We talked a lot about the OSO Bike a couple weeks ago…and I illustrated the major features and my likes and dislikes so far of this bicycle.
But, I sort of left you hanging: just how does this bike actually ride?
We’ll get to that shortly — in order to talk about the ride, we need to talk about the frame first. On the Osobike website specs, the frame is described merely as “chromoly high strength steel”. It IS chromoly, of course, but in talking to Osobike founder Shane Stock, I discovered that the main tubes are double-butted. In addition, the main tubes of the frame are teardrop shaped and then everything is TIG-welded together. Here’s a shot of the tube shaping:
Shane specified a one-inch headtube with reinforcing rings for this bike. At first, I questioned this spec — one-inch forks and headsets aren’t exactly plentiful, but the more I thought about it and the more I looked at it from an aesthetic perspective, it makes good sense — semi-aero tubing notwithstanding, the frame evokes classic road or track bike lines. Besides, how often does a rider REALLY need to replace an entire headset? If a new one is ever needed, there are several companies making 1″ threadless headsets.
Because of the tube shaping, the way all the tubes come together at the bottom bracket shell leaves a very stiff junction. The downtube wraps almost halfway around the BB shell!
(Ignore all the dirt…no fenders, remember?)
Couple that stiff BB junction with some very stout chainstays and you’ve got one s-t-i-f-f frame. In fact, this frame is easily the stiffest steel bike I’ve ever ridden, and that’s saying a lot. I’ve got two handmade steel frames in my personal fleet, one Italian and one Japanese. Neither of them can hold a candle to the OSO in terms of getting pedal power to the rear wheel. To put it bluntly, this bike is really fun to haul ass on — get out of the saddle and start thrashing and this bike responds instantly. I found myself sprinting a lot during my commutes!
Where’s the beef? Oh, here it is:
Frame geometry seems to be somewhere in a happy zone between a traditional track bike and a road racer…something perhaps best described as “relaxed track geometry”. The bike exhibits a good bit of “toeverlap” as many track-like bikes do (really a non-issue…this is NOT a design flaw, just the nature of a tight frame). The bike responds to pedaling and steering inputs without any twitchiness, but it isn’t as plush a ride as a more stretched-out road frame. The OSO won’t beat you up with all that stiffness, though…it IS steel, after all.
The handlebars and saddle are both somewhat generic, but servicable. You either love or you hate bullhorns…and I suppose I fall into the latter camp. No big deal — throwing on some road drops is a 2 minute process. I thought I’d like the included saddle…it is shaped like a few of the saddles I’m fond of, but I guess I have to admit to myself that my sit bones are a little wider apart than my narrow ass would suggest. Saddles are such a personal choice that I could never give bad marks to a bike I’m reviewing just because of an uncomfortable saddle. This one’s not that uncomfortable, either…but I wouldn’t want to roll cross-country on it, either.
The bike weighs a bit more than one might expect for such a simple machine, but this isn’t a paperthin frame. Some judicious parts swapping (especially a set of lighter wheels) could easily put the bike in the 16-17 lb. range, if that’s your thing.
If an OSO owner gets bored of laying down hot patches of smoking rubber with that coaster brake, there’s good news…the rear bridge is drilled for a brake:
Slap a singlespeed wheel in there or go fixed and you’ve got yourself a fun little bike…which sort of brings me to my last thoughts: Just who is this bike best for, anyway? It hasn’t been well-received by the majority of the commuting community, nor has it been met with much enthusiasm by fixed-gear fans. My friends from the Seminole Heights Bicycle Club and I have been pondering the ideal demographic for the OSO, and we’re still scratching our heads a little bit. One of my club members described it as a “fixie girlfriend bike”, which loosely translates into a bike suited for someone not quite ready for the fixed-gear experience but who appreciates the simplicity and aesthetic those bikes bring to the table. Several others have derided the bike as a “poser machine” — intended to emulate everything that’s “cool” with a fixed-gear bike without the steep learning curve. I wouldn’t go that far, though.
So, let me try to pull all my observations and experiences of the OSO together: simple, fun, a blast to ride, really low maintenance. The bike needs some tweaking, to be sure — we’ve discussed that at length already. Still, none of those tweaks are terribly expensive or difficult to do.
-Simple and low maintenance
-Fun to ride
-Great frame for the price
-Might be a good choice for an ultralight, fair-weather commuter who doesn’t need a rack or fenders
-Some questionable parts spec
-May not do enough from a versatility standpoint for a lot of cyclists out there. This isn’t a primary bike for many of us, but might be an ok “fun bike”.
-Front brake should come STANDARD, not as an add-on. Let the owner choose to ride without the safety of a front brake!