You are confused as well as intrigued. An hour later, you are in your zone. You enjoy the surroundings. After sometime, you are riding like possessed, caring least about what is going on. Then you are grinding like a maniac; you stop searching for the elusive answer to why you ride like that. Finally you are riding like a machine. No more questions; no more answers; only eternal bliss. The ride becomes you and you become the ride…
You are riding a fixed gear bike….welcome to the fold…
Searching for Happiness
When I thought it was time to upgrade from my hybrid bike, the obvious choice was a road bike. A bit of research later, I became fascinated by the fixed gear bike because of its simplicity (not the hip or fixie image it has got in some alleys of the fixed gear world). Though there are seven cogs in my hybrid’s sprocket, I have hardly used anything except the sixth and the seventh for about a year now. This is not to say that a fixed gear bike is better than a road bike; I was rather attracted to the fixed gear bike.
Once I got fixated on the fixed gear bike (pun intended), I did a thorough research on the options available for us in India.
The first option was the Montra Fixie. I went to a couple of bike shops, where they offered a test drive ‘within the shop—all of 10 to 15 feet to ride and test :)’. The bike comes in both 18in (M) and 21in (L) sizes (L~21in; my size). It has high tensile steel and I came to know that it weighed 13kg through a Facebook page. I was sure that 13kg would mean the bike with M size and L would definitely be a bit heavier. Though I was OK with the weight, the gear ratio of 46X16 made me hesitate. By then I had actually started using the 42X14 gear ratio of my hybrid, which is a bit harder than 46X16. I wanted something easier than 42X14 and harder than 42X16.
Scolarian was the next choice. I have lost the count how many times I have visited their website. I really liked their offerings, especially the Hermit. I googled whatever I could and collected every nugget of information about Scolarian and their bikes. The frame is chromoly; the gear ratio is 44X16 (they don’t tell you the sprocket has 16 teeth). The package was what I dreamt of. But Hermit at 25 grand, which is the least priced of the four bikes that they offer, was itself beyond my budget.
So, I also visited a few other bike shops and online stores to seek if my happiness lay elsewhere. I considered some mainstream Indian fixed gear bikes, such as Firefox Flip-Flop, UT Milano, and LA Cheetah, another Indian boutique brand Astr Sidewinder, and well-known international fixed gear bike such as Fuji Track. UT offered a chromoly frame with a bullhorn as standard; when I saw it in flesh, the crank looked cheap though the overall bike looked good. But it came in only one size—M. Astr and Fuji were, again, way beyond my budget. I didn’t want the disc brake offered by LA Cheetah. So it was back to square one.
Happiness At Last
By now, my pursuit of happiness had reached the stratospheric level and the fixed gear bike fever was unbearable; and I needed a remedy ASAP. Out of impulse, I asked Scolarian for a quote for Hermit. They replied that they didn’t have a 54cm (L) Hermit and offered me the last 54cm frame Captain on a sweet deal. I grabbed it with both hands and made the payment promptly. At last, I found happiness in a fixed gear bike of my choice. FedEx sucked a bit and missed the delivery by a day, adding to my anxiety. Finally, I got the package. Unpacking and assembling was a breeze.The bike was, as Scolarian says, 80% assembled; you will only need to assemble the handlebar, front wheel, pedals, and the seat post and your bike is ready.
The bike was ready in about an hour. Had to sprint to a nearby automobile shop to buy a packet of grease necessary to fit the pedals and seat post. Though Scolarian provided the toolkit, they could have provided a small box of grease too. Anyway, once the bike was ready, went for a spin. Boy…it’s happiness in chromoly. The lightness of frame (compared to my hybrid) was immediately evident, as I could accelerate quickly. Over the weekend, I went for back-to-back 50km rides. The bike rides like a champ though there are a few teething problems. Here is a review of the parts in particular and overall ride in general.
Here is a quick review of Black Panther aka Scolarian Captain.
Frame and Fork
The bike frame is chromoly 4130. Mine is a 54 cm frame. It offers the typical fixed gear bike geometry. It oozes quality with the matt black finish complementing the neatly welded joints. The straight fork is Chromoly too. It looks stylish and makes the ride very comfortable if you are riding on glistening tarmac; over bad patches and potholes though, it makes the ride a bit jittery; maybe a curved fork would have helped a bit.
Drive Train and Other Components
The components are decent; Neco threadless headset, alloy riser bars, and alloy brakes offer value for money. The 700X25c wheels have nameless deep-V rims and Kenda tyres. They serve their job well. The Joytech hubs come as standard.
The drivetain consists of an elegant 46-teeth alloy crank, KMC Z410A chain, and a 16-teeth fixed cog. The 46X16 gear ratio is neither easy nor tough (for me). It helps me accelerate quickly.
The ride is mostly wonderful. The quality frame and components make the ride plush over nice tarmac. There is no squeaking noise emanating from any of the parts; call it a stealth ride. The gear ratio is perfect; you can accelerate at will from a standstill and will make the start-stop city traffic enjoyable. The lack of coasting is an advantage too; it helps the acceleration! On vast stretches of unblemished tarmac, I yearn for a bigger gear ratio once I get into my zone and my legs outpace the bike. I was a bit worried about the 170mm crank arm. I thought 165mm would have been nice since it wouldn’t touch the rumblers on the road. But the 170mm crank has been good so far; I have ridden over small hills of rumblers without the arm touching them.
The seat is a bit cramped; it is not a leather seat, so I am not sure if it would break in after a few rides. But the real low point of an otherwise wonderful riding experience is the handle bar grips. The riser bar is just about adequate for longer rides, but the grips leave a burning sensation on your palms after 30 minutes into your ride. These are minor aberrations. A good seat and a pair of padded hand gloves will easily get you into your dream ride.
Scolarian is a boutique brand and managed by a group of passionate people. You can directly mail them or WhatsApp them, and they will get back in a reasonable amount of time. I, being over-enthusiatic because I had found my happiness finally, asked umpteen questions and they answered each one of them.
Overall, I would rate the bike 8 out of 10.