Redline 925 – First Impressions
The Redline 925 is a bike I’ve had my eye on for some time. It’s a simple, steel singlespeed road bike that comes complete with fenders for roughly $500. Redline’s been producing the 925 for a few years now, and the latest incarnation features a retro-style paint scheme and bullhorn handlebars. It has rear-entry horizontal dropouts (properly known as track fork ends) and sports a flip flop rear hub that comes correct with both 16t freewheel and fixed gear cog. While it’s no featherweight, I’m pleasantly surprised at how light the 925 is.
At right you can see what the bike looks like when it arrives at your local bike shop. It’s pretty much built and ready to ride, save for attaching the front brake, pedals, stem, handlebar, etc. The wheels came out of the box true to within 1/16″, the bottom bracket was greased and the cranks were properly tightened. This is all pretty standard fare, and won’t matter much if you get yours from a top-notch shop (like the kind that stocks Urban Velo) but it’s good to know that Redline cares enough to have their bikes properly assembled at the factory.
While assembling a bike it’s always interesting to think about what a product manager considers when specifying parts. Redline did a nice job of choosing dependable parts while keeping an eye on the budget. And in some cases, budget minded parts are better suited for commuter bikes. For instance, the Cane Creek threadless headset uses caged ball bearings, which are easier to repack with grease than the sealed cartridge variety. True, sealed cartridge ball bearings are generally more resistant to water penetration, and that’s why they make so much sense for use in the 925′s hubs. Of course they’re more expensive and not designed to be repacked… See, I told you it’s fun putting yourself in the shoes of a product manager!
The 925 has track bike spacing (120mm) and comes ready to ride as either a singlespeed or a fixed gear. For the time being I’m enjoying the freewheel, but the fixed option is only a 15mm wrench away. The 925 comes with chain tensioners, which makes life easier. You do have to resist the temptation of over tightening the chain, however, because the chainring is not perfectly round. This is fairly common on entry level cranksets, and hardly noticeable unless you don’t have any slack in your chain.
The 925′s frame is really quite nice for such an inexpensive bike. Double butted chrome-moly is brutally strong. It’s flexible enough to last a lifetime, and unlike other frame materials, minor dents and scratches don’t raise significant safety concerns. The matching straight blade fork is simply beautiful.
The 925 comes with Kenda 700×28 tires, but has clearance for bigger tires both front and rear. I doubt it’ll hold anything more than a 32 with fenders, but I am thinking 35′s would be pretty sweet if the fenders come off in the summertime. Both tires are mounted to 32-hole Alex rims, which have earned a reputation for reliable, budget-conscious hoops. The front wheel is radially laced, which I can take or leave, but it looks nice. The rear is laced three-cross, which is what you want.
On the road, the 925 is exactly exactly what Redline claims—simple and fun. I chose the 48 instead of the 44 because I was afraid the smaller bike would have way too much toe overlap. I’m pretty sure I made the right choice, but the geometry does feel a little “low and long” to me. That could be attributed to the bullhorn bars, though, which I’ve thought about exchanging for a mountain bike handlebar. Unfortunately, while the 70mm stem has a 25.4 clamp diameter, it’s going to be too short for a straight bar. Who knows, I might really grow to like the positioning on the stock 925.
One thing I’m pretty sure that I’ll switch are the pedals. The cheap plastic toe clips just aren’t cutting it for me. My first choice would be clipless pedals (which I’ve got) or some nice BMX-style flat pedals (also in my collection). Or maybe the best option will be to pick up a pair of metal toe clips at Kraynick’s later this week…
But back to the initial road impressions—the 925 definitely seems like a bike that’s meant to handle some rough riding. It’s comfortable, and not overly stiff or anything, but it just looks and feels sturdy. The 42×16 gearing seems pretty spot-on for riding a freewheel in moderately hilly urban conditions As a fixed gear, a bigger chainring might be in order to avoid spinning out. I’m really looking forward to putting the full-fendered 925 through its paces, especially with a wet Spring on the horizon.
Visit www.redlinebicycles.com for more info.