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A Fully Equipped European-style Commuter for Bike Lovers
Takeaway: Fully equipped, the District 4 Stagger includes almost every amenity imaginable, stripping away off-bike maintenance and preparation in favor of a polished on-bike experience. Arriving at work or the grocery is more graceful than ever on this quiet, maintenance-free cruiser. With a belt drive system, internally geared rear hub, and quick-stopping hydraulic brakes, it highlights the reason so many of us prefer to commute by bike: the joy of motion.
Weight: 34lbs (Large)
Style: Commuter bike
Frame: Alpha Smooth Aluminum, internal cable routing, belt compatibility, post-mount disc
Fork: Rigid Aluminum
Hub front: Shimano 3.0 watt dynamo hub
Hub rear: Shimano Alfine S7000, 8-speed
Rims: Bontrager Connection, alloy, double-wall, 32-hole
Tire: Bontrager H2 Comp, reflective, wire bead, 30 tpi, 700x40c
Shifter: Shimano Alfine S7000, 8-speed
Crank: Gates CDX S250, 46T
Cassette: Gates CDX, 22T steel ring
Saddle: Bontrager Commuter Comp
Seatpost: Bontrager alloy, 27.2mm, 12mm offset, 330mm length
Handlebar: Alloy, 31.8mm clamp, 25mm rise, 630mm width
Grips: Bontrager Satellite Elite, alloy lock-on
Stem: Bontrager alloy, 31.8mm, Blendr compatible, 7 degree rise
Headset: 1-1/8” threadless, sealed cartridge bearings
Brakes: Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc
Brake rotors: Shimano RT10, Centerlock, 160mm
Rear Light: Herrmans H-Trace ECO dynamo LED
Front Light: Herrmans MR8, 180 lumen, 60 lux
Extra: Rear mount alloy kickstand, SKS front & rear plastic fenders
European-type city bikes are increasingly in popularity in the United States, so much so that Trek decided to bring their top-of-the-line city bikes from Europe to market stateside. The District 4 Equipped Stagger offers geometry similar to the flagship Trek Townie with larger wheels, a shorter wheelbase and longer seat tube to adapt more easily to mixed urban terrain. The success of e-bikes in the category has cleared space for more aggressive cruisers like the District 4 that emphasize the simplicity of on-bike experience instead of decreased physical exertion.
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For many riders in major American cities, Trek is a controversial name. The brand has seen public outcry and boycotts in the wake of the 2020 racial justice protests for supplying police departments across the country with bikes designed for crowd suppression. However, Trek is not alone in their contentious affiliation, as others have also received condemnation for their ties to law enforcement and military contracts.
Though the online discourse is decidedly not in their favor, Trek maintains an outsized presence in cycling due to the breadth and quality of their products. Their bicycles are fitted with high-end components and backed by top-notch repairs and customer service, while their global brick-and-mortar presence makes the brand well-suited for first-time riders and avid cyclists alike.
The District range offers two bikes, a step-over model with flat bars and a step-through (Stagger) bike with swept-back cruiser bars. Each are available in Europe with the addition of an electric motor under the District+ name, though these e-bike variants have yet to make it to American shores. Both District models provide an upright riding position, while the Stagger offers more comfort at the expense of climbing ability. They are only available fully equipped (meaning with rack, fenders, and lights), as many of the accessories are integrated with the frame.
The District 4 Equipped Stagger is curated at the component level to make daily rides easier and more comfortable. It features a silent internal gear rear hub, a clean-running belt drive system, powerful disc brakes, and a dynamo front hub which powers the front and rear lights. No creature comfort is spared, and though the price point makes that apparent, the ability to commute safely right out of the box is tremendous.
The District 4 has ergonomic Bontrager Satellite Elite grips, which project down to support the palm, and offer dual-density pressure distribution to make holding the bars as gentle on your hands as possible. The partially-split Bontrager Commuter Comp saddle pairs well, allowing an extended upright position without sacrificing soft tissue protection. Both components are waterproof to handle any conditions.
The bike also comes equipped with front and rear SKS plastic fenders to keep your pants clean in the event of an unexpected drizzle. Combined with the internal hub and belt drive, it’s easy to dismount the District 4 Equipped Stagger in approximately the same state of composure as when you got on.
Though the Stagger model sacrifices the seat tube bottle mount found on the non-step through District, the down tube mount has plenty of room for a large water bottle. The loss of storage capacity is also barely missed since the large aluminum MIK-compatible rack has the size and durability to attach multiple panniers with room to spare.
As a frequent bike commuter from Brooklyn into Lower Manhattan, I was eager to run the District 4 through its paces to see if I could really get to work as clean and sweat-free as the lifestyle commuter promised. Mounting the bike is as easy as sitting down on a chair and the upright cruiser bar position makes back strain negligible.
I set off and was immediately awed by the silence of the belt drive system. My jangling keys were the loudest thing on the bike. Allure shortly became alarm when I realized that my silence made no impression on the pedestrians or vehicles around me. Then I noticed that the bike lacked a bell. On most bikes, the bell is a user-added preference but on the District 4 I couldn’t help but feel its absence among the included buffet of commute accessories. Plus, a bell is required in many places.
My ride into the city begins with a non-trivial mile-long incline, which proved the greatest challenge to the District 4. On a bike with a more traditional flat bar, one can adjust their posture to tackle an incline with only a little added exertion. The step-through Stagger model with its cruiser bar makes climbing slow at best. At 34lbs, the bike isn’t outlandishly heavy, but it bears close to 10 pounds more weight than my daily ride. I made a mental note to re-draw my route and avoid roads over a 5° incline.
On flatter roads and downhills, the District 4 really shines. The internal hub shifts are responsive and offer decent range, though I found myself topping out the highest of the bike’s 8-speeds on a few descents. Though the bike is comfortable reaching speeds up to 20mph, I experienced front wheel wobble as I neared 25mph and consequently had to readjust the fenders. Slowing down from high speed is a piece of cake for the District 4, with quick-action hydraulic disc brakes ideal for defensive urban riding.
The District is a head-turner, too. Fellow cyclists loved seeing the disc brakes, belt drive, and front hub dynamo-integrated lighting system. Loaded up with my groceries and bar-mounted burrito pouch, I found myself knocking out errands including an overzealous trip to the hardware store with ease.
Though I only had to perform superficial maintenance and the bike promises little need, the internal hub and belt enclosure make DIY maintenance unappealing. If something goes wrong on the District 4, you’ll probably be taking it to the shop. Luckily, there’s at least one brick-and-mortar Trek location in most major cities, including one right en route to my office.
The District 4 Equipped Stagger doesn’t necessarily make cycling more appealing to newcomers, but it does provide plenty of amenities for those who already enjoy the ride. The missing accessories are easily added and the route indelicacies avoided. Fender and lighting integration reduce the likelihood of theft and encourage biking for all manner of local travel.
The District 4 is the distilled essence of urban cycling without the grime, noise, or inconveniences. If you’re a regular cyclist who wants a polished, high-end, out of the box solution for easy commuting and errands, this is a bike for you.