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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 02-06-04, 10:01 AM   #1
familyman
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Building a NYC bike.

My sister is going to the French Culinary Institute in June (I think she starts in June) and I volunteered to build her a bike so that she doesn't have to take her $800 mountain bike to get trashed smashed and stolen. So far I've sourced a lovely little (45 cm seat tube, 50 cm top tube) Bianchi road bike frame from our lovely friend ebay. Should fit her great, she's only 4-11. It's going to be a SS, and have a flat bar, that's about all that's been decided.
Now, what do I have to really think about when putting together a bike for urban riding. She's all of 90 lbs and not an agressive rider, but I really want to make the bike as maintence free as possible. I also want to make the bike as light as I can (she's going to have to carry it up stairs) but not spend too much on it. I'm planning to build the wheels myself after I build a few for me to get the hang of it. Puncture resistance is a huge concern, I'm thinking Armadillos and maybe tire liners on top of that. Flats are bad.
Anybody got any suggestions? Thoughts about riding in NYC?
If you see a short little white girl in chefs whites riding a red Bianchi next summer, say hi.
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Old 02-06-04, 10:03 AM   #2
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My sister is going to the French Culinary Institute in June (I think she starts in June) and I volunteered to build her a bike so that she doesn't have to take her $800 mountain bike to get trashed smashed and stolen. So far I've sourced a lovely little (45 cm seat tube, 50 cm top tube) Bianchi road bike frame from our lovely friend ebay. Should fit her great, she's only 4-11. It's going to be a SS, and have a flat bar, that's about all that's been decided.
Now, what do I have to really think about when putting together a bike for urban riding. She's all of 90 lbs and not an agressive rider, but I really want to make the bike as maintence free as possible. I also want to make the bike as light as I can (she's going to have to carry it up stairs) but not spend too much on it. I'm planning to build the wheels myself after I build a few for me to get the hang of it. Puncture resistance is a huge concern, I'm thinking Armadillos and maybe tire liners on top of that. Flats are bad.
Anybody got any suggestions? Thoughts about riding in NYC?
If you see a short little white girl in chefs whites riding a red Bianchi next summer, say hi.
Has she ever ridden in a city before?
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Old 02-06-04, 10:05 AM   #3
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She commutes on her MTN bike when the weather is good in East Lansing Michigan. But in a real city? No. She's never really lived in one to have to opportunity too. Everybody has to learn sometime right?
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Old 02-06-04, 10:18 AM   #4
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It will be quite an experience. As far as tires go i would go with something strong. You need to be very aware and attentive in NYC. I have seen people open car doors and literally get them smashed off. ( last month on broadway & 55th ish). I think it is fun as hell, but i am not wound that tight to begin with. Just make sure that if she will be locking the bike up everything is bolted down. The less quick releases the better.
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Old 02-06-04, 10:19 AM   #5
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i stayed in E.Lansing last year for a few days. Right my Mich state. Interesting place. I like the Big Boy Burgers. We dont have those here.
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Old 02-06-04, 10:56 AM   #6
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go with either fixed gear or single speed, though i'd recommend the fixie (no need for a rear brake, then, to get in the way of an out of true wheel --happens a lot on these streets). just get her used to riding one before she moves.

yes on the armadillos, but lose the toughies. no need to weigh down the wheels that much.

try to get her to wear a helmet. they suck, but they work. it's not a matter of "if" but "when."

if you opt for a flat bar (not recommended), chop it down to avoid those annoying side mirrors that cars sport. also, use bar ends, but rotate them to lateral to protect her fingers.

i recommend getting Kryptonite locking skewers for the wheels. they run around $55. take an old chain and run it through the saddle bars and around one of the seat stays. this will keep the saddle as safe as possible.

like the other post said --NO QUICK RELEASES. even if you don't take the advice above about the skewers, don't have any quick releases anywhere.

also, get a New York Chain from the Krypt. even when the bike is indoors, she should lock it to something fixed to the building. never lock up outdoor overnight. things will be missing in the morning.

oh yeah, she should attend the critical mass at union square. last friday of every month. what a party.
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Old 02-06-04, 02:06 PM   #7
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She needs truly bulletproof wheels. I'm surprised by new ruts and potholes continually. I use Performance kevlar-belted tires, cheap at $10, and have only had one flat in the last nine months or so... thesecheap heavy tires seem harder to puncture than a lot of pricier ones... but I often wish I had sturdier wheels.

Despite the previous poster's advice, I'd DEFINITELY put at least a front brake on even if you go fixie - cars are too unpredictable not to be able to stop superfast when necessary, even at speed. That said, I'm not much of a fixie rider, and I know that real experts can stop more quickly than I can.

Use vinyl or electrical tape to black out brands / logos wherever possible.

If you take Msngr's excellent advice about locking the saddle down with an old piece of bike chain, I'd cover the chain in an old bit of innertube, too. This will not only protect the seat stays, but you can also seal the tube closed with vulcanizing fluid from a patch kit - now whoever wants to steal the seat needs a knife as well as a chainbreaker.

When locking up, make sure the chain / U-lock goes around the tire inside the rear triangle and then around a stationary object. The front wheel can be protected with an additional loop of chain or a Krypto cable or whatever. A LOT of riders here lock just the frame or just one of the wheels, and come back to find that they only OWN a frame or one wheel, based on the number of random parts I see chained up on my daily commute!

And have a look at transalt.org - an excellent source on info on riders' rights and responsibilities in the city!

And wish her good luck! Riding in NYC can be a real blast, though the learning curve is sometimes a little steep and brutal if you're not used to traffic

-chris
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Old 02-06-04, 02:12 PM   #8
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I would not suggest a fixed gear for her bike for her first bike in NYC. single speed is a good idea. And Bolt eevrything down.
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Old 02-06-04, 02:42 PM   #9
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beyond the excellent advice above, i'd ask your sister to spend a few days prior to classes starting to scope out the sidestreets for commuting to/from her apartment. FCI is on broadway, 2 blocks off of canal. those two streets are some of the worst for traffic, on or off bike. my commute route avoids all main avenues, and while being a bit longer in raw mileage, it's faster due to being able to go at my pace, not rush-hour traffic's.

also ask her to find out if FCI has a storage space or indoor lockup available for her bike. just being outside, on a busy street, a bike can get kicked, bumped by delivery trucks, or just plain abused by a frustrated pedestrian.

the last bit of advice i'd give her is to pick up a free NYC bicycle map. it'll be available from any bike store in the city, and it will map out the most bike-friendly routes to take, all over the city including the boroughs. nyc is pretty spectacular to ride in, especially in the spring. it'd be a shame to miss it due to simple ignorance =). it also sports the locations of all the bike shops in the city, so if she does have a breakdown problem that she can't handle right then and there, she'll know where the closest shop will be - that map has saved me a few LONG walks due to forgetting something as simple as my chainbreaker.
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Old 02-06-04, 03:32 PM   #10
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Thanks for all the advice. I didn't think about locking down the seat with a chain. I'll definately do that. The bike is going to be a SS with both brakes. I was going to collect a bike map and assorted recommended paperwork later this spring but thanks for reminding me. I'm not sure if she's going to commute on the bike initially or just use it for errands but I'll remind her to scout out routes before she needs to make it to class during the week on them. I was also going to include a heafty locking system and full instructions on how to use it since I'm paying for the bike.
About wheels, how hefty is hefty? 36 spoke 3 cross front and rear be about right or overkill? I haven't decided on hubs yet, I'm leaning toward something cheap and not flashy. Any suggestions (130 rear spacing)
Thanks for all the great advice. I'm going to visit her in the fall and I may plan my trip around the last friday of the month. Could be a good time.
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Old 02-06-04, 03:53 PM   #11
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36 spoke 3 cross front and rear be about right or overkill? I haven't decided on hubs yet, I'm leaning toward something cheap and not flashy.
Yep, that's about right! Build 'em like she'd be doing loaded touring

-chris
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Old 02-07-04, 10:07 PM   #12
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If your sister gets scared of the traffic when she first starts out(I know I first got scared), have her ride the Hudson River Parkway bikepath on the west side of New York to get to places(It runs from about 68th Street all the way down to Battery Park). I don't know exactly where the French Culinary Institute is, but I have a good feeling that it's somewhere midtown or lower Manhattan.

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Old 02-07-04, 10:44 PM   #13
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For the wheels, I would use 36 hole three cross 14/15g spokes(They deflect better than straight 14g), brass nipples, Mavic cxp 33 rims(Ride rough but very strong, don't forget to take the labels off the rims) and inexpensive flipflop hubs, like Suzue. With a freewheel she is unlikely to strip it out. 1/8th chain, acs claws freewheel.

Try and get double pivot brakes, they are a little more powerful.

I would be inclined to flat black the frame(And everything else) so it will draw less attention
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Old 02-07-04, 11:03 PM   #14
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Get some bright blinkers front and rear if she's going to be going home at night.
The place is near chinatown I think. That place is traffic city. Some side streets are empty but they're relatively narrow, tell her not to be afraid to take the lane if necessary, watch out for car doors, especially during busy hours.
And watch out for cab drivers, I was hit by one recently. Definitely get a helmet, saved my life more than once.
Also, try to secure as many parts as possible and make the bike look as old as possible. Chinatown is not the safest place in the world for a bike, especially after dark. See if she can take it inside the institute or otherwise, get her to buy a good kryptonite chain or u-lock and leave it in a secure location on the spot so she doesn't have to haul it home everyday.
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Old 02-08-04, 02:15 AM   #15
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I know you seem to already have your mind made up about singlespeed, but are you familiar with coaster brakes? It's real simple not having any cables...
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Old 02-08-04, 06:37 AM   #16
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I LOVE coaster brakes. She wants a free wheel though. It was the first conversation we had about the bike.
Rev Chuck, thanks a lot for the wheel advice, you always contribute such good info.
Keep it coming guys, this bike is starting to take shape in my mind.
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Old 02-08-04, 11:48 PM   #17
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have you considered attaching a flamethrower to your sisterís bike? every nyc bike should be equipped with flame throwers to fend off crazy cabbies
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Old 02-11-04, 07:28 AM   #18
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Haha definitely get one for cabbies.

I've been thinking of hanging a bright red and blue reflector off the back. Makes me look like a cop at a quick glance, they're passive so I think the colors might be legal as long as they're not flashers.

Crazy cabbies, watch out for buses and trucks, they can't see you in their huge blind spots.

Watch out for opening doors on the right from parked cars AND on the left from cabs letting passengers off.

Make liberal use of the middle finger
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Old 02-12-04, 02:58 PM   #19
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lights are key. get the ones with quick release brackets so she can take them off when she locks up.

strip down the frame and leave it bare (if it's not steel) or krylon it flat black or something if it's steel. just make it look boring. that's easier than wrapping the frame in inner tubes, which will eventually come off, and is also easier to clean.

i'd definitely go with free as opposed to fixed (esp for a first time city rider)

you might consider a QR for the front wheel so she can remove it and lock it to the rear or take it with her, but she's gotta be vigilant about it.

maybe a rack for the rear to carry books/supplies.

as for the wheels, you're overdoing it for a 90lb girl who is not going to be riding agressively! i weigh 170 and beat the living hell out of my 32 spoke surley/ma3 wheels and they're doing just fine. i true them now and then, sure, but i also skid left and right and ride over some pretty horrible terrain down in dumbo (where cobblestone streets abound....)

yes, there are pot holes, but you can steer around them pretty easily at slower speeds. the roads, esp in manhattan, aren't *that bad*. some of you sound like riding in manhattan involves climbing mountains of smashed glass and nails.

the chain on the saddle is essential, and two brake cables coming from the bars are a good way to help prevent stem/bar theft (i've had several friends have their stems and bars stolen - pretty easy to do by losening one bolt in most cases, esp when it's a track bike with no levers).

use flat (and relatively narrow) bars for sure. a novice cyclist won't use drops or bar ends.

use loctite on everything possible.

armadillo tires are in order.

make sure she has a pump and knows how to change tubes and inflate tires.

there's a bike shop on lafayette st, just a few blocks from her school, called bicycle habitat. they are just awesome and friendly people and deal a lot with fixies and city bikes and will totall help her out if she needs it.
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