In theory, the Fairdale Weekender looks and feels like an eminently adaptable urban workhorse. The strongly built 700c wheels, 38mm fast rolling tyres, the single chainring, nine well spaced gears and cable disc brakes all enhance a tough and nicely built steel frame and fork, but the swept back handlebar is a touch that not everyone will appreciate. It draws attention away from the fact that the frame and fork are a great platform on which you could base the build of almost any bike type.
Obviously the handlebar can easily be changed, and the best news is that the frame and fork are available separately. The frame costs £299.99, the fork is £79.99... both available in Kelly green or black and green. The complete bike tested here comes only in black and orange.
Almost everyone who rode the Fairdale liked it, but most of them also asked what it exactly it was for. Is it a cruiser? A hybrid? A casual town bike? Well, it can be a mix of those three and, with a different componentry mix, it can also be a pretty decent load hauling touring bike. It's totally up to date in terms of build quality and componentry and first impressions are that it looks and feels like the sort of bike that would theoretically suit almost anyone who just wants a bike for pootling around town and country without a care in the world.
The problem is that, like so many other bikes that slot into the desirable urban workhorse category, it's a bit too good to leave casually parked around town. Well, that's certainly the case in Bristol. Even good looking £300 urban bikes need at least £50 of lock wrapped around them when parked out of your view. Sad but true: the classic British city cyclist's dichotomy, a great urban bike as long as you don't want to leave it parked somewhere. So perhaps the heart of the Weekender lies somewhere else. For a start, most riders prefer the way it feels when fitted with a standard flat handlebar. Take a look at Fairdale's US web site to see other build options, including dropped bars.
Fairdale Bikes is a small company from Austin, Texas, USA. It was started by BMX pro rider Taj Mihelich in cooperation with Odyssey BMX. They focus on practical utility bikes designed to be tough, adaptable and a lot of fun to ride. The Weekender is their notion of the ideal utilitarian all-rounder. Fairdale say it 'could be a legitimate replacement for a car, a weekend getaway machine or just a fun bike to ride around.' The swept back Fairdale Archer handlebar shape certainly emphasis cruiser style fun and it initially feels pretty good but its limits are soon reached on longer rides, with climbing in particular being a fairly laboured and slightly cramped affair. Fitting a flat bar sorted that, but a swept back bar like the Archer is a refreshing reminder that you don't always need to be in a rush. Handlebar shapes are a great purveyor of attitude.
A 44 tooth chainring and 11 to 34 cassette are fine for most suburban duties but you'll probably be looking to fit a double or triple up front if you decide to use the full adaptability of the frame. It comes with down tube cable guides for a front mech, as well as eyelets for front and rear racks and mudguards, so a shopping hauling or full touring bike set-up would be possible. The geometry would be well suited to that. As it stands, the simple single shifter SRAM X5 1 by 9 set up is fine for all but very hilly use.
Our complete test bike tipped the scales at a very reasonable 11.99 Kg (25.9lb), without pedals, but the BMX style flat resin pedals are supplied. The frame and fork are nicely built from double butted chromoly steel with emphasis on keeping the structure durable rather than especially light. There's lots of room around the 37mm Continental Contact tyres, which again emphasise the toughness theme of the Weekender by having a puncture strip built in. The test wheels were a 36 spoke build (although the spec' list says 32) with tough tall walled rims and decent quality hubs keeping the emphasis on durability. Avid's BB5 cable pull disc brakes are reliable, easy to set up and powerfully efficient with good modulation, but experience tells us that in typically wet UK conditions a full outer cable to the rear brake will keep it running maintenance free for a lot longer. On the same subject, the water-collecting cable curve by the bottom bracket shell will need to be regularly cleaned and lubricated too.
The finishing parts on our test bike included comfortably long Odyssey BMX style grips, pedals, a velvety plush saddle and a tiny chain device to stop the chain jumping off the chainring on bumpy terrain. The bottom bracket unit had sealed bearings and a square tapered axle, and the crankset could easily be converted to a double. Sizes available are small, medium, large and extra large. Our test bike was Large, with a 56.5cm seat tube (centre to top), a flat 57.5cm top tube (centre to centre) and 73 degree parallel geometry. Rear dropout spacing is 135mm to accommodate the disc brake hubs.
We had absolutely no complaints about any of the kit fitted here... apart from the handlebar, which initially appealed but ended up as a spare part while we enjoyed the bike's hybrid personality fitted with an On-One Fleegle bar that retained the casual attitude at the same time as adding performance. But we suspect most riders will be looking at the Weekender as a frame and fork on which to build something suiting their own particular requirements. £380 for a decent quality chromoly steel frame and fork is a pretty good starting point for almost anything short of a race bike.
The casual ride character seduces almost instantly, but it takes a while to work out exactly what it's for.
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Make and model: Fairdale Weekender
Size tested: M
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
It's actually a far more adaptable machine than this complete build would suggest. A simple change of handlebar starts to uncover its true personality, and that would include suitability as an urban hybrid or a dropped bar touring bike or commuter
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Decent quality chromoly steel frame and fork can be bought separately in a choice of colours. As an off the bike complete bike, the swept back bar shape limits its appeal
Emphasis on toughness rather than low weight. Build quality is good
Very adaptable, principally by choosing your built around a handlebar shape. As it is, the bar fitted emphasises attitude while limiting its all-rounder efficiency
Tough steel frame and fork, Very tough wheelset and tyres
Again, bar shape dictates comfort, but the frameset has that certain 'spring' to it that typifies decent chromoly offerings.
The £380 frame and fork are a good value base for a different build too
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
See test descriptions
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The frame and fork are the highlights here
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not many riders liked the handlebar shape
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Not as a complete bike
Would you recommend the product to a friend? As a frame and fork, yes
Age: 58 Height: 181 Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Merlin Ti My best bike is: Ibis Silk SL
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,