Single speed bikes have a certain allure to many riders in London and beyond. There are people who love them and take great pride in their bike set ups. They feel that riding single speed, or even better: fixed, is true cycling. Then there are those who are skeptics, who believe that ‘gears were invented for a reason’, ‘why would you make your life harder than it needs to be’.
Andreas is already a convert and I was curious to know if it really was manageable for the cycling I do around the city. After a chat with Andreas we decided that there are others out there that may be interested in getting into single speed riding, without denting their bank account.
There are plenty of cheap bikes out there and we have talked about buying cheap before, not always with good results. However, single speeds are simpler bikes, and we are not looking at ones that are crazy cheap. And really, what better way to get into single speed riding than getting an affordable bike?! If you are not sure this type of bike will work for you then one of the following bikes might be a good gateway drug, as it were. They also work well as a pub or beater bike, something that is not too steal-able.
Here is a low down on some of the options available for around £300.
Mango Single Speed – From £269.99
This is probably the most customisable budget single speed out there. We got our hands on one of these bikes (a Minty Monty special edition) for a long term test and to really get the feel for single speed and its uses around London (full write up to come).
The bike is only available online, although ordering seems easy and delivery is pretty quick. One downside of ordering bikes online is that they come part assembled. Assembly is pretty easy and they give you a cheat sheet. It took me about a half hour.
The frame is hi tensile steel and therefore the bike is not super light at around 12kg, but it is certainly heftable and fairly comfortable to ride on bumpy London streets. The gearing is intended to be good for most urban riding, it is quite high but what you lack in starting speed you make up for in speed on the flat. The bike is supplied with a flip flop hub allowing the bike to be ridden on a free hub or as a fixed gear.
There are mounts for mudguards and for a bottle cage. There are also brazeons for the rear brake cables which makes cabling neat. For people who are looking for a pure fixie and intend to remove the brakes, this might not be as good. Finally, the saddle on this bike is probably the most comfortable stock saddle I have ever encountered. So comfortable in fact that I intend to get one for my tourer.
6KU – £289.99
This is an American brand sold through a few dealers in London, we tried one from purveyors of all things single speed, Brick Lane Bikes. They are pretty similar in spec to the Mango bikes but they are not as customisable. Instead, they come in quite a range named combinations with coordinated coloured parts.
This bike is available in the biggest range of frame sizes, making it more suitable for women as well as men. With the Mango, I was riding a small size frame and it was on the verge of being too big. I tried out a 49cm 6KU, the second smallest frame and it was a little too small for me.
The frame is hi ten steel again, but the bike felt a little lighter than the Mango, maybe just because of the smaller frame size (didn’t have scales). The bikes come with riser bars which are pretty comfortable. There are no braze ons for the cables, they use clamps instead, meaning it is not as neat as the Mango or Fixation, but makes a neater fixie. The gearing is the same as the Mango, with a 44t/16t combination.
Fixation – £275
Fixation are a London brand who recently had a pop-up for the summer in Covent Garden. Similar to the others in that it has a hi ten steel frame and deep profile aluminium wheels. The Fixation bikes are available in a few different colour combinations. At the time of starting this review the bikes were under £300, now they start at slightly over. The bikes are currently only available online, but they will be selling through shops in the near future.
The unique thing about the Fixation bikes is an optional clock you can mount on the end of the stem. This is surprisingly handy when cycling around. The gearing on the fixation bikes is a little lower, with a 44t/18t combination, making it a better choice if you have some hillier terrain to tackle. The bikes again have a hi ten steel frame as per the others so it will be robust on London streets. It feels much like the others to ride.
One benefit of this bike is that there will soon be a women frame version as well. The small sized bike was fine for me, but anyone smaller would struggle. At the moment there are not really any cheap single speeds available in a women frame and so the Fixation offering will bring a welcome offering to us shorter individuals.
Additional single speed options
There is a lot of competition in the sub £300 single speed category. We picked a few of our favourites that we could test. Fred’s bicycles have had good press and we’d love to hear from readers about their top picks. Please do leave a comment below.
Concluding our single speed roundup
If there’s one important thing to note is that at this price point, you get a bike with fairly basic components. That can be absolutely fine to start with, but if there’s a little more budget then there are some worthy upgrades you can make.
The first priority would really be the tyres. Most come with cheap Kenda tyres that offer no puncture protection.
The bikes above are all available with upgrades direct from the source, making life easier for you if you don’t want mechanical hassles. From Mango, you can have the bike arrive with Continental tyres. Fixation have deluxe versions with upgraded cogs and chain, and Brick Lane do an upgraded 6KU with better tyres, locking axle nuts and a lock. These are all upgrades that you may want to do in the short run.
I’ve really enjoyed riding a single speed and have found that despite there being instances where it’s tougher to ride than a geared bike, it’s always a good workout. The things people say are true as well, there is something joyful about just riding a bike.
Eventually, I’d love to move up the price scale and get a slightly better bike, but for now the Mango (or 6KU or Fixation) is truly great. It rolls smoothly, brakes well and is a totally acceptable weight. Being able to lock lock my bike up in central London without worrying too much about it is a nice feeling.
In short, these bikes are worth it. Fun, well built, decently spec’ed, they provide a great, no hassle commuter bike. If you are new to riding they are a really good starting point. If you are used to riding higher spec bikes, they work right out of the box and provide a great base for incremental upgrades and tinkering.
Once you are hooked on single speed riding, we’ll have a roundup of higher end single speeds in the near future, so check back!
Have you tried a cheaper end single speed? What were your impressions? Do you ride a different kind of single speed? Let us know!
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.