Mercier Kilo TT Review

[5/15/2014] I bought a bicycle!

For about 5 years and around 7,000 miles I have had a 1984 Trek 460 single-speed (34:17). I got good at maintaining that bike, but I never managed to get the chain tension exactly how I want it. It has short front-facing dropouts that only allow less than 1/2" adjustment, which is a pity because 1/2" is the absolute minimum adjustment range for a single speed bicycle to accomodate a variety of cogs and chainrings. Since the chain stretches a little bit as it wears, it is nice to have even more range than that.

I have used various "singleators", and they all suck.

I designed an "innovative" 3d printed singleator that wouldn't suck, but I haven't printed it yet. And it probably sucks too.

So I want a steel frame single-speed bicycle with rear-facing "track dropouts." It came down to the Surly Steamroller (frame-only around $400) vs. the Mercier Kilo TT (configured as a fixie for $400). I chose the TT.

I measured my Trek 460, and I absolutely could not figure out any way to measure it that wasn't a 46-49cm seat tube. I am 5'9.5" with a 31.5" inseam, but I love that bike (the charts suggest I should want 52-57cm?). So I got the TT at 50cm (center-center), which made me very nervous. When it came I measured it, and got 50.5cm (center-center) or 53cm (center-top), which is exactly as advertised, and a big relief.

It came with one rear double-pull caliper (which is more flexible than most double-pull calipers *sigh*), and the world's most minimal brake lever. Tossing the lever and buying a new pair of proper road bike levers, and buying a front caliper too.

It came with a fixed cog, which is lame. Tossing that for a 22t freewheel. It came with a 44t chainring (3/32"), so that will be the 2:1 sweet spot that I like so well.

It came with taped handlebars. That's too bad, I hate to throw away new tape, but I have to install good brakes. I thought I might reuse it, but it was deformed so much from when they put it on it just seems like inviting trouble.

The wheels are "WEINMANN 700C x 18C/23C double wall aluminum alloy 622x13". They are too shiny, it gives the impression of chromed plastic. And there is a blatant seam, which doesn't seem to catch on the brakes. I would sure hate to buy new wheels, so let's cross our fingers.

The tires are Kenda Kontender Lite 125psi 700x23C, which at least has the thickened rubber in the center like gator/armadillo tires. Acceptable. When they wear out, I might try some 700Cx25 or x28 tires -- I do ride off road sometimes.

The pedals have straps on the top, and the bottom isn't worth pedaling on. BTDT, hated it. New regular pedals for sure.

The seat is acceptable.

It came with reflectors!

The chain is completely dry -- no factory grease that I can discern. Most unexpected. I'll just lube it.

Pedals, brake levers, front brake calipers, brake cables, 22T freewheel, and a drink holder: I spent $126.47 at Bikesmiths, the local bike shop (they had to special order the freewheel, though).

Alright, alright. I also bought another bike computer, some nice chain tensioners ("CA-MKS" track -- this is the best part!), and handlebar tape for $64.38.

So total of $64.38+$126.47+$399.95 = $590.80. Did I get a good deal? I don't know, that is a lot of money to spend just to have "the exact same bike as what I already have, but with proper chain tension." But it's the least I could figure out how to spend for it, without actually being cheap (reusing components).

[update 5/28/2014] I've been riding this bike for about a week (27 miles) now, and I love it. It is exactly like my old bike except the chain tension is effortlessly *perfect*. Not the noise of a tight chain, nor the noise of a loose chain, and never any skips. Just silent, flawless transfer of power.

[update 9/13/2014] Maintenance.

I've put 500 miles on it, and done my first round of maintenance. I noticed while I was tensioning the chain that something is warped -- the chain alternates between loose and tight as it goes around. I have warped freewheels in the past, but it looks good. I have bent cranks, but it looks good too. So I took my calipers to it, and to my surprise I found a reliably-measurable 0.3mm difference between the thickness on one side from the other (measuring from the bottom of a tooth to the inner edge of the ring)! I then rotated it on the crank, and indeed now the tightness is out of phase with where it was!

It is a 44t 144bcd 3/32" chainring.

This piece of hardware is literally nameless, the only mark is "44T", so I guess I cannot be surprised that it is inferior. I guess it is just so soft that it developed wear patterns very easily. I would imagine that it would have seen even more wear as a 2.75:1 fixie than as a 2:1 bicycle, but whatever.

Currently this bike is set up as 3/32" all around, so I am going to go ahead and ride it like this until it is time to replace the chain, and then I'm gonna go 1/8".

[update 6/5/2015] Maintenance.

I take back anything good I ever said about the Kenda Kontender Lite tires. I had a flat tire, though the tube does not seem to have a leak (a slow leak that went from full to empty in 24 hours??), which is lame and weird but god knows the cause. But that forced me to take the tire off the rim and actually feel it -- it is way thinner than I thought. I will be throwing these things out in no time. So all the stock components on this bike really are crap.

[update 11/10/2015] Tires.

I bought a 700Cx28 tire for the back, and it just *barely* clears the frame and brakes. Which is to say, when you go through wet sand you can hear the particles grinding away at the brake. Plenty of room in the front, of course. *sigh*