Review: Budnitz Bicycles No. 3 Titanium Fun Machine

Budnitz Bicycles No. 3 Mitch and Will

A few months back we were approached by Budnitz Bicycles asking if there was interest in reviewing a bike. Being a lover of all things bicycle, an avid commuter, and having never really ridden a titanium frame, I was very curious to spend some time with their product. After a few days of working out the details, and a few weeks to build and ship the bike, I had a Budnitz No. 3 assembled in my garage awaiting its maiden voyage.

Roll on past the break for the full ride report, specs, and more…

Budnitz Bicycles No. 3 Profile View

First, lets talk more about Budnitz Bicycles the company. Paul Budnitz has been a lifelong cycling enthusiast of a different kind. He isn’t a racer, and performance isn’t always the number one factor when he chooses a bicycle. What does matter to him, and to many of us in fact, is comfort, style, ease of maintenance, and the longevity of your bike. In 2010, Mr. Budnitz decided to produce what he would consider “…the fastest, lightest, and most beautiful city bicycles in the world.”

These city bikes are designed for commuting in comfort and style. They are made from titanium or steel, and they come outfitted with a quality parts kit. There are now five models to choose from, providing a range of city bikes that should suit anyones needs.

But wait, there’s more. All Budnitz frames comply with the EU mountain bike standards. Meaning, you can throw on some knobbys and hit the trail if you dare. In fact, Budnitiz Bicycles production manager, Hunt Manley (yes that is his real name), uses his No. 3 off road on the regular I am told.

Budnitz Bicycles No. 3 Track Stand

Specs:

Our test model No. 3 came to us with a frame of titanium. The beefy ti fork is held on with a super blingy titanium Chris King headset for good measure. It is built up as a single speed and has a Gates Carbon Belt drive turning the rear wheel. Spinning that centertrack belt is an CNC’d aluminum crankset by daVinci Designs. Attached to the end of the crank arms are VP mountain pedals. The crank, in turn, is mounted to a Token square taper BB mounted inside a Bushnell USA Featherweight EBB. While this build is a single speed, the bikes can be built up with a Shimano Alfine 11-Speed hub for an additional $750. If you really want to go all out, a 14-Speed Rohloff Speedhub can be implemented for an additional $1600.

Budnitz Bicycles No. 3 Stoppie

And if there wasn’t enough ti already, the cockpit is outfitted with house brand ti parts including a 100mm stem on our size XL frame, a zero offset ti post, and a trick (no shim needed) ti flat bar. Oury lock on rubber grips give your hands something squishy to grab. Saddle options include a Brooks Leather saddle for an $80 upcharge, but for my tush I opted for the Fizik Aliente that comes stock.

The wheelset on this bike is a handbuilt affair comprised of Velocity Blunt 29er disc specific rims, White Industries hubs, and DT Swiss spokes. A set of 35mm Schwalbe Kojak tires are wrapped around the rims, but stock, the bike is specced with 50 mm Schwalbe Big Apple tires that should roll over just about anything you want in an urban environment. Stopping is provided by Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes that are actuated by Paul Components levers. Connecting the two are cables and coil housing from Yokozuna. And last but not least, fender and rack mounts are present front and rear.

Budnitz Bicycles No. 3 Side View

For the most part, the build kit has performed quite well. I loved the Kojak tires so much I obtained a set for our Project Any Road build. The Oury grips did come installed backwards, but functionally they were fine. We flipped them for aesthetics. The only other issue is the dreaded noisy bottom bracket. It creaks and squeaks a lot, acoustically ruining what is an otherwise incredibly smooth and quiet drivetrain. Beyond that, I would much prefer to see higher quality hydraulic disc brakes on the bike, especially given the price point. If Breezer can use them on their $1569 Beltway 8, I think Budnitz can find a way to spec them, or at least offer them as an option. The BB7s work fine, but personally I really just don’t care for mechanical disc brakes.

A note from Budnitz on the Oury Grips: Hunt our builder pointed out that the Oury grips are shipped with L-R markers, and with the logo on the inside. You moved them to the outside which looks awesome! But it isn’t the way Oury marks them. We also keep them on the inside because we like to minimize visual clutter on our bikes.

The house brand ti cockpit is flexy, but in the right way. It adds comfort to the ride, and I found no issues with the components. The seatpost was quiet and really killed the jarring effect of small bumps, the bars give just enough to be comfortable but not scary, and the stem was more than adequate.

Aesthetics:

Style is of high priority when it comes to a Budnitz bicycle. The bikes appear regularly on non-cycling, fashion / culture oriented blogs. Being in the presence of one, you can really tell a lot of thought went into every little detail. This is the type of bike that appeals to the masses, not just the cycling crowd. To prove that point further, when my non-cyclist friends saw the bike for the first time, comments on how beautiful it is were prevalent. Adjectives like classy and elegant were used, and the bike was well received visually.

Budnitz Bicycles No. 3 Split Toptube

All Budnitz Bicycles use what they refer to as a cantilever frame. Our No. 3 tester features a straight downtube and seattube, as well as a lovely radiused split toptube that continues on to become the seat stays. The chain (belt?) stays have a slight curve to them as well, and the drive side stay is shortened to include a bracket that is welded in directly behind the crank for clearance. Speaking of welds, while not to the caliber of a Moots frame, they exhibit quality workmanship. The majority of the bikes are welded up in Taiwan, by a boutique manufacturer that only works with titanium. Paul’s quality requirements are very high, and this factory is the only one they have found that can get the tube radius’s just right every time on a mass production level.

To keep a clean look, internal cable routing is used for rear shifting and braking. The front brake cable is routed down the back side of the fork leg. Any where exposed cables are visible, they are wrapped in a classy looking coil housing that goes well with the look and feel of the bike.

Small touches like a titanium head badge and chainstay plate add to the elegance and simplicity of the bike. A very obvious attention to detail is present on this bike. So much so that it ships with a well laid out instruction / safety manual, as well as a titanium head badge with your name and bicycle information (serial and model number) of the bike on it. Also included is a nice Park Tools folding hex wrench tool, and even a green scuff pad to keep the frame looking new.

Budnitz Bicycles No. 3 Wheelie 2

Ride Review:

OK already, enough about all the fancy parts the bike is built with, and how pretty it is. What you really want to know is if the bike is any good or not. For me, this has been a vey hard question to answer. Yes, the bike is good. In fact, it’s a great, well made bike that does the job it is intended to do very well. While personally I do wish I had an internally geared hub on mine, the frame rides really well. Our editors Tyler and Mitch, along with Mitch’s roommates, and a couple of my friends have all ridden the bike. The general consensus is that it’s a comfortable ride, fun to be on, and great for commutes, both long and short.

Budnitz Bicycles No. 3 Hubcap Reflection

The first day the bike showed up, I unboxed it and immediately took it over to our other Portland editor Mitch. He, his roommates, and myself proceeded to ogle the bike, and then shenanigans ensued. Stoppies, wheelies, bunny hops were all performed. Artsy photos were taken. And Miller High Life was consumed. A general good time was had. I then took the bike back home and proceeded to use it for my daily commute, runs to the coffee shop, and even a few trips to the bar.

I had been commuting on a carbon 2009 Specialized Roubaix, and most recently on our Project Any Road All-City Mr. PInk. Both bikes are stiff, fast, and a lot of fun to ride. Commuting on the Budnitiz however, is an entirely different experience. Being a single speed bike it’s not as fast. Being designed with compliance in mind, it’s not anywhere near as stiff. And being more upright, it has a much more relaxed riding position. All of this took a few rides to get used to, but once I was acclimated, I found myself enjoying the rides a bit more than normal. I gave myself a few extra minutes each morning to get to work. I didn’t have to ride as hard, I coasted down the hills, and I had a smile on my face the entire way.

However, the downside is cost. The titanium framed No. 3 starts at $4800 $3900. The near $5K price tag places this single speed at more than 5 times as expensive as a solid daily commuter form Specialized (Globe Work 3), and three times as much as a high end commuter from Breezer (Beltway 8 at $1569). In fact, for the same money, you could purchase a Co-Motion City View with a belt driven Shimano Alfine 11-speed drivetrain, custom geometry, and custom paint. Heck, $4800 is more than I paid for my car. Now the steel version, with a non-titanium Chris King headset, Thompson X4 stem, and FSA or Sugino crankset starts at $2600. This is a much more reasonable price, until you realize again, any color option other than black costs $300 to $400, and gearing is extra as well.

A note from Budnitz on the powder coating: Spectrum Powder Works in Colorado charges us as much as $300 for a powder coat paint job. They’re arguably the best bicycle painters in the US, and they’re the only company that we work with. Our painted frames have automobile-quality paint jobs that don’t chip. Great paint is not inexpensive!!

Update: After speaking with Budnitz about the cost of a complete ti singlespeed, they have agreed that the cost of entry was high. They are now offering the ti complete for $3900. From Paul himself,

“We can achieve this without any performance downgrades at all. We’re making the Titanium Chris King headset, Titanium stem, daVinci cranks, and Fizik saddle optional. We’ll replace these parts with a standard CK headset, Thompson stem, FSA cranks, and Velo saddle. Aesthetically the base model will look amazing. Customers will have the option to upgrade to the full titanium build, upgraded saddle, etc.”

Budnitz Bicycles No. 3 three quarter view

Conclusion:

In the end we are left with a bike that is highly focused on style and comfort, rides like a magic carpet, and oozes quality. It’s a conversation starter and an attention grabber. I have enjoyed having it in my stable for the past few months. Unfortunately, the cost puts it out of reach for the majority of would be owners. For those with the means, this is a bike that should not to be overlooked. But for the average Joe, it’s a very difficult purchase to recommend.

Photographs by Mitch Lomacz

Comments

Audred - 09/15/13 - 8:07am

I got a big smile out of the fact you made sure to state that Budnitz Bicycles approached you and not the other way around.

Ryan - 09/15/13 - 9:01am

All this work with multispeed hubs and belt drive and a eccentric bottom bracket to make a 4k bike that squeaks and creaks. Barf.

Parkcyc - 09/15/13 - 9:11am

It’s a hot bike. Too bad the way he got started was by having a bike built for him by a custom builder and sending it overseas to get knocked off so he can start a bike company.

So no, he didn’t design the best and baddest. The original builder did! That makes Budnitz [deleted].

Loyd Flanders - 09/15/13 - 9:38am

Man these bike look a lot like Black Sheep frames!
I am confused

Jon - 09/15/13 - 10:16am

You lost me at creak -

Big Cow - 09/15/13 - 10:33am

can someone explain to me the claim of the “fastest” casual bicycle?

[deleted]

hoursesforcourses - 09/15/13 - 11:21am

Well noice, shame though that spending 4k get you 20 quid bottom bracket that’ll last about 3 months! Don’t buy anything from token that’s got bearings in it!

Buddy - 09/15/13 - 11:53am

Parkcyc, pretty much how Gary Fisher and Mike Sinyard started their bicycle lines, thanks to Tom Ritchey.

ascar larkinyar - 09/15/13 - 12:01pm

high end causal bike? where is the market for this. anybody rich enough to throw money away at this would just pay somebody to exercise for them.

mudrock - 09/15/13 - 12:22pm

Budnitz is a huckster. The fact that he dropped the price $900 after complaints from the tester shows he’s a scam artist trying to pull the wool over the eyes of those well-heeled hipsters who are late to the fixie craze. Bikesnob has a lot to say about scam artists like this, and Budnitz in particular.

Speedy - 09/15/13 - 12:38pm

@Mudrock – did you read the article? He didn’t just “drop the price $900.” They changed the parts build around to lower the cost of an entry level model. This isn’t a scam, its a customer friendly practice.

Peter R - 09/15/13 - 1:29pm

Agreed with the “well-heeled hipster” comment. Too expensive to be practical. Given how many weekend warriors are pedaling around on $12K cannondales, Treks, Specialized, etc…..he probably won’t have any issue selling them to the “hey look at my bike” crowd.

Nick Burklow - 09/15/13 - 1:34pm

@Audred – A lot of companies reach out to us with requests to review their products. This is not a unique situation. The statement wasn’t made with an agenda, simply placed in the post for clarification.

loz - 09/15/13 - 2:39pm

titanium powered by a rubber band these guys must be smoking crack

MB - 09/15/13 - 3:43pm

This guy is a two bit clown. I’ll take a full custom US made Ti bike for the same price built buy a guy who didn’t rip off an actual frame builder with real talent. I’m a bit surprised BR gives this guy the time of day still. Wake up!

JB - 09/15/13 - 3:49pm

Thanks for an interesting review. I’m curious about the weight. Did you happen to weight the bike?

ah - 09/15/13 - 7:14pm

Does anybody actually buy this BS? Everyone who rides these bikes says they creak like crazy… who sends out a test bike that creaks? who KEEPS sending out test bikes that creak? People who know nothing about bikes maybe?

Nick Burklow - 09/15/13 - 7:49pm

@JB – Wow, I did weight the bike and completly forgot to include it in the post. I will update it shortly. But for now, it was just a hair under 21lbs.

Loyd Flanders - 09/15/13 - 9:26pm

A lot of distaste towards this creaky Budnitz sheep at the moment

Chris - 09/15/13 - 10:14pm

“In 2010, Mr. Budnitz decided to produce what he would consider “…the fastest, lightest, and most beautiful city bicycles in the world.””

“fastest”: “Being a single speed bike it’s not as fast.”
“lightest”: Not weighed, or the weight hasn’t been mentioned.
“most beautiful”: This is the one he’s mainly hit up, but that’s subjective. The looks aren’t for me. I’d like the head tube to be a bit shorter if I’m thinking improvements to the look.

The thing that jumps out at me is “the dreaded noisy bottom bracket. It creaks and squeaks a lot, acoustically ruining what is an otherwise incredibly smooth and quiet drivetrain.”
A lot of cash for something that squeaks and creaks. Any noise from one of my bikes starts to eat into my enjoyment of the bike. Drives me nuts.

topmounter - 09/15/13 - 10:31pm

I’m pretty sure that it is supposed to creak… saves the weight of a bell. VERY clever.

Mr Bojangles - 09/16/13 - 1:42am

does it come with the obligatory hipster hot weather summer stocking hat?

NL - 09/16/13 - 2:58am

An expensive Black Sheep clone that creaks. There is nothing beautiful about stealing someone elses ideas.

gringo - 09/16/13 - 3:00am

_If I may, I’d like to point out that this ‘commuter’ bike has no lights or fenders, but it does have a ‘multi-tool’ attached with two bolts to the seat tube….meaning you need a second tool in order to get at the first tool. If one were to attempt to use the beer opener function of the aforementioned seat tube mounted gimmick, er, tool, one would quickly be in possession of a beer covered bike and one half bottle of foamy beer .

take my money!

Matt - 09/16/13 - 6:48am

“Our painted frames have automobile-quality paint jobs that don’t chip.” Cars aren’t powder coated… I work in the paint and powder industry and saying it won’t chip is setting yourself up for a fall, I wonder if they warranty that statement?
More BS marketing among many other BS marketing statements. This is a bike developed and marketed for rich people who don’t know much about bikes, fair enough, but why do they insist on trying to market it to cyclists who can see through the hyperbole and could put together a better bike for less money?

fayar - 09/16/13 - 10:02am

“we’ve got to find a cool old van so I can do some tricks in front of it”

Nick Burklow - 09/16/13 - 11:05am

@gringo – Yes you may. To be fair however, that photo set was taken the day the bike arrived, freshly built out of the box. The tool on it is simply a fancy bottle opener held on with Thumb screws, so no separate tool is needed to remove it. And, I don’t know about you, but I keep my flat pack, multi-tool, and lights (during the day) in my bag, not on my bike.

And just curious, but how does using that bottle opener make the beer warm and foamy? You buy the beer post ride no? Out of a cooler. At the store.

ummmm - 09/16/13 - 11:23am

Needs some curve in the down tube, swing outs minus ECC, and an original thought.

ummmm - 09/16/13 - 11:27am

Hold a beer flat side ways and remove the cap, see what happens.

gringo - 09/16/13 - 11:46am

_Nick: My lights are firmly affixed to my bike, as is the hub dynamo that drives them, all weather / all season riding mandates something more than a disposable battery blinky.

I also drink cold beer and said nothing about warm ones, but if you try, as ummmm points out, to open a beer with that opener in that position on the ST you’ll indeed have a foamy mess. The thumb screws I did miss however.

still, no fenders on a ‘city’ bike is pretty lame.

The Gringo.

Alex - 09/16/13 - 12:57pm

Ummm, test riding with no helmet?!

Chet Bredwell - 09/16/13 - 1:39pm

Thank you for boosting a well-overpriced Yupcycle.

You can really tell when a pseudo-journalist is salivating over “access” — he will gladly buff and polish a turd, and then call the turd a lump of gold or silver.

Paul Budnitz — fleecing idiots with bunco games since age 14. Be proud, BikeRumor. You’ve helped a con man continue his grift.

Ajax - 09/17/13 - 1:30am

China made Ti bikes. So, why does Budnitz charge so much for them?

Jason - 09/17/13 - 7:10am

Wow, no one is forcing anyone to buy this bike. Are you all really this short of things in the world to express moral outrage over? If so, maybe you all need to spend more time reading the news and less time reading bike blogs. Good greif….

ah - 09/17/13 - 8:10am

Surely outrage over misplaced outrage is even more pointless?

topcheese - 09/17/13 - 12:24pm

no thanks, I’ll get a Shinola.

Charlie Best - 09/18/13 - 1:12pm

“no thanks, I’ll get a Shinola.”

Well said!

K W - 09/18/13 - 2:09pm

This “company” is nothing but an idea stealing piece of crap. It’s insulting that Bike Rumor even agreed to talk to him, let alone publish a review.

Rain - 09/18/13 - 6:51pm

I’ll have the two Beltways and $762 cash to go please.

anthony - 09/18/13 - 11:36pm

does that rape van deliver the bike when you buy it?

Pi_bike - 09/21/13 - 7:59am

When I drive an Audi or Bmw car, I can ensure you I really feel more pleasure than my car. Audi car costs x5 more, however speeds & parts are similare.
If you look for a bike that is not a F1 ( Look, cannondale road) or 4×4 Land rover ( as trek or cube mountain bike ) with strange colors as If I was a competitor everyday. find a good perfomed bike to daily commute or for we (like people do with their german car ) and enjoyed it when they drive it. Budnitz bike is well positionned : Ti components , well designed ( subjectively : it is ), well assembled, carbon belt drive … Exactly as you find a luxuous car. You should pay for that 5 X !
I could compared as well with Apple devices: luxuous designed, enough perfomance for your use and lot of pleasures, and do it very well.

This bike is expensive & according to me really beautifull & different as I have neveral seen before : competitor company should copy budnitz to reduce the budnitz price.

Mike D - 10/14/13 - 1:11am

Just received my Budnitz N0 3F Titanium.
Bike was securely shipped in a aircaddy box and the assembly was very effortless.
The components are very high quality,titanium post, bars and frame.
The welds on the frame are beautiful,precise and really a work of art, the bars are beautifully sculpted.
The ride is amazing and no noise coming from the bottom bracket.
The bike is light,sure footed and extremely smooth and ease for a single speed.
Worth the money as the ride quality is nothing that I have encounter.

Andrew Kirschner - 03/12/14 - 3:02pm

I received my #1 several months ago, and have about a thousand miles on it. If we put aside the social media assassination campaign being waged against Budnitz, and just focus on the reviews- I’ve only read one comment in any of the reviews regarding a ‘creak’, yet for some reason that seems to be the ONLY thing people want to discuss in response to reviews of the bike.
After a thousand miles, my bike with Alfine rear hub, is dead silent.
As for the build quality, if he’s outsourcing the frames anywhere, it simply doesn’t matter because this frame is meticulously put together- and I’ve had several hand built mountain and road bikes starting with my Eddy Merckx frame back in 1987.
It’s beautiful, well made, and a Joy to ride. Now that I’m in my 40′s and paid some of my dues, I wanted something special- and this was it. Sorry some folks need to bash it every chance they get. Expensive? Yes. Wonderful? YES!

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