Recently, the good folks at Gates Carbon Drive Systems offered up some bikes to us to test, and I had only one request; something with an internally geared hub. My commute is too long to comfortably ride a single speed on a regular basis, and so they told me they’d find something and let me know.
A short time later, the Tout Terrain Metropolitan showed up at the shop. Tout Terrain is
French German company who is breaking into the US market thanks to the good folks at Peter White Cycles in New Hampshire. Although it isn’t quite what I had in mind, the Metropolitan is a truly unique bike. Check out what I thought plus more pics after the jump…
There’s a lot of similarities between the bicycle and automotive industries. Some bikes are like sports cars, some like luxury sedans, some like SUVs and some just fall in between all off them. But the Tout Terrain Metropolitan is like that bullet-proof Mercedes SUV that the Pope rolls in.
From the first unboxing, there are a few things about this bike that are obvious. First, it is really heavy at approximately 36 pounds. Second, they’ve gone to a lot of trouble to make sure the details are there to make a truly great commuting bike. Assembling the bike was like a little treasure hunt. Oh, it’s got the Rohloff 14 speed internal hub, and a dynamo front hub that powers front AND rear lights… Full fenders?! A built in rear rack, welded to the frame and painted to match… A custom steering stop and a two-legged kickstand to keep the bike upright when loaded. Mmmmm, Brooks saddle.
I knew it was coming, so I had some SPD pedals and one of my pannier bags ready for the ride home that night. As I’ve been commuting by either road bike or cyclocross bike, both more hunched and fast, I can say that the ride home was surprisingly pleasant. I had some errands to do, which I couldn’t have done on my road bike and were all neatly packed away in my pannier. I was also able to take in a lot more of my ride that night. It’s amazing how much more we see on a route by bike vs. car, and then the same for road bike vs. commuter bike.
How does it ride? This bike is a machine and will roll over or through pretty much anything you point it at. The 14 speeds cover most of the range you’d need for an average city ride (my commute covers approximately 500 feet of elevation), and are flawless via Rohloff’s dual cable shifter (shifting in both directions relies on a separate cable, rather than the typical cable one way and spring the other). The hydraulic disc brakes stop predictably each time, and the cockpit and saddle provide comfort right out of the box. The one thing that is most prevalent is how quiet and smooth the whole thing is; easily attributed to the belt drive and larger tires, and a major factor in ride enjoyment.
For the next two weeks, I rode this bike to and from work three days a week, approximately 36 miles round trip. At about the two week mark, I left it at the shop for local errands. Two weeks after that, I reluctantly sent it back. During the entire time I had this bike, I never adjusted anything, never lubricated it, and never didn’t ride it because of the weather or darkness or what I had to take home or what I was wearing or anything. This is a bike that can truly be ridden almost anytime, anywhere. As someone who believes each bike has a purpose and each purpose has a bike, I could see this bike filling all the gaps in that philosophy and be a great add to a bike geek’s stable. You won’t want to ride it all the time, but you’ll certainly grab it when you don’t want to ride anything else.
I spoke to Peter White regarding my experience, and he a lot to say about the Metropolitan and its many pros and cons, but it can be summed up perfectly in his final thought. “The Metropolitan weighs over 30 lbs. It’s built to last, and to take a great deal of abuse. Your racing bike isn’t built to last. It’s built only to get you from point A to point B as fast as possible, and only if the road surface is in good condition. On a nice sunny day with smooth roads, your racing bike will always get you there faster than the Metropolitan would. But on those other days, and at night, the Metropolitan will get you places that the racing bike can’t go to at all.”