2013-03-13

Bike Review: Windsor Clockwork Plus (Part 2)

As I previously blogged, my household has seen the addition of a new member. I hear the pitter-pattering of tiny spokes. That's right, I'm talking about my fabulous new Windsor Clockwork Plus. These babies are selling right at the top of the single speed page over at BikesDirect.com. Last time, I covered everything I covered short of the actual ride, so I won't hold you in suspense any longer. On with the real review.

Assembling this bike was a piece of cake, but at the urging of my avid-biking older siblings, I took the bike to the local shop before giving it a real ride to ensure that everything was as it should be with the bike. I went to the mechanic's counter and asked for a tune-up, explaining that it was a new online purchase and that I wanted to make sure it was ready to go. The mechanic pulled out an invoice, then looked down at the bike. He narrowed his eyes for a moment before muttering, "...hang on a second..."

From there, he took the bike into the shop and gave it a full inspection, checking each of the parts. It took only a couple of minutes, and then he wheeled the bike back over to me, shrugged, and announced, "Looks good to me..." No service, no charge. This is an important point because this means that the bike shipped in a road-ready state. That's great!

Finally, I was ready to take it out on the road. Rather than start by braving the morning commute - bear in mind that I haven't owned a bike for about three years, and I haven't even ridden one in six or more - I thought I'd do some easy riding along the local neighborhood streets.

Because this is a track bike fitted with brakes, the narrow wheels and single-speed configuration initially felt like an "advanced ride" from my novice perspective. I was wobbly and unsure of myself. Within a few minutes, though, I really took to it. The bicycle is remarkably quiet, and it glides smoothly and briskly on the street. The more I rode, the better I liked the ride. After about 15 minutes of riding, I couldn't stop smiling. Everything about the ride of this bike is fun, fun, fun.

There are a number of small hills, dips, twists, and turns in my neighborhood, so I had a good opportunity to experience the full range of what riding my Clockwork has to offer. Downhills are predictably speedy - it's easy to work up to quite high speeds, but the ride is so smooth that I hardly even noticed. But riding uphill was, for me, a phenomenal experience. Naturally, the big "if" in the single speed equation is this: It's a fun bike to ride, if you don't mind the difficulty of riding uphill without changing gears. On that front, I can safely say that riding uphill on this bike is an absolute pleasure. Whether this is due to the single-speed setup, or the nice wheels, or what, I'm not sure. All I know is that my legs felt connected to the road in a way that I don't remember experiencing on a bicycle before. Every degree of motion on the pedals corresponded to smooth, direct pressure on the road below. I have decent leg strength, so the effort was not too much. It was a blast. I soon found myself seeking out uphills and attacking them hard.

The handlebars are incredibly comfortable. I was reticent when I saw that the website described them as "padded foam," since it immediately called to mind images of the 10-speed bicycles of the early-80s, with their black sponge grips. On the contrary, the Clockwork has a nice, comfortable grip that is easy on the hands and feels very ergonomic. The drop handlebars put your body in a nice, aerodynamic posture that is still totally comfortable. Here I should probably note that I used BikeDirect.com's sizing guide for track bikes, and it ended up being the perfect fit for me, but of course I am of average height, so that is to be expected.

If you are accustomed to pedaling on the balls of your feet, the Clockwork's pedals will be perfect. If you are a less-experienced rider who is used to situating the pedals under your arch (or worse, your heel), then you need to be aware of some overlap: when you turn, the front wheel may hit your toes. Keeping your feet in the proper position, though, ensures that this will probably not be an issue for most people.

Bumps in the road are as noticeable as they would be on any road bike. Those riders more accustomed to mountain bikes or bicycles with bigger tires may be a bit unnerved at feeling that much of the road. But to me, I feel as though I am gliding on my Clockwork Plus, even when I roll over bumps.

It should be obvious by now that this is a glowing review of the Windsor Clockwork Plus, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is similar to me: Looking for a good, fast, high-quality, single-speed commuter bicycle for a low price. What else can I say about this? It seems to be a pure winner. My primary motivation in buying this bicycle was that I thought it would be a fun bike to ride. I couldn't have been more correct. What a great bike.

I will provide a Part 3 of this review once I have had the opportunity to put in some better mileage at higher speeds and in a wider range of conditions.