A little background information:
Many years ago, I raced BMX. After racing BMX, I picked up road biking. In the early, early 90's, I sold my cherished Bianchi Strada to take a girl to Disneyland. I was young and dumb. Anyway, last year I decided to get back into road biking and shortly thereafter, having discovered the SS&FG forum, I decided I wanted a fixed gear bike. It wasn't until a recent job switch made that desire a reality, however, and now I love riding fixed. My love for fixed comes not from the "hipster" society that has sprung up around fixed gear bicycles, but as a road cyclist and bicycle enthusiast.
Now, that said, I went about building my fixie kinda back-asswards, because I love dicking around with bikes. I found an '87 Bianchi Strada LX at a swap meet for the frame and forks, and picked up a "Dawes" Lightning SST off of eBay for the rest of the parts. The combination of the "Dawes" parts on the Bianchi frame was my first, ill-fated fixie.
On my first ride, I stripped the cheapo cog and/or hub from the "Dawes" necessitating a new set of wheels. (Actually, I only needed a new rear hub and ordered one from IRO. Like a dumbass, though, I got a 32 spoke hub and the Alex RP15 rim from the "Dawes" is a 36 spoke wheel; rather than return the hub for a 36 spoker, I just picked up a 32 spoke Mavic MA3 rim and built that up. My anal retentive nature couldn't handle the different wheels so shortly thereafter I procured a front IRO hub and another MA3, and built a matching front wheel.) On my third ride (on the new wheels) I discovered a crack in the Bianchi frame where the bottom chainstay meets the bottom bracket shell. Upon a full inspection of the frame, I found rust throughout and laid my first fixie to rest.
Luckily, I still had the "Dawes" frame so I moved all the parts over to it, replacing the ZOOM stem and Kalloy bars with a proper SR quill stem and SR randonneur bars. I also replaced the cheapo LeeChi brake lever with a Cane Creek cross lever, the 42 tooth BioPace chainring with a regular Shimano 42 tooth chainring, the horrible Velo saddle for a Bontrager Race Lux (which some of you think is equally horrible, but I really like that saddle), and added Shimano PD-540 clipless pedals so I could use my road shoes on my fixie. This "Dawes" has become my second fixie, and a picture appears below:
Yes, that IS the same garage door that every other BF member has, heh.
I have been riding the "Dawes", my second fixie, for about three weeks now, and I have done at least two greater than 25 mile rides on it. Granted, they've been fairly flat rides, but even so. Largely it exists for jaunts up and down the Santa Ana River Trail, launched from my office across the street from Angel Stadium. Although as my ride today showed me, it's great for riding with my son when he's on his roadie; on my roadie I'm really having to slow up and wait for him.
Now, about the "Dawes"; I use quotation marks around the name because I know it is not a true Dawes. It is a cheap frame with horrible welds that BikesDirect.com slapped a Dawes sticker on. But -- it rides smooth (surprisingly smooth), fits me well, and isn't so expensive that I worry about leaving it overnight at the office. For my needs, it's perfect. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'd LOVE to have a better frame. I wish the Bianchi Strada LX worked out. When this frame bites the bag -- and I'm sure it will -- I'll be justified in throwing down for a new ride. But for now, it's great.
So I guess what I'm trying to say to all the people who see the "Dawes" Lightning SST on eBay and wonder if it's a decent, inexpensive way to start riding fixed gear: after you change out the bars, stem, brake lever, brake pads, wheels, saddle, and pedals, yes, it is a decent way to start riding fixed gear (note I completely removed "inexpensive" from the list.)