Wheels, etc: The UO/Create bicycle collection
Price: £340, Urban Outfitters (urbanoutfitters.co.uk)
Frame size: 54cm or 59cm
I bought my first single-speed bike about three years ago, when I was in my 20s, lived in east London and still regularly went to nightclubs. Now I'm 31, I live in west London and occasionally go to the pub near the office for a glass of Malbec on a Friday evening. The bike, which was dead cool to start with, is now so ubiquitous that GQ recently described it as "the Ford of the street... and there's nothing chic about riding a two-wheeled Ford". My navy/tan Charge Plug 2009 Single Speed with flip-flop hub and bullhorn handlebars may still run smoothly. But, suitably chastened, I've been looking for a new ride to win the approval of an east London twentysomething – or, at the very least, the cultural arbiters at G-effing-Q.
So when the high street hipster emporium Urban Outfitters announced it was launching a range of bicycles, in partnership with London-based Create Bikes, I thought perhaps my prayers had been answered. The UO/Create fixie, said the marketing blurb, will "complete your summer look, and reflect the fast-paced, fashionable world around you." When Urban Outfitters lent me one to have a go on, they politely reiterated that it was not just a bike, but a "fashion accessory", which would "complete [my] look for the summer", and that I should review it as such.
A senior figure at this newspaper, whose taste I don't care to question for fear of losing my job, took one look at its brilliant orange frame and declared it "the coolest thing [he'd] ever seen". A member of the fashion department assured me orange was one of this season's hot colours – although she did say it was "hard to wear" and would only go with "neutrals", ie black. If your wardrobe is full of denim or flannel, however, never fear: the bikes are available in seven colours, including sensible ones, like brown. The UO/Create also features fashionable, BMX-style handlebars. Mine had deep chrome rims and a white chain, though these, like the frame, come in a range of colours.
Being the sort of person who wears a bicycle helmet, I have practical concerns as well as aesthetic ones. For instance, the rubber grips at the end of those hipster handlebars are poorly fitted, and, if you choose a white chain, it'll get grubby as soon as it's oiled. The brake-line flaps in the wind, and I was tempted to fasten it to the frame with a length of gaffer tape. Of course, the UO/Create's back wheel has a flip-flop hub, so you can ride it as a fixed-wheel or a single-speed. If you prefer a fixie, then you could just remove the brakes and line altogether.
The rear drop-outs have helpful tension bolts to prevent the chain becoming loose from over-use. The bike is solid, and untroubled by potholes – but it's also heavy. That hardly matters in pancake-flat east London, but there are hills out west, and getting up them without gears is a struggle even on a lighter bike.
The UO/Create is a lot cheaper than, say, the Charge (aka "the two-wheeled Ford"). It does look fairly cool. But given that it's going on sale in Urban Outfitters, you'll probably be seeing it everywhere by the end of the summer. Before long, they'll be calling it names in GQ.
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