The Adventure Life With Steve Casimiro Gear Review: Swobo’s Sanchez


Text and photographs by West Coast Editor Steve Casimiro

In this age of 40-pound monster mountain bikes, the simplicity of a fixed-gear bike is inspirational—elegant, fast, efficient, utilitarian. Stripped of adornment, it is the bike in its essence, a mechanism for the purest conversion of human effort into speed: One gear, direct drive, no coasting…and often no brakes.

Fixed-gear bikes like Swobo’s Sanchez ($599) have been around since the dawn of cycling, but have become hugely popular in the last decade—particularly over the last three years. The bike’s chain connects the front gear to a rear cog, which is bolted to the hub. There’s no freewheel, no derailleur, and when the wheels are turning the pedals are turning. Riding isn’t easy at first—to stop you have to put backward pressure on the pedals—but you will never feel more connected to your bike, ever.

Many “fixies” are handmade, customized, or frankenbiked from old frames, but the Sanchez lets you get into the subculture with a relatively small investment. The cro-moly steel frame is galvanized and ready to be thrashed, stickered, nicked, dented, thrown around. Parts are mostly off-brand and, really, unimportant to the ride. What you need to know is that the Sanchez is comfortable, fast, absolutely silent when under way, and incredibly fun.

There’s a learning curve to fixies, but most cyclists adapt quickly. The first time you go off a curb and instinctively try to coast—ouch. Or when you aim down a hill and realize you’re approaching terminal velocity with no brakes…ruh-roh. Riding a fixie has been compared to playing chess because you have to plan ahead—only this time, it’s chess with consequences.

After six months of sketching around my hilly neighborhood without brakes, I finally threw a Shimano 105 caliper on the front and it’s made a huge difference. Even though I don’t use the brake much, my control is exponentially better when I do. Some have argued that the Sanchez is aimed at mainstream riders and thus should come with a brake, but please: Mine cost me thirty bucks installed. Cheap. And it’s good to learn how to stop without it first.

Much has made of the trendiness in fixies and much symbolism has been placed on their subcultural edge being dulled by mainstream embrace (Puma has sponsored a fixed gear racing team!). I understand the debate, and I’m sympathetic to those who’ve been on fixies for years and lament their commercialization—it’s like when your favorite underground indie band goes mainstream. I say, if you want your bike to be a statement, terrific. But if you’re checking out the Sanchez because it’s suddenly hip, don’t. Do it because it’s fun.

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