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bike 101: dreams of a fixed gear conversion

June 1, 2011

T. on his Schwinn roadbike

For his birthday this month, T. asked for a new/old roadbike. He found this cool 80s Schwinn World Sport on Craigslist and I happily purchased it for him as his birthday gift. We both love the look of it with the black body and hot pink handlebars and I’m glad that T. decided to rock the pink and not change it. One change he is contemplating though is converting the roadbike to a fixed gear bike.

I know he’s been reading much about it online and I’ve recruited him to submit some guest posts on the fixed gear conversion once it’s under way, but for now, here’s my request to you: do you have any tips for suggested readings or resources he should consider as he trys his hand at a fixed gear conversion? Have you undertaken such a project yourself and do you have any words of advice? We’d love to hear from you on this!

We’ll keep you posted on the project! I’m excited to give the bike a try myself as I’ve never ridden a fixed gear and am curious to see what all the fuss is about :)

T. on his Schwinn roadbike

{T. leaving for work on his Schwinn World Sport}

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Christina permalink
    June 1, 2011 06:13

    I don’t know anything about fixed gear conversions, but wanted to say – I’m happy to see an ‘old’ Schwinn post. We have his/her 79 Schwinn Le Tours in our bike collection (my husband only rides his Le Tour and nothing else at the moment and loves it!) – they are wonderful bikes. We also purchased an 80’s bubblegum pink Schwinn Caliente for our daughter to do as a restore project down the road when she grows into it. Our three older Schwinns are such ‘sturdy’ and well-made bicycles, all three lugged steel. I wish we saw more Schwinn restores in the bike blogs but I know deep down everyone has a nostalgic love for Schwinn :-) I’m looking forward to reading about T’s project!

  2. hjoladu permalink
    June 1, 2011 07:05

    As usual, Sheldon Brown would be a good place to start the studies:

  3. Caroline permalink
    June 1, 2011 07:25

    Lovely Bicycle! might be of help here also:

    Good luck, looking forward to seeing the results!

    • Fiona permalink
      June 1, 2011 08:30

      @ Caroline – I was just going to recommend the Lovely Bicycle! archives too when I saw that you were faster than me.

      I’d really like to try a fixed-gear bike once but I’ve never seen, let alone rode one. They are not that popular here in Germany mostly because for security reasons the law requires bikes to have a brake at both wheels in order to be approved for road use and the fixed-gear itself is not considered as a brake. I don’t really understand this. Shouldn’t your fixed-gear stop when you stop the pedals from moving? Or did I miss something?

      (exited to be a first time commenter, although I’ve enjoyed your posts on academichic for some time now)

      • Gen permalink
        June 2, 2011 08:00

        In theory, yes: a fixed gear will stop if you stop pedaling. The problem is that once you have a bit of momentum going, this becomes really hard. Stopping abruptly is impossible unless you skidd (but that’s really bad for your tires) and even then if you’re going fast it might not be possible.

      • June 2, 2011 20:01

        The issue with fixed gear bikes is that some people prefer the “pure” track version without any breaks, and that’s the one which is pracitically illegal to ride in Germany. Despite my love for simple bikes, I guess it’s reasonable in city traffic where you’d put others in danger.

        Fixed gear with additional breaks should be fine though…I’ve actually seen quite a few in Berlin.

  4. June 1, 2011 08:44

    Have fun! We converted my mixte last year and it took relatively little effort. We kept one of the original chainrings, cutting off the extra one.

  5. Jim permalink
    June 1, 2011 11:44

    I don’t personally know much about fixies myself yet I wouldn’t mind doing one up someday. There is a site I belong to the have a sub forum just for fixies and singlespeed Lot of good reading through it.
    Good luck with the conversion

  6. Jim permalink
    June 1, 2011 12:05

    @Fiona I have seen a number of fixies with brakes on them as well. More to bleed off the speed than actually stopping I think though I do also know from what I recall I read the post Velouria made about that bike I think hers did have brakes on it.

  7. June 1, 2011 12:46

    yes so glad he kept the hot pink, i really like it! here is a link that we often go to for alot of bike info…really really great :….there is a link to fixed gear conversations on the main site. let me know what you think.

    not a fan of fixed gear as i do like to coast, i did try it and found it pretty fun but here where there are numerous hills, i like having my gears for bike up ;D can’t wait to hear what he does with his new bike!


  8. June 1, 2011 14:11

    everyone else’s suggestions are what I would suggest too.

    Riding fixed is a lot of fun. I recommend having an emergency brake though, for those just in case moments. I live in a city, so I find it to be a nice insurance policy =)

  9. June 1, 2011 14:13

    There’s really nothing to it, but if there’s nothing wrong with the shifters, I think it’s probably better to keep that bike geared.

    But if he decides anyway to go fixed: he’ll need to new rear wheel with a fixed (or flip flop) hub and chainring bolt spacers. Tell him to please keep the brakes.

    The process involves removing the shifters, derailleurs and their cables. Replace that rear wheel with the fixed hub wheel. Remove one of the chainrings and install the chainring spacer bolts. Resize the chain to fit, and you’re done. You can get this all done inside of an hour.

    • June 1, 2011 15:20

      There isn’t anything wrong with the shifters, it’s just about being curious about a fixte and trying out a new bike project. We own a few roadbikes between us, so there would be other roadbikes with gears still left in our garage. We’re just excited to try something new out on one of our bikes. Thanks for the tips!

  10. June 1, 2011 14:34

    I used a fixie once and fell. yep, clearly my brain knew I had to keep the petals moving but my legs were used to coasting. Disaster…but funny for those watching.

    Now it’s a breeze and makes me a more disciplines rider, for bike races. Other than training though I like to have the non-fixed option….i.e. coasting. But I do know many city commuters who say their fixie gives them more control.

  11. June 1, 2011 15:54

    I did a fixed conversion on my Schwinn World Sport too.
    Keep everything except shifters and cables, build or have the rear wheel built with a fixed-gear hub.
    The second chainring lined up perfect on mine, so you can remove the outer and get short-stack bolts or do what LovelyBicycle and I have done and grind or have the outer chainring milled.
    Here’s the url to what it looked like:
    Now affectionately named “Gumby” because of the green paint job.

  12. June 2, 2011 04:33

    Fixies can be fun. I ran a fixed off roader (scorcher to some) exclusively for over a year. As others have already mentioned Sheldon Brown has a lot of information on this subject. Start there.

    Remove Shifters, Remove Derailleurs, Have a fixed rear wheel built at your favorite shop, pick up a fix gear (or a few) and a lock ring, purchase “single speed” chain ring bolts… or if you’re handy you can file down the existing CR Bolts, remove one of your chain rings, or better yet replace with a non-ramped chain ring, purchase “BMX” style chain (don’t trust an old worn out chain on a fixie, it’s your forward as well as stopping mechanism, failure of the chain can prove dangerous), Keep at the very least the front brake….

    Enjoy, fixed gear bikes can be a lot of fun and really do get you in touch with the machine.

  13. Loren permalink
    June 3, 2011 00:06

    Although I have 20 or so bikes at my disposal, I chose to ride an early ’80s Fuji Tourer fixie conversion daily when I was living and working in downtown Milwaukee. Like T., I started with a complete bike and stripped it down. As he no doubt knows, fixies make excellent commuter rigs mostly because they’re simple, ugly (usually), and require very little by way of cleaning or feeding.

    Fatbob29r offers good suggestions, and, while T. seems to know his way around a bike, let me add a bit more. You’ll want a non-ramped front chainring because chainrings used with derailleurs will have integral “ramps” that assist the derailleur in moving the chain between rings during shifting. BMX and fixie-specific rings have no such ramps and therefore work better on fixies/singlespeeds.

    Although I’ve worked for industry manufacturers for five of the last 10 years, I have no time with either Surly or QBP. Nevertheless, I recommend them. My Fuji wears a Surly flip-flop hub. Most bike shops in America can order from QBP, and the Surly brand is owned by QBP. Have T. have the local bike shop build a rear wheel using a fixie-specific hub (and Surly makes a variety of them). Generally speaking, their products are strong and foolproof. The irreverent tradition of the brand is a bonus.

    Also have him keep the brakes, as others here have mentioned. An added benefit of keeping the existing brakes is that he won’t have to re-wrap the bars with that pink tape after removing the brake levers and hoods.

    Remember also that rolling the driveside pant cuff is a practical move, not a stylish one. Whereas bicycles with freewheels allow the rider to stop pedaling and coast if/when pants or shoelaces get sucked into the chain/chainrings, there’s no such option with fixed-gear bikes. Potentially dangerous and painful results can occur when fixie drivetrains “eat” clothing or laces attached to the rider. Just a word of warning.

    • June 3, 2011 11:18

      That Schwinn predates the introduction of ramped chainrings in the 90s. I see aftermarket parts in the photos, but it doesn’t appear like the crankset is among them.

      Absolutely right about the importance of keeping your pants (and any other important bits) out of the chain!

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