There are a few reasons why urban cyclists find single-speed bikes so endearing. They’re generally lighter and less expensive than the other options, and they exemplify utilitarian simplicity — parts are plentiful and interchangeable, and they require little maintenance. When you’re ready to ride to work, you just squeeze the tires, squeeze the brakes… and that’s pretty much all you have to worry about.
But yes, they’re trendy. Bike messengers brought a level of cool to the fixed-gear and single-speed form factors that has since spilled over into the larger, global urban-cycling subculture. Nowadays, a lot of people ride them just to be hep. And don’t even get me started on bike polo.
Given a target market of twenty-somethings who want to look good while rocking one gear, Globe is doing everything right with the 2011 Roll 2. It’s a simple and well-designed single-speed that doesn’t skimp on the styling. Actually, it barely skimps anywhere.
For a base price of $830, you get a tight and compact Reynolds 520 CroMoly frame and fork, deep V-rims and custom high-flange hubs. Also, for the 2011 model, Globe has ditched the Roll’s old unified stem-and-bar assembly for a tidy two-piece with a quill stem and a 50-mm riser bar.
Down below, the Sugino crankset has a 42-tooth ring attached, and there’s a flip-flop hub at the back of the drivetrain, so you can choose between fixed or free. If you do go free (i.e., you’re not insane), the Roll comes pre-drilled for brakes.
There’s also a cheaper version (the $580 Roll 1) that cuts a few corners and a limited edition version of the Roll 2 with funky paint job — ours, shown above, is a Roll SE Raw, priced at $860.
Like any good city bike, there isn’t a single bit of quick-release hardware to be seen. Both hubs attach using a unique hex-bolt system instead of the standard track lugs, making the wheels less attractive to thieves. They’re tricky to manage, so it’s more work to get the wheels on and off when you’re locking it up, but I did appreciate the added security.
I rode it everywhere for a couple of weeks, taking it to and from work and on errands around San Francisco. The stock gearing (42 in front, 17 in back) is pretty much perfect for city riding. Modest hills are a light workout, but of course, it’s much more fun to ride on the flats. It shines in traffic — the tight lines of the track-style frame make it extra maneuverable. The stock wheels are surprisingly comfortable. The chainring isn’t huge, so accelerating from a dead stop is easy on the knees.
It’s 21 pounds, so I could carry up and down the three flights of stairs to the get-gadget office without sucking wind. The wheels sit close enough to the frame that I was able to use my smaller-sized U-lock to secure both wheels and one tube to a bike rack in every situation where I had to lock it up.
Then there’s the look of it. Beyond the boring black and white choices, the Roll comes in colors like orange, and teal and yellow — perfect for the demographic, right? Sure enough, it turns heads. I got compliments at stop lights and from passers-by while locking it up. Granted, mine had the limited edition “Animal Collective” paint job. But even in the standard colors, it stands out.
The Globe brand is managed by Specialized, and it gives the otherwise racing-minded company the chance to focus on building product to feed the insane growth of the urban-commuter market. The Roll is just one of Globe’s offerings — it also makes beefier frames with multiple gears and Dutch-style grocery-getters with baskets and racks. But the little single-speed is the simplest arrow in the company’s quiver. It’s also one of the most comfortable, nimble and ridiculously fun city bikes I’ve had the pleasure to ride.
Photo by Jim Merithew/
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