'system' attachment sockets, but it's not the most rigid model around.
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Hub dynamo and halogen light (I forgot to remove the sticker!) are neatly installed. Note also the front low rider bosses on the forks.
The bell adds a splash of vibrant colour to the swept-back handlebars, which also feature very nicely shaped ergonomic grips. FAHRRAD-MANUFAKTUR S-300
V-brakes are fitted front and rear. The text on the seat stay translates as "Bikes which move [you]".
The stand is solidly fitted to a proper plate on the frame, and supports the bike well.
THE RIDE I should say here that because the review bike was a bit small for me, I rode it rather less than usual – but have gathered together the views of several other riders, both everyday cyclists and more occasional riders.
The NVO stem allows quick height adjustment, and the stem angle can also be set to suit the rider.
The S-300 has what I’d call a medium-upright riding position: not bolt-upright like a Dutch bike (though you can get close with a small rider and the stem right up and back) nor particularly leaned over. A fair proportion of your weight is on your bottom, so the wide supportive seat is welcome. Almost everyone who rode it found it a comfortable position, and being fairly upright is good in town. It lets you see over things, and to look behind relatively easily. The low step-through frame is a bit of a mixed blessing. In theory it’s less rigid than a diamond frame of the same weight, but on a utility town bike weight isn’t critical anyway. And the S-300s frame is more than adequately rigid: even giving it some effort accelerating away from lights, it never felt less than solid and stable. The second minor ‘drawback’ of this design is that without a top tube it’s noticeably harder to lean the bike up against things – or even to lean it against your body while you fumble with keys, for example. Maybe it’s just because I’m not used to it, but it seemed to fall over more than my diamond frames. On the other hand, it is actually rather nice to be able to step through the bike and go, rather than do the leg-swing over the back. This is particularly the
lower pedalling cadence. The shifting was, as usual with these hubs, smooth and light-action. No particular skill or thought is needed – a good thing if you’re concentrating on the traffic. Finally, a nod to the side stand – always handy to park the bike. Like all of its kind it does get in the way if you roll the bike backwards without folding the stand away first, but you soon learn to kick it out of the way before you go.
An unusual bolted-together design where the pannier rack legs attach to the frame.
case when you’re bundled up in winter clothing, and as the years go by I expect this consideration to become ever clearer. It’s also arguably a more controlled action to get on by stepping through. Open frames may still be seen as ‘ladies’ frames by many, but so what? If that makes them less attractive to male thieves that’s a good thing in my book. As to the bike itself, it all just worked, with no serious issues at all. The ride is smooth – the full-size wheels and fairly fat tyres do a good job of evening out any potholes, and any residual shock is well padded by the saddle. The brakes were smooth and powerful, and the lighting system worked well. With relatively little weight on the handlebars, the steering is light and easy, and those nicely-shaped grips give good wrist support. Having little weight on the bars also makes it particularly easy to lift one off for signalling – another advantage of an upright position for urban riding. As already mentioned, I would have liked somewhat lower gears from the 8-speed hub, as even York’s few small hills had me in bottom gear with nothing in reserve. It’s an easy modification for you or your dealer to do – and some people do prefer a
CONCLUSIONS The S-300 is a very well equipped machine, especially for the money. £595 isn’t bargain basement, but nowadays it’s not excessive either – especially for a bike which, in daily use, should last a lot longer and with far less maintenance than many more widely available alternatives. It might be a good bike to recommend to others if, like me, you end up saddled with cycle maintenance duties for friends and family. With a bit of luck it should cut the work-load! It’s also well priced to be bought via one of the (UK) Bike to Work tax reclaim schemes, with headroom under the usual £1000 limit for additional accessories such as a lock and waterproof clothing. Pushed to criticise I could point out a few parts which you could upgrade – the rear rack and front light for starters. But really the standard items are perfectly good for most purposes. Some may regret that it’s only available as a step-through frame, but unless you’re hung up on a macho image this need not be a drawback – indeed, for town use it’s arguably better. The comfortable riding position, smooth ride and solid specification are all indicators of a well thought out and executed design. It’s a straightforward town bike par excellence.
AVAILABILITY Manufacturer: Fahrradmanufaktur. See www.fahrradmanufaktur.de UK importer: Bikefix. Tel 020 7405 1218 or see www.bikefix.co.uk
ISSUE 32 DECEMBER 2008 VELOVISION