If you visit Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth or Adelaide, you stand a good chance of spotting a Reid bike somewhere in these cities. The Australian company can still be described as a new-comer to the market, but they have expanded swiftly and are now selling in Europe and the USA as well. Reid’s strategy is simple, putting people on a budget, on bikes. With their new CXSS bike, they’re now putting them on cyclocross bikes.
Cyclocross is an increasingly popular cycling segment that has evolved beyond its European steeple chase and circuit racing origins to encompass gravel grinding, an extension of road cycling that goes onto unsealed roads and tracks. A cyclocross bike is similar to a road bike, but most notably differentiates itself though the wide knobby tyres and cantilever or disc brakes (rather than caliper brakes) which provide good clearance and stopping power in muddy conditions.
The Reid Cycles cyclocross range comprises three models and the Single Speed SSCX reviewed here is priced at $499. Following this are two 16 speed, disc brake bikes; the Reid CX is $699 and the Reid Granite is $799.
The SSCX under review here has the appeal of a classic steel racing bike and offers its rider versatility beyond sealed roads and paths. As a single speed bike, it has no gears and fewer moving parts which means less maintenance and fewer problems. The bike has a flip-flop rear hub which means that the rear wheel can be reversed to change it from a single speed to a fixed gear bike (and yes, fixie-cross is a “thing”). For those not familiar with the difference, the single speed lets you coast whereas the fixed gear means you always pedal while in motion- just like a track bike. Obviously, having only one gear means your speed will depend only on how fast you can pedal, not on beneficial gear ratios. This may be fun on the flats and down hill, but heading upwards … the steeper the hill, more more you will crave for gears.
The quality and style of the paint job is good, it has a nice classic feel, but the mid-grey colour scheme is quite plain. I feel that replacing this with a nice velvet blue would lend it a touch of class.
The 35mm Continental tyres Cyclocross Race tyres have a 2mm deep ‘knobbly’ tread that mark this bike as an aspiring gravel grinder. Unlike its siblings, the SSCX has has V-brakes rather than disc brakes – which is perfectly acceptable braking for this price category.
Built to race, or built to last?
It calls itself a cyclocross (CX) bike, but in reality the Reid SSCX is built for urban jungles and not for grass paddocks, hedges and hills. If you think that the SSCX is your entry ticket into competitive cyclocross, you really need to re-evaluate. This steel bike with its heavy wheels pushes the scales to the dark side of 10kg, which is a lot of weight to push up hills and to lug over obstacles. And do you seriously want to tackle a cyclocross race with just one gear? Anyone attempting a cyclocross race or any off-road race without gears is crazy (as in bike-mad), though such races, and racers, do exist – though they’re probably not where beginners should start.
Another clue that the SSCX is really an urban bike is the rear break cable, it’s guided underneath the top tube through braze-ons. In cyclocross events, riders often have to dismount and carry the bike for short distances over their shoulder. A cyclocross frame should not have anything sticking out in this part of the frame.
So while it is not really a cyclocross bike (more a cyclocross style bike), on unsealed paths and tracks the grippy tyres confidently tackle uneven and loose surfaces. Rocky fire-trails and technical single trails are still best left to mountain bikes as this bike doesn’t give you an ‘Access All Areas’ pass.
The SSCX is at home in urban landscapes, navigating roads, skipping potholes, and dashing through parks and along bike paths. Compared with flatbar handlebars, which adorn many urban bikes, dropbar handlebars push the rider from a relaxed upright position into a dynamic forward orientated position. If you then move your hands down into the drops, you are in speed mode – with your head down, the wind will race through the holes in your helmet, across your hair, and the blur of coloured city lights will be left in your wake.
In other words, it is a cool feeling and great fun. You will get the most out of it when the streets are flat or only slightly sloped because hilly terrain littered with steep ascents will make you struggle like a work horse. On slight inclines you don’t have the option of selecting the granny gear (the easiest gear on a geared bike) so if you lose your forward momentum, you will start to work up a sweat.
The Gear and The Ride
The steel frame provides a reassuring and solid ride, and you can run a fairly low tyre pressure to give you a more comfortable experience. The geometry of the bike endows it with a very a long wheelbase; in the size M the wheelbase is 104cm which is 4cm longer than my road bikes. The effect is that it sweeps around corners, rather than zips. Far from being agile, the SSCX likes to cruise. If you are down in the drops, it will soak up most of the road noise and let you enjoy the ride for longer.
The aluminium handlebars are flat on top and intended to create an ergonomically styled flat section to rest your hands on, but I found it uncomfortable. The bar tape didn’t extend far enough, stopping 55 mm short of the stem, exactly in the middle of the flat section. This meant that this section felt thin and was quickly uncomfortable, particularly traversing rougher terrain. The grip and comfort on the rest of the bar was fine, so this problem very easily solved by wrapping the bar tape further along to the stem, or even double-wrapping the bar tape to provide more comfort.
Road style Tektro RL340 Aero brake levers are used and give your hands access to the brakes when you are gripping the hoods and in the drops. The hoods lack the refinement and comfort of higher level brakes, but they performed well and are probably more suited to shorter trips rather than epic adventures.
Tektro CR710 cantilever brakes provide reliable braking power front and back but proved to be very difficult to ‘release’ every time I tried to remove the wheels. The release mechanism incorporates a jagged ‘adjusting barrel’ dial and I managed to cut my fingers on two separate occasions attempting to release the cable. In the end I resorted to pliers, which is not a particularly elegant or kind approach, but it was faster and saved my fingers from being torn to shreds.
Even after the brakes were released, the brake pads were too close to let the 35mm wide tyres slip through. It was fiddly work encouraging the front and rear wheel both into and out of position . Though it is possible to back-off the tension and make it a little easier to release the cantilever brakes, this would also position the brake pads further from the rims (I prefer them close). You could even spend time micro-adjusting the cable lengths and set it up to be easier to frequently remove the wheels, but the reality is that the cantilever design and release mechanism is not the most user friendly design.
Removing the rear wheel requires a few more steps; it has track-ends so the wheel is removed by pulling it back rather than ‘dropping out’ (down) as is standard on most bikes. As a track bike style setup, tension screws ensure that the the rear wheel is properly centred and that there is enough chain tension. As the chain is tight and can’t simply be slipped off, to remove the rear wheel the tension bolts first need to be released, then the nuts undone, the cantilever brakes released, and the rear wheel then massaged out. Repeat these steps in reverse to get the wheel back in.
If you want to change the flip-flop hub from single-speed to fixed wheel, it will take a few minutes.
Another criticism is that the soft nuts used to bolt-on the wheels quickly started to show signs of rust. I used 15 mm bicycle spanners to release and tighten the nuts and they seemed to dig into the nuts each time. Most riders wont be regularly removing the wheels, though this is still a part of the bike that would benefit from increased rust resistance.
As far as braking, I was happy with the performance.The good news is that if you have no plans to regularly remove the wheels as I have been doing to transport the bike, then it will be a breeze to maintain.
The wheels use Alex Rims (DC19) which are double wall alloy and are heavy but durable. The spokes (32 front and 32 back) are heavy, but durable, and include brass nipples which is a great touch as they offer more corrosion resistance and is a nice detail for a bike in this price range.
While we’re discussing wheels, it is worthwhile commenting on the choice of bolts to fasten the wheels on the SSCX as opposed to quick release skewers. Bolts are a good choice for this model, particularly with the track drop outs and fixie capabilities, and also because it’s an urban bike and bolted wheels are harder to steal than quick release ones. You will need to carry a spanner with you, however, if you need to fix a flat.
The gearing for the SSCX sees 42 teeth on the chain ring and the rear sprocket (both single speed and fixed wheel) has 17 teeth. This gives me 2.5 wheel revolutions for each pedal stroke and with the (ca.) 35mm deep Continental Cyclocross tyres, covers a distance of 5.35 meters for each pedal revolution. On a fixie, 2.5:1 is a nice ‘middle of the road’ gear ratio but very high for off-road riding, which again confirms that this is an urban bike.
The chain caught my eye because it was so big and chunky that it reminded me of the tread of a tank. On looks alone, the heavy duty KMC Z510H chain will do a good job resisting chain-stretch.
The flat pedals provided are relatively nondescript and I didn’t switch over clip-ins during this review as I expect that most riders would appreciate the simplicity and ride the bike as it is.
The SSCX has an own-brand saddle called Reid Racing which is relatively sleek and features a small channel on the top. Such channels or cut-aways are often good for mens saddles as this more closely suits the anatomy (by placing less pressure on the perineum). I set the saddle height, angle and position (distance to handlebars) to replicate my road bike riding position and the Reid Racing saddle was fine for short trips. On varied terrain and longer rides however, the saddle was not firm enough to provide the support (and ultimately comfort) so in my case I would opt for my trusty Prologo saddle which fits me well.
A final detail on the build is that there are bolts on the seat stay which give you the opportunity to fasten a pannier rack – a nice addition.
Do you or don’t you
The SSCX is a fun bike. The heavy frame, relaxed geometry, and tready tyres means that in finesse and agility, it trails behind classic urban fixies such as the Cinelli Pista and Mash, for example. The grippy tyres do however give this bike access to terrain that would have these Cinelli’s screaming “Mama Mia!” Beyond the tarmac, unsealed tracks and gravel paths can be tackled with confidence and this bike can hold its line and maintain grip.
The weight and rigidity of the frame means that jumping curbs and other obstacles is not advised, the SSCX prefers softer transitions. Bumpy off-road trails are not the forte of the Reid cyclocross bike, but give it an urban jungle and this bike is in its element.
It’s called a cyclocross bike, but think of it as a gravel grinder, or better yet, an urban grinder. If you are on a budget and want a bike to navigate the metropolis, and have fun on the way, the Reid Cycles SSCX is worth adding to your short list. No gears makes it easy to maintain and the price-tag puts it in reach without giving you the feeling of having to check-up on it every two minutes.
In this price range, there is a lot of competition from fixies. The SSCX offers versatility to tackle rough urban terrain and is a robust bike with drop-bar appeal. This is a bike for urbanites who want the benefit of a single gear along with the style and pleasure of a drop-bar bike.
Reid Cycles sell the SSCX in S, M, L and XL sizes for $499.99 and you can order online or purchase from one of their eight retail stores in Australia. Further details about the Reid Cycles SSCX are available online.