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Why I’m Reviewing An Urban Bike

I’ve been riding my Schwinn S95.6 around Baltimore City for years now. I’m finally tired of riding a 26″ 16 year old mountain bike in the city. Three weeks ago I began searching for a proper city bike. I was looking for something I could easily lock up with one U-lock (ie – had to have bolted wheels and bolted seat post). It was also important to me that the bike I picked had character.

I needed to find a whip with flavor that was cost effective, on the shelf and ready to go.

I looked at buying a frame and custom building the bike. I considered the Surly Steamroller and Cross Check. I also considered going boutique via Independent Fabrications or Bishop Bikes. The only problem with these solutions was that each would require an abundant amount of time in picking out parts and “doing it right.” All for a bike that could one day get ripped off. Too much effort. I needed to find a whip with flavor that was cost effective, on the shelf and ready to go.

Trek’s 3rd District – Why It Speaks To Me

Plain and simple – this is one stunning bike build right off the factory line. While the components aren’t “high end,” the finish and the design detail on the bike certainly are. If you’re looking to cruise in style, Trek’s entire District urban bike series has you covered. Trek has clearly picked up on the trend of anodizing and bike bling that was established at Interbike 2009.

If you’re looking to cruise in style, Trek’s entire District urban bike series has you covered.

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3rd DISTRICT DETAILS

FRAME
…..Color – Bright White
…..Material – Alpha Black Aluminum (hydroform)
…..Chain Gaurd – Dark Blue (not shown)
…..Sizes – 50, 54, 56 (reviewed), 58, 60cm

Fork
…..Material – Carbon, Bontrager Satellite Plus

Wheel Set
…..Hubs – Alloy sealed bearing track hub
…..Rims – Aero alloy color matched rims, Bronze

Drivetrain
…..Cranks – Bontrager Nebula SS 44T Chain Ring w/ Gaurd
…..Pedals – Tioga Platforms
…..Bottom Bracket – Square Taper
…..Cassette – Shimano 17T Freewheel

Brakes & Rubber
…..Calipers / Levers - Alloy Dual Pivot w/Tektro Road Levers
…..Tires – Bontrager Race, All Weather, 700×25c

Cockpit
…..Bars – Bontrager Urban
…..Stem – Alloy, 15 degree, Bronze
…..Post – Bontrager Satellite Nebula
…..Saddle – Bontrager Race (style only available on 3rd District)
…..Grips – Bontrager Leather Wrapped (white) Lock On
…..Headset – Cane Creek, Bronze

Price Point
…..Retail – $709.99
…..Price I Paid – $649.99

Rock a Fan Belt Instead of a Chain

The 3rd District is a single speed. Geared well for city riding, this frame is also ready for use with a belt drive. The rear drops offer the “slit” to slide the belt through and the higher end District series frames actually come stock with a belt drive. To convert the 3rd District to belt drive wouldn’t take much, but why bother? It looks and works great as-is. I will say that the flexibility of being able to switch to belt drive was an attractive selling point for me. Having the flexibility of going with a belt drive is just another way to separate from the pack with something unique  AND useful (no greasy pants on your commute to work and no need for a chain guard).

The rear drops offer the “slit” to slide the belt through and the higher end District series frames actually come stock with a belt drive. To convert the 3rd District to belt drive wouldn’t take much.

The "Slit" Allows A Belt To Slide On In

The "Slit" Allows A Belt To Slide On In

Frame & Fork

All of the District series bikes are made of aluminum (aside from the District Carbon). I chose aluminum specifically because almost all city riders I know prefer to ride steel. Why be like everyone else? So steel flexes more than aluminum. Who cares. This bike is pimp and I think it looks great with fatty tubes.

A carbon fork at a $650 price point for a complete build is a nice feature.

The fork is carbon and probably one the nicest features you get on this bike considering the price point. The bike is very light. I haven’t weighed it, but carrying it in and out of my city row home is really easy. The fork lends to that while also providing a really nice seamless look from head tube to fork transition.

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How The Bike Feels Under A Load

Really comfortable. The positioning of your body is upright and relaxed, just as you’d expect from any good city bike. But the pedaling responsiveness on this whip is nothing short of smooth and immediate. When sitting and pedaling or standing and grinding, this bike has a solid feel from a build standpoint. Not a single creak. It’s construction ensures confidence. For me, I like this a lot. I do not like my bikes making any kind of noise.

When sitting and pedaling or standing and grinding, this bike has a solid feel from a build standpoint.

Braking Power

The brakes on this bike work extremely well considering the price point. The levers do require a firm “two finger” pull, but you get a tremendous amount of stopping power for that effort. Honestly, I was surprised two fingers were all you needed. The brake levers do feel and look a tad cheap at first glance. After knowing they work well, their simplicity in not pulling away attention from the bike’s clean lines is much appreciated.

The brake levers do feel a tad cheap and at first glance. They do not offer much braking confidence (from an appearance standpoint).

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The Feel of the 3rd District’s Cockpit

Amazing. The seat is very comfortable. I’m 6′ tall and 180 lbs. While the seat itself is small, it’s shape is well contoured for my frame and I find it quite comfortable. The leather wrapped lock-on grips are both plush and eye pleasing. They absorb sweat while remaining dry and come with really nice end caps bearing the Trek logo. A nice touch that makes this bike feel more custom than the price point typically allows.

On Trek’s web site, the stem is shown mounted the opposite way that I have it set up. Trek’s site also shows the 3rd District with the bars swept up instead of back. I prefer my set up as it keeps me more upright and comfortable as opposed to hunched in a race-like position. Flexibility in the bar / stem set up is a good thing, however.

The bars, when set up the way I show them, become what I would consider “half Mary” bars. They do not bend all the way back like a full set of Mary’s. However, they come back far enough to keep the bike’s lines extra clean and to provide the comfort found in Mary bars for city riding.

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Stem & Seat

The stem is a Bontrager 120mm (15 degree rise) riding on a Cane Creek headset. Each are custom anodized to match the wheel set and decal set. They really set the bike off. The seat post is a Bontrager single bolt custom anodized bronze to match the kit.

Gold anodizing, white cable housings and a one-of-kind seat bring this bike home.

The seat itself is a Bontrager R1 custom design that, from what I am told, is available only on the 3rd District. The seat, along with the white brake cable housings work well together to help set the bike off. Good bling (but subtle) and put together with a fine eye for detail. Exactly my taste.

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Wheels, Tires & Drive Train

Really like the wheel set on this bike. I’m big on fancy wheel sets and was excited to see the matching rims on this bike. I’ve wheelie dropped this bike off curbs and so far so good. They don’t seem to flex under a load but what the hell do I know – it’s not like I have sensors built into my body that can feel wheel flex.

The crank set is a little weak from a look/feel standpoint but it is highly functional. Remember, this a true city bike. It’s built for commuting; even when wearing long pants. The guard on the cranks keeps your pant leg out of the front ring so I’ve decided that keeping it is the smartest move considering the way I am going to be using this bike (the crank guard is bolted on and removable). I did remove the chain guard and that helped make the bike look a bit more street smart.

The crank set is a little weak from a look/feel standpoint but it is highly functional.

The tires are all weather tires and seem to corner really well on the pavement (so far). I’m running them at 110 psi (highest recommended is 120 psi) and I’ve run into lips and curbs as well as stones and larger objects on the road without an issue. No rips or failures to date. Have yet to ride on wet / slick roads so no feedback to share there.

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What I Really Like About Trek’s 3rd District

  • Excellent color coordination and design aesthetics
  • Carbon fork makes the bike that much lighter
  • Very comfortable, relaxed feeling in the cockpit
  • Good braking power

Suggestions For Improving Trek’s 3rd District

  • It can take a drive belt but doesn’t come with one – it should
  • More powerful brakes – single finger pull would be awesome
  • Ditch the stock chain guard and crank set for a more respectable set up