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Single speeding a vintage frame

Old 01-02-21, 04:20 PM
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Spaghetti Legs 
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Single speeding a vintage frame

My latent hipster is trying to come out. I’ve seen single speed mods here from time to time but never really paid much attention but now I’m looking for an upgrade to my around town bike, currently a Specialized Langster. What I’d like is fully fendered, rear and maybe front rack, dynamo lit bike. The motivation for single speed is I have a nice Phil Wood rear hub on the Langster, but a geared bike is on the table too.

Im curious how the conversion has worked out for others. Are the forward facing horizontal dropouts a big problem? Can a 126 mm frame be squoze onto a single speed wheel or is a 5 speed frame needed? I’ve had my eye on a Handsome Cycles Fredward but something cheaper than that would be better.
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Old 01-02-21, 04:36 PM
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I've been riding various bikes off-and-on as single speeds or fixed gears for the last 15 years. Sport-touring geometry should make a nice city bike, though i like the look of the Fredward, too.

The forward-facing dropouts aren't an issue as long as you snug down the tracknuts. With moderate gearing (say, min 42 tooth chainring) you won't have the mechanical advantage to rip the wheel out. If you can make it work with a granny ring on a touring bike, it won't be a problem.

Some modern hubs even come with spacers so you can choose the OLD spacing (120, 126 or 130 mm). I think Phil may offer kits to change the spacing, but I don't recall because I've never ponied up the coin for one.
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Old 01-02-21, 04:48 PM
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Single speeds are great for flat city use in my experience. No problems with horizontal dropouts if correctly tightened (and if you're not a monster sprinter - I' m certainly not).
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Old 01-02-21, 04:54 PM
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Don't overthink it. My Raleigh Competition GS has been happy with a single speed setup for some time now. Regular vintage road cranksets give a very good SS chain line if you mount your chainring in the inner, small ring position. I got a flip flop wheelset from Velomine, was able to specify 126mm spacing. White Industries freewheel: pricey and worth every penny.

... After that it's all over but the ridin'.

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Old 01-02-21, 05:11 PM
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Had the Battaglin set up as a SS for about 5 years. I used an 8-sp wheel in the rear and the 16T from a cassette. I used spacers to get the chainline right.

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Old 01-02-21, 05:32 PM
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Good advice, thanks all. My town is fairly hilly and my current setup is a 42 x 16 but was thinking of a 40 chainring to account for more loaded (groceries, beer) riding.
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Old 01-02-21, 05:51 PM
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One of the reasons I have full bins of parts is that some years back, I’d buy cheap fully equipped road bikes off of CL, convert them to single speed, and flip. I found that getting chain line right was the biggest challenge. Sometimes it meant changing rear wheel spacers and redishing. Sometimes it meant flipping around the BB spindle. Sometimes it was mounting the chain ring to the inside of the spider as was mentioned. Sometimes it was sticking a spacer or two behind the SS freewheel. Or all of the above.
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Old 01-02-21, 06:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Spaghetti Legs View Post
My latent hipster is trying to come out. I’ve seen single speed mods here from time to time but never really paid much attention but now I’m looking for an upgrade to my around town bike, currently a Specialized Langster. What I’d like is fully fendered, rear and maybe front rack, dynamo lit bike. The motivation for single speed is I have a nice Phil Wood rear hub on the Langster, but a geared bike is on the table too.

Im curious how the conversion has worked out for others. Are the forward facing horizontal dropouts a big problem? Can a 126 mm frame be squoze onto a single speed wheel or is a 5 speed frame needed? I’ve had my eye on a Handsome Cycles Fredward but something cheaper than that would be better.
I did 1978 Schwinn LeTour III with 126 spacing (I think). Squeezed a 130 Freehub 700C in there (from bike Recycler), used the Single Speed Spacer Kit from Amazon ($20), mounted 40MM Maxxis on the Front and 38 on Rea (bought used) used an '87 LeTour Leftover Crank with the 40 Chain Ring and I think 16 in rear (started with 14 and moved to 16), bought the shorter BMX chain ring bolt/nuts on Ebay.

This was relatively easy for me and I am pleased with the outcome. Good luck

‘78 Schwinn LeTour. Converted to single speed with 700x 40/38 gravel tires. Other parts from an ‘87 LeTour including crackset which was easier to do the single conversion. Still need to sort out the brake lever angle
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Old 01-02-21, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Spaghetti Legs View Post
Are the forward facing horizontal dropouts a big problem?
If you have fenders, forward facing horizontal dropouts will make rear wheel removal a lot easier.
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Old 01-02-21, 09:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Straightblock View Post
If you have fenders, forward facing horizontal dropouts will make rear wheel removal a lot easier.
Ahh that’s a good point. justcynn good looking bike!
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Old 01-02-21, 09:14 PM
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understand you have hub to use....another build i like is a 1xX keeps simple look, but gives options......and if not using drops works well with a thumb shifter. The velo orange postino bars are kinda of fun
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Old 01-02-21, 09:24 PM
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If you just want to experiment with a vintage bike as a SS on a frame with horizontal dropouts, you can remove the derailleurs and shorten chain to fit the selected cogs with proper tension. The chain line probably won’t be right, but this will allow one to test the concept. I have done this several times for friends. Some never use spacers and have used this approach like a flip/flop two speed.

Enjoy what ever route you take,

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Old 01-02-21, 10:21 PM
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42X16 would be my choice for all around riding, 17 if there are some hills and 15 for the road.
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Old 01-03-21, 09:01 AM
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I have seen chromed (and ti) dropouts cause the track nuts to not grip enough to keep from slipping. Surly makes a chain tensioner specifically for horizontal dropouts.

If you're putting down the power....

https://surlybikes.com/parts/hurdy_gurdy
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Old 01-03-21, 09:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Dylansbob View Post
I have seen chromed (and ti) dropouts cause the track nuts to not grip enough to keep from slipping. Surly makes a chain tensioner specifically for horizontal dropouts.

If you're putting down the power....

https://surlybikes.com/parts/hurdy_gurdy
Horizontal dropouts with quick releases were the norm for many years in the pro peloton and they worked OK, so I doubt a "normal" rider would have problems with them. OTOH, low gearing today is much lower than then, which increases torque and the potential for slipping.
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Old 01-03-21, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Spaghetti Legs View Post
Im curious how the conversion has worked out for others. Are the forward facing horizontal dropouts a big problem?
Not a problem. In fact, if you ever put mudguards on the bike, they make wheel removal much easier than with rear-acing track ends.

Can a 126 mm frame be squoze onto a single speed wheel or is a 5 speed frame needed?
Probably fine. If your axle is long enough, a spacer on each side might eliminate any need to squeeze. Or replace the current axle with a longer one.
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Old 01-03-21, 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Reynolds View Post
Horizontal dropouts with quick releases were the norm for many years in the pro peloton and they worked OK, so I doubt a "normal" rider would have problems with them. OTOH, low gearing today is much lower than then, which increases torque and the potential for slipping.
True, but that was also the era before external-cam skewers, which were introduced shortly after vertical dropouts became predominant. Internal-cam skewers can sometimes be difficult to tighten sufficiently on horizontal dropouts.
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Old 01-03-21, 12:56 PM
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I don't think you've mentioned whether single-speed means freewheel or fixed. The main advantage I find with track drops is having a longer wheel slot for more chain tension adjustment range when running fixed. If you're going single-speed freewheel, you can use a chain tensioner device, and position the wheel anywhere you want in the road dropout.

Horizontal drops definitely make easier fendering than track drops. Main disadvantage to horizontal is the need to get the front fender section close enough to the chainstay bridge to allow easier wheel removal, especially if you want to be able to remove the wheel with the tire inflated. That fender coverage gap in front of the rear wheel gets larger if you want the wheel mounted fairly far back in the drop, and/or if you're running chubby tires. I think it's more an aesthetic issue than functional---fender line doesn't look especially sweet, but I don't think you're going to get much excess spray.

As for axle width and frame OLN width, probably a zillion threads here on that. Matching axle width to frame width is always best. Cramming a 126mm axle into a 120mm frame is 3mm of stretch per side, which is generally considered not horrible, but in my book it ain't great. Worse for heat-treated tubing that doesn't like being bent. Also makes rear wheel removal/installation a bigger chore. Cold-setting a 120mm-spaced frame 126mm is generally considered OK, as long as the stays aren't aluminum or heat-treated steel.

But like I said, lotsa threads here on that, lotsa opinions as well.
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Old 01-03-21, 02:59 PM
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Good advice, thanks all. Well I went ahead and bought the Fredward. A new one from Handsome Cycles on eBay for about $100 less than from their website. It got down to the last one and I figured I’d kick myself if I missed out and decided to go with it later. I’ve been kind of picky about the kind of road/touring frame I wanted and it was looking like whatever I found (Miyata 610 as an example) would end up costing just about as much unless I was very very patient.
@pcb it will be single speed freewheel. I’ve not found riding the hills here pleasant on a fixed. Fenders on the track dropouts will be a hassle but it’s been pretty rare that I’ve had to remove the wheel on the current bike so I’ll cross that bridge on the hopefully rare occasion I get there.

I’ll post a pic when it’s done. I have grand plans for this. Going to use the Shimano dynamo wheel from my current tourer ( it’s getting upgraded to SONdelux!) and switch the rim out on the Phil hub from the DT Swiss 1.2 to a TB14. Toying with using some bullhorn bars I have laying around but will likely end up using drop bars.
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Old 01-03-21, 06:34 PM
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Do the conversion. IMO, there is nothing like finding out the ride characteristics of a frame then keeping the drive train simple.
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Old 01-03-21, 06:45 PM
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Hmm, this showed up on my CL: https://boston.craigslist.org/gbs/bi...256308501.html

Seems like a solid single-speed commuter though it might weigh a metric ton:
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Old 01-03-21, 07:09 PM
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Forward facing dropouts are the bees knees for a fender’d SS/fixed, though you probably want a Spring-Thing sort of attachment for the front of the rear fender or leave it ugly and mounted straight to the bridge.

For 126mm width rear, I only need to fit a single extra washer between each side’s axle locknut and I wind up with straight chainline with a 103mm bb to a fixed cog and nearly no pulling in of the stays. Not sure about a freewheel.

Squirtdad mentioned the Postino bars. I like mine a lot for riding in traffic. They’re not perfect- 90% of the time my hands would rather be on some flat-bottom drops, bullhorns, or a bullmoose/riser instead of this 45ish degree sweep, but I just hang loose on the ends or choke up in the fronts and get a good deal of front-back variability. Bonus 1: they’re super flexy which takes out a lot of road hum. Bonus 2: they look pretty great with no clutter on them (lights & computer).


[edit: just reread and understand that you opted for a new frameset- good idea. Knowing 100% that you’re not inheriting someone else’s abused rig is a nice piece of mind. I have a new All City nearly ready for when I find a crack in this frameset.]

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Old 01-03-21, 07:51 PM
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Forward facing dropouts (aka horizontal dropouts) rule. There is zero reason for track ends on the road. Plus roadies flat. The glass, etc, doesn't respect our frame choices. Removing, replacing and flipping the wheel with horizontal dropouts is faster and easier than with track ends.

My workhorse fix gear is on frame number 5. All have been older steel frames with horizontal dropouts. Those 5 bikes have about 75,000 total miles. (Oh, a nice touch if you do not flip the wheel - the dropout adjust screws to locate the wheel. You can set them to perfect chain slack and rim alignment. Makes replacing the wheel in the dark after a flat an easy and brainless operation.

Another plus - there were tens? hundreds? of thousands of horizontally dropped bikes made. Many of decent steel and serviceable workmanship. Meaning there are still lots of them out there. Finding one that will serve your needs is not hard. Fenders - both the fittings and the clearance, rack braze-ons, brake cable guides. etc; all that stuff is out there. Good road geometry? Likewise.

I ordered my custom Peter Mooney with horizontal drops just so I could, if I ever wanted to, ride it fixed. I set it up fixed 4 years ago for a specific ride. Love it so much that I haven't changed it. It is "the ride". My love, as you have probably gathered by now is fix gear. But everything I said here applies equally to single speeds.

Edit - Re: 126 mm spacing - the Miche Pista hubs have long axles. You can add spacers to get 126 (which I did on my Mooney) or wider. I think mine will reach 135 though I am never going to try it.

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Old 01-04-21, 12:06 AM
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I converted this 74 Raleigh Grand Prix to SS by threading on a SS freewheel, re-dishing the wheel, moving the spacers around to center the axle and taking off the inner ring. Works nicely.
https://flic.kr/p/YAG9uo
I also converted a Raleigh super course to SS the same way but threaded on a 2 speed freewheel 17-21 and have a 46x42 chainrings for a dingle speed.
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Old 01-04-21, 05:18 AM
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Several of my builds have ended up as Road SS builds, ie: road geometry rather than track but SS drivetrain.

Over here in the UK there's a long tradition of riding fixed in the winter, and back before people used to own multiple bikes it was entirely normal to remove your gears during winter and go monocogging round the countryside with your club mates, ride the winter TT's, and then slap the gears back on for summer and racing, so conversion one way or the other was both expected and normal.

I ride a lot of SS on and off-road and spent over a decade only riding and racing SS offroad so pig-headedness and gurning is my solution to hills (I live in a hilly area, ~750-1000ft per 10miles is normal), and I even do the occasional brevet SS if I know the route isn't horrific.

Forward facing dropouts are fine even with a decent (internal cam) quick release, and with proper tracknuts never a problem. They're also easier than rear-facing track ends to get the wheel in and out from if you use mudguards.

I always either re-space the rear end or re-space the hub to fit, not really a fan of spreading or squishing more than a couple of mm especially as it's not really necessary when you can space things properly so easily.

A single-speed, mudguarded vintage road bike is the perfect commuter, general trainer, and winter bike in my opinion :-)






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