Milwaukee Bruiser Review
The Milwaukee Bruiser is at one time a game changing evolution of the new school fixed freestyle riding, and on the other a long overdue remake of the track bikes people are riding on the streets in greater numbers every day. Building on what works in BMX bikes while shooting to maintain the handling of a track bike, Milwaukee worked extensively with riders before debuting the Bruiser in late 2009. Ridiculously overbuilt for people going big and tearing off headtubes, for the rest of us the Bruiser is a heavy duty frameset built that fits all but the very largest 700c tires out there. Simply said, if weight is a concern the Bruiser is not for you, we’re talking in the neighborhood of 7+ pounds of 4130 steel for the frame/fork here.
Make no mistake, the Bruiser is a new school trick bike first and I’ll be the first to admit I am not doing any tricks. Back in November when I initially built up the bike I had hopes of using it as a new all-around bike for polo and everyday use, but as time has gone by the bike has evolved into a polo-only build. While currently shown outfitted with a freewheel and two brakes, the bike has seen use as a fixed with a street gear and a front brake, the same with a polo gear on the courts, and switched to a gear between the two and ‘cross tires for use on the local trails. I think I’ve done everything but a trick on this bike and have grown to appreciate it for what it is—a trick bike I’m appropriating for polo.
When it comes to the construction of the bike it shows some serious thought—from the geometry to the placement of the gussets and tire clearances, the bike is clearly meant for the most aggressive riding that people are currently doing on fixed gears. The hourglass headtube and top- and downtube gussets give it away that someone expects riders to case a few landings on this frame without killing it. The straight gauge fork is one of the most overbuilt around—if you’re bending this fork you need to work on your style more than anything. The bottom bracket to chainstay joint is reinforced but still slender enough to accept track chainline cranks with even the most bulbous spiders. The only part of the frame that I’m not personally a fan of is the track end construction, and mainly from a cosmetic point of view. While the fork is finished with attractive dropouts and a mini beer-badge, the frame has cheap looking plate track ends. Strong and thick for sure, but not the level of finish of the rest of the package.
The Bruiser shows off more of its BMX heritage with the removable 990 brake mounts front and rear—reasonable given the frame’s primary use but the one thing about the bike that I plain don’t like. I’ve considered having cantilever studs brazed on this frame as no matter what I simply can’t get the 990 brakes to perform as well as cantilevers. In my experience I can get them acceptable feeling at best, but never that perfect feel and wheel locking power that a good cantilever brake can achieve. For actual freestyle riding the choice makes sense—the brakes stay out of the way, can be easily routed to allow barspins, and are powerful enough. For polo and the few trail rides I’ve done on this bike I consistently find myself wishing it had cantilever studs. Opinions differ but as I see it the vast majority of the freestyle guys are brakeless, with polo and all around riders not concerned about minimally more exposed cantilever brakes.
The best I can describe the ride of the Bruiser is that it handles like a mountain bike build ground up for the street. Or like a really overbuild track bike with a longer toptube and shorter stem. I happen to love it, I find that the bike is maneuverable without being twitchy. I can put the wheels where I want them, and turn around in a tight circle without fighting the bars against the wheel flopping over. I’m certainly not worried about harming the frameset on the court, and the tire clearance has proved enough to run some seriously out of true wheels with 38mm tires on them without rubbing. Aside from the brakes and the frame being potentially too overbuilt for my use, the frame is everything I could want in a polo bike. From all accounts from the trick crowd, it’s pretty good for that too.
The Bruiser is available in four sizes and is best sized by overall reach (toptube + stem along level line) than anything else. With the sloping toptube and the super long toptubes it can be confusing to size the frame correctly from the perspective of a road bike, using the online fit calculator on the Bruiser product page is recommended. The made in Taiwan frame and fork retails for $490 with both the brake studs and removable cable routing bits included.