The single-speed craze is in full swing, with my very own favorite form of mass media even jumping onto the story. I can just see art directors at big ad agencies and marketing types at corporations now cashing in on the cachet, conjuring ads for pizza and XTREME underarm rubs featuring the black-clad psuedoanarchist/bike messenger zeitgeist that’s populating alleyways and bike paths from my home town of Minneapolis to San Fran and New York.
Now, I’ve been a single-cog-cranker going on three years, building my own single-speed masterpiece two years back with the help of a former pro-mtb’er of local renown. Then, last month Kona (www.konaworld.com) shipped me out its latest mass-market one-speed steed, the Paddy Wagon, and darn if I’m not enjoying the ride.
At $649, the Kona Paddy Wagon is an affordable track-bike-like option for urban riding or mid-distance commuting where hills play little into the route. It comes set with a 42-tooth chainring and a 16-tooth freewheel in back.
BONUS: The rear wheel also has a fixed cog, letting you flip the wheel around to switch hit as a fixie. Like a unicycle or a child’s tricycle, fixed-gear bikes lack a freewheel, which is the component that allows the rear wheel to spin freely and the rider to coast. On a fixed-gear bike, the pedals, chain, chainring and rear-tire gear — and thus your legs and the bike’s back tire — all are connected, moving in sync, never stopping while on the go. Basically, as long as the wheels are turning, your feet are spinning around on the pedals. Coasting is not an option.
In lieu of brakes, speed can be controlled on a fixed-gear by applying reverse pressure on the pedals while they are spinning. The action, which is much like downshifting the transmission in a car to slow before a red light, will not stop you abruptly. But with time fixed-gear bikers learn to slow down, stop and then reaccelerate all with their feet, no shifting or braking involved.
The beauty of bikes like the Paddy Wagon is that you have the option to ride in regular freewheel mode, or you can go fixed-gear.
Other features of the Paddy Wagon are, well, few. But that’s the whole point. Kona made this bike to be nimble and lightweight. It’ll create very little in the way of drive-train issues, as there isn’t much to the drive-train. Its solid cromoly frame comes in 49cm, 52cm, 54cm, 56cm, 58cm, 60cm iterations. I — at 6 foot, 1 inch — took the 58cm model, and the bike fits like a glove.
Full specs are below. Notice all the “N/A’s.”