There have been a number of posts about this topic across the globe and there is little doubt that two bikes are required if you live in Scotland.
A winter bike will very quickly become trashed by the harsh wet and salty conditions in just a couple of years and this comes at a cost. For the last couple of years I’ve been riding a single speed winter bike to keep these costs down and make maintenance as simple as possible. Its also because I adhere to the two decent bikes for summer principle – one for beating the hell out of commuting and training in wet summers and the other for those nicer days (the other 50% of the time). I also think you benefit from the leg speed and strength gained from riding a single speeder over the winter – I’ve a 46 x 16 which is around a 76 inch gear.
Fixies and Single Speed road bikes have become increasingly popular (especially in urban areas where they are seen as a fashion item) in the last 5 years and this post looks at the offerings in this re-born strand of the cycling retail market.
Off the peg steel framed – Giant, Specialized and On-One £400 to £800
Giant Bowery 72 Steel RRP £450
Giant Bowery 2012 RRP £450, Specialized Langster RRP £400, On-One Macinato RRP £799
When comparing the frames there is not a lot of difference between these steel offerings, the Bowery used to come in Aluminium but has gone over to steel as has the Langster in 2011. The Langster’s frame does stand out however but only because it uses branded tubes – Reynolds 520 – which certainly beats the Bowery on quality.
Specialized Langser Steel 2012 RRP £400
The Macinato does not use branded tubes.
They are all claimed to be strong and lightweight but anyone who has ridden a 4130 chrome molybdenum frame like the Macinato will know this is not the case and is merely marketing jargon.
The Bowery comes with largely proprietary finishing kit that is not really fit for purpose as a club level winter bike due to its poor quality; for example it is provided with a 3 x 32 chain and running gear which will wear more quickly than a heavy duty 1/2 by 1/8 chain.
The Langster is again better than the Bowery, as it’s Specialized branded parts are in this reviewer’s opinion, better quality such as the chainset and flak jacket tyres and it tops this off with Mavic rimmed wheels.
In contrast Macinato has largely branded parts, Weinmann wheels, Selle Italia saddle and Sram brakes that should last a couple of winters if maintained.
On One Macinato RRP £799
Is the Macinato’s frame and finishing kit worth the extra £400 pounds? Definitely not, those brake levers look awfully cheap for an £800 bike.
Indeed, these bikes are all disappointing from a value for money perspective and this is even more evident when they are compared with comparatively priced road bikes that are running derailleur gears.
Same money on a bike with gears
If you want to spend your money on an out of the box winter bike with gears then you’d be hard pushed to get better value for money from the likes of the following, the Trek 1.1 RRP £550, the Giant Defy 4 RRp £599 and the Specialized Allez RRP £599. These are sound winter bikes.
It is quite shocking when comparing the functionality and componentry of these geared bikes with the lack of componentry and sophistication provided by the Bowery and Langster (admittedly the Macinato does a better job at this) – you get a lot less single speed bike for your money. If I’m spending the same money why am I getting quality that is so much poorer?
In my opinion off-the-peg single speed bikes are over-priced because of two factors, their target market being the fashion conscious urbanite and secondly the relatively small number of people in this market strand.
I think you can build a good base winter bike out of these single speeders. I have built a bespoke (cheap) but reliable single speed winter bike based on a Bowery and this will be the topic of another post.