Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Single Speed on a Budget

One thing you'll see a lot of around here is bicycles. For me it's as much about the equipment as it is about the ride, all part of the experience. I'm constantly building up new bikes with an assortment of new, used, and vintage parts just to see how it rides. A lot of the bikes I couldn’t afford in the 80's are now readily available and cheap. So you want to build an inexpensive bike for dirt road adventures that will work, use steel, because 'steel is real'! Vintage steel bikes can be had cheap and you can't go wrong. There is a reason every other material is constantly being compared to steel, it works. There is only two downsides to steel, it's heavier and it can rust. So skip that donut for breakfast and keep your bike off the bottom of the ocean floor and your good to go. As far as value and ride compliance nothing else compares to steel. There are other materials that work too, I love my modern-vintage titanium Serotta, but you'll pay for them. I wanted to build a bike on a budget for my boy's, something simple and fun. I used a mid-80's Schwinn World Sport frame and fork, given to me by Kirk at Creek Side Bikes. Not much value in these old bikes as is, you can buy them complete for next to nothing. Unfortunately the components of the era are marginal at best, even when they were new, but the frame is where the value is. They ride great, and most importantly they can except a big tire which make them an excellent choice for a dirt roads. From the 50-80's bikes were built to ride on America's roads and a lot of those roads were rural dirt roads, they're perfect. Some, like my favorite, Schwinn, were built in Chicago and Japan when it was cheap to do so. Schwinn produced some of the worlds finest bicycles, go price a new steel frame built in Chicago or Japan today and you'll see what I mean. Not all bikes from the 80's are created equal, you'll need to do your research to find a good frameset that will work well. If you need help with parts orders for your vintage steel project be sure to give Kirk Webster a call at Creek Side Bikes, he's an expert on vintage bicycles and stocks many NOS parts, including Campagnolo.

  I started off by removing all of the unnecessary tabs to make a clean SS/fixed gear.

Once everything was removed I took the frame and fork to my favorite Powder Coat shop here in Golden and they hooked me up with a High Gloss finish. Looks great, it's durable and cheap.
This high-speed low-drag Rolf wheelset came from a Denver dumpster, not so great when I got them. Sweet now, and they spin forever.

We used vintage Gran Compe cranks and brake calipers from the Schwinn I road in high school! 42 x 18t gearing.

Bo (14) road his new bike 35 miles on the Santa Fe trail, a dirt (and snow, mud & ice) multi-use path from Monument to Colorado Springs the day after Thanksgiving. He uses 23c tires but could easily run a 33c tire with fenders! An advantage of switching from the original 27" wheel to a modern 700c, not to mention a huge tire selection in the new wheel size. He loves the skinny tires but is also an extremely confident Mnt Bike rider and motocross rider from age 4. Getting loose on the dirt is not an issue for him... Cool bike Huh!?!?!

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