Fixies are Dead, Long Live Fixies: Reid Harrier in Review
- by Shaun Thompson
- Published: 2 December 2013
It seems that on most days, every second rack and pole in the Melbourne CBD will have at least one Reid bike locked to it. One of them is mine. Reid have come a long way since their beginnings as a purely online business operating from James Reid’s garage, with shopfront locations opening in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, all doing an excellent trade from what I’ve heard. I reviewed a Reid Aquila flatbar road bike for Bicycles Network Australia back in October 2010 and decided it was time to have another look to see how the company had been travelling in the past few years.
The Melbourne store was busy on the day of my visit, AFL Grand Final day, and I was impressed to see that James has branched out to make the store a “One stop shop” with a good range of parts, accessories and clothing items available so that the newcomer can walk in a pedestrian and roll out as a fully fledged cyclist.
A few emails had flown back and forth between Christopher, the boss of BNA, James of Reid Cycles, and myself, and I was offered the choice of any of the bicycles in Reid’s lineup with the exception of his top of the line, full Shimano 105 equipped Falco roadie (damn), of which Reid cannot keep up with demand. After some thought, I decided to step as far as possible out of my comfort zone and, after a roam around the store, chose their flagship singlespeed/fixed gear bike, the Reid Harrier with riser handlebars in fire engine red livery. Naturally enough, I gave the chosen one a good once over before heading out, on the hunt for any negatives before trusting my body to an unfamiliar bike. Happily, the worst I could find was the front brake was the tiniest amount off centre and there was a sub 1mm lateral deflection in the rear Alex rim. All of the spokes felt tight, and there was no brake rub, so I let it go unmentioned at the time as most newcomers aren’t likely to be as picky as I am.
Rolling out onto Victoria St., Melbourne in singlespeed mode I settled in for a couple of hours mixing it with the relaxed crowds that give Melbourne such a wonderful feel on a lovely Saturday afternoon. I had a great time; everything felt good and solid, the handling sharp but not twitchy without any vagueness from the front end, no toe overlap and the rather impressive current generation Tektro dual pivot callipers doing a great job of washing off speed and stopping right on the mark at every red light.
After a week and about 10½ hours pushing the singlespeed, I decided to bite the bullet, flipping the rear wheel and swapping out the pedals for some clip and strap numbers from the LBS for a taste of fixed gear action. Oh boy, is this an eye opener! I forgot myself a few times and tried to coast on the first ride; the Harrier reminded me that this wasn’t how she rolled any more by trying to push my leg up into my chest, but she was polite enough to not dump me, yet. The dumping came after and was my own stupid fault, but more on that later…
Down the road by many, many months and, with hundreds of hours in the saddle, I still have a blast on every outing. I think I’ve become a better rider because of this bike; I feel stronger, I know that my spinning is much smoother these days, and I’m glad to say that my dodgy knees have not complained any more than when riding a geared bike. The Harrier isn’t the lightest bike out there at a fraction under 10.5 kgs by my cheap luggage scale, but the only time I noticed it was uphill and standing starts, once up to speed on flat or rolling terrain, it feels like you can roll on forever.
The original grip needed to be replaced
Cheap but effect replacement grips
Life isn’t all coffee and polo however, so it’s time for me point out the few things I discovered beyond the small niggles I mentioned earlier. The grips were, to me, horrible; I found them to be too hard in the hand for comfort beyond about 20 minutes riding and, worst of all, they had a marked tendency to twist on the bar when using upper body strength to muscle my way up sharp pinches. I subbed in a pair of ribbed lock-ons from the LBS bargain bin and haven’t looked back. My wrists weren’t too happy with the lack of backsweep in the riser bar at first but, to be honest, after a few rides I forgot to notice – I guess the change of grips has helped there. There was a bit of pivot slop in the brake levers, but not enough to make me think of changing them before they wear out or I break them in a crash, but more on that later…
Getting the rear wheel correctly aligned after flipping to fixed, and after the one puncture I’ve had, took longer than I liked, but on a later visit to the store I noticed that all the new stock comes fitted with those tensioner thingies which I hear makes the job much simpler. While I was chatting to James during that second visit I mentioned these gripes, including the wheel and brake issue I noted on collection, and all of a sudden the bike vanished from behind me; it turns out James’ head wrench was listening in to our chat and promptly hoisted the bike onto a workstand. Both wheels came off and into the truing stand, the brakes were adjusted, the chain wiped down and lubed, and a few weeks of road grime vanished. Got to respect a bloke with that sort of attitude to his work. She’s been running smoothly ever since.
Newcomers to the world of Fixed Gear riding, listen to the idiot!
This review took longer to come to press than anticipated, but this delay allows me to share a valuable snippet of wisdom with you, for the benefit of all humanity: Leave no clothing loose!
I’m riding along. A carelessly untucked shoelace made its way into the chain. I felt a huge pull on my right ankle. Game over.
I’ve never gone down so hard or so suddenly. I’ve got this lovely 10 cm long road rash scar on my right forearm, a new saddle and a new helmet to remind me that you can never ride fixed with your brain in neutral. The Harrier fared much better than the ejectee with minor scrapes to the drive side chainstay, the RH bar end, RH pedal and the saddle, which lost much of a corner to the path. I’ll admit that the crash rocked my fixie confidence more than a little. It took some weeks after my ankle felt good again before I was willing to ride more than shared paths and mix it with the traffic, but since regaining my nerve, I’m back out there. Beach Rd and the Boulevarde have been conquered, not with any great speed or style, but speed and style is not how I roll anyway. I’m happy that I managed to complete both without having to resort to the 24 inch gear.
How it all ends…
This was supposed to be a short, four week test for review but it’s turned into much more; it’s coming up to ten months in fact. I enjoyed my time aboard the Harrier so much so that at the end of the four week period I went back to the shop and told James he wouldn’t be getting the bike back. Money changed hands and there hasn’t been a moment’s regret from my side of the road. Beyond keeping air in the tyres and a couple of tweaks of the brake barrels, maintenance has consisted of nothing more strenuous than a few drops of lube onto the chain every now and then. A few weeks ago, I stripped her down to the bare frame to list the components and found nothing more concerning than the usual amount of grime in the usual spots.
If you’re after the hippest of track bikes, look elsewhere. If the shiniest and lightest, bling laden wonder fixie is on your list, move along. Nothing to see here. If you want a solid SS/FG bike as a reasonably priced path to enlightenment into what fixed riders have been waffling on about for years, if you want a near bombproof, near zero maintenance ride to take you fuss free to the shops, school or the pub without the constant worry that some lowlife will walk away with your very expensive pride and joy, if you just want to try something different, then the Reid Harrier definitely deserves a place in your shortlist.
The last word
This review was due for publishing in August 2013 and BNA was asked to hold on pending the release of new model Harriers. The Reid Harrier in this configuration is no longer available and has been superseeded by the 2014 model Harrier, so a comparison on specs is provided.
|2013 Reid Harrier||2014 Reid Harrier|
|Forks||Reid unicrown CrMo 1 1/8” threadless steerer||700c Cro-mo|
|Handlebars||Reid straight riser, 50cm width, 30mm rise.||Riser Bars|
|Rims||Alex DA16 rims laced x3 to 32 hole||Reid J-13 Deep-V Rims|
|Brakes||Tektro R520 dual pivot callipers, Tektro cartridge pads||Tektro R320 Dual Pivot brakes|
|Crankset||Lasco EF12 alloy 170 mm. 46T Lasco SS chainring.||LASCO 170mm Alloy Crankset, 46t CNC cut chainring|
|Chain||KMC 1/8”.||KMC chain|
|Seatpost||Zoom alloy, 28.6mm diameter x 250mm long||ZOOM Alloy Professional 28.6mm|
|Saddle||Velo||VELO Studded Fixie Saddle|
|Bottom Bracket||VP 73T sealed cartridge, square taper||VP Sealed Cartridge Bearings|
|Hubs||Formula flip flop medium flange hubs||QUANDO Flip/Flop Hubs|
|Spokes||—||14G stainless steel|
|Tyres||—||KENDA 700 x 25C or 700 x 23c tyres|
|Pedals||—||VP Alloy Platform Pedals|
|Stem||Alloy 1 1/8” threadless. 100mm +/-5degree||1-1/8″ Threadless ZOOM Alloy|
|Casette||DNP 16T/16T fixed cog||18T Freewheel and 18T Fixed Sprocket|
Further details at Reidcycle.com.au