A little while back I went to Resistor Gallery to check out the Beater Bikes with a friend of mine. I liked the bike’s ruggedness and simplicity which would be ideal for city commuting. A few months ago, my dad stumbled upon my review and decided to buy a Beater Bike which he has yet to actually use, during that time I took it upon myself to use it as my commuter bike and get some mileage into it.
Ditching my track bike with its aerodynamic positioning and the need for speed for an upright bike that favours comfort and style was definitely a weird shift that took me some time to get used to. Once I did get used to the bike I really began to appreciate the upright position during my 14km commute and the 6-gears were a relief during my climb up the Bathurst St. hill between Dupont Ave and St. Clair Ave W.
The Beater Bike on a grocery run
On the second day of commuting with the Beater Bike I dropped it on the drive side (right side) bending the derailleur hanger out of place. Fortunately, the steel was soft and durable enough to be bent back into place and was able to bend it and go on with my day. I have so far put nearly 400km on it and have commuted in both fair and rainy weather, though it has kept up all this time there have been a number of things about the bike that bugged me.
The Beater Bike fork has a 1 1/4” threaded steerer which is a really odd size considering the industry standard is either 1” or 1 1/8”. That means finding a replacement fork or stem would be close to impossible since you won’t find any 1 1/4” components. The seatpost is also a weird size at 25.4mm compared to modern steel bikes which used 27.2mm. All of this odd sizing makes customizing the bike (such as a longer or taller stem) to fit the rider much harder.
Another big issue for me was the actual assembly of the bike. During the first few rides I noticed several small noises coming from the bike and I would often have to pull over to tighten different nuts and bolts that were obviously not tightened enough. Everything from the handlebar clamp bolt on the stem to the rack and fender bolts came loose in the first few days of riding. I even had to repack the bottom bracket as it came loose on one ride. Though these were quick fixes for me I know that commuters who don’t have the special tools or the know how to do it would be stuck with having to take the bike into a shop to do it which would cost money and time.
The cup-and-cone bottom bracket
The Beater Bike is still a nice bike for the money in comparison to what department stores have to offer in the same price range. I know they are in the process of designing a new model of Beater Bikes and I hope that in the future they look at standardizing the specs on their parts and take the time to properly assemble everything.
I managed to borrow a small camera from my friend so I decided to mount it on my helmet during my morning commute down to work. The quality of it wasn’t too bad so I decided to share it online via youtube. Now the bike videos I normally see on youtube are of crazy bike antics like bike messenger races or insane stunts but this video is different since it isn’t about speed or tricks, it’s just a guy leisurely riding in Toronto. Hopefully, it will show people that riding a bike in the city isn’t as dangerous as people have claimed it to be.
As much fun as it is riding a carbon fibre road bike or a full suspension mountain bike they just aren’t practical for riding in the city with its poor road conditions, theft and inclement weather which can do a number on our bikes. We also need a few things such as fenders, a rack or even reflectors on our ride just to make our commute bearable. Sure there are bikes out there designed for commuting but with prices starting at $500 it may be steep for many potential first time buyers or cyclists. Sure they beat department store bikes in terms of quality and performance but the price tag also makes them targets for bike theft.
Weighing in at $325CND (After tax) this bike is designed to be your bar hopping, wet weather, grocery getting, everyday commuter. There’s a men’s and women’s model and and each one comes ready with an all steel frame, 6-speeds, fenders, chain guard, kick stand, rear rack, and reflectors. Both the wheels and seat post use a solid axle bolt rather than quick release skewers to deter theft as well. Inspired by the commuter bikes of Europe, this no-frills bike is pretty enough to ride but not attractive enough for thieves to eye. Other nice features include 700c wheels rather than 26″ mountain bike wheels, giving you more options for street tyres and better speed as well as V-brakes rather for better stopping power. For anyone who’s interested, the frames have horizontal dropouts in case you’re thinking of turning this into a single-speed/fixed gear/coaster brake/3-speed bike.
However, there are a few draw backs to the bike. The bike only has 1 chain ring up front and 6 gears on the rear which may not be ideal for people who have to commute over hilly terrain. I personally don’t mind since I’ve been riding a single speed for ages now.
Another drawback is the bottom bracket which uses the old school style adjustable-cup-and-cone rather than sealed cartridge bearings. It’ll do the job, but over time the bearings will be exposed to the weather and will need to be regreased.
Beater Bikes aren’t comparable to high end bikes…but that’s the point, they’re meant to be beaten around on your daily commute. I’m already seeing some of these on the street and I’m hoping to see more. For more information visit: www.beaterbikes.ca
Post Script: This was written a year ago and since then I’ve seen a number of them on the street and I even had a chance to ride one and darn are they fun to ride. I love how they are ready to ride without having to dish out extra cash to get the bike commute ready and it seems like many others love them too.