Astr Sidewinder - Ride Experience by Satish Chandra Annamaneni

The Bike Affair

Astr Sidewinder

Ride Experience by Satish Chandra Annamaneni

Yesterday evening after coming out from office, I felt the chill in air. Winter is here in Hyderabad!

I was commuting on my Astr Sidewinder in single-speed mode. 
I got onto the Microsoft hill like I do on any other day of commuting, but I felt more power in my legs.

I was able to tackle the climb with my second best time (with 19.5 kmph), missing the personal best (which was on my road bike) marginally.
On a normal day, I would usually climb the hill at a speed ranging between 10-15 kmph.

It's been about 1.5 years since I bought the Sidewinder and I covered more than 5500 km on it.
I was hoping to write a detailed review about it for a while now, as many people are still skeptic about investing in a single speed or a fixed gear bike.

The short review would be - It helped me in so many ways and it is very easy to maintain.

Coming to the long answer...

I somehow got fascinated at the thought of riding a fixed gear bike (fixie) ever since I test rode it once.
It felt new and refreshing, and surprisingly climbs great!

Even though I already have a flat-bar road bike for commuting, I wanted to get this for commutes.

The idea is to make commuting more fun. And it sure was fun riding a fixie. I initially thought of riding it in only fixie mode and rode like that for six months.

Later on, I wanted to take it out on a multi day tour and got the freewheel hub installed. Been riding in the freewheel mode for almost an year now.

The Bike Helped In

- Focusing on the road even more (while using in fixie mode)
- Increasing my leg muscle strength
- Gaining more control on the bike
- Improving balance
- Being able to ride at almost zero speed (I am yet to learn the track stand skill)
- Climbing better
- Riding off saddle, especially while climbing (I was never good at this)
- Riding for longer time in aggressive posture (As I was using bull horn handle bar)
- Descending more cautiously (while using in fixie mode)
- Improving cadence
 -Decreasing dead spots in pedal strokes

Off-Saddle Riding

I never used to feel like riding off-saddle before as I am a heavy rider (around 90 kg) and used to feel that I would run out of energy too soon. So I used to rely on gears and slowly shift to higher gears when I feel like I gained a bit of strength.

But when riding a single speed or a fixie, I cannot wish for a smaller gear and I had to explore the off-saddle riding style.
Slowly I got better at it and I was able to maintain the rhythm for a few minutes.

This helped me in attacking the climbs.

Super Responsive Light Frame

If I am out riding with a bunch of faster riders or if I am in the middle of a race, I can maintain a better speed while climbing, and rely on my weight for gaining speeds in the descents.
On one of the tempo rides, I did not have access to my other bikes, and I took this bike out (in single speed mode).

This is surprisingly fast and I was almost maintaining the road bike pace. All thanks to the super responsive light frame! Having only one gear means that the power transfer would be instant and efficient. To top it off, I felt more comfortable as the road vibrations were dampened by the chromoly steel frame. I also had to amp up my cadence when I wanted to go faster, again due to lack of more gears.

Before long, this bike too became my training bike for long rides.
On the recent Tour of Eastern Ghats, I was able to tackle some steep climbs on very bad roads because of riding the Sidewinder regularly in commutes (and climbing some hills on the way) and long rides, and in the process I ended up building leg strength and improving my bike handling skills.

I also realized that I was not putting as much pressure on my handle bars as I used to do. Most likely because of improved core strength (from doing yoga and riding single speed) and the aggressive posture of my Sidewinder.

Riding in Monsoons

On the days when it rains or when the drive train is dirty, my other bikes would need some time to clean. But the Sidewinder won't take long for cleaning and lubing the chain. So I tend to ride only this bike in monsoons. 

After riding this bike, I fell in love with steel bikes and I am eyeing a full fledged steel bike for touring. But that would take a few years if at all it gets materialized :)

A word of caution would be about the wheels. The tyres would be more prone to pinch flats. So always ride with the prescribed pressure and avoid nasty potholes with sharp cuts on the roads. Also, the clearance would be more for this bike making it a suitable bike for velodrome. The downside would be that if you go really slow into a pothole on a descent, you might end up toppling.

One last word of advice would be to listen to your body, especially legs when riding this beast.

If you are out of form and still wish to climb, take it really slow. Otherwise you will feel it in your knees. The same thing is valid if you are riding in fixie mode and trying to slow down or stop the bike by reducing the cadence without using brakes.
For those of you who are still pondering about spending Rs. 34500 for the Sidewinder, the good news is that the price got dropped to 25000 recently.

Go grab the bike and you won't be disappointed!