Sunday, December 07, 2003

I apologize for the lack of recent posts because of lack of riding. Holidays and bad weather and busy schedules equal insufficient time on the bike and that means nothing to write about.

OK for the last couple of months I’ve been obsessed with the idea of riding a fixed-gear bike. Made some usenet posts about some ideas and questions and even got a few responses from helpful folks over there. So I look around and find quite a few new low-end track bikes for around the $600 level. That’s a good price of course but I’m not sure how I could justify spending even that much. But what I really want is sort of a messenger bike built up out of odds and ends; the kind of bike that only a guy with a garage full of assorted bike parts spanning 20 years of cycling history could make. Then I remembered the Basso. A friend of mine (hi Jim) moved out of state about 5 years ago and unloaded a bunch of HIS cycling odds and ends including this Basso. It’s too small but it’s rideable, it’s early ‘80’s vintage with spacing for a 6/7 freewheel and it has the unmistakable paint markings of having once been stolen. This frame is a junkyard treasure! I had originally intended to have this bike mounted permanently on a wind trainer (also a freebie from Jim) but it never happened and it’s been collecting dust the whole time I’ve had it. Jim even moved back to California last year but he hasn’t asked for his frame back yet. Actually it may have been his wife’s because it’s about a 48cm frame (I ride a 55).

So I read all the articles I could find about road gear conversions (several good ones at )and put together a plan. I have a front wheel built on a Shimano 105 hub with bad bearings and 36 spokes Рperfect! I have a good tall seatpost in the right diameter to make up for the small frame size. The Basso still had a decent crank and headset so I was OK there. And I found my old Cinelli Mod 64 handlebars and 14cm stem from the Ci̦cc I bought in 1985! I also had a decent 36 hole Campy Omega 20 clincher rim that would make a good rear wheel built up on a track hub, and a Shimano 600 brake caliper for the front and Campy Chorus brake levers with hoods. That means I still need a track hub with spokes, sprocket, and lockring for my rear wheel, tires and tubes, a chain, some bar tape and chainring bolts for a single ring.

I made my order for the track hub and wheel items from CaptainBike (Sheldon Brown) and picked up some tires, chain, a $5 saddle, and Cinelli bar tape (natural leather color – way retro) at VeloSport in Berkeley. Saturday night I started to put it all together and soon found out that I was in for a bigger challenge than I had anticipated.

I attached the front brake and put in the front wheel and I had a very difficult time getting the old single pivot sidepull caliper adjusted. Then I noticed that the rim wasn’t centered in the fork – it was off to one side. I knew the wheel was true so I tried to bend the fork blades (!) This helped a little bit but I couldn’t get the rim to go exactly where it was supposed to so I put a channel locks on the brake arms and bent them (!) When I was done I had a front end with a shitty hub, tracking off center, and a shitty brake with one arm tweaked to the outside – what a jewel! Then came the fun part of hacksawing off the shifter braze-ons and derailleur hanger. The cable guides popped write off with a Vice Grip wrench. There was also a funky little pump peg attached to the top tube… GONE!

I certainly didn’t want to wait for my order to arrive before I test rode the bike so I installed the chain onto my sew-up rear wheel and sized the chain for the 17t cog. My fixed wheel will have a 16t cog so I may have to take another link out when I get that done but for now… I have a fully rideable single speed! There’s about a foot of seat post showing and the bars are quite a bit lower than that but I love how it looks and it is definitely rideable.

Stay tuned for further developments.