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Singlespeed & Fixed Gear "I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft...As for me, give me a fixed gear!"-- Henri Desgrange (31 January 1865 - 16 August 1940)

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Old 07-19-09, 05:07 PM   #1
oneeyedhobbit
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Need Help Selecting SS/Fixie for Urban Commute!

A few weeks ago I started bike shopping mostly looking for something to ease my commute to work (about a 2 mile hike). I figured I'd look for some kind of hybrid/comfort bike at first, although I had a friend swearing up and down that fixie was the way to go. Fast forward to a few days ago when someone in a lbs talked me into taking a ss for a test ride. It wasn't the genuine fixie feeling, but I found myself really enjoying it, and tbh as I assess the city I live in (Minneapolis), I'm not sure that multiple gears aren't maybe superfluous. The city is pretty flat, and on the bike I'd been most strongly considering (Marin Larkspur) I found myself locked into max gear most of the time anyway.

I'm pretty torn, but considering buying something with a flip/flop hub so that I can see if a fixie is my thing or not. I'd like something for the commute to work and really to make the car I split with my roommate nigh on obsolete. So getting to and from work, campus, running errands, buying groceries, and of course transit to and from friends and the bar(s) =). Most of the time this will be under 4-5 miles, with maybe an occasional hike thrown in.

To that end, I've sampled the LBS around me and found both a

http://sebikes.com/Singlespeed/700c-Draft-Lite.aspx and
http://www.torkerusa.com/

In my price range. I really like the aesthetics of the draft lite and I'm a big fan of the drop bar. However, googleing it found plenty of not so pleasant comments. Most were centered around an older model year using a 1pc crank, but thats alleviated. However, its still hi ten frame/fork. Not sure if thats damning or not. I haven't been able to test ride the Torker yet, but it sounds like a solid and comparable offering minus the looks (really dug the brown/baby blue on the Draft) and bars. Any experience/opinions/comments?

Finally, some digging around here saw a couple of other recommendations, namely the Republic Bikes Aristotle and several options from bikesdirect.com. I'm leery of ordering a bike online, but would consider it if the price/performance ratio really outstripped the local offerings. Any comments/experiences/concerns on how any of them compare? I have a budget of $400 for what thats worth. I intend to start on freewheel and get back in the swing of things (haven't ridden since my old schwinn was stolen in Chicago c. 2 years ago) and eventually check out fixie, but for the time being brakes are necessary so that rules out the Kilo and Kilo TT Pro options. I'm also just generally cautious of anything that purports to be factory direct from brands I've never heard of, but so far I've heard good things about bikesdirect. Thanks for any comments regarding the various options!



TL;DR version: Looking for 1st fixed/freewheel. Torker U-District, SE Draft Lite, Republic Bikes, or something from bikesdirect.com?
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Old 07-19-09, 05:11 PM   #2
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http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/.../messenger.htm

sounds like what you're looking for.

Maybe search Craigslist for used Jamis Sputnik/Soma Rush/Bianchi San Jose/Surly Steamroller/Masi Speciale as well.
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Old 07-19-09, 05:19 PM   #3
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Would really like to avoid e-tailors, unless like I said, something really beats the pants off of the U-District/Draft Lite.

As an aside, forgot to mention: 90% of my biking will be shortish, but how do you folks feel about fixie/single speed for longer rides?
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Old 07-19-09, 05:34 PM   #4
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Would really like to avoid e-tailors, unless like I said, something really beats the pants off of the U-District/Draft Lite.

As an aside, forgot to mention: 90% of my biking will be shortish, but how do you folks feel about fixie/single speed for longer rides?
what is long for you? anything under 25 miles on fixed is not much a problem, much more after that, spaghetti legs ensue if you are not in good shape for riding.
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Old 07-19-09, 05:36 PM   #5
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I'd say the Kilo/Messenger is a better choice than the U-District/Draft Lite. Go look through the Kilo/Messenger megathreads; people love those bikes.

I've done 45 milers on trails for fun. You aren't going to climb as well as you would if you were riding a geared bike, obviously, but it's doable and a lot of fun.
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Old 07-19-09, 05:39 PM   #6
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Cool, I don't plan on breaking 25 miles unless its cruising with friends or for a workout.
I figure down the road if I'm really in love with commuting by bike I can invest in a road bike and keep this as a beater or trade up.

Still really not sold on buying online though =(. What makes the kilo/messenger such attractive options?
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Old 07-19-09, 06:08 PM   #7
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for the kilo, its the tubeset. for both, its the value for the money. hard pressed to find better deals than bikes direct.
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Old 07-19-09, 08:38 PM   #8
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Maybe I'm stubborn/stupid, but I'm really not into buying from bikesdirect. Not only does the brandlessness turn me off, but I'm not into the hassle of buying online and going to a lbs to have it assembled/tuned (as well as possibly needing a brake with the Kilo). I also think there is something to be said for supporting the little guy and establishing a relationship with a lbs for future perks/service. I think this goes double for someone who is all but brand new to the cycling world, but maybe I'm amiss. I don't know enough about component selection or bikes in general to do anything but trust blindly to anonymous advice when it comes to, "what kind of brake should I slap on the kilo? What about swapping tires?"

I haven't written off the online route yet, but it would be nice to know recommendations for the Messenger/Kilo are based on component quality/experience riding several bikes as opposed to their recent surge in popularity. Like I said, in a side by side, it would take them really demolishing the U District/Draft Lite to make me want to go that route. Would love some feedback on the U District v Draft though, and something more tangible as to how or why the bikesdirect route is so superior.
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Old 07-19-09, 08:45 PM   #9
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get a windsor hour, sell the components you want to upgrade, and buy new components.
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Old 07-19-09, 10:16 PM   #10
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get a windsor hour, sell the components you want to upgrade, and buy new components.
ok, you didn't read any of his last post, but his point is he feels completely new and doesn't want to go through any construction or repairs on his own.

But honestly, you can't go wrong with bikesdirect. look at the videos (though they may appear low quality and cause you to lose faith in them) that show you how to put the bike together. Its pretty easy. If you do searches you can find blogs and walkthroughs about the whole process from ordering to finished bike.

Even then though, if you don't want to go through it on your own, take your own advice and head to the local lbs and have them assemble it for you. that way you'd actually learn something rather than buying a new one and living in ignorance. I think the quality you get from bikesdirect favors that route.
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Old 07-19-09, 11:05 PM   #11
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ok, you didn't read any of his last post, but his point is he feels completely new and doesn't want to go through any construction or repairs on his own.
That is certainly part of it. I'd love to learn repair/maintenance eventually, but not when I'm pretty new to biking. For now I just want to get a quality bike for commuting asap.

I'm just not sure I'm sold on the online route. Everyone is plugging BD and it sounds like the guy running it is a great guy (posting here, asking for feedback, etc.), but for my first real bike I'd like to just buy local so that I always have a place to go with trouble and have something really solid as far as warranty service goes should a problem arise. I'm also not into replacing components or a "bigger is better" mentality when it comes to spending more. If I replace or add something it will be because I've done enough riding to know what feels off/could be improved and what I can do to correct it.

Maybe I was wrong to mention buying online or BD. I'm really more interested in comparing the Draft Lite and U District. Like I said, if BD really, really out performed both options I'd feel stupid but to go any other route. However, every other review I've read has said that the U District is extremely competitive for the price. This isn't to say that down the road if something isn't meeting my needs or its just time for an upgrade I might feel more comfortable looking at BD. For now though I'd really prefer to stick with the LBS.
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Old 07-19-09, 11:16 PM   #12
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i see you are pretty set on not buying online and you have a pretty good reason for that. go test ride some bikes and get the one you feel most comfortable riding. to be honest, all the entry-level stuff will be comparable anyways. but just know in advance, getting one of those used bikes mentioned in post #2 or a BD bike might be a better value in the long run.
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Old 07-19-09, 11:30 PM   #13
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Maybe you can find an LBS that will order a BD bike for you and assemble it / tune it up / add brakes as necessary as part of a complete purchase package deal.

You'll be spending a couple hundred more bucks in the end, but I can't think why an LBS, especially a smaller one, wouldn't go for that.
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Old 07-19-09, 11:37 PM   #14
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Man, if you can't install a brakeset or change tires.....They are going to charge you for EVERYTHING at a bikeshop.

Learn to do the stuff yourself. It's all really easy, and there are plenty of tutorials here. Pretty much all you need is a couple allen wrenches and some open ended wrenches and you can do almost anything you would need.
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Old 07-20-09, 12:35 AM   #15
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Man, if you can't install a brakeset or change tires.....They are going to charge you for EVERYTHING at a bikeshop.

Learn to do the stuff yourself. It's all really easy, and there are plenty of tutorials here. Pretty much all you need is a couple allen wrenches and some open ended wrenches and you can do almost anything you would need.
I'm all about learning repair =). Since I started serious bike shopping, I've spent the last two weeks talking with friends who bike, hitting up lbs to "talk shop" and test ride bikes, and researching stuff via the net. For example, an hour ago I didn't know a thing about truing beyond assuming that it meant making the wheel straight. Now I feel like I could do a basic job of it if it came to assembling/truing a bike from BD.

However, as I stated earlier, I'm also not sure how comfortable I am ordering my first bike online for several reasons. For one I don't know near enough about bike components to know at a specs glance if something is rubbish or not. I'd also really like the opportunity to test ride a bike before I throw down that much cash and deal with the hassle of potential returns (student here, so upwards of $300 still qualifies as a substantial investment). It also, incidentally, doesn't help that in as much as I've seen a lot of BD praise in the two weeks I've been lurking these boards, I've seen miles of, "I love my BD xyz but the frame and seatpost are all thats left stock." If people have the experience, know-how, and cash to tweak a bike to that extent after a few months of ownership, more power to them. I don't. I expect that whatever I end up with will probably be stock for a very long time. As I said, when I change something, it will be because its necessary or because I know that part x isn't cutting it for reason y and putting in z will alleviate the problem or better fit my needs.

Regardless, I feel like this is going way off topic. If anyone can comment on the U District/Draft Lite I'm all ears. If you can compare a BD option to them and give me sound reasoning as to why its clearly the smarter purchase I'm listening--like I said, not 100% against it, but will take some very solid convincing. If not its my first bike in almost 3 years. I'm sure I'll test ride a few more and be happy with whatever I purchase at least for the short term.

P.S. Definitely considered the used options Tfunk, but finding them is pretty difficult. Surly is like cult-status here in Minneapolis, anything used is sold about 10min after list!
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