One of the reasons I chose my road bike over others at the time was its ability to accept fenders/mudguards. It was only after I’d purchased I realized Specialized had a product recall on the forks. That left me with a bike with better, lighter forks than originally spec’d, though ones not designed for mudguards/fenders having no eyelets and very little clearance at the crown. Hello, Dear Reader! Thank you for checking in, you’ve caught me waxing lyrical about why I bought a single speed road bike for winter training and what I’m gonna have to do before I get out riding it…
So yes, the fork swap was a disappointment, but no problem, I’m adaptable if nothing else. I’ll get new forks, I thought, and eBay these ones. But aha, Specialized in their wisdom are one of like two manufacturers (along with Cervelo) who make forks with a 1-1/8″ to 1-3/8″ taper. Why? Is there a reason when everybody else does a 1.5″ bottom headset race? Fair enough, I could get a reducer to take the whole thing down to a standard 1-1/8″ non-tapered. But I didn’t. What I did instead was got some Axiom Axle Runners which are little eyelets that thread on a standard QR skewer. A bit of a faff, specially if wheel removing for puncture fixing is concerned, but good enough as a fix. Aha again! Not so fast! Why? Because the issue then became toe-overlap. These sportier forks (I believe they were adapted from a Specialized Tarmac) were already causing a toe overlap problem for me to begin with on a small frame (50cm) to which my no-longer-so-lovely new shoes will attest, but with the October rains beginning here and the mudguard on the front, the whole thing became dangerously unworkable on twisty cycleways. Soooo… Here I am, I wanted a better solution. I don’t know if this is it. But it’s a solution nonetheless. And what was that solution?
I bought the cheapest rideable single speed road bike on Amazon. Ta dah!
Okay let me qualify this statement. There are cheaper bikes on Amazon. They weren’t single speed. I’ve ridden single speed for years, some time ago and simply fancied something different to the geared Allez I’ve been riding and enjoying over the summer. And those cheaper geared bikes I just didn’t fancy how low-rent the largely unbranded gear components were in terms of longevity. I’ve given rationale in other articles, for not going lower than GBP300 for a new road bike, but for experiment’s sake, I’ve acquired this with coupon brand new for less than rrp, at GBP200 (USD250, EUR215, AUD335). And yes, there are cheaper single speed / fixed gear bikes on Amazon or eBay too. Again, I wanted something with drop bars, not a flatbar bike. I also wanted fender/mudguard eyelets and clearance to install them. Most single type bikes on Amazon are designed with a certain fashionable-a-few-years-ago look rather than a function. I mean, I don’t like to be down on bikes of any kind because bikes are just good things. But some bikes I encountered that are obviously designed solely for the look had, for me at least, a kind of scarily cheap specification. While I’d avoid those, I would tend to worry about other, beginners possibly just looking for a cheap, fun bike, running into mechanical difficulties because of it. Again, not wanting to point fingers, but like this…
Why can’t I recommend it? Well, let me explain what I’d see as shortcomings…
I don’t reckon a bike of that level would be as well suited to riding the kind of crap winter roads and paths we have here in this part of the UK. On the other hand, there are lots of bikes with the same generic frame and forks, and largely same specification as the bike I ended up with, but maybe had flat bars or didn’t have mudguard/fender eyelets. So what I’ve ended up with, for me is the cheapest rideable single speed road bike on Amazon that meets those simple criteria.
So the bike is a Kingston Hoxton. Nope I’d never heard of Kingston Bicycles either. But I’m cool with that. They seem like a distributor-guided marque which is okay with me. The bike is part of a range of traditionally styled, I’d call them unpretentious, fun bikes to get folk riding. And why not.
So what have we got? Well, I knew the bike was heavy before I bought it. I like companies that don’t hide stuff like that. Some do. As if the weight’s a big secret and you gotta go ride the bike to uncover this undisclosed knowledge for yourself. Anyway, at 12.5Kg (27.5lbs) it’s no featherweight, nor does it pretend to be. Actually, a huge amount of that weight is in the wheels, topping my scales at a burly 3.21Kg. The frame and forks are hi-ten steel, which makes sense on a bike they can actually sell at this price. The forks come in at 1135g. And that with the wheel weight means the front of the bike feels hefty to say the least, the rear isn’t too bad. But personally I don’t mind a bit of weight too much, specially in a winter training bike. What the weight reminds me of is some of the old 1950s 3-speed roadsters I resurrect. While this is a modern bike, it’s reassuringly heavy if you follow. It’s a bike frame and forks that just feels as if it’ll survive a ton of winter abuse and never have a complaint to make. So all good so far.
In the Land of No-Brand!
Having stripped it down, the components are what I’d loosely class as “unbranded”. Again, I don’t mind that. Nothing is trying to be something it isn’t…
Fashionable, or at least they were a few years back, the bike features “fixie” or fixed-gear track bike style high flanged hubs. The flanges being the parts of the hub shell the spokes are threaded into. As you can see, the rear is a flip-flop hub with a freewheel on one side and the option of flipping the wheel around and running a fixed gear on the other. If you’d like any more information, see my article on bicycle wheel terminology and construction 🙂
Rims and tires
The rims are 30mm deep again, like the high flange hubs, I suspect sourced to give the bike that “fixie” look. I don’t have any real issue. The paint or powdercoat on the rims is showing a few chips after just a ride or two but I’m not too bothered about that for a winter bike. The build isn’t bad. Spoke tension is average. It could do with a couple extra quarter turns all round. Fine for trueness radial and lateral. If I hadn’t mentioned earlier, you might have suspected that the weight of a cheap “fashion” wheelset with probably unnecessarily large flange hubs and unnecessarily deep section rims on a non-aero steel frame might be high. Front wheel comes in at 1555g and the rear is only marginally heavier at 1655g giving a total of 3.21kg. But as I say, that’s just for information. It’s a cheap and cheerful, unpretentious bike that’s making no bones about its heft. And I like that a lot.
The tires are a nice comfy 28mm. They come up almost exactly 28mm on these rims. MTraxx branded indeed. However, I’ve noticed either a split in the rear or a section without outer casing. I’d call quality control on that one! I’ll probably take no chances and throw a set of Lugano on in the meantime or whatever’s hanging around in the bits box in the garage! Again, if it wasn’t for that, the grip seemed fine on the first few rides.
The other components are cheaply sourced, but perfectly passable with no worries. It’s got dual pivot brakes with enough drop to accommodate full mudguard/fenders underneath. It has a one-bolt seatpost, though it’s a narrower diameter at 25.4mm, which works fine. It sports a track-style 130BCD chainset with a square-taper bottom bracket. It also has the old 1980s style aero brake levers, which are great for smaller hands. Overall, no gripes here. Even the bar tape and saddle are tasteful tan colorway. Very good.
So that all being said, if it wasn’t for the sizing and positioning of my ol’ carcass on the bike, the only things I’d swap out would be the brake cables. Even after stretching, taking up slack, and re-stretching a few times, the brakes are still a wee bit too spongy for me. I can only assume that’s down to the outer housing. A cheap fix that one. So I got a set of standard Shimano brake cables for less than a tenner and have outer housing left to go in the parts box for odds and sods. Job done.
The main issue. Sshhh, it’s a personal one…
Ha, nope, not that kind of personal. The main issue for me is in the sizing. I’m a bit of a short-ass. So 50cm road frames up to the old 21″ standard seat-tube c-t suit me fine. And this Kingston Hoxton is no exception. It’s got a long top-tube though. Fair enough, but that coupled to the old-style deep-drop and long-reach bars make it a stretch too much for me. That’s by no means a deal-breaker. And in fairness, I’d have no doubt given enough time that I’d get used to that position. However I’m looking for a position that isn’t too far from my 50cm Allez, that’s all.
Time for a swap…
Nothing too drastic. Well, that was my intention. I started with a shorter stem. The stem on there at the minute, it’s not exactly as pictured…
I like that the bike’s assemblers seem have taken a high-rise stem and flipped to give that deep negative angle on it. I think that could be cool looking in a certain context. But I ain’t about the looks (oh, wheelie?). No biggie, but for me, at 100mm with these long-reach bars, it’s one of a few things needing swapped.
The bars are externally butted to 25.4mm so I’m thinking with not so much choice for that diameter, it might be an idea to replace the bars at the same time as the stem. Again, the bars may have weighed a hefty enough 753g on my scales but there wasn’t a thing wrong with them. The swap was just a matter of choice and convenience.
So I tried a 90mm but the position was still too long for comfort. I finished up with a 70mm. I got a nice light and cheap (probably because it’s so short and therefore not much sought-after) Deda Elementi Zero 1 stem. So much as I like the look of the chrome, and the style of the bars matches the “track bike” styling of the bike, they’re just too far forward. I haven’t ridden bars like that with the awesome “aero” levers since my last hi-ten steel Raleigh Banana back in 1988. So I got a set of bars just to match the stem, Deda Elementi Zero 1 bars. Since I had the option (and since it was cheapest!) I went for a 44cm width which is intentionally wider than my normal 42cm. The reasoning there being that a little extra leverage might help with the out of saddle climbing in such a big gear. But we’ll see. I’d like to report back in another post.
While I was at it…
Yep, when I changed the bars things no longer matched nicely. I had chrome parts and black parts. So, being pedantic like that, I threw on a black headset. A cheap like-for-like replacement and some black spacers I had lying in the spares box. Oh and since I was going black I swapped the calipers for some unlogo’d Tektro R312 and the Specialized Toupe that came with my Allez and hadn’t been ridden. I don’t know if that’s a mistake given my quest to cure my saddle and sitbone isues. The first sign of pain returning and I’m swapping that for something new too! Maybe it’ll give me a chance to try out some of the alternative prostate and sitbone friendly saddles that I’ve mentioned. We’ll see 🙂 Possibly at some point maybe I’ll black out the seatpost and seat clamp too. But at the minute there’s no need. And lastly I swapped the flat pedals for SPD-SLs not because of any issue with flat pedals – in fact if I try the flip-flop hub on the fixed-gear side, I’ll probably throw the flats back on! but swapped to SPD-SLs just for the convenience of working with my current shoes. And that’s me all done. What do you think? How does it look?
For me I’m not sure if it looks any better than originally. But that wasn’t the point. If I can get it to look nice, that’s good with me. If I can get it to fit me perfectly then that outweighs everything #jobdone
Well, almost job done…
What about the fenders/mudguards? Yes, I had a set of SKS Bluemels full mudguards in a nice matt finish from my Boardman flatbar bike. I knew they’d fit fine over the 28mm tires. The bike’s forks have threaded eyelets which was part of my personal rideability criteria. The brakes use a modern recessed bolt and nut which was a bit wide to fit through the fork crown bracket of the mudguard…
… Thirty seconds and a small square-profiled file later and the bracket was sufficiently wide to accommodate the recessed nut.
The same issue was even more easily fixed on the rear mudguard as the mounting bridge is plastic. What I’d assumed from the pictures of the bike before I purchased to be fender eyelets on the rear dropouts turned out to be just holes!
I don’t know if it was the frame manufacturer’s intention that the distributor or someone down the chain would tap the holes to a standard fender-mounting M5 thread, but in any case they were just left as plain holes of about 4mm diameter. Rather than tapping them myself, I just used M4 dome-headed bolts and nuts that I had in the toolbox #jobdone
Lastly, because it’s a horizontal dropout, which would mean a bit of a faff were it necessary to try to remove the wheel to repair a puncture at the roadside, I used a couple of the SKS Secu clips for attachment. These are normally reserved for the front for an instance where foreign matter caught between the mudguard and tire could cause an accident, they’re meant to quick release or pop off. I fitted them to the back so I can pop out the fender stays if I need to get the rear wheel off away from home…
Q: So how does it ride?
A: Awesome. It’s fun. It’s odd that so often cycling feels like an achievement if PRs are gained, a success climbing a certain hill faster than previously, but how often is it a joy? I think that’s what the Kingston Hoxton is gonna be to me. A cycling joy. And I think that joy injection is needed in my cycling, specially as the weather turns and the long winter approaches. Seems sometimes in this part of the world we get like 8-9 months, wet, windy, sometimes freezing, occasionally snowy weather with a few months of vaguely drier, moderately warmer stuff apathetically sandwiched in between 🙂
The gearing is a reasonable, if a little on the high side 46:16 ratio* yielding a gear inches measurement of around 77. *If you’re interested in learning more about gear ratios and gear inches, I’ve included that in my Bike Gears for Dummies article. That’s had the effect of slowing my cadence rpm on the flat to the low to mid 80s. But I like that. It’s a chance for the recruitment of other fast twitch muscles that I don’t often give a run out to!
It was the quality of the ride that pleased me the most
… Yeah, I’m not sure to what to attribute that. I’ve a feeling it’s the compliance of the steel frame. I don’t know for certain since it’s a simple plain gauge hi-ten steel frame and not a Columbus or Reynolds butted-tubed one. Maybe it’s those deep-section rims, or perhaps the 28mm width tires? I can’t say without elimination. But I was riding over tree ruts along a local cycle path with aplomb – a route which often had my teeth gnashing in my head if I ride it seated on my aluminium Allez.
After a few hundred miles, I’m debating whether to back off on that 46T:16T gear ratio. But my mind isn’t made up yet. I think I’m still in the trialling stage. I intend to report back with findings after another few hundred on the clock. But it’s still mid October at the time of writing, so I’ve plenty of time before the the worst of the weather hits this little part of the world 🙂 But overall, I’m very pleased. I went and bought nice SRAM brake levers which were unnecessary but I just preferred the feel of a modern shifter-shape hood over the old aero style hoods especially when climbing out of the saddle.
If I hadn’t bought those, I’d have completed the build, bars, stem and pedals for about an additional GBP55, or USD70 / AUD100 which is still less than I’d recommend going on a beginner bike, first bike or any other kind of road bike. Overall though I’m more than pleased with this cheerful little bike. So we’ll see what happens. Stay tuned for more.
So here’s a little accompanying vid that shows some of the assembly and upgrade steps as well as my take on the advantages and disadvantages of the single speed bike. Hope you enjoy! Don’t forget to click subscribe for all the CyclingQuestions content!
Meantime though, watch that gearing, ride safe, have fun and kindest, warmest regards to you meantime, Dear Reader, David.