Restore and Transform an Old Bike Into a Sleek Fixie




About: I'm a Coral Reef Ecologist with a passion for photography. Check out my latest project at

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:

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

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, 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;
  • 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,
  • handlebar tape(Optional, 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 (

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. (

Step 2: Step 1: Modifying the Frame

The first step is to do any modifications necessary to your frame.

For this Univega frame, I had to sand down the slots of the fork with a dremmel in order for the wheels to fit inside. 

Step 3: Step 2: Strip the Frame

I used a combination of paint stripper and sandblasting to get the paint off my frame. Alternatively, if you do not have access to a sandblaster, you can take it to an car paint shop and get it sandblasted and painted. 

Make sure to get all the paint and any rust off the frame. If you decide to sandblast yourself, it can be a laborious process, but you can do it! 

*Important: Wear a respirator while sandblasting to prevent silicosis, which is caused any tiny particles (in this case, sand) that get lodged in alveoli. Silicosis is a chronic disease and is no fun. Thanks to "retasker" for reminding me.

Step 4: Step 3: Painting the Frame

Amazon sells a powder coating kit for about $100, but I decided to simply let a local powder coating company do it for me, since they only charged $100 for the frame and fork. In addition, I didn't have an oven large enough to bake the bike frame in after powder coating. 

Make sure you take everything off the frame before painting/ baking. 

Don't forget the bottom bracket! This can be confusing, as it may be right or left threaded, depending on your frame model and origin. Sheldon has a list of them:

You may need certain tools, depending on your bracket type:

For mine, I simply had to use a spanner wrench and alot of elbow grease. 

Step 5: Step 4: Bike, Assemble!

Now is the fun part; you get to assemble your bike. You may run into some problems, but do not fret--channel your inner- Instructable chi to overcome those challenges. 

I only ran into one problem:
My seat-post was too small for my frame, so I had to shim it with a piece of a soda can.

The wheelset I bought was a "flip flop", which means that one side has a fixed gear, and the other side has a single speed gear, which can free spin. You can switch from fixed to single speed by flipping the wheel around and attaching it to the rear axle. I switch from fixed to single speed periodically, because I like to go down hills fast, which is very very difficult with a fixed gear bike, because the pedals have to keep moving at the speed the bike is moving. 

Good tips for :

wrapping the handlebars:

saddle adjustments:

bottom bracket right or left threaded:


Step 6: Step 5: Ride Yo Ride

Now its time to show off your sweet mutha build and make all your frands jelly. 

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

Also- feel free to axe me any questions you may have. 

More awesome articles by Sheldon. You think you know how to ride a bike until you read these. I know I did.

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43 Discussions


3 years ago

Awesome bike. I am in the process of doing a vintage Royce Union 10 speed from the 70's. Here is my before pic. I will do an after when it's finished next week. It's about 75% done but I really don't want to post it until I have everything ready.


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. )


6 years ago on Introduction

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.

4 replies
Yard Sale Dalealzie

Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

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.


Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

Thanks for sharing, could you attach the link to that product?


Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

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.

For lotsa possibilities, check out:


6 years ago on Introduction

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.....


Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

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. 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 melk

6 years ago on Introduction

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:

1 reply
slyleejoe melk

Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

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.


6 years ago on Introduction

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

4 replies

Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

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


Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

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 ;)


Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

yea, it's jut a cheap biek to begin with anyways...only paid $20 for the whole bike...I"ll get something better Mountain bike is a 15'' frame and fits me jsut perfect with about 9'' of seat tube showing.....(It's an XC/AM bike)