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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 01-01-09, 08:41 AM   #1
europa
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Of cranksets, bottom brackets and gearing

Yes yes, do a search. Been there, done that, got confused, worked out the answers and now ... dammit, I'm still dithering (it's called 'old cyclists's syndrome').

My old Europa still wears her original, 80's vintage, Ofmega bottom bracket and crankset. She's due for a new chainring and chain, having chopped the last chain out in 600km , and seeing I'm slowly doing her up, now's the time to give her a new drive train - bb, crankset, decent chain, cog.

I currently run 42x16 which equates to 70 gear inches which suits me nicely thank you very much ... except I can't climb the monster hill I face on the way home from work. Basically, I ride her on the flats and in rolling country and, being an aging coward, take the geared bike if tackling 'the hill'.

I'm 52, I ride fixed because I like it, not because it fits in with some fashion mindset - when you're overweight, aging and wear kakhi shorts and t-shirts, fashion isn't a driving force, believe me (you'll all get there one day I promise, might as well throw yourselves under a truck now).

I don't need track bits but am willing to fit them if they do the job. I'm no great powerhouse but at 105kg with thumping great meaty thighs and calves, I'm no weakling either.

So, it's time to buy new bits.
First step, have a chat with my long suffering lbs. The poor bloke nearly died as I came in with what probably appeared like yet another weird request. It turns out he knows nothing about fixed, is fascinated that anyone would actually want to do that to themselves but is quite happy to help me make my dreams come true. Seriously, he's a good mechanic and good bloke, just knows stuff all about fixed gear bikes. If I can go to him with a parts list, he can make it happen.

You need to remember that this is Australia - if it's not in the warehouses, and precious little is when you move away from the roadie mindset, it's going to be expensive ... or impossible ... or both. Importing from the US at the moment is just silly unfortunately. One of his suppliers though, does carry Sugino bits.

I thought: "I know that name, they talk about it on the BIke Forums".
So I did a search ... and fired up the Sugino website.
Now I'm still confused ... or dithering ... or both.

The common consensus seems to be that the Sugino RD is fine for the streets ... but the Sugino website claims a 45mm chainline, not the 42mm I need (I did the measurements and yes, my wheel is set up for 42). The consensus also seems to be that this isn't a big issue. I'm also confused by the Sugino website as to what is what. Of the lot of them on their Singlespeed page, I like the look of the 'Standerd' best, which appears to have an RD2 crankset ... which isn't the way things are referred to on this forum. Can anyone clarify this?

Any additional thoughts on the misaligned chainline? 45 vs 42?
Is there any point is looking at different bottom brackets to give me the 42? (basically, I don't know how much variation there is in bb widths)

Gearing. I'm happy with my current 42x16 which gives me 70 gear inches. I had hoped to go to a larger chain ring (and larger cog) for reduced wear but a check of the gear charts tells me I'm not going to get it with larger rings, just numbers either side of it 46x18 for 68" or 48x18 for 71". IT's been so long since I fiddled with gearing that I can't even remember what those sorts of differences mean and suspect it's just 'numbers', not real ... but am I right? This isn't helped by noting that Sugino don't do a 42 tooth ring so if using their products, I can't stick with what I've got.

Maybe Sugino isn't the way to go? I'd hoped to go to my lbs with a list of specific parts, but at this rate I'm going to be restriced to digging through his catalogues. Any other products I should be looking for? Aussie input would be good here, what the hell IS available in this country?

I can climb pretty much anything I face EXCEPT that rotten hill (Flagstaff Hill for those of you who know Adelaide).

It never looks as bad on the screen as it feels when you ride it. The dips in the graph don't actually exist, that's how it came from Bikely - my geared bike runs a 26 front and a 32 rear to get me up that and at the end of a day in the office, I need it.
This raises the spectre of fitting a super large cog on the flip side of my wheel for hill climbing ... which sounds fine on paper but who stops the bottom of a hill, digs out the spanner and flips their wheel? Seriously, does anyone here bother? Or do you just climb off and walk?

Crank length. Most seem to agree that shorter is better on fixed gears. I'm thinking of 170mm at the moment. Any proponents for less? It'll depend a bit on what I can get locally.

Soooooo, we're looking at Sugino RD with a bodgy chainline and 170mm (or less cranks) and probably different gearing from what I'm used to. It kinda makes buying a new chainring and re-packing the twenty year old bottom bracket seem like a good option.

At least chains and cogs are easy ... track is popular here so 1/8 dura ace cogs are as common as muck and good quality chains will be available if I look for them. Maybe I should just take my bike to a track shop and be done with it.

Yes, I know I've rambled a bit. I'd like to upgrade the old girl but it's looking like more effort than gain at the moment. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated, especially if you live in Adelaide and can point me to a shop that actually understands what I'm trying to do.

Richard
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Old 01-01-09, 09:00 AM   #2
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I go with the 165mm cranks to avoid pedal strike. But many ride 170mm with no trouble.

I like the RD cranks and have them on three bikes with their matching bottom bracket and a nice chainline. RD2 is the same thing. If that 3mm difference is actually there and it bothers you, simply put the chainring on the inside of the spider arms.

If you can't make it up the hill, just walk it. I've tackled a few tough climbs where I've used the entire road to zigzag up and it probably would've been just as fast or faster to walk. I've done a 5km climb on the fixed side but flipped it to the free side to go back down. I hit 65km/hr going down that thing; I'm not about to try and scrub speed all the way down riding fixed.

If the old cups and spindle are in good shape, why not get new bearings and repack the bottom bracket? Then get a new ring and off you go.

Sugino does make a 42T as well as 44T, 46T, 48T, 50T and 52T.
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Old 01-01-09, 05:46 PM   #3
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Thanks for the heads up on the 42T - I suspected as much, websites are such dodgy beasts sometimes.

Similarly with the 165 cranks - that might depend on what's available here but if I'm going smaller it makes sense to do it properly and with the rolling country I often ride in, spinning is important.

Regarding the hill, it's just occured to me that I'm a prime candidate for the new Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub - seriously, that hill, and it's mate (the only other way up to where I live), does restrict me to either driving to the flats and riding there or staying within 10km of home. It's a genuine barrier. The 3 speed hub might go a long way towards removing it.

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Old 01-01-09, 08:31 PM   #4
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I say you go for a 3 speed hub. That should help you greatly.
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Old 01-02-09, 01:31 AM   #5
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Richard -

After reading your post my thoughts are that your crank is probably most serviceable...replacing the chain ring for a new one (I really like Sugino steel rings) would be a good first step.

Ofmega parts tend to be very good although are fairly unknown to many.

Little runt that I am I have still been able to bend a few lesser chain rings on climbs and you have 40 kilos on me and can probably generate some serious watts / torque.

The bottom bracket spacing probably requires a 113 - 115 mm spindle and / or a move of your chain ring to the inside of the spider... any good mechanic should understand this.

In the rear it appears that you are running a single whereas a flip flop hub would offer you that other gear you need for those longer climbs...something in the 65 gear inch range might be all you need but that all depends on your own levels of ability.

I routinely climb our city's steepest hill which maxes out at a 22% grade with my fixed mtb that runs 65 gear inches... it's tough as hell but quite doable.

That 65 gear inches is my usual working gear (especially in winter) and I have a smaller cog on the flip side that gives me 70 gear inches.

A new rear wheel should run you a few hundred dollars and some of the off the shelf units are quite good as long as you can get them checked over by a competent wheel builder.

The new SA SX3 is on my shopping list too as I want to use one of these on my fixed touring bike but a flip flop hub can be a wonderful thing.. you should be able to run a 3 tooth difference with no issues and the DA cogs are a very good choice.
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Old 01-02-09, 04:06 PM   #6
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Thanks for that. Thanks also for the feedback on climbing the hill. I'm not a power climber and prefer to sit and spin which clearly isn't a good tactic on a fixed gear bike. I'll get her sorted and start giving the big hills a go. There are two big hills I have to get up ... well, one or the other ... if I want to go from the flats to home. The second one isn't as steep as the one shown but it's longer. I'll start tackling that on a casual basis and see how I go.

I actually have a flip flop hub, with a freewheel fitted, and have never used it **slaps himself behind the ear** Funny how we overlook the screamingly obvious. I'm going to give that a go now. Thanks for the tip about the 65 gear inches too, it gives me something to aim at.

Thanks also for the feedback on the Ofmega crank. Interestingly, with the Ofmega, the 42mm chainline is the outer ring ... which is where I've been running mine. There's a company in Sydney that makes some really nice chainrings. My question will be ... do I put a new bb in it or just rebuild the old one. I guess it doesn't matter unless I find the old one's damaged.

Darn it. I was all ready throw money at the old girl! Mind you, a mate has put me onto a cunning trick with cranks, but I'd better let him tell the forum about that seeing it's his idea. In either case, getting a new chainring so I can get a new chain is the first thing to do.

There is one change I am definitely making to the old girl - she's getting a Brooks B17 this weekend. I bought a new one for christmas and, seeing I was riding the geared bike to work all this week, put the new saddle on that bike and my Europa gets the nicely broken in saddle .

Richard
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Old 01-02-09, 04:18 PM   #7
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The B17 is a great choice unless Brooks releases the B17 Imperial rather soon... I got to beta test this saddle and it's as good as a saddle gets.

As far as throwing money at bikes goes... if a part is in good condition and an upgrade won't make things that much better I'd keep it.

I still run a high number of old 3 piece bottom brackets that have seen 1000's upon 1000's of km and are still in beautiful shape and far smoother than many new cartridge bb's.
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Old 01-02-09, 04:27 PM   #8
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Take a look at the Harris Cyclery site just for an idea of what's available. I am not suggesting you import something from them, but I figure if they can get it you can too in Aus.

http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/cranks/130-single.html
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Old 01-02-09, 04:31 PM   #9
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I just can't manage to spend money on this bike. Like a lot of people, I love buying new bits and having things shiny, but I've also got a tight streak in me. This is one old bike where practicality always wins. Maybe that's why I love her so much ... or because I love her so much ... or something. Cripes, I've just realised that even her new saddle is an old one.

She's still running the horrid old diacompe brakes she wore when I bought her in the 80's. I keep looking at new brakes, but she needs a 70mm reach - she ran 27" wheels until the conversion to fixed when I went to 700c. Rivendell have the Tektros at horrendous cost, I've yet to find anything local, and provided the pads are new and soft (ie, every 12 months), the old brakes stop surprisingly well and on fixed, you only need them when caught out by something daft on the road or are tired ... or haven't warmed up yet. I find that my legs don't stop all that well in the first 5km of riding.

Ahh bikes. You've gotta laugh or the men in white coats will lock you up

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Old 01-02-09, 04:43 PM   #10
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Take a look at the Harris Cyclery site just for an idea of what's available. I am not suggesting you import something from them, but I figure if they can get it you can too in Aus.

http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/cranks/130-single.html
The industry here is really strange Roy. The most obscure things can be had easily yet stuff you'd think would be standard isn't. I suffer because I work a bit on the fringes. I like the bars at saddle height, not down around the front axle, I wear street clothes not lycra and prefer toe clips - I ain't no roadie and it's amazing how often I go looking for things that I think are normal and just get blank looks. Here, you have to fit into the industry standards (roadie posseur, slow and fat on your hybrid or stupid on your mtb) or you're not catered for ... which is why I value my two favourite shops, they both understand that cycling is a richer experience than that. On the other hand, when a niche market is set up, it's usually well catered for. The fixed gear scene is growing here so I'm sure I'll find more understanding as the time goes on.

I've seen four fixed gear bikes here in the last month or so - one with low bullhorns ridden by a hyper fit youngster in trendy gear (he was at a classic car meet too ), two middle aged bods (one with even more weight issues) than me both riding Surley's and both in sports shorts and loose shirts, there's another classic racer converstion that parks at work but I haven't met the rider yet and myself on my old classic. That may not sound like a lot but considering we're a relatively small city and this is just from casual observation, that's not bad, and it's an interesting mix of people. Could it be that the hipster style (whatever that is) is actually the minority?

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Old 01-02-09, 05:59 PM   #11
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My friend and former shop mate has relocated to Australia to open his own shop and is very knowledgeable when it comes to pretty much everything bike related... he's a bit of a mechanical genius really.

I am getting him to send me his business info and will forward it on to any Aussies that might be interested.
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Old 01-02-09, 06:54 PM   #12
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You can get Andy White's 144bcd track chainrings (he of fyxomatosis), which are made by an Aussie outfit. Generally I wouldn't recommend replacing the crankarms unless they show cracks or bends, or the threading is stripped. Maybe a new BB if yours has seen better days.

otherwise, the only thing I can think of is a good strap setup. riding with straps tight enough lets you really focus on making your stroke circular, which is better for you physiologically, and you can extract more power out of your pedal stroke.
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Old 01-02-09, 08:09 PM   #13
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Who said to try 65 gear inches, that wont even get close to his road bike gearing . ( 22 gear inches from what I read . )

Its gonna be tough to ride a fixed up & down such a huge hill ... if you gear it, for the uphill... your max flat land speed will be like 10 km/h .

I would second ( atleast ) the 3 speed hub, but then it wont have a fixed gear anymore ...

Subscribed to see what the answer is ...


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Old 01-02-09, 08:21 PM   #14
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Sturmey Archer is releasing a 3 speed internally geared FIXED hub modelled after the ASC of old that will be called the SX3... it us due this month.

My suggestion was to lower the gearing to 65 gear inches but I also pointed out that climbing steep hills is still hella tough with that gearing... any gear you can spin up a grade like that will kill your flat ground speed.
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Old 01-02-09, 08:45 PM   #15
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Sturmey Archer is releasing a 3 speed internally geared FIXED hub modelled after the ASC of old that will be called the SX3... it us due this month.

My suggestion was to lower the gearing to 65 gear inches but I also pointed out that climbing steep hills is still hella tough with that gearing... any gear you can spin up a grade like that will kill your flat ground speed.
I can't go much less than that on a flip flop anyway because I run out of dropout length to adjust the chain - it's struggle or walk I'm afraid. By making the low gear a free wheel, going down hill isn't an issue and yes, it's going to be a grind to get up.

Regarding the Sturmey Archer, I'm starting to get very interested in that - gear the top gear to my normal gearing (I'm not interested in land speed records anyway) and use the middle one for loafing and the lowest one for climbing hills It won't be an immediate buy but my wheels were bult to a budget and only ever considered temporary. This gives me the excuse to build some nice wheels - Velocity Fusions to the Sturmey Archer and maybe an Ultregra front hub? I'll worry about that when I find out the cost of the new 3 speed hub and have a chance to recover from the shock.

Regarding the gearing. My Ofmega cranks are 144bcd (the old Campy standard) but that allows me to use track chain rings ... but will I be able to get one with 42 teeth? Will I have to rethink my gearing? We'll find out after my lbs has made a few enquires.

On chains. He didn't have the KMC710 that gets suggested a lot here. However, he did have the KMC410 - anyone know what the difference is? It's used a lot by the BMX racers and although they'd give a chain a hard life, are they interested in a long life?

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Old 01-02-09, 09:57 PM   #16
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The B17 is a great choice unless Brooks releases the B17 Imperial rather soon... I got to beta test this saddle and it's as good as a saddle gets.

As far as throwing money at bikes goes... if a part is in good condition and an upgrade won't make things that much better I'd keep it.

I still run a high number of old 3 piece bottom brackets that have seen 1000's upon 1000's of km and are still in beautiful shape and far smoother than many new cartridge bb's.
I got to see a production B17 Imperial at my local LBS before Christmas, Sixty. It is already out there.
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Old 01-02-09, 10:02 PM   #17
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I got to see a production B17 Imperial at my local LBS before Christmas, Sixty. It is already out there.
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Old 01-03-09, 07:04 AM   #18
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I guess you could try somthing like this :



Ofcourse you are going to be limited, as to the gearing size difference by the leght of the drop-outs ... atleast you dont have to flip the wheel ... just loosen and reposition ... & the parts are relatavly cheap.

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