These are the days of singlespeeds and fixed wheels. The pared down simplicity of a bike in its purest form has seen a real renaissance of late. No gears, no faff. Silence and clean lines. Bikes that London-based Condor have long been building for the capital’s messenger community and track enthusiasts, and now for an increasing amount of discerning commuters, too.
In fact, niche markets seem to be thriving these days – reflecting this, Condor’s £799 chromo Fisso is effectively an old school mountain bike, re-jigged into a track-ended, single-geared urban ride. Offering the benefits of a pothole-friendly mountain bike setup for the city, it also borrows from the world of track components, including hubs, chainrings and chain to aim for the ultimate in durability and style.
At first glance, the Fisso looks reminiscent of an old school steel mountain bike frame – like a Specialized Rockhopper. In fact, it was the demand for traditional steel mountain bikes, long favoured for street conversions that encouraged Condor to build the Fisso in the first place. Tubing is courtesy of Italian Dedacciai, in the form of a refined butted chromo known as SAT 14.5. While not the lightest of frames, the bike boasts an elegant profile, with teardrop tubes and a generous headtube length. Horizontal dropouts are purposefully short to allow the rear V brake to be lined up; production models will have removable bosses for fixed riding. Noticeable is the relatively sharp head-tube angle and the length of the chainstays, revealed by the ample room between the rear wheel and the seat-tube. Part of this is due to the narrower tyre, and part is due to the chainstays themselves – at 17in, they’re half an inch longer than usual for an mountain bike, though Condor plan to trim them back a little in future. Although tyre clearances may seem gapingly large, they are a little wasted, as the long and slender hourglass chainstays will limit you to 1.5in rubber anyway.
There’s also a lack of eyelets for mudguards, which will be a concern to some. Others will forgive it for the beautifully clean lines that result – just the rear brake bosses are blips on an otherwise smooth surface. Finish is an appealing shade of pale green but it chipped in a couple of places over the test period. Decals are understated and hark back to Condor’s 1948 roots. Kona’s straight bladed P2 fork is a real classic, and can be swapped out for a suspension fork – the frame is corrected for 80mm travel.
The Fisso is certainly a nimble bike to ride, with a slightly unusual combination of scalpel-like handling at the front, mated to a stable and more relaxed rear end. Riding position is particularly comfortable, with plenty of spacers and an upright stem offering excellent through-the-traffic visibility. In fact, it’s actually a great intro bike into fixed riding; fast enough to flick you out of harm’s way, yet solid enough to inspire confidence. With the singlespeed setup, blasting in and out of traffic is easy, and the 66in gear is well suited to stop-start city riding.
While it excels at punchy acceleration away from the lights, with a taut handling that’s ideal for nipping around with speed and confidence, it doesn’t feel like it carries its speed as well as its 700c counterparts over longer distances – say 15 miles or more. But the Q factor feels noticeably low, thanks to that 120mm track hub, giving the pedalling a pleasantly tight and connected feel. The steel frame helps dissipate vibration, which is just as well when those high-pressure tyres and plain gauge spokes are worked hard over potholes and road blemishes. At 6ft 1in, the 165mm cranks felt too short initially for me but I soon got used to them – though I’d probably go for 170mm.
By their nature, fixed and singlespeeds are minimal in kit, underlining their low maintenance inclinations. The five-bolt Miche crankset and matching bottom bracket are teamed with a 46T chainring. The cranks themselves are unusually short for the frame size at 165mm. Although this decreases leverage, it makes tight city turns in ‘fixed mode’ less likely to result in scraped pedals, and encourages you to spin more, saving pressure on the knees. This said, crank length and chainring size can be specced by the customer. The Izumi 1/8th chain comes with gold outer links; it’s a bit noisy but should last. Shimano Deore V brakes and levers provide ample stopping power. If you’re running fixed, you don’t legally need the rear brake – but it’s nice to have if you’re new to this style of riding, and is required for singlespeeding. There’s a Condor branded seat post and Selle Royal perch both of which do the job with style. An oversized Deda flippable stem securely clamps a set of Deda Big Bars. At 52cm, they’ve been cut down to slice through city traffic, though this comes at the expense of out of the saddle leverage – you can always leave them as is. We found the Specialized BG grips a little on the firm side.
Strong and robust for the city, the Fisso uses Mavic’s XC717, a relatively strong double-walled cross-country mountain bike rim, built up with stainless plain gauge spokes. Track hubs are Condor’s own; elegant with oversized flanges. The rear is flippable, with a freewheel (16T) on one side, and fixed on the other (18T).
The 1 1/8in Continental Ultragator tyres have a good reputation for puncture resistance, and they roll well too. The wheels are held securely in place with 15mm bolts.
Although fixed wheel bikes are once more in vogue, it’s easy to dismiss an mountain bike with 120mm track ends as a niche within a niche. On the other hand, the Fisso could be the ideal, no frills urban ride – whoever you are. Even if fixed gears don’t appeal, there’s little need for more than a singlespeed in most urban backdrops. It caps your speed, makes you think ahead, and all-but eliminates maintenance. What’s more, with its comfortable riding position and nimble ride, the Fisso is a great intro to the one gear fraternity. With measuring and tailor fi tting kit all part of the service, it might be all you need to get around the concrete jungle.