This is a guest post from Pete Prebus. Pete runs Electric Bike Report and is enthusiastic about spreading the word about electric bikes because they have great potential to get more people on bikes and out of their cars.
Critical Cycles is a new kind of fixie company. They state on their website that:
What matters to us most is getting as many people out of cars, off their sofas, away from their desks, and onto a bike. That’s why we offer many sizes, colors, and the best prices anywhere on the web.
Yeah, that pretty much rocks! And I think that there is a good chance they will accomplish their mission.
Fixie style bikes are fun and very simple. Maybe that is what makes them so much fun.
In case you don't know, fixies blend the speed and efficiency of a track bike with the flat or upright handlebars of a mountain bike to make the ride a little more comfortable. They are generally the preferred mode of transportation for today's urban hipsters, so they usually have some style.
Critical Cycles has a distinct fixie style with their BMX type handlebars. The BMX style works well when you are busting out your freestyle tricks.
These bars, in true fixie style, are pretty narrow, but not as narrow as some fixie bars I have seen!
Critical also offers a number of different color combinations to choose from in small (49cm), medium (53cm), and large (57cm) sizes.
These fixies use a steel frame and fork, and come equipped with Protek cranks, Sunrun freewheel, KMC chain, Well-Go pedals, and Promax brakes. Not a bad line up of components.
Critical also included a flip-flop rear hub with the option of using the included freewheel if you are not into the true fixed gear thing.
Okay, so what will this fixie set ya back? $219 including free shipping!? How can it be that cheap? Here is the explanation from Critical:
We are able to offer these amazing prices simply by cutting out all the middlemen. When you purchase a bike from Critical Cycles you are buying your bike factory direct from the bicycle manufacturer. There are no company reps, retailers, or retail salesmen making commissions and mark-ups between you and us.
So far it all sounds good right? How about when the rubber hits the road? Alright, here is what I know:
Building the bike
The video was pretty good for how to assemble the fixie but there were a few parts missing. According to Critical Cycles they will be providing a video specifically for their bikes soon.
The current video lacks information on flipping the rear wheel to change it to the freewheel setup. It would also be great to see them use a little grease on the bolts. The Critical comes with the brake cable already installed in the brake lever so you can ignore what they show in the video regarding brake cable installation. And the Critical only has a rear brake, the Retrospec has both front and rear.
The bike does come with most of the tools to assemble it.
From my experience the assembly of the bike went pretty well, except for bending the wrench (thin, malleable steel) when I tightened the pedals and there no tools for attaching the brake housing clamps to the top tube.
Other than that, the bike went together very easily.
Once you get the bike built, you should run it by your local bike shop so they can give it the once over to make sure it is totally road ready.
I have to say that the Critical is one of the more comfortable fixies I have ridden and that is probably thanks to the upright BMX style handlebars. It is a quick bike, like you would expect from a road style track bike, but more comfortable and styley with the high rise bars.
This bike is also relatively lightweight and easy to maneuver in tight spots. Good for the urban jungle!
The gear ratio is pretty tall for climbing hills but it cruises along the flats comfortably. You can climb hills, just be prepared to stand on those pedals! If you live in an area where there are more hills than flats, you may want to change the chainring or rear cog size.
The CC come with toe clips and straps for the ability to pull up on the pedals when you are cranking hard. Personally I found them to be a little cumbersome because they are a smaller size and I have size 11 feet, so I removed them.
First of all, the price really stands out on this bicycle. For $219 you really get a bike that is ready to hit the road with a frame and components that appear that they will last for many miles.
The frame welds looked clean, and they were representative of a well built bike.
The fact that CC offers nine different color combinations to choose from is impressive and it seems that they have colors to match many different tastes in style.
Overall, the handling of the bike was quick but still comfortable — not too twitchy.
The CC only comes with a rear brake, no front brake. If you plan on commuting on this bike a lot, it would be wise to have a front brake for rainy days and those emergency stops.
Speaking of brakes, the brake pads wore out very quickly. I wore through the stock pads in a little over a week of hard riding. This is probably due to the fact that there is only a rear brake but I think the pads material was also low quality. Once I replaced the brake pads with better pads it made a world of difference in stopping power!
The pedals are not completely flat on both sides, and it would be nice to have that for people that are not using the toe clips and straps.
As mentioned before, the included wrench bent while tightening the pedals and there were no tools for tightening the brake cable housing clamps.
Comparison to other Fixies
There are a lot of fixies available in the market right now. The closest competitor I could find for the price and color selection was the Vilano Fixed Gear bike. It is a little more money than the Critical cycles. It does have a front brake but some of the components are not as nice (seat post & seat) and it doesn't have the cool BMX style bars!
If you are looking for a minimalist and fun bike for your urban shredding then I think you should definitely checkout the Critical Cycles fixie.
It has a nice steel frame, a solid mix of components and the color options are pretty amazing. For the price, it is a very compelling offer for a fixie style bike. I would recommend that you upgrade the brake pads ASAP and use a smaller chainring if you live in a hilly area.
You can buy a Critical Cyles fixie on their website.