Picture of Why build your bike?
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.
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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.

I have two bikes and there's a few more "lying around" I have an ancient "Orbita" 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

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.
onrust MKohen4 years ago
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 couldn't tell you the make or model, though.
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.
baduncadonk8 years ago
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
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)
Plagueology4 years ago
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.
grespol5 years ago
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.

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.
Twitchkidd5 years ago
 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.
bignothing8 years ago
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
I've ridden a Fixie that was built on a Schwinn Varsity with all the braze-ons ground off.
It could have used a bigger chain ring (I like 52t on front, the Schwinn Varsity only had something like 38t or so)  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.
Still, I know I'd rather ride my aluminum frame with a straight front fork.
stib8 years ago
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).
Frinstance: how are you going to haul kids and groceries and trailers with that thing? Real bikes haul stuff.
nathangill stib5 years ago
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.
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.
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.
And not having to clean Winter road salt and grime out of derailleurs? Awesome.

I'm all for insulting hipsters, but a utilitarian fixed gear bike deserves no such assault.
allbeef stib6 years ago
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
toxonix stib8 years ago
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?
stib l96470fps6 years ago
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.
toxonix stib6 years ago
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).
I have some questions, How much did this project cost you and did you buy new or used parts?
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
 I split open my finger doing that lol 
reproductive organs getting stuck???
zzpza6 years ago
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.
toxonix zzpza6 years ago
Correcto. Also, he forgot to mention installing the crown race. And that threadless forks suck in the first place.
fixies are hella tight
Doveman7 years ago
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.
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