Let me set the stage...
A year ago our eldest wanted to learn how to ride a "real" bike (e.g. no training wheels) in spite of not showing much prior interest. I bought a bike on sale for her. She loved the bike but had a LOT of trouble riding it. Fast forward to this summer and she's doing really well! Something clicked and now she rides like she's been doing it for years. Awesome!
However this raised an issue: We have only one "adult" bike (my hard-tail, Fox Fork MTB) and my wife wants to start riding again. After looking around I decided that a simple rigid frame, single-speed, 29er would be the perfect addition to the stable. They're simple, have virtually no maintenance beyond greasing the bearings, and much less expensive than their multi-geared counterparts.
After a little research into single-speed bikes I was overwhelmed and confused by the variety. Just to name a few:
- Bikes Direct 29er MTBs (scroll to the bottom of the page)
- Around $400 for an aluminum frame (very harsh for a bike like this) and mostly made-in-China components.
- Bikes Direct track bikes
- Very popular as commuter bikes because they're cheap and reliable, but again, these are mostly made-in China, use hi-tensile steel frames (cheap and heavy) and have quality issues unless you're willing to replace some of the components out-of-the-box (tires, inner tubes, wheels, etc.) which makes them cost considerably more.
- Solé Bicycles
- Pretty colors. Hi-Ten frames. More street oriented which limits tire selection. Just over $400 shipped and you'll need to purchase a rear brake (front is included).
- Republic Bike
- Pretty colors. HiTen steel frame. Street racing tires.
- $450 for base configuration, shipped.
- Flash-based web site to configure and order. Blech!
- Retrospec Bicycles Amok
- This is actually much closer to what I was looking for: single speed but with a CroMoly frame that can accept a multi-gear cassette or a multi-speed hub, set up as more of an XC/MTB with flat bars. Includes front and rear brakes.
- I cannot find any contact information for this company other than an email address. There is no phone number or location listed anywhere on their web site. Looking up their web site address in WHOIS reveals an address in LA that appears to be a home.
- Mostly sold via Amazon?
Discouraged by the choices available, I decided to go to Cycle Loft for some advice. Their web site lists some of the bigger names in single-speed (Surly, All-City, Tiemeyer) so I figured it was worth a try.
I explained to the salesman what I was looking for and my reasons why. Without any hesitation he said, "You don't want that."
I explained my reasons again and asked what they have that would meet my fairly short list of requirements (single-speed, CroMoly frame, XC/MTB tires and flat bars). He told me that they carry Trek and Specialized, but that they don't have any single-speed models in stock because nobody wants them.
Really? According to your own web site, people do...
He proceeded to walk over to a computer and pull up their internal dealer web site. He looked through all of the Trek bikes to find the single-speed models. He never even considered showing me any of the comparable Specialized products.
So let's review: First he told me that I'm wrong, then said they only stock a couple of brands when their web site clearly states that they carry others, and finally had no familiarity with the models within the two brands he said they carry!
At one point I asked him, as a fellow glasses wearer, what kind of prescription sunglasses he likes for riding. His answer? "Ask your optometrist."
Do yourself a favor and avoid Cycle Loft.
Rude, ignorant, and disrespectful.