Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Product Review: 2014 Trek District S

This review is for the 2014 Trek District S single speed bike: not the belt drive version, not the steel versions, not the 9-speed version.  The District S replaces the discontinued Trek Soho single speed.

I'm digging that all black stealth look.

Update:  The Trek District S is not offered for the 2015 model year.  Trek does have a steel SS/FG called the Earl but I really don't like how it looks or the reviews it gets.  If I had to go shopping today for a similar bike to my Trek District S, I think I'd go for the Surly Cross Check SS.

Update - change that to the Soma Stanyan 18.  That's a cool looking fixie frame.

I was looking for a fixed gear bike for my daily commuter, and wanted one with horizontal forward facing dropouts, rack and fender mounts, room for cushy tires, and wide handlebars for lights.  There really aren't many bikes that meet all of those criteria; there are of course lots of fixies with track ends which are hard to use with fenders.  The Surly Cross Check single speed was another one I considered, but at $1000 it didn't look much nicer than the Trek at $600.

Handlebar has a nice bend, and the stem is really nice.
The grips lock on so they won't twist.

Internal rear brake cable -
the housing goes all the way through, no stops.

Ordinary square taper BB, easy to service.

I think this graphic is supposed to look edgy.

Headbadge is glued on;
I won't be mad if it falls off.

My serial number... in case I ever need it.
Nice of Trek to offer an on-line registry too -
I wonder if the cops ever check there when they recover a stolen bike.


Wishbone monostay adds vertical rigidity... and looks cool.

Saddle is reasonable - no reason to swap it out.

Some bigger tires and fenders will be coming eventually.

The rack mounts came with these plugs in them;
in case you don't have a rack I guess - anyway, they come right out.

Flip flop set to fixed.

Real track nuts.
Rack and fender mounts.
Forward horizontal dropouts
Exactly what I wanted.

The chain is 1/8" for fixie cred.  
I'll give the chain protector a chance; it's aluminium, not plastic.
But if it starts to rattle it's offa there.

Bontrager 700c 28mm tires measure an actual 26mm.
Schrader valves...
looking forward to my first two flats so I can put in some presta tubes.

Room for lots more tire in here though.

Here too.

The pedals are the only parts I can't live with...
I got wide feet and ride in tennis shoes so I'm getting
some platforms with toe clips.

This bike has an aluminum frame – I would generally prefer a nice steel tubeset on a FG commuter for the dent resistance, but aluminum makes this frame nice and light so that’s a plus.

Some notes on geometry:  The District S geometry is about half way between a touring bike and a cyclocross bike – two styles that are frequently used as commuters.  The longer wheelbase is especially nice for heel room if you use panniers, and it also helps smooth out bumps in the road.

Another thing about the geometry - this bike has the highest bottom bracket height (11.5") (or smallest drop) of any style of bike other than the 29er MTB.  The good part about this is that I have NEVER scraped a pedal on a turn (happened all the time on my Masi Commuter that had touring geometry)... the downside is that it makes riding no-hands rather difficult... also when walking the bike you can't push it by the saddle without the wheel flopping... I guess that's kind of related.  No problem, the steering's not twitchy at all.

Trek's Website Photo with Schrader valves airbrushed out.

Colors                     Matte Black
Frame                     Alpha Gold Aluminum
Fork                        High-tensile steel w/low-rider mounts
Sizes                        52, 54, 56, 58, 60cm
Wheels                   Alloy track front hub; alloy track flip-flop rear hub w/32-hole alloy rims
Tires                        Bontrager AW1 Hard-Case Lite, 700x28c
Crank                      Bontrager Nebula SS, 44T w/chainguard
Cassette                 Shimano 17T freewheel
Pedals                     VP track-style alloy
Saddle                    Bontrager SSR
Seatpost                 Bontrager Nebula, 27.2mm
Handlebar            Trek Urban, alloy
Stem                        District, alloy, 15 degree, flip/flop
Headset                 Slimstak, semi-cartridge bearings, sealed
Brakeset                Tektro extra-long reach, dual-pivot brakes w/Tektro alloy levers
Grips                       Custom District, lock-on
Extras                     Chainguard

The ride:  Predictable and conservative, but fun; probably exactly what you'd want in a commuter.  The handling is more like a mountain bike with slicks than it is like a road bike; maybe most of that is just the handlebars, but if you like high speed cornering or spinning 130rpm from the nose of the saddle you'd be disappointed.  But it's also not a hybrid or comfort bike; it's zippy and nimble.  This bike would also be great for critical mass or light grocery shopping or any kind of urban riding including trails.

The Trek District S gets an 8.5 of 10 on the Diablo Scott scale of urban SSFG commuter bikes.  Minor deductions for narrow pedals, narrow tires, and Shrader tubes - I would have given bonus points for prettier joints but the welding is entirely appropriate for this price point.  

Update:  I like this bike more every time I ride it.  But I swapped out the pedals for some wider ones without teeth, the grips for some ergonomic ones, and the saddle just because I had one available that was a little nicer from my road bike.

I've got wheel lights and back flashers and headlights though. 
Very nice pedals... I wouldn't mind even a little bigger, but these'll do.

My hands were getting kind of sore, these things
are like little La-Z-Boys... REALLY comfortable.

Put a new saddle on my road bike so the old one goes on my fixie...
a little scuffed up but a great saddle.

Getting the lights just right was kind of tricky on this bar.

Stock tires

Upgrade tires - the difference is quite noticeable in person...
not so much in these photos.

Current status:
  • Stock bike plus track cog and lockring, bottle cage, and Cateye computer, from the dealer
  • Added rear rack and commuter trunk bag from Ibera
  • Took off reflectors.  Added two front lights from Planet Bike and rear rack light from Cateye
  • Swapped out pedals for MKS GR-10... didn't much like the stock pedals
  • Added shiny happy bell from Sports Basement
  • Swapped out grips for Ergon GC1... stock grips were OK but my hands were getting sore and these grips are GREAT
  • Swapped out saddle for San Marco Regal... stock saddle was OK but Regal is my favorite and this one was a hand me down from a recent update to my Klein
  • Swapped out Bontrager 28mm tires for Vittoria 37mm tires... because potholes; but I put a lot of miles on those Bontragers first
  • Wheel reflectors are off and I have SpokeLit's ready when Daylight Saving Time ends
  • Also got a spare set of wheels in case I break spokes again - one pair for summer and one pair for winter, or backup.  Weinmann DP-18 from Big Dave's.

Lots more photos HERE

Thanks to Dave at Big Dave's Bikes in Pleasant Hill
for the special order and great service.

Big Dave's Bikes
(Tell him Diablo Scott sent you)


Curtis Corlew said...

So, Mr. Recently Injured got a fixed gear bike? What could possibly go wrong? Still, it looks way cool. What kind of gearing does it have? I discovered that I actually prefer gears, and that I shift a lot. Even when there aren't hills. But you're tougher, so it will go better for you.

Diablo Scott said...

Well my Masi commuter that was stolen was also a fixed gear and I used it for four years, so it's not new to me. I like fixed gear for commuting because it's fun and there are no shifters or derailleurs to not work when they get gunked up with rain and road grime. The Trek is geared at 44x17 which is about the same as the Masi at 42x16. My biggest hill is the MUP overpass at Treat Blvd.

Seriously, if you have three or more bikes, one of them should be a fixie.

Andrew St. Paul said...

Converting the Trek 2012 9th District bike into a light touring bicycle. My question is... Is it possible to add a front derailleur and adding a smaller chainring without buying a whole new crank set. I would like move the Original chain ring where the chain guard is at now and add a smaller chainring in its place. Making the bike to a two chainring setup. I need a granny gear incase I hit a hill/ steep ascent while out on the open road. Do you think this possible? I can not spend 1,5000 on a touring bike? Any advice will help.

Diablo Scott said...

@Andrew St. Paul: You've got a 44t chainring on your single speed crank. I don't know what the bolt circle is on it but you absolutely cannot get a granny ring on that crank... you could maybe fit 39 or so but that won't get you what you want.

You have three choices: New crank (plus derailleur and shifters); new bike; or do without.

That girl said...


Thank you for the in-depth review. Just found this bike today and fell in love with it, but was hoping for some more reviews from those who've had it. I was looking at a Raleigh Furley, which is one-speed, but with an option to upgrade to add gears; this bike doesn't have that option, does it?



Diablo Scott said...

Hi Tess... nope, no where to hang a derailleur, but you could put a different sized freewheel on one side and a different sized fixed cog on the other... you probably don't want to do that though.

You only need one gear - take the plunge, you will love it.

ozmo said...

Hi Scott,

Thank you for this review - could you please explain what the benefit of a forward-facing dropout is as far as fenders are concerned? I'm having trouble picturing it.

Found a thread describing the advantages of forward/reverse in general, and they allude to the fender issue also, but don't go in much detail:

Thanks for your input!

Diablo Scott said...

Hi ozmo! Sure - take a look at this photo of my bike:

With track ends, the rear wheel has to slide back, away from the frame to come out when you need to fix a flat; but generally you want the fender to be pretty close to the tire back there. So to get the wheel out with track ends, you'd have to either loosen the fender up to move it out of the way, or leave enough gap between the wheel and fender to slide the wheel back (this is actually kind of hard to do with most types of fender attachments) - and getting it back in is even trickier; or you could also get the kind of fender that doesn't come all the way down in back.

With forward horizontal dropouts like on my bike, you take the wheel out by moving it forward; and it's better and easier to have a big gap up there between the front of the tire and the fender.

Lots of people have fenders on their bikes with track ends, but IMO it's more of a hassle and/or doesn't look as nice.