There's so many people on the fixed bandwagon these days that it's probably looking a bit like a slow train on the Indian subcontinent by now. That's no bad thing if it means that we get better bikes, and economies of scale mean that they drop in price. The Marin Dominican certainly fits the bill on the first point: it's a very capable and well put together bike that's a fun ride straight out of the box. And the second? well, it's not a steal at £525 but it is decent value for the build quality and the kit you're getting, so we're not really complaining.
The Dominican's frame is a 4130 Cromoly offering that's well put together with tidy welds and subtly shaped tubes, it's matched to a gently curved steel fork. Geometry is not too aggressive, with our large size running a 570mm effective top tube and shortish head tube that's tempered a bit by the riser bars, giving a good position for town riding. The bike is nicely specced both in terms of the quality of the kit and the aesthetics. Tektro dual pivot callipers front and rear are operated by 'cross levers, and the rear cable is attached with stainless cable clips so you can remove it if you want to flip the unbranded high flange flip-flop hub at the rear. There's a matching front hub and they're laced with black spokes to green Alex semi-deep rims that have a machined braking surface. You get good quality Vittoria Zaffiro folding tyres too.
A Sturmey Archer chainset with a 44T ring drives a 17T freewheel or fixed sprocket, depending on your preference, giving a 69in gear that'll probably spin out a bit too easily if you live somewhere flat but is welcome in the hilly South West. The narrow risers are the minimum width current new bike legislation will allow – I found them just about right but I have fairly broad shoulders – and the saddle is a Regal-alike that's comfy enough.
The first thing I had to do was swap out the seatpost: being fairly long in the leg I tend to run a lot of 'post and the 250mm one supplied wasn't long enough, in spite of the fact that otherwise the bike fitted me very well. The next thing I did was stop at a friendly Kwik-Fit to borrow an adjustable spanner so I could tighten up the rear track nuts! My fault for not checking before I set off. Out on the 'mean' streets of Bath the Dominican was a joy, the sub-1m wheelbase and low weight making it feel responsive and very chuckable in traffic. The frame gives a good ride, there's pleny of stiffness for when you're stamping away from the lights but it feels springy like a steel frame should. It's not overbuilt and the thin stays and 28mm tyres soak up plenty of chatter from badly surfaced roads.
The Dominican's main test while on test was the Bath Parklife Alleycat, a 17-mile stomp around the bandstands of the city and surrounding towns (well, Saltford). It was a good mix of riding: a thrash through the London Road traffic, a long, flat TT down the Avon valley and some stiff climbs with a 3-lap blast round a sleeping-policeman-strewn park to finish. To its credit the Marin felt at home on every part of the ride, even the long, flat schlep out to the farthest reaches. Okay the gear was a bit short for the downhills but I was glad it wasn't any tougher on the final climb, and the position and handling were well set up for the final sprint over the speed humps. 17 miles is about as far as you're ever likely to ride a bike such as this, but it could easily have taken me much further if I hadn't binned myself on that final grind...
When you're at an event like an alleycat riding a brand new bike you feel a bit of a johnny-come-lately; there's a long tradition of building fixed bikes from the parts bin and there were plenty of well-loved machines there. That's not for everyone though, and there's definitely a place for an off-the-peg fixed, you've only got to look at Charge's success with the Plug and Felt's with the Brougham to see that. Bikes like those two are the most obvious competitors and in terms of bangs per buck you're getting a similar package for a similar price here. From an aesthetic point of view there's lots to like about the Marin: it doesn't look like it's trying too hard and the subtle branding – more about 'Dominican' than 'Marin' is easy on the eye. Add to that the fact that it's a fun, responsive ride and it's a definite competitor in this market.
Well built urban fixer that's fun to ride and easy on the eye
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Make and model: Marin Dominican
Size tested: L
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: 4130 Cromoly, with Rear Facing Dropouts
Fork: Cromoly Road
Cranks: Sturmey Archer 5-Arm Track, with a 44T Chainring
Bottom Bracket: Sealed Cartridge
Pedals: Traditional Old Style Road with an Alloy Cage, Steel Toe Clip and Leather Strap
Front Derailleur: N/A
Rear Derailleur: N/A
Cassette: 17T Cog Freewheel / 17T Fixed gear
Chain: KMC 1/2" x 1/8"
Front Hub: High Flange Track, 32 Hole, with Sealed Bearings
Rear Hub: High Flange Track, 32 Hole, Flip Flop, Freewheel and Fixed Gear
Rims: Alex Race28, Deep Section Aero Profile Double Wall, 32 Hole with CNC Side Walls
Front Tyre: Vittoria Zaffiro, 700 x 28c with Folding Kevlar Bead and Puncture Resistant Belt
Rear Tyre: Vittoria Zaffiro, 700 x 28c with Folding Kevlar Bead and Puncture Resistant Belt
Front Brake: Dual Pivot
Rear Brake: Dual Pivot
Brake Levers: Flatbar Road
Handlebar: Singlesbar, 6061 Mini Riser, OS-31.8mm
Headset: Alloy Cup, Black, 1 1/8" Threadless
Stem: Marin Alloy, Threadless
Grips: Micro Knurl, 110mm Wide
Saddle: Classic Road
Seat Post: Comp Alloy Micro Adjust, 27.2mm x 250mm
Size: Small, Medium or Large
Colour: Fridge White
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
The Urban Singles range are a dedicated fixed gear/flip flop bike, in cities currently dominated by the automobile. Would you rather have the freedom of a low maintenance machine? Brakes or no brakes: you decide, this has to be cycling in its purest form. Now spawned from the courier riders’ need for an uncomplicated workhorse, to be used daily without the need for new cables, brake pads or expensive drive train parts. Flowing in and out of the urban sprawl has become an art form, from the clothes that they wear, to the skill needed to pilot a fixie on the intimidating city streets. You too could become a part of this subculture.
So much for the chuff about subcultures and that, but fixed/singlespeed bikes do work in an urban environment and this is a decent one
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Tidy rather than perfect, but a good looking frame
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
4130 Cromoly throughout
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The 570mm effective top tube was fine for town, the head tube is quite short but risers add a bit of front-end height
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Nice springy feel from the frame, easy rolling from the wheels
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too felxible?
Just about right for town
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
one speed drivetrain always feels direct and efficient, this one no exception
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
just a touch and it wasn't a problem
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? pretty lively
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
shortish risers and tight wheelbase make it easy to move about
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, good fun about town
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes if I was in the market for a s/s town bike
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes, if they were a smart city girl.
Age: 37 Height: 190cm Weight: 96kg
I usually ride: whatever I\\\'m testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium with Ultegra 6700
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.