It's okay because I'm under no illusion that fixies have any practical advantages
July 28, 2012 10:15 PM   Subscribe

Please help me buy a cheap grocery-run bike to get around New York. I'm looking at the Gravity Swift2, the Mercier Kilo WT5, and the Windsor Timeline, although other suggestions are also welcome.

I'm looking for something cheap enough I can afford to replace it if (when?) it gets stolen, and yet not actively unpleasant to ride. I have another bike for commutes and longer weekend rides, so this bike only needs to get me around the city. Say, no more than 20 miles at a time, all on paved roads, but probably while wearing normal clothing. Above all, though, it should be easy to secure and not look like it's worth stealing.

I'm buying new off this time instead of combing through Craigslist and secondhand bike shops because I can't seem to find a used bike in New York which isn't at least one of outrageously overpriced and complete crap. If anyone knows of a secondhand shop which has reasonably priced bikes in working order, I'd love to hear about that as well. I'd be much more comfortable buying a bicycle I've test-ridden, and also starting a relationship with a good shop in town.

The Gravity Swift2 I'm mostly looking at because it has an aluminium frame and carbon fork, which seems unusual at this price point. I've never ridden aluminium, though, and honestly I'm a little suspicious of cheap carbon.

The Mercier Kilo WT5 I like for its 5-speed internally geared hub, which seems to combine the robustness of a singlespeed with the convenience of gears, and the front and rear rack braze-ons. The down-side is, the 5-speed hub will make replacing the rear wheel either much more expensive (if I replace the hub as well) or much more inconvenient (if I salvage the hub and build a new wheel around it).

The Windsor Timeline is just a very standard entry-level singlespeed, although as such things go it seems to be a pretty sensible offering. Most entry-level singlespeeds seem to be aimed toward trackie wannabes: very aggressive geometry, razor-thin fork clearances, no braze-ons, and sometimes even no brake mounts. This one looks very practical outside a velodrome.

In case you know of another bike I should be considering, here's how I'm judging the bikes:

Necessary: 56 cm frame; drop, randonneur, or pursuit bars; integrated or bar-end shifters; front and rear caliper, cantilever, or disc brakes; preferably double-walled, definitely aluminium rims; forks wide enough to accommodate a 32 mm tire

Preferable: rear rack braze-ons; some rake to the fork to steady the handling; lightweight enough to carry; no toe overlap; quick-release wheels

Deal-breakers: stem or down-tube shifters; drum, coaster, or no brakes; suspension; anything nonstandard or finicky (e.g., Positron derailleurs, which qualify in both categories at once)
posted by d. z. wang to Shopping (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
there are some bikeforums threads comparing the kilo wt to the timeline; here's one

My only personal input related to this: I have a bike with an IGH and you might want to check the shifter style that comes with the Kilo WT, because one of the issues I went through with mine was the lack of replaceable shifters that weren't twist or cheap looking. The only bar-end shifters I've ever seen are for 7speed and higher.

(I also have a Kilo TT - the fixed version - and I like it well enough, it is exactly what I was expecting and nothing more. The smaller frames have toe overlap, you might not have as much on a 56cm and I think the WT has slightly more relaxed geometry.)
posted by par court at 11:52 PM on July 28, 2012

You might want to look into your local bicycle charities. The one I volunteer for sells our nicer bikes to finance the operation. I wouldn't be surprised if this is a common charity model.

Re: Aluminum and carbon: Aluminum is a great frame material except it is stiffer than steel. That means the ride is much harsher. Carbon though is excellent at shock absorbing so the carbon fork on an aluminum frame is a common comfort compromise.
posted by chairface at 7:25 AM on July 29, 2012

I lived in Manhattan for 10 years. The best way to get around? Rollerblades. You can ride anywhere, fit into spaces bikes can't, and don't have to worry about them getting stolen. Not as fast as a bike on a straight stretch, but in traffic you can get on the sidewalk, so they end up being faster (or about the same) overall. They're as easy as walking (just look out for grates and chinese restaurants after hours) and MUCH easier to get up and down stairs, and just easier in general to deal with when not in fidgeting with locks or finding room in your apartment. just a suggestion...
posted by sexyrobot at 8:17 AM on July 29, 2012

None of the bikes you are looking at are in stock in your size. I was interested in the WT5 last year and they never replenished their supply.
posted by MonsieurBon at 2:00 PM on July 29, 2012

I had a kilo that I made into a WT5 (bikeisland used to sell WT5 wheelsets for 200$, bar-end shifter incl.) because they were out of my size and seem to always be chronically out of most sizes. I hit my feet on the front tire and the rear panniers if I didn't have them slammed right to back of the rack. I didn't have any shifting issues and it is a nice gear range for moderately hilly places. Since the kilo is basically a track frame with tire clearance I didn't find it all that great for carrying a load of groceries but it was fun to ride unladen. I imagine most track/fixie frames are like this and I suspect all the variations that BD sells are based on the same frame.

I wish I'd gone with the torker graduate instead... but it's got drum brakes and a north roads style bar so that's not what you want, though you could flip the bar and drum brakes do work once they've been ridden for a while, the shoes have to wear down a bit to get set but they do stop my 230lbs without problems. Drum brake wheels are also a pain in the ass for thieves since they have so much stuff to unhook, but that can make changing tubes a pain... many people just pull the tire off and patch the tube with the wheel still on the bike. Flat-resistant tires have saved me from any flats so far.

I ended up putting drop bars on a peugeot mixte and building up a set of drum brakes sturmey archer hubs (with dynamo for lights). I've found sturmey archer's new hubs to be pretty reliable so far and haven't done any maintenance on them. With drum brakes the wheels can be a bit out of true without any trouble. This bike does weigh a lot though, as any classic city bike does. It's gotta be the smoothest ride I've got, running 35 or 38mm tires... wide tires will give a smoother ride regardless of frame material. I ended up going this route because I found all the off-the-peg offerings to be lacking features I wanted.
posted by glip at 6:51 PM on July 29, 2012

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