I’ve been flogging the Wabi Special for just a little over a month now. This sleek, light fixed-gear bike is designed right here in the US. Fixed gear bikes are quite popular among urban commuters due to their utilitarian form, efficiency and reliability. Here’s another look at the Wabi Special right after I took my first ride on it in early July:
Note that I had mounted some cheap resin platform pedals to it. They were the only loose pedals I had laying around at the time. I rode it like this for about a week. This was my first time riding fixed gear. Says the late, awesome and infinitely wise Sheldon Brown of this:
Sometimes, novice fixed-gear riders will try to use plain pedals with no form of retention system. I strongly advise against this. Riding fixed with plain pedals is an advanced fixed gear skill, only recommended for experienced fixed-gear riders.
Frankly, this never really gave me any problems. Still, after a while, I swapped my SPD pedals over from my road bike. I was able to maintain a much higher cadence and keep better control of the bike’s speed down hills. I thought that uphills would be slow going or that fixed gear would otherwise slow me down quite a bit, but the truth is that fixed gear offers a different riding experience. You really have to try it to know what I’m talking about. I highly recommend it. This isn’t about riding fixed gear, though. It’s a review about the 2010 Wabi Special.
Visually, the Wabi Special’s frame is stunning in its simplicity. It has gorgeous crafted lugs and svelte tubing. The Burnt Red color has a brilliant metallic finish. Of all the builds and colors Wabi Offers, this has to be my favorite.
Wabi Special offers a parts combination that at first glance is somewhat run-of-the-mill. FSA Headset. Visually Unremarkable rims, cranks, and brakes. Inexpensive Kenda Tires. In a way, the build really keeps the focus on the frame, but complements it well and brings a complete bicycle (sans pedals) that’s very simple and elegant.
Functionally, this build is very solid and never misses a beat. With pedals, my review bike weighed in at just a smidge over 19 pounds. While that’s not an ultra-light bike, it’s the lightest bike I’ve ever ridden. I’m used to riding aluminum road bikes, and the Wabi’s thin-walled Reynolds 725 steel tubing brought a very mellow road feel that I quickly came to enjoy. Once it gets moving, it feels like a cannonball barreling down the road. The geometry is great for a commuter bike. It’s not at all aggressive, but it’s still easy and comfortable to get into the drops and hammer away. I found the brake levers a bit of a stretch for my smaller hands, but I managed to find a hand position over the hoods that worked just fine for braking.
I thought that the 23mm tires would be a bit of a problem on my route, which is through a blighted industrial area that runs along the railroad with 6 different crossings on each direction of my commute. The only problem I had was during the rain, when railroad crossings are treacherous for everyone on two wheels. Even then, I was able to keep the shiny side up. It’s easier to keep traction on a fixed gear bike. The tires held up to all kinds of abuse, and the steel frame made the torn-up pavement quite tolerable.
The OEM Saddle was a bit uncomfortable for me, especially since I was sporting some extra weight in a backpack. Saddles are definitely a personal preference kind of thing, though. Half-way through my review, I swapped the saddle from my commuter bike over, and it was a world of difference. My clydesdale butt doesn’t seem to do too well with narrower ass-hatchets, but it wasn’t any fault of the bike. Many people change saddles when they get a bike.
I can’t get over how smooth and silent the Wabi Special is. There was not a single noise from the drive train at all. One day, I averaged 18.6 MPH for my homeward trip, which is pretty good when I’m my road bike. Under my normal cycling effort, my average commute time didn’t drop at all with fixed gear, and it was a genuine pleasure to ride. I don’t know that I would choose to commute on a fixed gear every day, but I can say I certainly “get it” now more than ever. What a blast!
I already discussed Wabi Cycles’ competitive pricing and different models back in July. After spending a month with this beauty, I can truly say it’s a quality ride if you’re in the market for a new fixie. Alas, I’ve packed her back up and she’s headed back home to Los Angeles. She’ll be missed, for certain!
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