Test: Kona Paddy Wagon Single-Speed Bike

Single-speed bikes are the cycling trend from left field, the impossibly illogical populist fad that has in the past couple years put hundreds of thousands of people on bikes with just one steady, often slow, speed. And I’m one of them.

The single-speed craze is not difficult to delineate: These bikes are efficient, lightweight, low maintenance, clean-looking, and often far less expensive than their gear-laden cousins. They do the job for the common biker tootleing around town. Spin the pedals, and go.

In the past couple of years, I have covered the Raleigh Rush Hour, Wabi Cycles Lightning, the Co-Motion Streaker, the Surly Singulator (for a single-speed bike conversion), and the Kona Paddy Wagon, which is reviewed below and here.

Raleigh Rush Hour Single Speed Bike

Raleigh Rush Hour

Single-speed bikes — and the urban bike-messenger crowd to which they’re yoked — also have garnered a cool factor that’s been compared to the zeitgeist of the surfing or skateboarding culture circa 1995. The little biker beanies, knickers, seatbelt-buckle-equipped messenger bags, and other subtle styles of the scene are, for better or worse, moving out beyond the indie world, toward a mainstream-culture acceptance as valid and neat.

Wabi Cycles Single Speed Bike

Wabi Lightning Bike

So what’s an aspiring single-cog-cranker to do? I built my own single-speed a couple years back, trimming a well-loved mountain bike down to a skeletal status, ditching chainrings and cogs, and leaving just one gear in back with the chain wrapped around a tensioner unit.

But bikes like the Kona Paddy Wagon (www.konaworld.com), a new model that sells for $649, now offer quick entrance into the single-speed scene.

Let me gush a little bit: This is a great bike, a clean and smooth ride, strong, simple, and fast enough. It’s geared just appropriately perfect for speed and hill-conquering ability, something missing from other single-speed setups I’ve tested as of late.

Many single-speed bikes err on the side of easy pedaling, using gear/chainring ratios that spin out once any kind of substantial speed is obtained. But the Paddy Wagon comes set with a 42-tooth chainring and a 16-tooth freewheel in back, letting you power up past 20 miles-per-hour.

Kona Paddy Wagon Single Speed Bike

Paddy Wagon

Bonus: The rear wheel of the Paddy Wagon has a fixed cog opposite its freewheel gear, letting you flip the wheel around to switch hit as a fixie rider. This fixed-gear configuration works like a unicycle or a child’s tricycle, lacking freewheel spin, which is the component that allows the rear wheel to spin independent of the drivetrain while coasting.

continued on next page. . .

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Posted by geoff parker - 04/03/2008 06:48 PM

I, just yesterday, bought a Paddy Wagon. I had been ogling it for some time. I am also 6’1’’, and ride the 58cm. It truly does fit like a glove. Great, well written, review. Go Kona!

Posted by Dan Brimm - 05/25/2008 09:17 AM

I too am a fan of the single speed even though I also ride a higher end Specialized Roubaix and a Scott Reflex MT. The single fixed gear is an excellent training bike in that it teaches and trains the rider to have a “perfect” stoke. This practice on the single speed can be transferred to the other non-fixed speed bikes to greatly improve your pedaling technique…... however a warning and a problem that most reviewers and cycle shops don’t speak about is that the single speed is very hard on the knees especially if the rider uses the pedals to brake and does not have or use hand brakes…..as many couriers outfit their bikes…..these need to be added to the bike and used or you will have serious knee problems….have fun!

Posted by Malone - 09/18/2008 12:26 PM

I have a mechanical engineering buddy whose family owns a bike shop in West Allis, WI. He has been tricking these kind of bikes out for a couple years now and selling them to people in NYC and LA. He uses old frames and new, great components, rims, etc. – he sells them for around $500 completely tricked out – they are really, really cool. Feel free to shoot him an email for any info – as he knows all there is to know – morateck@gmail.com – good luck!

Posted by Reggie Crawford - 12/29/2008 05:56 PM

Watch the rim strips on the paddy wagon. First the front and then the back went out. I replaced with a higher grade than the manufacturer uses

Posted by John - 03/02/2009 06:13 PM

Seeing all the Fixies @ the Tour of Kalifornia reminded me of all the Plaid and Nirvana/KC shirts I saw in 95’. Once it is popular it sucks..but at least they used old steel frames!! (no carbon here..)

Posted by deb griest - 12/25/2009 01:25 PM

how does one learn to ride a single speed track bike.
after years of being able to coast? how do you stop?

Posted by Stephen Regenold - 12/26/2009 10:51 AM

It sure takes some time. Not sure if there is a technique to learn. But you just cannot forget you are “fixed” to the bike. If you try and coast — bam! — the bike bites back. Fixed is great once you get the hang. A freewheel bike feels broken to me now while riding in the city after being used to the control on a fixed.

Posted by Urban Cyclist - 02/03/2010 10:53 AM

I got my fixed gear bike from 2 Wheel Bikes. They have a great deal on their Fixie.

Posted by todd - 07/29/2010 02:50 PM

Maybe the next big trend will be walking! lol!

Posted by Joe - 08/23/2010 11:15 AM

Meh, still don’t get it. If the derailleur drive were still some kind of unreliable, expensive, technology I’d understand. But it ain’t. Even ratchet-based “indexed” shifting systems are within the technical reach of anyone with a screwdriver, a vice grip, a set of allen wrenches and an internet connection, and won’t compete with the marketing budget for your Radiohead cover band. My throwdown commuter bike is almost 20 years old, serviced every other year whether it needs it or not. It’s NEVER broken down. In a hilly area, this is function sacrificed in the name of form. And a true solid-axle fixie in dense, fast-moving urban traffic? Fuhgedaboudit. I’ll hold on to my 6 speed…

Posted by carlos guadron - 08/27/2010 04:02 PM

how much do this speed cost in the store

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Posted by Alex M. - 01/16/2011 08:11 PM

Hi! I live in NYC and am looking for a super light weight (less than 20 lbs) and quick single-speed bike for less than $1000. Ideally a reasonably comfortable/sturdy ride though I understand weight and ride comfort are generally mutually exclusive. (I need it to be lightweight as I commute to work and need to haul it up four flights of narrow stairs.) Any ideas? Thanks! Alex

Posted by jpea - 01/20/2011 10:24 AM

you could check out the Scadmium Wabi he reviewed here – http://gearjunkie.com/fixed-gear-bike-wabi – 17 lbs

Posted by Allezw - 10/05/2011 04:59 PM

You forget that unless you time your stops, you will have your cranks out of position to start up easily. With the old coaster brakes, you had max control of braking with cranks horizontal so were already in position. With the fixie, you had better watch yourself when cornering too, or you’ll destroy a pedal or dump the bike and yourself. Originally these fixed S/Spds were retro-designed for handicapped individuals unable to lift their legs on the upswing. The old Sturmey-Archer hubs could be ordered with this feature.

Personally, anyone that rides a fixie without brakes, on the street, is a candidate for a proof of the Darwin Principle.

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