Is the Cycling Deal track/fixie frame TF really a track frame? In short, no.
While I see the Cycling Deal track/fixie frame as being aimed at the fashion/hipster market, many people secretly want to know that they are riding a ‘track legal’ frame on the streets — apparently it gets more hipster points. Other people may be considering this frame as a cheap introduction to velodrome cycling.
Many people will quickly write off the Cycling Deal track/fixie frame TF as cheap Chinese junk. I have had a lot of success over many years using cheap Asian imports to satisfy my desire to tinker and experiment. To be fair, I have also had the occasional disaster! But as long as you have realistic expectations of product performance, and do not push the product beyond its intended use, quite often Asian imports allow you to play with toys that you would not otherwise be able to.
What is a ‘track legal’ frame?
In order to evaluate the Cycling Deal track/fixie frame TF the first question to answer is, ‘What is a track frame?’
The UCI has technical specifications available on their web site. They are very technical! According to my research, the essential elements that make a bike track (velodrome) legal are:
- drop bars
- fixed gear drive train
- bolt-on wheel hub axels
- no brakes
- sufficient pedal clearance.
Almost any off-the-shelf road/track/fixie bike frame can be built up to meet the first four requirements, although having rear fork ends on the frame certainly helps in setting chain tension. A road frame with horizontal dropouts may also work.
If planning to ride a road frame on the velodrome, you may also need to tape over any braze-ons for the water bottle cage or brake cable lugs.
I have heard of road frames being set up to these requirements and being raced on the track, although only in the lower competition levels.
Some velodromes, particularly indoor velodromes with steep banking, may have other specific requirements such as bottom bracket drop and crank lengths to ensure sufficient pedal clearance. You will need to check with your local velodrome if unsure.
While a bike meeting these minimum requirements may be a good way to get a cheap introduction to velodrome racing, if you are serious, you will want a fast bike, not just one that meets the minimum requirements.
What makes a track frame fast?
A better question than the previous one is, “What makes a track frame fast?” This is where track-specific frames differ and the Cycling Deal track/fixie frame TF begins to be left behind.
A fast track frame generally is:
- fast steering
- has high clearance.
Weight is easy to quantify with a set of scales. Weight is not such an issue on a velodrome, as it is with road racing where you may be climbing mountains. The UCI stipulates 6.8 kg as the minimum for a complete bicycle.
Stiffness will become obvious when you ride the bike. A stiff bike will transfer the cyclist’s power to the wheels much more efficiently. I do not have any scientific way to measure frame stiffness, other than the seat-of-the-pants feel.
A steep head tube angle and short fork rake will provide quicker steering and a shorter wheelbase. The steep steering angle and short wheelbase enables rapid changes of direction while maneuvering around other riders on the track. There are several other aspects of bike geometry that also contribute to a short wheelbase, such as the seat tube angle and chain stay lengths.
A high bottom bracket and short cranks provide additional clearance on the steep velodrome banking, ensuring you do not experience pedal strike which could cause a crash.
How does the Cycling Deal track/fixie frame compare?
The Cycling Deal track/fixie frame TF can easily be configured to meet the first four minimum track requirements. You will probably need to tape over (or file off) the braze-ons for the brake lugs and water bottle cage.
My Cycling Deal track/fixie frame built up as shown in the top photo tips my bathroom scales at 9.0 kg — that is with heavy wheels and tyres and no brakes. I would expect that this frame could be built to around 8 kg with a decent set of wheels and tyres.
The table below compares the key geometry measurements of my Wabi Cycles Special, Cell Bikes fixie and Cycling Deal track/fixie frame. I have also included the Cinelli Gazetta as an example of classic track geometry and a Cinelli Vigorelli.
|Cycling Deal track/fixie frame
|Wabi Cycles Special
|Cell Bikes fixie
|56 cm (C-T)
|55 cm (C-C)
|56 cm (C-T)
|56 cm (C-T)
|56 cm (C-T)
|Head tube angle
|Bottom bracket drop
* according to my tape measure
As you can see from the table, the Cycling Deal track/fixie frame has slow steering, a low bottom bracket and long wheelbase. Put simply, the Cycling Deal track/fixie frame is more road oriented than track oriented.
What is it like to ride?
The geometry numbers can only reveal so much about a bike. The real test is, what is it like to ride.
At this stage, I have only ridden the Cycling Deal track/fixie frame on my rollers and on the road. I have not ridden it on a velodrome — and, given its limitations, I do not think I ever will.
I am currently running 46/14 gearing (88.7 gear inches!) on my bike. That means that the bike takes a while to wind up to speed. Using this gear, according to Strava I have managed to sprint up to more than 45 km/h on flat roads. I am sure that I can break 50 km/h because this was not a flat out sprint.
The bike is actually a lot more agile on the road than the geometry numbers would suggest. It is not as agile as my other bikes with steep steering angles and shorter wheel bases though.
If you are riding fixed gear, whether on a velodrome or on the streets, pedal strike around corners is a very real risk with this frame. The pedals are noticeably lower than my other fixie/singlespeed bikes. I may consider replacing my 170 mm cranks with 165 mm cranks to get that extra little bit of clearance.
The frame seems taut, but I would not regard it as being harsh. At speed, the bike gives a typical thin-walled aluminium rumble/rattle sound — some people will like the sound; other’s won’t.
While the Cycling Deal track/fixie frame can be set up to meet velodrome minimum requirements, if your local velodrome has steep banks, you are unlikely to be allowed to ride it because of the risk of pedal strike causing a crash. Besides, it is probably not going to be too long before you find the frame’s other shortcomings on the track.
The frame can be built into a quite acceptable road fixie or singlespeed. If riding fixed and brakeless, you may find the brake cable lugs annoying. More importantly, you may find the pedal strike around corners is an issue.
Overall, this frame is a relatively cheap way to play with building your own bike, but do not expect to set any velodrome records with it!