It’s been about a decade since I owned a road bike with gears. In that time I’ve stayed faithful to my love of all that is good and just and kind in the world. I have not lusted after gears, coveted my neighbor’s derailleurs, nor have I taken in vain or blasphemed thy fixie (though I have mocked occasionally and will probably mock again for it is said I am the one for whom mockery comes easily).
Lo let it be known that all men can be tempted and I must confess I am myself a fallen man. Reid tempted me with their Falco Elite and I succumbed. Oh yes, the bike has gears, plenty of gears, and I use them all as foolishly and wantonly as a any sinner.
I know, some of you may weep for me, as I wept for Tammy Bakker, the woman with the false eye-lashes and fake charm whose love of Jesus always seemed so blessed and so real. When I think of religion I always think of her piety, her fake eye-lashes and I’m sure her husband’s embezzling for Jesus was just another way of showing their love of the church. While I haven’t had forced sex with anyone or embezzled church funds I have been changing gears an awful lot. Let the Lord judge us all.
How many, I can’t say. If I had to guess I’d say 18, since I suspect the rear cassette is a nine speed. That’s what they’re up to these days isn’t it? And the fancy bikes have ten? So many. So foolish. So sinful.
After a decade of abstinence you’re probably wondering, what was so remarkable about the Reid Falco Elite that made me fall? The answer is, there is nothing remarkable about the Reid Falco. Nothing, except its price. The steering is spot on, a little sharper than your average single speed but certainly not sharp for a road bike. All the running gear works, as you would expect from 105. The points of contact go unnoticed, as they should. And the reach to bars and position on the bike are just about where they should be for this type of bike. Yes Lord. But it all comes together with full Shimano 105 (no sins of omission, no cheap levers or cranks for instance) for $870. For that price it’s remarkable. (And it’s on special at the moment.)
|(More inspiring photography from SSGC.)
The frame is a neat bit of no-frills aluminum, graceful without being beautiful. The front forks are carbon. There are bent chainstays and seatstays and neat welding through-out but otherwise nothing too fancy is going on. With so many bikes these days having more swoops than a rollercoaster it’s nice to see some no nonesense straight lines.
You get a bunch of gears and it’s all 105 which means it works fine. I wont say they worked perfectly because they’re gears and they never bloody work perfectly. Mine were all over the shop when I first got them and every time I got them right cable stretch would make a mockery of me. I was 5-6 rides in before I could finish a ride without stopping to make adjustments. It’s good gear though, and that’s part of the point here. The bike is $870 and it has full Shimano 105. As a rule, if you have to have gears then get at least 105. This is especially true if you’re coming off a fixie or single speeder. You’ll want gear that works so don’t cut corners on a cheaper drivetrain.
|(Bottom bracket area is solid, if not terribly handsome.)
The Shimano 105 continues through-out the bike, so you have 105 levers, cranks, brakes…you know, everything. A lot of bikes will slip in some cheaper stuff where they think you won’t notice. Other bikes will have a single 105 derailleur and continue on as though they’ve earned 105 bragging rights. The Reid Falco Elite has kept the 105 through-out the bike. Even the bottom bracket, where you could easily hide a cheaper VP unit.
The wheels are probably the only area where you might want to spend a little extra. The one’s on the Reid Falco Elite are fine, they’re just a little dull. If you’re heading out to do a few training rides to improve your fitness, like me, then you won’t notice the wheels. But if you look at the Reid website, like me, and see the Mavic Aksium upgrades for $200 then you’ll forever covet they neighbor’s wheels. They’re $350 if you buy them later on so think about them carefully before you buy. I’m no weight weenie but they do knock 700 grammes off the weight of the bike. This bike isn’t necessarily a peloton-ready racer but if you think you’re going to mix it in the bunch then definitely get the Mavics. Even if you’re not riding in groups, you may not need them but hell you know you want them.
|(This is me trying to get an arty shot of the 105. Just blurry though.)
I’ve already crapped on too much about 105 and other components in a blog where I normally plead ignorance of data driven details so I won’t go into too much detail about the rest of the stuff. It all holds up, with FSA stems and seatposts and nothing that makes you wonder why they put that thing on an otherwise lovely bike. All nice, okay.
The Ridey Bit
The first thing I noticed about the ride is how normal everything felt. There was no weird seat or long reach or other strange ergonomics. The ride is spot on for the person this bike is aimed at. You’re not dreaming of winning the Commonwealth Bank Classic on this bike. You’re a social rider, commuter or someone who wants to bang out some training miles but isn’t necessarily a hard-core cyclist. Even the drops, which I haven’t used in decades, were modest enough to make them useful. I felt comfortable straight away.
The steering is good and true, a bit sharper than the Brown Jersey I reviewed recently and maybe not quite as natural, but direct and with no ill-manners. You expect bikes like this to be a bit sharper than a commuter but they haven’t gone pro-racer sharp. Again, it felt like it was bang on for the rider this bike is aimed at.
|(Curvy stays make for a good ride.)
It was pretty cool having all those gears. And there are plenty. The rear cassette isn’t exactly the close-ratio flyweight I remember from youth. I was a little disappointed with that at first. The bike would shift better with a smaller cassette. But then I realized I wasn’t exactly the flyweight I was in my youth and I might need those gears if I was going to get up any decent sized hills. Again it looked like the bike was pretty well specced for the intended rider.
I could still ditch the big front cog though. If nine is plenty then 18 seems wasteful, like all those gears would be better given to someone in one of those poor places where they can’t afford gears (like inner-city Melbourne). The other day I ran out of gears going down hill but by then my GPS was telling me I was doing 69km/hr. So what’s the point of the big cog? Am I going to knock it up into the big dog and hit 70? Perhaps if I was racing yes.
The bike and I are now knocking out 40km rides together, which isn’t much I know, but it’s all up-hill and down-hill, so it’s decent. The shock of the first few rides has worn off and I’m adjusting to the rigours of hill climbing and growing my fitness in ways that flatland riding on a fixie will never do.
Riding without gears presents its challenges but riding with gears does too. One thing I noticed was the cruising part of my ride evaporated. Going downhill on a single speed you quickly reach a point where it doesn’t make sense to pedal any more (unless you’re fixed, in which case it makes sense to pedal everywhere of risk being ejected from the bike). I guess I got used to letting the bike do the work. Then I got a bike with gears and when I kicked back into the mental La-Z-Boy recliner mode a voice whispered in my ear, “Keep pedaling princess,” and that was the end of my cruising.
|(They’re cheap and good. Hang one in your shed.)
The other thing I noticed was just how much time I spent adjusting the gears. They weren’t terribly well adjusted when I picked up the bike but that doesn’t matter much anyway because cable stretch will make a mockery of the most well adjusted bike. Over the course of the first four to five rides I didn’t have a single ride without dismounting and fiddling with the gears. Cables always stretch on new bikes and it settled down quickly enough. But it’s enough to make me realize that gears are necessary evil for some types of riding but I’m still so much better off on a single speed for regular duties.
Last year I did some of these rides on a single speed. I had a bike geared down to where I could get it over the hills. Problem was I quickly pedaled out on the flat. It was a bit tedious really. Now that I’ve got a bike with gears, I still can’t see myself using it for commutes, but I am starting to wonder how I lived without it. With the terrible weather up here at moment soccer has been rained out and the mountain bike trails are mush and the surfing has been hit and miss. The Reid Falco Elite has kept me sane. And it’s a pretty good way to keep sane. At a crazy good price too.
On paper it’s hard to find a better deal than the Reid Falco Elite. The quality gear through-out is matched by a good frame and fork combo. You can probably buy carbon for a few dollars more on one of the discount sites but cheap carbon makes me nervous. The Reid’s frame is a solid approach to delivering a spot-on training bike for those not getting too serious. The looks were good enough to draw comments friend’s who have seen it (though I’m too jaded to care) and when I ride the bike is quickly forgotten and the ride takes over. As it should be.
Wanna Buy A Reid Falco Elite?
Get a 5% discount by following this link and using the check-out code GCSS5.