The easiest fix is not always the most satisfying. Yes, we all have heard hard work "builds character," but it also can impart tangible skills and mechanical knowledge. That's why when my bike was stolen from out front of Popular Mechanics' building in midtown Manhattan, I knew replacing it would take more than just a trip to the bike shop. I decided to start from scratch -gather the parts, get the tools, and learn how to build a proper replacement.

All the effort may seem like a waste. It won't save a buck -building a bike will probably cost you about the same if not a bit more than a factory-made bike. And it's not for time or ease -since you have to order or find all the parts separately and you will need a wide variety of specialty tools the bike won't come quickly or easily.

I had no previous experience with bike building, so I went to find some help for this project. I walked half a mile from my house in Brooklyn, down the street and under the Manhattan Bridge to Recycle-A-Bicycle, a non-profit organization that runs a full-service (and reasonably priced) bike shop that fixes up donated and new bikes and sells them back to the public. I was looking for frames and/or guidance for the build and, fortuitously, Recycle-A-Bicycle had both. They have classes and volunteer sessions for students in six New York City Public Schools that teach bicycle building for credit or to earn bikes. On Thursday nights, when I would end up toiling on this build, there is a session where volunteers work on customer's bikes under the guidance and supervision of Joe Lawler. For four Thursdays, I worked with Lawler, gaining calluses ratcheting bolts, cutting metal with a hacksaw and pinching fingers between tire and wheel, as well as adding grease stains to my work jeans.

If you're new to bike building, there are a lot of subtleties that will be missed in this instructable. Get someone with some bike shop experience to help you along the way. Besides, you might be able to borrow some of the special tools you'll need from them.

Step 1: Anatomy of this fixie.

A fixed-gear bike (fixie) isn't just for a velodrome-riding pro, nor is it only for the city-riding courier. A fixie is quick, agile and requires an entirely new outlook on just how to ride a bike (forget coasting). It's made for sprinting, so it's great for the short hauls and a little painful on anything over 10 miles. And, yes, my courier-riding friends, that is a front brake you see attached to this bike (fixie's tend to be brakeless). However, I call it the "oh sh*t handle," and, I promise, I rarely use it.
I still have to wonder how you lot manage to go through so many bikes for any reasons other than fashion, I charge around on a 9 year old raleigh mounatin hardtail w/ front forks all original parts, 9 years and only now am i doing anything to it (rear hub is shaking like hell when I chase racing bikes (and win because they're rich people who assume they're better than a trampy 17yr old) however I love the it's a year old get rid culture as I get enough free parts (soon have a full functions bike with a 10hp engine and 21 gears (oh yeah!!!) figured out the value and hills should be ok in the lowest front set, I assume my peak torque is no more than 154lb/ft I think.
<p>I have two bikes and there's a few more &quot;lying around&quot; I have an ancient &quot;Orbita&quot; mountain bike and a Giant e-bike (I do a *lot* of km per week) and I'm looking at either getting a new bike or the relevant bits because I flipped my Orbita into a ditch and when I took off the pedal to beat the bent gears back into shape, I screwed up the thread in the pedal axle. I am morally opposed to buying a new bike if your old one works and isn't an amazingly out-of-date, heavy, hard to pedal mess</p>
Yeah, who needs a new bike every year? I have a 12 year old raleigh hybrid I got in england with no suspension, front or back, and possibly the most uncomfortable seat I have ever sat on. But its still a great bike. I love raleigh.
Sometimes the old tech is not a great idea, high performance riders need (at least some) of the new technology otherwise the bike would probably disintegrate under the conditions. ever been to Whistler or another bike park? also some people enjoy racing (non-proffesionaly, or semi-pro) therefore they need the new tech in order to be competitive. Not everyone rides there bike just around town.
Vanity is a sin! lol I promised myself years ago to never buy a new bike again.
most people that know that have fixies buy old (and i mean old like 70's and 80's) race bikes to turn from crap to a fixie. each bike has it's own purpose, i would never think about riding my mountain bike on even a 10 mile bike ride when i could ride my fixie with much more ease. why would you use a fork for soup when you could more easily use a spoon? same idea.
Old bikes FTW! I'm rocking a 22 year old mountain bike and a 30 yr old road bike, both are all original parts. I&nbsp;couldn't tell you the make or model, though.<br />
The best combo of bike building and ease of doing so, is probably ordering a bike.Like from Chain reaction or another site. That way you get all the parts you need and the specialty tools won't be needed because the derailuer and cranks are already assembled, you only need to put the bars wheels seat exc... on. You get to have some fun putting it together and also get a perfectly good bike out of the deal for the same price as buying from a shop.
If you are reading this in the SF Bay Area, check out Cycle Recylce in San Rafael, or Pedal Revolution in San Francisco. They are both community non-profits that have loads of random parts and a willingness to help you figure out how to complete your project.
Troy Bike Rescue in upstate NY<br />
BICAS Tucson, Az bicas.org
If you're up in AVL, hit up the ReCyclery at 90 Biltmore, below the French Broad Food Co-op.
Bike Dump in Winnipeg, MB, Canada (bike-dump.ca)<br />
I recently got an old 60's Schwinn Collegiate for college (I thought it was appropriate) and got all the parts and rebuilt it from the ground up. It is definitely a fun project and really makes me feel more attached to my bike. Originally I was just doing it to have an ugly, old looking bike to avoid it becoming a target for bike theft, but it has become much more than that.
Backyardwrench is right: don't cut the fork right away. Additional spacers can also be used above the stem. You can experiment with different heights by moving spacers above or below the stem. Start with a fork length about two inches higher than your saddle. Just cut the steerer longer than you think you'll need. You can always make it shorter later.<br /> <br /> A better way to cut the fork steerer tube is using a pipe cutter. It's fast, clean, and makes a perfect 90 degree cut in the steerer.<br />
&nbsp;I took my fixie 15 miles each way to school, with hills, five days a week. If I ever switch back to gears, I'll miss the fix.
Nice bike. I'm working on converting an old Schwinn Varsity road bike to fixed gear at the moment. It's heavier than my mountain bike, so I'm not sure what it'll be like at the end. I'm trying to get all the terminology and what not down before I take it in to the santa cruz bike co-op thing, and this helped a lot.
you should get a different frame it's not worth it<br />
I've ridden a Fixie that was built on a Schwinn Varsity with all the braze-ons ground off.<br /> It could have used a bigger chain ring (I like 52t on front, the Schwinn Varsity only had something like 38t or so)&nbsp; but overall it wasn't a bad ride - you'd be amazed how much of the weight on those old Varsities was the derailleurs and the steel handlebar stem.<br /> Still, I know I'd rather ride my aluminum frame with a straight front fork.<br />
If you're going to build a bike, why not make it one that you might want to ride further than the local latte bar. C'mon, convince me that fixie riders aren't just fashion victims (like the guy I breezed past today painfully toiling up a pretty moderate hill on his fixie _mountain bike_. Purleese). <br/>Frinstance: how are you going to haul kids and groceries and <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.instructables.com/id/ENK7HBIQG6EP286RJK/">trailers</a> with that thing? Real bikes haul stuff.<br/>
It's only a hipster's fixie if it doesn't have brakes... I run mine with fenders, brakes and a rear rack... Definitely not the standard hipster fare.<br /> It's the fastest, quietest, most low maintenance bike I've ever had. And while I don't have kids and a trailer, I can easily handle 3 full paper grocery bags.<br /> I live in a very hilly area of Minnesota, and commuted 5 miles into town daily on a fixie this summer... I breezed past my share of geared mountain and road bikes.<br /> And not having to clean Winter road salt and grime out of derailleurs? Awesome.<br /> <br /> I'm all for insulting hipsters, but a utilitarian fixed gear bike deserves no such assault.<br />
i felt the same way until i rode one around and i loved it and got one but i have to say they aren't for everyone, and if you don't like it don't ride it and stop bitching. its not worth it, save your energy for biking instead of arguing
YEAH! one less fixie. My brother rides fixed, but was building velo bikes way before any of these pencil mustachioed hipsters started crashing their factory built Pistas. I live in flat land, so I single speeded most of my bikes to get rid of the extra complexity and weight. Fixies are for velodromes.
does fixie mean a bike with no suspension?
no gears. Q: What's the difference between a fixie and a trampoline? A: You have to take your shoes and socks off before jumping up and down on a trampoline. Q: What's the difference between a fixie and an iPhone? A: Not every trendoid has an iPhone.
lol What has two wheels and an a**hole? a fixie
It all depends on what the bike is being used for. if you are building a bike strictly for grunt work, then no, i wouldnt reccdomend a fixie, but if you want a fast bike thats actually fun to ride, then id go with a fixie(i modified my old road bike a year or so ago to be a fixie and ive never even considered going back).
.<br /> I&nbsp;made a &quot;fixi&quot; once upon a time.... a ten speed racer with all the &quot;other stuff&quot; removed, using no front derailer, a single big front gear and a metal &quot;guide strip&quot; to replace the rear derailer., ran really well too - very light, very fast.<br /> <br /> I was even so good - I didn't need any brakes......<br /> <br /> That was until I ran into a cop car at 70Kmh down a hill... when he turned in front of me, as I was passing him.....<br /> <br /> LOL<br /> <br /> Brakes are a GREAT&nbsp;idea.... front and rear., properly adjusted etc.
I&nbsp;have some questions, How much did this project cost you and did you buy new or used parts?<br />
Excellent instructable and a beautiful bike. Since pretty much everyone has aready done so, I might as well add a few cautionary words regarding fixed gear bicycles as well. If you have your fixie up on a stand with the rear wheel moving (and thus the chain and front chainring as well) be extremely careful of the moving parts. Since it is a single speed your chain will be taut unlike multi speed bikes with deraileurs and because it is a fixed cog the chain will be in motion if the wheel is moving. Esentially what I am trying to say with this long winded blathering is: don't stick your fingers and/or reproductive organs in the chain if it is moving, especially with a fixed gear. People have been known to suffer terrible injuries whilst cleaning or lubing the chains of fixies. Other than that, enjoy the beauty and simplicity of your noble machine. Cheers!
wow that was a major joykill xD
&nbsp;I split open my finger doing that lol&nbsp;
reproductive organs getting stuck???
Aside from actually racing in a velodrome, why do hipsters like fixies? They are incredibly impractical.
you're going to risk having a loose fork if you tighten the side bolts on the stem first. tighten the fork up first by doing up the top bolt, then once you're happy with it tighten the side bolts.
Correcto. Also, he forgot to mention installing the crown race. And that threadless forks suck in the first place.
fixies are hella tight
What if I wanted to build a BMX bike? How would I build it?
make friends w/ a crapload of other riders and eventually get em to hook you up with parts for cheap or free. Also, they can usually teach you all the maintainence info you need. Don't worry if at first your bikes a tank, if you can ride on that you can ride on anything.
i built my bike up from the ground up. By the end i had a bike around $550 under the retail price, and i had mostly better parts. Ebay, kijiji, craiglist, pinkibke is how you do it.
Dude, lush bike, nice frame, good build, BUT TAKE THOSE REFLECTORS OFF THE RIMS, sorry, lool, im a professional sponsered mountain biker, XC, DH and freeride biker lol, well, i would say ur bike would look alot better without the reflectors thats all im saying mate, but lovely build for around $500, Thanks, Man Kris
that bike looks WAAYYYY different now mate. I have upgraded it even more.
awww man that looks sweet.... do u have msn mate, if yah do PM me ur addy, so i can speak to u on there bout bikes n stuff cheers mate kris
i like how you discribe the left front brake.(I'm left handed so you problably figured out which brake i almost always push! OUCH! did it again;)
Personally, I find having only the drivetrain to slow/stop from speed isn't great when real stopping power is required. The rear wheel is as apt to skid as it is to stop you suddenly. A front brake excels at emergency stopping, though, so the extra weight and work is definitely worth it in those cases.
I agree, a brakeless fixie is a safety concern, as it cannot make an effective panic stop. A skid stop is nowhere near as short as one done with a brake within the tire's traction limit. That extra 5 feet of stopping distance can keep you out of real danger. A front brake is adequate, as it does about 85% of the work anyway.
Another good tire tip: install the tires with the tire label aligned next to the valve. This way, if you get a flat, it's easier to track down the cause. Find the hole in the tube, then trace back to the same area on the tire, starting from the label.
Don't rely on a formula like '2 spacers on the fork' to size the steerer. This is an important part of bike fit, and the length of the steerer will determine how high you can place the bars. Cut the steerer too short, and you may have to resort to sharply up-jutting stems for comfort. I strongly recommend *not* cutting the steerer on any new bike build until you've had a chance to fine-tune the stem height and overall fit.<br/>
On custom wheel building, if you are so bold as to &quot;spoke your own&quot;, might I suggest radial spoking <em>(on the front wheel only of course)</em> it's a clean look, it makes that wheel alot easier to assemble and true than your rear cross-spoking, and for the gram-shavers, you get to use shorter spokes, hence, less (by a few grams) weight. Since there is no torque, it's a perfectly brilliant solution.<br/>
I think I have that same model frame. The brake/no-brake debate will go on forever. Anyone ever heard of personal responsibility? Hmmm. Personally, I run with a brake, but it's because Munich has so many clueless visitors I have to panic stop so many times a day that it's crazy. Thanks for a good article. Glad to see someone is doing bike info. on here too.

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