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Singlespeed & Fixed Gear "I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft...As for me, give me a fixed gear!"-- Henri Desgrange (31 January 1865 - 16 August 1940)

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Old 05-07-06, 08:19 PM   #1
crummyrider
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Fixie candidates - What to look for at the garage sales?

So my wife tells me she saw several bikes at the Friday sales. I took a look on Saturday morning and found several fixie candidates in various conditions, some of which could be had for next to nothing. I have a few questions of what I should look for to find a decent frame for my first fixie conversion.

How much rust is too much?
Geometry - my roadie is a compact frame, how do older frames compare(know they're different but how much)? What to check for in the straddle test?
Anything to avoid?

Thanks for the help!
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Old 05-07-06, 08:27 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crummyrider
So my wife tells me she saw several bikes at the Friday sales. I took a look on Saturday morning and found several fixie candidates in various conditions, some of which could be had for next to nothing. I have a few questions of what I should look for to find a decent frame for my first fixie conversion.

How much rust is too much?
Geometry - my roadie is a compact frame, how do older frames compare(know they're different but how much)? What to check for in the straddle test?
Anything to avoid?

Thanks for the help!
-I would avoid anything with more then little spots of rust.
-The straddle test is only really useful in MTBs. Is is especially pointless in older road bikes because the top tube length doesn't vary like it does in modern bikes.
-The geometry of older road frames is so incredible variant that no real generalizati on is useful beyond the fact that most top tubes were horizontal.
-Avoid bike with stem shifters or suicide levers as they are indicative of POSes. Also avoid bikes without fender eyelets cause getting a racing frame kinda defeats the purpose of a conversion.
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Old 05-07-06, 09:12 PM   #3
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Take a tape measure. that will allow you to actually measure the important dimensions of the frame. If you know your size in metric, find a metric tape measure so you don't have to try and figure out conversions.
Watch out for old french frames. If you need to replace the bottom bracket, you might find slim pickings. The more parts in good shape on the bike, the easier the conversion will be. You might find a great deal on a frame and fork, but if you have to buy all the other parts, it could cost you a lot. I agree with the fender eyelets suggestion. Also, watch out for out of the ordinary things. I bought a cool looking frame only to find that it had a one of a kind seatpost.
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Old 05-07-06, 09:21 PM   #4
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Basically, the less stuff you have to update/replace the better. It's a given that you'll need to either buy or build a new rear wheel. But other parts -- stem, seatpost, bottom bracket, headset, brakes etc. will save you a lot of money if they are still servicable.

New, out of the box singlespeeds can be can be had for around $500. If you get an old bike and all that's really usable is the frame, then you spend a lot more than that on a conversion unless you have some kind of alternate source for parts or the stuff is laying around in your garage.
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Old 05-07-06, 10:32 PM   #5
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1 - horizonatal dropouts (hopefully not the cheapo stamped)
2 - three piece Al cranks with removable chainrings
3 - Aluminum wheels would be nice...
4 - headset / bottom bracket / hubs seem relatively smooth
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Old 05-07-06, 11:02 PM   #6
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what are suicide levers
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Old 05-08-06, 06:04 AM   #7
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And (I don't own any) but what's wrong with bikes that have stem shifters. I'm not arguing but actually want to know. I find it odd and uncomfortable but does it show inferiority?
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Old 05-08-06, 06:12 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by helvetica
what are suicide levers
http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gloss_e-f.html#extension

See "extension levers"
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Old 05-08-06, 06:13 AM   #9
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<i>Extension levers
In the early '70's, many people bought bicycles with drop handlebars, for reasons of fashion, even though drop bars did not suit their casual riding style. Given the frame and stem designs commonly available at the time, it was generally impossible to get drop handlebars high enough up to allow a low-intensity rider to reach the drops comfortably.

Dia Compe invented bolt-on extensions that allowed Weinmann-type brake levers to be operated from the tops and middle of the handlebars, making this type of bar bearable for casual cyclists, since they never had to use the drops. This was so popular that Weinmann traded licensing with Dia Compe, so that each could copy the other's products.

(Stem shifters were also popularized around the same time, and for the same reason.)

This system has several drawbacks:

* The extension lever partially applied the main brake lever, reducing the available lever travel. Not all brands/models suffered from this, but the most common ones did.
* The attachment hardware precluded the use of the top of the brake lever hood as a comfortable riding position.
* They encouraged the practice of riding with the hands on the top, middle section of the bar, which is a position that doesn't give very secure control, especially on bumpy surfaces, because the hands are too close together.
* The hardware that held the extension levers to the main levers was prone to fall off.

Other manufacturers produced similar systems, some of which addressed some of these difficulties.

Extenison levers are sometimes known as "safety levers." Since many people believe they actually reduce safety, the slang terms "death grips", "suicide levers" and "turkey wings" are occasionally substituted.

In the early 21st century, an greatly improved system of "interrupter brake levers " appeared, with all of the advantages and none of the drawbacks of the older extension levers. These also have the advantage of being compatible with modern "æro" brake levers which work a lot better than the older style levers that had the cables coming out of the tops.

Stem Shifter
A type of shift lever which mounts on the shaft of the handlebar stem. These were popular in the late '70's and early '80's because they permitted shifting without having to lean down to reach down-tube mounted shift levers. Stem shifters, along with brake extension levers, encouraged riding using only the top of drop handlebars. This riding style was popular at the time, because many casual cyclists bought bicycles with drop bars for reasons of fashion and style, even though drop bars were not suited to their low-intensity riding style.

Unfortunately, this riding position gives rather poor control of the bike, mainly because the hands are too close together for good steering control.

Stem shifters also present a danger in a collision. Depending on what gear you have selected, stem shifters can be like having a dull knife aimed at your groin!

If your bike has stem shifters, consider upgrading to something safer and more convenient. </i>

From Sheldon's dictionary.
Stem shifters are only pertinent in finding a conversion frame because they are indicative of a low quality bike. Suicide levers are too but they also should be replaced especially if you want to ride with drop bars.
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Old 05-08-06, 06:15 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by helvetica
what are suicide levers
Those things on '70s bikes that enalbed you to use the brakes whilsd riding on the bar tops. Contrary to what dutret said, quite a few nicer bikes had them back in the day. The same for stem shifters.

Suicide levers got their name from the fact that they did a very poor job of stopping the bike. At least I think that's why. Some might say that they were named as such because of the possiblity of going over the handlebars as a result of using them. But if that's the case, then modern in-line brake levers (which come on many cyclocross and touring bikes) should be called that as well.
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Old 05-08-06, 06:19 AM   #11
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I won

BTW, here's a pic
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Old 05-08-06, 06:20 AM   #12
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It's not always true that suicide levers = POS. I have a Falcon Windsor - a highish end 531 touring bike, which has suicide levers. I'm replacing them, but they're there, and it's a good bike.
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Old 05-08-06, 08:05 AM   #13
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Yeah I wouldn't pay too much attention to the quality of the components on the bike because you're not going to use them, and it may put you off a nice frame as over the course of 20 or so years a lot of parts tend to get swapped, so ****ty wheels, brakes, shifters, whatever might have been bolted to a very nice frame.

Instead look at the he dropouts. Cheesy stamped ones are an easy indicator of a cheesy frame, because good cast dropouts don't cost that much, no one would put them on good quality expensive tubing. Cast dropouts are usually stamperd with a manufacturer name, so for instance on a late 70s frame, Campy Suntour dropouts would tend to indicate good quality, Campy would tend to indicate great quality. Next look at the bottom bracket cheesy ones will look rather crude on the bottom, or plain at best. Decent ones would tend to look rather plain, but smooth at least. Nice ones may have cutouts, a manufacturer name, or other nice details. Also look at the brazing. a really well made frame will have seamless brazing, a decent quality might look a bit lumpy in places especially around the seat stay junction. Finally there is the lift test. If it's bogged down with crap components it may be hard to tell, but a nice old road bike with decent period components should weigh in around 25# or less, so if you have a feel for that, that can be a good indicator as well

edit: of course if there's a tubing sticker that's good as well. Some form of butted tubing is desirable. 531 was common in 70s-80s and was always good, But Colombus, Tange, and Ishiwata also made nice tubes that got put into a lot of nice bikes.

Last edited by mattface; 05-08-06 at 08:22 AM.
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Old 05-08-06, 08:29 AM   #14
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Also, forged dropouts > stamped dropouts.
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Old 05-08-06, 08:31 AM   #15
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i always try to have at least one POS bike in my stable for bike polo, foul weather, and locking up in anacostia. my current beater, a ni****ki, ironically, has suicide levers and i use them all the time. rather than ride with my hands on the flats like you're supposed to, i have them on the outside of the shoulders (just behind the brake hoods, which are squared off and not very comfortable to ride on) and that gives me plenty of steering leverage. as far as performance, i think there's probably a smaller margin of error as far as keeping your brakes adjusted, but when properly aligned they work fine.
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Old 05-08-06, 10:57 AM   #16
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totally interesting about the suicide levers. Both my roommates (and all the under 200$ classic bikes for sale I see) have them. btw one has a schwinn, the other nishiki. Oh well, they are replacable.
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Old 05-08-06, 12:47 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ready to Ruck
And (I don't own any) but what's wrong with bikes that have stem shifters. I'm not arguing but actually want to know. I find it odd and uncomfortable but does it show inferiority?
Stem shifters were generally put on lower-end bikes - if you take two bikes from the same product range and year, one with DT or bar-end shifters, and the other with stem shifters, you'll usually have a lower-grade of tubing and components on the stem-shifter equipped bike. For instance - straight gauge tubing vs. butted, and hi-tensile steel stays v. chromoly. That sort of thing.

Of course, if the tubing sticker is still intact, that will tell you a lot about the frame. As pointed out above, stem shifters can sometimes be found on frames with higher-end tubing.
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Old 05-08-06, 01:02 PM   #18
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okay that might be true. But components can always be replaced without much hassle (unless it's not old and french). And yeah the tubing on my roommates' bikes are straight vanilla Reynolds, which is good enough for me.
And we're talking about conversions here, I've seen Schwinn track bikes with a terribly low BB that would not work on the street at all.
Point is, I wouldn't let something like stem shifters keep me from consideration.
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Old 05-08-06, 01:31 PM   #19
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Yup. I ride a Nishiki conversion with straight-gauge 4130 chromoly. Sure, it could be lighter, but it's indestructable and I love it.
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Old 05-08-06, 01:41 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ready to Ruck
okay that might be true. But components can always be replaced without much hassle (unless it's not old and french).

Point is, I wouldn't let something like stem shifters keep me from consideration.
you're right, and that's cool, but part of the point of the posters before you was ther certain components can be indicators of lower quality frames.

it's not a direct correlation, but it's something to be aware of.
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