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The Fairdale Parser Express is built BMX tough for the urban grind, then finished so well you'd think it was a handbuilt.
Fairdale might be a new name to the general bicycle world but the person behind the brand is well known in the BMX world. (For more on Fairdale see our preview.) What you get when a BMX pro designs bikes is a very strong bike because BMXERs demand dependable components.
The Parser Express is at the top of the Fairdale range. At £800 for a single speed bike this is almost what you'd expect to pay for a handbuilt.
The tubes are 100 percent chromoly steel and the main tubes are double butted, the choice for most BMXes. It isn't a particularly light frame set, the top tube ping test (flicking the tube with your finger nail) comes back as a fairly dull resonance but then this bike is designed to be tough and abused daily on the streets so there shouldn't be much worry of getting a dink on in the frame.
The fork uses a one-piece machined steerer tube, again something found on BMXes, making it super strong.
The pillar box red powder-coat paint job resists the barrage of abuse the daily commute puts on to your bicycle's coat. It certainly looked pretty good and got many pleasant remarks, with many people thinking the bike was a hand built thoroughbred; it definitely looks like it is worth the price tag.
The considerate choice of components is what adds the £150 difference in price to the Parser's flat bar sibling. Sharing the same frame and forks, the Parser has very well thought-out and chosen upgrades.
The most notable is the chainset, the SRAM S300 GXP. It is light and stiff with its large hollow axle held in the external bottom bracket bearings gives the Parser a notable responsiveness when you turn the pedals aggressively.
The 48-tooth chain ring turns an 18-tooth Shimano freewheel giving a manageable 71.4 gear inches. The Shimano freewheel is better than the usual rubbish supplied as OEM but it still isn't a top choice for ultimate reliability and when it dies we'd go for a White Industries freewheel or the bargain Halo Clickster.
The home brand wheels were well built with tight spokes, laced into 24mm deep rims and spinning on smooth cartridge bearing hubs, further contributing to the bike's solid feel. The colourful graphics on the rims and hub matched the decals on the frame and really help to complete the pretty aesthetic of the bike making it look more like a bespoke build.
There's no fixed sprocket on the flip flop rear hub. It's something I would have expected to see at this price even if most people who buy this bicycle never use it; I think it is nice to give people the option to try it.
The 28mm Continental Contact tires are pretty big and weighty but their large air chamber mean that you can run them at 80 psi for a much more forgiving ride without sacrificing puncture protection.
At 600g a tyre, the compromise for comfort and security is weight and with the deepish rims, they ad up to a lot of inertia to be overcome to get this bike rolling. But when you do, it glides lightly along and you don't have to worry about picking a line around man hole covers and other uneven road features.
The unlabelled Selle Italia Turbo style saddle is one of my favourites for town riding. It works well with jeans and isn't too soft and padded, just a nice classic shape.
The 56cm top tube is a centimetre longer than I normally ride but married with the fatter tyres and very neutral geometry, the bike felt very stable and the extra stretch wasn't an issue.
The Parser Express is pretty smooth, with no chain clatter or rattles which encourages you to pedal through everything. It is built tough and it's unfazed by rougher terrain. I found it perfect for rural firepaths and on some occasions proper off road tracks.
This is where I found the Parser Express's short fall: the road calliper brakes don't cut it in the mud. This bike would become a true all-rounder if it had some decent stoppers that worked in the gloop.
The 71.4 inch gear was low enough for me to manage some pretty big climbs without getting out of the saddle and offered great acceleration. On the flat streets of London, the gearing was good to keep a high cadence, and this bike likes to pedal through everything, Bishopsgate felt like newly laid tarmac rather than a training ground for the Paris-Roubaix.
Mounts for mudguards and rear rack are all present, and Fairdale offer a cool rear rack that can carry your skateboard, so dig out your old pool board and shred Vicky park!
If your commute isn't too hilly then this bike makes a great commuter work horse. It is reliable and built to take abuse and can happily take being bumped up curbs, ridden down stairs and across muddy short cuts, all with a smile on your face.
This is a pretty bike so sadly it will be desirable to thieves; get a good lock.
It is a bit pricey but what you get is a bike that will keep you rolling without much worry and robust enough to take on the daily grind and keep looking good.
Like a handsome rugby player, it's strong and tough, easy on the eye and can take on most things in its path.
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Make and model: Fairdale Parser Express
Size tested: 56
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: 100% chromoly frame, Double-butted tubing, Single-speed, 120mm rear hub spacing, rack and fender mounts, built-in chain tensioners and integrated headset
Fork: Full 100% chromoly butted fork with one-piece machined steerer tube and built-in integrated headset race
Handlebar: Aluminum traditional bend drop handlebar. 31.8 clamp area (Small – 400mm width, Medium – 420mm width, Large – 440mm)
Stem: Small – 80mm x 31.8, Medium/Large – 100mm x 31.8
Headset: Integrated, Campagnolo 45/45 specification
Brake Levers: SRAM 500 Single-Speed
Brake: Medium reach caliper
Brake Cable: Odyssey Slic-Kable
Seat: Selle Italia Turbo
Seatpost: Kalloy 27.2mm
Cranks/Sprocket: SRAM S300 GXP, 48t (Small – 170mm, Medium/Large – 175mm)
Bottom Bracket: SRAM GXP with outboard sealed bearings
Pedals: Odyssey Twisted PC
Wheels: Custom designed Fairdale wheelset – 32 hole, 28mm tall rim with 15mm wrench flats and 6mm hex key slot, sealed cartridge bearing hubs
Freewheel: Shimano 18-T
Tires: Continental Contact Flat Preventing 700cx28mm
Chain: KMC Z510H
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 bike is aimed at the daily urban commuter, and it's spot on for that use.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The welds looked tidy and the powder coat paint is tough and isn't prone to chipping. The fork with its one-piece machined steerer tube is super strong.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
100 percent chromoly steel, double butted main tubes.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
On our medium
Seat Tube: 54cm (Center of BB to Center of Top Tube)
Top Tube: 56cm
Head Tube Height: 120mm (with integrated headset, Campagnolo Spec 45/45)
Headtube angle: 72.5 °
Seat Tube angle: 73 °
Seat Post: 27.2mm
Seat Clamp: 30mm
Bottom Bracket: 68mm Euro, English Thread
Rear Hub Spacing: 120mm
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The level top tube doesn't offer as much stand over height as a compact frame and the top tube at 56cm is quite long for a 54cm frame.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Perched on a Turbo saddle, riding on 28mm tyres and a steel frame, the bike felt smooth, forgiving and very sure footed.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The 24mm deep dish rims, tight spokes and robust steel frame kept the bike feeling tight.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
The SRAM S300 GXP crank was stiff and transferred power well to the rear wheels. The bike doesn't feel light but it feels like you make progress by keeping smooth and holding your line without weaving around all the manhole covers and other uneven road features.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Toe clip over lap was minimal and not a problem.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? The steering is very neutral, keeps a straight line with ease over uneven ground.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The handling isn't lively but gives confidence and the big tyres give a feeling of sure footedness and the feeling that you can ride down anything.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I really like the Turbo saddle for town riding over rough roads. I would like to have better performing brakes for taking this bike off road as a single speed cross bike.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The SRAM crank is a worthy upgrade from the Parser's flat bar, cheaper sibling.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Would prefer to see a proper upgraded freewheel like a White Industries.
Home brand but well specced.
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
If your daily commute or training rides aren't that rough swap the tyres for some lighter 25c Continental Gatorskins.
those brake levers put the cost up
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, very much so.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
If the brakes were better, I would have one fewer bike.
Age: 40 Height: 179 Weight: 79
I usually ride: Bike that I am testing at the time My best bike is: Condor Pista fixed. Kinesis Convert 2 geared work horse, Look KG241 skinny whippet
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: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed, bare back