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Restore and Transform an Old Bike into a Sleek Fixie

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A little while back I decided I wanted a Fixie/ single speed bike to see what all the fuss was about.  I also wanted a better workout while riding, and couldn't exhibit self control on a normal bike by using only one gear. 

Really awesome article about the culture, history, proper riding techniques, and dangers of fixies by Sheldon: http://sheldonbrown.com/fixed.html

But of course I couldn't just buy one; we all know it is much more rewarding and OG to build it yourself! 

For this project, I used an old Univega bike frame from the 1970's. I really like the character and craftsmanship of older bike frames. 

Hope you enjoy this instructable, and if you do, vote for me in the Bicycle Contest by clicking "vote" above!

Step 1: Supplies and Parts

I bought all of my parts from Amazon and Purefixcycles.com

The parts you will need will depend on your build, but this is a general list to consider: 
  • 1 bike frame and fork 
  • 2 wheels ( I got mine from Amazon.com, purefix single speed wheels 50mm, flip flop)
  • 2 tires (700 x 25)
  • 2 inner tubes (700 x 25)
  • 2 brake sets with cables (Or just one; purefix.com)
  • 1 single speed crankset (Amazon)
  • 2 pedals (Amazon)
  • 2 cages and straps (Optional, but very helpful when riding a single speed/ fixie)
  • 1 saddle (Amazon)
  • 1 seatpost (Amazon)
  • 1 stem (Amazon)
  • 1 bottom bracket (If needed, amazon)
  • 1 single speed chain (Amazon)
  • 1 handlebar (Mine are drop bars, purefix.com)
  • handlebar tape(Optional, purefix.com or Amazon)
  • sandblaster with sand (Optional)
  • paint stripper (Optional, hardware store)
  • powder coating kit (Optional, amazon)


* Important: Make sure your frame has "horizontal dropouts", which means the slots that hold your rear wheel axle are more or less in a horizontal plane. This allows for forward and backward movement of the wheel to adjust for chain tension, which is necessary to prevent your chain from slipping off. Alternatively, there is now a special hub you can buy if your frame has "vertical dropouts" . This hub allows for some horizontal adjustments for chain tensioning (http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/white-hubs.html)

When working with an old frame, you may inevitably run into sizing problems when trying to put new parts on. As with any bike related problem, sheldon brown is the go-to source. (http://sheldonbrown.com/fixed/index.html)

 
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skipjack20016 months ago

Those rims are pimpin'!

Track nuts might be a good upgrade. (they have attached washers that allow the nuts to rotate and apply much more torque without wearing down the cups or knurling on the washer as it grips the dropout. )
alzie2 years ago
For my recumbent, i went to a 7 speed sacks hub.
So, the chain issue is the same as for a single speed.
The drop outs are verticle, so what to do?

Bike nashbar sells a chain de slacker / tensioner for single speeds.
Its kinda like a derailleur with a spring arm and 1 pulley.
Ive been using it for years now.
So far, its performed very well.
I highly recommend it.
I posted an instructable on fixing vertical-dropout bikes as single speeds (wouldn't recommend doing it to fixed-wheel bikes though, but coaster/drum brakes are ok with it). I made a chain tensioner before from a used road bike derailler (cut off the cage and run a through-bolt through the top pulley. It worked fine. Good to hear the Nashbar one holds up.
slylee (author)  alzie2 years ago
Thanks for sharing, could you attach the link to that product?
alzie slylee2 years ago
Hmph, Looks like nashbar doesnt carry it any more, but
google is our friend, and
it came up with this:
Looks like the one that
i bought from nashbar years ago.

Chain Guide - Idler - Tension - Single speed - NuVinci ...
Staton-Inc a world class manufacturer of motorized bicycles, bike engine kits, gear drive kits since 1984.

http://www.staton-inc.com/store/products/Chain_Guide_Tension_Single_speed_NuVinci-540-38.html

For lotsa possibilities, check out:

https://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=&q=single+speed+chain+tensioner&oq=single+speed+chain+tensioner&gs_l=igoogle.3...0.0.0.1740.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0..0.0...0.0...1ac.
slylee (author)  alzie2 years ago
Very cool thanks for sharing
sekitori2 years ago
Chain tensioners ('single pulley derailers') are also used on a lot of folding bikes. You can try and get those. I know thaht they're sold seperately.....
rickster4542 years ago
I don't know, I think it looks cool.
slylee (author)  rickster4542 years ago
Thanks rickster.
weswert2 years ago
how much did you end up spending?
slylee (author)  weswert2 years ago
I ended up spending about $300. I got some parts as gifts for my B-day, and x-mas. The bulk of the cost was the wheels ($100), paint job ($100) and frame ($40). The parts in total are probably worth around $400-$500. Purefixcycles.com sells fixies/single speeds for only $325, which is a great deal. But the parts are not as nice, and they don't have old frames like the one I used. And you don't get the satisfaction of building it yourself. But they are a good company. I bought some parts from them.
joe melk2 years ago
I agree the saddle looks far too low. It might be the right size for your legs, but on this style of frame, the handlebars shouldn't be higher than the saddle, especially with drop bars. I think you'll find this very uncomfortable to ride for any extended period of time. Also, I think the handlebar angle needs adjusting, they look too level, a good place to start is with the ends pointing towards the rear brakes, so your wrists aren't bent and your forearms are at a 90 degree angle.

I suggest these pages for further reading:

http://www.jimlangley.net/crank/bikefit.html
http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/fitting.htm
slylee (author)  joe melk2 years ago
I think you have some good suggestions, and I'm actually going to try raising the saddle after reading some articles by Sheldon. However, I also think we as humans like to over analyze things, and find patterns where they are non-existent. It is actually very comfortable to ride, and did my first 40mi charity ride on it along with my friend who has a regular road bike. We did decent, and beat alot of people with $1000 plus rides.
flim2 years ago
Nice build, but please raise that saddle or get a smaller frame... This just looks awfull and must a pain to ride :S

I know, you need to get used to the crouched position on a bike, but trust me, it's way more relaxed to ride that way.

PS: Never noticed this: "We have a "be nice" comment policy. Please be positive and constructive with your comments or risk being banned from our site." Hope I don't get banned now :P
depends on how tall he is, I'm short,and on my roadie I have to have the seat slammed in order to ride it....and it's a relatively small frame....and i'm 5'6'' I need liek a 46cm top tube and a 63cm seat tube for my size
And that is 63cm center of BB to the top of the seat tube? That sure is big for someone who's (5'6" =) 167 cm! :O

I'm 175cm and ride a 57cm daily roadster (Sparta Pickup) and a 59,5cm Koga Miyata road bike (which would be more pleasing to ride in a 57cm size...)... :P

Still. The looks get totally destroide when riding a roadbike with the saddle rammed in all the way down. There has to be drop between the saddle and steer ;)
yea, it's jut a cheap biek to begin with anyways...only paid $20 for the whole bike...I"ll get something better eventually....my Mountain bike is a 15'' frame and fits me jsut perfect with about 9'' of seat tube showing.....(It's an XC/AM bike)
slylee (author)  Furball_Fidelis2 years ago
ditto.
BOFH_2 flim2 years ago
You did say "please" so I think you might be okay. :D Oh one way to diffuse a lot of tone issues with your communication style is to use smiley faces. It worked for me when I worked at Target HQ and got in trouble for making people cry(not intentionally).
flim BOFH_22 years ago
HAha, thanks for the tip!
slylee (author)  BOFH_22 years ago
agreed.
flyingpuppy2 years ago
What's her name? I suggest Anna Banana. : )
LOVE your bike!
slylee (author)  flyingpuppy2 years ago
Hmm you know I actually haven't named it, or decided a gender..I'm open to suggestions! Anna Banana...perhaps. I was thinking of something that instills a little more fear..
danzo3212 years ago
I'm sure sandblasting is best, but why not just sand the shine off and repaint? Cars are not sandblasted.
slylee (author)  danzo3212 years ago
Well in this specific case the paint job it came with was really shoddy. Paint was chipping off just with some fingernail pressure, so I decided to sandblast the sucker.
retasker2 years ago
If you use real "sand" to do your sandblasting be sure to wear a respirator or risk silicosis (caused by inhaling dust from the sand).

Use commercial sandblasting material which is more expensive but safer.
slylee (author)  retasker2 years ago
Yes, good point! I did, and I shall add that in the step. Thanks for the feedback
BLUEBLOBS22 years ago
Awesome! I love fixies!!! you definitely have my vote!
-BLUEBLOBS2
slylee (author)  BLUEBLOBS22 years ago
Thanks!
Sammers2 years ago
This is the most complicated and difficult portion of the work. It would have been nice to see a walkthrough, or at least some tips. Guidance would definitely be helpful for selecting and installing an appropriate hub, spacing the cogs properly (if you're going from 2 or 3 down to 1), getting the chain tension right, etc. Could you add a little more here for those of us who aren't super-well-versed in the details of assembly?
slylee (author)  Sammers2 years ago
Sorry about that, yes I will try to add more details. Alot of the info I got from Sheldon's site, and I'll try to find the links. thanks for the feedback
j0n47h4n2 years ago
It appears as if you are missing the top nut from your headset. This nut is very important because it keeps the headset from loosening, a loose headset can cause knocking when applying the front brake as well as make the bearings wear faster. I'm not sure if it has since been remedied, but it would be worth procuring the nut if you haven't already.

Good instructable, and enjoy the bike!
slylee (author)  j0n47h4n2 years ago
Indeed I am, you sniper you. It didn't come with one so I've been having to adjust it every now and then...very annoying, so I'm looking for one currently..
bwelkin2 years ago
Hey, man

Toward the end of the video you seemed to have lost the legs of your pants!!

(Great 'ible!)
slylee (author)  bwelkin2 years ago
Ah nice, I was wondering if anyone would catch that....yes it got a little warm as time went on. haha
Wasagi2 years ago
Very Cool. You are going to love it. But be sure to throw those straps on! Also, what bars are those? They don't appear to be normal track drops, they are crazy intense and I love it.
slylee (author)  Wasagi2 years ago
Thanks man. Oh yeah I rode it once without straps and haven't done that since...its absolutely necessary to get up steep hills. The bars are made by purefix (purefixcycles.com), and I like them. They are a little different.
Cool Bike. Nice job.
slylee (author)  foreverdisturbed2 years ago
thanks !
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