The Fairfax SC2 is named after a town in Marin County in sunny California. Fairfax is the only town in the USA with a Green Party majority – sort of like an American version of Brighton without the pebbly beach.
Considering that leftfield background, it’s surprising that this is very much your traditional hybrid, cycling’s oft-disparaged jack-of-all-trades. It’s been the dominant genre of bike in Britain for the last few decades, the no-nonsense Ford Fiesta of the cycling world, so it must have something going for it. And it does. Quite a lot…
Depending on where you live you might be tempted to splash out a little more on the Fairfax SC3, with its triple chainset and hydraulic disc brakes, but the simplicity of the SC2’s setup is pleasing.
…and gear changes are very simple from the grip-shift setup:
Gear changes are very simple from the grip-shift setup
It’s been quite a long time since V-brakes were seen as the best stoppers you could buy. They’re all right – after all, they were the off-road standard for a few years – but they don’t compare with the single-finger stopping of today’s hydraulic disc brakes. However, the large brake pads meant secure stopping even in wet conditions, even if didn’t have perfect modulation.
The single chainring/hub gear combination is very welcome. Not that long ago hub gears seemed to fall out of fashion, save for the expedition-friendly 14-speed Rohloff. The Marin’s more modest Shimano Nexus hub may only have eight gears, but it worked very well.
Smooth hub gearing
Initially there was a little slipping between gears, but after some research and a minute’s fettling – altering the barrel adjuster at the gearshift to get a pair of markings to align at the hub – it settled into smooth-shifting ease. The bottom gear enabled our tester to ride the 10-11 percent climbs on his commute while staying seated, with the top fine for scooting along the flat at 20mph before his ageing legs ran out of steam. Yes, you might spin out on long descent, but that’s not the main arena for this Marin.
It may not be an envy-inducing ride, but if you want a trusty general-purpose bike that doesn’t cost the earth then it’s worth a second look:
If you want a trusty general-purpose bike that doesn’t cost the earth, this is worth a second look
We weren’t convinced at the shape of the Marin Fitness Plus saddle, which has quite a long narrow nose before it broadens radically, though that’s subjective and cheaply and easily changed.
It’s also quite odd to see an old-fashioned narrow diameter handlebar clamp these days, but frankly it’s neither here nor there on a non-competitive machine. The handholds were very good, though, the flattened palm-fitting grips better over long distances than standard round grips. You might consider bar-ends for a greater variety of handholds, but like the saddle that’s also an easy change to make.
The Marin surprised us. On the surface this is a very modest machine, some of the welding lacks elegance and it’s not going to induce bike envy among your clubmates. But don’t be fooled and don’t diss the hybrid.
The Fairfax is a lovely, simple bike with a comfortable ride and loads of practicality.
Simon has been cycling for as long as he can remember, and more seriously since his time at university in the Dark Ages (the 1980s). This has taken in time trialling, duathlon and triathlon and he has toured extensively in Asia and Australasia, including riding solo 2900km from Cairns to Melbourne. He’s been testing bikes and working for Cycling Plus in various capacities for nearly 20 years.