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.