Introducing: Wabi Cycles

Wabi Cycles is an outfit in Los Angeles that specializes in fixed gear bikes. They offer three different models available as a complete bike or as a frameset.

Richard Snook, founder of Wabi Cycles was kind enough to send us the Wabi Special in Burnt Red. In my opinion, this is the most striking bike they sell.
The Lab-O-Ratory

Its lugged construction and cast horizontal dropouts combined with the deep, metallic red/orange paint really set this machine apart, visually. Mechanically, this is a no-frills transportation machine. The Reynolds 725 tubing is strong yet very light, making for a bike that’s got an amazing road feel. The lugged construction of the Wabi Special comes at a cost, though. The beauty pictured above will set you back $925 as shown, or $600 for the frameset.

The Wabi Classic is a nearly identical bike as far as components, feel and weight are concerned. This practical bike is simply TIG welded instead of lugged and brazed. It’s also very attractively priced ($675 for a complete bike, $350 for the frameset) if you compare it to the popular, heavier mainstream fixies such as the Surly Steamroller ($720, $420).

In the middle of the price range is the Wabi Lightning ($825, $500 for complete and frameset respectively.) The Lightning features a butted scandium frame with carbon fork blades, and comes in nearly three pounds lighter than its steel cousins. (Note: I had mistakenly called this an aluminum frame in an earlier revision.)

I’ve put about 15 miles on the Wabi Special so far. This is the first fixed-gear bike I’ve ridden any significant distance. My initial reaction: This bike really wants to just go. It’s the smoothest, mellowest, quetest bike I’ve ridden, and I had no problems sporting a backpack for my usual daily commute. I made it to work at the same time I usually do on my triple-crank road bike with all its gizmos and gadgets. I easily adjusted to the fundamental simplicity of fixed-gear once I learned to break myself of my coasting habit.

Some people have asked me why a bicycle commuting site is reviewing a fixie without braze-ons, doodads and widgets. That’s simple. You don’t need a purpose-built commuting bicycle any more than your co-workers need a purpose-built car to get to and from the office. Single speed and fixed gear bikes are quite popular among commuters, especially those of us who don’t have epic cross-town commutes. In fact, Richard Snook himself is a bicycle commuter, as you can read on the Wabi Cycles “About” page.

As with every review I do, the Wabi Special will be my primary vehicle for the coming weeks, and I’ll have a full review of my experience before I box it up and send it back home to the city of angels.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.


  1. Mike Myers

    I like seeing this sort of bike hit the market. Now maybe hipsters will quit turning nice old road bikes into fixies, cutting off derailleur hangers and such…

  2. Apertome

    It’s a beautiful bicycle. I’m not in the market but if I were, I’d think about this.

    By the way, “Scandium” bikes ARE aluminum alloys, with just a
    bit of scandium in the mix. I would say calling the other frame “aluminum” is fair.

  3. Richard Masoner

    …once I learned to break myself of my coasting habit.

    The bike reminds you very quickly not to coast 🙂

    No frills singlespeeds and fixed gears are fine for commuting, especially if you’re fair weather only (and there’s nothing wrong with that) and don’t need to carry a lot of stuff. Less stuff to break & less stuff to steal.

    If you want the fixed gear “look” without the actual fixed gear, check out Coasties — deep dish wheels with coaster brakes.

  4. Ghost Rider

    I’m with Apertome…scandium makes up a tiny percentage of the alloy (3% or less) that “aluminum” is probably more accurate of a descriptor. But, then again, words like scandium sell bikes.

  5. Richard Snook

    Hi, would like to respond to the scandium/alu comments. The scandium label is not an attempt at marketing around alu. The scandium addition, while small, is critical. It allows thinner walled tubes and a better ride quality than even 7005. It also adds cost, but hey, that’s the way it works.

    An analogous situation would be calling the 725 Reynolds just steel. The alloying elements are a small % of the overall composition, but they do make a huge difference in weight and ride quality. Hope this helps exlain the scandium tag.

  6. William

    The bikes seem solid enough though I’m not in the market. I met the owner as I was riding home through downtown LA. He seemed nice and it was he commuting by bike to.

  7. tadster

    “Single speed and fixed gear bikes are quite popular among commuters..”

    Indeed I greatly enjoy my free-wheeling single speed, but I just don’t understand why any sensible commuter would want to ride a fixed gear bicycle. You said that you had to break yourself of the coasting habit, but you have to do more than that, like totally rethink cornering, especially under speed, and resist over pedaling on downhills. Not to mention that when motorists see a fixed gear rider, they have less an idea if the rider is planning to stop (e.g. at an intersection) because the rider has to continually pedal unless stationary.

    On the other hand, a bicycle with a freewheel allows both casual riding and aggressive riding when you want it. To each his own, of course. I see Wabi does not include a freewheel on the hub; too bad that option isn’t available on the stock bike. Yes the frames are pretty but not including a FREEwheel option on a $900 bike is ridiculous.

  8. Richard Snook

    Tadster, many others have more eloquently stated the case for fixed gears than I can, but suffice it to say that the bottom line is fun. The response of the fixed is different, climbing is different, it’s just a different way to enjoy a bike. Like John Lennon said, “I’m not the only one”, so there may be something to this fixed thing…..

  9. Noah

    Having never ridden fixed gear before, and now having almost a week of commuting and recreational riding on it, I can already see why. It really is fun, and feels more connected to the road than the singlespeed freewheeled bikes I’ve ridden. Yeah, there are a few times where I “miss” being able to tuck down low, bring my knees in and coast downhill to twice the speed I could pedal up to, but it’s a different style of riding that I’ve come to appreciate in the past few days. You’ll get to hear all about it in a few weeks when I post my final review.

  10. Ben

    I’ve been commuting 35 miles a day on a fixie on and off since April and there’s pros and cons just like anything. I first bought a fixed gear off of craigslist out of curiosity after reading Sheldon Brown’s website, rode it for a month and then sold it thinking I wanted to go back to a road bike. But the fixie bug wouldn’t go away. I test drove a couple other bikes on CL but eventually went back to another fixed gear.

    I really like the torque you have at low speeds and the fact that they are usually really lightweight. I think I ride much faster on flats with the fixed gear but maybe it just feels that way. I DON’T like hills (going up or down) but I’ve slowly adapted to them and I think I’m actually a much stronger rider now.

    The concern of cornering is minimal IMO (there is one corner out of my 35 miles that I slow down for and that’s only because I’ve had pedal strike on my previous road bike – never actually on the fixed gear though).

    I’m also not very good at stopping at a light with my pedal in a good starting position, which is kind of annoying.

    Zooming around downtown and accelerating in short bursts is the most fun of all, especially if you have a light gear ratio. Again, I think this is due to the increased torque without the extra rear derailleur slowing things down.

    It’s a very different way of riding and after getting bored with my previous ride I’m really glad I tried something new. But it’s definitely not for everyone either.

  11. Ghost Rider


    your thoughts are pretty much exactly how I feel — and it’s good to “mix things up” to keep your commute fresh. At least, that’s the excuse I use to justify an entire backyard fleet of bikes!

    Your part about the pedal position at stoplights is one other reason (besides safety) that a front brake is useful. At the light, I apply the brake and press forward on the bars, taking weight off the rear wheel. Then, I can spin the cranks to an appropriate startoff position.

  12. Ben

    Thanks for the tip! I’ll try that with the front brake (which I do have thankfully).

  13. Pingback: Final Review: 2010 Wabi Cycles Special | Bike Commuters

  14. NYC

    Max tire width? Braze-ons? Quality of the wheelset?

    Unless this is both your first fixie ride *and* your first ever post, there’s no excuse for not covering the quick basics of what most commuters are likely to ask, especially if it’s not spelled out clearly on the manufacturer’s web site.

  15. Jake

    I just ordered a classic. new 2011 specs, CLEARLY listed on the website, state 32mm max tire width, two sets of water bottle mounts, fender mount (inside stays) and the wheels are VERY strong and VERY light at 1750 gm for the pair. That do it for ya, NYC?

  16. Mark Stang

    You can now have a freewheel added to your bike for $25 when you order, and Richard asks whether you want the flip-flop rear wheel shipped with the fixed cog or the freewheel on the drive side. I had a great ordering experience – built to order!

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