Bored at work.
I feel like a tuned and trained greyhound being asked to catch frisbees. Without something to do I’m just getting more and more high strung. Enter bicycles.
The last couple days I’ve been killing the time by reading about bikes. My Craigslist Bicycles RSS feed is like that white stuff the Gem’Hadar have constantly being fed into their veins in star trek. It keeps me docile.
In fact on wednesday my lightning fast RSS-tuned craigslist reflexes won me my second bike. I love my expensive touring bike ‘mikey’. I’ve said to many people that riding to work is the most fun part of my day. But bike culture here runs deep and wide and from the first day I clapped eyes on a fixie I was smitten.
One of the great things about fixies is they’re done on the cheap. They’re a great way to repurpose old 10 speeds that would otherwise be trotting off to the landfill. So the challenge was set. Build a fixie for as cheap as possible that is as good as possible.
Thus I sidled up to the craigslist stream -The deepest waters of San Francisco’s bycicle estuaries- and waited.
The only things you really need are a fixed gear rear wheel and a bike to put it on. About a month ago I lashed out and picked up some wheels for 100$. If you’re willing to lace spokes onto fixed gear hubs yourself you could get a rear wheel going for half that. But I decided such persuits were just beyond my skill level.
I still haven’t seen a better deal float by so I think the purchase was sound. Now I just needed a bike to strap it to.
I had only one major requirement. It had to be a nice steel alloy or aluminum frame. Reynolds 531 or Tange no. 2 or a CroMoly frame was a must. These steel frames are much lighter than the high-ten steel that your bike is made of (unless this is Matt). The reason you don’t own one of these nice frames is that they cost considerably more to produce.
My price bracket for such a bicycle was around 75 dollars. That’s kind of rediculous. The cheapest 70’s Raleigh that fits my criteria is the Super Course. Which retailed for close to 1000$ in today-money. But time and tide do strange things to bicycles and they also wash them past my muddy bank on the mighty craigslist.
For months I’ve been waiting. I’ve prodded at undercosted schwins, trying to find that Fillet-Brazed frame the owner thought was welded. I’ve pounced on gorgeous Raleighs with ornate lugging (now Sarah’s bike). I have even tried to fell the peugeot beast which distinguished average from quality by the vagueries of a yearly changing paint job.
But until wednesday I had always comeback with jaws agape.
Enter my Dawes. 56cm hand built in england by Daws with ornate lugging made of Reynolds 531 steel. 60 dollars OBO
Flash goes the email! My size, my steel and mmm, ornate lugging I love you.
After the email was sent I scoured the copious pictures the seller had posted in an attempt to date the prey. Lugging, which means pre or early 80’s. Sugino cranks, can’t be original. Horizontal dropouts, early or pre 80’s again. Shimano shifters, can’t be original. A green to green fade paint job with no chrome… looks pretty 80’s to me. Handles with a map of england on them and a french motto? The hell? And who is Dawes anyway?? has anyone ever heard of this company? And lots and lots of nicks and scrapes.
Turns out Dawes is sort of Raleigh’s little brother. They never sold many bikes in North America but when they did they only sold their good bikes. No ever-present schwinn varsity be this beast.
So this beautiful frame with really great new sugino cranks and neato collectors item handle bars is going for 60 dollars. Washed to within my grasp by the magic combination of the unknown brand, rusty nicks and scratches everywhere, and being unridable due to a horribly bent rear wheel.
Email comes back. Someone else knows what it is. Even though I was the first to respond someone else offered 75$. But the seller gives me a chance to match it. Which I do. This _should_ go for 150 in San Francisco. If it had a Raleigh head badge, twice that. Luckily my fellow hunter declines the jump to tripple digits and I get my bike! Giddy!
Oh joy as I cart it upstairs later that evening. In all of its crap shifter, scratched to hell, rear wheel won’t spin glory! It practically floats up the stairs; boyed by light steel and giddy delight!
I get it upside-down over some cardboard in teh kitchen post-haste. I don’t need a rear brake, off it comes (weiman vaquers, nice). Down-tube shifters in all their anachronystic splendor get stripped away (might end up replacing Sarah’s cheap suntory downtube shifters). Front derailer gets plucked from the frame (two gear shifter sitting over 3 sugino gears, wierd). Rear derailer is remo… lifte… ripped… gar! I don’t have the right size allen key!? Damn it and I can’t fit the back wheel because I only have one crescent wrench? gah!
The rest of the night is spent on bent knees with a cleaning solution and much scrubbing. In the end the bike looks… slightly cleaner… I guess.
Next day I spend my whole lunch hour trecking by lowly foot (raining, no bike) to the closest bike shop and hardware store to purchase necessary tools.
Back with the bike. The rear derailer knows defeat! I strip off the biggest front sprocket, then the second and clean them in the sink. Back on the bike goes the second, and in the closet goes the first. The rear wheel, after much convincing, is stripped of axle spacers (used to line up the rear cog with the front cog). Chain tool splits the old chain into a string and I droop it over the two gears. Sized up, I strip off the 5 or 10 excess links and join it up again.
The rest of the night is spent messing with spacers and trying to get the front and back sprockets lined up to the millimeter.
Unfortunately my wheels don’t have the tires on them and I don’t own a pump. The bike store next door locks one outside during working hours so we’ve just been using that. But it’s 10:30pm and they are very closed.
So the bike is ready to roll and I cannot ride it! Neither will I be able to ride it tonight (friday) as a hundred year storm has stopped me from treking again on foot and buying a pump. At least Sarah gets home tonight! That should aleviate my fixation.
There are still issues with it. The chainline isn’t *quite* right and I’m going to have to re-dish the wheel like crazy. But glory glory is she light. Lighter than my aluminum roadster since all the stuff has been stripped off.
This weekend we will confront the world together. I will see if I can get used to riding fixie and it will see if it can stay in one piece.
Total Gross Cost of Everything: 235$
Not bad for a light-as-air hipster bike.