Building a Fixie Part I

I have been lamenting for a couple months about building a fixie. I have gotten some good feedback, but unfortunately I have decided not to heed anyone's sound advice and instead have blazed off in my own direction...

So what have I been up to on the one gear front. Well, I finally put my monocog single speed back together after shipping it across the contenent. All I have left to do is get the RockShox psylo fork on it to function again. I have done lots of maintenance, and it was good for about a year, now the seals are going so it needs constant rebuilding (about once a ride it seems). While the fork doesn't owe me (I got it for free basically), I still have a dislike for RockShox. If you anywhere other than California, where it is always nice and sunny, then you would probably have run into similar problems. But hey they are 'cheap,' plus even the venerable Marzocchi blow seals left right and center. So I should just shut my mouth, eh?

Shiny New Kooka cranks
Some cool new cranks I scored

Rant aside, I have to admit I have been more addicted to road bikes lately. They are the sports cars of the cycling world. You can build them all sick like, they react on a dime and they seem to last. Plus if you have a good place to ride them (i.e. big mountains) there is plenty O' Adrenaline leaning the bike through a tight corner at 70km/hr. As a result of my recent love affair I have been going on about building fixie for a few months now (Read 1, Read 2). I have ruled out converting my race bike over - only for the time being until I can get another race bike :). All the suggestions to get a custom frame such as Independent fabrication have been well heeded, but I don't have the cash right now. Trust me I would LOVE to go that route, but I can't justify it. Especially since the whole moving across the country thing has left me with less disposable income than I had planned on. But that is life, eh? How about converting over my current commute bike Christine? Well she is just plain evil and wouldn't appreciate the effor.

So that leaves me building this thing up piece by piece by piece, bit by bit. In other worlds I must embark on a journey in search of pieces. I am happy to report I have begun this process.

Step one, I have bought some funky Kooka cranks (pictured right). What makes these cranks especially cool is the fact the company Kooka is deader than a door nail, so very few have these cranks. Plus these are the infamous CNCed cranks that would crack if you installed them wrong. The secret is not to use grease on the spindle or else the cranks would be pushed too far onto the taper and crack. Not to mention these cranks have got to be the lightest cranks I have ever held. Big-S get the hell out. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention I got them for $70 canadian, never used.

In total, swag factor is through the roof on these babies...

Next step... finding a killer frame. I am of course looking for a mid eighties gem that has beautiful lugging and vert drops. Over the next while I will be surfing used shops until I find the 'right' frame. Let the fun begin.

Comments

could you list the components needed that would be specific for building a fixie

Wease's picture

If you have any questions just email me

You will need:

  1. You will need a track frame. These are hard to get, so a road frame with horizontal rear drops (or close to horizontal - older road frames) maybe used in its absence. Basically you need a road frame that allows you to move the rear wheel forward and backwards to set chain tension. If you have vertical drops (on newer road frames) you can always get a special hub (Enos eccentric hub) that can do this, but that comes at a price!
  2. A pair of cranks, with a single chain ring. Ideally, track specific cranks because the chain ring will be the correct distance from the frame so the chain line is straight. You can use regular road cranks but you may need to get chain ring spacers so you can move the chain ring toward or away from the frame until the chain line is bomber.

    Usually, on road cranks I have only used double chain ring cranks (triples may be spaced different again) and mounted the ring on the inside of the crank spider. You will have to play here.

  3. A rear wheel that has a fixed hub! You can build a suicide hub (i.e. put a track cog on a older road hub that has threads for the free wheel body). The problem is that if you brake with your legs you can spin the cog off the suicide hub. The track hub will have two sets of threads, one for the cog the second for the lock ring (the threads are tighten in opposit directions) so that the cog is garunteed to stay on. You will have to buy a track wheel set or build your own. I opt to build my own.
  4. Next you will need some strong wire. Why? I suspect you will get a road frame. They are spaced wider than track hubs, by about 5mm. You need to bend the rear triangle gently to make it the correct width. Wrap the end of the rear triangle with the wire, then put a strong stick in the mix so that when you spin the stick it will slowly tighten the wire and compress the rear triangle. Do this carefully and slowly because you are in essence tweaking the frame deliberately. Tweaking will happen regardless of whether or not you do the wire trick, as soon as you put tighten down the rear track wheel, so why not get it over with early?
  5. Front wheel. If you are using a road bike wheel, make sure you get rid of the front quick release (QR) in favour of a solid axle with nuts.

    Why? Track bikes come this way, so if you want to be fixie cool, you must do it to! It will help you:

    1. keep your front wheel when you only lock the frame
    2. Keep you looking legit when you only ride your bike to the coffee shop
    3. Help you get laid
  6. Finally, you will need some other paraphernalia such as:
    • A seat post (appropriate for the frame) and a seat.
    • Handle bars, which can be the classic track handle bars or time trial bars. Flat bars (aka mountain bike) are strictly forbidden.
    • Bar tape to wrap said handle bars
    • A front brake - this is non-negotiable. Since you are asking me how to build the bike, I used my psychic abilities to ascertain you should have a brake or you will die.
    • A single Cyclo-cross brake lever to actuate above non-negotiable brake.
    • A stem that matches the frame's fork (i.e. stem mounting technology has changed over the years, figure this one out for yourself
    • Pedals. Flat, clips or clipless - you be the judge.
    • A flask with hard liquor. Keeps you having fun and will help with getting laid.
  7. Finally, last but not least, ATTITUDE!
nikcee's picture

"Flat bars (aka mountain bike) are strictly forbidden."
why is this so? and does this include risers?
while i still prefer drops, having ridden risers a fair bit in the past year (you need a change to make appreciate what you have)... i would say that riders are definitely more confortable and an 'easier' ride while in the city. they also generally provide a more upright and alert position, something that helps combat the 'deep drop' syndrome that a lot of current riders have adopted through the use of track stems and stem/seat height differences.

i know you lose efficiency in climbing, and i find skidding harder... but in some ways i think they allow people to be safer on their bikes.

and yes... cutting bars to be <38cm (unless you are 5ft tall) is silly... irrespective of bar type!

Wease's picture

I think the problem here is that people want one bike to do everything. In my experience this is a bad approach because you get a bike that is really good at nothing.

If you want to make a fixed gear 'easier' to ride you chose the wrong frickin' bike. If you want safe and easy to ride then get a nice city hybrid bike.

If you want fast and hard, go fixed!

I agree with some stuff you say but disagree on other stuff.

Cutting risers to be < 38cm is wise for nipping through city traffic. You don't catch them on mirror etc. Bike messengers find this particularly useful on city streets.

Fixed gear is safer because you don't have so many processes to think of. i.e. changin gear, braking etc. It's all in the pedals.

Brakes should only be needed if your wheel nuts slip a little. Slipping nuts could mean no getting laid :'( and less chain tension.

One bike can do everything if it was intended for cargo carrying. They are built stronger than most other bikes so without cargo they are suitable for any type of riding.

Wease's picture

I ride road/track bars and have no problems splitting lanes. The bars are as wide as my shoulders.

Risers = Mountain bike

This is a plain and simply style guide, anything else screams "Newbie hipster punk!"

Re: Safety Report: I am sorry, but brakeless fixies are not safer than a bike with properly working brakes. I am not saying whether you should or should not ride brakeless, that is a personal choice, just don't try to give me some bullshit zen argument about it being safer. Its not. BTW, If you are so easily distracted that you cannot change gears without having to deeply ponder it, you should stop riding your bike in traffic and take the frickin' bus.

That said, everyone, including my Grandma, agrees that you get a cool sense of connectedness when you run fixed and brake-less. That is all fine and dandy, but I just call it out for what it is, more dangerous. Hey, we all take risks in some manner or another, just man-up/woman-up and call it for what it is.

i ride freewheel single speed no brakes and foot slam to stop all across raleigh nc. all the time. flat bars good. old people bad.

lolololollolololol

I have numorous road bikes and figured it would be fun to try my luck with fixies. Before i get into it to far i was wondering if there are any great websites for bike parts ?
anything would be good (note that i have a limited amount of money)
thanks

I just built a road bike and over the winter and came across some great places. One of the best places to look is at the late Sheldon Brown's website: www.sheldonbrown.com

Once you've identified the frame set (assuming you aren't starting from scratch) at a place like this: http://www.classicrendezvous.com/

You can try here for parts:
www.cycles-for-heroes.com
http://campyonly.com/
http://www.fastboycycles.com/
http://www.paulcomp.com/
http://www.rivbike.com/
http://www.sogreni.dk
http://www.bikeschool.com (brake levers)
http://www.terminalvelocity.demon.co.uk/WheelBuild/ (wheel sets)
http://www.cerchiinlegnoghisallo.com/pagine/prodottieng.php (wood wheel sets)
http://wheelfanatyk.blogspot.com/ (wheel sets)
http://www.vittoria.com/ (wheel sets)
http://www.philwood.com/ (cranksets, hubs & lubricants)
http://www.rohloff.de/en/home/index.html (internal hubs)
http://www.crankbrothers.com/ (cranksets, hubs and wheels)
http://www.edcoengineering.nl/bycicle-components/hubs/road-hubs/olympic-... (hubs)
http://www.brookssaddles.com/ (seats/saddles)

And here for frame sets if you are starting from scratch:
http://www.thebikestand.com/vint.html
http://www.bilenky.com/Retrofits.html
http://www.keirinculture.com/features.shtml
http://www.bestbikebargains.com/
http://www.bikelugs.com/
http://www.cwo.com/~lunarlab/