Bicycle Network: Bikes 'n' Bits
Bike couriers love single-speed bikes for their simple, single-minded designs. Now style-conscious commuters are ditching derailleur systems for track-inspired, gear-free bikes. Steve White tests two models made for the mass market.
|Frame size||50, 53, 57, 59, 62cm|
|Frame||Reynolds 631 seamless air-hardened Cro-Moly main tubes, double-tapered heat-treated Cro-Moly stays, lost wax rear entry dropouts|
|Fork||Easton EC70, carbon fibre blades, alloy steerer|
|Crankset||Crankset TruVativ Touro (170mm on sizes 50–53cm) (175 on sizes 57–62cm)|
|Bottom bracket||TruVativ Powerspline, 68 x 108mm|
|Chain||KMC Z510H Stem|
|Stem||Easton EA50 (±6°) 90mm (50–53), 100mm (55–57), 120mm (59–62)|
|Handlebar||Handlebar Easton EA50, 400mm (50), 420mm (53–55), 440mm (57–62)|
|Front hub||Formula alloy sealed track 32H|
|Rear hub||Formula alloy sealed track 32H, flip/flop|
|Spokes||14g stainless steel|
|Tyres||Hutchinson Quartz, 700 x 23C, Kevlar|
|Seatpost||Easton EA30 Road, 300mm x 27.2mm with alloy clamp|
|Saddle||Fizik Pavé with leather top, Nytek sides, scuff guards, Cro-Mo rails|
|Freewheel||Formula 15T fixed|
Like its namesake, the first satellite to orbit the earth, Jamis’s Sputnik is blazing a trail as a new breed of bicycle. The Sputnik’s geometry partly resembles that of a road bike, while its components belong on a track bike, which makes this bike difficult to place in existing categories.
A no-fuss drivetrain reduces all the typical clutter associated with a derailleur chain system. In its place you’ll find a simple one-geared bike that has a fixed-gear system. By fixed I mean there is no freewheeling. In other words you must maintain pedalling at all times resulting in a ride vastly different from a regular derailleur-chain system, which allows you to sit back and freewheel.
The bike took a bit of getting used to. Although I have had plenty of experience riding a fixed wheel, I felt substantially safer once brakes had been fitted to the Sputnik. The standard bike set up comes sans brakes, however, a rear-brake bridge and allowances for a front brake easily accommodate a pair of road-brake callipers.
The Sputnik frame comes in stealthy matt black and is made out of Reynolds 631 Cro-Moly double-butted steel tubing. Jamis’s attention to detail is apparent when you inspect the Sputnik’s construction close up. Reinforcing collars on the head and seat tubes give the lightweight frame added strength and durability. And the frame readily accommodates two water bottle cages.
Teaming the light weight frame with an Easton EC70 carbon fork reduces road shock effortlessly and stylishly. Hutchinson tyres mounted on Alex DA22 rims with stainless-steel spokes and sealed hubs complete an all-round lightweight setup. TruVativ cranks were light and stiff, which is a must given that you are constantly pedalling. The Fizik Pavé seat is an added bonus. And finally an Easton parts kit including handlebars, stem and seatpost complete the look.
This bike is easily modifiable to suit your needs. I swapped the 46-tooth chainring for a 42, in order to make the gear lower, which has a couple of benefits: It helps you keep ‘on top’ of the lower gear making it easier to push off at intersections, and also helps with stopping; so you don’t have to pedal back as hard to slow down.
This bike is definitely is not for the beginner or inexperienced rider. Conscious thought is required to maintain pedalling if you are used to a derailleur-chain system, but you will adapt quickly to the fixed gear if you are riding it regularly. Bicycle couriers are fond of this style of bike as it is very easy to maintain and the fixed wheel gives you plenty of extra speed once you get the gear going.
50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 62cm
|Frame||Specialized A1 Premium Aluminum, double-butted tubing, compact track design, horizontal rear entry dropouts|
|Fork||Specialized alloy fork, Cro-Moly steerer|
|Brakes||Tektro Dual pivot, with cartridge multi-condition pads, Tektro aero brake levers, short reach|
|Crankset||Sugino Comp, 170mm polished arms|
|Bottom bracket||TH BB-7420 cartridge, square taper, 68mm shell, 103mm spindle|
|Chain||KMC Z-510HX, 1/2” x 3/32”, anti-drop inner links|
|Pedals||Composite body, alloy cage, with toe clips and straps|
|Stem||Specialized 3D forged alloy, 10 rise, 26.0mm clamp|
|Handlebar||Specialized Comp handlebar, alloy racing drop, 26.0 clamp|
|Front hub||Specialized, 32-hole, forged alloy, double seals, with chrome track nuts|
|Rear hub||Specialized, 32-hole, forged alloy, double seals, with chrome track nuts, flip/flop design|
|Spokes||14g stainless steel|
|Rims||Alex DA-16, 700c double-wall rim, machined sidewalls|
|Tyres||Specialized Mondo, 700 x 23C, wire bead, 60TPI|
|Seatpost||Specialized alloy, 27.2mm|
|Saddle||Specialized road saddle, full padding|
|Freewheel||Shimano 16T freewheel|
Specialized Langster Specialized’s Langster addresses the current demand for single-speed bicycles in a 700c version. The bike is primarily a road bike, but without the multiple gears. The single-speed drivetrain reduces and simplifies maintenance and cost. Without gear cables and derailleurs the lines of the frame stand out dramatically, giving the single-geared bike a clean-cut appearance. The Langster’s parts specifications are unique in that both road and velodrome-inspired parts come on the standard model.
Although its construction and specifications appear simple, the Langster can be impressively versatile. For example, you can run a fixed cog on one side of the hub and fit a single-speed freewheel on the other, so flipping the wheel over allows you to freewheel.
The frame comes from Specialized’s proven A1 series, a lightweight double-butted aluminium tubeset with the appropriate modifications in the rear dropouts to handle the single-speed rear wheel. The Langster forks are the most solid aluminium forks I have ever seen on a road bike. Although they are straight with oversized blades and dropouts, which should have added road shock, the ride felt smooth with little vibration through the handlebars.
The Langster’s Tektro dual-pivot brakes and matching levers pulled the bike up effortlessly. With plenty of pad adjustment and quick-release mechanisms on both the levers and the callipers, the Tektro brake package gives you value for money in this price bracket. High quality Sugino cranks and a sealed cartridge bottom bracket ran flawlessly throughout the test. I found the standard gearing ratio a little high for city riding, but, gear choice is highly personal.
It was nice to see track-inspired wheels with sealed, oversized, high-flange hubs and Alex DA16 rims with black stainless-steel spokes, not features you generally find in off-the-rack bikes. I am pleasantly surprised at the quality of wheels sold as standard fittings on bikes today.
The Langster’s wheels felt really stiff with no apparent side flex even while sprinting or climbing out of the saddle. The Specialized Mondo tyres, although slick in design, had plenty of grip, thanks largely to their soft rubber compound.
The two contact areas of the saddle and the handlebars had clearly been carefully thought through – Specialized fits its branded Body Geometry saddle on the Langster. The seat’s cut-out design and supple padding felt extremely comfortable. The thick cork-style handlebar tape was also a nice comfort bonus.
The Langster is a low-maintenance bike. It only comes in black, so you’ll need to get out the reflective vest if you’re riding at night. But, that said, the matt finish and overall solid black frame, componentry and wheels with silver detail makes for one slick-looking bike. This bike has both functionality and looks. Discrete rear rack mounts will make it popular for those wanting to carry panniers with style.
Steve has worked in the bicycle industry for many years. He is currently writing his honours degree while enjoying year-round commuting and weekend touring.
This article first appeared the April-May 2006 issue of Ride On
To access further articles, Bicycle Network Victoria members can log into Blink to view the Ride On Library.
To recieve Ride On become a member of Bicycle Network Victoria or subscribe individually.