Priority Continuum bicycle: Our first take

Two wheels and winter don’t mix, unless you’re on Priority Bicycles’ Continuum

The winterized Continuum is perfect for cyclists who feel intimidated by snow and ice.

For many people, cycling is strictly a fair-weather activity. Dedicated commuters, including Digital Trends staff in the Pacific Northwest, brave the winter days of wet and cold, but few stayed committed to two-wheeled travel during the recent snowstorm in Portland. Personal comfort aside, winter presents unfavorable conditions to bicyclists due to slick roads and the added maintenance requirements, due to exposure to salt, sand, and other muck.

Enter Priority Bicycles, whose hassle-free, affordable bikes require minimal amounts of maintenance without compromising on fancy features that are popular with bicycle commuters. The small but growing NYC company Priority Bicycles has a new model intended to take many of the headaches away from winter cyclists. The Continuum, Priority’s most expensive model at $900, features aluminum and stainless steel parts that are impervious to rust, a belt drive that does away with the hassles of chain maintenance, as well as Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, and a NuVinci continuously variable transmission (CVT) rear hub that grabbed our attention.

“Priority Continuum builds bikes that won’t rust and will stand the test of time.”

The Priority Continuum also caught the eye of Le Meridien Chambers, a boutique hotel in downtown Minneapolis, that’s added four of these bikes to its fleet for hotel guests to borrow. Against the odds set by the harsh Minnesota winters, Minneapolis is consistently listed as one of the best cities for cyclists in the United States, and Priority’s reputation for designing dependable bicycles will undoubtedly be put to the test through the stresses experienced by loaner bikes.

David Weiner, co-founder and CEO of Priority Bicycles, is confident that the bikes are up to the task even in Minnesota winter conditions. “All of our bikes have an aluminum frame, feature puncture resistant tires, and stainless steel spokes,” said Weiner. “We try to make bikes that won’t rust and will stand the test of time.”

The ultimate urban winter test ride

Le Meridien Chambers and Priority invited Digital Trends to ride one of its hotel fleet bikes in the middle of winter as a demonstration of the bicycle maker’s confidence in its product, and the hotel’s commitment to the local bike culture. After seeing how successful the hotel’s spring and summer bike tour program had become, David Cronin, general manager at Le Meridien Chambers, wanted to add enhanced year-round cycling options for guests visiting Minneapolis.

“After I test rode Priority’s new Continuum with the winter package in very icy conditions, it was a no brainer,” said Cronin. “These bikes are truly amazing and a great way to further show that Le Meridien is all about discovery and unlocking the destination, and of course we think the best way to do it is on two wheels!”

Not just talking the talk, but also riding the bike, Cronin personally led the group ride through downtown Minneapolis and then to – and directly across – Lake Calhoun. Along the way, we encountered all sorts of traction-challenged conditions, from slick sheets of ice, to crunchy snow pack, to dirty, slushy puddles. Priority winterized the Continuum fleet bikes with Klondike snow tires that feature 100 tungsten carbide tipped studs that help bite into the ice – which we appreciated immensely, as we would have had more than one encounter with the pavement if it weren’t for the upgraded rubber. These tires come included in a $135 winter package that also adds head- and taillights.

Riding with the NuVinci CVT system was a revelation.

Priority makes it clear that it builds bikes for the person who enjoys riding casually, or who wants hassle-free transportation. The company doesn’t try to cater to the high-end enthusiasts, who often build their own bikes anyway; but even the staunchest of bike builders should appreciate the technology and common sense that went into designing the Continuum.

“The Continuum with studded tires is a great fit for icy, slushy, chunky paved paths and roads, because of its grease-free Gates Carbon belt drive and NuVinci fully-enclosed, seamlessly-shifting hub. Both perform well at sub-freezing temperatures and are very durable and resistant to debris,” said Connor Swegle, co-founder and CMO at Priority Bicycles.

The CVT upgrades your ride

Riding with the NuVinci CVT system was a revelation. It freed our attention from hunting for the ideal gear, so we could just concentrate on the ride. A rider controls the CVT by twisting the right grip in a similar way one would operate a Grip Shift, but there are no discrete steps from one gear to the next. Like the CVT that you may have first learned about from the automotive world, the number of gears is virtually infinite – depending on how finely you can operate the transmission with your right hand. Twisting the grip forwards will effectively decrease resistance at the cost of increased pedaling, while twisting it the other way will yield more wheel rotations per pedal stroke.

“The simplicity of the NuVinci hub means that even with thick winter gloves you can find the perfect resistance for your ride without fumbling with gear shifters in thick winter gloves or choppy shifting on slippery terrain,” Swegle added.

Without predefined gears, it makes no sense to use a numerical representation for the status of the transmission. Instead, there is a simple picture of a cyclist going up a hill. The steeper the hill, the greater the mechanical advantage. While cute and fun, the visual representation of gearing is unnecessary because it’s dead simple to twist the grip to whatever feels right. It’s like adjusting the screen brightness slider on your phone or computer; you just move the slider until it’s where you want it to be.

Gone are exposed derailleurs and gears. With it go the challenges of keeping track of which gear you’re in, and the jarring stutter when shifting from one gear to the next. With the Continuum, or any bike with this NuVinci system, you’ll never have to think about keeping a straight chainline again. One of our favorite benefits was that we could lazily ‘shift’ all the way to the ‘lowest’ gear while stopped at a light, and take off without waiting for a chain to hop a sprocket.

Maintenance-free design

Speaking of a chain – there isn’t one. All of Priority’s bicycles, including the Start C/B for toddlers, utilize a belt instead of a chain. The Continuum features a Gates Carbon Drive drivetrain that is rustproof and grease-free. You’ll never have to worry about lubing chains after riding in the rain – or in any other condition. Belt drives are very reliable and last two to three times longer than chains, but are more expensive to replace. The belt is expected to endure between 5,000 to 10,000 miles, which could take years, even for the daily commuter.

The service life of the NuVinci n330 hub is even more impressive, which is important, because it’s the most expensive part on the Continuum. Weiner estimates that replacing the hub would cost around $400, but is backed by a 2-year warranty. The hub is completely sealed, lubricated for life with traction fluid specially formulated by Valvoline, and is designed to be maintenance-free for a minimum of 12,000 miles, with many able to go well beyond that without issue. The nature of the CVT also means the system is more resistant against the negative effects of cable stretch.

“All of our bicycles focus on a maintenance-free design, which means that the bike is ready to ride whenever you are,” Weiner added. “We want people to have no excuse for being able to go out to ride.”

After riding all morning on the Continuum, we came away impressed with how well the entire package performed, and understood why Le Meridien Chambers felt comfortable in offering it as a winter bike option for its guests, regardless of riding ability. Indeed, for any city that experiences extreme cold or wintery conditions on an annual basis, the Continuum is a great option for cyclists who feel intimidated by snow and ice.


  • The CVT system works incredibly well
  • Belt drive greatly decreases maintenance needs
  • $900 price point delivers a lot of value
  • Use of aluminum and stainless steel means no rust
  • Comes with fenders included


  • Unique powertrain could present challenges to local bike shops
  • Direct sales model means you can’t try before you buy

Cyber Monday Extended: Best Cyber Week Smartwatch Deals

Cyber Monday is known for its awesome online sales. Smartwatches, fitness trackers .. they both will see deep discounts. Now is your chance to score a new wearable at rock bottom prices.

The best sleeping bags to help you conquer the cold, no matter what season it is

A proper sleeping bag has the ability to make or break a camping or backpacking trip. Here are our picks for the best sleeping bags on the market to help you choose the correct bag for any type of outdoor adventure.

REI’s Cyber Week deals will save you up to 65 percent on top brands

Cyber Week deals are still going strong at REI, with discounts lasting up until this weekend. If you've been meaning to follow REI's mission and hit the outdoors, now is the perfect time to save big on outdoor gear and more.

REI slashed the price of the Garmin Fenix 5, but the sale ends today

The Garmin Fenix 5 is a multisport fitness watch, built almost entirely for use with just about any indoor or outdoor activity you can think of. From now until the end of the day on December 1, you can save $150 on a brand new model.

Columbia’s latest Star Wars jacket will keep you as warm as a Wookiee

Columbia Sportswear introduced a limited edition parka based on the jackets that were worn by the crew that filmed The Empire Strikes Back in 1979 that are sure to be a coveted item for Star Wars fans.
Emerging Tech

The best solar chargers for your phone, tablet, and other battery-powered gear

Looking for a gizmo that can help you charge your phone while on the go? Here, we've outlined the best solar chargers on the market, whether you're looking to charge your phone once, twice, or three times over.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Light up the night! Here are the five best headlamps money can buy

Headlamps make all the difference when camping or walking the dog at night, especially when you're in need of both hands. From Black Diamond and Petzl to Coast here are some of the best headlamps on the market.

Onak 2.0 is an origami-inspired folding canoe for waterborne adventures

The Onak 2.0 is an origami-inspired folding kayak that measures 15 feet in length when fully assembled, yet can breakdown and be stored in a small, easily transported box making it a great option for apartment dwellers.

Lime’s dockless electric bikes land in London, but its scooters aren’t allowed

Lime has landed in London with its dockless bikesharing service. The pedal-assisted electric bikes are unlocked via Lime's app and can reach speeds of 15 mph. It plans to have 1,000 bikes on the streets before the end of the year.

Forget pumps. This innovative filter purifies H2O in 8 seconds flat

The Grayl Geopress water purification system removes more than 99 percent of all bacteria, cysts, and viruses from water in just eight seconds, providing clean drinking water to travelers and outdoor adventurers.

Built to take a beating and still perform, these are the best hiking watches

A proper hiking watch should track exercise metrics and act as a navigational co-pilot during any kind of hike. Ideally, it'll even have a built-in GPS system and sensors. Here are five of the best hiking watches.

Conquer the cold season with the best heated clothing and outdoor apparel

If you're thinking about going outside this winter, heated apparel is a must. Luckily, we've rounded up some of the best heated clothing, whether you're looking for battery-powered gloves or heated insoles.

Crush your next workout with the best Fitbit for every activity

Fitbits are amazingly helpful tools for setting fitness goals and tracking progress. However, different activities require different metrics. We've gathered a list of the best Fitbits for running, swimming, biking, and other activities.