Retrospec Bike Review of 2018 & Buying Guide
A company with all-American roots, Retrospec Cycles was founded in 2009 by cyclists who wanted to bring affordable yet high-quality bikes to the industry, especially when it comes to fixed-gear options.
Founded in Los Angeles, the company designs, manufactures, and ships from its central location. Their designs use tested, brand name components, and their frames are crafted from tig-welded steel for the ultimate in durability at this price range.
Our buyer’s guide will address buyer questions about Retrospec, and review some of our favorite models from this brand.
What is Retrospec?
Founded in Los Angeles by cyclists, for cyclists, Retrospec is an American company with a simple goal: to produce high-quality bikes, but at prices pretty much anyone can afford. They value eco-consciousness, as well, and want to make it possible for as many people to own and ride a bicycle as they can.
Their philosophy is that by making good bikes widely accessible, the benefits of biking over fuel transportation will multiply and make a greater impact.
While the company’s primary focus consists of fixed-gear models, they also sell models that integrate a single-speed option, as well as city bikes, cyclocross bikes, and charter bikes for commercial use, such as bike rental booths in cities with high tourist traffic.
What makes Retrospec different from other bike brands out there?
While not all of their manufacturing is done in-house (a common practice by brands), the assembly is, and the selection process for the materials they do source is, allegedly, quite rigorous.
They feature this information prominently on their website, which is refreshing. Many companies aren’t willing to admit the fact they source some parts from other companies, which begs the question: if the pieces are high in quality, why hide that fact from consumers? Retrospec, however, is open on this front.
Their steel frames are welded by industry professionals, and their design department has crafted some beautifully simple (but unique) silhouettes and color combinations. Clearly, this brand pays close attention to detail, from start to finish—and from form to function.
What’s their customer service like?
While the brand’s sleek, easy-to-navigate website originally left us with a great impression, we were a bit disappointed to realize there’s no obvious link to contact them, either at the top or bottom of the page. There is a contact link under the Story tab, however. Additionally, the brand is on various social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even Pinterest).
Via their chat form (a pop-up feature), we received reply within twenty minutes. The email form in the Contact Us section was about the same, give or take a few minutes. By phone, we connected to a real person in 2 minutes.
Via Facebook, the only social media outlet we tried, we received response within 4 minutes. In every case, the representative was incredibly friendly and knowledgeable on the products and manufacturing processes.
Overall, we’d rate Retrospec’s customer service as very high when compared to other brands. The only drawback, in fact (besides a lack of an actual “Contact Us” button on their homepage), is that their bike frames have a warranty of only one year, and all their other components have 60-day warranties.
While many companies have similar or shorter warranty periods, a good number of brands offer lifetime warranties on the frames, and 1-year on components. It’s disappointing to see Retrospec doesn’t follow this trend, and might make consumers wary, since a good warranty is usually an indication of quality. We’re not saying this is or isn’t the case with Retrospec—just that buyers might shy away because of it, and for a fair reason.
Will a Retrospec bike fit with my budget?
Retrospec’s bikes are incredibly reasonable—but are they cheaper than the cheapest? No. Riders with budgets in the $250+ range will have no problem finding one that pleases their wallet, but don’t expect to find anything under $200 unless it’s a very old model or on sale.
In our opinion, it seems Retrospec’s philosophy—to provide quality bikes at a widely affordable price—is being met. These prices will suit almost any spending limit, and are well worth the features you get in return.
Granted, these aren’t professional-level bikes (which cost upwards of $1,000), but that’s not the target audience. We think Retrospec will suit casual or beginner riders best, with quite a few intermediate options at prices buyers wouldn’t expect.
Retrospec Bike Review
1. Mantra: Retrospec Fixed-Gear and Single-Speed Bicycle with Sealed Bearing Hubs Review
The Mantra is a sound commuter option thanks to its fixed-gear option: if you need high speeds or want an intense workout (or just a more immersive ride overall), you can flip the rear tire to achieve that. And if you’d rather coast, you can switch the wheel to the single-speed hub in a flash.
The Mantra is a beautiful bike, and one that can fit into most price expectations. It’s built for commuters and features a more “leaning forward”/athletic riding position, but can be adjusted for short cruises around town and other uses.
2. Siddhartha: Retrospec Single-Speed Urban Coaster Bike Review
With the clean look of a fixed-gear bike, but the function of a single-speed, the Siddhartha also boasts a cool retro appearance we haven’t seen anywhere else. The frame is designed simply, but the little touches (brown leather seat and handlebars) help set it apart from the rest.
Apart from the headache of hiring a bike shop to put the bike together for you, we can’t find anything not to love about the Siddhartha. It’s affordable, functions beautifully as both a cruiser and commuting bike, and has a unique silhouette you won’t find anywhere else. Some riders might not like the required sitting position (leaning forward; can be adjusted minimally), so skip the Siddhartha if you’d rather have a more classic cruiser or comfort bike.
3. Speck: Retrospec Folding Single-Speed Bicycle Review
The Speck definitely earns its name: when folded, this bike is smaller than most foldable models on the market today, yet expands to a comfortably sized bike in a matter of seconds (the company claims it takes about 10 seconds to fold and unfold). It’s designed with commuters in mind, from the compact size to its tires, which will make rainy riding a breeze thanks to specialized grooves designed to throw off water and reduce slickness.
A common complaint of folding bikes today is their weight; most are 35+ lbs., and many only fold in half. The Speck, however, weighs only 22 lbs., and folds to an even smaller size by incorporating its handlebars and pedals into that feature—something many bikes can’t do. It can be stowed all too easily in a car trunk or coat closet, which is ideal for riders with small cars or homes.
4. Venus: Retrospec Dutch Step-Through City Comfort Hybrid Bike Review
The Venus sports an old-school style similar to a beach cruiser—actually, nearly identical to a beach cruiser—but don’t be fooled: this little beauty packs plenty of features into one stylish package. Even better, it comes in single-, 3- or 7-speed options, multiple sizes, and six trendy colors.
We could just as easily see the Venus gliding casually around college campuses and quiet neighborhoods as we can see it navigating crowded city streets with ease. While it definitely won’t be the fastest bike you could get, that’s not what it was designed for. This bike’s goal is to deliver the perfect compromise of performance and comfort—and we think Retrospec achieved that.
5. Kinney: Retrospec 14-Speed Vintage Hybrid with Diamond Flat-Bar Frame Review
The vintage-inspired Kinney reminds us of a classic beach cruiser not in its shape, but with its front and rear fenders (available in a beautiful polished chrome), brown faux-leather details, and even a cute bell. But this bike is built for city dwellers: can the cruiser charm also deliver impressive speeds for commuters?
Overall, we think the Kinney is definitely capable of high speeds—just maybe not quite as high as its sister, the Kinney Drop (featuring drop-style handlebars like standard road bikes; the Kinney Hybrid has a flat handlebar design). With that in mind, there’s no reason to think this model won’t suit most needs, in or outside of the city: its 14 speeds and Revoshift twist shifter will deliver precise gear changes and nearly effortless acceleration.
Retrospec certainly delivers good-looking bikes for a fair price, but what about their promise of high-quality? You’ll find mixed opinions on this, and the 1-year frame warranty (with only 2 months on components) doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. That said, these bikes do use reputable and quality brands, and the attention to detail is irrefutable.
Our only qualm with the company, besides the warranties, is that most of their bikes don’t come as pre-assembled as most you’d order online. They don’t come with instruction manuals, either, and quite a few are specifically recommended by the company to be assembled by a professional. If you aren’t very handy or familiar with bike construction, you’ll have to pay a bike shop to put your Retrospec together properly and ensure peak performance and safety.
We hope our buyer’s guide has been helpful in beginning your search. Retrospec has some drawbacks, as does any company, but their detail-oriented designs indicate a love of their craft and industry—one that will, hopefully, translate to long-lasting excellence and durability.