I recently purchased a Wabi Special fixed gear/singlespeed bicycle from Richard Snook at Wabi Cycles. Following are my initial thoughts on the bike.
I had read good things about Wabi Cycles on the internet, and also the owner Richard Snook. I have not been disappointed.
Wabi Cycles offers several bicycles, including the Lightening SE, Special and Classic.
While I was tempted by the Wabi Lightening SE, if I was purchasing a steel frame bicycle, I wanted the forks to be steel as well. The Lightening SE frame is made from Columbus Spirit triple butted, heat treated tubing; the forks are carbon fiber. The Lightening SE has a claimed weight of 17.5 lbs for the complete bike with brakes, but no pedals. If you run your fixie brakeless, obviously you can shave some more weight from the bike.
The Wabi Classic is the next lightest, weighing in at a claimed weight of 18.4 lbs. The Classic is made from Reynolds 725 double butted, heat treated tubing. I would have been happy with the Classic, but the Desert Turquoise colour sold out the day before I placed my order, and I did not want the Jet Black colour.
I therefore purchased the Wabi Special in Burnt Red. The bike has a claimed weight of 18.6 lbs and is made from Reynolds 725 double butted, heat treated tubing. The frame is lugged and brazed giving a very classic look.
For the record, according to my scales, my 55 cm Wabi Special — with brakes, but no pedals, bottle cages or saddle bag — comes in at 8.9 kg on my digital bathroom scales (that is weighed with me holding the bike, then minus my weight).
Freight and packing
The Wabi Special came well packed. Even so, between California and Brisbane, Australia FedEx managed to put a hole in the box where the front axle protruded. As a result, the front wheel had about a 5 mm buckle in it. Richard has been very cooperative getting it sorted and has said that damage to bikes in transit is a rarity. For the record, while the front wheel was off the bike, I weighed the front wheel on my digital kitchen scales at 850 grams (with rim tape, but without tyre or tube).
The bike also had a hole worn in the handlebar tape during transit, but this was not of concern as I needed to swap the brake cables over anyway, in the process replacing the bar tape.
I have been looking for a nice steel frame bicycle for some time. Unfortunately, many of them are refugee track bikes, so really do not suit my style of riding.
I already have two 4130 chrome moly steel frame singlespeeds from Cell Bikes.
Starting from the bottom of the frame, the Wabi Special has a bottom bracket drop of 62 mm, while the Cell Bikes fixie has a bottom bracket drop of 65 mm.
The downtube length for the Wabi is measured 55 cm centre to centre. The Cell Bikes frame is measured 56 cm centre to top. If I measure the Wabi in the same manner as the Cell bike, they have the same length downtube, but the Cell bikes top tube is joined to the down tube a couple of centimetres below the top of the tube.
Combining the Wabi’s higher bottom bracket with the higher join of the top tube with the seat tube, makes a BIG difference to stand over height, with the Wabi being higher. If you buy the right size bike, this will not be an issue, but if you buy a bike that is too big for you and you have the seat post pushed all the way in, you are likely to whack your crotch every time you get on or off the bike!
Both bikes measure the horizontal top tube in the same manner. The Wabi is 55 cm, while the Cell is 56 cm.
The higher stand over height of the Wabi gives a huge benefit over the Cell. The horizontal top tube fixed to the top of the seat tube, also gives a resulting increase in height of the head tube. For people like me, who can no longer get in a racer’s crouch for extended periods of time, this gives a massive benefit — a more upright riding position — without compromising the classic looks of the bike with ugly riser stems or extensions. If you want a more racing crouch position, this is still achievable by moving the spacers above the stem on the fork steerer. For that reason alone, this bike is brilliant — this is a drop bar bike with the classic look of a horizontal top tube that I can comfortably ride for several hours at a time. My other singlespeed bikes have riser bars simply because I can not bend over far enough to comfortably reach drop bars.
In my internet reviews of the Wabi bikes, I came across a few negative comments about the original equipment. Following are my thoughts on them.
I have seen some people complain that the Wabi saddles are too hard. I disagree. I purchased the black racing saddle. It is exactly what I would expect for this style of saddle and is quite comfortable for rides several hours in length. I suspect I will change it out for a Selle Italia SLS saddle at some point, mainly because it is the saddle that I use on most of my other bikes that I ride on a regular basis.
Straight out of the box, my Wabi Special had the right brake lever attached to the back brake caliper and the left brake lever to the front brake caliper. This is the reverse to every other bike I have ever ridden in Australia. In an emergency braking situation, it was a recipe for a crash. I therefore swapped over the brake cables at the first opportunity. This also meant replacing the handlebar tape.
The Kenda tyres are fine as OEM equipment. I usually ride 23C Vittoria Rubino Pro tyres. One of my bikes also has a 25C Vittoria Rubino Pro on the front and a 25C Vittoria Zaffiro Pro on the back. Having said that, I am planning to replace the Kenda tyres at some point with Continental GP4000S tyres.
The bike I purchased was the Wabi Special in Burnt Red. I probably would have preferred the Wabi Special in Brilliant Blue, or the Wabi Classic in Desert Turquoise, but mainly because I already have a red/orange coloured bike. The Burnt Red colour is beautiful, with what appears to be a slight metallic fleck in the paint work. I have no regrets getting the burnt red colour. Photos do not do this bike justice.
My Wabi Special is awesome — I love it. It has classic looks, a high quality Reynolds 725 steel frame and nice wheels. Even better, the geometry of this bike makes it comfortable for long hours in the saddle.