Single-speed and fixed-gear bikes are painfully en vogue at the present moment. Skinny jeans. Mustaches. U-locks in back pockets. Take a glance in the urban core of almost any American city and within minutes you’re bound to see a hipster mimicking a bike messenger.
Now, I am no innocent here. I have been on a fixie for four years. I enjoy the control and subtle machismo it takes to ride a bike in traffic when your legs are locked to the motion of a chain and spinning wheels.
Plus, a trend that promotes something healthy like riding a bike is fine by me. For Richard Snook, a former racer and fixed-gear cyclist since the 1970s, the current climate proved an apt time to launch a company.
Wabi Cycles (www.wabicycles.com) is Snook’s small outfit in Los Angeles. He started selling single-speed bikes this past spring. He sells frames and two complete models — a steel bike for $650 and an $800 Scandium model.
Both Wabi models come standard as fixed-gear bikes, meaning you cannot coast. But there is a single-speed freewheel upgrade option.
Hipsters may pick up a Wabi for its clean, logo-less look. It is comfortable for commuters. The bikes are a good value for an everyday rider, too.
Snook said the bikes — which are available boxed and shipped anywhere in the lower 48 states for $20 — were designed for climbing and descending, cornering, accelerating, and comfort.
I tested the Wabi Lightning, which has a scandium-enhanced aluminum frame and weighs only 17 pounds complete. The bike is marketed as light, fast, and agile. I will not disagree.
Wabi calls the Lightning a “do-everything fixie.” It can swing urban riding in heavy traffic or training on the open road in a peloton. I have ridden it more than 200 miles in a two-month test period, and the bike has proven to be solid, fast, reliable, and comfortable.
The Lightning’s components are hand-picked and solid. The frame and carbon fork make for an amazingly light and responsive system. The frame geometry balances a speedy position with comfort — I can go 30 miles on the Lightning without feeling cramped, which is something not possible with other fixed-gear bikes I have tested.
At www.wabicycles.com you pick frame size, color, bar width, crank-arm length, gearing, and other attributes to design a custom Lightning or Classic model, the latter being the company’s $650 steel bike. Add a freewheel and the bike has a flip-flop rear hub for $15 extra.
My bike came in a box via ground shipping. It took less than 20 minutes to assemble, adjust the seat, and add pedals. Then it was ready to ride — on the road or in the city, skinny jeans and a mustache not necessarily required.
–Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.