Beater Bikes: review (and requiem?)

I’ve heard people complain (still) that “… a good bike shouldn’t cost more than $100”. When I heard the news that Dave Chant was closing up  Beater Bikes and liquidating his remaining stock of bikes for $100 each, I thought I’d give it a try.

Through no fault of Dave’s, Beater Bikes never quite got the traction in Canada they should have done. I blame the outdated tariff on imported cheap bikes; Canada no longer has a domestic industry to protect (someone, please prove me wrong). We still have the tariff to shore up those long-gone jobs at CCM/Supercycle, though, so importing bikes into Canada was too expensive a proposition.

The bike still cost me a bike more than $100, though: $100, plus $120 shipping, plus $58 UPS brokerage ‘tax’ (grar), so a total of $278. Still cheaper than almost anything you can get from Canadian Tire, and as the original retail was around $450, still decent.

beater bikes, beat-up boxSo here’s the box it came in; beaten up and retaped, sure, but with an appropriate logo. Inside, apart from a few loose parts, there was this:

how it's packedAlthough well wrapped, the bike had been dropped at one point, and there was a colossal ding on the back mudguard that stopped the wheel turning. I managed to flatten it out enough that the wheel ran free, but it’s still visible under the carrier.

After a couple of hours of fiddling and tightening, I ended up with this handsome steed:

assembled!The basket is an old Wald I had lying around, attached with enough Ty-Raps to add a significant cost to the bike. The only bits missing were most of the screws to mount the rear reflector. One screw plus duct tape did the job.

Ashtabula crank, nifty propstandThe bike has a particularly nice kickstand. Coupled with the steering stabilizer, it’s a bike that’ll lean against a wall without falling in a heap. It’s also my first bike with a one-piece/Ashtabula crank, which is more a matter of where I grew up — only BMXs had them in the UK.

It’s quite a handsome bike, despite the Beater concept of a bike that won’t get noticed or stolen. It’s very basic, but solid. I don’t know how long the chainstay-mounted Beater Bikes nameplate will last on mine (it came partially unglued on my first ride) so maybe the bike will be an anoymous beater sooner than expected.

beater at the moviesIt rides well, though I have to say that riding a bike with only a coaster brake is a little off-putting.  I haven’t mixed with real traffic on it, and our shed has developed a bruise from where I shot up the driveway, completely forgot how to stop, and collided with the shed. Only pride hurt.

Starting with a coaster brake is also weird, as you can’t haul the pedals back to a good starting place. I’m resolutely right-footed, and I’ve had several nopenopenope start offs from junctions. Until I heard about the rolling the bike backwards trick, I was pretty stuck.

bikeshadowCompared to my cushy and sprung Batavus, the Beater has a harsher ride. Its low gear is higher than I’m used to, so I start off slowly. I’d definitely agree with Velouria‘s assessment that it needs a front brake. I’m much slower without one.

It is, however, a very decent bike for the money I paid. I hope that Dave got something positive from his foray into bike sales, as it’s a fine concept, and better executed than flops like the Kronan. The one thing it does do far better than any of my other bikes? The Sturmey-Archer rear hub still makes that lazy tic tic tac tac noise in top gear, which can only be the sound of summer freedom on the open road.

Solar Marble Machine at 2× speed

Solar Marble Machine
Solar Marble Machine — click for video

For more details, please see The Solarbotics Solar Marble Machine.

Music: “A New Way of Seeing” (excerpt) – Richard Harvey; © 1979, ICL.

work as if you live in the early days of a better nation