Priority Ace of Spades
Body materials: Carbon fiber and Alloy
Belt: Gates Carbon Drive
Weight: 22 pounds (medium size)
In the fall of 1980, the great Motörhead unleashed a little ditty that blew people's minds — and blew out their speakers. Clocking in just a bit under three minutes, "Ace of Spades" melds reliable rock, upstart metal, badass gambling lyrics and some of the fiercest bass and lead guitar riffs ever put to tape. It's easily Lemmy and co.'s biggest hit.
Just about 40 years later, Priority Bicycles released a bike of the same name, with a similar blending of old and new plus general awesomeness. And if the past month I've spent testing is any indication, this Ace of Spades is yet another instant classic.
What's special about it? First of all, it's the only belt drive single speed with a Gates Carbon Drive and a flip-flop rear hub threaded for a track cog on one side and a cassette-style free hub on the other. This feature makes it dead simple to adjust gear ratios and even switch to fixed gear.
That has rad ramifications for both Ace models — there’s also a more recreational version called Ace of Clubs — because belt drive single speeds are typically quite tricky and pricy to tweak. But it really shines with what I've been riding: the lighter, faster Ace of Spades in fixie mode.
Full disclosure: you do need one more component — a 20t CDX Fixed Gear Sprocket ($80) that Priority also sells — to achieve this setup. But once that cog is in place (some $15 pedal straps didn't hurt either), you'll be stoked. I was, anyway.
Probably because I've suffered through my unfair share of issues with fixies. I love this style of bike for riding around New York City. The energy return you get from continuously moving pedals is so sweet, and the thrill of navigating traffic without stopping is something of a premium rush, even if you're not wily enough to ditch both brakes.
But for best results, your chain has to be tensioned just right. If it gets too loose, you don't get that rattlesnake-like coiled power; looser still and the chain just might detach mid-ride, which royally sucks. I've experienced both that and its soul-crushing opposite — a blissful city lap wrecked by a snapped chain.
With this bike, however, those worries quickly disappeared. Because I found myself atop a totally dialed-in ride with perfect tension fueling every pedal stroke. And unlike with a chain, no matter how hard or long I go, that tension will always remain — powerful and smooth, without any need for adjustment or lube. For literally years.
Of course, that's not the only thing to love here. The Ace also looks killer. Beautifully simple geometry and a midnight paint job accented by white logos on the frame and Thick Slick tires, plus a dip of white at the end of the fork and around the hub.
The riding position is super comfortable, with sturdy flat bars that support standing up in the saddle when pumping over a hill or river-spanning bridge. Those climbs are made easier by carbon and alloy components that keep the weight at a relatively lean 22 pounds. It's practical, too: during a food delivery service project a few weeks ago, I was able to quickly mount up a rear rack and panniers and tote a bunch of hot meals around Brooklyn.
What really endures, though, is what stood out the moment I got rolling. Throughout the bike boom, I've been reviewing all kinds of bikes, everything from snazzy commuters and fancy gravel bikes to rugged mountain bikes and all manner of e-bikes. And more than any other, this bike — the least expensive one I've tried — instantly brought back the pure joy of riding I had when I first hopped on some funky BMX-styled wheels as a kid.
Just racing around the neighborhood with a smile as wide as the bars, having a blast with friends for hours upon hours till the sun sets and it's time to head home for dinner, all sweaty and exhausted and happy.
Even as slush invades the streets and avenues, I'm still excited to hop on this little ditty and rip around all over town. It's just so bloody fast and fun. I can imagine British metal fans thought something similar in the fall of 1980. And I just realized the song I've gotta pull up on Spotify the next time I hit the road. Can't wait.