Mango was started in 2012 by two uni friends who wanted a bike that was fun and easy to ride, but was affordable. They acknowledged that students are poor but also that bike theft is incredibly high around universities, therefore your bike needs to be relatively inexpensive but high enough quality to get you to your lecture (or work) on time.
The company has gone from strength to strength in the last 3 years. By selling primarily online they keep overheads low and thus gained their spot in our sub £300 single speed roundup. Mango have recently ventured beyond the happy single speed into full road bikes. Whilst being more expensive than a single speed, as one would expect, they are still budget friendly for the components involved and have been getting rave reviews.
The bike I had for review is a special edition, called the ‘Minty Monty’, priced at £289.99. Whilst you can pick your own colour combinations, you can also choose from some tasteful remade designs. The combination I came up with on my own was anything but tasteful, so it’s probably for the best! One of the many choices you can make with this bike is handlebar type. I chose bullhorn bars as I wanted to go with the traditional single speed aesthetic.
The bike is really quite attractive in mint and white. The paint on the hi tensile steel frame is flawlessly applied and the finish as a whole looks spot on. The wheels are deep rimmed, again for a quintessential look. The bike comes with a flip-flop hub, meaning it can be freewheel or fixed. When it arrives partially assembled, the rear wheel is already in place on the freewheel side. The brakes are also already attached. Should you wish it is a fairly easy task to flip the wheel and remove at least the rear brake to make it a true fixie. I gave it a brief go, but didn’t really enjoy it so kept it on the freewheel.
The bikes come with a 44t chain ring on the front and a 16t on the back. This gives quite a high gear (72 gearing inches) which means to get going you really have to stomp on the pedals. However, once up to speed, it really flies along flats, and it is fairly comfortable up small inclines.
Initially I was dubious about the gearing being so high. On a geared bike I prefer to spin in a lower gear and thought I would not be able to get used to such a high gear. However, it is actually fine to ride. It is much easier to ride this gear as a single than it would be to ride the same ratio on a cassette. It feels smooth and efficient. I am not saying I could get this bike I up Highgate hill, but it has been fine around the city, most of East London and some of North London (I stop at Archway).
The saddle on this bike is probably one of the comfiest I have every tried. It is certainly the most comfortable stock saddle. The pedals are also very comfy. They work for most types of shoes, which is nice as this is a bike you will want to ride in all sorts of outfits.
I thought I would be a little slower on this bike than I am on my tourer, but generally that has not been the case. I am a little slower away from lights, but I easily catch up. I certainly spend more time out of the saddle, and I do pull on the handlebars more than with other bikes. However, I have found that over journeys of 7miles or less I am no slower on average if I really go for it, which the bike comfortably allows. I also get a great work out, in a good way, not a nearly-collapsing-when-you-arrive kind of way.
The hubs, bottom brakes and headset on this bike are really smooth. I do not feel like I am fighting the bike to make it go, it feels easy to ride. The brakes are plenty adequate. I have been using disc brakes recently so was concerned that these would feel spongy and useless, but they don’t. I do find, as it is slightly harder to get going, that I have adjusted my cycling style whilst on this bike. I tend to try to judge lights and traffic more now so I can keep rolling. This means that I don’t brake as sharply. I have done that though and stopped fine.
There are all the braze-ons you could need on this bike, including a rear brake guide, which I like as it is neater than clamps around the top tube. I have yet to make use of it, but the bike comes with eyelets for mudguards. This feature really makes the bike a viable commuter option. It is a great bike for winter as it is simple and by limiting the number of parts you limit the damage done to the bike by horrible road conditions though the dark months. Finally, you can add a bottle cage, so should you wish to use the bike for day trips or what have you, you can carry your water on the bike.
I asked for bullhorn bars on the bike. I sort of thought they would be little narrow bars for using in city traffic. Wrong. The bars were really wide (48cm c-c), which it does say on the website and I failed to read. They are also quite thin, which means that pulling on them to start was a little uncomfortable. This wouldn’t really be a problem if I was using the bike for short journeys, but I am sometimes doing single journeys of 7-10 miles. I decided to change the bars to some narrower, thicker ones. It did not cost much money and I am glad I did it (although it meant I also had to change the brake levers).
It is nice to have a stiff frame, and I much prefer hi tensile steel over aluminium, but it is far heavier. The bike weighs around 12kg, which is ok but not great. You of course have to make sacrifices to have a bike at this price, and the weight of components is perhaps a nice trade-off I feel. I find that the bike is perfectly easy to carry up a flight of stairs, it just would be nicer to have it a little lighter, especially up inclines. Mango make a chromoly version which is a little lighter. It will also be even more forgiving on horrible London roads. If colour options aren’t your thing, it would be well worth looking at and is currently only £329.
In terms of bike function as a commuter, the main downside of the bike is the coloured Kenda tyres. These are one of the 9 or so things you can customise, however the tyres have no puncture protection at all. It is possible to have the bike arrive from Mango with better tyres, and I would strongly recommend this option (£40 for Gatorskins is a good deal). Single speeds make great autumn/winter bikes, but at this time of year there is so much glass on the road. I will be upgrading the tyres very soon to make sure I get to where I am going without a flat. If you don’t ride often or far, it is not really a problem, but as a commuter bike it is worth considering.
I wasn’t sure I would like this bike, but I really love it. It is seriously fun to ride. I got used to the high gearing pretty quickly and on the flat and down hill I am very grateful for it. It is smooth and easy to ride, I don’t feel like I am fighting rickety components on every down stroke.
The bike is really quite attractive, and certainly gives off the proper single speed, urban feel you may well want. As it is so customisable, it is possible to have one in the classic all black stealth look should you wish for subtle. If that is not your thing then it is very nice to be able to have one that no one else does. I had it locked outside a pub in central London a few days ago and it was getting a lot of loving attention from the cooks! Even though it gets some looks, I am more than happy to leave to leave it locked in a bike rack somewhere like Soho. It blends in and whilst it looks stylish it doesn’t look flashy.
If I were to get one again, I may well go for the chromoly version as it will benefit from an even smoother ride and is a frame material I am used to. The components are budget, of course, but for the time being they are great. Only time will tell in regards to their longevity. If you are intending to use the bike as a commuter year round, you will of course need some new parts at some point, probably wheels first. Single speeds are not maintenance free, so you do still need to take care of them. Do that and any repairs and replacements you need to make will be sporadic and easily done.
Mango bikes can be ordered online from the Mango website, prices start from £269.99.
Do you have a Mango, or other budget single speed? What do you think of it? Have you been thinking about trying a single speed? What are your draw backs/ worries? Let us know!