MEC Hold Steady review

MEC Hold SteadyWell, it’s been about three months since I bought my MEC Hold Steady so it’s time for a review.

My route is a combination of pathway and roads, flats and hills, and at this time of year means riding on some roads covered in winter gravel. It also means that on my rides I’m alternatively being buffeted by insane winds, bashed by ice pellets, soaked with rain or scorched by the sun.

Gravel is a pretty significant concern here. Most of the road shoulders are still covered in gravel and other debris left over from the snowy winter season. Road cleaning hasn’t really begun and little pointy bits of rock are on the lookout for nice vulnerable bike tires. So far, the Hutchinson Urban Tour tires have held up admirably. I’ve usually had at least one flat by now but it’s been smooth sailing this past month. The tires have also performed fairly well in the sudden snow and slush surprises we’ve had. I’ve switched to the studded tires a couple of times, but for the most part have ridden safely and successfully with the stock tires.

Comfort and fit-wise, the medium size seems to perfectly fit my 6′.

The hydraulic brakes have worked well. Response is significantly different than the non-hydraulic disc brakes I have on my Kona and Cannondale and whether that’s in a good way or a bad way depends on what you expect. Personally, I prefer non-hydraulic disc brakes. I find them less finnicky in the winter, and good luck trying to do a field repair on your hydraulics… I have Avid BB7s on my Kona and Cannondale and have to say the stopping power is greater than on the Hold Steady. That’s not to say you can’t lock the Hold Steady’s brakes up easily, but there’s a noticeable difference between the two kinds of brakes.

Now to the gearing, which is probably what most of you will be curious about.

The Hold Steady comes with the Shimano Alfine internal 8 speed hub on the rear with a 45 tooth chainring on the front.

I’m not quite sure about the gearing ratios yet. The lowest gear feels like the equivalent of being in the middle chainring and about two down from the lowest on the rear on my Kona. While the hills are certainly doable, I wouldn’t mind some lower gearing on this bike. I really don’t think the gearing is going to be sufficiently low enough for any real winter riding, as you need a good low gear to churn through deep snow or make your way safely through lakes of frozen ice or polished intersections. (Well, I do, anyway…)

In terms of shiftability, this hub works like a charm. I haven’t had any mis-shifts or surprise shifts. Sudden stop / starts don’t pose much of a problem because you can switch into any gear from any gear while stopped.

Fine-tuning the hub is also very simple, and you’ll have to do this eventually if only to accomodate cable stretch. There are two little white pointer lines on the hub. Shifting into fourth gear and turning the barrel adjuster to align the two lines is all it takes — much easier that fiddling with the tuning screws on a derailleur.

Hold Steady hub

Tuning the gears takes seconds using the alignment markers.

Since I started writing this review, I decided to switch the front 45T chainring for a smaller one — a 39T. It’s made a noticeable difference, and in a good way. I did have to lose a link or two off the chain to accomodate the smaller chainring; there’s not quite enough room on the rear dropouts to just slide the rear wheel back. I also had to lose the inner plastic chainring guard which hasn’t caused any problems.

Hold Steady 39T chainring

Switching to a smaller 39 tooth chainring brings the gearing down

Hold Steady 45T chainring

The old 45 tooth chainring with plastic chainring guard

Tool-wise, the only thing I added to my kit was a 15mm wrench for the rear wheel. Because it’s a horizontal dropout for the rear wheel to keep the chain tension tight, a quick release isn’t installed.

I added a rear rack to the bike for those days when the backpack just won’t fit everything (darn work stuff…) and any rear-disc-compatible rack should work. A standard rack won’t fit, because of the width of the rear wheel’s hub.

Hold Steady with rack

Topeak Explorer Tubular rack with disc mounts

While the bike certainly doesn’t fit in the “touring bike” category, all the mounting brazeons are great. The bike has brazeons for a rear rack and mounting points for fenders. The three water bottle cage mounts come in very handy if you’re riding with a little person; after all, they don’t like carrying their own water if dad can carry it for them… 🙂

I’ve seen several Hold Steady bikes out and about on my rides to work, including at least two others that park at the bike racks at work. For a good functional, easily maintainable and affordable commuting bike, the MEC Hold Steady seems to be a solid pick.

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11 Responses to MEC Hold Steady review

  1. Steve September 9, 2010 at 9:25 am #

    Now that the days are getting darker, it’s time to start putting the lights on and…. I’ve found a problem. The HoldSteady’s Easton handlebars have a pretty big flare to them. There are only a short few inches at the ends of the handlebars (before the grips) to install anything. The handlebars get significantly thicker closer to the center which means nothing can be attached there using standard light clamps.

  2. Mau Trigos October 8, 2010 at 10:59 am #

    Hi there,

    I’m interested in this bike. Just a quick question, do you know if those mounting points for fenders that you mention are compatible with full fenders?

    Thanks in advance,


  3. elliottzone October 8, 2010 at 11:44 am #

    Yes, for sure — I’ve installed these ones from MEC.

    Make sure if you’re buying new ones they’re compatible with disc brakes, though. My fenders came with a spacer (about 1″) that I used to get thm to fit easily. You might be able to mount them without the spacer with a bit of fiddling around though. I’ve also seen one parked at work that has the wider (mountain bike sized) fenders installed.

  4. dave May 19, 2011 at 10:30 pm #

    I’m also looking at this bike as my year round commuter, how does the bike ride? does the internal hubs weight make the bike seem sluggish ?

  5. elliottzone May 21, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    It’s not a bad ride at all. I have a Kona Dew Plus that I got initially for a commuter but the length of the bike is too short. The Hold Steady is a good comfortable ride though. The rear internal hub doesn’t make it feel sluggish at all. It doesn’t have any impact on the smoothness of the ride. The switching between gears is incredibly fast and smooth, and being able to gear up or down while you’re stopped at the lights is great. Weight-wise, the hub is heavier than a rear derailleur but you really don’t notice it when riding, and the minimal extra weight is definitely worth the smoothness, reliability and decreased maintenance.

    You could also take a look at the MEC Chance bike — it’s their new next-step-up commuter bike. It’s very close to the Hold Steady but has an 11 speed rear internal hub instead of the 8 speed. I have’t looked at gear ratios but imagine there will be less of a huge jump between gears when you get into the higher gears.

  6. Sam August 9, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    Hi, thanks for the great review of this bike, I’ve been eying it pretty closely lately. I have a question for you regarding its ‘toughness’. I currently have a 1994 Rocky Mountain Equipe (the one with the rad dayglow green and yellow paint scheme) that I raced in high school but have recently tricked out for a city bike/commuter. As a mountain bike, especially one that I trust, I feel totally comfortable riding it down a small flight of stairs – not many, like 3 or 4, and hopping up curbs, nothing too crazy, just downtown commuting and general blasting around. I’ve come to the sad realization that the Equipe’s 18″ frame is simply too small for me and I need to switch to something that’s better suited to me – in your opinion can the Hold Steady ‘hold steady’ to this type of treatment on a regular basis?


  7. elliottzone August 10, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

    I don’t know how well the rims would hold up to a lot of stairs, but so far I’ve had no issues with toughness. We have lots of potholes on our roads, with new ones appearing yearly (and taking you by surprise) and it’s held up to hitting quite a few of those. I haven’t had to do any wheel truing yet, and I also often carry weight on the rear rack and my curb hops aren’t always that great with weight on the back. 🙂

    That’s messed up some of my other bike wheels but not this one (or my Cannonade mtn bike.) It also held up well through last winter. Really, the only thing I’ve had to “repair” is replacing the brake pads a couple of times. The one added bonus you’d have with any bike from MEC is their excellent warrantee program.

  8. Robin G. October 17, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    (1) Which studded tire did you install? My friend just bought a Hold Steady with the cascadia commuter fenders and the MEC staff felt their 700×38 studded tire would not fit.

    (2) The handlebars get significantly thicker closer to the center which means nothing can be attached there using standard light clamps I discovered the mounting clamp for the Portland Design Works Cosmic Dreadnought can be unscrewed and adjusted for the thicker diameter.

  9. elliottzone October 17, 2011 at 7:05 pm #

    I use the Schwalbe Winter Marathon studded tires and they’re a 35 width. There’s no problem with clearance.

    I’ll check out the Dreadnought — I do have to replace my Blaze light after it blew apart on me a couple of days ago so that might be a good replacement.

  10. Martin December 10, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    I am looking for this bike as a winter commuter. How is the shifting / braking when it is very cold outside (-10) ?

  11. elliottzone December 16, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    It’s fine – I use mine year-round. Shifting is no less responsive than in the summer unless it gets reeeeeeally cold. In -25C temperatures the shifting is a little sluggish, but it still shifts; there’s no derailleur skip where you end up inbetween gears or suddenly falling back to the one you were in before you shifted.

    Brakes are fine, too. They use mineral oil for their fluid, so as long as you use a mineral oil without a high water content you shouldn’t have any issues.

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