When word came through that there might be a custom fixie coming in for me to test, I was excited. The only fixie I had ridden was the kind that your mate leaves on the street in the rain only to find his front wheel has been nicked the next morning. In other words, the kind of bike that no one really cares about: the kind of bike that’s just for (and I love this Aussie word) fanging it around town.
The birth of Just Ride It
The idea for building unique custom fixies for the ever-growing market of fixed-gear riders came about around the end of 2010. And the team at Just Ride It on Brunswick Street, Melbourne has been creating new and original works of fixie bike art on pretty much a weekly basis ever since.
It’s not surprising that Just Ride It has since expanded operations to a store in Perth and an online store in Manchester, UK. These bikes demand attention.
It’s been five years since JRI released their first bike, so the team decided to put together something special.
The Just Ride It T5 Race Edition is the result of their efforts: they have thrown everything they love about custom fixies into this bike. I was lucky enough to ride the T5 Race Edition over the course of a week, to see how it fared on the streets. And you can probably guess by now that I was fairly well convinced that I needed one of these machines in my life.
The T5 - born and bred in Melbourne
The T5 Race Edition was built in Melbourne. Riding it on the hills and tram tracked roads of the CBD and inner suburbs, it feels like it belongs here. But that’s not to say that it blends in. Its aggressive aero geometry will turn more than a few heads as you wait at the lights and the other commuters roll up alongside you. You’ll get plenty of raised eyebrows and the occasional “what is that?” from passers-by.
It’s not a bad question really.
The T5 Frame and Features
The T5 features a custom built alloy frame, borrowing inspiration from track bikes with its cut away seat tube, dropped seat stay and aero seat post. Indeed, with a few adjustments, you could probably roll this on the velodrome.
Steve, the founder of JustRideIt had set this one up single speed for me, aware of the fact that I don’t normally ride fixed gear. But that can be easily changed with its flip flop rear hub featuring 18T when freewheeling and 16T when fixed.
The T5 Race Edition is set up comfortably for the hills around the CBD; the model I was given running a 48T/18T ratio, enough to keep up with the roadies on the flat and enough to make you get out of the saddle on some of the inclines… I definitely noticed a slight tension in my quads having arrived home after my first day with the bike, a good indicator that I’ve been using my gears on the hills a lot, and that the T5 would be great for mixing up your training schedule.
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The crankset is a custom JRI 3 piece track set up, 48T 130 BCD with a 170mm arm and external bottom bracket. They’ve taken it up a notch providing a stiffer ride, and you really feel like your power is being transferred directly into the road when you start pedalling – something you need when you don’t want to hold up the queue behind you as you build up speed. That becomes even more necessary if you flip the hub and ride fixed – you’re going to want to feel like you’re part of the bike when you’re back pedalling as the lights change suddenly up ahead.
They’ve also upgraded to a KMC X101 gold chain, which not only feels powerful as you pedal, but gives the bike that little bit of bling (if Two Chains rode a bike, he would ride a T5).
Steve warned me that the front brake callipers would need ten kms or so to warm up, so I took it easy the first day, braking well ahead of intersections, quite conscious of the fact that I didn’t have a rear brake to back it up. I found the added brake lever on the bull horns a necessity, comfortably changing between riding positions, confident that I had a lever right there for emergency braking – which if you’ve ever spent much time commuting in a big city will know that you do a lot.
The Promax callipers got their first real test on day two during my morning ride to work. They’ve just built a cycle lane near my place – it’s one of those Copenhagen style lanes with concrete blocks with gaps at regular intervals. I’m cruising along comfortably, I saw the guy well ahead as he began to stroll ever so slowly across my path, smoking a cigarette, no doubt still half asleep. I yelled out as I squeezed the brakes gently (did I mention it was wet?) and managed to get his attention at the last second as I came to a stop inches from his boots. He apologised — it would be pretty ridiculous ( /sadly ironic) if he caused an accident with a cyclist after he had just finished helping build a cycle lane (did I mention he was a road worker?).
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So he learnt his lesson (look both ways) and I learnt a valuable lesson myself: you need to be even more alert when you’re riding a single speed bike with only a single front brake. But I quickly adapted to the style of riding, and lengthened my line of sight to make up for the lack of braking power.
While the T5 Race Edition encourages a fairly aggressive riding position, it’s still a comfy ride to work. They’ve fitted a slick Evo Expert saddle and 420mm AeroBull Horn bars that look badass and feel solid when you’re working the upper body on the hills. It took a bit of getting used to the bar position when turning tight corners, but on the flat they just felt fast.
On the final day before dropping the T5 Race Edition back at the shop, I really started to feel – after the rubber had some time to warm up – just how grippy it was. The custom 32 spoke JRI custom rims feature fully sealed bearings and are wrapped in Continental Gatorskin tyres making a tight combo. They offer up a smooth ride with enough glue to keep you upright, even if you get hit by a big cross wind funnelling out of the laneways. That aero profile cuts through the wind nicely, until it hits you from the side.
More than 5 reasons to get a JRI T5
In short, I really didn’t want to give this one back, and I’m looking at making a T5 Race Edition my regular commuter. And while black on black looks slick, I might just have to get a custom paint job done as well – oh yeah, they do paint jobs for the likes of Adidas and Audi.
This is the bike for anyone who wants to get to work fast, and who doesn’t mind the occasional inquisitive look along the way. Above all, it’s just fun to ride and gives you confidence on roads that can often encourage the complete opposite feelings in even the most experienced riders.
Unlike your mates fixie left out in the rain, this one demands to be adored, and does more than just fang it — the T5 flies.