I tend to get stressed out about any expensive, essential gear I own. Don’t get me wrong — among my friends, I’m known as the person who seldom breaks things. But any time my work computer feels a little too hot, I’m worried I’ve somehow mistreated it and am due for a catastrophic crash. The same can be said for any bikes I’ve ever owned — I’m always worried about tire pressure, gear alignment, chain grease, brake pads, you name it.
I know tons of people who bike everyday, and none of them bring up the pain of maintenance as much as I do. After finally heading to Google to search for low-maintenance bikes, I stumbled into a world of bikes designed to remove as many of these pains as possible. One local brand that stood out to me was Priority Bicycles, and after a month of full-time riding, I can safely say that their Brilliant L Train bike has made the act of owning a bike less stressful and more enjoyable.
Priority Bicycles is a New York City bicycle company founded in 2012. Its design philosophy revolves around making bikes that are easy to ride and maintain.
The Priority Team first lent me one of their premier commuter bikes, the Continuum Onyx, to try out. After a few days of riding, I found that bike to be a bit too much “bike” for me: It was a little heavy at 31 pounds, and not quite slim enough to comfortably navigate the five flights of my unusually narrow apartment building stairwell.
After discussing my experience with the Continuum Onyx, the team suggested I try their more entry-level commuter, the Brilliant L Train. And after riding the L Train daily for about a month, I can say it’s the worry-free bike I was looking for.
The L Train is a comfortable, lightweight and easy-to-ride bike. Friends and family have all complimented its vintage look, which is in stark contrast to the sweeping, athletic look of most name brand road bikes.
One of the main reasons the L Train is such a joy to ride is its drivetrain system. The L Train, and every bike Priority makes, uses a Gates carbon belt drive instead of a traditional chain. Belt drives are grease-free, rust-free, lightweight and smooth to operate, in my experience. According to tests by Gates, its belts last more than twice as long as typical chains. On my daily commute, I’ve also been surprised by just how quiet my bike is — belt drives are whisper quiet compared to chains.
The L Train also uses a sealed, weatherproof Shimano Nexus 7 internal gear hub. An internal gear hub packs the traditional cassette of gear cogs into a sealed, weatherproof drum in the rear wheel. It’s a touch less power-efficient, but it is much easier to manage compared to traditional gearing. Shifting gears with the hub is instant — simply stop pedaling, shift to whatever gear you want and continue riding. You can even shift gears while completely stopped. Compared to the delicate and particular shifting of traditional bikes, shifting on the L Train is a dream, especially in stop-and-go city environments.
Simply put: Riding the L Train is a joy. All of its components come together to make a bike that’s easy to ride. The belt drive and internal gearing take the worry out of chain noises, gear shifting and bad weather. And the bike is fun to ride, with a slim form factor and a comfortable, slightly sporty riding position. Adding my own essentials — like a bell, water bottle cage and lock holder — was simple, and they don’t affect the bike's lightweight feel. While tricky at first, I’m now adept at carrying it up five flights of stairs, too.
I haven’t had any issues with the L Train, but I was curious how you maintain a “low-maintenance bike.” Priority’s Youtube channel provided great guidance and walked me through the rare occasions I’ll need to tune the belt or adjust the rim brakes.
Other low-maintenance bikes to consider
I highly recommend the L Train to anyone looking for a low-maintenance commuter bike. However, it isn’t the only option out there. Here are two other highly rated commuters with similar, albeit pricier, designs.
If the L-Train is sold out or you are looking for a more fully loaded alternative, Lekker’s Amsterdam 8-Speed is one of our expert-recommended commuter bikes. It also uses a Gates carbon belt drive and a Shimano internal gear hub. The Amsterdam is even more weather-ready out of the box: Fenders keep your clothes dry on wet roads, disk brakes stop strong even on slippery terrain and thick tires add extra stability, according to the brand. Keep in mind that the Amsterdam costs twice as much as the L Train.