Windsor The Hour Review: The Ultimate Minimal Bike

I don’t remember exactly when or why I started wanting a single-speed bike so bad, but sometime around the beginning of this year (2011), I couldn’t get it out of my head. At the time, I didn’t have a bike of my own. I was riding my dad’s 80’s era beach cruiser any time I needed one.

While I love that bike, I felt a little guilty every time I borrowed it. My dad never said anything, but I knew he wasn’t too happy about me riding it all the time. He loves that bike too and he can get pretty particular about his things. It probably happened that one day I was riding it with a twinge of guilt and I decided I was going to save a little money and buy my own bike. Deciding on a single-speed came a little later after some deliberation. I started with four requirements:

  1. Cheap
  2. Durable (I need to be able to beat the heck out of it)
  3. Exercisable (not a word, but you know what I mean)
  4. Stylish

The first bikes I started looking at were used city-style bikes on craigslist. They were usually older 3-speed Schwinn Collegiates. I liked the way they looked and I’m always up for pretending like I went to an Ivy-league school. After a while though, I realized I wanted to ride more for exercise than anything else.

I don’t have the best knees for running, and I’m not a fan of being out of breath at the end of my street. When you’re riding a bike, you’re at least down the road a ways before you’re beat. You feel more accomplished. So I started looking at road bikes.

Of course road bikes aren’t exactly cheap, and I wasn’t finding anything I liked on Craigslist so I had a bit of a dilemma. Around that time, a friend of mine had bought a cheap single speed track bike from a guy in town and I loved the way it looked. It was so simple and elegant in a way.

No frills, no gears to deal with—just the essence of a bike. It was probably then that I decided I wanted a single-speed. It met all of my requirements, and I loved the simplicity of it. After talking around, I decided that while my friend’s bike looked great, it wasn’t exactly top-quality.

Another friend of mine who works at a bike shop warned me that if I was going to get a cheap single-speed, he wouldn’t buy anything except a Windsor “The Hour” off of BikesDirect. I don’t know a lot about this, but apparently most cheap, off-brand bikes (the ones I was looking to buy at this point) use weird parts that are hard to replace if they break. While BikesDirect bikes use older parts to keep their costs down, they’re still fairly standard. The next day, I ordered a black Windsor “The Hour” from BikesDirect.

A few short days later, I had my bike on my front porch in a big cardboard box. Overall, my dealings with BikesDirect were positive. The only beef I had, if you can call it a beef, was that they didn’t make it abundantly clear how much assembly was required.

There’s a link under the bike that shows you assembly instructions but they’re instructions for assembling a mountain bike, not the bike you’re buying. Even the assembly instructions that come with the bike in the box are for a mountain bike. I probably could have tried to piece together the information and applied it to my bike, but in the end, I decided to figure it out myself. To be fair, it wasn’t hard at all.

I did learn after much consternation, that left pedals are threaded backwards so it’s actually lefty-tighty. But that’s a standard feature on every bike ever made…I just wasn’t aware of it. All you’ll need to put the bike together is a set of allen wrenches (aka hex keys) for the handlebars, brake, and seat and a regular 15mm wrench to get the wheels and pedals on. Another thing I didn’t know about all road bikes was that you need a presta valve-compatible pump to put air in the tires. Minus forty bucks, a high-quality Giant pump, and about an hour and a half later, and I had myself a working Windsor “The Hour.”

I was surprised to find that it came perfectly geared. When you’re buying a single-speed that’s always something to worry about. Sometimes they come geared too high or too low and they’re basically unridable until you get a different sized sprocket. Another thing I was particularly worried about was how true the wheels would be after being shipped across the country.

They were almost perfect. Eventually I’m going to take it in to get them trued up a little more, but for now it rides fine. I bought the bike in late March. Since then, I’ve ridden the heck out of my Windsor without a single problem. It’s without a doubt the best bike I’ve ever owned. Of course I’ve never owned any super nice bikes, but it’s still impressive. I’ve certainly spent more than $279 on bikes I didn’t like as much.

If you’re looking for a cheap bike and you’re into the whole minimal motif (like we obviously are) I whole heartedly recommend getting a Windsor “The Hour.” I can’t imagine ever regretting my decision to buy one.

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