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  1. #1
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    Single speed advice requested

    Son says, Dad we need to get into some single speed bikes. So here are some questions.

    My 1983 Centurion has gotten little love lately(riding time) and it has what I will call semi-horizontal rear drop outs. Can this serve as a chain tension device? I hope I saved the tension screws. The bike is currently an all around rail to trailer with Sora triple.

    The other issue is the frame has been spread to 130 rear. So what wheel/hub combo will work with this? Also any advice on gearing would be helpful. It is hilly here in W Pa. Also currently has a square taper BB so a crank recommendation is in order.

    I did spend some time on the single speed/fixie forum but did not find the answers I was looking for without the attitude.

    Thanks and good riding.

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    Anyone?

  3. #3
    Senior Member Allegheny Jet's Avatar
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    Oilman,

    I can't help very much with your bike but can tell about mine. I pulled a 1980's Raleigh out of a dumpster and made it my SS a couple years ago. It has a square BB that I kept on. I took the small chain ring off and use the original 52. The bike's chain rings are different from todays. The chain rings were attached to an aluminum plate, the smaller was bolted on and the larger ring is riveted on. The plate is slightly larger than the big ring and covers it from the outside.

    The "goods" in the back were bolted in an angled slot. The slot allows for some flexibility to tighten up the chain. I purchased a 19 tooth gear that has a spacer and rachette. It is my guess the spread was 126mm. I can't say for sure, but, if I remember correctly the rachette can be turned around to make it a fixie. I also used the 27" wheels but bought tires, brakes and levers from Nasbar. A dremmel tool and buffing wheel really perked the old aluminum up.

    The 52/19 gearing works OK for me in Ohio. I can tool along at 100 RPM's with a speed around 22mph on the flats. I can also ride the bike over rollers and longer hills but nothing very long with more than 4% grades. This past Labor Day I rode the SS with a group doing a century, near my home, and rode the first 52 miles with my buddies, then 33 miles more to get home. I had to leave early for a picnic or I would have completed the whole ride. When we stopped at 52 miles for lunch our average speed was 20.3mph at that point. I found it more difficult staying with the group going down hills as the cadence needed to be 120+ to stay in the group"s draft.

    As for your gearing choice, what speed/ cadence are you comfortable at? You can always take those #'s and choose a gearing combination using Sheldon Brown's gear calculations.

    I'll attempt to post a picture of my bike this evening when I have "technical assistance" near by.

    Oilman, You mention hills, I'm from W PA and still visit our family cabin near Emlenton, where are you located?

  4. #4
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Remember that you are in Fred Central here. The fixie guys probably know what they are doing. I would suggest a good LBS. Here are my 2 cents from the track racing world.

    1. New Single Speed Crank Set and chain line is important and IMHO, reliability is key.
    2. New rear wheel and hub. I suggest a hub that can be changed from fixed to free wheel. I think that exists.
    3. Gearing - At the track, we are anything but fixed. We are fixed while riding but in the infield riders are always changing their gears. You may end up getting a couple of chain rings and rear gears. A'Jet suggestion seemed reasonable.

  5. #5
    Dharma Dog lhbernhardt's Avatar
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    I've been a trackie most of my life, and I've ridden fixed gears on the road since the early 70's (starting as winter training, but now the fixie is all I ride these days). Some things I think might be helpful to know:

    - it sounds like the bike in question has horizontal dropouts. You do not need the threaded adjusters; they just reduce the range of chain adjustment. You should remove them.

    - 130 spacing is not a problem. You can easily bend the dropouts to fit an older 126mm hub that is threaded for a freewheel.

    - to get a decent chainline, you don't need to buy track cranks. A double chainring is just fine. Just use the inside chainring; it will give you a better chainline to a track cog threaded onto the 126 hub, but it will probably need a spacer. A good spacer is one that comes off a cassette. It's thick enough to move the cog out for a better chainline.

    - the one problem with the old 126mm threaded hubs is that the axle is too long for its diameter. After a while, the axle will break, trust me. (This is why they invented cassettes when axle length hit 126mm.) The best solution is to go to a 120mm axle (or a real track hub), but now you'll have more difficulty bending the dropouts to fit the shorrter over-locknut dimension. The next best thing to do is to respace the 126 axle so that you have identical spacers on each side. However, this will also mean you will need to re-dish the wheel.

    - you do not need a lockring. Lockrings are only useful for young and suicidal dolts (with attitude) who ride fixies without brakes. They stop by hopping the back wheel. This tears hell out of the rear tire, and it requires the use of a lock ring. In my 35+ years of track ridng and racing, I have never used a lockring, and I have never had a cog come unthreaded on the track, because my first track coach (a former pro 6-day rider) taught us to never, ever backpedal a track bike. However, be sure to tighten the cog with a chain whip or cog tool. You do not have enough leg strength to tighten a cog while riding.

    - this means that your road fixed gear will have brakes front and rear. (Have you ever considered that a brake is more powerful than leg strength and can reduce elapsed time more effectively? Time your acceleration from zero to 40 kmh or 25 mph. Then time your deceleration from 40 kmh to zero. Which is faster?)

    - use a 1/8" chain. It's designed to run straight (as opposed to a 3/32" chain, which is designed to flex sideways in order to facilitate shifting). You do not want the chain on a fixie or SS to shift.

    - when you set up the chain, the rear axle should be about mid-dropout, erring towards the front. As the chain wears, you will be moving the axle further and further back in the dropout. (If it ever gets to the back of the droput, you are long overdue for a new chain.)

    - the best chain tension on a track bike is as loose as you can get it without it falling off. You should not be able to derail the chain with a peanut butter wrench (the old Campag 15mm spanner that they don't sell any more). The looser the chain, the less friction. On a street fixie, though, you need it a bit tighter than that to allow for some chain "stretch," since you're not likely to be adjusting the chain every day. Whatever you do, don't get the chain too tight. It is too tight when you hear popping noises as you ride. The popping is your rear hub and bb bearings being crushed... Always allow a bit of slack in the chain.

    This should be enough to get you started. I'm sure I've forgotten some stuff, but I'm sure you'll figure it all out as you go along. Good luck.

    L.
    Last edited by lhbernhardt; 09-27-08 at 12:18 AM.

  6. #6
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oilman_15106 View Post
    Son says, Dad we need to get into some single speed bikes. So here are some questions.

    My 1983 Centurion has gotten little love lately(riding time) and it has what I will call semi-horizontal rear drop outs. Can this serve as a chain tension device? I hope I saved the tension screws. The bike is currently an all around rail to trailer with Sora triple.

    The other issue is the frame has been spread to 130 rear. So what wheel/hub combo will work with this? Also any advice on gearing would be helpful. It is hilly here in W Pa. Also currently has a square taper BB so a crank recommendation is in order.

    I did spend some time on the single speed/fixie forum but did not find the answers I was looking for without the attitude.

    Thanks and good riding.
    The existing Sora triple can be converted to a single (and can always be converted back to a triple) and if the bike is running a cassette hub an ss kit can be purchased so that you can run a single cog on the cassette...you will need short stack bolts or spacing washers to get that single chain ring set right.

    On a threaded hub there is more work as the rear wheel would need to be re-spaced and re-dished and then I would just suggest that you get single sided track hub / wheel.

    You will be able to move that single cog on a cassette to get the best possible chain line and with those shorter horizontal dropouts getting your chain tensioned might be a little tricky since you have less room to adjust the wheel.

    You may need to remove those wheel setting screws to give yourself as much space as possible to adjust that wheel.

    If you know someone that has done this it would be great if they could help you as the first time is always the hardest... after a few hundred (I do this for a living) they get pretty easy.

    One would think that for this you would want to check into the ss/fg forum but I do understand that people do have reservations about that... they're really quite a good bunch and are really knowledgeable and if they give you grief I'll sic Tom on them.


  7. #7
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    "- you do not need a lockring. Lockrings are only useful for young and suicidal dolts (with attitude) who ride fixies without brakes. They stop by hopping the back wheel. This tears hell out of the rear tire, and it requires the use of a lock ring. In my 35+ years of track ridng and racing, I have never used a lockring, and I have never had a cog come unthreaded on the track, because my first track coach (a former pro 6-day rider) taught us to never, ever backpedal a track bike. However, be sure to tighten the cog with a chain whip or cog tool. You do not have enough leg strength to tighten a cog while riding."

    With no disrespect... some of this is bad advice.

    And I am neither young, suicidal, or a dolt... but I log a lot of miles on my fixed gear bikes and build a lot of them for other folks.

    When you ride a fixed gear in an urban environment you may put some resistance on the pedals to control your speed, (even when you have a brake) and without a lock ring you could spin the cog off the hub... and this would be a bad thing.

    You can get fixed gear parts in 3/32 or 1/8 specifications and either is fine if the set up is correct... my new work bike is spec'd with 3/32 parts as is my fixed folder.

  8. #8
    Dharma Dog lhbernhardt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post

    With no disrespect... some of this is bad advice.
    Bad or different?

    I have encountered two major areas of controversy in the fixed gear world:

    1. Front brake only, or brakes front and rear?

    2. Use a lock ring or not?

    I will address the second question here, since it's interpreted as bad advice. On the contrary, I think that using a lock ring is inadvisable because it actually increases potential harm. Here's how:

    As the chain "stretches," it will want to jump off the chainring. A chain is more likely to come off the chainring than the cog, probably because the teeth are more rounded and shallow (track cogs have pointed teeth, giving a higher profile. Chainrings have the tips ground down to facilitate shifting).

    When the chain comes off the ring, it will usually jam itself around the bottom bracket and get sucked between the tire and chainstay. This stops the chain.

    If the cog is attached without a lockring, it will merely unthread and you will coast to a stop (although the chain may cause some tire damage rubbing against the sidewall).

    If the cog is attached with a lockring, the rear wheel will come to a sudden stop. This will wear a big hole in the tire. It will also cause the back end of the bike to break, causing fishtailing and likely loss of control, especially at higher speeds and on descents (where the chain is more likelky to come off in the first place).

    For that reason, I think lockrings are not a good idea.

    In an urban setting, you may apply a bit of back pressure to the pedal, but a cog tightened with a tool will not come off under this minimal amount of pressure. The only time a cog may unthread is on a fast descent where you're not spinning fast enough, or your legs are not relaxed and floating enough. I've hit speeds of at least 55 kmh on descents (in 42x16 - 70") without unthreading the cog.

    L.

  9. #9
    train safe buelito's Avatar
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    wow- controversy regarding fixies in the 50+ forum! Never would have expected it. I think that the OP was talking about a single speed--not necessarily fixed. Given that he asked about chain tensioners etc.

    The frame you have will work, and all (not most) of the advice given above is sound--even the parts about the lock ring--both for and against. You can get a single speed conversion kit from Bike Nashbar for about $20-- It includees a chain tensioneer, some spacers and some cogs. All you need to do is choose the correct cog, use your existing wheel and you can convert your bike to a single speed. Note, that if you want to convert to a fixie, that's another story. You can't use the chain tensioner, and it is another 'animal'.

    Having said all that, I would look into the fixed option, as it gives you all the benefits of a single speed bike and none of the negatives. Sounds like a sentence that doesn't make sense, but your pedaling cadence and hill climbing will improve dramatically with a fixed gear--the only draw back is going downhill is tough--especially long steep downhills-- but that's why you have brakes

    for the record, I ride with a lock ring and with two brakes.

    train safe-
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  10. #10
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    I think one's set up really depends on how they ride... and I had no intent to cause any controversy.

    I ride fixed a lot and on most of these bikes I run only one brake so do use my legs to slow me down and even do the occasional skip stop so do put some good stress on the rear hub / cog and like the thought that the lock ring is there as a backup if that cog decides to break loose / slip.

    I ride in the winter and could almost take the front brake off since I use it so little when there's snow and ice.

    Other than that...the ss conversion on the Centurion should be pretty easy and I would also suggest that if a new rear wheel is needed that a flip flop with a fixed cog would be something to try although there is a good chance the ss might never get used.

    The best trick for not having your chain come off is to ensure it is tensioned correctly, aligned properly, and that you do not run it when it is worn.

  11. #11
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    Give your knees a serious evaluation, first. If you're like a lot of us older guys, they aren't what they used to be. A fixie can really aggravate deteriorating knees. Use discretion, they may be best left to the younger crowd. bk

  12. #12
    train safe buelito's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bkaapcke View Post
    A fixie can really aggravate deteriorating knees. Use discretion, they may be best left to the younger crowd. bk
    I disagree completely with this comment UNLESS you use your legs to brake. Properly set up, a fixie should cause no more stress on your knees than regular riding. Especially on reasonably flat terrain. Use your brakes-- remember that stopping a fixe with no brakes does three things-- it wears out tires quickly, it wears out chains quickly and it wears out knees quickly... or at least those young guys out there will probably be complaining of knee problems in 15-20 years. Use your brakes and you will save your knees, your tires and your chain

    train safe-
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  13. #13
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by buelito View Post
    wow- controversy regarding fixies in the 50+ forum! Never would have expected it. I think that the OP was talking about a single speed--not necessarily fixed. Given that he asked about chain tensioners etc.
    ...
    Having said all that, I would look into the fixed option, as it gives you all the benefits of a single speed bike and none of the negatives. ...
    Help me here. I see absolutely no benefit whatsoever to a single-speed freewheeling transmission -- it's more like the worst of both worlds.
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  14. #14
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    I ride a single-speed converted from an old ten-speed and wanted to do the conversion as inexpensively as possible, yet still be safe.

    I used the original freewheel, stripping off all the cogs then replacing the one I wanted to use. The chainline from that cog to the inner chainring is perfectly straight. No need for redishing or a new hub, since the freewheel stays in place. Tension was adjusted by placement in the dropout.

    Cheap, easy, and a good way to find out if you like riding ss.

    Pre-chain:

  15. #15
    Senior Member MrCjolsen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oilman_15106 View Post
    Son says, Dad we need to get into some single speed bikes. So here are some questions.

    My 1983 Centurion has gotten little love lately(riding time) and it has what I will call semi-horizontal rear drop outs. Can this serve as a chain tension device? I hope I saved the tension screws.
    Yes. You do not need the tension screws.

    Quote Originally Posted by oilman_15106 View Post
    The other issue is the frame has been spread to 130 rear. So what wheel/hub combo will work with this?
    Any track wheel should work. If the frame is steel you can cold set it a few millimeters or just put a few millimeters of spacers on the axel. As long as there are enough threads on the axel bolt (most fixed gear bikes use nutted axels)

    Quote Originally Posted by oilman_15106 View Post
    Also any advice on gearing would be helpful. It is hilly here in W Pa. Also currently has a square taper BB so a crank recommendation is in order.
    You can keep the same cranks if the chainline is straight.)

    Quote Originally Posted by oilman_15106 View Post
    I did spend some time on the single speed/fixie forum but did not find the answers I was looking for without the attitude.
    They often compete over who can be the biggest smartass there. I have to admit I often particpate myself.

  16. #16
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E View Post
    Help me here. I see absolutely no benefit whatsoever to a single-speed freewheeling transmission -- it's more like the worst of both worlds.
    For some people, a single speed bike can do everything a bike needs to do.

    There is a certain elegance and simplicity in riding an ss or fg bike and it is also quite freeing to not have to concern oneself with the thought of shifting gears.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
    For some people, a single speed bike can do everything a bike needs to do.

    There is a certain elegance and simplicity in riding an ss or fg bike and it is also quite freeing to not have to concern oneself with the thought of shifting gears.
    Exactly. I don't ride fixed because I prefer to coast sometimes, and prefer using brakes to stop. I like ss because it's simple and easy to maintain, and does a good job conditioning.

    I converted my old bike because the frame wasn't that great, so it wasn't worth spending the money to bring it back to working multi-geared condition. For very little money I ended up with a bike that does everything it needs to do.

    I'm now working on rehabbing a vintage mtb for days when gears are just the thing The frame's better quality, so I don't mind spending a little more to improve it.

  18. #18
    www.ocrebels.com Rick@OCRR's Avatar
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    I started by converting my old (unused at the time) bike from 14 speed to single speed (with two brakes). I liked it so much (esp. for recovery rides) that I converted it to a fixed gear.

    I like that even better! For lots of climbs, and centuries and double centuries I still use multi-speed bikes. For fun evening rides, or recovery, the fixed gear bike is great and by far my first choice.

    Re: The discussion above, I use a lock ring and two brakes on the fixed gear bike.

    Rick / OCRR

  19. #19
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    Lured on by the SS and Fixie pages on Sheldon's site some 10 years back and armed with a $14 CrMo frame that didn't have a derraileur hanger I went single speed. Yes there is a magic to it but it's more than that. The very first day I rode that bike I was surprised at just how much more efficient it was then the geared bike with the same gearing that I tested for a week before to pick the gear ratio. There's an amazing amount of energy loss through a typical derraileur. Not a lot I'll grant you. But enough to really notice when you ride one and then the other. So it's actually more than just the simplicity factor.

    Anyhow back to your issue. If your dropouts are like the middle ones on this page...

    http://www.machinehead-software.co.u..._dropouts.html

    then you're all set for single speeding. What you'll want to do is for you and your son to haunt the local bikeshops for scrap cassettes that you can take apart to remove the spacers between the cogs. Then buy an old Uniglide cassette or two. Remove the rivets and take out the cogs you need. Set it in place on the freehub using spacers to align it with the chain ring you're using. A long yardstick or other straightedge laid along the face of the chainring will extend back and point out the right spot for the rear sprocket to sit. Use spacers accordingly and tighten it all down with a cassette nut ring. Simple and minimal parts required. You don't need a tension screw but you will want to use a good ol' Shimano quick release skewer for the extra locking power it has over the typical external cam boutique skewers. Or consider swapping out the axle for a solid one with regular axle nuts.

    I'll take a picture....
    Model airplanes are cool too!.....

  20. #20
    Senior Member Allegheny Jet's Avatar
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    I finally learned how to post a picture. as promised in an earlier post to this thread, here's my SS that was a dumpster find before I built it up. Since the image was taken I put SPD's on, lowered the stem and turned the drops level.





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    Let me start by saying that I ride fixed and haven't read all the above posts.

    I could never figure out why anyone would go to the trouble of converting a geared bike to single speed other than a little weight savings.

    Just put it in the gear combo you want and don't shift. Lock it in with the limiting screws if you want. The advantage is that if you choose a combo that ends up not being right for the way you ride you can easily change to another without buying and installing a new ring/cog and maybe having to change the chain length.

  22. #22
    Senior Member JetWave's Avatar
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    I am in the process of converting an old schwinn to SS, I am stuck at the point of how to remove the 5 speed cassette from the rear wheel, can anybody offer some help? Thanks.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by tornado View Post

    I could never figure out why anyone would go to the trouble of converting a geared bike to single speed other than a little weight savings.

    Just put it in the gear combo you want and don't shift. Lock it in with the limiting screws if you want. The advantage is that if you choose a combo that ends up not being right for the way you ride you can easily change to another without buying and installing a new ring/cog and maybe having to change the chain length.

    That was exactly my thinking for many years while riding fixed.

    What made me decide one day to convert one of my geared bikes to a dedicated single speed was when I got tired of riding my fixed gear on long distance rides with several very long descents. I wanted a bike as simple as the fixed gear, but with the ability to coast. Simple as that.
    Of course, I could have easily installed a freewheel cog on the flip side of my fixed wheel and accomplish the same thing. But I just wanted something permanent where I didn't have to flip my wheel.
    My fixed rides are equipped with just front brakes while my dedicated ss bike runs two brakes for obvious reasons.
    Last edited by roadfix; 10-02-08 at 05:13 PM.

  24. #24
    Senior Member juggleaddict's Avatar
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    agreed, i did my (first) metric century with a single speed, and it would have KILLED me if i had left it on the fixed side, fixed is fun, single speed is functional. it's freedom!!

  25. #25
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JetWave View Post
    I am in the process of converting an old schwinn to SS, I am stuck at the point of how to remove the 5 speed cassette from the rear wheel, can anybody offer some help? Thanks.
    You will need the proper freewheel tool for your bike...your lbs should be able to remove this for a very minor charge.

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