Urban Outfitters hops on the bike-wagon

Bike snobs, back away from your computers. The end is near, and it’s coming in the shape of fixed gear bikes available with brakes in a wide array of bright, customizable color combinations courtesy of Urban Outfitters and Republic Bike. It won’t surprise anyone that the big draw of these bikes is that they can be made to match your closet’s color scheme, but before snubbing my nose at the idea that Urban Outfitters could produce a quality item, I turned to Brooklyn bike expert Chris Wielk for some answers.

“This bike is essentially what Urban Outfitters’ clothing is to real fashion: poorly made, a few years too late, and packaged to appeal to the masses. Hi-tensile steel is the heaviest, cheapest steel used for making bikes, essentially ‘gas pipe’ tubing. Because of this it actually makes the bikes about 6-8 lbs heavier than the other low end bikes used with different types of chromoly – not exactly ideal if you have a walk up. Component-wise it’s sort of the bottom of the barrel. It’ll get you rolling, but these aren’t quality parts. The fact that they mention Sugino cranks is a little misleading. Sugino is one of the better companies making real track components, but the cranks that come on the bike aren’t even made for single speed or fixed gear use, they’re generally used on geared road bikes.

“As far as other bikes in that price range, Bikes Direct has been doing it for a few years and now they have a bunch of options between $300 and $500. There’s also Iro Cycle. Before all the “discount bikes” starting becoming so available these were pretty much everyone’s first fixed gears.” If you prefer to stay local (and if local happens to mean Brooklyn), check out Affinity and Continuum, both of which offer custom bikes. Wielk warns they’re “a little more expensive, but offer actual customer service and bike knowledge, and are a part of the cycling community.”

And even though they have every reason to scorn Urban’s beginners efforts, bike enthusiasts are surprisingly optimistic about it. “If it can get more people interested in riding bikes,” Wielk continues, “even if it’s initially as an accessory, then that’s a good thing. Hopefully it will make more people aware of cyclists.”