I’ve spent the last 11 years riding a hardtail and/or rigid mountain bike on singletrack, rail-trails, roads, you name it. It’s pretty much suited me fine, but the constant tire swap has always been annoying. It seems no matter where I want to ride on any given day, I always have the wrong tires on my bike, so I have to spend 10-20 minutes swapping them and then re-calibrating my cyclo-computer before I can go ride. Nowadays, I replace my large chainring with a BBG bashguard for trail riding, but put it back on for the road. Along with it, I have to re-mount my front shifter and derailer. Typically, spring and fall mean road or semi-slick tires, two chainrings and a front derailer, while the summer is spent on the trails running a 1×9 gear set-up. As I said, this has been fine for quite a while, but I finally decided to try something new.
After putting way too much thought into the matter, I decided on a singlespeed road bike to get me through the colder months. For one thing, having only one gear means I don’t have to screw around with shifters and derailers when they decide to act up. It also means I’m forced to use muscle when I ride, as opposed to selecting a gear that’s easy to spin up a hill while I stay planted on my seat. I have plenty of endurance, so I’ve chosen to focus on building muscle.
While browsing around eBay for parts (I planned to just piece a bike together with whatever worked) I stumbled across a posting by Cycling Closeouts, suppliers of the EighthInch Scrambler. After a Google search, I discovered it’s actually a house brand of Wheel & Sprocket, a bike shop in Wisconsin. Most of the parts are re-branded (or non-branded) OEM parts, but the frames are made specifically for them by an unknown (to me) Taiwanese frame supplier. I spent about a week reading reviews online and scouring bike forums to see what other owners had to say about them, and the impression I got was mostly positive. In fact, just about the only negative comments I found were from people who had never owned or ridden one. That, plus the relatively low $600 starting point helped me make my decision… well, at least my decision about which bike to buy; picking out colors and options turned out to be much more difficult.
So, let’s get this straight: Wheel & Sprocket is the bike shop, Cycling Closeouts (.com) is the website, they go by Wheelandsprocket on eBay as a secondary way of selling online, and EighthInch is their brand name for their bike parts. They also have a blog on WordPress, a Facebook fan page, a YouTube channel, and post regularly on Twitter. It’s almost as though they want people to be able to find them anywhere. I can’t find them on MySpace, though, which, in my opinion, is a good sign.
Okay, now on to the bike…
Unlike a lot of companies that let you choose a red bike with black stripes, or a black one with silver stripes, and nothing else, EighthInch gives buyers a huge say in what their bike looks like. Most parts are anodized (or painted) aluminum, so letting you pick a gold stem, blue rims and a polished crankset doesn’t cost them any more than if you picked other colors. The upside to this is, you get to order the bike with any color combo you can dream up; the downside is, you eventually have to make up your mind. You can also select between three different types of handlebars–track, bullhorn or riser–crank arm length, freewheel and fixed cog sizes, and whether or not you want brakes (a no-cost option). I think one way they keep prices so low is by not paying marketers to research what options buyers may want, and letting us pick them out for ourselves. Novel concept.
As you can see, I’m not very creative. I went with all black, with white rims and tires, after seeing a Specialized Langster L.A. I also ordered black cranks, but they called to inform me they were out of stock; I selected polished silver instead, and they look so good, I’m glad I didn’t get black afterall. I also picked a white chain, knowing I would swap it with a black one (they don’t offer black for some reason), and bullhorn handlebars, because they give me similar hand positions to a flat MTB bar with bar-ends, like I’m used to. Oh, and I picked a carbon fiber fork in place of the normal steel one (more on that later).