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Richard Hallett’s Roberts road fixed wheel
Riding fixed in town is almost obligatory these days, especially for the dutiful follower of cycling trends. This state of affairs can largely be blamed on the recent surfeit of off-the-peg ‘fixies’ from big-name manufacturers. It is also a reflection of the suitability of a fixed wheeler as a commuting tool, especially in winter. Many of those ready-made irons are, in fact, short on detail for the stern task of getting to work in mid-winter. Not this one from legendary Croydon framebuilder Chas Roberts, which has every appurtenance that might be deemed appropriate.
The frame uses Reynolds 725 heat-treated Cromoly steel tubing, brazed into short-point lugs for a traditional appearance that is enhanced by the 1970s-style metallic green paint job with gold and red lettering. This ‘old school’ look is a more attractive anti-desirability measure than wrapping the bike in old inner tubes. Bottom bracket height is a lofty 280mm for safe pedalling around tight corners. Rear track ends look the part although they hinder wheel removal. Getting the back wheel out is made easier by mounting the mudguard stays in those quick release SKS SecuClips usually fitted to the front ‘guard’. The wheels feature DT Competition spokes and Mavic Open Pro rims with ceramic braking surfaces for reliable braking in all weathers. The rear is laced to an Ambrosio double-sided large-flange hub. Fit a second sprocket and you can swap gear ratios if there’s a headwind on the way home.
A Shimano Ultegra dynamo front hub provides the juice for the B&M DLumotec Senso Plus front lamp. This has a light-sensitive on-off switch and, more importantly, a high-output LED that should last 100,000 hours or a season spent commuting through central London, whichever seems the longest. Brakes front and rear make perfect sense in the melee of the capital city, and identify the owner as not being a bike messenger. Shimano provides the long-drop dual-pivot calipers, which accept mudguards and 25c tyres, and the Tiagra square-taper axle crankset. This is better for ‘fixed’ than the newer Octalink system, which can work loose with frequent back-pedal pressure.
Fixtures that may get used at some point include down tube bottle cage bosses and a rear saddlebag support. Standard winter gearing is 42×17, 66inches, with 3/32” sprockets and a 9speed Wipperman chain. It’s smoother and quieter than an ‘eighth’ transmission, and seems to annoy fixed purists, which can’t be bad.