Friday, March 20, 2009

U-District, from Torker

Looking again at the Torker website, I noticed another BFROU, well, some of us. Here it is:

MSRP $349!

This is Torker's bid to cash in on the too-cool-for-school fixie clique. All the social politics aside, this looks like an inexpensive bike that is probably still quite functional and fun-to-ride. 

Torker bikes are distributed by a ubiquitous national distributor, so any shop can order them for you. Most shops already have open accounts with the distributor, so it shouldn't be a huge problem. Of course, any shop would prefer to sell you something they have on hand--it's just business, and the bike biz has slender margins--but I think it's ok to press gently, especially if you are a regular customer. Let's get back on the topic at hand...

The U-District seems tailored to the DC crowd, since U Street is a once-and-again famous DC landmark, and because the Chocolate City is one of the few Districts in the country. I don't know if there are any other official Districts at all. I'm sure some kind reader will let us all know.

The U-District offers basic transportation, quickish handling, and non-descript, only-slightly-stupid, fixed-gear-track-bike-styling.
The retail price listed in Austin, TX, is $349. If you can get that price for this bike, assembled professionally by your local bike shop, that's a deal! If they tack on a build fee, since it's not a bike they typically stock, maybe you'll pay $400. It's still a deal, and it's a much better choice, in my opinion, than getting a schmancy "custom" $350 fixie from say, It's nothing personal, here's how it breaks down:

They BOTH have:
  • Dual purpose rear hub for fixed gear or freewheel use,
  • Front and rear brakes,
  • Hi-tensile steel fork, (...chromoly would be better...)
  • Generic parts in most other places, such as adjustable-bearing hubs, stem, etc.
Here are the differences (the winner in bold font):
  • Bling factor: SURPRISE! [Torker: black is always in fashion] v. [Republic: you'll think you look like one of those cool-kid couriers, but they'll all be laughing at you behind you back, seriously]
  • Company: [Torker: around since at least 1977, operates through independent bicycle dealers (IBDs)] v. [Republic: not sure, no way to trace, buyer beware, slender return policy]
  • Hidden Costs: [Torker: the bike will be assembled and adjusted by your local shop] v. [Republic: requires assembly and adjustment, so you'll end up at your local shop anyway, handing over some bread] Warranty issues are also a PINA with mail-order companies. I think they count on it being more trouble than it's worth, and it often is. Torker's warranty works through local shops, so there's a person to look you in the eye, and a reputation to keep!
  • Frame sizes: THIS IS A BIG DEAL! Game's over, I could just stop right here... [Torker: 44, 48, 50, 52, 54, 56] v. [Republic: 52, 54, 59]
The Torker has good frame sizes to fit folks who are between ~ 5'-0" and ~ 6'-0". The lowest stand-over height is 72.5 cm (28.5 inches). The distance from saddle to H-bar is determined mostly by the "length" of the frame (aka top tube length). On the U-District these vary from 518mm to 594mm, in proportion to the frame size and stand-over height. Likewise, the U-District's angles change through the size range, as is appropriate for a reasonably designed frame.
Republic theoretically has sizes to fit folks between ~ 5'-6" and ~ 6'-2", but the top tube lengths are 535mm, 540mm, and 540mm, and the angles are all the same! Tall folks are likely to feel cramped, and have significant toe-front wheel overlap. Changing to a longer stem can do only so much. A reasonable fit can probably only be found for folks shorter than 5'-10".
  • Frame: [Torker: Chromoly main frame] v. [Republic: all hi-tensile]
  • Frame attachment points for rack and fenders: [Torker: YES] v. [Republic: no]
  • Enough room for fenders and/or wider tires: [Torker: YES, comes w/700x28 tires] v. [Republic: no, comes w/700x23]
  • Crankset: [Torker: not sure] v. [Republic: Sugino]
  • Pedals: [Torker: plastic] v. [Republic: alloy]
  • Spokes: [Torker: stainless steel] v. [Republic: not sure]
  • Rims: [Torker: Alex double-wall aluminum] v. [Republic: no idea]
  • Brakes: [Torker: ok, not great] v. [Republic: dual pivot, but unknown quality] No winner
  • Seatpost: [Torker: straight post w/ separate clamp] v. [Republic: single-bolt adjustment]
  • Chain: I've seen multiple reports of chains breaking on Republic Bike bikes, but I have no experience with them myself.
The winner: the U-DISTRICT, from Torker.
You know why:
  • You get what you pay for, most of the time;
  • There's no free lunch, ever; and
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
What you might save by going online for you bike or bike bits, you will likely end up spending anyway on unexpected issues. Republic had to cut costs somewhere, and we just don't know exactly where. The sad truth is that neither riding bikes, liking bikes, nor selling bikes is enough to ensure honesty and integrity. You'll be better off giving you business to the local shop initially. They know you can get stuff online for less, so they know you're choosing them, and appreciate it, even if they seem grumpy sometimes. 

Aside #1
I'm a bit concerned that Trek will bring wrath and vengeance on Torker. Trek has been working on a fairly swanky fixed gear bike called the District (we posted about it a while back). The District arrival date seems to be getting further away rather than closer, however. A rabid District fan started an independent (really?) blog called, where you can go for unofficial (really?) info. Any-who, the U-District is a different animal, and less than half the price. 

Aside #2
A reader found a shop in Austin, TX, that has a posted a list of retail prices for the whole Torker line-up. The T-300 that I wrote about a few weeks back is listed at $379.00, which sounds like a deal.


Ted said...

Wow. Torker is suddenly a favorite of mine and I don't even own one.

$350 for the U-District and $379 for the T-300 are outstanding prices. Let's face it, if you don't plan on winning any races or don't feel the need to wax your pride with association to a fancier brand (no hate here, I own 3 Treks), does one really "need" to spend any more than this on bikes like these? Here's hoping Trek follows suit and brings a budget single speed or 3-speed at similar price points. Competition is good.

rob said...

The "U-District" name almost certainly has nothing to do with Washington DC.

Torker is a division of Seattle Bike Supply and the U-District is the long-standing name for the Seattle neighborhood surrounding the University of Washington, where you see hordes of young whippersnappers in just-a-tad-too-tight pants toodling around on their fixies.

Bike density in this neighborhood is extraordinarily high, with a huge number of students, faculty, and staff bike-commuting to "the U" year-round, either directly or in combination with transit (all of the buses have double or triple bike racks on front).

David said...


Thanks for supplying the source of the name, and correcting me.


Anonymous said...

I run and I can assure you it's unofficial and unassociated with Trek. I'm just a sucker for a pretty SS, especially one with a belt drive.
I would like it even more if it was $349!

By the way, Districts have shipped. Check out the site for more pictures and reviews. Ride on.

Anonymous said...

I just bought a torker today and I love it! I paid around 400 out the door but the shop owner hooked me up with a lot of free shit to go with it. I looked at a jamis fixed and even put a deposit down for it, but when i found the u-district for half the price i counted the deposit as a loss/gain. I would recomend this bike to anyone that is looking for a fixie.

Anonymous said...

I bought the torker u-disttict today and I love it. the one I bought is freewheel but can be easliy converted into a fixie. I love the black, its sleek and stylish. I road it around today before I bought it and it was super comfortable and a nice ride. I cant wait to hit the road tomorrow. I got it out the door for around $400.00. great price! It was just as good as the fixies sitting next to it for $750.00.
by boyfriend is a major fixie fan and he is considering getting the u-district now that he's seen mine.

Anonymous said...

I've been riding a u-district for over a month now. What a great bike for the price! I've also found a great local dealer who was offering a great deal and also helped me to setup it up as a fixie.

This is not a fast bike. If you're looking for a fast fixie, you may want to look for a frame with a different geometry, different gear ratio and tires. However, if you're going to ride it like a fixie, it's fast enough especially when it goes downhill.

The gear ratio is perfect. I'm in Metro Boston and we have quite a bit of climbs, and so far so good.

This is also a perfect bike for anyone who's trying to practice good form and cadence. I strongly recommend anyone who's interested in fixie to read Sheldon Brown's article. I did before I made up my mind and will never look back.

Anonymous said...

Great blog. I just picked up a new 52 U-district yesterday. I can't say too much at this point about it's performance because it's been raining here. Since I was stuck inside, I decided to order some stuff to jazz the bike up. It's a little plain for me. I ordered yellow tires, grips, chain, seat, pedals, and even yellow dice valve caps. This should set it apart and give it the style that all fixies deserve.

Brett said...

May I just say, that my GF put a deposit on this bike this afternoon and in the shop and on the test ride it looked great for her, she has a super short standover and this was the only bike we could find that didn't require special order. Also to my understanding even the smallest size has 700c's which is a huge plus as we plan on getting her velocity's once she drops the brakes.

this article helped me out a lot to reconfirm that she is making a great choice.

Spudmobile said...

I walked into the bike shop, first bike I saw was Torker UDistrict, it just jumped out and wrapped itself around my leg. The test ride was fast, crisp and everything a bike should be. I have others, nice light road bikes, but this one is special. Va,Va,Voom!

beastman said...

i've had my u-district since june and since that time i have honestly rode all over the city of pittsburgh and beyond, before buying this bike i rode se's and a few fuji's and decided that this bike was the ebst deal, since purchasing i have upgraded changing both the crank gear and and going to fixed as well as minor cosmetic upgrades like handle grips, tires, and pedals, honestly i paid 380 for the bike and put another 130 into parts and now i have the ultimate black and gold bike to ride to all the steelers games...its freaking awesome

Anonymous said...

We got the U district at our bike shop today. one of the guys that works at our store wanted a good priced fixed gear. we built it up and its a hell of a bike for 350. peal all the decals off, and this thing looks mean in matte black.

Anonymous said...

Just picked mine up for $250 at Dennison's Schwinn in East L.A. So if your in the area this is the cheapest I have found around town.

Anonymous said...

Just noticed that 2010 u-district is hi-tensil and no longer chromoly :0(

Anonymous said...

I just contacted torker and they are saying the the website is wrong and in fact the material used is chromoly and not hi-ten. Here is the responde from customer seervice.

We have not made any changes the frame material is Chromoly. I have
asked them to update the web site.

Anonymous said...

Seems the '11 U-D frames have gone Tri Moly. Oh well. Bought one anyway.

Anonymous said...

I've had my 2011 I think since Dec. I have deep V's on it and its great, especially if you're a beginner, I'm getting into more freestyle (but still mash and go on rides everyday ) so I'm gonna get a volume thrasher set up most likely, I'm totally getting the same ratio as well, but its definitely a good bike the rims and hubs are kinda cheap. But other than that I'd recommend it:)

Anonymous said...

Bought this bike last September from a local bike dealer. So far I couldnt be happier with it. It rides and handles well and tackles hills beautifully. Sure the breaks kind of suck, but they work and if you don't mind fussing with them a bit its really not much of an issue. I think I might even purchase their 5 speed with the drum breaks next.

Anonymous said...

would be great to even get a U-District here in JOPLIN,MO -- or anywhere for that fact. Been trying but seems like I have to wait another month and let the local bike shops tack on another $75 in so called "WELLTHEPRICEISGOINGUP"

bob said...

I bought a Torker u-district from my local bike shop about a month ago. I've owned many bikes including expensive ones like a Lightspeed. I just love my Torker u-district. I did replace the front chain ring (to 38 teeth) as I'm getting on in years. The bike is well made, put together well, and has great riding geometry. I've not had such fun on a bike since I was 8 years old.

Anonymous said...

I bought a u-district a year and a half ago. Since then ive put around 5k miles on it. I use it for short commutes, and longish (30-50 mile) weekend rides. I DID swap the brake pads for some Clarks, changed the handlebars for moustache style bars (more positions for longer rides) and swaped to a road style brake lever. The freewheel is showing signs of wear, ive replaced the chain due to stretch, and just last month managed to finaly wear out the Kenda tires. Otherwise, i added a rear rack for the work commute and a brooks b72 since the factory saddle was wearing out pants due to some stitching on the side of the nose. Over all, i LOVE this bike! Very little maintenance needed, just wipe down and lube the chain, rims, and brakes every now and then. This little bike has taken some abuse (hopping curbs, potholes, even some light singletrack!) and has proven roadworthy!!