Dirt Rag Magazine

Review: Phat Cycles First Class Cruiser

The First Class is a one-bike parade—a traffic stopper and a jaw dropper. It’s an expression of street attitude in chromoly and steel. This is not a bike that is comfortable with Lycra. Denim or leather would work better.

By Chris Cosby

Seldom does a bike come along that elicits such a giddy reaction from everyone who sees it, even if they are not cyclists. The First Class is a one-bike parade—a traffic stopper and a jaw dropper. It’s an expression of street attitude in chromoly and steel. This is not a bike that is comfortable with Lycra. Denim or leather would work better. Think Harley, not Ducati. So, what’s it all about, you ask?

For starters, let me give you an overview of Phat Cycles. They only make cruisers and choppers. The local scene in Huntington Beach, CA makes a great test bed. Their bikes are heavy (literally) on style, and light on technical accoutrements. That’s not to say they don’t ride well. Quite the opposite. This bike glides like any cruiser should. Of course, you’re not going to climb La Tourmalet or any big hill for that matter. Out of the saddle climbing is awkward at best, and can be dangerous in traffic.

Several styles are available, from mild to wild. The First Class comes in a coaster brake model, but I opted for the 7-speed version for greater range. The internal 7-speed Shimano Nexus hub incorporates a roller drum brake, while a disc brake does the duties out front. Aside from the hub, all other parts are off brand, but at a price of $599, one should expect that. The front disc did suffer from sloppy mounting bolts (there is play in the caliper housing that you can’t adjust) and the headset had some play in it. But let’s not lose sight of the good stuff: a custom leather springer saddle, slick city street tires, shiny chrome triple clamp forks and ape hanger bars with cool chrome grips and a throttle-type shifter. The saddle gives you about 2-3" of travel, which makes the ride comfortable and smooth. And because the seat tube is so laid back, the bike fits a wide range of riders, since raising the seat also stretches out the cockpit.

The gear range is about what you get out of your rear cluster, and on flat surfaces the First Class can really cook. But even in low gear, a hill of any size is work. And work is a four-letter word. Solution? Stay on level ground and roll, baby, roll. I used the First Class to run errands, and suddenly I was a rock star in my little town. A trip to the bank or post office included conversations with passers-by, and everybody wanted to know what it was and where to get one. And this is from folks that would normally consider a bike on the road an obstacle!

Contact: Phat Cycles; www.phatcycles.com

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