The bikes from Jelly Bean Bikes are very definitely rides for the urban environment. Visiting my old home town of Melbourne the Jelly Bean was the perfect conveyance for exploring some old haunts. In some ways too perfect for the many haunts I wanted to visit because I had traveled barely 5kms in the first couple of hours.
|Jelly Bean HQ|
|Jelly Bean bike basks in reflected glory at the G.|
|Local birds help finish my soup|
From the city I ambled up to North Melbourne and quenched my thirst with a mate at the Court House hotel. It was one of those blisteringly hot Melbourne days that suck you dry without regular resupply. It was so dry there wasn’t a drop of sweat on me, all sweat being whisked away by the kiln-like heat of Melbourne.
|Jelly Bean shining in the Melbourne sun|
I was planning on getting myself down to the bay where there might be a cool breeze but my head was fairly exploding with the heat so I contended myself with Albert Park Lake instead. When a hot northerly blows through Melbourne there is no respite so I kinda doubted the bay could save me anyway.
|Jelly Bean reclines at Albert Park Lake|
As though to prove the sign in the photo above, “slippery when wet”, moments later a cyclist rode down onto the slipper water’s edge and went arse over tit on some green slimy stuff. I could only be thankful for light comic relief as I sipped yet another drink in yet another cafe.
I didn’t test the stable geo on the slippery lake’s edge but on riding out of Albert Park Lake I had to merge across a lane from right to left with traffic coming up from behind me on both sides. I was grateful for the longer wheelbase and stable handling. I could look right over my left shoulder, riding one handed, knowing I wasn’t going to hit some little bump or crevice in the road that would twist the bike inside out. This bike would ride unforeseen bumps with equilibrium.
There’s another advantage to that ever-so-slightly longer wheelbase. Jelly Bean have been able to design mudguards for the bike. They’re Jelly Bean’s own design, because regularly guards wont fit (this actually not being a long bike…I don’t want to give you the impression it’s touring bike long or anything). Guards are a compromise for a bike, in some ways spoiling the minimalist aesthetic we love in the fixie genre, but once you’ve arrived at work with a dry arse on a wet day you begin to appreciate them. I’m sure they’ll be popular in Melbourne, where winter roads can go weeks without properly drying up.
|The furniture was more colourful than the bike. This doesn’t happen often on a Jelly Bean Bike.|
The equipment on the Jelly Bean is spot on for a bike of this price and purpose. The brakes work perfectly, have stiff metal levers with adjustable reach. If you don’t like brakes there’s a flip-flop Quando hub. The hubs are one of the few items that aren’t offered in a multitude of colours but I wouldn’t swap the standard gold ones even if I could. They look great and roll nicely. I’ve been a bit worried about Quando for a while, having come across some very notchy ones someone bought on eBay, but these seemed fine to me and looked ever-so shiny.
The cranks are standard issue Sugino so you’ve got no problems there.
I was impressed that Jelly Bean had specced up a 700 x 28 tyre. They started with 700 x 25 but found this a little too narrow for the bike’s intended use and have moved to the 28s. That’s the same size tyre I use and I reckon it’s just about spot on. For me the extra comfort and puncture protection the larger tyre offers make them perfect for city riding. More to the point, it shows that Jelly Bean are thinking about the finer details of their bikes and have an interest in getting things just right.
The frame of a bike is the heart of any bike and this frame is a decent one. You get the entire bike with a dollar change from $500 so you’re not getting a $1,500 custom lugged beauty. But you are getting a nicely finished, true and straight frame with a ride that is comfortable but not sluggish.
I feel that in some ways I’ve made too much of the ever-so-slightly longer wheelbase and stable geo of this bike. It’s a fixie/single-speeder, not a touring bike. It’s a fun ride. I recently stripped down an old Repco and found that once I’d converted it the bike was a wallowy pig. It’s permanently mounted on my indoor trainer now. I dont and wont ride bikes that aren’t fun. Riding is fun or it’s nothing but a huffy puffy way of getting from A to B. Jelly Bean bikes are fun but they’re an accessible kind of fun. At this price the purchaser is going to get just what they want and need. More experienced riders with more finicky fixie habits will be shopping at a higher price. Though I could easily imagine someone such as myself getting a Jelly Bean for urban commuting (so the regular ride doesn’t get exposed to the rigors of the daily grind) and using it for all but the weekend glory duties.
By and large the person who buys a Jelly Bean is looking to get into the single-speed/fixie thing at a price they can afford. Part of the fixie thing is owning a bike that is unique, that is yours. With Jelly Bean they’ll deliver you a bike that is a fun and reliable ride and unless my math is wrong you can choose from over 100,000 colour combinations. Unless Jelly Bean start selling their tits off you can bet your bike will be a one off!
My only real disappointing with Jelly Bean is that they’re deviating from the single-speed zen path for 3-speed glory. Apparently the rigors of the single-speed philosophy are too hard for some and Jelly Bean are tempting them with the allure of 3-speeds. To my mind everyone should accept the one true path. What disappoints me most is that now I’ve ridden the 3-speed I can really see no reason to stick to the single-speed path myself. Except for blind devotion. So like any man whose religion who has been questioned with temptation I rise stronger and more dogmatic in my faith than ever. Buy the single-speed! It’s a matter of faith over reason…