I suspected that the Montague Boston 8 would be a perfect commuter bike for my three-month sojourn in Tucson, and I was right. Damn, I’m smart.
So this is the Boston 8 as it appears on the Montague Website, all pristine, clean, and without accessories:
And this is the Boston 8 after I’d accessorized it for life in Tucson and dribbled coffee all over the top tube:
The reason I suspected this would be a good Tucson commuter is because more than two years ago I reviewed the Montague Boston – the single speed and/or fixie version of the same bike – and I came to this conclusion:
This would be an ideal bike for a commuter (a) living in a fairly flat big city, (b) who does not need to fold and unfold the bike during the course of his or her commute, and (c) has cozy spots for the bike both at home and at the office. It does not come with fenders, so either this hypothetical commuter doesn’t mind skunk butt, or doesn’t intend to ride in rain or snow.
Points B and C (above) still apply. This is not a fast bike to fold — in spite of the 20-second claim made by Montague. And I don’t particularly care if it really does take about a minute to fold it under good conditions.
For those of you who do care, here’s what it looks like when folded:
It’s not particularly easy to carry when folded — with the front wheel in one hand and the rest of the bike in the other. Most of the times I folded the bike, I was a few steps from a car with its trunk open ready to receive it. And, no, that didn’t happen daily.
It does come with fenders which snap on and off easily. And it’s good that they come off easily, because you need to remove the front fender entirely when folding the bike. I took the fenders off and never put them on again. I never rode in the rain the entire time I was in Tucson.
Point A (above; regarding the “fairly flat big city”) is eliminated, because the Boston 8 has an 8-speed Nexus internal hub, and I made full use of it. It seemed like it took about a week to break in, and then I had to calibrate it so that the shifter would work accurately.
When I reviewed the single-speed version of this bike, there was a lot of lamenting over the problem of finding a compatible rear rack that would allow the bike to fold — and I didn’t bother to try any of the ideas that were offered. But this time, the Thule Tour Rack completely finessed this problem, because the rack mounts to the seat stays and requires no mounting points on any other part of the frame. (See: “The Thule Commuter Pannier and Tour Rack“)
Occasionally the tip of the cable housing would pop out of the shifter. I could never figure out what if anything I did to cause this. Maybe it was when I shifted to a low gear at a full stop — which is something you should be able to do with this internally-geared hub. When this the tip popped out, it wouldn’t pop back in by itself and the indexed shifting would go all out of whack.
I just lived with it. When the shifting seemed not to be working right, I’d look down at the shifter and, sure enough, it was the cable housing. I’d pop it back in and I’d be happy again. I never bothered to ask Montague if there was a solution to this problem other than super glue — which I did not try.
Another persistent problem I had was that the seat post always slipped, no matter how hard I tightened the quick release — I even broke the quick release from over tightening. The replacement seatpost collar was a little better, but each commute always ended with the seat slightly lower from when it began. (Come to think of it, I had a problem with the seatpost collar on the single-speed version of this bike too.)
That’s it. Those are my only gripes about the bike, and they may have fixes. Now that those are out of the way…
This bike came equipped with an Octagon Handlebar Stem, which is a really good system for someone who wants to use just one bike for different riding styles. I could adjust the stem length without tools.
When I first set up the bike, I just raised the stem as high as it would go — Dutch style — and figured that’s where it would stay. But there were a couple if times when I was dealing with a strong headwind, or when I was running late, and I really did want to drop my head and torso a bit and be more aero. So I would lower the stem way down and suddenly I was almost as hunched over as the Tucson Lycra Brigade.
Once I even lowered the stem while I was in motion, which was kind of thrilling — and probably a really bad idea.
I did remove the saddle that came with the bike, and put on my Velo Orange saddle — which made my butt happier as I was adjusting from a 2.5-mile commute to a 12.5-mile commute. There was nothing wrong with the saddle that came with the bike. I probably put 100 miles on it before I decided I wanted my sit bones on more familiar territory.
I quite liked the ride. Very comfortable and upright — except when I didn’t want to be upright. I’m a fan of folding bikes, but I understand there are compromises you usually make for the sake of foldability. This bike just rode like a well-made, full-sized bike because that’s what it is. It was in the foldability where the compromises were made, and I was okay with that because I wasn’t in Washington, DC hopping on and off the Metro four times per day.
This bike would attract attention sometimes, and sometimes someone would ask me how much it cost. I didn’t know. I’d pull an estimate out of my head like, “Oh, maybe about $800.”
Actually, the MSRP is $1,049.00.
Remember, I’m the guy who still rides a 17-year-old hard-tail Diamondback mountain bike; I’m the Philistine who thinks my wife’s Costco bike rides like a Cadillac. I’ve reviewed a number of new bikes, and my response is usually, Nice, but not for me.
By I started to think of the Boston 8 as my personal bike, not just one I was reviewing. It was a sad day when I de-accessorized it, broke it down, and boxed it up to send back to Montague.
So there was some sticker shock when I finally got around to looking up the price so I could write this review. I had to stop and ask myself if I’d pay that for this bike.
It made my brain hurt, but yes, if I were to move to Tucson and endeavor to be carfree, then I would be willing to buy this bike. It suited my needs almost perfectly — I just needed a little cargo capacity.
By comparison, retrofitting your bike to a full cargo bike with bags and racks can cost more than $700 — and that doesn’t even include the cost of the bike.
If I hadn’t wrapped up my time in Tucson, my next phase of experimentation with Tucson Car Freedom would have been to add this Extrawheel Voyager Bike Trailer which we modified to use a Clean Republic Hill Topper Electric Bike Kit.
Really: I wanted to do this, but it was only set up long enough to take this photo.
I realize this would be diverging from the sexy non-accessorized bike at the top of the page — the one from Montague’s Website. If that’s the look you prefer, try and forget you ever saw this three-wheeled atrocity.
But you utility cyclists, you carfree and car-light people in Sprawlville, USA. Think of it: Compact and foldable when you need it. Pop on cargo capacity and electric assist when you need to haul a bunch of stuff 20-miles across town. Maybe I’ve cracked the code. Now I’ll never know.