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Ridden & Reviewed: Fairdale Bikes Parser Express

March 13, 2012

Our bicycle buyer Scott asked me to get in touch with Fairdale Bikes so I could spend a few days spinning on the Parser Express. Fairdale Bikes? I had never heard of them–and I spend a fair amount of time cruising the Internet looking for and reading about obscure bikes and cycling-related things.

As it turns out, Fairdale, headed up by former World Champion BMX rider Taj Michelich, is based right here in Austin. Fairdale’s website has a message from Taj that reads “Fairdale is the brand for all my friends who ask me what kind of bike they should get for just riding around town.” That sounds pretty good to me since despite my love of road and cyclocross, and my growing infatuation with mountain bikes, what I really love when it comes down to it is just riding.

The Parser Express is a drop bar single speed cruising machine. (Fairdale also makes a riser-bar model, the Parser.)  It’s based on a quality steel frame and fork.  I know what you’re thinking, “steel is heavy and slow.” Not so fast there. The Parser Express is not the lightweight race bike of glossy magazines, but the benefit of its steel frame is a comfortable, compliant ride that if you grew up riding steel you may have forgotten about (as I had) and is perfect for in-town riding, whether for fun or transportation.

The spec of the bike is really spectacular. Often times when you hear about single-speed bikes you hear about either exotic parts intended for velodrome racing, basic components, or geared bike conversions using after-market parts and “fixes” for bikes that were really meant to be run with derailleurs. The Parser Express gets it right and is none of those. It features a solid 100% chromoly frame and fork with an integrated headset, built-in chain tensioners, and rack and fender mounts, SRAM 500 single speed brake levers, an aluminum bar and stem, Continental Contact flat preventing 700 x 28 tires, and a classic Selle Italia Turbo saddle. These are quality components built to last.

Alexrims and Continental Contact rubber make for a smooth ride.

The ride is, as you might expect, smooth and purpose built. As mentioned, the frame is a good bit responsible for the solid feeling, but what really struck me was the fun I had on the bike. I could take it off curbs, on sidewalks, down streets, and over the Hike and Bike Trail without issue. The wide tires and long-ish wheelbase made for a bike that simply went where pointed. Whether I was heading down Lamar or over a crushed-granite trail, the bike felt the same regardless—stable. And with rack an fender mounts this is could easily be converted to a commuter bike, a grocery getter, or anything that required carrying gear and keeping dry when rolling through puddles. This is what I refer to as a great runabout bike. And runabout I did– to the store, the neighborhood burger joint (I did that a few times), to work, and just around the neighborhood for fun (I did this the most).

I had a lot of fun riding this bike and was happy to ride a single speed bike that to my thinking got it right—not a pupose-built racer converted for road use or an entry level bike that left me wanting a bit more in terms of features or components. Intrigued, I wanted to learn a bit more about Fairdale so I went right to the source to get the scoop.

Taj, what’s your cycling background?

TM:  I started riding BMX as a kid and never let go of it. In 1993 I threw everything I owned into a car and moved to Austin for the warm weather. A little while later I started riding professionally and made bike riding my living for the next 18 years. In that time I rode for a number of different bicycle companies, won a world championship, did TV contests, and traveled the world.  As a rider I always gravitated heavily to the design aspect and insisted on being heavily involved with the products I was backing. I had signature frames, tires, grips, shoes, and more. In 98′ I co-founded the BMX company Terrible One here in Austin. T-1 is still going but I stepped away from it about 4 years ago. My pro BMX riding career ended in 2010 after an injury and during rehab one of my long time sponsors, Odyssey BMX, moved their design and engineering studio here to Austin and offered me a job. It’s awesome. On a daily basis I am involved with BMX. And under the Odyssey umbrella Fairdale was born as my pet project.

How was the transition from BMX to urban bikes for you?  Do you see similarities between the two?  What do they both share?

TM:  I’d have to say it was an extremely natural transition for me. I’ve always maintained a love of bikes for the sake of transportation and enjoyment. As a BMX rider there were lots of times when I was simply too beat up to ride, but I could always enjoy a nice sit down cruise on a big wheeled bike like the Parser. As for comparing BMX to urban bikes I think the same golden rule holds true; the bike that is working is the best kind of bike. When you want to go for a ride there’s nothing worse than grabbing your bike only to discover it’s not working. BMX bikes are completely dedicated to being as strong as possible while keeping the user experience as simple as possible. Applying a little of that mindset to a bike you are going to ride to work everyday or even just for an occasional pedal around Town Lake makes a lot of sense. Why complicate something as beautiful and simple as cycling? Keep the tech behind the scenes so that the rider can simply enjoy the ride.

Why Fairdale?  Where’s the name come from?

TM:  I wanted a name that sounded sort of classic and didn’t bring up any particular imagery (except some nice rolling green hills maybe?). In that way Fairdale could be really open ended. Who knows where our bikes will take us or what they might involve into, so we wanted a name that wouldn’t limit us.

A classic looking headbadge from Fairdale.

What rider are the Fairdale bikes designed for?

TM:  When friends learn you are a professional cyclist they’re going to ask you what kind of bike they should get. I had years of fielding that question without having a good answer. What bike should I recommend to my friends who don’t want to jump off buildings on them, probably don’t know how to work on them, don’t want to look dorky, and don’t want to spend a ton of money? Fairdale is my attempt to create that answer. Of course different people want different things in bikes so we’ll eventually build a broader range of bikes. The Parser is a very simple single speed road bike. Its parts are all durable enough to last a lifetime and its ride is more for getting somewhere and cruising then racing or aerodynamics. The aesthetic is classic and nothing on the bike is quirky or complicated. I feel good when I see someone on a Parser because I know the bike is really good. There’s nothing on it I wouldn’t put a friend on and nothing too over the top to make it outlandish. Just a simple quality bike that’s going to work.  

As more of our line arrives the bikes will meet different purposes—comfort, off road, replacing a car. But I think our sort of “moral compass” will always be that simple question, “could I honestly recommend this bike to my friend?”

What’s the overall goal for Fairdale?

TM:  I really and truly want to make great bikes that can give people a taste of the lifelong love affair I’ve had with cycling. Making bikes that are going to work is big part of that because getting out and riding is the key. A casual rider can get discouraged easily if a bike breaks down too much or is too complicated. We want to keep riders riding and be the vehicle for them to find that magic in cycling.

As far as where we will go with our products the sky is really the limit. Aside from practical bikes we also understand the competitive side and pushing the limit of bicycles. I’m surrounded by truly brilliant engineers and have access to top notch manufacturing facilities so we could literally do anything.

You’ve obviously entered a competitive and growing segment of the bike industry with Fairdale–one that will continue to grow as gas prices rise and green consciousness spreads.  What sets Fairdale apart?

TM:  I think our BMX sensibilities are a big part of Fairdale. The mindset that a bike should be fun to ride, cool looking, simple, and of course work! Odyssey BMX products are famous for developing extremely technical products that are still simple to use and yet not expensive. Fairdale can tap into that design/manufacturing ability to bring the same sort of strength to big wheeled bikes.

Where do you see Austin heading in terms of bike culture?  What part would you want to see Fairdale play?

 TM:  I’ve been cycling in Austin for almost 20 years now. I’m excited about how the cycling scene is still growing. I’ve been saying for years that Austin is one of the easiest cities to get around by bikes and I’m happy to see others realize that. I hope Fairdale can earn a great reputation and be the go to bike of Austinites.

100% 4130 Cromoly, easy to understand sizing, and ATX. That's a good mix.

What’s coming down the line from Fairdale?  Anything for the gear lovers out there?

TM:  In the immediate future we have 2 versions of a simple 26 inch wheeled relaxed cruiser coming. The first round will be single speed but later in the year we’ll have an internally geared model. We also have a cheaper version of our Parser single speed road bike arriving soon. Our first geared bike called the Weekender arrives later this Spring and will feature a 1 x 9 gear set up. That means it has 1 sprocket up front and 9 in the back. This creates a simplified user experience with gears; one thumb shifter does all your shifting with ease. That bike is really aimed as being a car-replacement or a light-touring bike (like load it up and take it camping for the weekend). Disc brakes, a bit fatter tires than most road bikes, and a bit longer back end so that racks, bags, or fenders fit easily.

Toward the end of the year we have a 29inch BMX style bike coming. Think of a cruiser that is sort of BMX themed. We’re starting to toy with a cyclocross bike too.

I like the sound of a CX bike! Keep me posted on that, Taj. Sounds like Fairdale Bikes is on the move.  Come in and test ride a Fairdale Parser or Parser Express and enjoy the ride! And thanks again, Taj!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 11, 2014 6:55 pm

    Great review. I’m coming to it late, but it’s helped me to decide on a ’13 Parser.

    • djcurtin permalink
      July 21, 2014 7:07 pm

      Excellent, Michael! And thanks for reading!

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