Virtue Encore 5M & 5F—Touring with a Time Machine.
Looking very much turn-of-the-century, but riding with all the modern touches seem to be what Virtue is all about. We got this pair of Virtue Encore 5-speeds to ride and felt very old-fashioned with every turn of the pedals. It’s a shame our yearly Tweed Ride is only in December because these two bikes would fit in perfectly. Still, some fun rides were in order, so away we went.
These bikes are light as a feather and ride great. The 5-speed hubs are shifted with a decidedly dated looking lever, yet are fully indexed. The drum brakes are activated with alloys levers that buck the modern trends. The saddles and grips look and feel comfy, but round out the style these bikes convey. What a fun and cool package Virtue has put together for your riding pleasure.
The looks of the Encore speak to me in a serious way. I love my old college and vintage bikes, but they aren’t new, shiny and filled with today’s goodies. Each of these two bikes are identical, except for the frame style and size. If your family is like mine, then having a matching pair of bikes that fit each of us is king. That is just one more big plus we got during this test cycle on the Virtue Encore 5M & 5F. Riding together is important, and doing it in a classy way makes it better.
The Chromoly frame and forks seem strong and light, providing a good feel and low overall weight. They are both stickered with “California, USA“, making me think they are American made. Most every other component is alloy or rubber, adding to the sporty ride they offer. Outfitted with fenders, a chain guard, bell and kickstand, the only thing missing is a rack. You can find those, and baskets too on the Virtue website store.
Sturmey Archer was the go to company for the front and rear hubs. The appearance of these pieces is clean, yet it is the way they work that make them desirable. Geared rear hubs have been around for years, working well without extra stuff hanging and sticking out from your bike. I found the gearing fit my riding needs and the shifting easy. A quality geared hub is hard to fault, and that’s the way I feel about this one on the Encore.
Integrated with the hubs are cool looking drum brakes. All shiny in alloy, the brakes and their fittings match the look Virtue is putting forth on the 5M and 5F. They appear easy to adjust and maintain, but I think the brake pads will last many times longer than any modern V-brake or disc brake pad. Don’t expect them to have the braking power of a downhill hydraulic disc brake set-up, but I can tell you from experience they are easily at least twice as strong as any of the brakes on my 50’s and 60’s vintage bikes.
Stainless steel spokes and brass nipples connect the hubs to a pair of alloy rims. Wrapped on those are some cream colored Kenda tires, once again looking very much the part for the 1800 and 1900’s. You keep the tires inflated through Presta valve stems, not my favorite. Yet they are well proven and most any decent bike pump can handle them with no issues. Filling adaptors are cheap if you need one.
Getting a grip on the steering will continue to move you back in time. The flow and curve of the handlebars is sweet. Of course they too are alloy in a awesome silver finish. The view from the saddle is quite satisfying as you work the bike paths and side streets. I liked the feel of the brake levers. The bell and shifter are at hand, while you steer with a sharp looking pair of brown leatherette grips. The matching saddle won’t be needing a replacement, something that is usually the first thing to get up-graded on most every new bike.
Riding a steel bike is my kind of thrill. All these new frame materials just don’t cut it for me. Some are just too stiff, some are just too breakable. Steel is real, a saying you hear from people in the know, is not just a saying. Even though Chromoly isn’t the same stuff they made bikes with in the old days, it’s about as close as it gets nowadays. That and it is a whole bunch lighter and stronger. It aids the ride quality, just like the gentle frame geometry on the Virtue Encore does. If you want to race, shop elsewhere—if you want to ride, you are looking at a nice steed.
Speaking of shopping and looking, check out the selection of bikes that Virtue offers on their website. If you think this bike is filled with the looks you like, you might find some of their other bikes catch your eye that much more. Virtue has something going and it just might be the bike company for you. They are a local San Diego company with many retail locations here, and nation-wide.
We sure had fun riding back into the past on these Encores. I know if I was in the market for something like this, they would be high on my want list. With 5-speeds and classic looks, they are hard to beat. Try one out to see if it matches your idea of riding style.
Thanks to Virtue for a pair of two-wheeled time machines, we loved it. Turbo Bob.
“You know, bicycling isn’t just a matter of balance,” I said. “it’s a matter of faith. You can keep upright only by moving forward. You have to have your eyes on the goal, not the ground. I’m going to call that the Bicyclist’s Philosophy of Life.” Susan Vreeland, Clara and Mr. Tiffany.
Look for Virtue on the web and Facebook
Check out these two videos for a closer look