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Gonna build a single speed - advice sought(10 posts)

Gonna build a single speed - advice soughtStarliner
Sep 11, 2003 8:05 AM
This will be primarily an off-season training bike. It doesn't have to be state of the art with the lightest components; but I don't want to end up with a boat anchor either. I want something that will be pleasant to ride even over distances of 50-80 miles.

I guess I'm looking for opinions as to components. I want good parts but not expensive, and therefore am considering older, out of date components.

My frame size goes between 58 and 60cm. I've been looking for a cheap old 531 type frame, even one with lousy paint but otherwise in good shape. Are there any special concerns I should watch out for in my search - such as width between dropouts.

Cranks - I use 175s on my bikes. Should I stay with this size, or should I consider shorter cranks, and why.

Weight of components - as I said, that's not a primary concern. However, if there were any component that one would want to go light on, which would it be.

Quality of components - as in weight, if there were any component that one would want to have state-of-the-art, which would it be.

Lastly, I thought of possibly making the bike a semi-fixed gear, with a single speed rear and a triple up front to easier handle the hills and enable higher speed on the flats. I guess I'd have to hang some sort of device at the rear to take up the chain slack. Anybody done anything like this or have any comments about it?
re: Gonna build a single speed - advice soughtSteve_0
Sep 11, 2003 8:31 AM
1. 175's are fine with SS. Some would say shorter for FG, but I dont buy into that unless you have an extremely low BB.

2. Dont worry about weight of components. Weight only matters when youre racing. If this bike is for off-season training, any extra weight is a bonus workout (not that you'll ever notice the few extra grams anyway).

3. Quality of components - only you can answer that. Where do you want your quality? Durable wheels? Serviceable BB? Comfortable frame material? There really arent many components involved with a ss anway.

lastly, if you have horizontal drops, you needent worry about taking up slack.
Minor correction there Steve_OTWD
Sep 11, 2003 8:55 AM

Your advice seems spot on except for the last point. Correct, if he has horizontal dropouts, he wont need a chain tensioner, but it sounds like he wants to put a triple crank and front derailluer on and use only one cog in the back. He'll need a chain tensioner for that.

An old worn out rear derailluer from the parts bin whould work fine and is a heck of a lot cheaper than one of the aftermarket offerings like the singulator.

As for the OPs questions, here's my take.

1. I run 175mm cranks on all my bikes, geared or SS. Haven't noticed any problems running 175s on the SS, but haven't tried longer cranks, so who knows what I may be missing.

2. As Steve_O mentioned, an SS will already be pretty light, and this is your off-season bike, so don't sweat the weight of your components.

3. As far as quality components, I'd say skip the ultra high end stuff and go with durable stuff. If you live somewhere that gets snow or lots or rain in the winter, it's all going to get trashed anyways, and that's the beauty of having the spare bike anyway. I'd say a good set of durable traditional wheels would be your best bet. Go, with 32 or 36 hole 3 cross, with 14/15 db spokes. I'd run ultegra hubs over 105 since they seem to be sealed better. Lace em up to the rim of your choice (I have personally had excellent luck with Velocity rims) Also, if you put a triple up front, put on a downtube friction shifter or barcon. No point in lugging around a single STI lever.
thx. missed the derailleur part (was thinking manual shift)...Steve_0
Sep 11, 2003 9:01 AM
if thats the case, he mentioned 'fixed gear', you cant use a derailleur (or a tensioner) if he has a fixed cog.
Yeah, the "fixed" thing kinda threw me too.TWD
Sep 11, 2003 9:48 AM
Of course, you could try running it fixed gear with a tensioner, but it would only last until the first time he tried to stop pedaling ;-)
re: Gonna build a single speed - advice soughtDanO-rama
Sep 11, 2003 8:37 AM
I used to commute on an older Schwinn frame with horizontal dropouts (fork ends)until I got my ss specific frame from One-On. The older mid-80s and early 90s road frames are the best for ss'ing.
I use 175mm cranks with 48:20 gearing and I have one side of my hub fixed and one free. Surly makes a super nice and inexpensive hub. It's an anchor but it's bombproof too. If your a first-time ss'er, you'll notice the added torque on your cranks and stem/handlebar right away. Use as much of your current setup as you can and see how it rides.
Shoot for the 60-70 gear-inch range, higher the better. I think my 48:20 combo is about a 63 gear-inch.
Post this same topic over on the board and you'll get a ton of help. A lot of those guys ride both mountain and road ss style.
Good luck and have fun.
Built a nice one for <20 bucks...cory
Sep 11, 2003 8:40 AM
You're taking a more thoughtful approach than I did--I just threw together stuff out of the parts bin--but mine's worked so well I'll comment anyway.
I had an old 531 frame, too--a mid-'80s Trek with a triple crank and semi-vertical dropouts (they're neither vertical nor horizontal, but I could get about 3/4-inch of adjustment, which let me run without a tensioner). I used the existing crank and the middle (34t) chainring. Rear hub is freewheel-type, so I got a $1 spacer and a BMX freewheel ($14), both available from BMX-oriented shops. For a cassette hub, you can buy spacers and single cogs, or sells a "singlespeed kit" for about $10 that has everything you need--you just put in spacers to move the cog out to get a good chainline. My rear spacing is 126mm, but since I used the original wheel, I had no problems.
My 175 cranks worked fine, but I wouldn't have changed them anyway--I use the bike mainly for rides of 20 miles or less and I didn't want to spend much on it. If in doubt, I think I'd go LONGER, for better leverage, not shorter. But I'm a lousy climber; your needs may differ.
For me, at least, weight wasn't a consideration. By the time I took off everything I didn't need anymore, it was noticeably lighter than it had been. I'm not a weight weenie, and I was surprised how nimble it felt.
I dunno about quality of components. My original stuff was decent, and I didn't change anything. If I were picking a place to spend an extra $50, it might be in the frame itself.
About the semi-fixed...I considered the same thing. If you use two or three chainrings, though, you'll need a chain tensioner in back (an old derailleur will work if you lock it in place with the limit screws; if they're too short, buy longer ones at Home Depot), and a der. in front unless you plan to change by hand. For me, at least, that pretty much wipes out the appeal of the simplicity of a single. I was planning to do it until I got the thing together as a true SS and went for a test ride. It ran so well and looked so cool that I left it that way.
One more has a lot of stuff on SS conversions, including advice on how to make it work without a chain tensioner even if it has vertical dropouts. Sometimes by going one tooth bigger or smaller on a gear, you can get acceptable tension. Worth trying, IMO, because it looks so clean.
Mine was $67found the frame in a trash pile at the dump...10speedfiend
Sep 11, 2003 12:07 PM
Had campy record hubs and record front and rear derailuer. Frame is a Falcon, A late 60's English 531 frame with campy dropouts. Cool wraparound rear seatstay. Bought a QBP Mavic MA3 Suzue fix/freewheel and a BMX chain. Front fork is off a Raliegh Super Record 531, which I found next to a garbage can. It had a R600 double crank 165mm and front and rear R600 brakeset on it. Has a limo like wheelbase, and steers like a yacht, but weighs a paultry 17.8lbs with some Michi pro-race 25c's on it.
IMHO I would consider a shorter crankset. Even with 165s I occasionaly strike the pedals when I am fixed.
IMHO, geared front, single rear is not a good idea....TFerguson
Sep 11, 2003 9:13 AM
If you want gears, stick with the rear and just put a single on the front.

Also, a frame with horizontal drop outs makes things easier - much easier if you go fixed rear. Tensioners do not work on fixed where the pressure of back pedealing will tear them right off.

Stay away from using an old triple crankset. You have that extra set of spiders which the chain will wrap around and lock up if it comes off (experience).

I have $75 and $1500 single speedsDave Hickey
Sep 11, 2003 1:02 PM
The weight differnce between the two is about 2 pounds. The expensive SS weights around 16 pounds and the cheap one weighs just over 18. The $1500 bike is full Dura Ace track components with 7700 brakes and 7402 levers. the frame is a LOOK carbon. The $75 SS is a basically stripped Gitane Tour De France with a BMX freewheel instead of the the 7 speed freewheel. The Gitane is full Reynolds 531 with old French components. I use 170mm cranks on all my bikes. Unless your climbing some killer climbs, you won't need more than 1 gear. Shoot for around 70 gear inches to start. That translates into a 42T front and 16t BMX freewheel.