It’s been a long time since I’ve invoked the Second Law of Cycling by indulging in a complete new bike. I have bikes of course; several of them in fact, with a disappointing number languishing in need of various key parts to get them mobile. Most recently my Five has required some major surgery, of which more soon, but this review is about something completely different.
It’s a bike, yes, but not exactly what most of us would understand by that phrase. People, I give you the Trek District belt drive urban singlespeed.
I know what you’re thinking; well maybe not exactly what some of you are thinking but enough to generalise in a pointless act of socio-demographic labelling. I’m thinking that you’re thinking what the hell has a belt drive urban singlespeed runabout got to do with a website whose modus operandi is mountain bikes? Actualy, quite a lot really.
First of all, it’s a bike, and in my world – and in strict accordance with the Second Law of Cycling mentioned above – that’s a good thing. Secondly, this has ticked a few of the boxes that have been growing on my wish list of interesting bike-related things.
Of these, the fact it is the perfect bike to move me stylishly from home to coffee house* and back again is by no means the least of them. I also liked the idea of a flat bar road bike, I enjoy singlespeeding and that belt drive is just plain intriguing isn’t it?
Oh and another thing. It was ridiculously cheap!
So what we’re looking at here then is a Trek District 2012 model. In other markets that can be found as the District 1 I think, although the District range currently covers three models that include a belt drive singlespeed, a ‘normal’ singlespeed and a 1×9 option. It has to be said the range has also taken on a more muted and less retro look as well and has also lost the carbon fork that this version is discreetly equipped with.
The 2012 model that I have is finished in a lovely steel (Neptune) blue with cream detailing that adds a real 50’s vibe – a modern 50’s vibe (as Dave commented) – and which really was a big factor in my going for it. It’s a great looking bike and quite a head turner where I live, especially if you are indiscrete enough to team it with lycra. That doesn’t really work.
What does work is some of the new technical cycle clothing that also manages to look like ‘normal’ casual clothes. Cycle-specific skinny jeans, sneakers with SPDs, and merino-based T’s are perfect for this bike and something I’m working on! Three-quarter length mtb baggies would also look fine with summer coming on I guess.
The cream extends to the wheel rims which are rather odd, quite deep sectioned (hinting in passing at aero qualities) but with heavy straight gauge spokes that speak more precisely of the strength planned-in to cope with rough urban roads.
Teamed with a set of puncture protected Bontrager 25mm Race Lite tyres the ride is smooth and extremely comfortable. And those potentially heavy rims don’t harm things too much with the overall weight of the bike as supplied (complete with metal cage pedals) coming in at 20.88lbs. That’s pretty light isn’t it, without getting silly?
As I’ve said this bike is surprisingly comfortable.
I have the 56cm and was blessed to find it essentially fitted me straight away. I bought from Cyclesurgery using their click and collect scheme which although slow (delivery to store was nearly two weeks!) meant that the bike was fully assembled when I picked it up. My only adjustment was to alter the angle of the handlebars from a slightly drooping moustache bar position to more of a horizontal plane. This helped get a nice backsweep on what are reasonably narrow bars and lengthened the reach slightly.
If you are used to tweaking bikes you’ll know that’s pretty minimal as there’s a whole raft of things you could do to alter the riding position, but for me it was basically just right out of the box. The riding position is quite upright which gives a great view of the road ahead while the backsweep on the bars allows a good pull when cranking out of the saddle, something you do a fair bit on a siglespeed if an incline is involved.
The bike itself is extremely nimble, probably as a result of those narrowish bars which speed up the steering, yet it feels very secure chucking it into a corner. I wouldn’t race on it – it’s not that kind of bike – but for sweeping round turns and making smooth progress it works well. And that’s urban riding in a nutshell.
So the geometry seems to be well chosen for the kind of riding it’s intended for (72.5° head angle and 73.5° seat tube with 45mm of fork offset). What’s also interesting is the frame, which is made from Trek’s Alpha aluminium, while the fork is a nice carbon effort that surely contributes to the great ride.
The frame has pretty large and visible welds but these are painted and therefore less obtrusive. It uses an unusual solid yolk for the seat stays and lots of box section tubing that ovalises just where it needs to be. In short it’s a competent but budget frame that has one surprise up it’s sleeve. The driveside seatstay can be unbolted and a small slug removed to let the belt for the belt drive slip through. This is rather important since in normal use you can’t split the belt!
Ah yes the belt drive. I’ve said before how much I’d like to try one but this was in relation to the Gates belt drives on Spot mountain bikes. Actually it turns out that a belt makes a lot of sense on a commuter, urban runabout bike.
For a start, it’s rated for 10,000 miles which is a lot more than I’ll do in a hurry. Secondly, no oil. This is a biggy for me as combined with the belt guard it means I can get on it and not worry about trousers or laces getting mucky or enmeshed in the inner workings of the drivetrain. So it scores for convenience there. Finally – and no review of this bike would be complete without mentioning it – there’s the stealth factor. This is one quiet bike, even over rough surfaces. No rattle, no chain noise, not even a clicking freehub as this is blessed with one that’s near silent. It’s a joy to ride and the only thing that I can think of when I’m on it is Mazda’s zoom-zoom advert ‘cos it makes me want to zoom-zoom!
Overall then I’m pretty happy. This bike is cheap, is well thought out for it’s intended purpose and takes the rough of the road in it’s stride. It’s comfortable, steers well and hopefully with the belt drive will prove reliable.
That’s an unknown at this stage and the grumblenet has a few reports of problems but I feel confident enough with it. If the worst happens and I’m not happy then my positive comments about the great handling, the comfortable ride and the near silence will apply just as much to a bike with a chain drive.
See you on the trails (and perhaps on the streets!)
*coffee house – it’s a broad and optimistic term Paul!