The history of Pinnacle is that of a company which makes proudly practical bikes for real-world usage. Don’t get us wrong, Pinnacles have always had style, it’s just tended to be rather subtle while the brand’s dedication to efficiency, ride quality and value for money has made the main statement.
With the appearance of the Californium city bike, Pinnacle has turned the tables a little and created a machine whose exquisite looks belie fantastic utility bike abilities. Matt Lamy spoke to Scott Decker of Pinnacle’s design team about this cutting-edge classic and newly designed 20″ and 24″ versions suitable for children.
Almost every cycle manufacturer in the world has a classic shopper bike in its range, although, for a long time, it wasn’t a product that Pinnacle had directly addressed. But one thing that has always made the Pinnacle range standout has been its ability to avoid marketing trends, instead preferring to react to the wishes of its customers, as well as friends and family. The advent of the Californium is a case in point.
“We were getting requests for a Californium-style bike from our better halves and staff at the time, and we felt we could produce a much better bike than those offered by our competitors,” Scott said. “The step-through frame, basket and mudguards all lead to a very practical bike. However, the options out there were mostly heavy steel frames or cheaper alternatives with poor component choices that didn’t quite add up.”
Form and Function
One element of the Californium that is new for Pinnacle is the fact it is a range designed entirely for women, rather than being unisex or having both male and female-specific models. (At this juncture, before Pinnacle is accused of adhering to stereotypes and thinking that all women want a classic step-through bike, nobody expects all female cyclists to want a Californium. But there’s no escaping the fact that classic shoppers are a type of bike that is very popular with women riders.)
“The other difference with the Californium was how we approached the design,” Scott said. “Our other models are based on practical reasoning as the first step, such as ride quality and component choice, and this is followed later by the aesthetic. The Californium was different because we knew that we needed the bike to look the part first and foremost; it had to have the classic-styled frame, matching mudguards and chaincase, and wicker basket. Following the aesthetic then came ride quality and component choices. Despite all that, the finished product provides a typical Pinnacle cycling experience, though.
“There is no rulebook for designing a classic-styled bike. You can take some features, such as the twin top tube that harks back to French frames of the 1940s, and put this into a modern package which has similar ride qualities to our other Pinnacle bikes. The Californium needed to be confidence inspiring and comfortable, with a good position for city riding. One of the target customers for this bike is first time riders or those that haven’t ridden since they were younger, so the bike needed to suit those riders well. It also needed to be relatively lightweight which we achieved with the aluminum frame.”
The Hub of the Matter
As Scott said earlier, many classic step-through bikes made by other manufacturers are built up with a bizarre mix-and-match approach when it comes to components. That’s not a charge that can be levelled at the two-bike Californium range, which has been created with very specific objectives in mind.
“The two models each have their own benefits, so we feel they are suited to different customers,” Scott explained. “The Californium 1 with its seven-speed derailleur gearset offers an increased gear range for riders who might need to get up a few more hills. Meanwhile, the three-speed hub gear Californium 2 has a smaller gear range but is fuss-free, low maintenance and simple to use in terms of gear selection, whilst offering a cleaner aesthetic.
“Some firms might offer their hub gear option at a premium price but the three-speed Nexus hub doesn’t actually cost a lot more than the seven-speed version, so the retail price is actually a fair reflection of the cost price.”
Time to get Accessorised
Finally, no traditionally styled bicycle worth metioning would be complete without a few choice accessories and a classy paintjob, and the Californium doesn’t disappoint.
“The Californium had to have a basket and we wanted to ensure it functioned well, so it has a proper support strut for the extra weight. It’s also made of a weather-resistant polypropylene to ensure it doesn’t get affected by UK conditions. We also included mudguards and a chaincase, as we wanted to make certain they were colour matched to complement the frame. Both these ensure your clothes don’t get wet or dirty when riding,” Scott said.
“Colour is definitely an important part of the finished product, after all, your bike is just an extension of your look. We have tried to cover a variety of tastes between the two models. For this year that includes two slightly bolder colour options with aubergine and mint, which are a matt effect paint, alongside two more classically-finished painted model: cherry red and black, both in an attractive gloss. Essentially, we created the Californium to be a bike that its owner wanted to ride, and a bike that its owners wanted to be seen riding.”
Californium 20″ and 24″ kids’ bikes
The Californium 20″ and 24″ are mini versions of the Californium adult’s bike. The step-thru frame gives a nod back to classic city bikes, but using a quality aluminium frame keeps the weight low. Matching mudguards and chaincase ensure you keep dry and clean, and a basket keeps your belongings safe. The Pinnacle team have taken all the same design cues from their kid’s range to ensure the rider has the best possible experience and maximises enjoyment: short reach brake levers to stay in control, simple push button shifters for easy gear changes, geometry which puts rider weight low for stability and a chain guide which prevents the chain from slipping off.