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Langster, Long Term Review

1st Sep 2008, 18:16:45

By James Stocks

I've had my Langster almost four months now and I've used it just about every day. Here's how I've been getting on...

Specialized Langster

This is the first bike I've had that features drop bars. I was worried about getting used to the new riding position, but to be honest I don't think I'd ever buy another bike with flat bars if I was intending to ride it more than 10 miles. Because the drops are quite shallow, I find it easy to stay in them most of the time. The range of hand positions makes it easier on my hands and wrists on a long ride. The bars are quite narrow however and I expect a larger rider would find this quite cramped - I'm only 1.7m tall and ride the 54cm frame.

Surprised by how comfortable the riding position is, I've used the bike to commute once a week. The route is a 39 mile round trip over Cannock Chase. There are some fairly steep and sustained hills on the chase, but this doesn't seem to bother me any more. I found the 42-16 gear too low and changed the sprocket for a 15 tooth one. Grinding up the hills has definitely improved my leg power and (touch wood) hasn't given me any knee problems so far.

As a commuter bike, the Langster has its limitations. The inability to fit mudguards is a pain, but then again the track wheelset I have fitted lacks weather seals, so riding in the pouring rain is not the best idea any way. As a fair weather machine it is amazing, but in the long run I plan to get a cyclo-cross bike for commuting. I have fitted a rear rack to the bike and used it to carry panniers a few times, but usually I just leave a change of clothes at work the day before.

It's really important to pay attention to the chainline on a fixed-wheel bike. I thought I knew this before, but I only came to appreciate it personally when one of the track nuts worked loose while I was on a ride. Eventually, the wheel drifted too far out of alignment and threw the chain whilst I was cruising along at about 15 MPH, causing the wheel to lock up and jam into the frame. I was very lucky to stay on the bike and had to carry it to a main road where I could be rescued by car. Now, I check the chainline before every ride and regularly check that the track nuts are torqued down.

The worst thing about the bike has definitely been the wheels. The front wheel just wouldn't stay true whatever I did, the spoke nipples were poor quality and I destroyed a couple of them while trying to true the front wheel. The supplied 16t sprocket and lockring are not machined properly and it seems impossible to get the lockring tightened down properly. The notches have been cast rather than machined making it impossible to get a proper grip with a C-spanner.

Because of the lockring issue, I ended up stripping the thread while applying back pressure to the pedals (not skidding mind you). The bike shop replaced the rear wheel for me right away, but the same thing happened to the replacement wheel about two weeks later. In the end, the shop gave me a Navigator Pista track wheelset as a warranty replacement. Whilst the Navigator wheels solved the problem, they came with a 3/32" sprocket which was noisier than a Soviet tractor when used with my 1/8" chain. I ended up buying a 1/8" dura-ace sprocket and a better lockring for a total of about £15.00 and it's as smooth as anything now.

The Navigator wheels look great, they accelerate really well, feel very stiff and stable and they're bomb-proof too. They have stayed nice and true despite the odd pothole (oops!). It would be nice if the rims had machined walls, but as they are a track wheelset they were never really designed for brakes anyway.

I'm pleased with the bike, but I don't think I'd buy another one. I am fortunate to have a superb local bike shop who fought my corner with the manufacturer to get me a wheelset fit for purpose. If I'd bought it on the web or something I'd probably have been out of luck.

If you factor in a replacement wheelset and tyres, my Langster cost £600.00. For that, you could buy a frame and fork and have the shop build up a bike with non crappy components in the first place.

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