Imagine if you traveled back in time and told a kid from 1954 (let’s call him Billy) you could show him “A 21st century car”. As Billy sits there shaking in his overalls preparing for some flying masterpiece with autopilot and a robot to serve freeze-dried ice cream you pull up a photo of a 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI – a modern car by all definitions. Billy, ignoring an impeccable safety rating and 41 highway MPG will probably burst into tears and call you a Pinko.
Modern commuter bikes all seem to be channeling Billy’s wishes: bikes by nature are incredibly simple machines, but more and more designers are stepping into the ring with “futuristic” and “disruptive” innovations that ostensibly make for a better bike but end up doing just the opposite. It seems like every week a new “revolutionary” design for the commuter comes along, often featuring some sort of integrated lock; maybe the whole bike folds up and maybe it’s made of carbon fiber, or Cuben fiber or Nicaraguan fiber, but 98 percent of the time it doesn’t get anywhere near the production phase. And the 2 percent of bikes that do eventually arrive to market usually cost the same as an F-35 fighter jet.
And so we (finally) arrive at the Trek Lync 5 ($1,320), an incredibly refreshing take on the commuter bike that manages to improve on current offerings while maintaining the kind of practicality that a simple bicycle needs. The ideal commuter bike has one (fairly complicated) job: to get from point A to point B safely, efficiently, quietly and economically. The Lync 5 does all this and nothing more. If that isn’t good design, who knows what is.
The aluminum Lync is unimposing. Its slightly metallic charcoal paint looks good but belies the fact that it’s a $1,300 bike. The tightly integrated fenders and rear rack make it clear that the bike was designed from the ground up as the ideal commuter and not just converted from an existing model in Trek’s deep lineup. Hydraulic disk brakes make sure stopping power is a given regardless of weather conditions and internal cable routing means even the roughest of rain, sleet and snow should stay outside of those critical shift cables. And the internal cables, paired with smartly placed pads on the frame, ensure that you won’t mar that understated paint job when it comes time to lock up.
As you inspect those cool rubberized pads you’ll run into two large buttons on the bottom of the top tube. These control the incredibly cool integrated head and tail lights, which appear impossible to steal (a shockingly common problem in New York City). The headlight is way brighter than expected, definitely falling into the “see and be seen” category. That bulge at the bottom of the down tube is the removable battery that powers those lights; Trek claims that it’s good for five hours of luminance per USB charge, which seems a bit short.
The rest is just a well-made bike. 27 speeds of Shimano drivetrain reliability and efficiency, Bontrager components everywhere else, and every part is easily replaceable (save for the lighting gear) that any bike shop (or even you) can fix should the need arise. The ride is smooth, thanks mostly to the 32c section Bontrager tires and slightly relaxed frame geometry, and all the points where your body comes in contact with the bike are comfortable, efficient and well thought out — save for the pedals, which should be swapped with clip-less ones, ASAP.
That’s all the Lync does, and it’s all the Lync needs to do. Carbon fiber would’ve doubled the cost; an integrated lock would’ve been heavy and unwieldy. And to be realistic, a flying bike would just be a nuisance. The Lync keeps things grounded in reality, and it’s all the better for it.