Topeka Metro Bike #270
2017 Social Bicycles 4.5
It’s also the final model of SoBi before the company became JUMP, the final model of SoBi operated by the Topeka Metro system, and a bookend to our red Topeka 3.0; the system’s launch model.
The Topeka Metro Bikes system was one of a few SoBi operators with a roster of both 3.0s and 4.5s, split between three distinct orders:
The red 3.0s, like #097 above, made up the first 100 launch bikes. In April 2016, the system gained sponsorship from Topeka-based savings bank Capitol Federal, leading to another 100 3.0s ordered – Phase II models with updated baskets. These new bikes carried the bank’s electric blue livery. Shortly thereafter, premature issues with the red paint pigment turning to white led the early retirement of the first 3.0’s; followed shortly by the addition of 200 flashy, brand-new 4.5s to take their place. These final bikes were deployed in the summer of 2018.
As a conventional pushbike, the 4.5 carries no motor controller or battery, and shares the same frame and early version of the SoBi 4.5/5.0 fork, sans disc brake mount. The charging port on the front fork – usually occupied by three brass contacts – is open to the wind on the 4.5, and the 6V hub generator’s power lead utilizes the slot where the Higo 9-pin 3-phase motor and hall sensor cable would otherwise go.
The rest is very familiar to those who’ve seen a 5.0: The beautiful inverse SoBi brake levers are here, as is the enormous Sturmey-Archer RXL-RD3 rotary 3-speed with 90mm drum brake.
#270 is a typical 4.5, identical to those deployed by a number of other operators in 2017, just prior to Social Bicycles acquisition and renaming to JUMP. With exception to the 170mm cranks fitted on these (as opposed to the 163’s on the pedal assist models), it rides just like a 5.0, no doubt in part due to the lovely Schwalbe Marathon 26 x 2.0″ tires fitted to them.
Unfortunately, at some point in time, the original saddle was replaced with a commercially-available Cloud-9 piece, but Reddy Bikeshare’s Matthew Rebmann and Nathan Schultz came to the rescue, donating the correct SoBi saddle. The 4.5 and 5.0 use a version of the SoBi saddle without a built-in handle (as seen on the JUMP 5.5 and later models), giving the saddle extra clearance against the rental unit’s locking mechanism.
Unfortunately, the Topeka Metro Bikes system shut down in 2020, as “Topeka’s governing body rejected two attemps…to increase the TMTA’s property tax levy” that would have allowed the system to the continue. Despite the poor foresight on the part of Topeka’s city council, the amount of support these bikes still have is what made the preservation of this one possible. Let me tell you, there’s no bike in the Museum that has taken a bigger village than this one:
Robert Nugent, the current director of Topeka Metro, was able to get #270 put aside for preservation for us, (along with two for Capitol Federal), and TMB founder Karl Fundenberger pointed us in the direction of Dave Morgan at Jerry’s Bike Shop to handle the pickup and spot-on packing job.
As a few original SoBi fittings were missing, Vince Matthews and Dave Fotsch of Boise GreenBike dug through their spares to help, providing a new U-bar to replace the original – which had been cut – in addition to a number of original fittings throughout the bike.
We also have to give BikeFlights a huge thank you for sponsoring the three-package shipment with their special Industry Employee Program (IEP) pricing. Believe it or not, the Bike Share Museum is a one-person grassroots show with no funding, so any discount in shipping cost is not only greatly appreciated, it is essential!
#270 now graces the museum as our first (and so far, only) 4.5, and a memory of a wonderful bike share program that should have continued on to this day.
In the meantime, the Topeka Community Cycle project, a non-profit bike shop, has since acquired the remainder of the TMB 3.0’s and 4.5’s. They are preparing them for life as personal bikes by replacing the proprietary fittings. Visit their website or social media for updates about the future of these bright blue SoBis.
Not one, but two iconic, loop-frame Social Bicycles 3.0s have joined our museum. Here’s the story.