I’ve been writing about building a fixed gear bike for a long time. I’ve spent countless hours reading “conversion how-to” articles and posts and I’ve eyed the beater touring frame hanging in the garage for years wondering if I’d ever make use of it again. Nearly a year ago I had derailer trouble on my commute and swore to Brad and Phil I was ditching gears to fix the problem.
I finally decided two weeks ago to pull the trigger. I would use the beater touring frame that I rode around campus in college that hasn’t been ridden since 1992 (not the Fuso or Ciocc). Kim’s probably shocked to see the frame move from it’s perch. It’s been in the same spot in the garage since we moved into this house in 2000. Except for the one garage sale where I tried to sell it for 5 dollars - obviously no takers.
I believe the frame is from Nishiki from the early - mid 80’s. It is a touring frame. It’s a “franken-bike” put together by a Masters rider from my home town. He painted it black, no decals, and sold it fairly cheap to a friend of mine to get him started riding. I used to hand down my equipement to this guy when I bought better stuff, shoes, wheels, etc.. He got pretty good and wanted a better bike. He found a Centurian “Iron Man” but he couldn’t quite afford it so I offered to buy the Nishiki off of him to take to school as a campus/rain/don’t care if it got stolen bike. That gave him enough to buy the Centurian.
Pulling the trigger meant ordering a wheelset with a flipflop rear hub. I thought about tricking out the ride, the frame’s black - all black. I looked at every color rim they make. I was tempted by white, red, blue, and joked about gold and orange. Since the Fuso’s black and yellow, I decided to avoid yellow rims. I looked at matching annodized chain rings and colored chains. It was my kind of shopping - all bikes all the time. I try to tell Kim that the smell of a bike shop for me is like the smell of a tack shop for her - me rubber, her leather (that should generate some comments if anybody still reads my blog). She says she still doesn’t get it.
Anyway, I kind of figured I wanted to do the fixie build as part of the experience but kept noticing that I could buy a new fixie for ~$250+S&H so I kind of figured I should stay under that price tag since half of the standard “expensive part” of the bike - the frame - I already had. Because of that I chose the bargan basement wheels from e-bay. I found a supplier that sold wheels, tubes, tires, and 16T free and fixed spockets all for $99+S&H. I figure if I like this fixie thing, I can build flashy hot rod next time. I decided to go all black. Black tires, rims, tape, seat, cable housing, and brake levers.
I spent about 2 hours on Saturday stripping the frame down so I’d be ready. Components come off a frame much faster than they go on - no adjusting I guess. Derailers off, outter chain ring off, rusted chain off, old handle bar tape off, old brake housing and all of the cables off. It was kind of fun. Then came the brake levers.
They were “drilled” dura-ace levers with petrified “gum” hoods that shreaded as I pealed them off. I found that instead of an alan nut holding the levers on there was an 8mm nut down in there. I don’t have an 8mm socket, nor am I confident if I did that it would have been thin enough to fit in there. Using a combination of a 8mm box wrench and a cresent wrench to turn the box wrench, I acutally got one of the nuts off. Odd experience to find the dura-ace levers being held on by campy handlebar clamps. I had to try to explain the campy/dura-ace thing to Kim. Don’t know if I found a good analogy.
I tried the other leaver but the nut was not in a position I could turn it very far with my ’setup’ and it looked quite rusted in there, chrome flaking off the bolt, etc.. I tried some WD-40 and paitence but couldn’t get it to budge. So, I decided to cut the clamp off. Got the angle grinder and 5 seconds later it was off. Then, since I had it out, I chopped the bars into bull horns.
The wheels, chain, and chain ring spacers came on Monday so after the girls were in bed I got to work. First thing I did was mount the front wheel. Like a charm, just not quite true. Then to the rear wheel. Need ~4mm to space it out correctly but for now it’s close enough. Get it set in the dropouts and then fit the chain. Oh, wait, the chain ring needs tightening. Grab the lazer level and see if that helps the all important chain line. Looks like I do need to space the chain ring in, glad I bought the spacers. Now the chain.
Go slow here, measure twice, break once I tell myself. I almost broke the chain at the wrong link and ended up with, ah, guess it would have been a male and a female when I needed two males for the chain connector to work. Picked the right one, made sure the chain was on the rear cog and chain ring just right and broke the chain and put the connector on. As easy as the two step instructions. Only the chain was pretty lose. Luckily I had positioned the wheels in the middle of the horizontal dropouts so I backed the set screws out and got the chain nice and tight.
I tried to ride it through the kitchen but wasn’t brave enough. I wanted to swap out the pedals for platforms without toe-clips to start with, that meant cannibalizing the Mtn Bike. And the tires needed air, and the seat was a bit too high. All adjusted I walked it in the dark down the the clud-a-sac, took a deep breath, and started pedaling. Slowly, with lots of control. Remember when I cut the brake levers off? Yeah, no breaks yet. I didn’t want my first ride to result in me breaking something. It came off without a hitch. I even rode back up the hill without incident.
The TT style break levers, housing and cables, and handlebar tape should come in Monday for me to finish off the look. I’ll post pictures when I’m done.