I've been a fan of fixed-gear bikes for many years, generally preferring "road" geometry but with some trackish features. In many ways the Quickbeam from Rivendell is the answer to a longstanding dream of mine.
It is designed specifically as a high-performance single-speed machine, without any derailer-related doodads, but unlike track bikes, it has geometry and tire clearance that make it very versatile and comfortable for road use or even off-road as long as the trails don't ge too "technical."
It has very generous tire clearance, very much reminiscent of its near relative, the Atlantis, and is designed for cantilever brakes. Indeed, it could be seen as a single-speed touring bike...and singlespeed touring is not as goofy an idea as it might sound at first blush--if you're not in a hurry and value simplicity and reliability, a singlespeed is eminiently tourable. Yes, you might have to get off and walk up a few hills, but that's hardly a tragedy, in fact sometimes it can be a nice change of pace! If you are in a hurry, why are you on a bicycle?
"Quickbeam" is the name of a character from the Lord of the Rings, an "ent" or animated tree. It has been about 40 years since I read the books, but I'm told that Quickbeam was the "hasty" ent, the only one to move at faster than a glacial pace.
The Quickbeam frame is made by Panasonic in Japan, and shares most of its lugwork with Atlantis, Rambouillet, Romulus and their kin. It shares their excellent workmanship and lugwork.
In addition to cantilever braze-ons--with a proper brazed-on seatstay housing stop bridge! It also has two water bottle mounts, and braze ons for a rear rack and fenders.
Unfortunately, it's not as fender-friendly as might be. The fork crown is the same as on its siblings, counterbored in back for a recessed brake mount. The rear-opening fork ends will require adjusting a rear fender for extra clearance if you want to be able to get the wheel out without deflating the tire.
The rear fork ends are definitely a good-news/bad-news feature. Current fashion seems to require the atavistic rear-opening design for singlespeed/fixed-gear bikes, even though dropout type (front opening) fork ends are much more convenient to use. The good news is that the Quickbeam's rear axle slots are not truly horizontal, but rather are angled to be roughly perpendiular to the seat-stays. This means that you can take advantage of the long adjustment slots to use different gear combinations without having to re-adjust your rear brake shoes every time you move the wheel. That's a big advantage!
It uses a traditional 1" threaded fork, and 120 mm rear spacing.
The Quickbeam comes as a mostly complete bike, including everything but pedals, saddle and handlebar tape.
Stock equipment includes:
- Nitto seatpost
- Nitto Technomic Deluxe stem
- Nitto "Noodle" bars
- Tange Levin steel headset
- Shimano Tiagra brake levers
- Shimano cantilever brakes
- Very nice Suzue quick-release cartridge bearing hubs, a variant of the popular ProMax track hubs. The rear hub is double sided, threaded for freewheels on both side--no provision for a fixed-gear lockring. This is not as serious a defect as it might seem, since the bike comes with two excellent brakes.
- Shimano 18 tooth freewheel
- 32 stainless spokes
- Very substantial looking Araya rims with full ferrules
- Panaracer Pasela 700 x 35 (or 37, depending which label you look at) tires.
- Sugino 110/74 crankset with chainguard disc, 40 and 32 tooth chainrings. They're set up so that the 40 tooth ring has proper 42 mm chainline, while the 32 is at a non-standard 36 chainline. Either of the chainrings can be used with the freewheel. The intent is that the 40/18 gear (4.5 Gain Ratio, 60.4 inches, 4.8 meters) would be the general road gear, and the 32/18 (3.6 Gain Ratio, 48.3 inches, 3.9 meters) would be for off-road use or for climbing mountains. Due to the fairly long chainstays (effectively lengthened when the smaller chainring is selected) the sub-optimal chainline of the 32/18 doesn't seem to be a problem in practice.)
Of course, I can never leave a bike alone, always have to put my personal stamp on it. Here's what I've done to my Quickbeam so far:
- Green Benotto handlebar tape, turns out to be a pretty good match.
- Shimano 525 SPD pedals.
- Old Idéale 90 saddle, Danile Rebour "Rodé3 Main" edition.
- Salsa Shaft seatpost (the stock Nitto was too short for my long-legged/short-waisted proportions.)
- Panaracer Speedblend tires, new Rivendell product that changes color as it rotates.
- The bike came with blah gray brake housing. I'd rather slow down by scuffing my feet on the ground than put that on a nice bike! I substituted white, which nearly matches the off-white transfers on the frame.
- It seems to me a bit of a shame to have nice lugwork covered up by a single-color paint job, but I understand that fancy paint greatly adds to the cost of a bike. My solution was to outline the lugs in white, matching the brake cables, graphics and the pump it shares with my Rambouillet. I used correction fluid for this!
- Kool Stop salmon Eagle 2 brake shoes...I'm a bit of a fanatic about brakes.
- A Dura-Ace 14 tooth fixed-gear sprocket on the unused side of the rear hub. No lockring, but I don't use it for serious braking, and it has yet to come unscrewed on me. This gives me a 40/14 gear, which I find quite well suited to my riding style in the rolling New England terrain where I live. (5.8 Gain Ratio, 77.6 inches, 6.2 meters.)
The stock gearing I found to be a bit low for my taste. On the flats, it was tolerable, but I always feel I'd be going a bit faster with a higher gear. The slightest downgrade, and I'd spin out of it.
I'm not a super fast spinner, but I'm pretty fast for a 59 year old fat guy, and I generally dislike coasting.
The stock gearing would probably be fine for many people, especially those who live in more mountainous areas. I do expect to use all 3 of the gears (32/14 will not work due to chain length) from time to time, but to spend most of the time on the 14 fixed.
The rear opening fork ends make flipping the wheel around quite awkward and messy. With the freewheel, where both chainrings can be used, switching from one to the other is actually quite easy, and can be done without getting your fingers on the chain, if you're on your toes.
I'm quite delighted with the general riding characteristicst of the bike, and was particularly pleasantly surprised at how well it works off-road.
The position is rather different than I'm used to, with a longer stem and much wider handlebars.
The longer stem makes me stretch out a bit, probably makes me faster, but I don't know how well it will handle longer rides.
I normally ride 38 cm handlebars, but the bars on the Quickbeam are at the other extreme, 46 cm. I've been somewhat re-thinking the narrow bars thing as far as fixed/singlespeed is concerned, because it is clearly advantageous to have wider bars when you're climbing out of the saddle (something I almost never do on a multi-speed bike.) Also, I think the wider bars are part of the reason for the Quickbeam's surprising off-road ability.
Copyright © 2005, 2007 Sheldon Brown
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