$429 Custom Urban Bike Combines Flash with Function

It costs $429. You get to pick frame color, handlebars, decals, and other parts to make a personalized urban ride.

Design-it-yourself singlespeed or fixed-gear bikes have become popular with a certain cycling subset, including commuters, college kids, and especially people facinsated by the “fixie” trend. This month, we designed and tested Big Shot Bikes’ offering and came away with a fun, flashy, urban bike that turns heads when we ride it in the city.

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Flamboyant fixie in its element

Big Shot is hardly the only player in the design-it-online bike world. But the brand is one of the largest, citing more than 10,000 custom bikes sold. Granted, these are not custom bikes in the traditional sense — you pick frame size, handlebar type, and colors, but little else.

Considering that the bulk of Big Shot’s business comes from online sales, the site’s visual configurator — the tool that virtually updates the bike build as you mix and match colors — is primitive compared to other design simulators we’ve used. In our test it lagged at times like an outdated video game or refused to load when we zoomed in. Nevertheless, we settled on a red-black-white motif and hoped for the best.

Once the flashy bike arrived at the office, assembly was extremely basic, taking less than 20 minutes and requiring wrenches and a screwdriver. And as it turned out, the bike looks pretty sharp (don’t mind the white chain — we couldn’t resist!).

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Riding Minneapolis’ Greenway Bike Path

Each bike comes with a flip-flop hub, which allows a rider to set it up for single-speed or fixed-gear riding. The gearing is a relatively stout 46×16, which works well in a flatter city like Minneapolis, but might prove too much for some riders in the Portlands and San Frans of the world.

The bike weighs in at a hefty 25 pounds (60 cm frame) with extremely basic components — no brand name parts are to be found. The tires are fine but on the cheap end; a local shop that sells Big Shots in Minneapolis dished that the stock tires wear through in a snap when riding the bike fixed and skidding to stop.

Speed? Our custom “red rocket” is faster than anticipated. The gearing is perfect for flat streets, and the weight of the bike is not a big deal until you go up something steep. Granted, you’re not going to see any alleycat race winners on a Big Shot. But the bikes are a solid option for anyone in search of a low-maintenance bike.

To us, the low-maintenance part is key. Single-speed bikes have fewer parts and thus are less apt to break down. A Big Shot could last through four years of college with little maintenance needed beyond lube (and new tires, depending how you ride it).

Overall, we like the Big Shot concept but are not gushing about the bike. It’s a fine and dandy (literally with our color scheme) urban bike, sleek-looking though not super sleek-riding. It’s heavy for what it is — a streamlined singlespeed — and the parts could be better. But for the price, Big Shot has found a sweet spot between “department store”-type bikes and higher-end models that many people cannot afford.

—Patrick Murphy is an assistant editor.

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