Critical Cycles Harper

81/100
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Where to buy

Not found for sale. More bikes

Facts

Gender
Release Year
Wheel Size
Numbers of gears
Weights
Suspension
Brake Type
Frame Material

Summary of Reviews

We have read all expert and user reviews on this bike. In summary, this is what cyclists think.

10 reasons to buy

  • Glossy finishes and striking tones led to the Harper being described as everything from ‘attractive’ to ‘beautiful'. It comes in nine color options.
  • Owners with basic mechanical skills felt that this bike was quick and easy to assemble.
  • To many riders, the weight of the Critical Harper’s hi-tensile frame was lower than expected.
  • For a more relaxed ride, the rear wheel features a flip-flop hub for singlespeed coasting.
  • With its highly competitive price, the Harper attracted buyers by undercutting most other commuting options.
  • Users felt that this bike offered a quick, smooth-rolling ride.
  • Models with BMX-style bars impressed riders with a focus on fixie trick-riding.
  • The Harper was chosen by some customers because of the three size options offered.
  • The feel and position of the grips received multiple compliments.
  • Frame geometry was a comfortable fit for a number of reviewers.

10 reasons not to buy

  • The Harper comes equipped with a rear brake which many found unsuitable for a fixed-gear rear wheel. General consensus was that it would have been a better set up with a single front brake.
  • Buyers often found that the all-in-one assembly tool that comes packaged with the Harper, was subject to warping and bending during use.
  • The toe straps provided were too small for size 11 (and larger) feet.
  • Brake pads often wore out in one to two weeks.
  • The provided pedals are only flat on one side, causing difficulties for riders who choose to pedal without straps.
  • Experts felt that the complete bike was very heavy, largely due to the high-profile rims.
  • Componentry was generally described as average.
  • Sometimes, tires collapsed or exploded while riding, making users feel unsafe.
  • On models with ‘bullhorn’ handlebars, riders found them uncomfortable and awkward.
  • It seems that a lot of reviewers were unaware that the Harper is configured like a (velodrome) track bike. They were confused and frustrated by the fact that their toes overlapped the turning front wheel.

Bottom line

As a budget option or a backup bike, the Critical Cycles Harper does what can be expected for entry-level prices. Care has been taken with presentation. Multiple handlebar configurations offer differing cycling experiences. For a performance machine that needs to withstand demanding riding conditions, enthusiasts will want to look elsewhere. For a confidence-inspiring ride, owners may wish to take the Harper to their local bike store. The componentry isn’t awe-inspiring, yet it pleases riders with undemanding commuting requirements and a need for a minimal, low-maintenance bike.

Expert Reviews

80/100 based on 1 expert reviews
80
Frank DuCett

The Harper: A Critical Cycle Review.

Level 2 expert

Short and Fast!

The Critical Cycles Harper is about as basic as a bicycle can be,

Short and Fast!

The Critical Cycles Harper is about as basic as a bicycle can be, other than a coaster brake bike. For some of us, the Harper is about as good as a bike needs to be.

For starters, the Harper is a fairly well built machine with an excellent paintjob.

The parts selection is mostly non-branded components that function well, doing the job asked of them. The brakes and most other components on this bike would likely not be found in modern day, professional level pelotons of the Tour de France. However, those parts would very likely suit you well while travelling through some of those same mountains in France.
At your own pace, of course.

Cautionary Notes

1.) If you order a frame size that has always worked for you in the past, please note that this bike has a high bottom bracket. So please consider the “stand over height” before purchasing this bike.

2.) If you are riding any “fixed gear” bicycle at a high rate of speed and your shoelace becomes entangled in the chainring, you could be seriously injured.

3.) If you are riding a version of this bike with only a coaster brake and you lose a chain on a long downhill run… you could be killed.

Frame

A high tensile steel frame is used by Critical Cycles for the Harper. It is straight gauge and not seamless. This high tensile steel frame seems lighter than some of the other bikes in this category and is a delightfully stiff platform on hard out-of-the-saddle climbs. However, the 39 inch wheelbase and frame geometry demand that you keep extra alert while riding. This bike can turn a corner or change lanes simply by thinking about it.

Wheels

I should disclose that I initially transferred the “stock” wheels from this Critical bike and used them on another, far more expensive bike. It was definitely an upgrade for that bike. The hubs are loose ball, which is good for me, as I enjoy spending quiet time with grease and wrenches. Believe me, I have those wheels very well-greased and adjusted for a very low rolling resistance.

Freewheel

16 tooth generic that made sounds like popcorn popping and had a dangerous tendency to occasionally not engage while riding in very cold weather. I replaced this freewheel with a new Shimano FS 1200.

Crank set

Generic, alloy and totally adequate.
110 mm BCD, accommodating a smaller chainring than the 130mm BCD chainsets.
The original chainring was a steel 46 tooth, I replaced this with a new Origin-8 alloy 38t.

Saddle

Plastic and vinyl, with steel rails. No noted discomfort.

Brakes

If you were flying down a winding mountain road with professional riders, you would likely not be able to match their stopping power. But if you do get to ride in the Tour de France, don’t worry, they will get you better brakes.

A Thought About Weight

There is no amount of money that even the most wealthy 170 lb cyclist could spend, that could result in a lower total weight of bike and rider than what this bike and I weigh: 174 lb combined.

Performance

The Harper is everything a good single speed should be. It’s relatively lightweight (for a bike in this price range) and simple in both design and construction.

The original 46 tooth chainring looks good hanging on the wall or perhaps for future projects. I replaced the original with a 38 tooth alloy ring. With the smaller chainring, I spin at a higher RPM, as I do on any other bike I ride. This lower gear helps to level the local hills and likely saves my knees from the stress inflicted by climbing with the bigger 46 tooth chainring.

As a solo rider, I never worry about having to keep up with anyone. My greatest competitor is me! Personally, I am thankful to be free from the derailleur and all those cables, after so many years.

Cornering with the Harper is a joy. I feel confident cornering fast on smooth roads. However, I am concerned about cornering too quickly on a rough road or cobblestones, simply because High Tensile steel is not as responsive as a Reynolds or Columbus frame.
My gear selection limits my top speed but is necessary for me to conquer the local hills.

To summarize performance; the Harper is stiff and almost harsh on bumpy roads but performs all tasks well. Although, it is a bit heavy at 25 lbs.

I became interested in single speeds during a 2009 trip to East Africa, while working there on bicycles. It was there that I came to realize that a good single speed is all I need. You see, the Africans use their bicycles as many westerners use sedans and Ford F-150s.

Pros

Beautiful, professional level paintjob.
Value: a very cost effective bicycle.

Cons

Rear triangle could have been better aligned.
Stem too short for frame size.
Freewheel was noisy.

Specifications

Frame Size: 53 cm.
Weight: 25 lbs.
Crank Set: 46 tooth steel chainring.
Freewheel: 16 tooth.
Fixed Cog: 16 tooth.

Note

Hubs are loose ball bearings.
Bottom bracket has sealed bearings.

Parts Replaced as Defective

Freewheel.

Parts Replaced Due to Wear After 300 Miles

None.

Parts Replaced as Personal Upgrade

Wheels, Chainring, Freewheel.

Conclusion

A single speed is a lot more work than a multi-gear bike. However, I think the rewards and satisfaction found in riding one is far greater than modern bikes with their endless ‘bells and whistles’. It doesn’t hurt that I am also a big fan of the long ago Tours of France, when such bikes were king.

I don’t complain about new bikes costing so much these days, since I have chosen the option of keeping things simple. This makes the Critical Cycles Harper bike a simple, enjoyable and affordable choice.

Sincerely,
Frank DuCett

My thanks to my friend Tony, for his assistance and editing this review.

User Ratings

70/100 based on 288 ratings
  • 5 star
    49%
  • 4 star
    20%
  • 3 star
    5%
  • 2 star
    7%
  • 1 star
    19%

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Rankings

Compared to other bikes
#1 Best of All Bikes
Top 1%

Comparison

In comparison to averages of categories
Critical Cycles Harper
81
Average All Bikes
81
Average Critical Cycles Bike
81
Average Single Speed - Fixed Gear Bike
80