For fans of cyclocross who either don’t take their racing too seriously, or take their value-oriented, singlespeed cyclocross bikes very seriously, we offer a full review of the Fairdale Parser from Issue 27. For extensive reviews just like this one, be sure to order your backcopy today, which is also available on Uberflip, in the App Store on iTunes, and on Google Play for Android.
In our Workingman Issue, we’re fully aware that while 99 percent of our readers work, the sizes of your bank accounts fall across a wide spectrum. The beauty of cyclocross is that it typically welcomes cyclists of all budgets and bikes, and $15 one-day license fees notwithstanding, it doesn’t take much to try out the sport or dabble in a few races with a mountain bike, hybrid or commuter.
Fairdale has a bike in the form of the steel Parser for the cyclocross-curious, budget-constrained urban commuter or minimalist fan. The brand was created by BMX Pro/Junkie Taj Mihelich after moving to Austin from Michigan. The heavy-duty BMX orientation emerges in many of Fairdale’s designs, and the cyclocross-minded Parser is no exception. The Parser was the company’s first bike, originally designed in 2010, and the model hit the shelves a year later. It has a niche audience, and tries to provide everything for that niche: One gear? Steel frame? Rim brakes? Check, check, check. All for under $800? Check please!
I looked up “Parse” in the dictionary and found this definition: “to analyze; to discover implications or uncover a deeper meaning.” Might there be a deeper meaning or implication of such a simple bike?
If you’re on a tight budget, or need a daily rider for a commute, you will need your bike to be simple and reliable. The Parser is exactly that. It’s a double-butted chromoly steel frame, with a chromoly fork. Look all over and you won’t find a piece of carbon fiber on this bike.
A BSA threaded bottom bracket, 27.2mm seatpost, and integrated headset stays with easy-to-find standards. Need to carry some stuff or ride in the rain? Rack and fender mounts are standard, as with any bike from Fairdale. The steel fork crown is appropriately pierced for a fork-mounted cable hanger to help reduce chatter.
Geometry on our Large, with a 56cm top tube, is pretty cyclocross-standard, with a 68mm bottom bracket drop, and 73-degree seat tube and 72-degree head tube angles. Dropouts are horizontal and rear-facing, resulting in a 42.4cm chainstay length with the 42x16t gear, which stretches out to 43.0cm with the included 14t using the same 96-link chain.
Have plans to throw your own fancy wheels onto this frame? Take note that the rear spacing is 120mm, requiring you to dip into your track or hipster wheel collection for a replacement rear wheel. As I mentioned before, Fairdale is BMX-minded, and the company’s dropout selection falls squarely into this category.
The frame has plenty of clearance around 35c rubber, and high-volume 38c tires should fit without issue—assuming you’re not planning on ripping through deep pits of mud.
Building a bike for under $800 won’t land you a bunch of name-brand components, but the Fairdale Parser focuses on value and durability rather than high-performance racing. The result? Promax cantilever brakes, Fairdale house-brand crankset, handlebar, saddle and brake levers—probably none of which will excite anyone, but they are highly functional, and didn’t leave me complaining. Well, I didn’t love the saddle, but everyone’s butt is different.
The bike features a number of no-logo, unbranded items as well, including the stem, seatpost (a one-bolt clamp design that should be replaced for cyclocross racing), and even the 30mm-deep alloy wheels. It’s a look equally appropriate for the singlespeed or urban-hipster crowd, and helps avoid attracting unnecessary attention should you need to lock up this baby while in the coffee shop or the pub.
Speaking of locking, it’s worth noting that both the front and rear (relatively heavy) wheels are “female axle” wheels, which are secured via long “male” BMX-style bolts, also called “inbound axles.” That’s awesome should you only have a U-lock and need to do some shopping or drinking, but not awesome should you have a flat tire and forget a wrench. Thankfully, you don’t need to carry a 17mm or crescent wrench with you, as the bolts accept a hex wrench, assuming you carried your multi-tool. Flat in a race? Be prepared to lose a lap with a wheel change.
While the bike comes with high-clearance cantilever brakes and 35mm Continental Race cyclocross tires, mortals should note that the stock gearing is quite tall. The Parser includes two cogs, a 14t and 16t, but are paired to a 42t front chainring. We don’t know many amateur single-speeders who push a 42x16t, and I wasn’t alone in wishing there were something more knee-friendly when I headed off-road—Fairdale’s own Michael Moore admitted to wishing for a lower gear when on the trail.
Adopting a lower gear is not a major project, just an inconvenience and minor expense. You’ll need a Shimano freehub-compatible cog, and a few more chain links. You can also downsize the front chainring, but that may not be enough.