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  1. #1
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    BikesDirect Gravity Single Speed Cruiser Hands-On Review

    I haven't seen a lot of hands-on info on the BikesDirect.com Gravity EZ Cruz Cruisers, so I thought I'd add my first-impression review here.

    After years of riding a road bike, then a Gary Fisher Wingra hybrid, I switched to using my Electra Zarape 3 speed cruiser as my main bike, including my 5 mile (each way) commute. Although it's more work on hills than the 24 speed Wingra, the cruiser was easier on my aging wrists, and more comfortable overall. Plus, lots more fun! So, I decided to get a second cruiser, something less expensive and less fancy, and ordered a single speed cruiser from BikesDirect.com for $159.95, including shipping. I'm no expert on specs, so I'll let you read all that stuff on their site. There are numerous color combinations available; I liked the glossy black with red rims. Five days after ordering, UPS showed up with my bike. (Note: You have to sign at the time of delivery. I was at a dental appointment at the first attempt, and even though I left a signed note with tracking number, the driver had to return the next day. So just be prepared if you order one.)

    Here's how the bike was packed:



    Zip-ties held everything tightly together, and cardboard sleeves and foam tubes prevented scratching. The box itself was pretty beaten up, to the point that the UPS driver noted the condition in case there was damage to the contents. More on that later.

    Once I cut the zip-ties and removed the foam and cardboard, I had to install the pedals, seat-post, seat, front wheel, handlebar, and reflectors. All I used was a hex wrench and a crescent wrench. Everything went together smoothly, and I checked all the pre-installed bolts for tightness as well.

    The pedals are a rubberized plastic, but better quality than I was expecting. I don't see any need to replace them with something better.



    As for shipping damage: there were a few scrapes, but nothing serious, especially for as bad as the box looked. The handlebar had a scrape on the black paint, and each rim had a spot of red paint scraped off:





    This was a little disappointing, but a little bit of nail polish lessened the unsightliness considerably. Plus, in a few months of riding, there will probably be more scratches anyway.

    The bike has decals declaring GRAVITY and EZ-CRUZ, which are ugly, so I removed them. They peel off easily:




    With the Gravity and Cheezy-Cruz decals removed, I think the bike has a great retro stealthy look:



    I'm no expert on bike building, but my initial impression was that the bike was very good quality, and pretty lightweight as well, for a cruiser. (UPS says the package weighed 30 pounds.) I had a slight snag when filling the tires: one of the tubes sprung a leak! When I examined it, it looked like a flaw in the seam around the valve. I put in a new tube, added slime to tubes, and took it for a test ride.

    Initial impression was very good. It was very quiet and smooth riding. It felt a little "small" since I'm used to the more stretched geometry of the Electra Zarape's pedal-forward design, but I soon acclimated. The gearing seems just right for me (I'll do some tooth-counting later) and it felt nimble and responsive. I didn't take it up any of the uphill blocks I usually face on my commute, but I don't anticipate it being very difficult, especially since the geometry and handlebar placement make it easy to pedal standing up.

    This is not a "fast" bike by any means; like any single speed, it will go as fast as you can pedal. But the thick sprung saddle was surprisingly comfortable, and the handlebar angle and height can be adjusted quite a bit to suit your preference. The coaster brake was responsive and quiet.

    Overall, I was very impressed! I think the bike looks great, feels great, and seems solid and quiet. I'll ride it on my work commute Monday, and have a better idea of how it does on hills and over a longer distance. I added a black wire basket to the handlebar, since I always need to carry work items and bike-related tools/jacket etc. This slightly ruins the streamlined look of the bike, but it has to be practical. (Edit, I was able to put the rear rack on right away so I took the basket back off.) I may swap the basket for a rear rack, depending on practical needs. (One note: there are threaded lugs near the rear axles, but no lugs near the seat post; I anticipate needing to buy a seat post clamp with lugs to attach a rear rack.)

    If anyone has any specific questions, let me know. Meanwhile, I'll keep giving it a thorough shakedown and report back here.
    Last edited by Darryl Montana; 06-14-12 at 07:24 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member RoyIII's Avatar
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    very nice!

  3. #3
    Sqrl
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    What''s the gearing on it? i.e. CCan you actually ride it through moderate sand?

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    Quote Originally Posted by David Broon View Post
    What's the gearing on it? i.e. Can you actually ride it through moderate sand?
    Hi David,

    I haven't ridden it on anything but asphalt, but the gearing is 44 x 22 and the crank arms are 165mm. the tires are 26 x 2.125. I hope the specs help you. Here's a close up of the tire tread. The frame allows plenty of room for fatter tires if needed:



    And here's the bike ready for commuting with a rear rack and trunk bag, and a handlebar water bottle cage:



    I had to add a second seat post clamp under the actual clamp to attach the front bracket of the rear rack, as shown in the photo below. The rear rack bracket might have been able to be secured by the actual seat post, but I didn't want to risk not being able to tighten it enough. The included seat post clamp and seat brackets are just the simple style I remember from all my bikes as a kid. Not fancy, but it works:



    Hope this info is helpful. Once again, I'll report back after my Monday commute.

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    Sqrl
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    That's perfect! Just what I was wondering. Thanks!

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    BikesDirect single speed cruiser (Gravity EZ Cruz), commuting day one: the ride to work.

    I live about 5 miles from work, and it's a pretty easy ride. My route avoids tangling with many cars, and it's overall a slight downhill ride.
    I outfitted the BikesDirect single speed cruiser for commuting over the weekend, and took it for a few short shakedown rides, but didn't ride any distance until this morning for my ride into work.

    As in the short test rides, the bike was quite, smooth, nimble, comfortable, and fun to ride. The key for me was to just set a comfortable cadence without trying to push too fast. Due to the relatively low gearing (44 tooth chainring, 22 tooth cog, 165mm crank arms) it's easy to want to get the bike going faster than you can pedal. Getting into the mindset of not rushing and finding a comfortable cadence was key. For me, that's about 60 to 80 RPMs.

    The quietness of the single speed gearing was very nice. My Electra Zarape makes a typical clacking noise when coasting. In contrast, the single speed is dead quite when coasting, which actually comes in very handy at intersections, allowing me to hear distant oncoming cars more easily. I also realized that it made it easier to accidentally sneak up on pedestrians walking in the middle of the steet (why do they do that?!) so I should probably add a bell.

    The saddle was very comfortable, and the old-school geometry made it easy to occasionally stand on one pedal or the other to stretch my legs out and get off the saddle for a minute when coasting.

    One note about the saddle: about 4 miles in, it started squeaking and then loosened. I stopped and tightened it. Apparently when I initially tightened it, I didn't have the angle adjustment teeth aligned correctly, so after some movement, slack developed. A quick re-adjustment and tightening with vice grips (in my opinion, a must-have for the old style of saddle hardware), I was on my way again.

    The included handlebar grips have a waffle texture, which provides a sure grip. They are rubbery feeling and relatively soft, but unless you wear gloves (which I only do when it's cold) they may be a bit coarse on the hands. They didn't really bother me, but if I were riding longer they might have. At this point, there is a definite possibility that I'll upgrade the grips. I have a feeling I'll know within a couple days. The fact that I notice them at all is probably a good indication that they should be changed.

    Whether riding my 24 speed hybrid, or my 3 speed cruiser, I've always gotten to work in about 25 minutes. The single speed cruiser took me 28 minutes, but that included the 3 or 4 minutes I stopped to adjust the saddle. So, time-wise there was no difference. That works out to an average speed of about 12 miles an hour.

    Overall, I was very happy with my maiden voyage. The tougher ride will be on the way home. It's a slight uphill ride, and usually into the wind. It takes about 10 minutes longer than the ride in. I'll update again after my ride home.

  7. #7
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    Day 1, Part 2: The Ride Home

    I park my bike in my cubicle, and all my coworkers were used to seeing my Electra Zarape, which is a stunningly beautiful machine that gets constant compliments. When people saw the Gravity cruiser, they loved it as well. Because of the classic style, it brought up numerous "first bike" stories. The Gravity cruiser is certainly eye catching, especially with the bright red rims.

    Anyway, after hours of working and answering bike questions, it was time to go home. My return trip is more difficult, being slightly uphill and into the prevailing wind. It's 5 miles, and takes about 30 minutes on my Gary Fisher and my 3 speed Electra. It took the same amount of time on the single speed Gravity cruiser. This doesn't say as much about the speed of the Gravity as it does my consistent cycling slowness.

    The ride was just fine. The bike remained comfortable and handled the uphill ride easily. I never felt the need for a lower gear, and any time I felt that I wanted a higher gear I just reminded myself there was no rush, and maintained an even cadence.

    One thing to note when riding a single speed cruiser: even if you are fit enough to pedal at a fast cadence, the geometry, upright position, and bounciness of the sprung seat will limit you. At a certain point, the pedaling will introduce too much bounce, and your efforts will be wasted. This point will be different for each rider, and I'm sure a younger, lighter cyclist can probably maintain a higher cadence than I can, at 51 years old and over 200 pounds.

    I mentioned the handlebar grips in my previous comment. After my ride home, I really think they are fine. They didn't bother me a bit. I also noticed that my hands never became numb during either part of my commute, which was a big issue on the Gary Fisher, much alleviated but still present with the Electra. I attribute this to the very swept back position of the handlebar. There's no hyper-extension of the wrists at all.

    The saddle remained comfortable on the ride home. I think most people would be happy with the included saddle, bearing in mind a cruiser is not meant to do centuries. Even though the saddle is fine, I did swap it for a Schwinn gel padded saddle which I'll try tomorrow. The only reason is that I had the saddle already, and it has a cutout to alleviate pressure on he tailbone, another of my age-related weaknesses.

    I hadn't ridden a single speed bike since I was a kid, so I wasn't sure how I would like it, if at all. Obviously a couple of 5 mile rides can't tell you everything about a bike's performance. But based on my initial impressions, I'm very happy with the Gravity cruiser, and will probably make it my main commuter, saving the Electra for occasional use and weekend rides.

    So, I'd have no hesitation recommending the BikesDirect cruiser as a fun bike if you're not trying to set speed records.

  8. #8
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    2 Month Update...

    I've been riding the Bikes Direct Gravity Cruiser for a couple months now as my (mostly) daily commuter, and have put a few hundred miles on it.

    PRO: Love it! Solid feeling, good gear ratio for my needs, pretty nimble, extremely quiet. Lots of fun, and I get compliments on it all the time.

    CON: On my unit, whoever (or whatever) tightened the spokes stripped some of the heads. This resulted in tiny metal burrs sticking up from the heads, which eventually poked through the rubber rim tape and into the inner tube, resulting in a leak. I replaced the front tube after a few weeks and filed down the offending burrs. The same problem happened with the rear rim as well, after about 6 weeks.

    So, as a word of warning, if you do buy one of these (or probably any bike, especially a lower priced one) take 10 minutes before you ride it the first time and check the spoke heads. It will save time (or being stranded) later. Thankfully, in my case the tubes lost air over night and not during a ride.

  9. #9
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    Hey thanks for your review! It's very helpful.

    I'm considering getting this bicycle just to ride around a college campus. I just need something cheap and reliable. I was hoping that would be a better alternative than getting a Walmart bike. It's unfortunate that you have had maintenance problems. The bike seems to be excellent in most other aspects though.

    Would you recommend getting this instead of a department store bike in terms of reliability?

    If there are any other alternatives, I'm all ears. Thanks!

  10. #10
    I WILL BE YOUR LARRY arex's Avatar
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    Excellent review...thank you. I'm planning on getting one for my wife, who has never liked her 21-speed mountain bike and expressed a preference for a coaster brake and a less-rigorous body position. I am, however, going to rebuild the rear wheel with an SRAM auto 2-speed shifter hub, to increase the versatility a bit.
    "Ahab knew, baby...I lust." -- Vet-san

  11. #11
    Thrasher
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    #swag

  12. #12
    Sqrl
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    Quote Originally Posted by carleton View Post
    Doing one-legged squats while holding chickens in each hand will make someone strong...that doesn't mean it's the best way to train for track racing.
    Quote Originally Posted by Nagrom_ View Post
    That would be spectacular. A trail of blood and sealant.

  13. #13
    Wut
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    Nice looking cruiser but it would make more sense if you just put cruiser style bars on the hybrid for commuting imo. To me beach cruisers make no sense for commuting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cottoncube View Post
    Would you recommend getting this instead of a department store bike in terms of reliability?

    If there are any other alternatives, I'm all ears. Thanks!
    It's got the same parts as a department store cruiser.

    The only step up I could think of would be rubber seals on the hubs; some of the name brand cruisers have those.

    This bike or a department store bike would simply have to have its hubs repacked with grease if used in sand or wet weather (the front wheel throws gritty water on the back wheel and bottom bracket.)

    I commuted on a department store cruiser for a while. I didn't experience any big problems. I like some of BD's bikes but if I wanted this thing I would just go to a department store and pick up one of those.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wut View Post
    Nice looking cruiser but it would make more sense if you just put cruiser style bars on the hybrid for commuting imo. To me beach cruisers make no sense for commuting.
    The reliability is excellent and flats are rare because the big soft tires just won't pick up a lot of sharp debris.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wut View Post
    Nice looking cruiser but it would make more sense if you just put cruiser style bars on the hybrid for commuting imo. To me beach cruisers make no sense for commuting.
    That's an excellent point, and I did consider it. However, moving the shifter and brakes to a different handlebar would have required replacing all the cables, since they were not long enough to reach the appropriate place on cruiser style handlebars. I know that's not a huge deal in general, but it was more than I wanted to mess with, especially considering the nature of my commute and not needing all those gears in the first place.

    It's now been a year since my initial review, and, as much as I loved it, I haven't missed my hybrid even once. I've really enjoyed the simplicity of the single-speed.

    But that's why they sell so many different kinds of bikes! Something for everyone!

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    Since this thread has risen from the dead, I'll give an update:

    As I said above, I'm still riding the Gravity cruiser as my main commuter bike. I ride my Electra Zarape 3 speed on weekends, but I don't like leaving it chained outside of my work all day, which is why I bought the Gravity. (We moved into a new building, and I don't have room to park inside anymore.)

    Regarding the Gravity vs. Department Store issue:garage sale GT is correct that they are probably identical or at least close. The main reason I chose the Gravity over a Department Store bikes was aesthetics. I liked the black and red combo, and there was nothing local in the same price range that I liked as well. Also, there were very few choices of single-speeds in general.

    Reliability-wise, I haven't had any problems since I solved the burred-spoke issue mentioned above. I replaced the stock saddle with a Schwinn gel-padded version, but otherwise I haven't done a thing except keep the tires filled and wiped the dirt off once in a while.

    Bikesdirect still sells these bikes, but they've gone up $10 to $169.95.

    Overall: no regrets. And I'll win every race I enter with it: none.

  18. #18
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    I see a lot of older cruisers on CL with northroad handlebars. It still looks right but probably puts more weight on the front wheel for better handling. I am talking about 26x2.125 beach cruiser type bikes, not using the term loosely to mean a 3 speed like a Raleigh Sports or a Schwinn Speedster.
    Last edited by garage sale GT; 06-18-13 at 06:13 PM.

  19. #19
    Veteran Racer TejanoTrackie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by garage sale GT View Post
    I see a lot of older cruisers on CL with northroads. It still looks right but probably puts more weight on the front wheel for better handling. I am talking about 26x2.125 beach cruiser type bikes, not using the term loosely to mean a 3 speed like a Raleigh Sports or a Schwinn Speedster.
    Did you say Schwinn Speedster. This one has drum brakes, which is great in wet weather because caliper brakes are worthless on smooth chrome steel rims when they get wet. I actually used to commute 3 miles to work in a suit and leather dress shoes on it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dcv View Post
    I'd like to think i have as much money as brains.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by TejanoTrackie View Post
    Did you say Schwinn Speedster. This one has drum brakes, which is great in wet weather because caliper brakes are worthless on smooth chrome steel rims when they get wet. I actually used to commute 3 miles to work in a suit and leather dress shoes on it.
    All I am saying is I don't use the term "cruiser" as loosely as some do on CL. They mean bikes like the one in your pic, I mean fat tire cruisers with curvy frame tubes.

  21. #21
    I WILL BE YOUR LARRY arex's Avatar
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    We received my wife's bike today, and I've spent all evening repacking and adjusting bearings. Just about everything has been tight and grumbly. The frame seems sturdy enough. I'll pull the tires and inspect and tape the rims tomorrow night.
    "Ahab knew, baby...I lust." -- Vet-san

  22. #22
    I WILL BE YOUR LARRY arex's Avatar
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    Okay, after a few long evenings of working on this bike, I've found the following things or issues...

    1. The frame itself is sturdy and well-made...it'd be nice to be able to buy just the frame somewhere, and build the bike the way I want it to be.
    2. The wheels themselves are sturdy and fairly light, comparable to the original rims on my mountain bike...not the best in the world, but still quite acceptable. Rims are straight and the spokes are tight. I had to regrease and adjust the bearings, but they're good and smooth now.
    3. The tires (made by "Ponely") are heavy as hell, and from what research on that company I could do, we won't be able to count on them lasting very long. That's fine, I'll just replace them with good tires when they come to that. I replaced the rubber rim strips with Velox cotton tape. I didn't find any spoke burrs, but the nipples themselves are fairly prominent.
    4. The handlebars are alloy, and seem decent. The stem, on the other hand, can't seem to grip the bar very well, in spite of really cinching the clamp bolts down. I have an Origin8 stem on order.
    5. The headset is still grumbly, in spite of regreasing and adjusting. I have an Aheadset on order.
    6. The BB was pretty tight, I had to regrease and adjust the bearings.
    7. The crank is steel, but okay.
    8. Replaced the plastic pedals with some Nashbar MTB pedals.
    9. The coaster hub seems decent. I'd like to put some decent grease in it, but I'm a bit shy about tearing into something I don't know about. I was going to have the wheel rebuilt with a 2-speed autohub, but I'll leave it be.
    10. The seatpost isn't alloy, it's iron, carved from the heart of a meteorite. An alloy seatpost with a microadjusting clamp is on order.
    11. The seat is cushy, but didn't suit Wife-butt. Another seat is on order.
    12. Aluminum kickstand is on order, to replace the heavy steel one.
    13. A Nirve Hello Kitty bell is on the way. Safety first!

    While I don't regret buying this bike for my wife, I can't help but think that it could've been a lot better bike if they'd tried.
    "Ahab knew, baby...I lust." -- Vet-san

  23. #23
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    Aren't Aheadsets threadless? Won't you need a new fork? I suppose they could put their brand name on a 1" threaded.

    I think you should degrease the bar under the stem.

    Lesser ball bearings will always feel lumpy but can still give good service.

    Bottom brackets can use a slight amount of preload.

  24. #24
    I WILL BE YOUR LARRY arex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by garage sale GT View Post
    Aren't Aheadsets threadless? Won't you need a new fork? I suppose they could put their brand name on a 1" threaded.

    I think you should degrease the bar under the stem.

    Lesser ball bearings will always feel lumpy but can still give good service.

    Bottom brackets can use a slight amount of preload.
    It's 1" threaded, not threadless. I checked, and they do indeed make threaded headsets. I knew they made good threadless ones, so I felt good about getting it.

    It's not greasy...I always have a bottle of 99% isopropyl alcohol on hand to wipe stuff down with, especially my hands. The clamp is bottomed-out and it's just not holding it securely.
    "Ahab knew, baby...I lust." -- Vet-san

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