With fine handling and comfort, Felt’s Dispatch is a striking-looking urban warrior with a host of practical touches. However, it’s a shade pricier than some of its competition. Does its ride justify the extra cost?
Urban fixed-wheels and singlespeeds have crossed over from bike messengers to commuting riders in the last few years. The appeal is their simple, understated elegance as much as their promise of back-to-basics, clutter-free riding.
Fixed-wheels and singlespeeds now transcend practicality and fashion, with an ever growing range of off the peg options to choose from. The selection includes bikes such as On One’s Pompino, Charge’s Plug, Specialized’s Langster, Kona’s Paddywagon, Bianchi’s Pista, Genesis’s Flyer, Surly’s Steamroller, and now this machine from Felt.
What makes the Dispatch stand out from the rest of the one speed crowd?
Ride: lively but stable enough for the urban assault course
The Dispatch strikes a good balance in the handling stakes: it’s lively without being flighty. That’s just what you want in the city. It’s stable in crosswinds and can happily negotiate fast, trafficked or potholed descents with confidence.
Surfaces being what they are, a carbon fork helps to tame road buzz with well padded handlebar tape to further iron out the ride.
With only one gear, it’s inevitably there’ll be plenty of out-of-the-saddle action to kick you up to speed from the lights, or power up hills. We had no complaints with the frame’s stiffness when it came to efficiency.
In fact, gear choice affects the ride as much as anything else, and this is very much down to personal choice. It’s one that’s influenced by lay of the land, the seasons and, of course, leg power.
With its 39x16 setup, the Dispatch feels geared on the low side – the Specialized Langster, for instance, comes with a taller 42x16 ratio. It was all too easy to spin out the Dispatch on our relatively flat commute run.
But come the cities’ steeper inclines, of which there are plenty, and we were more than glad to have something in reserve.
As it is, the Dispatch feels best for short, away-from-the-traffic-lights blasts rather than longer commutes. It’s not necessarily a disadvantage; it’s just something to be aware of, and straightforward to fix at purchase time.
Running a flip-flop hub – meaning there’s a freewheel to one side and a fixed cog on the other – opens up the best of both worlds. The singlespeed mode is suited to hillier terrain, allowing you to freewheel down steeper descents. The fixed option offers more control around the city, as there’s less chance of locking up your rear wheel.
Both cap your speed and encourage you to look ahead and read the traffic, challenging you to nurture a flow to your ride and an even cadence to your pedaling. Those are two of the most captivating reasons to whittle 20 gears down to one.
Frame: stylish hydroforming stands out from the crowd
We like the Dispatch’s road bike influenced frame, with its 7005 aluminium butted tubing elegantly hydroformed into a shark’s fin where the top tube meets the seat tube. A curvy swoop increases the size and stiffness of the bottom bracket area.
It’s certainly different, drawing its fair share of admirers.
The head tube is generously proportioned for a city-friendly riding position. A carbon fork with burly aluminium steerer tames road buzz. The slightly longer than average wheelbase – 100 to 103cm, depending on the position of the wheel – helps to offer good stability.
Purpose-built city fixies like the Dispatch hold several advantages over bikes built around frames originally intended for use on the track.
Unhindered by the steep banked turns of the velodrome, their lower bottom brackets offer increased stability, with less toe overlap to help negotiate urban furniture.
Front and rear callipers lend security as well as legality, while brake cable stops and water bottle mounts inject practicality to day to day riding.
An internally routed rear brake cable maintains the bike’s clean lines and guards against grime ingress. It can be a faff to deal with when it comes to changing out the outer cable housing, though, as you’ll need to feed it through the frame.
The CNC-machined track dropouts feature a neat steel insert with 3-4cm of adjustment for tensioning the chain, though you may need to tweak the position of the rear brake pads.
The urban credentials extend to mudguard eyelets front and rear for the winter grind.
Rack eyelets are an unusual but welcome addition. However, you’ll have to fit a three-point model as the brake calliper fouls one of the eyelets.
Clearance is okay: there’s space for 28mm tyres, or 30mm at a squeeze, so there’s room for practical winter rubber.
Equipment: simple and dependable
Singlespeeds being what they are, there’s little in the way of kit. Still, the Felt is thoughtfully specced.
High points include a comfortable Arione-style saddle; simple, reliable square taper FSA cranks; a beefy track chain; an oversized stem offering four different angles for an optimal riding position; and Cane Creek levers that sport a flat, Campagnolo-like shape to the hoods.
Felt’s long reach brakes feel a little underpowered but have room for mudguards, and feature easy to replace cartridge pads.
The rest of the finishing kit is Felt-branded, including a matching aluminium seat post and handlebars.
Track nuts anchor the wheels in place, both preventing the rear axle shifting under acceleration and deterring opportunistic thieves. Felt supplies a 15mm spanner mounted to the bottle eyelets. You’ll want to take it with you to deter smarter wheel thieves.
There’s even a bottle opener on the end for ‘liquid refreshment while fixing a flat tyre,’ as Felt puts it. We’re not sure how many people really do crack open a beer on the roadside in the real world, but it’s there if you need it.
Wheels: street-tough for reliability
A solid set of double walled Alesa R500 wheel keep things rolling, built up on large flange, cartridge bearing track hubs using a reliable three cross pattern at the back. The front wheel is radially spoked.
R500 rims crop up on other off the peg singlespeeds, including the Specialized Langster, and are tough enough to survive the potholed trappings of city life.
The 25mm Vittoria Zaffiro tyres proved puncture free during our testing period.
Summary: well rounded package, but pricier than some
The Dispatch is one of those bikes that feels right from the very first turn of the pedals.
It’s nicely put together, has a balanced handling that suits the topography of city riding, and a look that’s understated yet still unique.
We’d gear it a couple of cogs higher for the kind of riding we do, but that’s as much personal choice as anything else.
The only blip in an otherwise well rounded package is the asking price, which at £475 is a chunk over the similarly specced Specialized Langster, which rings in at £399.
But if the Dispatch’s stylised hydroforming and individuality are worth the extra outlay, then we’d certainly recommend it for your singlespeed city riding needs.