16 November 2007

bikefix Exclusive Review: Cayne Uno fixie/ss

We know that fixed gears are all the rage right now with all the hip kids and their tight jeans. As much as we hate all that's trendy and cool, we really like this bike.

Cayne seems to be US distributor J&B Importers' house brand, and the Uno the first bike we've seen from them. It's a solid fixed gear/single speed road bike (not track geometry) and, at about $475, a helluva value. A functional cromoly frame, surprisingly nice (though heavy) wheelset, nice brakeset and well thought-out details set this bike apart from others on the market.

The frame and fork are, bluntly, pretty heavy. While steel is generally pretty comfortable (especially when compared to aluminum), Cayne have erred on the safe side and used a lot of it. This makes for a sturdy bike, but also a heavy-ish and somewhat harsh ride. Not bad, but not as comfortable as a nicer frame. That's probably not helped by the straight-legged fork, but it sure looks cool. Another thing that looks cool (or odd, depending on who you ask) is the dropouts. Whoever built this bike must also make BMX bikes, as it looks like these came right off a mid-range kids' bike (see picture). You could even run pegs, if you were so inclined. They do, however, provide plenty of area to weld the stays to and simple mitering, so we like them. The stickers are not clear coated and come right off (as ours' did).

The Formula flip-flop hubs and Alex DC-19 rims are available as a machine-built wheelset at our local bike shop for about $200 and seem pretty sturdy. While our rear came with a bit of a hop, we couldn't true it out and have been riding it as-is. Over a year later, we haven't touched the wheels at all- they're as straight as they were when new, which is about all you can ask for, especially at the price. We pulled the stock Hutchinson Flash wire bead tire off of the rear when new, in favor of a (very) puncture-resistant Maxxis Re-Fuse, thinking that the rear would see more abuse and glass. Sure enough, our only road flat in that time was the front flash. It's been fine, but for commuting, something with a bit of a belt might not be a bad idea.

We left the stock Tektro dual-pivot brakes and levers on the bike, and they've been fine. If you're too macho for brakes, though, the rear brake cable runs on the sort of bosses usually reserved for mountain bike disc brakes- a zip tie holds the cable in place and the bosses are all but invisible when the cable is removed. Other things we did change, though. Here's a list, along with justifications:
  • The stock BB is w-a-y too wide. It requires the chainring to be mounted inboard of the crank tabs and looks stupid. Luckily, we had an old WTB square-taper BB in the parts bin, and now the cranks are closer together and the chainring (110mm BCD, 46t) is on the outside where it belongs.
  • The stock pedals, though all metal with metal toe clips, are fairly cheap. We ran Crank Brother Eggbeaters, but they began to sound awful on a friend's beater after a couple of rides.
  • The stock 46:18 gearing is a bit low, and we threw a reasonably-priced Surly 16t cog on.
  • The standard-sized stock bar and (very cool looking) stem were annoyingly flexy. Luckily, the shop had a Felt OEM 31.8 stem and wide carbon-wrapped-aluminum (only carbon wrapped for about 6 inches) bar in the take-off pile. They look cool and got rid of that flex quick.
  • The 56cm top tube was just a shade short, but the 59 just too big, so a cheap offset-clamp Kalloy seatpost replaced the stock zero-offset model.
  • We had a well-worn Flite Trans Am saddle lying around, and while the OEM saddle was nice enough, this was nicer.
  • Blue chainring bolts look cool
  • Blue bar Fi'zi:k bar tape, while not as comfortable as the stock tape (it went on another bike in a pre-ride emergency swap), matches the blue bolts.
  • Finally, a beautiful gunsmoke color Hope headset was overkill, but we couldn't bear to sell it with an old single speed, so swapped out the perfectly OK Cane Creak headset (which went with the single speed).
As mornings and days get colder (38 today at 6:30), we've been turning back to the fixed gear to limit our speed, increase our pedaling, and keep us warm. The bike handles predictably and has been fun to ride. Riding fixed has been a learning experience, but it helps us make the most of short winter rides and train for 24-hour races. We've ridden it with SKS' fantastic RaceBlade fenders in the winter, as there are no standard rack/mudguard mounts. All in all, the Uno has been a welcome addition to our stable. Despite a few minor quibbles, we haven't seen anything that even comes close for the money.

J & B Importers

note: as we've torn it down to build up a Raleigh fixed gear, our Cayne Uno is up for sale. $150 takes it, with 1 year's riding. More info here.


funktupmofo said...

I personally own an UNO and after reading your review I switched out the BB for a shorter one and the difference is noticeably positive. Good review.

marc said...

Thanks! That's good to hear. Heck of a bike for the money, innit?

Spencer said...

Nice review!

I bought the motobecane track bike instead of the Cayne Uno, but ithe CU looks like a fine machine. Like you, I had to replace about everything, but I'm satisfied with the end product:

Also, I maintain a bike blog called:

Aloha, and thanks for the great write-up!


Catnap said...

I built up a Cayne Uno frame for an urban bike, and i totally love it. the drops on the back are a little funky, but if you have a socket wrench it's no problem. check out my build and review at http://djcatnap.com/?p=71