MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

 

MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

 

 

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MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

 

"SS" BICYCLE BUILD - INTRO

"SS" COMPONENT - CHOICES

CONVERT A "SS" WHEEL

POSITIONING "SS" HUBS

"SS" CRANK/RING SET

ASSEMBLING "SS" FRAME

INSTALL - CHOICES

INSTALL - WHEELS/CRANK

INSTALL - BAR & SADDLE

INSTALL - BRAKE CALLIPERS

INSTALL - ADJUST BRAKES

RIDING THE "SINGLE SPEED"

 

CUSTOMIZED BICYCLES

BICYCLES OF CANADA

  

"SINGLE SPEED" COMPONENT CHOICES

 

The sky is pretty much the limit, when it comes to selecting what components to use, on your "Single Speed" build.  However, since we are trying to build bicycles on a budget, most of the components selected, will be the ones that came already mounted on the bicycle.

Let's consider a mid seventies, Canadian built, Sekine that is fitted with the original components.  Firstly, the Sekine is a middle of the line bicycle with a high tensile steel tube set and stamped steel drop-outs.  The drops are both horizontal and lengthy, offering good chain slack adjustment range.  There are no down tube or bottom bracket braze-ons present to clutter appearance.  Cosmetically, the Sekine's frame set is in above average condition, fits me like a glove and it will make a perfect foundation for a "Single Speed" conversion.

Once a bicycle has been selected for conversion, the first thing to do is decide what stays and what goes.  Needless to say, the transmission is preferably a goner.  That means the we will eliminate the front derailleur, rear derailleur, rear derailleur hanger bracket, shifters and all transmission cable guides.  Eliminating the shifters and front derailleur are, pretty much, non-issues.  Just take them off and tuck them away, for another day.  And, another day just might look like full restoration, at some point in the future.

Removing the rear derailleur, though a simple task in itself, will create one problem.  With the removal of the rear derailleur comes the removal of the derailleur hanger.  Removing this hanger, will mean that the rear axle will be too long, for the quick release mechanism, to properly clamp the rear wheel into place.  With this in mind, the rear axle will have to be shortened, a wee bit, to ensure proper fit and function.

Either the entire crank set, or part of it, will have to be removed also.  How much gets removed, or replaced, will depend on the style of crank, that came with the bicycle, to begin with.  In the case of the Sekine, the crank set is the more modern, and favoured, tapered style.  There are many things to consider when selecting a crank set for "Single Speed" conversion, the first of which is material type.  For a variety of reasons, I strongly recommend that only alloy crank and ring sets, be considered as acceptable candidates for your custom build. Though steel rings will work, they will be more difficult to rework, and you will not be able to complete the cosmetics and of the task, without considerable effort, and/or cost.

Next, the five or six cog freewheel will be replaced with a much smaller, lighter and more compact single cog unit.  The "Single Speed" freewheel, I should add, is one of the things that you will likely have to purchase brand new but don't despair.  Entry level models can be had for very little cash outlay.  True, you can spend a pretty good dollar on a really good "SS" freewheel but you don't have to.  You can always upgrade later, if you feel the need.

And giving into the need or simply desire to upgrade the bicycle's components will be as simple as pie.  Since you are probably going to want to ride this bicycle a lot, good tires are a must.  Out of need, you would want to go with modern 90-100psi tires. to get the best feel and performance.  Sticking with an old, no matter how good, set of vintage tires. that run at 70psi. is not the way to go for a rider.  You need good tires included in your build.  But what about what you simply want?

Do you want a certain style of saddle, or is the original good enough?  Do you want to stick with stock brakes?  Sooner or later. you will probably deviate from what would have been original issue, even though this will most likely drive build costs up.  I was more or less forced to change the Sekine's "as found" callipers out.  Those that were present on the bicycle "as found" were not the correct brakes to begin with.

Weinmann brake callipers, bearing the Raleigh name, had been installed on the Sekine, in an effort to allow for the running of the bicycle's "as found" 700c wheel set.  Shimano Tourney, center-pull brake callipers would have been original issue to the Sekine.  I did not have to change the Raleigh named Weinmann stoppers.  I could have easily run them, and put the bicycle on the road, with no brake related interruption.  But I did have a set of proper stoppers on hand.  With no additional cost to bear, the Shimano brakes were added to the build package.

The beautiful old center-pull callipers, look like they belong, simply because they do.  The Old School callipers look correct and work just fine.  No additional expense was presented, by keeping them, and this budget driven thought assured the use of the original brake callipers.  But other things played a part in the decision making process, when the brake levers drifted into focus under the magnifying glass...

One of the things I like about a "Single Speed" bicycle is the uncluttered look.  With this in mind and knowing that a good set of Aero brake levers would satisfy both form and function issues, I decided to go with a set of Aero levers that I had tucked away in The Old Shed.  Since the Aero lever allows for the brake cable to be run, under the handlebar tape, the uncluttered look is enhanced.  And, of greater importance, most Aero levers are of a more ergonomically sound design.  In other words, they offer more comfort to the rider, with no negative impact on braking quality.  In fact, the Aero lever can actually improve stopping feel and, perhaps, even results.  These more modern levers would look miserably out of place, on a Street Restored road bicycle, but fit the image of a "Single Speed" converted one, perfectly.

Of course, brake levers need a place to mount and that shifts attention to handlebar choice.  Once again, this is a custom bicycle and handlebar choice is completely open, to both form and function considerations.  I should add, that there was nothing at all wrong, with the handlebars that were mounted on the Sekine "as found".  But, because I had many "no additional cost" options, several were tossed about with this critical choice in mind.  I even considered the notion of going with a moustache style handlebar.  Finally, after trying this and that, I selected a Randoneer style of drop bar.  I, personally, prefer a drop style handlebar and thought that by going with the additional bend of the Randoneer style, I might actually improve the around town comfort factor.  I'm not all that sure that increased comfort was the outcome, but the slightly different appearance of the handlebar did fit in nicely with the vintage appear of the Sekine.

Though I did experiment with different steering stems, the one selected proved to be of original issue.  The embossed SR stem is well made, certainly attractive and a perfect match for the SR pantographed handlebars.  Once again, the stem fitted the vintage look of the bicycle to a "T".  Steering stem selection becomes a situation of both form and fit.  Stems come in different reaches and seeking the correct reach is of great importance when building a vintage road bicycle, be it of Street Restored or "Single Speed" nature.  Fortunately for me, the "as found" steering stem was perfect in both the cosmetic and fit categories.

And that series of component choices pretty much wrapped up the though put into planning the Sekine "SS" build.  However, one really critical choice loomed.  What wheel set should be used?

Few things will impact ride quality more than wheel and tire selection.  And keep in mind, ride quality and comfort are two different things.  Ride quality is how the bicycle feels to you while comfort quality is how you feel you feel.  Quick acceleration is ride quality while sore buttocks is a comfort issue.

The Sekine "as found" was fitted with 700c wheels.  The 700c wheels are smaller than their 27" cousins and more often than not the metric hoops will offer a much better ride.  Better, in this case, means faster acceleration and more precise handling.  However, the Sekine  "Single Speed" is not a performance oriented build.  Yes, good ride quality is an issue but the bicycle will never be raced, nor will it be forced to jockey for position in a crowded Peloton.  The bicycle will have to be both comfortable to ride and dependable, at the same time.  And big part of dependable is reduced potential for flat tires.  With these things all considered, the 27" wheel seemed to be the best choice.

The 27" wheel is more common on Old School vintage road bicycles.  The tires allow for more air volume usually and lower tire pressures as a result.  More air volume reduces the potential for flatting out while less pressure adds a cushion component to the suspension.  27" Tires are inexpensive, when compared to their metric siblings, and can be found in just about any department store.  Additionally, the tires are fitted Schrader air valves (same as your car) which can be connected to at any service station offering compressed air service.  Finally, the Sekine would have originally been fitted with 27" wheels making the choice even that much easier to make.

Keep in mind that I could have stayed with the "as found" wheels and most people would want to do so for the initial build.  Getting a replacement wheel set for a vintage road bicycle can be a pricey undertaking.  However, because I happened to have everything I needed on hand, choosing to go with the bigger hoops was not a problem.  Additionally, the 27" rims would allow for use of the original issue Shimano "Tourney" center pull brake set.  Remember also that it is most likely that a bicycle that you select will already be fitted with original wheels to begin with.

With the decision made as to which wheels would be used came the need to prepare the wheels.  The rear wheel must be converted for "Single Speed" use.  Now, conversion does not necessarily have to be a pricey business at all but it can be if you have to farm the work out.  With that in mind, consider all of the tasks involved in converting a wheel set and decide if you want to take the job on or not.  After considering the entire task, you might come to feel that you can implement part of the wheel build yourself, saving money when it becomes time to enlist the services of a wheel builder.

NEXT - CONVERTING A "SS" WHEEL SET

 

 

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