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  1. #1
    Junior Member
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    My road bike conversion story: a story for beginners.

    So I put this bike together:
    DSC_0495.jpg

    I would like to type out my trials and tribulations from putting this bike together from a beginners perspective. I wanted to do this bike project for $200...came out closer to $300 and will be probably be about $50 for some other odds and ends pieces.

    Between surfing this forum, multiple calls to many local bike stores, scouring the internet bike stores, countless youtube videos, and much wasted time on craigslist and the purchase of a bad bike; this was a lot harder than it looks. Maybe I have too much bad luck or maybe I am not as mechanical as I thought I was but I encountered way more trouble than a couple of the youtube videos and instructables that I looked at. So I wanted to share those troubles fro those thinking it will be quick, easy and cheap.

    For instance my brakes weren't long enough for a 700c conversion so I stuck with the 27inch wheels. Otherwise I would have had to plunk down another $40-$50 for a new set of brakes. I tried to convert the original wheel to single speed by taking off the rear cassette only to encounter outrageously priced tools, condescending bike store staff, and a stripped rear wheel axle. So i just bought a brand new rear wheel. I came across 90mm front hub spacing, so no new wheel for me unless I want to monkey around with spreading the front fork. It also turns out in my area, Metro Detroit, that most old ten speeds are ridiculously over priced. I paid $40 for my Free Spirit but most of them are going for $80 plus, never mind the schwinns if you are considering a budget build. I pinched a tube while trying to put on a new tire, back to the bike shop for a new one and more money. I bought a Peugot frame from some garbage picker off craiglist that looked sweet and was only $40! Buuuuut, with my lack of experience turns out the fork was bent to **** and the frame was bent as well. Lesson learned. Also if you are considering buying tools to get some of this work done you may as well add $50 to your price tag! Couldn't believe how much a set of cone wrenches and a chian tool were going to be. I was actually thankful for this bike having an ashtabula type of crank.

    So there are the things that don't get posted about when trying to tackle a single speed conversion. I know I did some stupid things and had some bad luck but I just wanted to share to those who think this may be quick and easy.

    The good side of all of this: I found one of the coolest, down to earth bike shops in Metro Detroit: Eastside Bikes. Not huge on the single speeds, but they were nice enough to install my chain for free and gave me a nice compliment about some of the work I had done to the bike. Plus they were cool about my kids almost knocking over a whole row of bikes. And they had the sweet blue chainring for sale, used for $10. best online bike store I dealt with was Harris Cyclery. Fast shipping and seemingly knowledgeable staff when I called. And now I know more about bikes than I ever did, can't apply it all but it's in my brain so I sound like I know what I am talking about now. Oh and thanks to this forum for information too!

  2. #2
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    I had somewhat of a similar experience when I started working on bikes. I quickly learned that I just needed to bite the bullet and spend the $150 on a really nice tool set so those problems were solved right off the bat. I have still had to go and buy several specialty tools since then and also had to make my own headset and crankset bearing installer tools from threaded rod and washers at home depot. If your going to work on bikes, you have to have tools. The ones you use to work on your house or car just aren't going to cut it.

    Sorry to hear about the 27" wheel and fork spacing. That's why I don't mess with anything older than me. I figure if I wasn't born, I'm not required to know about it, and so I just stay away and try to deal with the newer more compatible stuff.

    Another rule I try to stick to is to not consider any serious builds or mods unless I have a $500-1000 budget minimum. Why? Well if I am unhappy enough with my setup to drag all the tools out and start wrenching, money is going to have to be spent. Anything less than $500 might as well just throw the bike away and go get a shiny new one for half the cost at bikes direct dot com.

  3. #3
    . bbattle's Avatar
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    The two ss/fg builds I've done got way out of hand monetarily but they were fun nonetheless. And my roadie projects are even more expensive. I bought a Peugeot mixte frame for $25 but because it's French, it needs some weirdo seatpost size and I end up in a bidding war on eBay for the only seatpost in the universe that would fit that frame.

    For newbies getting into SS/FG, buy a complete bicycle instead of building up your own. It seems like no big deal to upgrade a part here or there but before you know it, that project has cost you $500, $600 or more. Sometimes way more.

    Harris Cyclery is a great shop to do business with. I got to talk with the legendary Sheldon Brown on the phone about a wheelset he built for me.

  4. #4
    Junior Member IamNed's Avatar
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    Thanks for the post. I'm not far from you across the line into Ohio. I have a fixed gear track bike, but have decided to convert an 80's Nishiki for something to do over the winter. I haven't bought a wheel set yet, but I think my existing brake calipers may work on 700c wheels. I anticipate spending money on brake levers (already bought), new cable or cables if I put on a rear brake, and of course a wheel set. I'm toying with the idea of having a free wheel single speed, a fixed gear, or a coaster brake rear tire so that I don't require brakes. I do want the bike to remain a beater. Something I can jump on and ride to the grocery store without feeling like I have to lock it up. Total investment so far for the bike, brake levers, and handlebar tape is about $50. The bike is rideable as it is, but needs the 27" tires replaced if I am to ride it too much. I'd love to have something like 700x32 cyclecross tires on it when it's done.

    I am IamNed

  5. #5
    Junior Member
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    KHS Gran Sport fixed gear conversion.
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    I bought my first fixed used for $60 from a guy that was trying to unload everything before a move, so it was already a conversion and I already had the drivetrain when I found a new fork and frame at the Bike Kitchen here in LA. I realize now that I am lucky I have not had any bottom bracket problems as I do not believe I used a torque wrench to install it, not to mention the fact that it fits in the shell.

    My present frame is a KHS, steel, and fairly heavy; the previous was a Panasonic. The Panasonic was lighter but far less forgiving and also too big for me. Once I swapped the frame and the fork though a lot of other things followed. Handlebars, stem, seat tube, rear cog, chainring, etc. I have spent far more on components and tools than I did the actual first complete bike ($60 is a pretty low bar though). Next up is likely cranks and pedals. My thought presently is to start buying nicer components in small chunks before swapping out the frame. I'm reluctant to buy a complete bike that I will just want to upgrade the stock parts on anyways. But we shall see.

    I have to say that one of the reasons I like my bike so much is that I have touched every part on it with my own hands. I wouldn't trade the experience of fixing up something previously worthless into something I use every day for just buying a bike new, even if it may have been (slightly) cheaper. The knowledge gained makes me love my bike more, though it is hardly a sight to behold. But it is mine. And working on bikes isn't such a daunting prospect as it was ten months ago when this whole thing started.

    Hope you've had as much fun despite the frustrations as I have, OP.
    Last edited by mixedfix; 10-23-14 at 09:09 PM. Reason: Spelling

  6. #6
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    Mercian Vincitore, Mercian Colorado, Gitane Tour de France, Trek 950
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    There WERE no easily-available factory-built fixed-gears when I built my first one c.1997. That was when stuff was a LOT cheaper, back before the demand for old road bikes and frames had stripped the garages and barns of likely candidates. My first fixed-gear was built on a 50s Raleigh Lenton of some sort, complete with the thimble fork crown, made of Reynolds 531 plain gauge. At the time I had a pile of parts I had gotten cheap. I was able to use a respaced tubular rear wheel with a bottom bracket lockring to get it rolling, along with a set of steel cottered cranks, Weinmann brake levers, bars and stem from a dead 70s Raleigh Gran Prix that I had trash picked.

    It was all right, but I wanted something nicer, so I made enquiries among the newsgroups I was a member of at the time, and acquired first a dented, somewhat-too-large, Gitane Super Corsa. I had French threaded stuff in my parts stash, AND the correct tools to work on it, because back then you could buy Stronglight cotterless crank tools new in the paper for $9.00 instead of $200 or whatever they are now. Then a friend needed a bike, and the frame we got for him (a full 531 Trek 620, c.1981) was too small for him but pretty good for me, so I traded stuff around and wound up with the Trek and he had the Gitane. That was after the parts went onto a Gitane Tour de France that felt somehow misaligned, which was ridden ONCE, then disassembled and the parts swapped around some more. Somewhere along the line I scored a tubular rear wheel built around an old Normandy single-sided track hub, but with a damaged axle. I replaced that with a hollow axle and QR setup from my parts stash and kept on rolling.

    In 2000, I switched the fixed-gear parts over to an old Peugeot PR-10L frameset, but I wasn't entirely enamored of it, and rode it little. At the Cirque du Cyclisme in 2001 I snapped up a mid-late 60s Falcon San Remo frameset (full 531?) for something like $45 and swapped over the parts to that. I had lots of good old parts on it - Stronglight 93 cranks, Universal Super 68 sidepulls, a B.17, Nitto bars and stem, etc. I taped a used Mavic clincher rim to the rear sewup and swapped the spokes over and paired the result with an identical rim laced to a low-flanged Maillard hub off a dead Batavus. It was a pretty good bike despite being about 2cm too small for me.

    In 2002 I initially set out to upgrade my fixed-gear wheels, then encountered upgrade creep in my mind until I realized I had just called Mercian in England and ordered a custom fixed-gear frameset. That led to ordering a Surly track hub, Mavic MA2 rims, spokes, etc., from Sheldon (R.I.P., and man do we miss you!) at Harris Cyclery, then dismantling the Falcon and not having a conversion fixed-gear ... for a little while.

    Maybe a year or more earlier, I had been driving home after shipping a frameset to a friend when the last rays of the sun traced out the curve of an alloy dropped handlebar poking out of a trashheap at the roadside. I did what any self-respecting cyclist does, I whipped around and went back. The kid in the yard said, yes, it's trash and you can have it if you want it, so I tugged on the bars and pulled out what turned out to be a full Reynolds 531 Raleigh Gran Sport, c.1971 maybe, from when they had no chrome and a plain Wagner crown and fancy Nervex Professional lugs. And it was my size, even. So it became a beater, and good one, too, and had received progressively better cheap or cast-off parts and was a 12-speed at that point.

    And now, during the interim when I had no fixed-gear to ride, while Mercian was building my new one, I looked over at the Raleigh and thought ... then all the old fixed-gear parts went on it.

    Perfection. Seriously. To this day, I still kick myself for parting with it in a moment of weakness, because it is just about the ONLY bike I really, truly regret selling. It just rode nicely and had zero theft appeal, with its looks improved by a coat of flat black barbecue grill spray paint and mottled green cloth bar tape and black fenders. I named it Lazarus, and still think about it. That Canadian guy who bought it from me on the big auction site got one of the best bikes ever.

    I went several years without a fixed-gear conversion, or a beater-grade fixed gear, for that matter. And I suffered, because I NEED a mad scientist bike, I NEED to own at least one bike that has scars and scrapes and wear and rust and still moves quickly and smoothly and quietly.

    Finally I broke down and bought a 60cm Gitane TdF - frame, fork, headset and Stronglight BB. The frame and shipping cost me double what I paid for my first Gitane TdF, a complete bike I bought c. 1998 (and also shoulda kept). No matter. I had a bunch of old parts and built it up, all Brooks and Stronglight and Weinmann and Nitto stuff, and traded off a dynohub front wheel for a used set of Kogswell/Mavic fixed-gear wheels.

    It's at least the equal of old Lazarus in terms of comfort and cool - maybe trading some of the laid-back glide along quality for a zippier, more aggressive vibe, not surprising since it was built to be an all-out racebike in 1971. I have grown accustomed to wrenching on my bikes, and my fixed-gear bikes particularly, and my beater conversions most especially. I am at peace with it. The Gitane is probably - probably! - all dialed-in, at last.

    Now, to find a frameset I like for that Sun rimmed/Iro hubbed wheels in the basement ...

  7. #7
    Rhapsodic Laviathan
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    What I did ti build m first fixie, I took the 69's Seara&Roebuck I had saved from my grandmother about two years prior(was going to convert it from a five to seven speed flatbar commuter), removed the derailure, and rear fender, put on a flip/flop wheelset, I had got, replaced it's single speed cottered crank with thetwo speed from that horible Nishiki Olympia. Mattress seat and black post feom parts bin.The only work I did was put everything on.

    Next thing is to buy a green chain, new stem and bars, and green tape, mew pads for the centerpull. I imtended to do as little as possible to the bike, aside from a fixed wheelset. The only "modern" things aside from the wheels, are bull bars, grern chain, and I don't know if I should get bmx platforms, or use those pedals that were on my nishiki prestige with the toe clips removed. Everything not green will be black.
    The speed is break neck, faster than a high speed dual cassette tape deck.

  8. #8
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    Sometimes we just get lucky... 1) bought a 10 speed Schwinn World Sport (4130 triangle, gas pipe everything else) at a local junk store. It had 27" alloy wheels with alloy hubs, although the rear hub was a three piece. The World Sport had a functioning Sakae 170 mm crank and typical Dia Compe sidepulls. $45 2) bought 27X1 1/4 tires and tubes from CL for $30. They are a good compromise tire for both pavement and the pea gravel you find on some municipal bike paths 3) bought a 27" flip flop wheel for $90 at an LBS 4) bought handlebar tape, plastic pedals and new chain from Wally's for about $30 5) hack sawed the drop bars to bullhorns, installed the brake levers on the ends. 6) replaced the outer chain ring with five washers. You need two sets of pliers and a grinder to do this. 7) hit the road and life is good for under $200. I don't do tricks, skid stop etc., but I do miles.

  9. #9
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    Thanks for the other stories. Outside of my *****ing it was fun to put together and I feel proud that it works. And really, like stated above by others, I could easily put another $100 into the bike for some more parts but I have to stop somewhere.

  10. #10
    Member
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    Unknown Kalin MTB, 2013 Denali, 1977 Raleigh from Malaysia, 1982 Univega Nuovo Sport
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    If I wanted a single speed I would rather get an old school bmx.
    They're easy to work on & the parts are cheap.
    Just have to get over the stigma of riding a kid's bike...

  11. #11
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    I was going to build my first fixie but couldnt wait so I bought a barely used Pure Fix for 160 bucks,,then I traded a vintage Schwinn tandem I got for nothing for a brand new SE Lager from a bike shop. I have about 4000 miles on the Pure Fix and I bought a whole lot of fun for a 160 bucks, only problem I have had with the Pure Fix is flat tires,,was a real bargin. Now I want to build one, I Bought a Benato frame/fork and headset for 50 bucks. I have to find an Italian thread bottom bracket then I will be on my way. I think I can do for it under 300.

    If you are new to fixed gear I think it is better to buy an already built one, so you can learn about them before you build one.
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