I’ll be the first to tell you I’m not a big biker. As such, I’ve never bought an expensive bike. I’ve ridden the ones accessible to me: gifts from family members, hand-me-downs, old, public clunkers and ones you can borrow from hotel lobbies. I’ve never had a road bike; never fussed with a fixie; and never considered the kind of roads I was riding on, because, well, I was commuting. I knew my route and, unless construction detoured me, I stuck to it.
But then I transitioned to working from home. I picked up biking again, this time to lazily ride to dinner or to a shop across town. My latest bike, however — a half-decade old and the victim of more than a few New York City crashes — wasn’t quite ready for its return in my new city of Pittsburgh. Two consecutive rides resulted in flat rear tires, and the entire bike creaked loud enough, you could hear me coming several blocks away.
I visited my local bike shop, where they said I’d spend as much fixing this one, a cheap but very kind gift, as I would buying something brand-new. Plus, they said, my new routes required a bike with better durability. The roads here in Pittsburgh are rough: for those unfamiliar with this little city’s conditions, streets are bumpy, notoriously hole-y, patched with steel plates, and usually cramming two-way traffic into a space that should really only be for one direction. It’s harsh for cars, let alone bikers. (One street swallowed a bus whole a few years ago.) But people do it. And I was ready to, too.
I needed a bike that could survive potholes and railroad crossings, but serve as a quasi-commuter for Saturday morning rides to my pickup basketball games or rushed Sunday grocery runs. Plus, with a few newly-paved trails opened across the river from my apartment, I needed a bike I could test at top speed.
As it turned out, State’s versatile, single-speed steel gravel bike, the 4130 in matte olive, fit the bill.
It wasn't perfect out of the box. At first, I needed to adjust to the drop bars; I was skittish and took corners slowly, adjusting my grip on the comfortably padded grooves so that I had quick access to my brakes, of which there are both back and front. Two days into my stint with the cycle, I was going fast and taking potholes, loose cobblestone roads and uneven pavement with ease. I invested in a new helmet, bought gloves for the mornings when it was still a little cold and snapped lights on to the front and back of the bike. I became a biker again.
But I also awoke to the idea of riding outside “rush hour.” Nowadays, I have nowhere to commute. My walk to the office begins and ends in less than 30 seconds, because it’s a short distance from my bedroom to my living room. But because of this new bike, I woke up early — 6:30 AM most days — eager to squeeze in a few miles before I had to report to my laptop for work.
The 4130 has a comfortable saddle, padded drop bars, dual brakes and pedals wide enough for size 12 feet. Its shape is equal parts rookie road bike and graduated gravel conqueror. Plus, it’s light, at least in comparison to my old ride (33.9 lbs versus 23.7), which made carrying it down my building’s front steps easy and increased my top speed from an embarrassing 16.2 mph to an impressive 26.6 mph. (Being less upright probably helps, too.)
Because of its versatility, this bike is an encouraging in-betweener for riders living places with rough roads and so-so trails encircling the city — plus a downtown sector littered with jaywalking pedestrians. State’s single-speed 4130 makes just getting out there easy, something that can’t be said for advanced road or hybrid bikes. But rest assured this option will keep pace with pricier models; It proved so as I pedaled past folks pressing just as hard on Specialized cycles, clocking new top speeds even as I bounced over the separations on a bridge, and setting new distance records without worrying whether my bike would withstand the ride back home.
State Bicycle Single-Speed 4130
Frame: Chromoly steel
Weight: 23 lbs 7 oz
Handle Bars: All-Road Drop Bars
Color: Matte Olive