Review: REEB’s True Temper steel, belt drive singlespeed trail bike
Even for those of us who aren’t beer drinkers, the links between bike and beer cultures are awfully hard to deny. For one reason or another, it seems like bike folks are often into their brews- and vice versa. Substantial crossover aside, if there’s ever any doubt about the similarities between the two camps just substitute “tire compound” or “head angle” for “malt” or “IBUs” when that dude in the microbrew hoodie gets rolling. (Yes, that’s exactly what us bike geeks sound like.)
A side project of the bike-loving guys at Oskar Blues Brewery, REEB Cycles is a collaboration with fellow Coloradan Generic Cycles (also known as Chris Sulfrian). Designed for the steep ups and downs along the Front Range, the REEB is hand built in Colorado out of True Temper OX Platinum steel tubing (a Ti version is also available). With its Gates belt drive and decidedly trail-oriented geometry, the REEB is a unique bike- and a whole lot of fun.
While one would be forgiven for thinking that REEB was a belt-driven 29er singlespeed-only company, the brand has long offered chain-driven and geared options. Heck, they’ve recently introduced ‘cross and fatbike models as well. Look for a coming website update to make the brand’s range clearer, but cable guides are a no-charge option and color changes run a very reasonable $50 (though the clear coated raw finish was a hit with everyone who saw it).
Our test bike came with a Gates Carbon Drive belt and a bit of a mix between PFP (Pretty F’ing Pimp… or something like that) and SFP (Super Freaking Pimp) builds. The biggest change is that stock builds are now coming with smooth operating White Brothers forks (not that we had any complaints about the Kashima-coated 120mm Fox Float: it is also a great match for the bike). Formula’s The ONE brakes were plenty powerful and had great lever feel while the American Classic All Mountain wheels are stiff, durable, and add even more girth to meaty 2.35in Panaracer Rampage tires. That said, the FSA V-Drive crankset seemed out of place on any build described as “pimp”- it is spec’d on both the $2,900 PFP and the $4,300 SFP. Bear in mind that REEB’s builds need only serve as starting points- REEB will build a bike to suit virtually anyone’s preferences. Overall, the parts picks are both keeping with the bike’s intent and showed that the REEB team really do get out and ride.
And what is the bike’s intent? The slack 68.75° head angle and 13.5in bottom bracket make for a bike that’s confident in (and can be pedaled through) the rough stuff. Somewhat underwhelming on buff singletrack, the REEB actually gets easier to ride as speeds increase and really comes into its own when things get rocky- pedaling through the rough stuff is encouraged. It would be a stretch to say that the REEB likes climbing, but a steady hand will keep wheel flop under control and there’s no flex or rubbing to speak of. The long top tube (24.5in on our Large) makes it easy to settle in for a grind to the top. With nearly 5in of travel and a singlespeed drivetrain, that this is a rare bike where a remote lockout feels like an upgrade worth considering.
On trails usually ridden on a carbon fiber singlespeed, the combination of True Temper steel tubing and fat tires make for an eerily smooth ride. Loose and rocky descents are much more controlled- and loads more fun. The long head tube and resulting upright riding position make long rides on the REEB comfortable and enjoyable. Riders in more muddy areas will want to spec a narrower tire though- the seatstay bridge sits awfully close to those big, lovable 2.35s. A 27.2mm seatpost takes most dropper posts off the table, but guarantees that any rigid model chosen will be more comfortable than a 30.9 or 31.6.
Where we can’t be as enthusiastic is with the belt. At $200 when bundled with a frame, the price isn’t bad- but the advantage is awfully hard to see. The new CenterTrack cog is beautiful to look at, but alternate ratios run nearly $100 apiece. The bash guard (needed to protect the belt from damage) hides the sexy beltring while seriously eroding the belt’s 200g weight advantage- and carrying a spare belt as opposed to a couple of chain links will erase that advantage altogether. Worst of all, it’s horribly, embarrassingly squeaky when dusty- which is every single ride here in New Mexico. A quick hose-down will quiet the belt temporarily- but one’s much more likely to have a bottle of lube than a functioning hose at the trailhead (let alone 20 minutes into a ride).
Not quite knowing to expect from the REEB when it arrived, we’ve come away with a serious case of bike lust. It’s not a race bike–or even a particularly light bike–but rather a long-term partner that is one of the most enjoyable hardtails we’ve ridden in ages. Perfectly suited to riding here in the Rockies, we could also see the REEB being quite happy on rooty, technical East Coast singletrack, in dusty Arizona canyons, or the fast, sweepy trails that define Bend riding. The wide-open choice of components has left us considering dozens of fantasy builds, every one a whole lot of fun. Don’t just think of it as a singlespeed: a 1×11 kit would be a whole lot of fun too.
Beer lover or teetotaler, anyone looking for a trail-ready, US-made hardtail would do well to give the REEB a look. At $1,500 frame only; $1,700 with Gates Carbon Drive package, REEB’s prices are competitive with other US-made frames. Complete build pricing will vary.