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Critical Cycles’ Factory-Direct Fixie

by Pete Prebus

Pete PrebusThis is a guest post from Pete Prebus. Pete runs Electric Bike Report and is enthusiastic about spreading the word about electric bikes because they have great potential to get more people on bikes and out of their cars.


Critical Cycles is a new kind of fixie company. They state on their website that:
Critical Cycles Cheap Fixed Gear Single Speed Fixie Road Bicycles

What matters to us most is getting as many people out of cars, off their sofas, away from their desks, and onto a bike. That’s why we offer many sizes, colors, and the best prices anywhere on the web.

Yeah, that pretty much rocks! And I think that there is a good chance they will accomplish their mission.

Fixie style bikes are fun and very simple. Maybe that is what makes them so much fun.

In case you don’t know, fixies blend the speed and efficiency of a track bike with the flat or upright handlebars of a mountain bike to make the ride a little more comfortable. They are generally the preferred mode of transportation for today’s urban hipsters, so they usually have some style.

Critical Cycles Cheap Fixed Gear Single Speed Fixie Road Bicycles

Critical Cycles Fixed Gear Bike

Critical Cycles has a distinct fixie style with their BMX type handlebars. The BMX style works well when you are busting out your freestyle tricks.

Narrow HandlebarsThese bars, in true fixie style, are pretty narrow, but not as narrow as some fixie bars I have seen!

Critical also offers a number of different color combinations to choose from in small (49cm), medium (53cm), and large (57cm) sizes.

These fixies use a steel frame and fork, and come equipped with Protek cranks, Sunrun freewheel, KMC chain, Well-Go pedals, and Promax brakes. Not a bad line up of components.

Critical also included a flip-flop rear hub with the option of using the included freewheel if you are not into the true fixed gear thing.

Critical Cycles Flip-Flop Rear Hub

Flip-Flop Rear Hub

Okay, so what will this fixie set ya back? $219 including free shipping!? How can it be that cheap? Here is the explanation from Critical:

We are able to offer these amazing prices simply by cutting out all the middlemen. When you purchase a bike from Critical Cycles you are buying your bike factory direct from the bicycle manufacturer. There are no company reps, retailers, or retail salesmen making commissions and mark-ups between you and us.

So far it all sounds good right? How about when the rubber hits the road? Alright, here is what I know:

Building the bike

When the Critical arrived, the outside of the box gave this website address for assembly instructions: HowToAssembleAFixie.com which forwards you to this video from Retrospec Fixies.

Critical Cycles Box

Internet access required for assembly

The video was pretty good for how to assemble the fixie but there were a few parts missing. According to Critical Cycles they will be providing a video specifically for their bikes soon.

The current video lacks information on flipping the rear wheel to change it to the freewheel setup. It would also be great to see them use a little grease on the bolts. The Critical comes with the brake cable already installed in the brake lever so you can ignore what they show in the video regarding brake cable installation. And the Critical only has a rear brake, the Retrospec has both front and rear.

The bike does come with most of the tools to assemble it.

Critical Cycles Loose Parts and Tools

Loose Parts and Tools

From my experience the assembly of the bike went pretty well, except for bending the wrench (thin, malleable steel) when I tightened the pedals and there no tools for attaching the brake housing clamps to the top tube.

Other than that, the bike went together very easily.

Once you get the bike built, you should run it by your local bike shop so they can give it the once over to make sure it is totally road ready.

Riding

I have to say that the Critical is one of the more comfortable fixies I have ridden and that is probably thanks to the upright BMX style handlebars. It is a quick bike, like you would expect from a road style track bike, but more comfortable and styley with the high rise bars.

This bike is also relatively lightweight and easy to maneuver in tight spots. Good for the urban jungle!

Toe Clips

Toe Clips

The gear ratio is pretty tall for climbing hills but it cruises along the flats comfortably. You can climb hills, just be prepared to stand on those pedals! If you live in an area where there are more hills than flats, you may want to change the chainring or rear cog size.

The CC come with toe clips and straps for the ability to pull up on the pedals when you are cranking hard. Personally I found them to be a little cumbersome because they are a smaller size and I have size 11 feet, so I removed them.

Pros

First of all, the price really stands out on this bicycle. For $219 you really get a bike that is ready to hit the road with a frame and components that appear that they will last for many miles.

The frame welds looked clean, and they were representative of a well built bike.

Critical Cycles Welds

Frame Welds

The fact that CC offers nine different color combinations to choose from is impressive and it seems that they have colors to match many different tastes in style.

Overall, the handling of the bike was quick but still comfortable — not too twitchy.

Cons

The CC only comes with a rear brake, no front brake. If you plan on commuting on this bike a lot, it would be wise to have a front brake for rainy days and those emergency stops.

Speaking of brakes, the brake pads wore out very quickly. I wore through the stock pads in a little over a week of hard riding. This is probably due to the fact that there is only a rear brake but I think the pads material was also low quality. Once I replaced the brake pads with better pads it made a world of difference in stopping power!

Asymmetrical Pedals

Asymmetrical Pedals

The pedals are not completely flat on both sides, and it would be nice to have that for people that are not using the toe clips and straps.

As mentioned before, the included wrench bent while tightening the pedals and there were no tools for tightening the brake cable housing clamps.

Comparison to other Fixies

There are a lot of fixies available in the market right now. The closest competitor I could find for the price and color selection was the Vilano Fixed Gear bike. It is a little more money than the Critical cycles. It does have a front brake but some of the components are not as nice (seat post & seat) and it doesn’t have the cool BMX style bars!

Conclusion

If you are looking for a minimalist and fun bike for your urban shredding then I think you should definitely checkout the Critical Cycles fixie.

It has a nice steel frame, a solid mix of components and the color options are pretty amazing. For the price, it is a very compelling offer for a fixie style bike. I would recommend that you upgrade the brake pads ASAP and use a smaller chainring if you live in a hilly area.

You can buy a Critical Cyles fixie on their website or at Amazon.com.

 
Burley nomad 229

17 Responses to “Critical Cycles’ Factory-Direct Fixie”

  1. mark says:

    I think the Vilano is worth the extra few dollars for the front brake and pedal straps. Probably is the same bike.

  2. Eric says:

    It’s worth mentioning that the “free shipping” only applies to the lower 48 states. Hawaii and Alaska readers are out-of-luck…

  3. Adam Anon says:

    Riiiight…. Because purple and pink fixies will get people out of their cars. What a nonsense, just drop it and be honest “we are trying to cash in on the fixie fad by selling pretty and dysfunctional bikes to hipsters”

  4. John M. Hammer says:

    I have to agree with Adam. Fixies are not for everybody, or even for most. A single-speed bike with both front and rear brakes? Sure. But not a fixie with only one brake or no brakes at all.

    That is not to say this is a bad bike. It’s just not for the stated target audience.

  5. Daryl says:

    I bought the exact same bike you have pictured here (same color!) and I have also noticed the brake pads are wearing pretty quick. I’m a little confused about which kind of brake pads to buy to replace the originals. Will any kind work on these colored rims? A friend recommended some Kool Stops but they are available in threaded and cantilever. I need threaded right?

  6. Hi Daryl,

    Yes I would recommend Kool Stops as well. And threaded are what you need. You should double check with Critical Cycles to make sure the Kool Stops will work with their colored rims.

  7. Celina says:

    I have a big issue on my bike, i bought it a few months ago, and it feels very tight when im pedaling, i dont really know how to fix this problem.

  8. Hi Celina,

    I would recommend contacting Critical Cycles for their advice:

    http://www.criticalcycles.com/

  9. John Guilfoyle says:

    Hi I am wondering if I should get this bike or the Vilano 2012 or 2013 model? Which one do you recommend for a beginner fixie. Anyways its that or this. So can I get some feedback and tips?

  10. Anthony says:

    Hi John,

    I would go with the Critical Cycles bike. I bought one shortly after this article was published and I love it. It’s my first fixed gear bike and I’ve already worn the tires out (it’s that fun to ride and the roads in south MS are rough on road tires).

    Mr. Prebus,

    Thank you for the article. It was your review that helped me decide between Critical and Venice.

  11. Liz says:

    Hey guys, I recently ordered this bike and ordered a bullhorn handlebar for it. I was wondering if the break lever on the bike is detachable or if I should go ahead and order one as well. Thanks!

    • Ted Johnson says:

      Yes, you can remove the brake lever. However, I think bullhorns usually take road bike brake levers (designed for drop bars).

      Be prepared to get some different levers if the included levers don’t work quite right.

  12. Jacob says:

    Try to loosen the chain. there is a peg on the back tire, to the left of the bolt, you can mess around with that…see if it helps.

  13. mark says:

    If you order from amazon you can get the free shipping to AK. I have gotten free shipping on other outsized items.

  14. amber says:

    these bikes are pieces of **** and so is the company that makes them. the bike arrived with production damage and they told me it was shipping, even though the box was totally pristine and the bike had ZERO deformities, and the area of the issue had no dents or scrapes or bending. (post hole was not circular). i tried to contact them for assistance and they had me jump through all these hoops, send pictures blabla only to then be like o well its not our problem because you got it from amazon and they resell our products so our product guarantee doesnt count now even though WE shipped the bike to them damaged. and the guy was a dick. dont bother getting it. there are vilano’s for the same price that are better. also! they sell this crap with a rear brake set up which is total insanity because the rear wheel IS its own brake! like why would you brake on a wheel that will stop turning as you stop peddling?! they had no answer for me on that one other than it was for “novices”. which when translated means: i have no clue why we do that but thats just how it comes. these guys totally jumped on the fixie bandwagon when it became super popular around the time that HORRIBLE movie came out..premium rush.

  15. bob says:

    You probably need to re-lube the crank and the rear bearings

  16. isaac says:

    i wanted to switch to the single gear from the fixed, and i was wondering which crank puller i should get. is the avenir crank puller compatible with this crank?

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