BEWARE Urban Outfitters Fixie Death Machine...or a Production Fixie Buyer's Guide:
Shido and I worked on our first Re(pubelick) Bike on Friday. I thought Bianchi Pistas, SE Draft, IRO Complete bikes, and pake frames were bad enough. Urbane Outfitters has lowered the bar to a point I thought not possible. At least the Republic has inspired me to create a buyer beware guide for those of you considering buying a "fixie" through the mail. So here it is, my attempt to dispel the myth that a $399 bike will be all you need to get (to) a date:
Production Wheels: This applies to all. DT Swiss in Switzerland can't keep up with the demand for quality spokes because of production wheel failure. Due to low spoke count/radial patterns built by machines (that resemble medieval torture devices) without lube, these wheels are the most dangerous part of the production equation. A new wheelset should cost you about $400 if it is worth it/safe to ride.
The Cog on your fixed gear is the most important, least expensive piece. It connects your chain to your rear wheel. If the cog is made of soft metal, (this applies to all production "fixies") it will strip the threads off said rear wheel leaving the rider truly "brakeless" and the wheel unusable as fixed (unless you have a fixed-fixed flip hub). Also, installation of even a quality cog is easy to do incorrectly. Mainly, you need grease, the proper tools, and experience to do this properly. Factories are famous for not using grease. Generally done with power tools, the cogs on these bikes are any number of ways f**k'd from the start.
Bianchi Pista: Top o' the pile. Replace your drivetrain or your knees the first week, 48x16 3/32". Used to be track geometry (pre-Chrome colourway) but now you can clip pedals with the best of them. In a few months new cranks. The Truvativ specific Bottom Bracket is not only difficult to find replacements for but has proven itself to be shi*tastic over and over again. You'll know it's time when your crank arm falls off. The Headset will go next if you don't kill the wheels first.
SE Draft: Second in command. I have yet to handle one of these in person but the Cog and Production Wheel clarifications apply. Also note that this single-speed weighs 27lbs. I can't imagine how except that a lot of the parts must be made of such low grade metal that it would make a better hammer than a bicycle.
IRO Complete: Tertiary. Now, I am a fan of IRO Hubs and Frames. The hubs are made by Formula and have quality threads and bearings. For inexpensive stuff made exploitatively, IRO is generally a good bet. However, buying a complete IRO is a BAD IDEA. Once again the wheels and cog problem. I have also come across mixed drivetrains that couldn't even ride down the street (3/32" chain on 1/8" cog). I really appreciate the IRO Heidi frameset. It is the first well designed frame for those 5'4" and under. Just have it built up in a shop instead of at IRO.
Pake Frame: These have really weak forkends (rear dropouts) much like the Republic only not quite as bad. One of my friends/customers (interchangeable) rode a Pake for a while. Every single day he rode the frame he had an accident. It was straight and trueish but the forkends were so weak it would wiggle when it should have woggled and threw him to the ground repeatedly. Finally, he saved up and bought an EAI Bareknuckle. He's been riding it for over a year and has yet to wreck.
Re(pubelick): Where to start...the forkends (rear dropouts) on the Republic we held were welded on crooked. While bending them to a proper width, I noticed they resembled butter more than steel. In other words, the frame is a limp noodle. Because of the crooked dropout the wheel would barely spin and a horrendous amount of tension was on all the parts. Thankfully, this rider wants to ride his freewheel instead of fixed. The wheels were hopeless. The freewheel had no grease. The hub cones were loose. The cranks weren't on tight. etc. etc. etc. But the crowning jewel was the plastic clamp on the brake levers. When your threads strip and you grab a hand-full of brake, at least you won't endo when the clamps break and all your left with is a hand-full of lever. Shido and I spent hours trying to polish this turd and we just ended up with less turd. It road out of mobius for only $30 labor because it was freewheel (and our labor prices are low and go directly to the mechanic). If he had wanted fixed, he would have needed a new cog $35 EAI, new lockring $10 Dura Ace, new chain $20 Izumi eco, and a new wheel $? just to ride home. That's not including all the other parts that were f**k'd just for being crappy and made in a crappy way because Urbane Outfitters f**k'd over people in other countries so we can pay less than 1/4 of our monthly income to have a bike.
The lesson: If you don't spend a slightly uncomfortable amount of money for something as complicated as a bicycle you will get what you paid for, and a trip to the hospital to boot. We won't lie to you or sell you crap at mobius. However, you will have to invest more than 4 bills and your own time to roll a bike that's safe. Good luck, and we'll see you when the wheels fall off.
Thanks Bikesnob NYC for the photos and generally impeccable taste.